Dana Young Archives - Page 5 of 30 - Florida Politics

Janet Cruz says Florida Dems won’t ‘mainstream hate speech’ in 2017

While some Republicans in Tallahassee were startled last week when Democrats walked out of a committee hearing in reaction to a speaker who made controversial comments, Janet Cruz says her caucus won’t be “mainstreaming hate speech as a legitimate part of political debate” anytime soon.

The Democrat House Minority Leader was referring to Thursday, when five Democrats in the House’s Children, Families and Seniors subcommittee panel stood up and walked out in reaction to chair Gayle Harrell giving Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, the platform (via Skype) to testify during a discussion of resettling refugees.

One of the more provocative comments Krikorian made that irked the Democrats was when he wrote “my guess is that Haiti’s so screwed up because it wasn’t colonized long enough” in the National Review in 2010.

Although her caucus respects any member of the public who speaks at a committee hearing, Cruz said they specifically objected to Harrell inviting a “white nationalist.”

“This is what’s happening with the Trump election,” Cruz said, addressing an audience at Ybor City’s Robert W. Saunders Library Tuesday night. “I feel they like ripped a lid off a bubbling cauldron of hate, prejudice and bigotry and gave them permission to express it aloud. And we won’t be part of it. “

During her appearance, which lasted more than a half-hour, Cruz weighed in on several subjects. The speech came after Cruz made the four-hour drive each way to and from the state capitol that day for The Associated Press Legislative Planning Session.

Regarding education, Cruz decried saying teachers and unions have been “villainized” in Tallahassee. Efforts will continue to privatize the school system and public hospitals, which she predicts will be Republican’s new “villain” in Tallahassee, she said.

Cruz also talked about the Florida Constitutional Revision Commission, whose membership has yet to be announced. The group will have the power to put proposals directly on the 2018 ballot to amend the state’s constitution.

“There could be an amendment to legalize vouchers, an amendment to repeals the Fair Districts amendment,” she warned.

Introducing Cruz was former Tampa City Councilwoman Lisa Montelione, who lost a close race last fall to Republican Shawn Harrison in House District 63. Also in the crowd was Democrat Bob Buesing, who lost to Dana Young in the Senate District 18 race. Cruz says the GOP machine destroyed both candidates with direct mail campaigns.

“They took this kind Bob Buesing, whose done nothing but served this community, and they made a monster out of him,” she said, surmising that Democrats “have to get better at being ugly.”

Cruz spoke of her own humble beginnings, which led to her becoming the first Hispanic female leader of the House Democrats. As for her current gig, she said it wasn’t easy being the leader of men and women who are, in turn, leaders in their own respective communities.

“It’s like herding alpha dogs sometimes,” she joked. “Everybody is a leader and they’re used to leading and you’re trying to tunnel everybody in one direction, but it works, and I think we have a more cohesive caucus than we’ve had in a very long time.”

Cruz also discussed some of the legislation she has proposed this year, including another proposal for equal pay for women.

“I do not understand why if you have a different appendage you should be entitled to a different paycheck,” she asserted.

And her take on how state government is run? Tallahassee doesn’t have a spending problem or a revenue problem, she said.

No, she says the Legislature has a “priorities problem.”

She also recognized some realities. After all, there are only 41 House Democrats in a 120-person chamber.

“Keep complaining,” she advised the mostly female audience. “It’s egregious (in Tallahassee). And I need all of your help.”

 

Dana Young files fantasy sports bill

State Sen. Dana Young on Monday filed her own version of a bill that would legalize and regulate fantasy sports play.

The Tampa Republican’s “Fantasy Contest Amusement Act” (SB 592) declares such games to “involve the skill of contest participants and do not constitute gambling, gaming, or games of chance.”

And it would prohibit the playing of fantasy sports on any “live pari-mutuel event” that could include dog and horse racing or on any amateur sports, such as college athletics.

“Today, more than 3 million Floridians participate in fantasy sports,” Young said in an email. “This bill ensures the games they love will continue to be legal in the State of Florida, while adding several consumer protection measures.

“The relevant laws on the books were written a long, long time ago in a different era, and they need to be updated to reflect current technology and to ensure that our friends and neighbors who enjoy fantasy sports can do so without any legal ambiguity.”

Young’s bill also comes after the filing of the Senate’s omnibus gambling overhaul for 2017 that already includes a provision to legalize and regulate fantasy sports through an “Office of Amusements.”

That legislation (SB 8), carried by state Sen. Bill Galvano, was cleared unanimously last week by its first review panel, the Regulated Industries committee.

But signs of future trouble in the House began when Speaker Richard Corcoran derided the 112-page measure. It would expand lottery ticket sales at gas pumps, authorize more slot machines, and approve the long-delayed gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

“I’ve seen the bill, and look, it’s not where we’re at,” Corcoran said last week. “(I)t has to be a contraction (of gambling).”

A similar fantasy sports bill (HB 149) has already been filed in the House by state Rep. Jason Brodeur, a Sanford Republican.

It would exempt “fantasy contests” from regulation by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), which oversees gambling in the state.

Young’s bill, like Galvano’s, creates a separate “Office of Amusements” within DBPR. It requires an “initial license application fee (of) $500,000, and (an) annual license renewal fee (of) $100,000” and makes applicants submit fingerprints for vetting.

The bill requires fantasy sports operators to “yerify that contest participants are 18 years of age or older,” submit to independent audits and maintain records of daily operations for at least three years.

Capitol Reax: Tax cuts, certificates of need, whiskey and Wheaties, fracking

Gov. Rick Scott proposed $618 million in tax cuts this week, which included four back to school holidays and reducing the commercial lease tax.

“Governor Scott’s ‘Fighting for Florida’s Future’ tax package includes a number of cuts which will significantly support Florida’s retailers, including a reduction in the business rent tax, cutting the business tax and including an expanded back-to-school sales tax holiday among others. FRF is excited about what the Governor’s tax cut package will mean for growing Sunshine State businesses, creating new jobs for Florida families and ensuring our state remains competitive.” – Randy Miller, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation.

 “We know from talking to job creators across the state and the nation that the tax on commercial leases puts Florida at a competitive disadvantage. Governor Scott has demonstrated an incredible commitment to doing everything possible to make it easier for businesses to succeed, and these recommended tax cuts are critical to ensuring continued economic growth. NFIB is proud to fully support this proposal and we look forward to the Legislature cutting $618 million in taxes this year.” – Bill Herrle, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

“Every step we take to make Florida more business-friendly means more job creators choosing to move to and reinvest in our state. Governor Scott’s recommended $618 million tax cut package will help businesses large and small invest more in creating jobs for our families and will help ensure Florida’s economy will continue to grow well into the future. We are fighting to make our state the best place for job creators and families to succeed and the Florida Chamber of Commerce will continue to work with Governor Scott and the Legislature this year to support this tax cut package.” – David Hart, executive vice president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce

“Governor Scott’s proposed $618 million tax cut package truly fights for both job creators and families across the state. Over the past few years, we have seen the exciting impact tax cuts have had on helping businesses move to and grow in our state, as well as the importance of helping Floridians keep more of their hard-earned money. In order to continue to help our economy grow, we must remain committed to lowering the cost of doing business, and reducing the business rent tax will surely help us meet that goal. AIF is proud to join Governor Scott in fighting for Florida’s future by supporting the passage of $618 million in tax cuts.” – Tom Feeney, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida.

Republican Sen. Dana Young filed legislation aimed to ban hydraulic fracking in Florida this week. The bill comes after years of failed attempts to ban the controversial technique by Florida Democrats.

“Our industry has a long history of providing environmental and economic benefits. The United States is the leading producer of oil, natural gas and refined product in the world, and the decades-old technique of hydraulic fracturing has led to lower energy costs for consumers and improvements in the environment. Senator Dana Young’s proposed ban could undermine the benefits that Florida families and consumers are seeing today. “The technology has been proven safe, and Florida is realizing the economic and environmental benefits of its use. Thanks in part to the increased use of domestic natural gas, ozone concentrations in the air have dropped by 17 percent since 2000, all of which makes the United States not just an energy superpower, but also a leader in reducing global emissions. Let’s not move backwards when the gains of energy security are important for Florida families.” – David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council.

“Florida Conservation Voters applauds Senator Dana Young for sponsoring a ban on the dangerous process of fracking for oil and gas (SB 442). Fracking poses too big a risk for the millions of Florida families and visitors who rely on our groundwater for safe, clean drinking water. We’re pleased to see that Senator Young’s bill addresses both hydraulic fracturing, which breaks rock formations to extract fossil fuels and acidizing, which dissolves them. We look forward to working with Sen. Young throughout the 2017 Legislative Session as we work to ban fracking in Florida once and for all.” – Aliki Moncrief, executive director of Florida Conservation Voters

Gov. Scott this week called on state officials to repeal the state’s certificate of need program.

“Repealing certificate of need laws is long overdue. Floridians’ access to quality care has been hampered by this burdensome restriction that has remained in place due to special interests’ focus on profits over patient outcomes. Repealing CON laws will lead to lowering health care costs and expending access to the care our Floridians deserve.” – Chris Hudson, state director, Americans for Prosperity-Florida

The Florida House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee used its meeting this week to hold a panel discussion on workers’ compensation.

“Insurers appreciate the subcommittee panel discussion on the current state of the Florida workers’ compensation system. PCI and our members believe the current Florida workers’ compensation system provides essential benefits to injured workers in a timely, efficient and economically sound manner, and the wage-replacement benefit system balances the interests of employees and employers. We continue to support the 2003 Florida workers’ compensation reforms that were put in place to protect the interests of employees, as well as help control costs for business owners.

“Workers’ compensation insurers are dedicated to fostering a healthy market for workers’ compensation that accommodates employee and employer needs. If you allow frivolous lawsuits with high dispute resolution costs to disrupt the system, it can be detrimental to the stabilization of the marketplace. It’s important to continue to provide quality care benefits to injured workers at a reasonable cost.

“We encourage lawmakers to work toward a solution that protects workers, while fostering a healthy Florida marketplace so the burden of workers’ compensation costs don’t fall on employers and employees.” – Logan McFaddin, regional manager for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

The Senate Regulated Industries Committee passed a bill to that would bring down the so-called liquor wall and repeal a Prohibition-era law.

“Today members of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee demonstrated their support for common sense, pro-business policies by passing Senate Bill 106, which repeals the Prohibition-era Alcohol Separation Law which requires distilled spirits to be sold separately from beer, wine and groceries. On behalf of Floridians for Fair Business Practices, we applaud their decision.

We commend bill sponsors Senate President Pro Tempore Anitere Flores and Representative Bryan Avila for their diligent efforts to tear down barriers to business growth and expansion. This antiquated law does not demonstrate any benefits to Florida consumers and retailers, and its repeal would mirror society’s desire for convenience in a changing marketplace.  Our coalition is pleased to continue discussing the benefits of passing a repeal to the outdated law with additional committees as this bill is considered in the legislature.” – Richard Turner, general counsel and vice president of government relations of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, and a member of the Floridians for Fair Business Practices coalition.

Sen. Rob Bradley filed a bill to bond money backed with Amendment 1 dollars to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee, a top priority for Senate President Joe Negron.

“We thank Senator Bradley for recognizing that a water crisis anywhere in Florida is a water crisis and filing this important legislation. Coastal communities were under a state of emergency for 242 days in 2016 as a result of Lake Okeechobee discharges. The creation of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan nearly two decades ago recognized the great need for a water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee in the Everglades Agricultural Area in order to reduce the harmful discharges to the estuaries and to preserve water for when it’s desperately needed during the dry seasons. … Senator Bradley’s filing of SB 10 today moves us closer to having this critical water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee that will be cost-matched by the federal government, and we applaud him for taking action to respond to Florida’s water crisis this legislative session.” – Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation.

“Senator Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park) has shown true leadership for Florida’s coastal communities and the Everglades by filing Senate Bill 10 today. The tragedies facing Florida’s coastal estuaries in 2016 were devastating to local economies and the environment. Floridians are hungry for this type of bold action to save Florida’s Everglades. After hearing from experts about water storage solutions, Sen. Bradley’s actions show that a ‘wait and see’ approach for water storage south of Lake Okeechobee is not acceptable. Audubon looks forward to working with the Florida Senate and House of Representatives to pass SB10.” — Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida’s.

 

Bill to ban hydraulic fracking attracts bipartisan support

A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers have endorsed proposed legislation to ban extraction of oil and gas via hydraulic fracturing in Florida.

“This bill is concise and straightforward. It bans fracking of all types in Florida,” Senate sponsor Dana Young said Tuesday during a news conference outside the Senate chamber.

“As a sixth generation Floridian and avid outdoorsman, I believe we must act quickly and decisively to to protect our fragile environment from incompatible practices.”

Present at the news conference  to discuss Young’s SB 442 were Democratic Sens. Gary Farmer and Linda Stewart, and Republican Sens. Jack Latvia and Keith Perry; House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, and Democratic House member Mike Miller, who is expected to introduce a House companion bill this week.

“Just this collection of folks, you can see that this is an issue that transcends politics,” Farmer said. We can all come together to protect something as critically important as our water supply.”

Legislation to study fracking in Florida died last year in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Lavala, who chairs that committee this year, helped to kill it. He said he didn’t buy assurance from the Department of Environmental Protection that fracking would be safe in Florida.

“We looked a the worst-case scenario, and if there was any possibility in anyone’s mind that a bill might have the effect that people thought it would, then we took the bill down,” Latvala said. “Now we’re all together to try to so something positive to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.”

Young promised while campaigning last fall that she would introduce a fracking ban, after she was accused of supporting the controversial practice of extracting natural gas and oil during the 2016 legislative session.

The ban would be statewide, Young said.

“The aquifer in our state does not know county lines. It does not know city boundaries,” she said.

Aliki Moncrief, executive director of Florida Conservation Voters, issued a written statement praising Young and the bill.

“Fracking poses too big a risk for the millions of Florida families and visitors who rely on our groundwater for safe, clean, driving water,” Moncrief said. “We look forward to working with Sen. Young throughout the 2017 legislative session as we work to ban fracking in Florida once and for all.

Floridians Against Fracking, a coalition of anti-fracking organizations, noted that nearly 90 cities and counties have passed anti-fracking resolutions and nearly 20 counties have passed local fracking bans.

“We’re excited by the bi-partisan support for banning fracking in Florida. The citizens have long seen that fracking is a risk Florida cannot afford for its environment, its tourism-based economy, and its communities,” Kim Ross, president of Rethink Energy Florida, said in a written statement.

“We look forward to working with these senators to get a strong ban bill on Governor Scott’s desk,” Ross said.

Jennifer Rubiello, Environment Florida state director, also issued a written statement.

“We applaud Sen. Young for listening to her constituents and Floridians across the state who want a ban on fracking,” Rubiello said. “A ban on fracking will ensure our communities, our health, and our environment are better protected. Floridians should celebrate this bill, pick up their phones, and tell their state senators to support it.”

“Sen. Dana Young’s decision to introduce a fracking ban bill is an example of true leadership,” said Michelle Allen, Florida organizer for Food & Water Watch. “Florida residents have been fighting relentlessly for a fracking ban and with Young on board, the momentum will only continue to build.”

 

medical marijuana

Drug Free America urges caution as lawmakers discuss Amendment 2 implementation

Drug Free America is urging Florida lawmakers to “proceed with caution” as they begin crafting legislation to implement the state’s newest medical marijuana law.

“While we were opposed to Amendment 2 for a number of specific reasons, we recognize Florida voters have spoken,” said Calvina Fay, the executive director of Drug Free America, in a statement. “We also recognize lawmakers will soon convene and consider implementing language … that will dictate policy for generations to come. We strongly urge them to exercise extreme caution moving forward.

On Thursday, Sen. Rob Bradley filed Senate Bill 406, the Amendment 2 implementing bill. The bill comes just days after the Department of Health initiated the process of developing rules, as outlined under the ballot language.

The bill, among other things, allows for the growth of medical marijuana treatment centers once the number of registered patients hits a certain number.

“In 2014, the Florida Legislature legalized low-THC medical marijuana, and in 2016 expanded the medical marijuana system to provide legal access to marijuana for terminally ill Floridians,” said Bradley in a statement last week. “Floridians want even more options, speaking loud and clear at the polls in November by passing Amendment Two. This bill significantly expands the current medical marijuana system to give Floridians the relief they have demanded, and it does so safely and quickly.”

Under Bradley’s bill, the Department of Health is required register five more medical marijuana treatment centers within six months of 250,000 qualified patients registering with the compassionate use registry. It then allows for more five more treatment centers to receive licenses after the 350,000 qualified patients, 400,000 qualified patients, 500,000 qualified patients, and after each additional 100,000 qualified patients register with the state’s compassionate use registry.

Existing law does allow for some growth, authorizing the state health department to issue three more licenses once 250,000 qualified patients register with the state’s compassionate use registry.

“As we’ve seen in states like Colorado and California, measures intended to open the door just a little, results in the door opening far too wide,” said Fay. “Because marijuana – and this is not a surprise to anyone – is subject to abuse, has a robust black market, and is the drug of choice for too many of our nation’s youth, the ‘market’ will rapidly and dramatically take advantage of every loophole that can be exploited.”

Fay said growers have indicated they will have “far more capacity than is needed for the foreseeable future,” and warned that further expansion could “create an undue burden on already overwhelmed officials for effectively regulating this industry.

“For these reason, we ask lawmakers to proceed with caution, recognize that the for-profit marijuana industry will exploit loopholes, and to please keep treating marijuana as a dangerous drug that requires strict safeguards and controls,” said Fay.

Bradley’s bill, which was co-introduced by Sen. Dana Young, hasn’t received its committee assignments yet. But that doesn’t mean lawmakers won’t be talking about medical marijuana this week.

The House Health Quality subcommittee is scheduled to hear from several experts — including officials with the Florida Police Chiefs Association and Florida Sheriffs Association — during its meeting at 9 a.m. Wednesday. While a companion to Bradley’s bill hasn’t been filed, House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues is expected to carry the House implementing bill.

Dana Young to unveil anti-fracking legislation next week

Tampa Republican state Senator Dana Young will announce her legislation to ban fracking next week, her office said on Friday.

During her successful campaign to win the Senate District 18 seat last fall, Young promised that she would introduce such a ban, after she was accused of actually supporting the controversial practice of extracting natural gas and oil during the 2016 legislative session.

Democrat Bob Buesing, independent candidate Joe Redner and other environmental groups all said her support of a bill sponsored by Naples Republican Garett Richter was an endorsement of fracking, but Young denied that, saying that she supported the the bill because it the best way to halt the practice, though it did not include an outright ban.

Young will not be the first member of the Senate to offer such a bill. Fort Lauderdale Democrat Gary Farmer introduced similar legislation in December.

Young intends to announce the details of her bill Tuesday morning in Tallahassee.

Amendment 2 implementation bill filed in Florida Senate

A bill filed Thursday in the Florida Senate, if passed, would expand the medical marijuana system in the Sunshine State, complying with 2016’s Amendment 2.

However, some critics — inside the Senate and outside as well — have raised concerns, suggesting the bill will not have the smoothest glide path.

Senate Bill 406, filed by Orange Park Republican Rob Bradley, would codify Amendment 2, establishing parameters for prescribing physicians, the treatment of minors, mandated yearly examinations for medical marijuana patients, and a requirement of a caregiver registry.

“In 2014, the Florida Legislature legalized low-THC medical marijuana, and in 2016 expanded the medical marijuana system to provide legal access to marijuana for terminally ill Floridians,” said Bradley in a press release Thursday.

“Floridians want even more options, speaking loud and clear at the polls in November by passing Amendment Two. This bill significantly expands the current medical marijuana system to give Floridians the relief they have demanded, and it does so safely and quickly,” Bradley added.

Sen. Dana Young, chair of the Senate Health Policy committee, is a co-introducer of the legislation. She also worked closely with Bradley on the bill.

“This bill faithfully honors our solemn obligation to the people of Florida to implement Amendment Two,” Young said. “Suffering Floridians will have now real options with no unreasonable delays.” The Health Policy Committee heard testimony from numerous Floridians at a recent committee meeting in Tallahassee.

The bill would amend language in Section 381.986 of Florida statute, changing the title to “Compassionate use of low-THC cannabis and marijuana.”

A definition of “medical cannabis” is stricken from the bill, replaced instead with a statement that “marijuana” means what it says in the Florida Constitution.”

“Medical use” of marijuana, in the language of the bill, does not include “possession, use, or administration of marijuana that was not purchased or acquired from an MMTC registered with the Department of Health.”

Qualifying doctors are allowed to prescribe medical cannabis and “a delivery device,” if they ascertain that a patient has a qualifying condition, and that the health benefits of cannabis use outweigh the risks.

To qualify, they will have to take a four hour course from the Florida Medical Association, or the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association.

Patients will be allowed a 90 day supply of marijuana, up from 45 in the previous statutory language.

Prescribing cannabis to non-qualified patients will be a misdemeanor of the first degree for prescribing doctors. That same penalty would be imposed on anyone who “fraudulently” claims the kind of debilitating condition that qualifies.

As well, qualified patients who smoke in public, on school grounds, in school buses or other vehicles also will be found guilty of that first degree misdemeanor.

The bill also has provisions for caregivers, who may help administer the cannabis to patients. Caregivers must be over 21 years of age, and must pass a level 2 screening unless related to the caregiver.

Additionally, a patient may have one caregiver at a time, outside of a hospice or nursing home setting.

The department, meanwhile, will register caregivers, physicians, and patients, and have rules set up by July 3, and a system up and running by Oct. 3. By that date, patient and caregiver identification cards will have been issued.

The bill also has provisions for expanding the industry.

Six months after the threshold of 250,000 patients is hit, five more Medical Marijuan Treatment Centers will be brought on line. The same will happen after 350,000 patients, 400,000 patients, and for every 100,000 patients thereafter.

Rules for processing and dispensing cannabis are also established in this bill.

Among them, that dosage info should be labeled with the recommended dose, and that no recreational-style delivery devices, such as bongs and rolling papers and the like, will be made available by the dispensing organization.

All transactions are to be cataloged and recorded, and MMTCs will have 24 hour video recording with archives kept for 45 days in controlled areas, ranging from grow and storage rooms to point of sale locations.

While the Bradley/Young nexus will be formidable, Sen. Jeff Brandes — an advocate of opening up the MMTC market to more providers — doesn’t think this bill goes far enough.

“I am encouraged that Senator Bradley’s proposal expands access to medical marijuana for more patients, and I am further encouraged that his proposal begins to chip away at the unnecessary regulatory hurdles burdening Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers. However, I believe the voters of Florida voiced their overwhelming support for a new approach to the regulation of medical marijuana in this state, not a revision to the existing framework,” Brandes said in a statement Thursday.

“I am continuing to work on what I believe is the most free-market option to address the implementation of Amendment 2. I look forward to releasing my proposal in the coming weeks and working with Senator Bradley as well as my fellow colleagues to implement the will of the Florida voters,” Brandes added.

Ben Pollara of United for Care also had some thoughts on the legislation.

“Senator Bradley’s bill is an encouraging start to the legislative process of implementing the medical marijuana amendment. His approach certainly stands in stark contrast to the proposed rule issued earlier this week by DOH by respecting the basic elements and language of the constitution,” Pollara noted.

“The two most important elements of implementation are respecting the sanctity and primacy of the doctor-patient relationship under the law,” Pollara added, “and diversifying and expanding the marketplace to best serve patient access.”

The caveats were inevitable, of course.

“Bradley’s bill does a mostly excellent job respecting the doctor-patient relationship. However, the bill doesn’t sufficiently expand the licensing of medical marijuana treatment centers to serve the estimated patient population, nor does the proposed expansion occur quickly enough to keep up with a patient population that will quickly boom across the state. It also leaves in place the current requirement of vertical integration that stifles innovation, diversity and ultimately patient access,” Pollara added.

Long story short? The future of medical marijuana in Florida is going to be robustly contested at least through this session.

Jack Latvala says he’ll support legislation banning fracking again in 2017 Session

State Sen. Jack Latvala opposed a bill to regulate the use of fracking in the 2016 Session, and in the upcoming Session, he’ll support legislation that would do so again.

“I’m where I was last year,” he said when asked about the controversial practice to extract natural gas and oil out of the ground.

“I helped beat it last year, so … I’m in the same place, and I’ll support a bill to ban it,” the Clearwater Republican said while exiting Sunlake High School in Land O’Lakes after a long afternoon hearing from the public at the Pasco County Legislative Delegation meeting.

Last year, Naples Republican Garett Richter‘s bill died in the Senate Appropriations Committee. It would have directed the Department of Environmental Protection to set up a regulatory scheme for onshore oil and gas drilling, provide $1 million to study the impact of fracking on Florida’s aquifer and unique limestone bedrock, as well as pre-empt local government ordinances seeking to ban the practice.

“We saw the issue of banning fracking come up in many races in the past election,” said Michelle Allen, the Florida organizer with Food and Water Watch. “And we believe it’s going to continue to come up until we pass a statewide ban on it.”

Allen addressed the issue Wednesday before the six-person body.

The issue was certainly hot last fall in the three-way Senate District 18 race in Hillsborough County between Republican Dana Young, Democrat Bob Buesing and independent Joe Redner.

Young was dogged by environmental groups (as well as her two opponents) of being pro-fracking by supporting the Richter bill; she insisted it was, in fact, a vote to ban the practice.

Immediately after winning the race, Young announced she would be proposing a bill in the 2017 Session to ban fracking.

The number of local governments in Florida that passed resolutions or ordinances denouncing fracking in Florida is now up to 89, Allen said.

“Floridians do not want fracking,” said Jennifer Rubiello, state director with Environment Florida. “Over 75 percent of Floridians live in a city or county that has passed a resolution or an ordinance opposing fracking. That includes Dade City and Zephyrhills here in Pasco County, and Tampa, St. Pete and Pinellas County as a whole.”

Rubiello added that the Legislature shouldn’t vote for more studies. They were “a waste of time, money and energy, even when they’re attached to a true ban,” she said.

In a report released last month, the federal Environmental Protection Agency concluded that, in some circumstances, hydraulic fracturing has contaminated drinking water.

The report came just as President-elect Donald Trump vowed to expand fracking and roll back existing regulations on the process.

(An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated that Latvala was chair of the Appropriations Committee last year. He did not take over those duties until this fall.)

 

Jeff Brandes’ legislation would reform why state suspends driver’s licenses

Republican state Senator Jeff Brandes is once again filing a bill that would prevent Floridians from having their driver’s licenses suspended for a reason unrelated to a driving violation.

The legislation would reduce the number of offenses for which license suspension is prescribed and prohibit suspensions for those who show in court an inability to pay fines and fees. St. Petersburg Democrat Daryl Rouson is co-sponsoring.

“Florida suspends hundreds of thousands of licenses each year, often because a person is saddled with debt for fines that may have nothing to do with driving,” Brandes said in a statement.

“With compounding fees and collections costs, the prospect of reinstating a license may seem insurmountable to some of the poorest in our communities,” he added. “This bill provides people with an opportunity to regain mobility, find employment, and get their lives back on track.”

Brandes introduced a similar bill during last year’s session that didn’t make its way out of the the Senate Appropriations Committee. He said he did so after reading reports showing that more than 1.2 million driver’s license suspensions occur annually in Florida.

A study conducted in 2014 said that the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles suspended 1.3 million driver’s licenses in fiscal year 2012-13, and 167,000 were for non-driving reasons, such as failure to pay fines or court fees or child support.

An August, 2015 report in the Miami Herald found that 77 percent of all license suspensions in Florida between 2012 and 2015 occurred because of a failure to pay fees.

A similar bill was proposed in the House last year by Rouson and was co-sponsored by Republicans Dana Young from Tampa and Sarasota’s Greg Steube. All three of those members have moved on to the Senate this year, presupposing there could be support for the bill there.

The bill will likely have a negative impact on local tax collectors and clerks of court who retain a portion of revenues from certain driver’s license sanctions when issuing reinstatements, in addition to other fees retained by them associated with license suspensions and revocations. That was an issue with the bill last year.

Christian Ziegler contends the race for Florida GOP chair will be a close contest

Christian Ziegler says the idea of challenging Blaise Ingoglia for leadership of the Republican Party of Florida first came to his mind last May. He was presiding over a gathering of the state’s Republican committeemen and committeewomen at the party’s quarterly meeting in Tampa.

That’s when he said a slight case of pandemonium erupted when he began distributing approximately 150 “Make America Great Again” Donald Trump caps to the 134-member caucus. With a number of those officials previously rooted in camps backing Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz (among others), he admits he wasn’t sure what the reaction would be. But he said that the level of excitement that ensued was absent from the rest of the two-day meeting.

“I had so many members after come up to me, and say, ‘Look, the energy that you had, that’s the kind of energy we should have had throughout the quarterly meeting,'” he says, recollecting the moment. He said he heard from Republicans that “we need leaders who are going to accept who our nominee is going to be, and accept who are candidates are and are going to waive the flag as high as you can, and we really need to lead with the energy you generated in that room.”

From there he says that “a ton of members” then began lobbying him directly to challenge Ingoglia, claiming that leadership was lacking at the top of the RPOF (As RPOF Chair, Ingoglia was dedicated to staying neutral until the party had a nominee. After the March 15 primary, Ingoglia met with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach County).

But nobody is questioning the success that Ingoglia has had since defeating Leslie Dougher, Rick Scott’s hand-picked choice for chair of the RPOF in 2015. Florida Republicans had a huge night at the polls last November, with the most significant factor being the election of Trump over Hillary Clinton by 1.2 percentage points.

Because Scott and the Republicans in the Florida Senate have chosen not to raise money directly for the party’s coffers, however, Ziegler says fundraising remains a major problem going into the 2018 midterm election.

“In 2016 we were fortunate to have the help of the Republican National Committee,” he says. “We had Donald Trump at the top of the ticket, we had the local Donald Trump efforts,  and we had our local campaign parties, and early in that dynamic I think that they all came together to help us win.”

Ziegler contends that staff has been cut significantly with the Republican Party of Florida and fundraising is lower than it’s been in a decade, events that he says are realities that REC members have to consider when choosing who they want to lead the party.

“You can’t argue with success,” counters Ingoglia. “We were able to accomplish historic wins and a level of success that quite frankly has been unprecedented.”

Ingoglia says the state party currently has $3.6 million cash on hand, and $1.1 million of that has already been committed to the 2016-2018 election year. That’s money will go towards field staff, infrastructure, overhead and political operations, historically more money than is traditionally been banked immediately after an election. “I came through on my promises and did what I said I was going to do about running the RPOF like a business, and making sure resources were used in the most efficient way possible to win elections,” he says.

In addition to chairing the state party, Ingoglia has served in the House of Representatives since 2014, representing parts of Hernando County. And he runs two different businesses, prompting Ziegler to say that he’s spread too thin.

“Blaise is a friend,” Ziegler says, ” But I think the party deserves a full-time chairman that’s focused on the party full-time, because we are the most important political state in the entire country.”

The 46-year-old Ingoglia says the “proof is in the pudding” when it comes to how successful he’s been as party chair. “Anybody who knows me and follows me on social media knows that I travel all over the state and I devote almost every day and every night to my district, my state and to make this party better,” he says, adding that it would be a “mischaracterization” to say he doesn’t work full-time as RPOF chair.

When it comes to high-end endorsements, Ingoglia has it all over his challenger. Last week, the Spring Hill Republican announced the support of 10 state senators, including Majority Leader Bill Galvano and former House Majority Leader and newly elected Sen. Dana Young.

But Ziegler says that Ingoglia’s list of endorsers is somewhat suspect. He claims some of those backing the incumbent did so before there were any challengers in the race. He also says that some people have publicly said they will endorse Ingoglia but secretly have told Ziegler that they will vote for him.

“When you look at those endorsement lists, I’ve met with the majority of people on that endorsement list over the past month and a half, and I’m making my case privately,” he says.

But two different Republican officials involved in statewide politics who asked not to be quoted have told Florida Politics that they question the numbers that Ziegler is talking about. One Central Florida REC official says he believes the votes for Ziegler “simply aren’t there.”

Ingoglia defeated Dougher 132-90 in January of 2015. This Central Florida official believes the vote won’t be as close next time. Naturally, Ziegler disagrees.

“I think this race is going to be very close and it’s going to come down to a couple of votes either way,” he maintains.

Another North Florida Republican local party official says that Ingoglia has delivered as promised on his campaign pledges from two years ago, and there isn’t any grassroots energy to try to reverse that.

Ziegler is considered to be Scott’s choice for the position, but it’s questionable how influential his word is with Republican state executive committee members, since he has assiduously eschewed helping the party financially for the past two years, instead directing his fundraising efforts into his own Let’s Get to Work political action committee.

Ziegler also announced on Monday that he will be holding a statewide conference call on Thursday evening for state committee executive members to ask him questions about his candidacy.

The election for RPOF chair takes place on January 14 in Orlando.

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