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If asked, Alex Sink says she would gladly join a Hillary Clinton administration

Last week Hillary Clinton spent two days fundraising up and down Florida. For her first and only appearance in the Tampa Bay area, she held a fundraiser at the Thonotassa home of Alex Sink, where an estimated 250 to 300 people came to see and hear the Democratic presidential candidate up close.

“I think the big takeaway from is just how impressive Hillary Clinton is,” Sink said of the event.”How well prepared, how well spoken. And she’s correct on all the issues that are important to people like me. People came away just shaking their heads about how strong she is.”

There was also buzz from some of those who attended that it would make sense if Clinton were to be elected to choose Sink to serve in her administration, possibly as an ambassador. Would the former Florida CFO be up for that?

“Oh, sure!,” she replied cheerfully in a telephone conversation on Thursday. “If the President of the United States calls and says I need you to serve the country, I would absolutely consider it,” before later adding that no such talks have occurred and that her support for the former first lady is unconditional in this campaign.

Those who know Sink think it would be a great fit.

“Alex Sink has no lack of options to serve our country, now and in the future,” said Nick Janovsky, who was political director for Sink’s congressional bid against David Jolly last year. “Floridians are better off partly due to Alex and her work as our CFO and the numerous causes she champions. Hillary Clinton is positioned to become our next president because she represents the values more in-touch with Americans than any other candidate running. Alex Sink has a vast and thorough understanding of our global economy, how to create jobs, protect American values, and would represent Florida and America as an ambassador of the best of our values.”

Alan Clendenin, a Democratic National Committeeman and vice chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, said he’s not sure whether Sink would serve in Clinton’s administration because of the personal sacrifices one makes to serve in public office, but says “of course, she is viable.”

“Alex has a strong business background along with a record of public service,” Clendenin said. “She would be an asset in a President Hillary Clinton’s administration.”
Democratic strategist Barry Edwards was a bit more skeptical about the possibility of Sink being named an ambassador, saying that frequently those selections go to supporters who have helped raise considerable amount of money for the candidate.
A review of ambassadors during the Obama administration indicate that such financial prowess can determine whether one becomes an ambassador to say, Germany (where the current U.S. Ambassador there, John B. Emerson, helped bundle more than half a million dollars in the ’08 campaign) versus say, Mongolia (where current ambassador Piper A. Wind contributed just $1,000 in the 2012 campaign). But not always. Former Montana U.S. Sen. Max Baucus raised little for either of Obama’s presidential campaign, and yet he’s our ambassador to China. But then again, he is a former U.S. senator.

The 67-year-old Sink is keeping busy these days, feeling no remorse about her decision not to pursue the Congressional District 13 seat that barely eluded her grasp against Jolly.

She’s on the board of various organizations, such as Tampa Bay WaVE, where she jokes she’s a sort of senior adviser to the start-up business community. She’s also on the board of the St. Petersburg based C1 Bank, in the news recently after they were acquired by Bank of the Ozarks (which one shareholder thinks was a bad deal and is now suing the board).

On the political side, she’s also excited to have “rejuvenated” Ruth’s List, the organization she helped originate in 2008 that works to recruit and train female candidates in Florida. “We’ve got about  25 on the ballot next year in various elections,” Sink said.

She’s also on the national board of the New Leaders Councila 501(c)(3) that works to recruit, train and promote progressive young leaders on policy, leadership and politics. “We have whole bunch of bright young energetic people that need to know that there’s a path for them to make a positive impact on their communities,” she said.

 A Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey released Wednesday shows Clinton leading  Republican contenders in a potential 2016 match-up in Florida, with the closest candidates – Marco Rubio and Donald Trump – each trailing her by over 7 percentage points.
“That’s encouraging,” Sink said when told the results. She attributes Clinton’s strong standing in Florida in part on the fact that Florida is so racially diverse.

“This hate rhetoric coming out of the Republican side is not going to appeal to a large Hispanic population, or immigrant population, or African-Americans, or women,” she said. ” They’ve managed to offend a big swath of the Florida population.”

Sink introduced Clinton at her fundraiser last week by saying, “Hillary Clinton knows how to be tough, but she also has a heart. And she cares deeply about improving the lives of all Americans.”

Meanwhile, a New York Times/CBS News poll released Thursday shows Clinton leading Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination for president, 52-32 percent.

 

Mitch Perry Report for 12.10.15 – Recreational pot measure supporters back off 2016 ballot bid

Wednesday night, organizers with the group Regulate Florida told supporters in a conference call that they’re ending their attempt to put a pro-legalization of marijuana on the ballot next year in Florida.

FloridaPolitics.com was on that call, and posted the story soon after.

In a statement sent shortly after that call was completed, Regulate Florida Chairman Michael Minardi wrote, “Due to time constraints, it has become obvious we will not be able to collect the needed number of verifiable petitions in time to qualify for the 2016 election.

“However, it is because of all your hard work and the show of strength of our supporters that it is clear we can pass regulated adult use in Florida. We are happy to announce we are making a few minor changes to the petition language, have some soft commitments for funding, and we will be doing everything we can to make the 2018 ballot. By March, we will have a new petition with minor changes.”

So there you have it.

Let’s be honest here. Regulate Florida’s plans were pretty ambitious. Florida is hardly a progressive state when it comes to an issue like this. No doubt emboldened that the bid for medical marijuana came tantalizingly short last year, this group came together quickly this year and announced this past spring that they were serious about putting together a petition drive.

Such efforts are expensive. The reason why Florida is finally looking serious about getting a medical marijuana measure passed is that they finally got the sugar daddy that they had been looking for over a decade in John Morgan. Regulate Florida didn’t have that sugar daddy, though they say that they’re working with some donors already for a 2018 effort.

Last month, Ohio was attempting to become the first state in the nation to pass a recreational marijuana law before they already had a medical marijuana law in place. That measure failed, but if you followed that story at all, you know that it had a lot of major issues that prompted some pro-weed advocates to back away from supporting it.

So what about medical marijuana? Enthusiasts thought it was a sure thing in 2014, after some polls had the support in the 80 percentile early on. Obviously, a majority of folks want it in Florida. The feeling is with more Democratic Party voters going to the polls in a presidential year, it will have a better chance of passage in ’16. Not to sound mealy-mouthed about it, but that still remains to be seen, obviously.

In other news …

Former Pinellas County Commissioner Norm Roche is suing his former employer, after the county rescinded a clerical job offered him earlier this year. Roche was never a favorite with his colleagues on the board, and he claims that one of his former colleagues had something to do with his not getting the job.

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The Koch Brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity’s Florida chapter is calling on its members to tell the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners to oppose the $29 million subsidy for improvements for Raymond James Stadium, the home of the Bucs (and USF football).

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At a discussion on health care issues that the Legislature will contend with next year, Tampa House Democrats Ed Narain and Janet Cruz blasted Rick Scott’s “attack” on public hospitals in Florida.

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Tampa GOP state representative Jamie Grant isn’t backing down from his denunciation of Donald Trump.

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Saint Leo University Polling Institute has Donald Trump up 31-15 percent over Marco Rubio in Florida, and David Jolly and Patrick Murphy lead their respective races for U.S. Senate.

Bid to legalize recreational marijuana will not make it on 2016 ballot in Florida

Regulate Florida, the group aiming to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot in Florida in 2016 that would legalize recreational pot, is ending its campaign. Members acknowledge they will not be able to obtain the more than 683,000 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot by February.

Supporters were told Wednesday night via a conference call from Michael Minardi, the Jupiter-based attorney and campaign manager for Regulate Florida.

“The reality is showing us that we’re not going to get the million petitions or signatures verified by February 1,” Minardi said. “We had an uphill battle, honestly with getting a million signatures realistically from the end of August until December. We did believe with the movement and the momentum that we had that we could get this done, but unfortunately, we don’t think we’re going to at this point.”

Organizers of Regulate Florida tried to have Florida be the first state to go straight to legalizing marijuana without first having passed a medical marijuana law.

The bid for medical marijuana in Florida received over 57 percent of the vote in 2014, shy of the 60 percent required for a citizen-based constitutional amendment from passage. United for Care, the same group led by Orlando attorney John Morgan that led the effort last year, is working hard on attempting the get the measure on the Florida November ballot in 2016.

Minardi said that he was optimistic about getting the measure to legalize recreational marijuana on the ballot in 2018. He said he had some “soft commitments” from donors for that campaign already, and said he hopes to sign contracts with those donors next year.  He said he’s also hoping to get a Supreme Court review of the ballot language by next summer.

Karen Goldstein with Regulate Florida (who also heads the Florida chapter of NORML), told supporters on the call that the Regulate Florida intends to make some “minor” changes with the ballot language, and thus implored volunteers to destroy any current;y unsigned petitions.

Minardi said the group will be supportive of that effort, saying that its passage will help educate the people of Florida about the safety and efficiency of cannabis as a whole.

Goldstein also urged supporters who like to get out and petition to pick up some United for Care petitions to help get that initiative on the 2016 ballot. “We still need to get medical marijuana on the ballot in 2016. We still need to support, as we have all along, the United for Care effort.”.

“I have great respect for Mike Minardi and Karen Goldstein and anyone who undertakes the Herculean task of placing a constitutional amendment on the Florida ballot,” said Ben Pollara, director for United for Care. “I’m sorry their campaign didn’t end up the way they wanted it to. I hope this means they’ll return their full focus and energy to passing medical marijuana in 2016.”

“I would like to add our heartfelt thanks to all of you, ” said Goldstein to supporters on the call on Wednesday night. “We are going to come back stronger, and we’re going to get it done.”

“Unsure” leads new GOP Florida Senate poll with David Jolly next at 11.9%

Speculation still has it that there could be more candidates to enter the Florida U.S. Senate race, and a new survey of that race out on Wednesday from St. Leo University Polling Institute shows why that scenario persists.

A majority of  voters surveyed – 56.5 percent – say they are unsure who they prefer in the race, which doesn’t go before voters until the end of August of 2016.

Next on the list is Pinellas County U.S. Rep. David Jolly at 11.6 percent. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera is next at 8.2 percent. Former CIA contractor Todd Wilcox is tied with “someone else” at 6.8 percent, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is at 6.1 percent, and Ilya Katz is at 4.1 percent.

On the Democratic side, there are slightly less people unsure, but still the vast majority – at 46.9 percent.

Next up is Jupiter U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy at 16.9 percent. Alan Grayson is at 7.1 percent, which St. Leo’s says is essentially tied with “someone else,” which comes in at 7.7 percent.

Lateresa Jones is at 6.3 percent, and Pam Keith gets 4.4 percent.

St. Leo’s University Polling Institute polled 531 adults in Florida. 147 were Republicans, and 160 Democrats. The margin of error is plus or minus 8 percent with Republicans, and 7.5 percent with Democrats. The survey was conducted Nov. 29 to Dec. 3, 2015.

St. Leo University Florida Presidential Poll out shows Donald Trump with 30.5 % — Marco Rubio 15% — Jeb Bush 14%

Donald Trump continues to lead in the GOP presidential race in Florida, according to a new poll released Wednesday by St. Leo University Polling Institute.

The NYC businessman is at 30.6 percent, up nearly 5 percent points from a similar survey conducted in October. Marco Rubio is in second place with 15 percent, a drop of over 6 points over the past two months. Jeb Bush is at 14.3 percent, a drop of 1 percent since October.

Ben Carson slips to fourth place with 10.9 percent, compared to 14.7 percent in October. And Ted Cruz is now at 10.2 percent in the poll, up from 4.9 percent in October.

It should be noted that only 147 Republicans were contacted in this survey. Overall, 531 Floridians were polled by the institute from November 29 to December 3, 2015; a national survey of 1,007 adults was conducted in parallel during the same time frame. The margin of error for answers from the above subgroup is plus or minus 8 percentage points.

On the Democratic side, it’s not much of a contest at all. Hillary Clinton gets 58.8 percent of the vote to Bernie Sanders 26.9 percent. The margin of error on Democratic likely voter responses was plus or minus 7.5 percentage points. The subgroup numbered 160.

When asked who would be the best candidate would “likely mount the strongest and most effective effort against terrorists worldwide while protecting Americans at home?” the winner was Trump, with 25.2 percent support. Clinton was a close second with 22.8 percent. No other candidate received more than 10 percent support.

However, Clinton leads every Republican in the survey, and would also win in a three-way race with Trump running as an independent.

  • Clinton, 48.9 percent, vs. Trump, 41.2 percent.
  • Clinton, 48.9 percent, vs. Rubio, 41.2 percent.
  • Clinton, 51.2 percent, vs. Carson, 39.1 percent.
  • Clinton, 47.3 percent, vs. Bush, 37.9 percent.
  • Clinton, 53 percent, vs. Cruz, 34.7 percent
  • Clinton, 55.2 percent, vs. former Hewlett-Packard executive Carly Fiorina, 29.7 percent.

Three-Candidate Presidential Race Projections from Florida

Likely voters in Florida were also asked whom they would choose if there were a three-way presidential ballot with Trump running an independent candidacy, with Clinton running on the Democratic ticket, and with each of the major current Republican candidates emerging as the party nominee. In all scenarios, the results broke in Clinton’s favor, shown below in descending order:

  • Clinton, 47.5 percent; Fiorina, 12.9 percent; Trump, 30.7 percent.
  • Clinton, 46 percent; Cruz, 21.3 percent; Trump, 26 percent.
  • Clinton, 45.5 percent; Carson, 20.3 percent; Trump, 27.7 percent,
  • Clinton, 44.8 percent; Rubio, 21.8 percent; Trump, 28.2 percent.
  • Clinton, 41.8 percent; Bush, 19.1 percent; Trump, 33.4 percent.

Tampa house Democrats blast Scott administration’s investigation into public hospitals

Florida Governor Rick Scott has been targeting the Florida public hospital industry for much of this year, after the Florida Hospital Association made a strong pitch for the Legislature to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, a push that failed for the third straight year in Tallahassee, and after the federal government announced deep cuts in hospital funding earlier this year

At a forum highlighting the upcoming Florida legislative session focusing on health care in Tampa on Wednesday, Tampa House Democrats Ed Narain and Janet Cruz blasted Scott’s efforts as being detrimental.

Narain is a freshman elected a year ago in the House District 61 which encompasses much of the urban corridors of Tampa. He bashed the Scott Administration for the Governor’s request earlier this year to order state health officials to audit more than 100 hospitals as part of his ongoing battle with those facilities, which the governor said was driving up Medicaid costs.

“And what have we found at this point?” asked Narain. “Absolutely nothing. So political theater is taking place in the state of Florida.”

Cruz, who also represents parts of Tampa, agreed, saying that the public hospitals are “under attack,” and said it reminded her of previous attacks on the public schools in Florida.

“Where they’re looking at this big pot of dollars and moving to voucher programs and charter schools,” she said. “They want to move away from the public hospitals that in my opinion serve the uninsured and the underinsured. The move is to privatize, and the hospitals are next.”

Earlier this year, the Governor created the Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding and directed it to examine the rate of return on tax dollars used for Medicaid. That panel was blasted as being biased, with only one of the nine appointees an actual physician (Gainesville microsurgeon Jason Rosenberg).

In September, Scott said he wanted to help Floridians to fight against unfair hospital prices by requiring hospitals to post their prices and average payments, along with their annual IRS reports, in an easily accessible location on their website.  He also proposed to create additional protections  by allowing the referral of any suspected hospital price gouging to the appropriate law enforcement agency or regulatory authority.

But he hasn’t had much help in acquiring a sponsor in the Legislature for such a proposal.

Although Cruz, Narain and Republican state house member Jamie Grant, the third member of the panel who participated in the Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative on Wednesday, all said that Medicaid expansion was dead for 2016, it didn’t stop the partisan attacks that have been part and parcel of the debate for years in Florida.

Among the House Republicans talking points in opposing Medicaid expansion has been their contention that the state’s existing Medicaid program already provides a safety net for low-income children, pregnant women, elderly and disabled people. Grant says Medicaid expansion would have come at expense of kids and the elderly.

“If the question is to provide health care to a larger population that overwhelmingly was made up of able bodied men who chose not to work and didn’t have children, and we were going to pay for it by taking health care from kids and the medically needy, that’s never, ever ever going to pass the Florida House,” Grant said.

Cruz immediately responded that she didn’t like speaking after Grant because “he’s so bright and so eloquent – but he’s wrong here.”

“Most of the Medicaid population is sick children and lots of very sick children,” Cruz said. It is a sad day in the state Legislature that we refuse to offer care to working families. …it’s an atrocity, and it’s wrong, and we have a budget surplus in a $76 billion budget. We still refuse to provide some kind of care for our working families. It’s just wrong, it’s wrong that we didn’t and we don’t expand healthcare coverage in Florida.”

“We have too many people in this state that, when they think of the doctor, they’re thinking of the ER,” added Narain.

Grant is director of national markets for CareSync, an app and website that allow people to store and control their medical records online. His background in health care was apparent as he expounded effortlessly on his opinions regarding various aspects of the industry.

He kicked off the conversation by boldly stating that the traditional fee-for-service model of paying for health care was on the way out, to be value-based-care. “Fee-for-service is going to die,” he said. “The days for performed service, get paid for that service a set amount is going away.”

Grant said that was a move led by the federal government, and Florida has nothing to do with that. He said what the Legislature could do to augment that would be to allow for more price transparency in health care. “There’s zero reason that a hospital or a health system should be getting data from AHCA (Florida Agency for Health Care Administration) that’s a year or two years old. It’s 2015, it’s about to 2016. It’s laughable.”

Jamie Grant doubles down on referring to Donald Trump proposal on Muslims as “fascist”

Tampa area state Rep. Jamie Grant said Wednesday he’s not backing away from his Monday tweet calling Donald Trump‘s proposed ban on Muslims from entering the country a “a fascist proposal.” 

“The answer to immigration problems in this country is not fascism. It’s not registries of people who look a certain way or believe a certain thing,” Grant said at a meeting of the Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative at the Children’s Board in Ybor City on Wednesday.

The GOP lawmaker sat on a panel with Tampa state House Democrats Janet Cruz and Ed Narain where the focus was on heath care, but the conversation veered into immigration when Narain was asked by moderator Donna Peterson how much heath care should go to the children of undocumented immigrants.

“We’ve got to find a path to citizenship for these folks,” said Narain, the son of immigrant parents. “I’m not saying that once you make it here, you’re here. I’m saying, let’s find a path. That’s going to involve paying money and becoming a citizen the right way. But once they’re here, we should not penalize their children.”

That prompted Grant to say that once he saw Trump’s comments on his Twitter feed on Monday, “I kind of got unfiltered and thought my campaign team is going to kill me for what I have to say” before he went ahead and tweeted his comments.

Narain then told the audience that they should start following Grant on Twitter. “He took Mr. Trump to task. I do commend you for because you did stick your neck out there and it was the right thing to do,” he said to applause.

Fellow Tampa Bay area GOP House member Chris Latvala has also been extremely outspoken about Trump.

On his Facebook page, Latvala wrote after Pinellas County U.S. Rep. David Jolly said Trump should no longer run for president after his recent remark that the New York City real estate magnate would be a “tyrant, plain and simple,” if elected president.

“This maniac is a facist (sic)… And democratic plant put in the race by the Clintons,” Latvala wrote. “If he wins the nomination he will get trounced by his longtime friend Hillary Clinton. Perhaps that was the plan all along.”

But not all members of the Florida House Republican caucus were so quick to criticize Trump.

“My guess is won’t think twice about or but his supporters won’t soon forget. ,” tweeted Lakeland House Republican Neil Combee, in reaction to Jolly’s comments, as well St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman‘s tweet heard ’round the world that he was banning Trump from entering St. Pete (Kriseman said he was joking).

Mitch Perry Report for 12.9.15 – Welcome to the new world of policing

There is a story in Wednesday morning’s New York Times quoting a variety of police chiefs across the country bemoaning how the prevalence of video cameras are changing the way they do their jobs, and makes it harder for them – even when those cameras come from their own agencies.

Since the fall of 2014 when incidents exploded in Ferguson and Staten Island, and Walter Scott was killed in South Carolina, a series of videotapes have shown police officers killing people who in many cases were unarmed. It’s been a huge story and led to a national consensus that body cameras on officers would be  beneficial for both the public and officers.

The Times story talks about how important community policing is.

“Since crime has been so low for so long, there are very high expectations in terms of what people expect of police chiefs,” said Inimai M. Chettiar, the director of the justice program at the Brennan Center for Justice, tells the paper. “Not only are they expected to keep down crime, but now they are expected to treat people with courtesy. That is new.”

Now let’s look at the ongoing saga in Chicago, where police superintendent Garry F. McCarthy was fired last week by Mayor Rahm Emanuel when the local community erupted in outraged after video footage showed an officer shooting black teen Laquan McDonald 16 times.

That tape showed a very different picture of what led that particular officer in Chicago – Jason Van Dyke – to shoot McDonald. The dash cam footage showed McDonald moving away from the officers with his hands down by his sides, not with his hand raised or lunging at Van Dyke. To quote USA Today, “Hundreds of pages of police documents released late Friday evening from the investigation of the police officer shooting death of Laquan McDonald show that cops at the scene offered a starkly different picture of what led to fellow officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times than what a dashcam video released last week depicts.”

That’s an understatement.

It’s enormously disappointing, to say the least, that so many of Van Dyke’s officers said something different to their superiors about that night. And it’s hardly comforting to think this is the first time something like this has happened, where there wasn’t video, and internal affairs or a citizens review board reviewed a similar case and said essentially, “nothing here to see.”

Yes, it is a different world of policing for law enforcement in late 2015: more accountability and transparency. And let’s hope, not so many tragic incidents.

In other news …

David Jolly got lots of publicity, as the one Republican not only denouncing Donald Trump for his comments about banning Muslims from entering the U.S., but saying that he no longer should be running for president after that remark.

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Patrick Murphy agrees with Jolly, but the two men running for U.S. Senate from opposing parties disagree about banning those on the terror watch list from purchasing firearms.

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There was a lot of debate and discussion regarding the regulation of ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft at the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation meeting Tuesday, but is there any prospect of actually having a policy that regulates those companies and the taxi cab companies?

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And the Tampa Bay political establishment came out in the morning for the groundbreaking ceremony for USF’s Medical school and Healthy Health Institute at the site where Jeff Vinik is planning his $2 billion master plan for the Channelside area of downtown Tampa.

Hillsborough Legislative Delegation OKs measure to regulate Uber and Lyft, but future unclear

The Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation spent hours (and hours) on Tuesday discussing proposed legislation that would bring ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft into compliance with the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, but whether they actually moved the issue forward at the end of the day is dubious.

The setting for the local group of state lawmakers to convene was the Firestick Grill, described as an “upscale buffet” that happens to be located inside the cavernous Amalie Arena. Dozens of people, including lobbyists, public officials and members of the public stood in the back of the room or in an adjacent room as there was little room to contain all who came for the meeting, which took place just a month before the 2016 Legislative session kicks off in Tallahassee

On a nearly party-line vote (St. Petersburg based Rep.Darryl Rouson joined the majority of Republicans on the panel) the delegation approved a measure sponsored by Plant City Republican Dan Raulerson that would establish a new regulatory framework for allowing Uber and Lyft to operate legally in the county.

Although Raulerson’s name was on the bill, it was Tampa’s Dana Young who provided a “strike all” amendment that dominated the proceedings.

In introducing her measure, Young referred to the ceremony held just across the street from the Amalie Arena earlier on Wednesday, where the groundbreaking ceremony was held for the USF Medical School’s move to the Channel District.

“We talked about how innovative our city is becoming. We need to stay at the forefront of innovation to continue to grow as a city,” she said before adding that the regulatory requirement set forth in her amendment was consistent with the laws regulating such ride-sharing companies in 24 states, and over 31 localities.

Officials with the PTC have said they hoped that an answer to solve the conflict with Uber and Lyft could come from the state Legislature. Uber and Lyft began offering their services in Hillsborough in April of 2014, and immediately became a local sensation, as has been the case in other cities in the U.S. and across the globe.

Young’s amendment would require TNC’s to operate in Hillsborough by being required to provide insurance at the three different stages that an Uber or Lyft driver is in the process of picking up a passenger.

The first stage, when the driver was offline they would have to provide insurance from their personal carrier. When the driver turns on the app but before they accept a fare, the ride-sharing company would pick up the insurance, for $50,000 bodily injury, $100,000 for incident, and $25,000 for property damage. Once the driver accepts the trip (But before the passenger was in the trip), the insurance would be $1 million for liability and $1 million for uninsured motorist.

That wasn’t so controversial, but the strength of the background check for a ride-sharing driver under Young’s amendment was. It would require TNC’s to use the driver’s Social Security number to use a national background check going back seven years, and conduct an “extensive criminal background check” that would include “many elements not found in Level 1 or Level 2 background checks.”

When questioned by Rouson about whose background check policy would be stronger, the checks that Young was proposing or the Level 2 background checks that the PTC requires of taxi cabdrivers, Young said she couldn’t say, just that they were different.

That proved to be a bridge too far for Ybor City-based House Democrat Ed Narain when the amendment came up for a vote. He said the insurance requirements didn’t faze him, but he didn’t believe that Young’s background checks provided sufficient safety for riders.

Another troublesome spot that was torn apart by critics was Young’s proposal (similar to the bill pending in the state House sponsored by Shalimar Republican Matt Gaetz) that would require TNC’s to pay just $5,000 to register with the PTC.

That is dramatically less than the permits that taxicab companies in Hillsborough County must currently pay.

Lou Menardi, the owner of Yellow Cab in Tampa, says he pays the PTC $500 each for 270 permits, which comes out to $135,000 annually. “There needs to be some parity,” he insisted.

Three of the four Democrats in the delegation — Narain, Tampa state Rep. Janet Cruz, and Tampa/St.Pete state Sen. Arthenia Joyner all voted no on Young’s measure, and it was Joyner who was the most outspoken in articulating the group’s opposition.

“Why are we doing this when it can be killed by one senator?” Joyner asked. “Is this a ‘get ready for Tallahassee exercise?'” she asked, as parts of the audience laughed and then began cheering.

Joyner’s point was relevant. Legislators in Tallahassee say they are poised next month to begin creating regulatory rules for the entire state, as Hillsborough is by far not the only local government that has had issues in working with the ride-sharing companies.

But Young said there were legitimate reasons for the delegation dealing with now.

“This specific issue has been the subject of protracted and expensive litigation here in Hillsborough County about the ability and the authority of the PTC to regulate TNC’s. Our citizens want this service. That is unquestioned.”

The second reason she said was her doubts that some important members of the Legislature don’t want to pass such a bill, which she said would lead to “another year of uncertainty, litigation and citizens here in Hillsborough County that are potentially denied a service that they very, very dearly want.” Young said if statewide legislation does pass in 2017, there would be a “seamless transition” in the county, having already passed such a bill.

At the end of the discussion, the measure passed, but as Senator Joyner noted, it only takes one senator to kill it in Tallahassee. And she should know, since she used that exact legislative maneuver to kill a bill that the local delegation passed regarding the county’s Civil Service Board back in the spring of 2014.

Meanwhile, St. Petersburg state Sen. Jeff Brandes and Tampa Rep. Jamie Grant once again introduced a bill that would outright kill the PTC. Brandes mentioned previous scandals involving PTC officials over the years as the casus belli for its elimination. “In light of these issues, I believe that this entity represents the worst of the bureaucratic crony capitalist system,” he said. “No there county in the state has an entity like the PTC, and it’s my firm belief that we should repeal this entity.”

However after introducing the bill, Brandes immediately said he would delay action until other PTC bills came before the delegation. At the end of the meeting, he and Grant meekly said they were temporarily delaying it, meaning that the troubled agency will continue to exist, at least until a similar bill probably is reintroduced in another year.

Patrick Murphy urges ban on gun sales to those on terrorist watch list

South Florida U.S. Rep. and Democratic Senate hopeful Patrick Murphy announced Tuesday his support for legislation that would ban people put on the terrorist watch list from being able to buy firearms in the U.S.

That’s the same legislation that the GOP-led Congress rejected last week in both the House and the Senate, coming in the same week of the massacre in San Bernardino, California. Two Florida Republicans running for U.S. Senate, David Jolly and Ron DeSantis, voted against the bill in the House.

“This bill isn’t perfect and there’s going to be too many people on it,” Murphy said in a conference call, reciting the argument that most Republicans used last week to reject the legislation. “Let’s have a simple conversation about how you improve the legislation, get it up for a vote immediately, and show not just Americans but the world that we are going to act.”

The usually mild-mannered Democrat blasted Congress for refusing to act in the wake of another mass shooting, saying that there are too many politicians “willing to do nothing” and sit on the sidelines because of threats from the National Rifle Association.

“They are rejecting the most basic safety measures because they’re intimidated by the gun industry, so I think it’s an embarrassment to our country, and an embarrassment to those folks not willing to support this that they will cave to these special interest groups on something so common sense,” he said.

Murphy said the issue is one of common sense and shouldn’t be partisan. However, it has become partisan over the years. Recently Republicans have been mocking President Barack Obama, congressional Democrats, and news organizations such as The New York Times for talking about gun control when they say the U.S. is at war with radical Islamic terrorists.

As has been well documented there have been mistakes made by the Department of Homeland Security in compiling the terrorist watch list. Murphy said, though, that’s not a good enough reason to not act. “It’s not some arbitrary list,” he said. “This list is based on some serious evidence, serious investigation done not only by the FBI, CIA and many agencies and working with our allies around the world to develop a list of those we think suspected of nefarious activity. To me, it’s completely common sense that we keep people who are suspected terrorists from buying a gun.”

In supporting his opposition to the legislation last week, Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said there are “700,000 Americans on some watch list,” but that number was wildly overstated, something that fact checking organizations called him out on. Murphy said the same thing on his conference call. “This proposal does not affect all of the estimated 700,000 to 800,000 people that are on that terrorist watch list. Because the legislative proposal doesn’t actually require the Attorney General to use the watch list, the no fly list, or any other list. He or she has flexibility.”

Overnight David Jolly, one of those Republicans running for the same Senate seat that Murphy hopes to capture next November, issued a statement blasting Donald Trump for his comments. Trump said the U.S. should ban all Muslims from entering the country until the nation’s leaders can “figure out what is going on” after the California attack.

Murphy said he stands with Jolly on that front: “We’ve been agreeing with what Jolly said and denouncing those comments. It’s nice to see bipartisan support for Donald Trump to get out of this race.”

Murphy says he wants Jolly, DeSantis and the two other GOP Senate candidates – Todd Wilcox and Carlos Lopez-Cantera – to support the proposal.

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