Dana Young Archives - Page 7 of 43 - Florida Politics
Carrie Pilon - SD 24

Trial lawyer Carrie Pilon files for state Senate

Democrat Carrie Pilon announced Monday that she’s filed to run for the Senate District 24 seat currently held by St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes.

Florida Politics previously reported Pilon, a former prosecutor who now runs an injury law firm, was planning a run for the Pinellas County district.

“I’m running for the State Senate because the legislature in Tallahassee is not working for Florida’s families,” Pilon said in a press release. “As a member of the State Senate, I’ll hold special interests accountable, and stand up to the Legislature’s Trump-style agenda. I’ll invest in our community by ending corporate welfare, fighting for a quality and safe education, affordable healthcare, and protecting our precious natural resources.

“As a small business owner, I know firsthand the challenges of meeting payroll and providing health insurance for our staff and families. We deserve a state legislature focused on helping our small businesses grow, not handing out corporate welfare checks to their friends.”

Pilon is an alumna of Stetson University law school and Florida State University, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The St. Pete native is also the daughter-in-law of former Sarasota Republican Rep. Ray Pilon, who was quick to endorse Brandes Monday morning.

“Senator Brandes and I served in the Florida House and were both elected in 2010,” he said. “We worked closely on many issues and that continued when he was elected to the Senate. He is a person of high moral values, of integrity, honesty and fairness.”

Ray Pilon served three terms in the House before running for state Senate in 2016 and losing in the Republican Primary. He is looking to reclaim his old House seat in 2018.

Carrie Pilon’s campaign declined to comment on Ray Pilon endorsing Brandes.

So far, Carrie Pilon is the only challenger to file for SD 24.

Brandes has been in the Senate since 2012, when he was elected to the pre-redistricting SD 22, and had been a member of the Florida House for the two years prior.

He didn’t face a Democratic opponent in the 2012 or 2016 cycles, though in 2014 he was challenged by USF St. Pete Professor Judithanne McLauchlan. He outmatched her in fundraising, bringing in $815,000 to her $307,000, and secured re-election by a 16-point margin on Election Day.

Through the end of February, Brandes had raised $240,000 for his re-election campaign and had about $124,000 of that money in the bank.

That number will likely shoot up now that he’s contested – shortly after Pilon’s announcement, Brandes’ campaign sent out an invite for an April 25 fundraiser. The host committee list featured several high-profile Republicans, including Tampa Sen. Dana Young, St. Petersburg Rep. Chris Sprowls and former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker.

Republicans have a 4-point advantage over Democrats, 37-33, when it comes to voter registrations in the district, though the seat is far from a Republican stronghold.

SD 24 would have gone for Barack Obama by about a point in 2012 and 2.5 points in 2008. In 2016, the district flipped and went plus-7 for Donald Trump.

The invite to Brandes’ fundraiser is below.

Brandes fundraiser 4.25.2018

Rick Scott highlights money for military, veterans in Tampa

Gov. Rick Scott visited USAA in Tampa on Monday “to highlight $180 million in total funding in his Securing Florida’s Future Budget to support active military, veterans, and their families.”

The Governor’s Office announced the event in a press release.

He also signed HB 29, which will “increase opportunities and reduce fees for Florida military, veterans and their families.”

The bill, known as the “Don Hahnfeldt Veteran and Family Opportunity Act,” expands legislation signed into law by Scott in 2014 (more here) by reducing professional licensing fees and requirements for certain military members, veterans, and their spouses.

This bill also designates March 25 of every year as “Medal of Honor Day” to honor the individuals recognized with the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force in the Armed Services of the United States.

The “Don Hahnfeldt Veteran and Family Opportunity Act” was named after the late Rep. Don Hahnfeldt, a veteran and a member of the Florida House of Representatives who passed away last year.

janet cruz

Janet Cruz is eyeing Dana Young’s Senate seat for 2018

House Minority Leader Janet Cruz may not be running for the Hillsborough County Commission after all.

The Tampa Democrat is eyeing a race against Republican incumbent Dana Young in state Senate District 18, which covers much of Tampa and western unincorporated Hillsborough County.

According to several sources close to the Florida Democratic Party’s Senate campaign arm, Cruz has spoken to both Senate Democratic leadership and high-level donors about her entering the race.

These sources also say Cruz recognizes she has a tight window to decide.

Minority Leader Oscar Braynon said he’s aware of Cruz’ interest in the race and has been encouraging her to run since Democrats flipped Senate District 40 with the election of Annette Taddeo late last year.

Cruz’ interest has grown in recent weeks in part due to the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and Young’s later vote on an assault weapons ban in the back half of the 2018 Legislative Session.

Young’s post-roll call no vote on the ban has already been used against her by her current opponent.

Cruz, term-limited out of the House in 2018, filed in September for the Hillsborough Commission District 1 seat, which encompasses South Tampa, much of Town ‘n’ Country and West Tampa, and much of the South Shore area.

Democrats are looking at SD 18 as one of the most flippable seats in what is widely expected to be a Democratic “blue wave” election year. While term-limited Republican Sandy Murman has held the seat since 2010, before that, Republican Rose Ferlita and Democrat Kathy Castor have represented District 1.

One of the main reasons Cruz would be prompted to switch races could be that the Hillsborough Commission is considering removing at-large seats.

So far, Young is already facing a rematch with Tampa attorney Bob Buesing, a Democrat who lost to Young 48-41 percent in 2016. Florida Politics is told that Cruz is asking Buesing to step aside to avoid a Democratic primary.

If she does enter the SD 18 race, Cruz may have an uphill climb to catch up with Young’s robust fundraising, amassing a war chest of more than $270,000 to date in her bid for a second term. Her supporting PAC, Friends of Dana Young, has also raised more than $900,000 for the 2018 cycle.

For its part, Team Young doesn’t seem fazed.

“The Democrats can haggle back-and-forth all day long over who they want to put up against Dana Young,” says Sarah Bascom, a spokesperson for the Young campaign. “At the end of the day, whoever they put forward, Dana Young has a strong record standing up for the citizens of Hillsborough County, and will run on that record and win.”

Jeff Vinik scores win with signing of Water Street Tampa bill

A bill that would create a special taxing district for the Water Street Tampa development in Hillsborough County was recently signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.

That’s after it made it through the Legislature this Session with near-unanimous votes in the House and Senate.

The proposal was backed by Strategic Property Partners, a partnership of Bill Gates’ investment arm, Cascade Investment, and billionaire developer Jeff Vinik. Water Street Tampa has become one of the most eagerly awaited private developments in Tampa.

The Water Street Tampa Improvement District, created by HB 1393, would allow an appointed board to levy assessments on commercial properties and charge property tax of up to one mill — $1 per $1,000 of assessed value — on property within the district.

Water Street Tampa, a private development, seeks to bring the first new office towers to Tampa in a quarter century, as well as retail, educational and entertainment space.

The building project will clock in at 9 million square feet once completed.

The bill was sponsored by Tampa Republican Rep. Jamie Grant and was a priority of the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation.

When the delegation discussed the bill ahead of the 2018 Legislative Session, Tampa GOP Sen. Dana Young said developers could use the taxes they levy to “install and operate and maintain upscale amenities and infrastructure within the district that are far above and beyond what the city of Tampa would be able to do.”

Young added that the amenities would come at no cost to Tampa taxpayers, and said they could include bus shelters, enhanced landscaping and bike paths.

trauma centers

Rick Scott signs trauma center bill

Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday signed a bill that would put to rest years of legal and regulatory fights over the state’s trauma center system.

HB 1165, sponsored by Panama City Republican Rep. Jay Trumbull, in part aims to stem the flow of litigation against the state’s Department of Health, charged with reviewing the need for new centers and approving them.

Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young, who chairs the Senate Health Policy Committee, sponsored the companion bill, SB 1876.

The number of trauma centers in Florida is capped at 44 across 19 trauma-service areas, with 34 currently operating. The new law cuts the number of trauma-service areas to 18 and states no area may have more than a total of five trauma centers.

It also directs DOH to set up an advisory council for the trauma care system and codifies a formula for approving new trauma centers.

Proponents of the plan say more trauma centers make for better access for patients coming in with gravely serious injuries. Opponents, which include those operating the state’s 34 trauma centers, say the facilities are expensive to operate and more centers could put the thumbscrews on existing ones.

Hospital company HCA would have three trauma centers grandfathered in by the bill – one each in Miami, Orlando and Orange Park – though the new law blocks the company’s plans to add a trauma center to Northside Hospital in St. Petersburg.

Scott signed HB 1165 alongside another 37 bills.

Sunshine State gambling #fails: A short history (updated for 2018)

Just as it always does in recent years, a legislative effort to revisit the state’s gambling laws tanked in the last week of this year’s Legislative Session.

Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran released a joint statement Friday night: “Despite the good faith efforts of both the House and Senate, a gaming bill will not pass the Legislature this session,” they said.

It’s not clear when lawmakers will get another shot: A proposed “voter control of gambling” constitutional amendment will be on November’s ballot. It would give statewide voters sole power to approve future expansions of gambling in Florida.

“The amendment could have a big effect,” Senate-President-designate Bill Galvano told reporters late Friday, mentioning the initiative was polling in the low 70 percent-range. It needs 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution.

“It could ultimately take off the table the opportunity for certain types of expansion,” added the Bradenton Republican, who’s president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States. “It has the potential of narrowing the issues.”

Failing again was an attempt to get a proposed new “Compact” – the gambling agreement between the state and the Seminole Tribe.

Then again, Florida has a history of failure when it comes to addressing gambling. The state’s inaction even caused the Las Vegas Sands Corp. to give up its efforts to build a destination casino resort in Florida.

The inertia is largely because of the fractured vote when it comes to gambling issues, split among anti-gambling-expansion lawmakers, those with a Seminole casino in their district, and those with other pari-mutuel interests among their constituency (i.e., dog or horse tracks).

In 2016, Nick Iarossi, the Sands’ Florida lobbyist, said he “understand(s) their perspective … We’ve been pushing this for six years with no success.”

Four years before that, former state Sen. Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff pushed a measure to permit three destination hotel-casinos in South Florida. That effort died.

“Nobody wants to address a comprehensive approach to gambling in this state,” she said then. “It’s taboo but it still needs to be fixed.”

The next year, realizing they had likely bungled it, lawmakers hastily moved to ban Internet gambling cafés – only after a multistate investigation that netted dozens of arrests threw egg on the Legislature’s collective face.

Two years later, House Republican Leader Dana Young of Tampa sponsored her own sweeping legislation to permit two destination resort casinos in South Florida and allow dog tracks to stop live racing but continue to offer slot machines, among many other provisions.

It, too, died during the Legislative Session.

Last year, Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, then the House’s point man on gambling, said an impossibility of compromise over slot machines killed a gambling bill.

“We were too far apart and the Senate wanted to bring it in for a landing during budget conference, and we were not going to be able to do that,” he said. “The timing was off.”

Slot machines killed the 2018 attempt as well. A conference committee melting down over an impasse related to expanding slots to eight counties that approved them in local referendums: Brevard, Duval, Gadsden, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Washington.

The House’s final proposal — five new “limited gaming” licenses for either 500 slot machines or the ability to offer a certain type of card game, but not both — was deemed “too cute” by Negron, according to one person in the industry.

“He was willing to extend gaming conference over the weekend, but the last House offer killed it. So we’re done,” that person said privately.

Negron, a Stuart Republican who leaves the presidency after this year, had long pushed to expand slots to referendum counties, including St. Lucie, which he represents.

And the House was intransigent on designated player games, a hybrid of poker and blackjack that’s proved lucrative to pari-mutuel cardrooms, being banned everywhere else besides those areas.

But, as another gaming lobbyist said late Friday, “The status quo isn’t all that bad.”


Parts of this post were published previously.

Legislature slashing Health Dep’t pay because of medical marijuana delays

[Ed. Note — This story, first posted Thursday, was updated Friday.]

Lawmakers on Thursday included a provision to withhold more than $1.9 million in Department of Health salaries and benefits in the final 2018-19 state budget until regulators fully implement medical marijuana.

The proviso language, which “qualifies or restricts a specific appropriation,” means certain Health officials will get a temporary pay and benefits cut until they “implement” medical cannabis as authorized under the state constitution and statute.

The full budget was released midday Thursday, to be voted on Sunday. The money will be “held in reserve,” with its release “contingent upon implementation,” the language says.

That means “solely and exclusively by adopting all rules required by statute and any other rules necessary to implement this constitutional provision.”

House Republican Jason Brodeur of Sanford, who first submitted the budget provision, on Friday clarified that the withheld pay applies to the department’s “executive direction entity.”

He defined that as including Health Secretary and state Surgeon General Celeste Philip, her chief of staff, legislative affairs director, and the Office of Medical Marijuana Use, including its director, Christian Bax.

The withheld pay is effective July 1, the start of the next fiscal year, but “wouldn’t have an impact until later in the year so it won’t cripple them right away,” Brodeur said.

“The (budget’s) implementing bill also provides some language to assist them in meeting that contingency so they can implement the will of the legislature more timely,” he added.

The budget would still be subject to line-item vetoes by Gov. Rick Scott, to whom the Health Department reports.

Lawmakers have long been irritated over the department’s delay in implementing medical marijuana under a 2016 constitutional amendment that voters passed by 71 percent.

They later approved and Scott signed an implementing bill, which gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.

Brodeur and other legislators, including Republican Sen. Dana Young of Tampa, have been peeved over a backlog of applications for marijuana growing and dispensing licenses, and for state-issued patient ID cards, among other things.

Moreover, the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee, which ensures that agencies write rules that line up with statutes, has sent at least 17 individual objections to the department over medical cannabis regulation.

They range from the department’s issuing “contingent licenses” and requiring the submission of a $60,830 nonrefundable application fee, to its listing more than 40 distinct operations violations “with no standards or guidance … , thereby vesting unbridled discretion in the Department.”

Bax has told lawmakers of recent progress, however.

That includes regulations on advertising and signage, edible products, and addressing the use of “solvents and gases” used in marijuana processing that could be toxic to humans. And he has said the department has inspected over 100 medical marijuana treatment centers, some “multiple times.”

Bax also told legislators that a deluge of lawsuits and administrative challenges, most over denied licenses, was slowing down the works.

But at a committee meeting last October, Young shot back, “I’m not buying it that because there’s litigation out there you can’t fulfill your statutory duty to issue these licenses.”


Updated — The following statement in response to this post was sent by Health Department spokeswoman Mara Gambineri:

“We are appreciative of the Legislature for exempting the department from the ratification requirement, which posed a barrier to expeditious implementation of rules – specifically the department’s ability to accept applications for new Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTCs). As stated in the department’s letter to JAPC, we plan to move forward with accepting applications for new MMTCs this spring.

“In addition, the department has initiated rulemaking for 11 rules and next week are hosting two public rule workshops focusing on the standards for the production of edibles and dosing for both low-THC cannabis and medical marijuana. Additional public workshops have been scheduled in March and April.

“The department has put substantial effort into streamlining the Medical Marijuana Use Registry Identification Card program. Yesterday, we announced that we’ve further streamlined the application process for OMMU Registry Identification Cards through the deployment of online payments.

“This comes on the heels of completing the integration of photos from the Department of Highway Safety’s system. To date, there are more than 83,000 patients registered in the OMMU Registry with access to 29 dispensing locations and statewide delivery of low-THC cannabis and medical marijuana.

“The department has made – and will continue to make – significant progress in the implementation of Amendment 2 and section 381.986 Florida Statutes, despite the special interests involved in this new industry.”

Trauma centers

Bill could end trauma system battles

The legal dramas that have swirled around Florida’s trauma system in recent years would be settled under a bill that revamps rules and regulations and recognizes trauma centers at some HCA Healthcare facilities across the state.

The Senate on Tuesday voted unanimously to pass the bill (HB 1165), one day after the House voted 110-0 to approve it. The bill now heads to Gov. Rick Scott, who is expected to sign it into law.

Senate Health Policy Chairwoman Dana Young, a Tampa Republican who started meeting with various hospital representatives last summer on the trauma issue, said the bill ends years of legal wrangling and adds provisions aimed at preventing the litigation from ever occurring again.

Young told The News Service of Florida there were “hours and hours of meetings” with representatives of various hospitals, including Jackson Memorial in Miami-Dade County, HCA and “safety net” facilities.

“I asked them,” Young said, recalling the meetings, “how much do they really want to get this done?”

The Legislature for the past several years has grappled with the trauma system and whether to continue with current regulations or to allow a more competitive environment that would increase the number of trauma facilities in the state.

The debate has come after HCA moved to open several trauma centers, which drew legal challenges from hospitals that have long operated trauma facilities.

Under current law and regulations, Florida has a statewide cap of 44 trauma centers, with facilities allocated to 19 “trauma service areas.” It also includes different classifications of trauma centers based, in part, on levels of care they provide.

Supporters of the longstanding limits on trauma centers have contended that the facilities are expensive to operate and require highly trained doctors and staff members. But HCA and its backers say opening more trauma centers help improve access to care for severely injured patients.

The bill would change the number of trauma-service areas from 19 to 18 and make clear that no service area could have more than a total of five Level I, Level II, Level II/pediatric, and stand-alone pediatric trauma centers. A trauma service area could not have more than one stand-alone pediatric trauma center.

The bill would require the Florida Department of Health by Oct. 1 to establish an 11-member Florida Trauma System Advisory Council. The group would be required to meet no later than Jan. 5 and quarterly thereafter.

Moreover, the bill would put into statutes a new “need formula” for the approval of trauma centers. Under the new formula, it will be difficult to produce new trauma centers any time soon, said Mark Delegal, general counsel for the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, which includes public, teaching and children’s hospitals.

Delegal said the bill will ensure a quality trauma system for the foreseeable future and bring to an end to years of litigation.

“Importantly, the bill recreates a trauma advisory council with leading experts to maintain and improve trauma care in Florida,” he said.

The bill “grandfathers” in three HCA trauma centers: Kendall Regional Medical Center’s Level I trauma center, which allows it to operate a pediatric trauma center; Orange Park Medical Center’s Level II trauma center; and Aventura Hospital & Medical Center’s level II trauma center.

A fourth HCA facility, Northside Hospital in St. Petersburg, would be prevented from moving ahead with a trauma center.

The agreement also gives Jackson South in Miami the ability to open a trauma center. Along with Young, the legislation was sponsored by Rep. Jay Trumbull, a Panama City Republican.

Email Insights: Dana Young a no-show on assault weapons vote

Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young got slammed by her Democratic re-election opponent in a Saturday email for not voting on an amendment that would ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Tampa attorney Bob Buesing said the move was “not surprising” given Young’s “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, but still said the lack of a vote was “profoundly disappointing.”

“Last week, we witnessed an incredible outpouring of passionate testimony before the Senate Rules Committee by students, teachers, and others deeply affected by the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High. Still, the Republicans killed the amendment,” Buesing wrote in the email.

“Today, a similar amendment came before the Senate floor in a special Saturday session, and Dana walked right out of the chamber as the vote was called.

“Dana has made it clear: she will protect the NRA’s priorities at all costs, including the safety of our school children, and she’s not afraid to walk out on her responsibility as a Senator in the process.”

Buesing is currently Young’s only opponent for re-election to Senate District 18, which covers part of Hillsborough County.

Buesing also ran in the 2016 election and lost to Young 48-41, while two NPA candidates – Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove – received more than 10 percent of the vote.

Redner, a Tampa businessman, said he is not running for the seat in 2018 and would instead back Buesing’s candidacy.

GOP blocks Democratic attempts to change school safety bill

A win turned into a loss Saturday, as the Republican-controlled Senate first approved—then killed—an amendment on a school safety bill that would have mandated a moratorium on assault rifle sales in the state.

The legislation, called the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act” (SB 7026), is in response to the Valentine’s Day shooting at the Broward County school that left 17 dead.

The defendant in custody – 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz – used a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle, police say.

Mentioning other mass shootings in recent years, “what you can say about all of them is that (the shooters) had an AR-15, that’s the one thing that’s consistent,” said Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon II of Miami Gardens, who filed the amendment.

His filing would have created a 2-year moratorium on the “sale, delivery, and transfer of all AR-15-style assault rifles” while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement studies the effectiveness of a permanent ban.

Surprising many in the chamber, Senate President Joe Negron ruled that a voice vote had OK’d the amendment.

Soon, however, Fleming Island Republican Rob Bradley moved to reconsider that vote, with the chamber eventually killing it 21-17, with Miami-Dade Republicans Anitere Flores and Rene Garcia joining the chamber’s Democrats to vote for the moratorium.

Bradley later explained to POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon: “The president calls balls and strikes. He thought he heard more senators say yes than no. When we went to the board, it turned out he was wrong.”

Democratic outrage to the procedural move was swift.

“Just when you think the GOP is going to do the right thing, they go right back to do nothing to end gun violence,” Florida Democratic Party spokeswoman Caroline Rowland quickly vented in an email to reporters.

Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham also tweeted, “If I was Governor, I would veto any bill that puts more guns in schools & doesn’t ban assault weapons, and I’d call the Legislature back all summer to get this right.”

Plenty of other amendments from Senate Democrats were also voted down, including “a registry of all firearms sold in the state,” by Jose Javier Rodriguez of Miami-Dade County, and an outright ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, by Orlando’s Linda Stewart.

In a lengthy speech, Altamonte Springs Republican David Simmons inveighed against a ban, mentioning Adolf Hitler, violent video games, the North Korean dictatorship, and alluding to Cuban strongman Fidel Castro.

“You think it doesn’t happen in a free society? It does,” Simmons said. “You never know when that day is going to come.”

But Stewart called them “killing machines” that “blow people up.”

“They need to be banned,” she said. “Let’s do what the kids asked us to do,” referring to Douglas High teens who have come up to Tallahassee to ask for a ban. After an hour of debate, that measure went down on a 20-17 vote against it.

Braynon also tried to remove a “school marshal” proposal from the bill. Commonly referred to as the “arming teachers” provision opposed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, it would allow willing teachers, administrators and staff to be trained and carry concealed weapons.

“No way, no form, no shape. This is a non-starter,” said Sen. Perry Thurston, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat.

Sen. Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican, countered that a teacher could the first defense against a future school shooter: “A teacher with a firearm could be the only thing that stops them.” The amendment to delete the marshal program was defeated 20-18.

By late afternoon, senators were still debating amendments after agreeing to extend Saturday’s floor session to 9 p.m. And late-filed amendments were still being submitted as of nearly 4 p.m.

The latest form of the legislation includes a 3-day waiting period – with some exceptions – to buy any firearm; a waiting period now applies only to handguns. It also raises the age to purchase all firearms in Florida from 18 to 21. And it creates a commission to make recommendations on school safety. Its first meeting could be as early as this June.

A story from earlier Saturday is here. A summary of the bill’s provisions is below.

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