Charlie Crist Archives - Page 7 of 71 - Florida Politics

Infamous dates: The moments that shaped Florida politics in 2016

Everyone expected Florida to play an important role in politics this year.

And why wouldn’t they? Presidential hopefuls hailed from here; the state’s electoral votes were coveted; and its Senate race could have determined control of the U.S. Senate.

But just like many predictions in 2016, some of the prophecies for Florida’s outsized role on the national stage fell flat. Many believed a Sunshine state politico would be a presidential nominee (not quite right) or that the election would hinge on its 29 electoral votes (close but no cigar). And that much anticipated battle for the U.S. Senate? It fizzled out before the first vote was even cast.

Here are the dates that really mattered in Florida politics this year. And some of them might just surprise you.

Jan. 20Florida Senate says it won’t appeal redistricting decision — A years-long battle over the state’s political lines came to an end in January, when Senate leadership announced it planned to let the court-ordered maps go into effect. The Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald reported the four-year legal battle cost Florida taxpayers more than $11 million. The new maps threw a wrench in the 2016 election cycle, with all 40 of Florida’s state Senate seats on the ballots. While many believed the new maps could boost Democrats chances in 2016, that didn’t quite pan out.

Feb. 20 — Jeb Bush ends 2016 presidential bid —  All signs pointed to Jeb Bush being the front-runner for the GOP nomination. The son and brother of two presidents, the former Florida governor racked up a massive war chest and plenty of big-name endorsements. But Bush couldn’t make headway in a crowded field of Republican hopefuls and was often on the receiving end of then-candidate Donald Trump’s attacks. After a sixth place finish in Iowa and a fourth place finish in New Hampshire, Bush hung his hopes on South Carolina. He spent days on end campaigning in the Palmetto state, but it was just too late. He came in third, and ended his campaign that night.

March 15Donald Trump triumphs in Florida primary — Was it the turning point for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign? Maybe. The New York Republican was already on a winning streak by the time the March 15 primary rolled around, but the Sunshine State contest was the biggest one to date. And Trump was up Sen. Marco Rubio, who was believed to be a hometown favorite. Turns out, Florida voters weren’t keen on sending Rubio to the White House. Trump trounced Rubio, winning every county except for Miami-Dade County. Rubio ended his presidential campaign that night, saying America was in “the middle of a real political storm, a real tsunami. And we should have seen this coming.”

April 21Gwen Graham hints at 2018 plans — When the dust settled on new congressional districts, one thing was clear: Florida’s 2nd Congressional District was solidly Republican. What wasn’t entirely clear was whether Rep. Gwen Graham would run for re-election or follow in her father’s footsteps and run for governor in 2018. She put the rumors to rest in April, announcing she was dropping her re-election bid and was “seriously considering running for governor in 2018.” In the months since, Graham has continued to fuel speculation about her plans for 2018, most recently telling reporters every part of her “wants to run for governor,” but that her husband’s battle with cancer will play a significant role in her decision.

April 28Workers’ compensation decision rocks business community — A Florida Supreme Court decision striking down the state law limiting attorney’s fees in workers’ compensation cases might have been a victory for injured workers, but it also set the wheels in motion for what would become significant workers’ compensation rate hikes. The 5-2 ruling in Castellanos v. Next Door Company was just one of the decisions striking down workers’ compensation laws this year. Those rulings prompted the National Council on Compensation to ask state regulators to approve a nearly 20 percent rate hike. That rate, which was eventually lowed to 14.5 percent, went into effect Dec. 1. The state’s business community has said the rate hikes could have a dramatic impact on business, and are pushing lawmakers to tackle workers’ compensation reform in 2017.

June 1249 killed in an attack on Pulse nightclub — In the wee hours of the morning on June 12, a gunman entered the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people and injuring more than 50. It was the deadliest mass shooting in recent history, and sent shockwaves through the state and country. Gov. Rick Scott spent several weeks in Orlando, visiting with the victims and their families, attending funeral services, and meeting with members of the community. In the weeks and months that followed, the community came together to support the victims and their families. Spearheaded by Mayor Buddy Dyer, the city set up the OneOrlando Fund to assist victims of the attack. As of Dec. 2, the fund distributed $27.4 million for 299 claims, or 98 percent of all eligible claims filed.

June 17David Jolly drops out of U.S. Senate race, announces re-election bid — When Rep. David Jolly announced he was forgoing a re-election bid to run for the U.S. Senate, all signs indicated former Gov. Charlie Crist would sail to an easy victory. But after more and more politicos pushed encouraged Sen. Rubio to run for re-election, Jolly ended his U.S. Senate bid and announced a re-election bid, challenging Crist in an effort to keep his seat in a newly drawn district that favored Democrats. He had the support of many local Republicans, but Jolly’s push to end the practice of lawmakers dialing for dollars soured many congressional Republicans. When Election Day rolled around, Crist defeated Jolly, 52 percent to 48 percent.

June 22 — Marco Rubio reverses course, decides to run for re-election — After a devastating loss in his home state’s presidential primary, Sen. Rubio swore he wouldn’t run for re-election. The Miami Republican said multiple times that was going to serve out the remainder of his term and then go back to being a private citizen. And, as he mentioned on more than one occasion, a close friend — Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera – was already running for his seat. But in the days after the Pulse shooting, Lopez-Cantera encouraged his friend to run for re-election. Rubio ultimately announced his re-election bid just days before the qualifying deadline, effectively clearing the Republican field. He walloped Carlos Beruff in the Republican primary, and led in nearly every poll between him and Democrat Patrick Murphy. Rubio sailed to victory, winning a second term with 52 percent of the vote.

June 29 — Gov. Rick Scott declares state of emergency after algae clogs waterways — The Army Corps of Engineers began releasing Lake Okeechobee discharges down the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers after record rainfalls earlier in the year. While those discharges sparked outrage in both communities, the appearance of algae blooms on the state’s east coast prompted action from the governor. Scott declared a state of emergency in Martin, St. Lucie, Lee and Palm Beach counties in June, and called on the federal government to quickly approve permits for dispersed water management projects. The declaration helped push the issue of water quality to the forefront of many campaigns.

July 8Corrine Brown indicted — It was a no good, very bad year for former Rep. Corrine Brown. Florida’s 5th Congressional District, which she represented since 1993, was redrawn as part of the state’s ongoing redistricting case. She and several other political operatives were served with subpoenas at a BBQ joint in Jacksonville. And in July, Brown and her chief of staff were indicted on federal corruption and fraud charges. The charges stem from her involvement in an allegedly fraudulent charity scheme. Brown was defiant, saying “just because someone accuses you, doesn’t mean they have the facts.” To add insult to injury, Brown was lost her primary in the newly drawn district.

July 29 — Zika comes to Florida — The first reported cases Zika virus in the Sunshine State began popping up in February, when state health officials confirmed there were nine travel-related cases of the mosquito-borne virus. Gov. Scott declared a public health emergency in four Florida counties, a number which would grow as the months wore on. As concerns about the illness spread, officials called on the federal government to assist Florida in combatting the disease and minimize the chances of homegrown cases. But in July, health officials announced the first cases of locally acquired Zika had been reported. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quickly issued a travel warning for the Wynwood neighborhood, where the first cases were found. The state eventually identified several Miami-Dade communities, including a portion of Miami Beach, where local people had contracted the illness. The state cleared the final Miami-Dade Zika zone in early December. According to the Department of Health, there were more than 250 cases of locally acquired infections reported this year.

Aug. 30The Grayson era comes to an end — Rep. Alan Grayson was known throughout Florida — and beyond — as a bombastic, no holds bar congressman. And he lived up to that reputation when he ran for U.S. Senate. Grayson made headlines after his ex-wife claimed domestic abuse over two decades, a claim he refuted (but not before getting physical with a reporter). Grayson gave up seat in Florida’s 9th Congressional District to run for office, but convinced his second wife to run. That pitted Dena Grayson against Susannah Randolph, a former aide to the congressman, both of whom tried to carry the banner for the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. And there was no party at the Grayson house when primary night rolled around. Rep. Murphy crushed Rep. Grayson in the U.S. Senate primary; while former state Sen. Darren Soto defeated both Dena Grayson and Randolph (Dena Grayson came in third). The hits kept coming for the Grayson political dynasty. In November, Star Grayson, the former congressman’s daughter, finished a distant third in a three-person race for the Orange County Soil & Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors.

Sept. 2Hurricane Hermine ends Florida’s hurricane-free streak — The Category 1 hurricane was the first storm to make landfall in Florida since Hurricane Wilma in 2005. And boy, did it leave an impression. The storm smacked the Panhandle, knocking out power to thousands upon thousands of customers. While power was restored in some communities relatively quickly, Tallahassee struggled to get up and running. That led to a tussle between Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum and Gov. Scott. In a testy press release, the governor said the city was declining help from other utility companies and expressed frustration over how long it was taking to get the power back on. Gillum shot back, saying Scott was just trying to undermine a cooperative process. But politicos across the state noted the way Gillum, a rising star in the Democratic Party, handled the situation might come back to haunt him in future political runs.

Sept. 26 Water contamination concerns prompt rule changes — Days of rain leading up to, and following, Hurricane Hermine overwhelmed St. Petersburg’s sewer system. City officials opted to release millions of gallons of partially treated sewage into Tampa Bay, marking the first time in about a year the city did that. Combine that with news that a Mosaic Fertilizer sinkhole released 215 million gallons of toxic, radioactive water into the water supplies, and it’s no wonder concerns about Florida’s water supply ran rampant this fall. After many people raised questions about when the spills were reported, Gov. Scott ordered the Department of Environmental Protection to establish new reporting requirements. Those requirements are meant to guarantee local governments and the DEP are notified within 24 hours of a pollution incident. The state in October reached a deal with Mosaic over the sinkhole, which held the company accountable for fixing the sinkhole and rehabilitating the impacts of the spill.

Oct. 7 — Deadly storm threatens Florida’s east coast — One month after Hurricane Hermine made landfall near Tallahassee, Floridians were faced with another hurricane barreling toward their shores. What started as destructive tropical cyclone morphed into Hurricane Matthew, the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Felix in 2007. Gov. Scott and other officials throughout the state encouraged Floridians to evacuate and warned of days without power. The storm sideswiped the entirety of the East Coast, causing damage up and down the coast. The storm tore apart A1A in Flagler Beach, forcing it closed and requiring significant restoration.

Nov. 8Medical pot becomes legal — The second time was the charm for a medical marijuana ballot initiative. The constitutional amendment which allows people with debilitating medical conditions to use medical marijuana, easily passed with 71 percent of the vote. Supporters of the amendment, led by Orlando attorney John Morgan, were able to fend off opposition attacks. Florida was one of six states that legalized marijuana for either medicinal or recreational purposes on Election Day, marking one of the biggest electoral victories for marijuana reforms in years.

Nov. 10Richard Corcoran era brings new rules to Florida House — Calling for a new culture of transparency in the Florida House, House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced new rules aimed at getting tough with with the capital’s lobby corps. The rules prohibit representatives from flying on planes owned, leased or paid for by lobbyists; require lobbyists to filed individual disclosures for each bill, amendment and appropriation they’re working on; and increased the lobbying ban on former members from two to six years. Corcoran also created the Committee on Integrity and Ethics, an oversight committee.

Dec. 22Will Weatherford rules out 2018 gubernatorial bid — Considered a likely 2018 gubernatorial contender since he left office in 2014, former House Speaker Will Weatherford ended the year (and helped officially kick off the 2018 election cycle) by saying he would not run for governor in two years. “I have decided that my role in the 2018 gubernatorial election should be as a private citizen and not as a candidate,” he said in a statement. “My focus right now is on raising my family, living out my faith, and growing my family’s business.” Weatherford was the first candidate to formally say whether they were running. But even without Weatherford in the race, Floridians can expect a crowded field. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is expected to run, and Speaker Corcoran has been mentioned as a possible candidate. On the Democratic side, Rep. Graham has already expressed her interest, as has trial attorney Morgan. And Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer are all believed to be pondering a run.

Charlie Crist, Brian Mast among The Hill’s ’10 freshman to watch’ in Congress

Three Florida freshman are among the “freshmen to watch” in the 115th Congress.

On Monday, The Hill unveiled its list of “10 freshmen to watch in the new Congress.” According to The Hill, seven new senators and 55 new House members — including 10 from Florida — will take the oath of office on Jan. 3.

Newly elected Reps. Charlie Crist, Brian Mast and Stephanie Murphy were among the new members The Hill singled out.

Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat, unseated Republican Rep. David Jolly in Florida’s 13th Congressional District. According to The Hill, the former Republican governor “is making a political comeback.”

Mast filled the state’ vacated by former Rep. Patrick Murphy, defeating Democrat Randy Perkins in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. The former combat veteran will be “one of the youngest members of Congress when he takes the oath of office in January,” according to the website.

Mast, according to The Hill, is one of three Republican “pickups in a year where they were playing defense.”

Murphy toppled Republican Rep. John Mica, the chairman of the transportation committee and a 24-year veteran member of Congress. Her win, according to The Hill, offered the Democratic Party “one of its few bright spots.” Her victory makes her the first Vietnamese-American woman to serve in Congress.

Will Weatherford’s timing off, but only for the moment

Like comedy, politics is most often all about timing. No one knows this better than Will Weatherford, who at the age of 26 rocketed from obscure legislative aide to Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives because of unanticipated, but perfectly placed, events (more about which in a moment).

Now, arguably, this once-rising star of the Republican Party has fallen victim to his breathtaking start. In short, two years after he surrendered the gavel as America’s youngest state House speaker, Weatherford has nowhere to go.

The man said so himself Thursday afternoon:

“While I’m compelled at some point to re-engage in the political arena, I just think the timing right now is not right,” he told the Miami Herald.

At least, nowhere to go that strikes him as being worth the harrowing trade-offs. Thus, shall Weatherford, not so long ago included in everybody’s lists of top politicians under the age of 40, apparently skip the inviting 2018 races, ostensibly to concentrate on business opportunities with brothers Drew and Sam, leadership development within the Florida Republican Party, and — most important — join his wife, the redoubtable Courtney Bense Weatherford, parenting their four young children in their Southern-Living designed neighborhood in Wesley Chapel.

It’s not like Weatherford’s preferences for 2018 haven’t been an enticing target. As recently as Thursday morning, “The Fix,” a Washington Post politics blog, listed him prominently among probable candidates for Florida’s open gubernatorial seat.

Now, despite having jammed his chin into the mix last summer — “Don’t count me out,” he said on the podcast hosted by fellow SaintPetersblog contributor Joe Henderson and me — Weatherford has audibled out, perhaps sensing the defense was stacked against him.

He would, of course, be right. By training — he was a Jacksonville University linebacker — and instinct, Weatherford knows when a play won’t go.

Polk County’s Adam Putnam, the Agriculture Commissioner and presumed GOP frontrunner, opens with better name recognition, a wider base of contributors and the advantage of having twice won — handily — statewide races.

Moreover, if he has flaws, they are less obvious than those of Bill McCollum, the last Central Florida GOP frontrunner in a race for an open governor’s seat. And Weatherford lacks Rick Scott’s self-funding prowess.

Ah, yes. Rick Scott. And his enormous pile of campaign cash left over from 2014.

If he didn’t seek the Governor’s Mansion, conventional wisdom went, Weatherford surely would chase the Republican nomination to sideline Democrat Bill Nelson, Florida’s senior U.S. senator. Republicans had to like the prospects of a Weatherford-Nelson tussle, which would have contrasted the challenger’s youth and conservative bona fides against the septuagenarian representative of an increasingly hard-left partly

But there’s Scott, the two-time governor and early ally of President-elect Donald Trump — whom Weatherford prominently opposed — who’s widely rumored to be angling for a shot at Nelson. And did I mention his enormous pile of leftover campaign cash?

So here is Weatherford, still just 37, deciding to bide his time. Yes, his announcement Thursday cited specifically only the contest for governor, but there was a blanket nature to it as well:

“My focus right now is on raising my family, living out my faith, and growing my family’s business. I look forward to supporting Republican candidates that share my conservative convictions and can keep Florida headed in the right direction.”

Show of hands. Who else detects the careful phrasing of someone who has spent the last two years learning about how to invest?

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that the arc of Weatherford’s political career has, to now, suggested, if not impatience, then at least alacrity.

After all, things fell just so to get him launched: Then-Gov. Charlie Crist nominated state Rep. Ken Littlefield to the Public Service Commission after the ballots were printed in 2006, leaving the Pasco County Republican Party to identify Littlefield’s stand-in and successor.

Several prominent east Pasco volunteers were passed over in favor of Weatherford, who grew up the oldest of nine children in Land O’ Lakes but, with college and assorted jobs in the Legislature, hadn’t lived in the district in years.

On the other hand, he had the benefit of being Speaker Allan Bense’s top lieutenant and son-in-law. One thing led to another and — badda-bing — there was Weatherford, winning election under Littlefield’s name one day and rounding up the commitments from fellow House freshmen to become speaker-designate-designate-designate the next.

So fast. So very, very fast.

Still, the Sunshine State politician to whom Weatherford has most often been compared — Marco Rubio, Florida’s once-and-still junior U.S. senator — learned a tough lesson about being a young man in a hurry earlier this year. Sitting out 2018 might well mean Weatherford spent the autumn channeling Yogi Berra, who famously noted “You can observe a lot just by watching.”

So, 2018 isn’t Weatherford’s time. That doesn’t mean his time won’t come.

Philip Levine among INFLUENCE Magazine’s 2016 Politicians of the Year

They can’t all be winners, but it’s fair to say several top Florida politicians had one heck of a 2016.

In the winter edition of INFLUENCE Magazine, we recognize some of the runners-up for 2016 politician of the year. Sure, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry may have grabbed the top spot, but these Floridians also had an extraordinary year.

They guided their communities through good times and bad; donned windbreakers and faced down storms; and were catapulted to the national stage. Some ousted the establishment, while others sailed through to easy victories. And one even mounted a successful comeback.

A couple of highlights:

— Gov. Rick Scott deserves a hand for the way he handled the multitude of challenges in 2016, from an attack on an Orlando nightclub to two hurricanes — Hurricane Hermine and Hurricane Matthew — barreling toward the state. Florida saw record tourism numbers, despite concerns about Zika and blue-green algae. And the Naples Republican shot on to the national scene for his steadfast support of Republican Donald Trump.

— With all eyes on Orlando this year, Mayor Buddy Dyer stepped up to the plate and represented The City Beautiful — and the state of Florida — with grace. He spearheaded the effort to create the OneOrlando Fund to assist victims of the Pulse nightclub attack, and was a steady voice throughout the tragedy.

— Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has emerged as a leading voice in discussions about climate change. In recent months, he was name-checked in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece on the issue, featured on National Public Radio talking about the impact rising tides have on his community, and was interviewed by Leonardo DiCaprio for his climate change documentary.

— They’re the next class of congressmen (and congresswomen). The Sunshine State is sending 10 new members to the U.S. House of Representatives this year, marking one of the congressional delegation’s largest turnovers. We’re expecting great things from this group of guys and gals, which includes former state Rep. Matt Gaetz, former Gov. Charlie Crist and political newcomer Stephanie Murphy.

Want to know more about the 2016 Politician of the Year Runners-Up? Check out the 2016 winter edition of INFLUENCE Magazine, available online now.

Personnel Note: Charlie Crist taps Hill veteran Erin Moffet as Communications Director

Congressman-elect Charlie Crist is naming Erin Moffet as Communications Director for his Capitol Hill office.

Moffet has spent nearly seven years running the press operations for Florida members serving in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Erin will be a strong addition to our team given her years of experience working with the Florida press corps,” Crist, the former Governor who now represents Florida’s 13th Congressional District, said in a statement Monday. “Her passion and understanding of the issues impacting Floridians will help us communicate effectively with the residents of Pinellas County to better serve our constituents.”

“It is an honor to continue working on behalf of the people of the great state of Florida as Communications Director in Governor Crist’s Congressional office,” Moffet said. “I am humbled to work for a true public servant who I know will always do what is best for his constituents, working each and every day to move our country forward.”

A former resident of West Palm Beach, Moffet has deep experience as a communicator in the Florida congressional delegation. Moffet got her start as Press Secretary for Congressman Alcee Hastings and later became Communications Director for Congresswoman Lois Frankel.  She currently serves as Communications Director for retiring Congressman Patrick Murphy, working in his Congressional office since 2013 as well as on his successful House campaigns in 2012 and 2014.

Moffet received her undergraduate degree from Elon University and a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University, with a concentration in political communications.

Pinellas GOP, Democrats poised to elect party leaders this Monday night

When it comes to drama with their upcoming party reorganization meetings taking place next week, Pinellas County Republicans and Democrats have nothing on their Hillsborough County brethren.

This coming Monday night, the local executive committees for the Republican and Democratic Parties in Pinellas County will be voting for their party leaders, and in both cases, it doesn’t appear to be many changes at hand – at least not yet.

Pinellas Democratic Executive Committee Chair Susan McGrath is running to serve a second term, after defeating Mark Hanisee in a contentious election back in 2014. She has no competition at the moment. Amos Miers is running for vice chair, Wanda Schwerer, who is running for state committee woman, and Rick Boylan, who is running as state committee man. That meeting will take place at the St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater at 7:00 p.m.

“We are fortunate to have some solid unity and forward momentum in Pinellas with 4 of 7 people running for December PCDEC Board positions who are new, 3 of which are Berniecrats (Bonnie Agan for Secretary) and two who were Bernie Delegates (Wanda Schwerer for re-election to State Committee Woman and myself running for Vice Chair for the first time ever),” Miers said on Saturday.

Over in the Republican world, incumbent Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee Chair Nick DiCeglie is also running unopposed for a second term this Monday night as well. A former vice chair, DiCeglie defeated Lee Pilon and George Farrell for the top position two years ago.

Todd Jennings is also running again as vice chairmanThe Pinellas GOP meeting takes place at the Feather Sound Country Club in Clearwater at 7:00 p.m.

While there is little competition in the local party elections, there is a definite rivalry between McGrath and DiCeglie.

McGrath boasts that the Democratic Party leads the GOP in terms of registered voters, and that that the “two most important seats that local parties include, the Board of County Commissioners and Florida’s 13th Congressional District went to Dems,” despite the turnout advantage for the Republicans last month.

The Democratic Party took control of the Board of County Commissioners for the first time in decades after the 2014 election and maintained it last month, while Charlie Crist defeated David Jolly in the CD 13 contest.

DiCeglie concedes the Pinellas Democrats have retaken the lead in voter registration, but says his party took the real prize when Pinellas went for Donald Trump last month over Hillary Clinton, after Barack Obama had taken Pinellas by nearly ten percentage points four years ago.

“The minute a president wins an election and caries that county, this is now a Red county,” he says.

The relative no-drama party elections are in stark contrast with the R’s and D’s across the bay in Hillsborough.

Although Ione Townsend won re-election as Hillsborough Democratic party chair this past week with no opponent, some local Democrats are still cross with her after Monday night’s controversial meeting which resulted in the locally elected Democrats being told that the by-laws of their DEC banned them from participating in the race.

The Republican Executive Committee of Hillsborough County doesn’t get together until Tuesday, December 20, but that could be interesting. Incumbent chair Deborah Tamargo, who defeated former chair Debbie Cox-Roush for the top role two years ago, is being challenged by Jonny Torres.

Charlie Crist calls on Congress to extend tax breaks before adjourning for the year

Charlie Crist is calling on the 114th Congress to extend tax breaks benefiting students and seniors before it adjourns for the year.

The congressman-elect on Tuesday asked Congress to extend several soon-to-expire tax breaks, including a medical expense deduction for seniors, and a tuition and fees deduction. Congress is expected to adjourn for the year later this week.

“These tax breaks are important to seniors, students and homeowners struggling to make ends meet,” said Crist, Florida’s former governor, in a statement. “Congress can and should extend them before the end of session.”

Crist has honed in on five tax breaks that help seniors, students, and middle class homeowners. The breaks are:

— A medical expense deduction for seniors, which allows seniors to write off health care costs once they’ve spent 7.5 percent of their gross income on health care. If the tax break isn’t extended, the threshold is expected to increase to 25 percent.

— A tuition and fees deduction for higher education costs, which provides middle and lower income students with a $4,000 tax credit annually.

— A mortgage insurance deduction for homeowners making under $100,000 a year — $50,000 for married couples filing separately — that allows them to write off their mortgage insurance premium or private mortgage insurance.

— A home debt forgiveness program for homeowners underwater on their mortgages. Currently the discharge of the debt is excluded from being considered as income. Without the extension, the debt could be considered income and would be fully taxed.

— Energy efficient tax credits for homeowners that purchase qualified energy efficient windows, doors, insulation, heating and air conditioning units, water heats, and other environmentally home improvements. Under current law, homeowners can write off 10 percent of the purchase price of the items, up to $500 in credit.

“The Majority in Congress wants to delay consideration of these tax breaks until next year, when they hope to overhaul the tax code,” said Crist in a written statement. “The better way forward would be to do what’s right for our seniors, students and middle class homeowners and extend these tax breaks now!”

Crist defeated Republican Rep. David Jolly to become the Democratic representative from Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

Personnel note: Charlie Crist names senior Patrick Murphy aide new Legislative Director

Congressman-elect Charlie Crist announced Monday the appointment of veteran policy adviser Christopher Fisher to Legislative Director in his Capitol Hill office.

“I am excited to have Chris join the team,” the former governor said in a statement. “With his years of experience serving Florida in Washington, working on the issues the people care about, Chris will hit the ground running.”

“Governor Crist’s distinguished career of public service, including as the people’s governor of my home state, truly sets him apart,” Fisher said. “He always puts the people first, and I could not be more honored for the chance to work alongside the governor to serve the people of Pinellas County.”

A graduate of the University of Miami, Fisher has a deep legislative background working on behalf of Floridians, previously serving as Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy for Congressman Patrick Murphy, Legislative Assistant for Congressman Ted Deutch, and Health Policy Fellow for Congressman Robert Wexler.

crist_christopher-fisher

Personnel note: Charlie Crist appoints Austin Durrer Chief of Staff

Newly elected Congressman Charlie Crist announced Thursday that experienced Capitol Hill veteran Austin Durrer will head his new congressional office.

Durrer has served in senior roles in both the legislative and executive branches over the past 15 years. He was a longtime aide and Chief of Staff to Congressman Jim Moran, a senior Member of the Appropriations Committee, and currently serves as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA), overseeing the Department’s data technology mission.

“Austin brings a wealth of experience, knowledge and a strong, steady hand to this important position. He’s an impact player who will build our team in Washington with a laser-like focus on serving the people of Pinellas County,” said Crist, the former Governor who now represents Florida’s 13th Congressional District in the 115th Congress.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to work for Gov. Crist on behalf of Pinellas County,” said Austin Durrer. “He’s no ordinary freshman, and someone who has dedicated his life to looking out for the little guy. I look forward to helping advance his agenda of bringing common sense solutions to Washington, to bridge the political divide, serving as the voice for the people of Pinellas County on Capitol Hill.”

Durrer has an MBA from Johns Hopkins University and received his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Political Science and Economics

CNN reports, eloquently, on the nightmare that is Florida Medicaid

It’s been ten years, almost to the day, since Congressman-elect Charlie Crist pulled $360 out of his pocket to pay for a year’s supply of thermal blankets for 12-year-old Kevin Estinfil, and pulled the plug on state lawyers who’d been fighting in the Third District Court of Appeal to deny the boy the basic supplies that were keeping him alive.

Back then, Crist was the Florida Attorney General who had just been elected Governor, and Kevin was confined to a Medicaid group home for children with life-threatening medical conditions. Kevin’s case turned up on Crist’s radar thanks to bad publicity courtesy of Miami Herald reporter Carol Marbin Miller, but not before the state had spent enough money jerking Kevin’s caregivers around to pay for a warehouse full of thermal blankets.

Today, half of Florida’s children rely on Medicaid “insurance,” and the plan is managed as badly now as it was a decade ago.

People who study Medicaid for a living will not be surprised by anything in the damning new report from CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, and neither will families who have sacrificed their savings, their careers, and any hope of a normal life for the sake of a child who will never be able to care for himself.

For the rest of us, Cohen’s look into the lives of Florida’s “health care refugees” is a bone-chilling holiday buzzkill.

Among the refugees are Kim and Richard Muszynski, formerly of Boynton Beach. With good jobs and longtime Florida roots on both sides of their blended family, they could not have imagined packing it in and starting over in Colorado.

But that’s what they did, after five-year-old daughter Abby, who was born with a life-threatening genetic disorder, had one near-death experience too many due to the toxic combination of underfunding and red tape for which Florida’s Medicaid program is infamous.

In Colorado, Abby’s physical health and her parents’ mental health have improved dramatically. Somehow, America’s Centennial State has figured out how to give children enrolled in its Medicaid program the therapies and medications ordered by doctors, without interference from Dr. No at the Department of Pennywise, Pound Foolish.

Another member of the Florida Medicaid Diaspora is three-year-old Sofia Patriarca. Like Abby, her needs are complex and will require round-the-clock care all her life. Sofia’s parents sold their family pizzeria in Lantana and will relocate to a state that’s safer for children with unique abilities.

“Medicaid forces us to give our children subpar care,” Sofia’s mother, Stefany Garcia-Patriarca, told CNN. “They treat them like animals instead of children.”

It took special courage for Heather Rosenberg to tell CNN that she and her husband have considered leaving Florida to obtain better health care for their children. As foster parents to 16 children, three of whom they adopted, Rosenberg is an expert on Florida Medicaid.

She described it to CNN as “horrible” and “an absolute nightmare,” hastening to that she speaks as a mother, and not in her role as — wait for it — children’s ombudsman at the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Florida spends a small fortune recruiting foster and adoptive families, and promises that they will not have to dip into their own pockets to fund essential medical services that are beyond the reach of all but families with the richest private insurance plans.

No matter how much room people like the Rosenbergs have in their hearts, they’ve only got 24 hours in a day, and they should not have to spend a minute of it begging the state to keep its promises to Florida’s Medicaid eligible children.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons