Jack Latvala Archives - Page 5 of 35 - Florida Politics

Jack Latvala: Water quality is a business issue

Environmentalists shouldn’t be the only ones sounding the alarm when it comes to Florida’s water quality concerns.

Instead, Sen. Jack Latvala said all of the state’s stakeholders need to work together to address the issues affecting Florida’s water.

“It’s not just (environmentalists). It’s not just the white hats with petitions and protests,” said Latvala, a Clearwater Republican and the incoming chairman of the Senate appropriations committee. “These are business issues. If we allow those (resources) to be desecrated in any way … that’s not going to help keep people coming to Florida, whether it’s as tourists or whether it’s as residents. Everyone needs to be invested.”

Latvala gave the business community and environmental experts a peek into the 2017-18 budget process during the 2016 Florida Water Forum with hosted by Associated Industries of Florida. The annual event is a chance for elected officials, the business community and other policy leaders to come together to discuss ongoing water issues.

The most recent estimates from leave Florida with about $7.5 million leftover out of about $32.2 billion in available revenue in 2017-18. And while lawmakers have stressed there isn’t’ a revenue shortage, recent estimates don’t leave a lot of wiggle room for those hoping to get projects funded.

But Latvala said he expects lawmakers will advocate for projects to improve Florida’s water quality. And Senate President Designate Joe Negron has already said water will be a top priority during his two-year term.

Negron, a Stuart Republican, has said he plans to push for money to buy land south of Lake Okeechobee. His $2.4 billion plan includes buying 60,000 acres to build a reservoir to clean and send water into the Everglades, instead of down the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.

His proposal included bonding $100 million over 20 years to generate the state’s $1.2 billion share. Under his plan, the remaining costs would be picked up by the federal government.

Latvala said Negron talked to him about the proposal before going public, and said he expects it will be a “multi-faceted program” that would also include efforts to move residents off septic systems.

Gov. Rick Scott has already said he would include money in his proposed budget to help encourage residents near the Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee River to switch from septic.

“We have to have water that’s drinkable and water that doesn’t smell bad I we want to have tourists keep coming in and funding our budget,” said Latvala.

But water quality issues in the Indian River Lagoon — where algae clogged the waterways and temporarily close South Florida beaches — aren’t the only concerns. He pointed to a recent sewage spill in Tampa Bay, where more than 250 million gallons of sewage flowed into the bay.

“I can’t think of a time in history since I’ve been involved in the Senate that we’ve had so many crisis effecting water as we have today,” he said.

Florida Chamber endorses in 79 legislative races

The Florida Chamber of Commerce has thrown its support behind 79 candidates ahead of the general election.

“We believe these candidates will put Florida’s long-term future ahead of short-term fixes and will help ensure our state remains competitive,” said Marian Johnson, senior vice president of political operations for the Florida Chamber. “We are proud to support these candidates that we believe will help create jobs and economic opportunity in our state.”

The Florida Chamber backed 88 candidates ahead of the Aug. 30 primary, and saw victories in 76 of those races. Several of those candidates were incumbents, while others were involved in uncontested primaries.

The Chamber saw successes in several state Senate primaries, but fell short in a few House races. However, Chamber officials said their investments in the primary paid off, despite a few losses.

The endorsements this cycle include Keith Perry in Senate District 8, Dean Asher in Senate District 13, Peter Vivaldi in Senate District 15, and Dana Young in Senate District 18. The Chamber also endorsed several incumbents Bill Montford, Joe Negron, Jack Latvala, and Lizbeth Benacquisto.

General election endorsements in the Florida House include Frank White in House District 2, Jayer Williamson in House District 3, Randy Fine in House District 53, Ben Diamond in House District 68, and David Rivera in House District 118. The Chamber also through its support behind several incumbents, including Jay Fant, Blaise Ingoglia, Chris Sprowls, Chris Latvala, and Holly Raschein.

A full list of the Florida Chamber’s general election endorsements can be found on the organization’s website.

FMEA storm report

City was speedy on power restoration post-Hermine, report says

Getting the juice back on after Hurricane Hermine was about the same or faster than similar “power restoration efforts” after storms.

That’s the conclusion of a report released this week by the Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA) on Tallahassee’s response to this month’s Category 1 storm.

The FMEA’s survey shows “another Category 1 storm, Hurricane Irene, struck across multiple states in 2011 and the power restoration for Irene took a little longer than efforts for post-Hermine.”

Hermine, a Category 1 hurricane at landfall, knocked out electric service overnight on Sept. 1 and 2 to hundreds of thousands across North Florida, including nearly 68,000 customers in Tallahassee alone.

Within five days, however, 90 percent of customers had their power turned back on, the city has said.

Still, city officials were criticized as neighborhoods and businesses went days without power after the storm, while the city held off on accepting offers of help from other utilities.

That sparked the creation of a blue-ribbon panel by Citizens for Responsible Spending, a gadfly group often critical of city government, to look into how Florida communities can better bounce back after a big storm.

The city and Leon County also are holding their own community meetings to gather feedback on storm preparedness and recovery. The next one is 6 p.m. tonight (Thursday), at Eastside Branch Library, 1583 Pedrick Road.

Moreover, state Sen. Jack Latvala, the Clearwater Republican slated to chair the Appropriations Committee next legislative session, has suggested he may convene hearings on whether community-based power operations — such as City of Tallahassee Utilities — are positioned as well as they could be to recover after major storms.

“Various factors impact the timing of power restoration following a severe storm,” the FMEA report says. “For example, the Big Bend area of Florida is thick with live oak trees that hover over power lines creating the potential for additional issues versus an area predominantly with palm trees, like South Florida.

“Another factor is the population area impacted by a storm,” it adds. “Hurricane Hermine hit in a major population center and received a direct strike versus a storm that may hit an area where the population is not as concentrated.”  

FMEA storm report

Southern Strategy Group snags Uber’s local lobbying contract

In a significant “get” for the state’s largest government affairs firm, Southern Strategy Group (SSG) will rep global ride-hailing service Uber for its local-level needs.

The deal comes as ridesharing services heat up the news again.

Most recently, in Tampa Bay, House Republican Leader Dana Young demanded in a letter that local regulators scuttle proposed rules that Uber and others say will force them out of the local market.

Young’s letter was cosigned by 12 members of the Tampa Bay area legislative delegation.

Ballard Partners will continue to handle lobbying for the company at the legislative and state agency level.

SSG will help Uber at the city level, especially in places like Orlando, where lobbyist Kelly Cohen is close to Mayor Buddy Dyer, a Democrat.

SSG also is no longer repping Mears Transportation, a Central Florida taxi and hired-car provider. It controls most of the taxi business in Orlando, as well as much of the charter bus service.

Mears, and its adjunct, the Florida Taxicab Association, have been going head-to-head with Uber as the San Francisco-based company fights to break into — and stay in — local markets across Florida.

It will be interesting to see who picks up Mears next session, as we wait for an epic battle between Uber aficionados like state Sen. Jeff Brandes and soon-to-be House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and state Sen. Jack Latvala, the new Senate budget chief, on the other side.

Stay tuned…

Tom Jackson: In Pasco, all roads lead to Mike Fasano

Mike FasanoWhatever else we might be tempted to say in the aftermath of last month’s recent primary election, for those who live and/or work in Pasco County, this, above all, is beyond dispute:

Pasco is Mike Fasano’s county. Everyone else is just visiting.

Who but Fasano, the nudging, empathetic, perpetually beatifying champion of the “little guy and little gal” could have done in the Republican race for Pasco County property appraiser what he did with the fundamentally flawed Gary Joiner?

That is, Fasano — officially Pasco County’s tax collector but, increasingly, its kingmaker — took his operations chief, a career bureaucrat whose best-known qualities were philandering, creepiness, dishonesty, and opportunism and created the impression that the virtuous candidate in the GOP primary was not San Antonio’s Ted Schrader, the reasonably well-regarded and accomplished four-term county commissioner, but his guy.

That’s right. The fellow who carried on a workplace affair with a subordinate in 2009, lied about it, attempted to rekindle the romance in 2013 and 2014, got suspended when he was found out and, as a condition of his reinstatement, can no longer be alone with female colleagues — that is the guy local Republicans preferred in an 11-point landslide over Schrader, who was effectively portrayed as Pasco’s own Lyin’ Ted.

To be sure, Joiner benefited from the endorsement of popular Sheriff Chris Nocco, as well as from tens of thousands of dollars in nonstop advertising diverted from the electioneering committee of state House Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran — looking for some payback after Schrader helped choke off his intriguing charter-county plan last year — but it was Fasano, famous for wishing God’s blessing on all he meets, who chiefly midwifed his lieutenant’s campaign.

And it’s not like Schrader, who comes from an influential family of developers, business operators, and citrus growers, was out there flailing alone. His backers included a who’s who of the area Republican firmament: former state House Speaker Will Weatherford, likely future state Senate President Wilton Simpson, state Rep. Danny Burgess, schools Superintendent Kurt Browning and even Fasano’s longtime pal, state Sen. Jack Latvala, whose district includes part of West Pasco.

Looking back, with voters in a throw-’em-out mood, maybe all that establishment worked against Schrader.

Even so, rehabilitating Joiner — or, worse, making voters not care about his indiscretions — is an achievement so breathtaking, if Fasano’s next act were to cause white tigers and hippos to fly in formation the length of State Road 54 from New Port Richey to Zephyrhills, no one would raise an eyebrow.

And he did it all while conveniently removing a potential rival from challenging his future re-election plans. You could look it up.

Joiner made plain his preference would be to run for tax collector while acknowledging that, with Fasano ensconced, that door seemed firmly shut. Now a potential problem — a younger man with ambition — has been positioned, if he subdues little-known Dade City Democrat and real estate broker Jon Sidney Larkin in November, to run a new agency and while being converted into an indebted ally. You don’t get that sort of twofer every election cycle.

Beyond its lopsided margin, what is particularly remarkable about Joiner’s primary triumph is its geographic scope.

You would expect a New Port Richey resident backed by prominent west-county policymakers to do well in his backyard, and Joiner did. A Pasco County supervisor of elections map showing a precinct-by-precinct breakdown indicates a Joiner wave stretching virtually uninterrupted from the Gulf of Mexico to U.S. 41/Land O’ Lakes Boulevard.

But what happened on the other side that reveals, startlingly, the tale of Fasano’s influence. I mean, we’d seen evidence of his considerable sway on the broad county’s west side, when his appointment as tax collector, in June 2013, to succeed the late Mike Olson — the last Democrat to hold countywide office — triggered a special election for his seat in the Florida House.

Fasano’s divorce from Tallahassee was mutually satisfying. He’d been eyeing a constitutional office opportunity back home, and both Gov. Rick Scott and House GOP leadership were weary of his ever-increasing maverick status. But in a delicious episode of being careful of what you wish for, Fasano leaped over party lines to support Democrat Amanda Murphy, who narrowly defeated Corcoran’s choice, former Florida Gator defensive tackle Bill Gunter.

The question in the property assessor’s race was whether the Commutative Property of Fasano would play in the East. Come Election Day, the answer rocked Pasco’s political Richter scale.

In the end, Schrader’s support scarcely extended beyond his home base, the mostly rural northeast quadrant of the county. With exceptions in just a few master-planned villages where newcomers gather, fast-growing Wesley Chapel in the heart of the county rejected Schrader almost entirely. And, cutting Schrader off on his southeastern flank, Joiner dominated in Zephyrhills.

How bad was it?

While Joiner hopscotched around the county, Schrader spent Election Day in The Groves, an over-55 golf and country club community in North Land O’ Lakes that’s also GOP-rich territory.

Nearly 900 votes were cast there, but despite his daylong presence, Schrader lost by 11 votes, a metaphor for the election if there ever was one.

It would be nice to give more credit to the winning candidate himself, but as Joiner himself said, if it weren’t for Nocco, Corcoran and Fasano, he’d have gone nowhere.

I’d say he’s absolutely correct, especially the part about Fasano, who showed himself a shifter of landscapes.

Now we know. It’s his county, after all.

Two Tampa Bay Republican lawmakers plan major fundraisers for late September

Two lawmakers from the Tampa Bay area have high-profile fundraisers planned for later this month.

With a host committee boasting more than 50 supporters — representing a range of Tampa Republicans — former House Majority Leader Dana Young is holding a special reception Wednesday, Sept. 28 for her Senate District 18 bid.

Included among the special guests are top GOP leadership including incoming Senate President Joe Negron, Majority Leader Bill Galvano, and Sens. Jack Latvala and Wilton Simpson. Event begins 5:30 p.m. in Tampa.

For additional information or RSVP, contact Ieva Smidt at 850-567-8022 or Ieva@FLFStrategies.com.

On the other side of Tampa Bay, state Rep. Kathleen Peters will host a fundraiser in support of her re-election effort in House District 69. That event, also led by Latvala and Frank Chivas, owner of the Bay Star Restaurant Group, will be Monday, Sept. 26 beginning 5 p.m. at the Marina Cantina, 25 Causeway Boulevard in Clearwater Beach.

RSVP for the Peters event with RJ Myers, at RJ@KathleenPeters.com.

Young faces Democratic attorney Bob Buesing and two independent candidates for the newly drawn SD 18 seat, which covers South Tampa and western Hillsborough County.

In HD 69, Peters faces Democrat Jennifer Webb for the seat spanning Gulfport, South Pasadena, and several South Pinellas County beaches.

Kathleen Peters calls for special meeting on infrastructure damage

State Rep. Kathleen Peters has joined state Sen. Jack Latvala in a call for action after Hurricane Hermine.

The Treasure Island Republican, in a statement released Friday, called for a special meeting of Pinellas County’s legislative delegation and local leaders “to discuss critical infrastructure concerns in light of recent storm surges.”

Hermine, a Category 1 hurricane at landfall, knocked out electric service Thursday night to hundreds of thousands across North Florida, and caused significant damage along the state’s Gulf coast.

Peters said she was specifically concerned about “municipalities across Pinellas County (being) forced to dump partially treated sewage into local waterways.”

“This comes after large scrutiny from nearly a month of rainfall (last year) that showed cities with a lack of capacity to handle heavy weather occurrences,” said Peters, who was elected to the House in 2012 after serving as South Pasadena’s mayor.

“It is absolutely essential that we discuss the needs of our county as a whole and why I believe it is necessary to have local officials at the table,” she added. “We cannot continue dumping these amounts of waste into our waterbodies and expect a safe and healthy public or environment.

“I have always said that taking care of the basic infrastructure needs for a city should come first, and now we are here,” Peters said. “That said, we need solutions, and it is my hope the delegation and local leadership responds positively to this request.”

Latvala — the Clearwater Republican slated to be the Senate’s next budget chief — went further.

Earlier this week, he questioned whether the state’s community-based power operations are positioned as well as they could be to recover after major storms. Latvala suggested he might call for hearings on the issue next legislative session.

4:30 p.m. update: Latvala announced he is calling a special meeting of the Pinellas Legislative Delegation on Sept. 20 on the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus.

“I am going to discuss with (St. Petersburg) Mayor (Rick) Kriseman the possibility of a site visit by the delegation to the city’s nearby sewage treatment facility at that time also,” he said.

“This is especially important to me because the initial legislation to clean up our bay came first at the behest of two (former) members of our delegation,” Latvala added. “We cannot go backwards in our protection of the environment.”

Andrew Gillum ‘hopes’ Jack Latvala’s storm concerns are legit

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum Thursday said he “trusts” that state Sen. Jack Latvala isn’t unduly politicizing the city’s hurricane recovery efforts.

Gillum spoke with reporters after a meeting with Leon County Commission Chairman Bill Proctor on the progress of local recovery after Hurricane Hermine.

On Tuesday, Latvala said he was considering calling for legislative action next session to address the City of Tallahassee’s response to Hurricane Hermine.

The Clearwater Republican, set to become the next chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, specifically questioned whether community-based power operations — such as City of Tallahassee Utilities —are positioned as well as they could be to recover after major storms.

“I hope and I trust that the senator is really genuine in his interest in making sure that all of our utilities, public and private, are up to the task of dealing with storms,” said Gillum, a Democrat.

For instance, Gillum hoped lawmakers compared “apples to apples,” mentioning that Miami doesn’t have the tree canopy that Tallahassee does, nor does Tallahassee have issues with coastal flooding.

But during the meeting, Gillum said the city probably needed “an updated emergency management plan” that included lessons from “a conversation about resiliency.”

“My hope is that as [legislators] go down this road, and we’ll [also] be doing our own analysis, that the end product gets us to a place where we’re making every one of our communities more resilient,” Gillum said.

“I don’t think that should be relegated only to municipally owned utilities,” he added. “It’s a question that has to be answered by all utilities.”

Hermine, a Category 1 hurricane at landfall, knocked out electric service Thursday night to hundreds of thousands across north Florida, including nearly 68,000 in Tallahassee alone.

As of Thursday morning, local officials said fewer than 4,000 customers remain without power.

Proctor asked for a joint review of community response between city and county staff, saying “we did not expect that level of calamity.”

He further asked Gillum to consider rebating electric customers $100 on next month’s bill as a “humanitarian” gesture. The city utilities also has customers outside the city limits.

And Proctor similarly asked Gillum to sign on to his letter to Comcast, asking them to discount local customers next month for the inconvenience of cable TV and internet outages this month.

“We will work closely with any impacted customers on an individual basis to handle and resolve any concerns or questions they may have on their account,” said Mindy Kramer, Comcast’s vice president for public relations in Florida.

Jack Latvala wants answers after Tallahassee’s Hermine experience

State Sen. Jack Latvala on Tuesday said he is considering calling for legislative action next session to address the City of Tallahassee’s response to Hurricane Hermine.

Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, is slated to be the next Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Specifically, he said he questions whether community-based power operations—such as City of Tallahassee Utilities—are positioned as well as they could be to recover after major storms.

Hermine, a Category 1 hurricane at landfall, knocked out electric service Thursday night to hundreds of thousands across north Florida, including nearly 68,000 in Tallahassee alone.

As of Tuesday morning, local officials said 14,000-16,000 remain without power.

“In fact, there are several issues that have come to my attention with regard to municipal power agencies,” Latvala said in a text, without elaborating. “Their members’ ability to repair their utilities after a storm is only one part of it.”

Barry Moline, executive director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association, could not be immediately reached for comment. A message was left for city spokeswoman Alison Faris.

He added: “The citizens in Vero Beach have voted twice to get out of the electric business as a city but have been stymied by a contract that appears to have no end.”

Vero Beach, which also runs a municipal utility, has flirted in recent years with selling its electric system to Florida Power & Light, an investor-owned utility.

The story from a primary election day in the not-too-distant future

TALLAHASSEE — Two years after Hillary Clinton became the nation’s first female president, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham has become the second woman to win a major party’s nomination for Florida governor.

Graham, an attorney and daughter of former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, held off her two Democratic rivals in a spirited primary election.

Graham now faces former state House Speaker Will Weatherford in November. The Wesley Chapel Republican edged out Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the GOP establishment favorite, in a free-wheeling, wide-open Republican primary.

The man Graham and Weatherford hope to replace, Rick Scott, easily won the Republican nomination in Florida’s U.S. Senate race. He’ll face three-term Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson in the fall.

Spending only $9 million out of his personal fortune, it was the least amount Scott has spent to win an election. Instead, the still-powerful governor raised more than $30 million for his Senate campaign from the political allies who have long supported him. The Florida Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce donated heavily to “Let’s Get to Work America,” the super PAC backing Scott.

It was Scott’s nonstop fundraising after winning re-election in 2014 — especially as it became clear he would be back on the ballot in 2018 — that became one of the launching points for Graham’s gubernatorial bid. Her promise to “clean up the Governor’s Mansion” became a rallying cry for her and supporters on the campaign trail.

Graham captured 38 percent of the Democratic vote, while Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn finished second with 30 percent and Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine, despite spending more than $50 million of his own money, ended in third place with 28 percent. A handful of also-rans and gadfly candidates rounded out the results.

The clear difference for Graham was her strength with African-American voters, who were reminded in television commercial after television commercial of Tampa’s controversial “biking while black” ticketing scandal.

While Graham rarely brought up the topic, an anti-Buckhorn super PAC never let the issue drop, dogging Buckhorn press conferences with paid protestors who would buzz the events by circling around on bicycles. The video of Buckhorn jumping down from a stage to confront one of the young protestors went viral.

Levine entered the race with considerable fanfare, distributing virtual reality players to donors and reporters so they could watch the short film he had produced about his tenure as mayor.

And while the “Miami Beach Miracle” movie was the first use of VR on a campaign trail, Levine did not deliver at the box office. Polls indicated he never connected with either the conservative north Florida Democrats loyal to Graham or the voters of the I-4 corridor which Buckhorn hoped would be enough of a base to beat Graham.

The Tampa Bay area was ground zero for the GOP primary, with at least five candidates having staked some sort of claim to the state’s largest media market. Weatherford is from Wesley Chapel, Putnam from Bartow, Carlos Beruff from Parrish, Richard Corcoran from Land O’ Lakes, and Jack Latvala from Clearwater.

Beruff never stopped running for statewide office after losing to Marco Rubio in the 2016 U.S. Senate race. Although his consulting team was busy with Scott’s race, the prospect of Beruff writing another eight-figure check for his campaign kept the nucleus of his team together.

The Manatee County homebuilder parted with another $14 million in his bid to become governor, making it nearly $25 million Beruff has spent in the last two years for two losing campaigns.

Corcoran and Latvala, the two legislative powerhouses who brought the Capitol to a standstill earlier this year over Corcoran’s resistance to commit any taxpayer dollars to Latvala’s plan to build a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays, really only flirted with running for governor.

Corcoran was in the race for about a month, Latvala less than that. But after the so-called “Waffle House Summit” at which Corcoran and Latvala agreed to drop their bids for governor and instead run for attorney general and chief financial officer, while backing Weatherford over Putnam, the governor’s race became a two-man affair.

Corcoran will square off against Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg in the attorney general’s race, while Latvala will face Democrat Jeremy Ring. Former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli faces nominal Democratic opposition in the race for agriculture commissioner.

For much of the race, Putnam held every advantage — in fundraising, endorsements, and name recognition. But Weatherford doggedly traveled the state, damning Putnam with faint praise.

“Adam has been a good politician for more than 20 years,” Weatherford would say, “And he would make a good governor. But what Florida needs now is a transformational governor.”

The charge of Putnam being a career politician began to stick as Weatherford won straw polls at county party meetings and the endorsements of national movement conservatives. To many observers, the Weatherford vs. Putnam race played out like the Marco Rubio vs. Charlie Crist race of 2010.

By the time Goliath noticed David, it was too late.

Weatherford heads into November knowing that Florida Republicans typically outperform Democrats in non-presidential years.

But Graham is anything but a typical politician. With her father campaigning by her side and a legion of volunteers behind her, Graham may be the Democrats’ best chance to take back the Governor’s Mansion since the days of Lawton Chiles.

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