Dana Young Archives - Page 5 of 33 - Florida Politics

USF community outraged after last-minute budget language is inserted to keep it from achieving ‘pre-eminent’ status

Officials associated with the University of South Florida this weekend are fervently seeking to change the language in an education conforming bill that will keep the university from achieving ‘pre-eminent’ status next year.

A loss of the pre-eminent status for USF could result in losing much as $15 million in state funding.

“The amount of people who are upset about this as of this morning is like anything else,” said Mike Griffin, president of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and a USF alumnus.

In 2013, the Florida Legislature created the Preeminent State Research Universities Program, granting an extra $5 million to $15 million in state funding to universities that could meet 11 of 12 performance benchmarks used by the state to measure success. Measures include the ability to retain freshmen enrolled beyond their first year, the timely graduation of undergraduates, and the financial growth of the institution.

Since its inception, only the University of Florida and Florida State University have achieved such “pre-eminence,” but the state Board of Governors produced data last week that showed that USF was well on its way to breaking into that exclusive club, having achieved 11 of the 12 benchmarks.

Heading into this year, the university reached 10 of those 12 benchmarks, but its path to pre-eminence was paved by legislation passed by the Florida Senate that changed one of those benchmarks that a university had to achieve to a four-year graduation rate of 50 percent or higher, a mark that USF exceeded.

However, in the conforming bill written after the budget was finalized Friday, that benchmark was amended to what it had previously been — a six-year graduation rate of 70 percent or better for full-time, first-time, in-college students. That statistic exceeds USF’s graduation percentage rate for the last six years, now standing at 67 percent. USF’s Annual Work Plan says that the school’s 4-year graduation rate is unlikely to meet the new 70 percent threshold until at least 2020.

Griffin, currently chair of the Greater Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce, is calling on local leaders and lawmakers to petition Senate President Joe Negron to repeal the new conforming language.

“The mistake by some at the University of South Florida was assuming that the Legislature would adopt the 50 percent graduate rate to be immediately applied retroactively,” Negron told the Tampa Bay Times. “As everyone knows, legislation is changed throughout Session.”

“This is unfortunate for USF, and for our entire region,” Griffin said.

Former House Speaker Will Weatherford commented on Twitter: “It was unfair to move the pre-eminence goal post on @USouthFlorida at the last moment …”

Last June, the Florida Board of Governors formally designated USF as the state’s first “emerging pre-eminent state research university,” resulting in $5 million in targeted research investments, which the University has spent on enhancing heart health and medical engineering,

“It is important that our state leaders fully understand the effects of arbitrary changes to our Preeminence goals and metrics,” said USF Board of Trustees Chair Brian Lamb in a statement issued out by the University. “Shifting the goal posts at the endgame impacts the resources and facilities of USF’s students, our ability to attract the best and brightest to our university and city, the success of the Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute in downtown Tampa, and the economic growth and competitiveness of our region.”

The Legislature is scheduled to vote on the final budget on Monday in Tallahassee.

USF lobbyist Mark Walsh said he has been in contact with the Tampa Bay delegation to alert it about the financial implication of what the budget language does.

Walsh said the university had issued a “call to action” Saturday to students, faculty and alumni to contact the delegation for help.

“At the last minute, the Legislature is planning to make a change, taking away millions of $$ of funding for USF meeting pre-eminent university metrics,” the alert said. “This late change excludes SOLELY USF from qualifying for pre-eminence AFTER the Board of Governors had certified (that) USF met the necessary criteria that had been in the proposed (bill) language since January. It will also badly hurt our downtown Tampa med school and heart institute and other USF Colleges.”

Tampa Republican state Sen. Dana Young called the change in the conforming bill, “very concerning,” and said Saturday afternoon she has a been working “to get to the bottom of it.”

This is a developing story …

Peter Schorsch contributed to this story.

Senate adds slot machine provision onto House bill

The Senate on Wednesday tacked language onto a professional deregulation bill that could lead to the expansion of certain kinds of slot machines.

The provision came under the guise of trying to move fantasy sports into the non-gambling realm before the end of the Legislative Session. Lawmakers failed to agree on comprehensive gambling legislation this year, ending their efforts Tuesday.

Sen. Dana Young, a Tampa Republican, offered an amendment to a House bill under consideration, a “Deregulation of Professions and Occupations” measure (HB 7047). 

Though Sen. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican, raised a question as to whether the language was germane to the main bill, the amendment was adopted and the bill passed 36-0, sending it back to the House.

The first part of the amendment addresses fantasy sports, saying “winning outcomes reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the participants.” It also exempts fantasy sports play from state regulation, which companies like FanDuel and DraftKings favor.

But the second part of the amendment also authorizes certain veterans’ organizations to “conduct instant bingo.”

The language includes an allowance for “electronic tickets in lieu of … instant bingo paper tickets.”

That refers to what are known as “Class II gambling” bingo-style slot machines. 

“Think of it like a scratch-off lottery ticket,” gambling blogger Greg Elder explained. “The tickets are sold and there are a certain number of winning tickets. The same holds true for Class II machines. They are programmed to pay off at certain times.”

Greyhound steroid ban dies in Senate

A bipartisan bill banning the use of steroids on greyhound racing dogs is likely dead for the 2017 Legislative Session.

The last committee of reference for the Senate bill (SB 512) had been Appropriations, which did not hear it Monday at its last meeting. The House version (HB 743) passed earlier this month on an 84-32 vote.

“We had the votes to pass it,” said Senate bill sponsor Dana Young, a Tampa Republican. The Senate bill cleared two previous committees on 8-2 and 9-2 margins. “Unfortunately, we were not able to get it on the last agenda.”

Senate Appropriations chair Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, was not immediately available for comment. He did not mention the bill during a post-meeting interview with reporters Monday.

“It’s very sad,” Young added. “I’ve been working on humane issues like this for seven years.”

The House sponsor, Orlando Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith, did not immediately respond to a text message.

The measure had been vehemently opposed by racetrack and racing dog associations. There are 19 race-dog tracks remaining in the United States, 12 of them in Florida.

Smith had argued in committee that trainers use steroids on female greyhounds to keep them from going into heat and losing racing days. He called the use of steroids on dogs equivalent to “doping.”

“Anabolic steroids can have harmful long-term side effects, in addition to serving as a performance enhancer on female dogs,” Smith had said in a news release. “As long as greyhound racing continues in Florida, we have a moral obligation to ensure these dogs are treated as fairly and humanely as possible.”

Latest on the legislative staffing merry-go-round

With a tip of the hat to LobbyTools, here are the latest movements – both on and off – of the legislative merry-go-round.

On and off: Charlotte Jones has replaced Roshanda Jackson as district secretary for Jacksonville Democratic Rep. Kimberly Daniels.

On: Joshua Winograd is a new legislative assistant for Delray Beach Democratic Rep. Emily Slosberg.

Off: Karol Molinares is no longer Slosberg’s legislative assistant.

Off: Alison Roldan is no longer a district secretary for Miami Democratic Rep. Robert Asencio.

Off: Rachel Wise is no longer a district secretary for Jonesville Republican Rep. Chuck Clemons.

Off: Beau Giles is no longer legislative assistant for Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young.

Off and on: Lydia Claire Brooks is no longer a legislative assistant for Tallahassee Democratic Rep. Loranne Ausley, who now has three district secretaries: Jessica LambShane Roerk, and Mark Hodges.

Off: Skylar Swanson is no longer district secretary for Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry.

On: Nancy Bernier has become a legislative assistant for Indialantic Republican Rep. Thad Altman.

On and off: GeeDee Kerr replaced Tyler Teresa as Sarasota Republican Rep. Joe Gruters‘ district secretary.

On: Jeremy Stein is a new district secretary for Fort Walton Beach Republican Rep. Mel Ponder.

Off: Nicole Pontello is no longer district secretary for palm coast Republican Rep. Paul Renner.

On and off: Robert Moore has replaced Elizabeth Casimir as district secretary for Fort Lauderdale Democratic Rep. Patricia Williams.

Tampa International Airport

House considers contentious Tampa International Airport audit

Budget language filed in the Florida House Saturday morning would OK a controversial state audit of Tampa International Airport.

As reported by Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida, Brandon Republican Sen. Tom Lee unexpectedly filed an amendment last week on the Senate floor, which proposes an audit of TIA’s renovation master plan.

Lee’s amendment raised concern with two other Tampa Bay-area Senate Republicans — appropriations chair Jack Latvala of Clearwater and Dana Young of Tampa.

The Senate rejected the amendment.

Pensacola Republican Rep. Clay Ingram, chair of the House transportation budget, offered the language in the House budget.

St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, Ingram’s counterpart in the Senate transportation committee, should respond sometime Saturday, as part of continuing budget negotiations.

Dixon notes that Brandes did seem to agree with Lee that an audit may be needed.

“We should give great deference to any senator who asks for an audit,” Brandes said earlier.

 

Ban on steroids for greyhound racing dogs passes House

A bipartisan bill banning the use of steroids on greyhound racing dogs was approved Thursday by the Florida House of Representatives.

House Bill 743, cosponsored by Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando and Republican state Rep. Alex Miller of Sarasota, was approved in the house by a vote of 84 to 32, despite strong opposition from racetrack and racing dog associations.

The companion measure, Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 512, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Dana Young of Tampa, has passed two committees and now is in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The House sponsors had argued that the use of dog steroids was both unfair to competition and harmful to the dogs. As he pushed the bill through committees, Smith had repeatedly called the practice “doping” and charged that reports indicated steroids are routinely given to female dogs to keep them from going into heat.

“I’m incredibly proud of the bi-partisan coalition we built around this common-sense measure to protect greyhound racing dogs in Florida. Anabolic steroids can have harmful long-term side effects, in addition to serving as a performance enhancer on female dogs,” Smith stated in a news release. “As long as greyhound racing continues in Florida, we have a moral obligation to ensure these dogs are treated as fairly and humanely as possible.”

HB 743 is Rep. Smith’s first bill to pass the Florida House since his election in November 2016– a rare victory for a freshman Democrat serving in a Republican dominated legislature.

There are currently 19 racetracks in the United States, 12 of them here in Florida.

With weeks left in Session, small-businesses rally for statewide fracking ban

With just over two weeks left in Florida’s regular Legislative Session, a group of over 100 members of the business community released a statement Wednesday indicating support for a statewide fracking ban.

“If something goes wrong, I know that will have an impact on us,” said Mark Amis, the owner of Little Tommie’s Tiki located at Boca Ciega Bay in Gulfport. “I just don’t think that we should be spending the amount of money we’re going to spend to get those fuels. I don’t think there’s a good tradeoff there.”

“I’m a real estate broker and I want to protect real estate values in the state,” says Darlene Goodfellow with Valrico Realty Results. “I think if we had fracking it would definitely all of our property values negatively. I remember what happened during the BP oil spill, and people move to Florida because they love our natural resources and we need to protect them.”

The letter was produced by the environmental group Food & Water Watch, which has been advocating for a statewide ban on fracking.

“The risks of fracking in Florida outweigh any possible benefits that the industry could bring,” reads a portion of the letter. “We must not put our steadiest, revenue producing industries at terminal risk from exploratory and exploitive fracking. Fossil fuel extraction follows a boom-bust cycle that leaves communities burdened with health problems, damaged infrastructure, and a weaker economy for the long-term. Please listen to the 90 communities across the state that have passed local measures against fracking and pass the statewide ban. We must protect Florida’s environment; our businesses and industries depend upon it.”

After years of failure in getting any type of fracking legislation on the books, momentum appeared strong at the onset of the session this year for a ban on fracking, after Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young unveiled a proposal to ban the practice.

“Our natural environment and our aquifer are worth protecting at all costs,” Young said in a statement released on Wednesday by Food & Water Watch. “That is why I filed SB 442, a bill to ban fracking in Florida. By preventing fracking operations, we can protect Florida’s environment which sustains our population through a clean drinking water supply and provides enjoyment for Floridians and out of state visitors alike.”

However, Young’s bill may be on life support in the wake of comments made earlier this month by Mike Miller, the Orlando Republican carrying a companion bill  (HB 451) that would ban fracking in the House. Miller told the Naples Daily News, “You never say never, but now we’re saying it looks like that will be next year.”

The reason for the impasse is the desire by some House Republicans for a scientific study to determine the potential impacts of fracking. That echoes the 2016 legislation seeking to impose a two-year moratorium on fracking while a Florida-specific study was commissioned to assess the possible implications of the drilling technique used for extracting oil or natural gas from deep underground.

“Maryland’s recent passage of a statewide ban showed us what can be done when businesses and communities come together against fracking,” said Brooke Errett, Florida Organizer with Food & Water Watch. “Florida has a tourism-dependent economy. If our legislators care about Florida’s economy and constituents, they will ensure that a ban is passed before fracking can damage our state.”

 

 

House Democrats wake up on weed

Perhaps they’ve been reading the rash of vitriolic emails and op-eds from Florida for Care, or the equally brutal reporting and editorializing from the Tampa Bay Times this past weekend.

Maybe it was the litany of emotional public comment at Tuesday’s hearing.

Whatever it was, Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee – led by the always entertaining, snarky and whip-smart Jared Moskowitz – suddenly woke up on medical marijuana.

It was a huge turnaround from just a few weeks ago.

When HB 1397 – the House’s medical marijuana implementing legislation, filed by Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues – had the first hearing a few weeks ago in the Health Quality Subcommittee, it sailed through with nary a word from Democrats on the committee.

Only first year Rep. Amy Mercado voted “nay.”

This was somewhat surprising, given medical marijuana’s political history in Florida. The issue has always enjoyed a significant degree of bipartisan support with voters, while divided along sharply partisan lines in Tallahassee.

Florida’s Democratic Party executive committee twice endorsed Amendment 2, in 2014 and 2016; Republicans in the Legislature and the Cabinet were unanimous in opposition to the same in 2014, and while more muted in 2016, only Sen. Jeff Brandes and then-Rep. Dana Young broke party ranks to endorse medical marijuana last fall.

While 118 of 120 House districts gave Amendment 2 north of 60 percent support in the November elections, Democratic districts were much more likely to offer support – in the mid-to-high 70s.

In opening the debate on HB 1397, Moskowitz acknowledged as much, noting that he’d previously not been particularly engaged in the issue, but received nearly 76 percent support in his district.

In the first Senate hearing on implementation in December, Sen. Darryl Rouson, a longtime opponent of medical marijuana, publicly switched his position, citing the close to 80 percent support in his district (the highest of any Senate district statewide).

Moskowitz then began to pick apart the House bill’s overly restrictive nature, while also bringing up certain areas where he felt the bill could use additional tightening – most notably with
proximity to schools, and limiting the number of retail facilities an operator can open.

Per usual, Moskowitz’s shining moment arrived at the nexus of policy debate and humor, when he compared the requirement in HB 1397 that doctors submit justification of marijuana certifications to the Board of Medicine to Sarah Palin‘s famed Obamacare “death panels” comment in 2009.

Moskowitz wasn’t alone on the committee. Buttressing his snark was Rep. Lori Berman, who peppered tough questions throughout, and the stark, passionate, remarks of Rep. Katie Edwards.

Edwards had co-sponsored – along with now-Congressman Matt Gaetz – the original low-THC cannabis law the legislature passed in 2014 but has remained somewhat mute on the issue since. She attributed her relative silence to the emotional toll the issue can take, the burden of responsibility toward suffering patients and families, who pleaded with her to do more for their relief.

Edwards pledged she would apologize no more for legislation that did not go far enough toward bringing that relief and voted down HB 1397.

In voting down HB 1397, Moskowitz, Berman and Edwards were joined by all their fellow Democrats. The decks of the House being stacked as they are, the measure nevertheless moved forward handily.

Given the current disparity between the implementation proposals of the House and Senate, as well as Rodrigues’ acknowledgment of negotiations already occurring between the chambers, Democrats might necessarily have a degree of input on this legislation, as they have carved out for themselves on gaming.

It should then be noticed that the Democrats’ point person on gaming in the House – Moskowitz – was also carrying their banner on medical marijuana.

Dana Young craft beer bill clears Senate subcommittee

Tuesday afternoon, the Florida Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government was the latest successful stop for Sen. Dana Young‘s craft beer bill, bringing small-batch brewers one step closer to self-distribution.

SB 554 allows craft breweries producing under 7,000 kegs a year to distribute kegs (not bottles or cans) to other Florida craft breweries.

That applies as long as breweries don’t have distribution deals already, and has raised concerns among the beer industry that it would subvert their distribution model.

“This bill is designed to help the smallest of the small brewer,” said Young. “This is the bill for the little guy … simply to help the smallest of the small.”

Young noted that once these brewers have distro deals, they are cut off from this law.

Sen. Aaron Bean noted that distributors were “concerned” about a loosening of standards expanding self-distribution: “How do we know that the creeper isn’t coming in?”

Young noted that it took four years to pass “growler” legislation, and that self-distribution was tabled until the growler bill could be passed.

“These are the folks … left out of the three-tier system … there are only forty businesses,” Young said.

Instead of seeing these outfits as threats, Young billed the small-batch brewers as the “farm team.”

Industry mouthpieces had their say.

A representative of the Florida Brewers’ Guild spoke in support of the bill.

A representative of the Beer Industry of Florida, meanwhile, expressed opposition due to potential “regulatory slide,” saying that companies will push to increase the cap past 7,000 kegs, and that there are “lots of craft distributors” in the state.”

And a representative of the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association noted “the creep is taking place already,” with this legislation undoing “much of the 2015 legislation.”

After all that, Bean found himself “struggling” with this bill.

“The creeper is alive and real and lives in all kinds of legislation,” Bean said, but he is “with Young today.”

Others on the committee felt similar qualms, willing to support the bill in committee, but with qualms after this stop.

Sen. Darryl Rouson discussed the importance of one brewery in gentrifying Midtown St. Petersburg, before saying that his “vote is not guaranteed” throughout the process.

Young vowed to continue working on the bill, including potentially changing the number of kegs.

The bill emerged favorably from the committee.

The Senate Appropriations Committee, the fourth and final committee stop for this legislation, will hear this bill Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, the House version of the legislation has not been heard by a committee yet.

Tom Lee not backing down on claim of questionable spending at Tampa International Airport

Tom Lee insists he never wanted to air any “dirty laundry” about Tampa International Airport when he attempted to introduce an amendment to the Florida Senate’s budget last Wednesday that would have the airport independently audited.

But the Brandon Republican says that there are too many unanswered questions about how the airport is being run for him to stand silent.

“When you’re presented with this information, and you’re a member of the Florida Legislature, and you don’t act on at least an innocuous audit of status of the airport expansion project, that’s a pretty irresponsible disregard of your public duties,” Lee said Sunday.

The Senate rejected Lee’s amendment on a voice vote, but airport officials have stated that they would have no issue with such an audit, if one ultimately took place.

Tampa Republican Dana Young objected to the process by which Lee introduced his amendment, asking him on the floor why he couldn’t have done so when the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation (which Lee chairs) met last December.

Lee told Young and Jack Latvala, who also objected to the late-filed amendmentthat it was only because of recent media reports that he was compelled to do his own due diligence about the airport’s finances, specifically referring to a report from WFLA News Channel 8.

That story, which aired on March 1, reported that phase one of the airport’s $1 billion master plan expansion was running four months behind schedule.

A story that Lee didn’t mention on the Senate floor, but which he confirmed with FloridaPolitics.com, was a crucial source for him was reported approximately a year-and-half ago by WTSP’s Mike Deeson. That story relied on quotes from two Hillsborough County Tea Party activists who questioned the spending at the airport, as well as excerpts of memos written by former Hillsborough County Aviation Authority member Martin Garcia to board members years earlier. Garcia has been a frequent critic of TIA executive director Joe Lopano and his spending plans at the airport ever since Garcia abruptly left the agency after less than a year of service in May 2014.

Lee says that he “stumbled across” Garcia after he had done some initial research on the airport’s finances, and says that the former Aviation Authority board member “put some meat on the bones” of those reports.

Garcia is the head of a Tampa-based investment firm and served as Pam Bondi’s campaign manager for her successful run for Attorney General in 2010. Lee says he knew of Garcia from local GOP circles, but not well before the recent conversation about the airport.

During those discussions, Lee stated that Garcia told him that he was in possession of documents that referred to the extent of which airport management had “gone out of its way to conceal some of the facts and had refused to proceed in a fiscally irresponsible manger with these independent feasibility studies.” But when Lee asked him if he could share that information with him, he said Garcia told him he would not do so “without a subpoena.”

A call to Garcia for comment was not returned.

Garcia also told Lee about his issues with Gigi Rechel, the Aviation Authority’s former attorney who Garcia encouraged the Florida Bar to investigate regarding text messages she had sent to him that could not be recovered.

In February, the Florida Bar ruled that Rechel did not violate the state’s Sunshine Laws.

Lee admits that other various other media reports about other incidents about the airport have inspired his zeal for an audit. One of those incidents was a report about an alleged security breach and questionable business practices by staffers in the IT department. Two of those staffers ultimately resigned, and a business consulting firm found no security breaches.

Lee says that his request for an audit was a “perfunctory” request, and says he remains surprised that it has become such a major story. But while he insists he doesn’t have a “settled opinion” on whether improprieties are happening with the airport’s finances, Lee also injected the arguably inflammatory words “potential public corruption at the airport” early in his discussion of the debate on the Senate floor last week.

He defends those comments, saying it came later in the public debate after Young challenged him.

“The airing of the dirty laundry on the Senate floor is not my doing,” he maintains, saying he did everything he could to avoid that conversation and said that there had already been ten minutes of discussion off the floor of the Senate before he made that comment (You can watch the debate on the Senate floor, beginning at the 5:30:45 marker here).

Lee also says that Young was advised by lobbyists for the Aviation Authority not to challenge him on the floor because they knew that it could result in exposing “dirty laundry.”

(FloridaPolitics.com reached out to Young and the two lobbyists working for the airport to confirm the accuracy of the claim. None immediately responded).

Acknowledging that an internal state audit could be time-consuming, Tampa Airport officials say that they would welcome such a review because they have nothing to hide.

“If an audit turns up any findings, we certainly would adjust practices as necessary,” says airport spokesperson Janet Zink, “but we feel really comfortable with the way the project has been managed.”

Zink says the Aviation Authority provides monthly updates to the Florida Department of Transportation and has their internal auditing team reviewing the project on a regular basis, as well as producing an annual audit with an external auditor.

“There is a lot of monitoring going on, and we’ve been really, really diligent and careful in the way that we’ve managed the project,” she says.

Lee says that he also is concerned that there hasn’t been much public discussion about phases II and III of the ultimately $2.6 billion master plan. However, Zink says that there will be a board workshop at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Aviation Authority’s boardroom on Phase II of the Master Plan (public notice was the first week of April). There will also be an open house April 27 at 6 p.m. in the boardroom for more people to get information about the project.

Over the weekend, FloridaPolitics reached out to two Aviation Authority members for comment; neither Mayor Bob Buckhorn nor Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist chose to respond. Crist initially responded to a request to talk, but later returned a subsequent message.

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