Dana Young Archives - Florida Politics

Dana Young, Jamie Grant seeks to provide cash for ‘innovative’ Tampa Bay transit

It’s no secret that one of the most significant problems dragging down the Tampa Bay-area economy is a lack of sufficient transportation options, as well as the lack of money to fund potential solutions.

Attempting to provide a partial solution are Tampa-area state legislators Dana Young and Jamie Grant, who publicly discussed their bill that would provide $25 million for the recently revamped Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority (TBARTA) in what is being called “innovative” transportation options.

“We think it makes a lot of sense to see how quickly we can put innovative solutions out on our roads at a cost-efficient way to our taxpayer,” said Grant, who is sponsoring the bill (HB 535) in the House. He hopes that the funding would “leverage the innovation” that is occurring when it comes to developments like Automatic Vehicles (A/V), ride-sharing, ferries and Bus Rapid Transit.

Young says the proposal (SB 1200) would repurpose $60 million annually out of a $240 million existing rail fund and would be labeled the Statewide Alternative Transportation Authority. Of that $60 million, $25 million would go to the Tampa Bay area (and be administered by TBARTA), $25 million would go to Miami-Dade County, and the remaining $10 million would be allocated to projects throughout the state that are ranked by the state Dept. of Transportation. There would have to be local funding to match the state grant, though the specifics of how that will work out is still being considered, Grant said.

One thing officials gathered at the news conference that was held outside the Tampa Convention Center were adamant about is the money would not go toward funding any light-rail projects.

“What we don’t want to be is SunRail,” Grant said, referring to the commuter rail system started up in Orlando three years ago. “What we don’t want to be is a local community having a train that costs us more money to print a ticket than it would to give away the ride for free.”

In fact, the bill takes funding currently going toward SunRail and redirects it to the Tampa Bay and Miami regions.

“I think we have to look at a whole constellation of different ideas in Tampa Bay, and not just locked into the old idea that rail is the only way. Because rail is not the only way,” said James W. Holton, the president of Holton Companies. Holton is Gov. Rick Scott’s hand-picked choice to head TBARTA.

“There are numerous other ways to do it,” Holton added. “And potentially the combination of a lot of different modalities is where we want to go.”

Created a decade ago under former Gov. Charlie Crist, TBARTA is a regional transportation agency through the seven counties of the Greater Tampa Bay area. But TBARTA always struggled due to a lack of significant funding from the Legislature.

Reconfigured in the 2017 Legislative Session as a smaller agency (though not much smaller; now consisting of five counties — Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Manatee, and Hernando) with an emphasis on transit, TBARTA still did not get additional funding.

Legislation sponsored by Sarasota Republican Rep. Joe Gruters (HB 2451) to fund the agency with $1 million has been introduced for the 2018 Session.

“I’m thrilled to hear about this legislation,” gushed St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. “As a member of TBARTA, it’s one thing to come up with a plan, but if we don’t have the resources to see that plan implemented, then we’ve all spent a lot of time and energy not really moved the ball at all.”

While additional funding would not go toward light rail, an ongoing project studying transit options for the Tampa Bay region paid for by FDOT released their top five recommendations back in SeptemberThe number one ranked option was a light-rail system from Wesley Chapel to the University of South Florida Tampa campus and on to St. Petersburg.

Young said the proposal would not interfere with other transit studies.

“We’re not taking anything off the table for traditional projects that would be funded in a traditional way through the FDOT five-year plan,” she said. “What we are doing is providing an additional fund that we are going to dedicate to innovative, alternative transportation projects.”

Even if the bill passed the Legislature in the 2018 Session, nobody would see those funds for years.

According to a news release issued after the news conference (but not mentioned during it), “funding for TBARTA and other statewide projects through the authority will not be available until the 2021-2022 fiscal year.”

The bill has already passed through one committee in the House.

(Photo credit: Kim DeFalco).

Dana Young has now raised more than $1M for re-election bid

A broad range of supporters helped Dana Young raise over $1 million between her state Senate campaign and committee accounts — with more than $100,000 in just the last month — according to new reports filed with the Florida Division of Elections.

The Tampa Republican has now amassed a million-dollar war chest — of which $800,000 remains in on hand cash — for her 2018 re-election bid, a robust fundraising prowess that is helping Young remain unopposed. She has served Florida Senate District 18 since 2016. 

Through her committee, Friends of Dana Young, Young added $75,500 in November, with another $21,000 going to her campaign.

Among last month’s top donors to the committee include $12,500 from the GOPAC Election Fund — a nationwide group that seeks to support a “healthy roster of prepared and tested Republican leaders.”

Also giving $10,000 each were the Florida-based cigarette, cigar and e-cigarette manufacturer Dosal Tobacco Corporation and Virginia-based Altria Client Services.

Fantasy-sports website Draft Kings gave $5,000, as did the public-employee trade union AFSCME.

Donations to the campaign account came in through a diverse group of 22 contributions, 20 of which were at $1,000, the maximum allowable: Walmart Stores, Pacific Life, the Palm Beach Kennel Club, Dosal, RAI Services and Swisher International.

The report shows Young spent $10,591 for her campaign and $8,895 for her committee; Gainesville-based Data Targeting Inc. received the most with $5,071.

Florida Finance Strategies received $3,500 for consulting, $3,000 to Webelect.net for a data services subscription, and $2,750 for advertising through the influential Bascom Communications.

Heading into December, Young enjoys a significant cash advantage, with $658,579 on-hand for the committee and another $145,183 for her campaign account — $803,762 between the two.

‘Alternative transportation’ authority proposed

House and Senate Republicans are proposing the creation of a “Statewide Alternative Transportation Authority” that would oversee developing transportation systems for such things as autonomous vehicles.

The authority would be within the state Department of Transportation and would receive $60 million beginning in the 2021-2022 fiscal year, according to the House and Senate proposals.

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee last week approved the House version (HB 535), sponsored by Rep. Bryan Avila, a Hialeah Republican, and Rep. James Grant, a Tampa Republican.

Meanwhile, Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young filed the Senate version (SB 1200) on Friday. The bills will be considered during the 2018 Legislative Session, which starts Jan. 9.

Obscure Florida law prompts need for fantasy sports legislation

Fantasy sports advocates have said their hobby is a game of skill and shouldn’t be considered gambling.

There’s one sticking point with that position in Florida: A state law prohibits betting on games of skill, making it a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail. 

But a state Senator backing a bill to exempt fantasy sports from state gambling regulation says “the ambiguity and breadth of that statute is the whole reason we need a bill in the first place.”

Three fantasy sports bills so far have been filed for the 2018 Legislative Session.

The law in question, first put on the books in 1909, makes it “unlawful to bet on (the) result of (a) trial or contest of skill.”

It applies to any “contest of skill, speed or power or endurance of human or beast,” and includes those who place bets and anyone who “aids, assists, or abets … such acts.”

In the online games known as fantasy sports, players pick teams of real-life athletes and vie for cash and other prizes based on how those athletes do in actual games.  

Sen. Dana Young, the Tampa Republican behind one of the upcoming Session’s bills (SB 374) says the law “was not intended to criminalize social games that federal law does not consider to be gambling.”

Young and others have filed similar legislation for several years, to no avail. Her latest bill cleared the Regulated Industries Committee on an 8-1 vote last week.

“What (my) bill says in its most simple form is that players of fantasy contests should not be treated any differently than players in golf tournaments or participants in fishing tournaments,” she said. “The outcomes of all of these recreational activities (or) contests are predominantly determined by the skill of the participants.”

On the other hand, the law banning betting on games of skill “contemplates traditional Vegas-style sports betting,” Young said. 

Even so, both the tide of public opinion and the law may be turning when it comes to sports wagering.

Last Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard argument in the state of New Jersey’s challenge to a 1992 federal law that prohibits states from allowing gambling on sports. Some court watchers think the high court will eventually rule for the states.

Another 2006 federal law banned online gambling but specifically exempted fantasy sports, paving the way for the creation of the niche industry that’s since exploded in popularity.

But opponents have pointed to a 26-year-old opinion by then-Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth.

It says “operation of a fantasy sports league” violates state gambling law. Such opinions don’t have the force of law, but can be used to persuade judges.

The Legislature opens the next Session on Jan. 9.

Ashley Moody gets Maggie’s List backing in Attorney General race

Republican Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody announced Thursday that she earned the backing of a political committee dedicated to getting conservative women into elected office.

Maggie’s List, which has a founders list including current Republican state Sens. Dana Young, Denise Grimsley and Kathleen Passidomo, said Moody – the only woman running for either major party’s nomination – “is a proven leader who brings so much to the State of Florida.”

“Her service in Florida, coupled with her relentless leadership and desire to work on issues that directly impact citizens and businesses in the Sunshine State, make her the right choice. We know she is the right candidate to serve as Florida Attorney General because she respects the need for increased personal responsibility, fiscal conservatism, and fairly upholding law and order for the citizens of Florida,” said committee chair and former Florida Secretary of State Sandra Mortham.

“Ashley Moody upholds the values and leadership that Maggie’s List looks for in effective and principled leaders. As a fiscal conservative, Ashley will work tirelessly to make sure Florida’s future is protected and constitutional rights are upheld.”

The Hillsborough County native and former circuit court judge is running in a four-way Republican Primary against state Reps. Jay Fant, Ross Spano and Frank White.

“Maggie’s List is leading the charge to advance conservatism across every level of government. Their members are champions for our conservative priorities and I’m extremely humbled to receive their endorsement for Attorney General of Florida,” Moody said.

Maggie’s List joins dozens of backers – including more than two dozen sitting county sheriffs – lined up behind Moody in what is shaping up to be an expensive and hotly contested primary to replace termed-out Pam Bondi.

Moody and Fant were the only two candidates in the primary race for a few months until White announced his run in October, followed by Spano in November.

Moody has maintained a solid fundraising effort throughout her campaign, but lost her lead after White put $1.5 million of his own money on the line to take the top spot. The Pensacola Republican has also given Moody a run for her money when it comes to endorsements.

Spano’s entry could threaten her home turf advantage in Hillsborough where she and Spano are both well-liked in Republican circles.

Fantasy sports bill moves after one high-profile ‘no’ vote

A proposal to exempt fantasy sports from state gambling regulation cleared a Senate committee Thursday—but with one notable opponent.

“I don’t think the issues raised are clear,” said Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Port Orange Republican and vice-chair of the Regulated Industries Committee, which handles gambling policy.

Aside from Hukill’s ‘no’ vote, that committee otherwise moved the bill (SB 374) by Dana Young, a Tampa Republican, on an 8-1 vote. Similar measures (SB 840, HB 223) have been filed for the upcoming Legislative Session.

In the online games, players pick teams of real-life athletes and vie for cash and other prizes based on how those athletes do in actual games.  

Asked to clarify her position after the meeting, Hukill said, “Is this a game of skill or not? I don’t think that’s clear, at least for now. If I knew (more), I would do an amendment to the bill.”

The committee also OK’d an amendment to the measure that further defines a “fantasy contest operator” as a “participant in the fantasy contest, serves as the commissioner of not more than 10 fantasy contests in a calendar year, and distributes all entry fees for the fantasy contest as prizes or awards to the participants in that fantasy contest.”

“We need to make sure that the individuals playing fantasy sports are not subject to criminal penalties because of any uncertainty” in state law, she told the committee. Young has said fantasy sports can’t be gambling because they are largely games of skill, not chance.

But opponents, including the Seminole Tribe of Florida, say they are games of chance and passing the bill would constitute an expansion of gambling, which violates the revenue-sharing deal between the state and the Tribe that’s worth over $200 million a year.

The state of law on such games is muddy. Florida and other states continue to grapple with whether the games are mere entertainment or illegal sports betting.

A 2006 federal law banned online gambling but specifically exempted fantasy sports, paving the way for the creation of the niche industry that’s since exploded in popularity. 

A 1991 opinion by then-Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth, however, says “operation of a fantasy sports league” violates state gambling law. Such opinions don’t have the force of law, but can be used to persuade judges.

Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Ken Bell, now in private practice, wrote an opinion letter earlier this year for client DraftKings, a leading fantasy sports website, that “fantasy sports are themselves a form of sport, requiring skill to be played, and do not constitute wagering on an athletic competition.”

And this Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard argument in the state of New Jersey’s challenge to a 1992 federal law that prohibits states from allowing gambling on sports.

Young’s bill next heads to the Rules Committee. This is the last ‘committee week’ before the start of the 2018 Legislative Session on Jan. 9.

Seminole Tribe criticism of fantasy sports is ‘off point,’ Dana Young says

State Sen. Dana Young is defending her fantasy sports bill for 2018, saying the Seminole Tribe’s criticism of her measure and related legislation is “off point.”

On Wednesday, the Tampa Republican referred to a February legal opinion by former Florida Supreme Court Justice Ken Bell for DraftKings, a leading fantasy sports website.

The day before, the Tribe sent a letter warning lawmakers that fantasy sports bills filed for the 2018 Legislative Session, if approved, would violate the Seminole Compact. (An earlier story is here.)

In sum, Bell said “the passage of legislation authorizing online fantasy sports should have no effect on the payments due to the State of Florida under the Compact.”

That’s the gambling agreement struck by the state and the Seminoles that, among other things, promises them exclusive rights to certain games. In return, the Tribe pays the state over $200 million a year.

But any violation of the exclusivity deal “would allow the Tribe to cease all revenue sharing payments to the State,” the Tribe’s letter said. The implication is that the bills would impinge on that exclusivity by allowing an expansion of gambling.

In an interview, Young was incredulous when told of the Tribe’s concerns. Her bill (SB 374) exempts fantasy sports play from state gambling regulation. Similar measures (SB 840, HB 223) have been filed for the upcoming Legislative Session.

“This issue has been around since 2015 and this is the first time the Tribe has raised the Compact as it relates to fantasy sports,” she said.

Fantasy sports fans have argued their hobby is a game of skill and not of chance, and shouldn’t be considered gambling—a position with which Young said she agrees.

Such contests “are games of skill in which prizes are offered, and are not gambling,” Young said. “The Tribe’s letter is therefore off point and not relevant to this legislation.”

In the opinion letter, Bell—now with the Gunster law firm—says “fantasy sports should not be considered internet/online gaming or casino-style gaming.”

“Fantasy sports competitions, such as those sponsored by DraftKings, should not be classified as internet gambling (because) they do not constitute an online bet or gamble,” he wrote.

“It can be reasonably argued that … fantasy sports are themselves a form of sport, requiring skill to be played, and do not constitute wagering on an athletic competition.”

The Tribe’s objections happened to come one day after the U.S. Supreme Court heard argument in the state of New Jersey’s challenge to a 1992 federal law that prohibits states from allowing gambling on sports.

Updated 2:15 p.m. — Young has filed a strike-all amendment on her bill, which can be read here.

It defines a “fantasy contest operator” as a “natural person who is a participant in the fantasy contest, serves as the commissioner of not more than 10 fantasy contests in a calendar year, and distributes all entry fees for the fantasy contest as prizes or awards to the participants in that fantasy contest.”

*                              *                              *

Seminole Tribe fires warning letter to Legislature over fantasy sports

The Seminole Tribe of Florida‘s top in-house lawyer told lawmakers this week that their fantasy sports bills are a dealbreaker.

A $200 million dealbreaker.

The Tribe now says fantasy sports bills filed for the 2018 Legislative Session, if passed, would violate the Seminole Compact. That’s the gambling agreement struck by the state and the Seminoles that, among other things, promises them exclusive rights to certain games. In return, the Tribe pays the state hundreds of millions per year.

Break that deal, the Tribe says, and it’s entitled to pay not one more dime. Around 3 million Floridians say they play some sort of fantasy sports.

Jim Shore, the Tribe’s general counsel, sent a warning letter dated Tuesday to Sen. Travis Hutson, a St. Augustine Republican, and Rep. Mike La Rosa, a St. Cloud Republican. Hutson chairs the Senate’s Regulated Industries Committee, which oversees gambling issues; La Rosa chairs the House’s Tourism & Gaming Control Subcommittee.

While Tribal leaders “remain willing” to talk about the legislation, Shore said any violation of their exclusivity deal “would allow the Tribe to cease all revenue sharing payments to the State.” That amounts to over $200 million yearly.

But that’s only if the state “expands” gambling. Fantasy sports fans have long argued their hobby – such as played on websites like FanDuel and DraftKings – is a game of skill and not of chance, and thus shouldn’t be considered gambling.

A bill (HB 223) by Republican Rep. Jason Brodeur of Sanford would exempt fantasy sports play from state gambling regulation. Another bill (SB 374) by GOP Sen. Dana Young of Tampa would do the same.

Past measures in the Legislature would have gone further by explicitly declaring that fantasy play is not gambling.

Hutson’s own omnibus gambling bill for 2018 (SB 840) includes a section on fantasy sports, defining it as being driven by player performance rather than team performance, and as long as someone isn’t “commissioner” of more than ten leagues, he is exempt from regulation.

A proposed omnibus gambling bill failed this past session, getting caught up in a late-session meltdown over a renewed blackjack agreement with the Seminoles and related measures that would have expanded gambling in the state.

Requests for comment on the letter are pending with lawmakers.

Jacksonville correspondent A.G. Gancarski contributed to this report. 

Senate advances ‘modern-day piracy’ bill requiring marine towing estimates

A Senate bill seeking to control overcharging by marine salvage and towing companies passed its first committee Monday — despite some industry concerns.

SB 664, sponsored by Tampa Republican Dana Young, will require written cost estimates — if requested by customers — before a salvage or towing company can provide work costing more than $500.

Young filed the legislation last month to prevent what she called “modern-day piracy.”

“The actions of a limited number of these companies amount to a form of modern-day piracy, and it must stop,” Young said. “Unfortunately, there have been some terrible abuses in a system that many boat owners rely on.”

Young said consumers throughout the state feel “misinformed and misled” by ambiguous salvage claim fees that pop up when a boat owner requests last-minute aid on the water — particularly in a state such as Florida with an abundance of waterways and boating.

On Monday, Young told members of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee of meetings she had with several industry representatives concerned about the bill.

Young said she expects to amend the bill to avoid deterring companies from “saving human lives, rescuing vessels and ultimately saving money over the long run by not having them sink.”

Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala wondered if Young wanted to build a “consensus package” instead of just kicking the bill “down the road.” She explained she wanted to work with the industry for an agreement, but did not promise a “Kumbaya moment.”

“I think we can get pretty darn close,” she added. “I am committed to working to do that.”

Bonnie Basham, who represents the BoatUS boat towing and insurance company, pointed out that the state of Florida is banned by maritime law against regulating price and penalties.

“We believe there is a better way to skin this cat and help these boaters, and we look forward to working with the senator on that,” she told the board.

Latvala was the only vote in opposition.

Margaret Good says she’s the Democrat who can win HD 72 in 2018

Can Florida Democrats pull off an upset and take northern Sarasota County House District 72 early next year?

There’s a lot of time before that special election takes place next year (Feb. 13), but Siesta Key attorney Margaret Good has emerged as a possible contender — if you gauge her fundraising prowess, where she raised nearly $88,000 in the first month of fundraising after entering the contest.

The HD 72 seat is being fought for after Republican incumbent Alex Miller abruptly left last August.

“I wasn’t getting into a race I didn’t think I could win,” Good said. “And one of the ways you win elections is by building coalitions and networks that are going to support you.”

Good has built support by meeting with as many voters as she can since entering the contest in early September.

A Georgia native, she spent her youth growing up there and in South Carolina, where she received an undergraduate degree from the University of South Carolina. It was during her youth when the idea of getting into public service first hit her.

She then attended law school at the University of Florida, where she edited the Florida Law Review. Good currently works at the Sarasota-based law firm of Matthews Eastmoore.

“When I moved to Sarasota, I started thinking more seriously about it, because I knew this was going to be the place I called home for the rest of my of my life,” she said.

Last year’s election results inspired Good to look seriously at pursuing such an opportunity.

Earlier this year she helped her friend, attorney Hagen Brody, get elected to the Sarasota City Commission. When Miller announced she wanted out in late August, Good pounced.

“I thought it was a really great opportunity for the Democrats to win a Florida House seat, and decided that this was the time to step up and serve my community.”

Good is running against businesswoman Ruta Jouniari in the Democratic primary scheduled for Dec. 5.

Ruth’s List and the Sierra Club have endorsed Good, but a co-endorsement from the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida was rescinded earlier this month after the group incorrectly said both Democrats support raising the minimum wage from $8.10 to $15 an hour.

“I’m for any increase that we can actually get passed in the state Legislature, but I do think we need to take an incremental approach,” Good says, refusing to define a specific hourly wage.

(Three years ago, South Florida Democratic state Sen. Dwight Bullard pushed legislation that would have raised the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. In 2015, Democrats, fueled by the Fight for $15! movement, then began raising that proposal to $15. In both cases, those plans have gone nowhere in the GOP-led Legislature).

It’s been reported that the two Democrats also differ when it comes to legalizing marijuana, with Jouniari supporting the idea and Good opposed, but Good says she’s “open to the idea of it.”

“The voters in Florida passed a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana, and the implementation has, in my opinion not gone particularly well. I don’t think the Legislature has done a very good job in creating the laws implementing it,” she said, adding, “I think we need to get that off the ground first, and then look and see where we go from there.”

If elected, Good thinks she can work with Republicans on environmental issues, such as a fracking ban (sponsoring a proposal to do that in 2018 are Republicans Dana Young of Tampa in the Senate and Kathleen Peters of South Pasadena in the House).

Much of the Florida Democratic establishment believes in Good and support her campaign. That includes Florida House Victory and Christine Jennings, the former Sarasota County Democratic Executive Committee Chair who calls her a “dream candidate.”

In less than two weeks, HD 72 Democratic voters will make their choice.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons