Jack Latvala Archives - Page 5 of 56 - Florida Politics

Ed Hooper lands endorsement from Bill Galvano

Former Rep. Ed Hooper picked up an endorsement for his 2018 Senate campaign Friday from fellow Republican Bill Galvano, who is set to become Senate President after next year’s elections.

“Having served the community most of his life, Ed Hooper understands the issues that face Senate District 16. Ed is known for being a champion of economic development, job creation, and quality education for our kids,” Galvano said in a press release. “The election of Ed Hooper to the Florida Senate will be beneficial to not just his constituents, but all residents of the great state of Florida.”

Hooper is running for the seat currently held by Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala, who is termed out of the senate and running for Florida governor in 2018.

Hooper has called the Clearwater area home for 45 years, including 24 years working for the city’s fire department. He served in the House from 2006 through 2014, when term limits forced him to retire, and has spent his three years out of the Legislature working as a consultant.

Currently, Hooper is the only Republican candidate in the race. Since filing in January 2016, he has racked up endorsements and raised about $144,000 for his campaign.

Also running is Democrat Bernie Fensterwald, who filed for the race in June. He has raised $12,400 for his campaign and has about $7,000 in the bank.

Senate District 16 has a similar makeup to the pre-redistricting Senate District 20. It covers the northern half of Pinellas County and a strip of coastal Pasco County that includes New Port Richey.

The district favors GOP candidates, with about 20,000 more registered Republicans than registered Democrats, and voted for Donald Trump last year over Hillary Clinton 56-39.

Jack Latvala gubernatorial bid scores major endorsement with FOP backing

On Saturday in Jacksonville, state Sen. Jack Latvala promised a “significant announcement.”

And he delivered, with the 22,000 member Florida State Fraternal Order of Police endorsing the Pinellas Republican’s gubernatorial bid.

This endorsement, delivered after the FOP State Lodge Board meeting in Jacksonville, wasn’t necessarily surprising; back in August, when Latvala announced his candidacy in Hialeah, Florida FOP President Robert Jenkins was in attendance.

FOP leadership were first to encourage Latvala to run for governor; the veteran lawmaker has been a staunch supporter of law enforcement efforts and has been consistently supported by the Fraternal Order of Police throughout his career.

“There is no doubt that all the things we hold most dear start with living in safe communities because without that it is nearly impossible to do the rest,” said Latvala.

“Police officers are so critical to all of us,” Latvala added. “It is a true honor to be endorsed by this exceptional group of law enforcement professionals.”

In making the endorsement, FOP President Jenkins lauded Latvala’s advocacy for law enforcement priorities.

“There have been decades of support shown to the Fraternal Order of Police along with other first responders. It is this unwavering dedication to the men and women wearing the badge that prompts our decision to endorse Jack Latvala for Florida Governor.  He always has our back, so we back Jack!” Jenkins asserted.

Indeed, Latvala’s legislative mission has aligned with law enforcement priorities.

“Law enforcement officers know better than most what our efforts in the Senate did to help reduce crime in Florida. I helped enact the 85% rule which requires persons convicted of crimes to serve 85% of their sentences, 10-20-Life legislation which stiffened the penalties for those convicted of using a firearm in the commission of a crime, and ‘Three Strikes’ legislation that keeps career criminals behind bars,” Latvala said in 2014.

The senator has routinely advanced pro-law enforcement measures, such as leading the charge for pay raises.

Crucially for law enforcement advocates, Latvala has also fought against the dilution of defined benefit pensions, a point he made when he launched his run for Governor.

“They want to give them the same kind of pension you can get for working at Walmart,” Latvala said. “A 401(k) instead of a real pension and I think that’s the least we can do for people who put their lives on the line every day is show some appreciation in giving them a good retirement.”

The Fraternal Order of Police crosses party lines often with endorsements.

While President Donald Trump was the FOP choice in 2016, the FOP endorsed Democrats in the last two Gubernatorial races.

Latvala, in addition to enjoying the support of the state’s powerful police union, is also backed by many of the state’s firefighters.

International Association of Fire Fighters locals throughout the state, including in St. Petersburg, West Palm Beach, Orlando, and Miami, support Latvala without reservation.

Endorsements from public safety unions, locally and statewide, are invaluable to Latvala’s bid for governor, offering a key difference between him and major opponents, such as Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Latvala had, at the end of September, roughly $4.67 million cash-on-hand between his campaign account and committee; the backing of influential and politically-active public safety unions will amplify for those efforts.

$50 million sought to tackle opioid epidemic

Skyrocketing numbers of overdoses. Burned-out first responders. Families torn apart.

Those are just some of the woes a key Senate budget panel heard about during a discussion Thursday focused on the opioid epidemic engulfing Florida and much of the nation.

Echoing what a separate Senate committee heard this week, substance-abuse treatment providers, community agency representatives and law-enforcement officials pleaded with the Senate Appropriations Committee for a comprehensive approach to the complicated issue, along with more money.

The state this year received $27 million in federal funds to deal with a mushrooming opioid crisis that has resulted in some counties seeing a 300 percent increase in overdoses.

Gov. Rick Scott – who declared a public health emergency about the opioid issue this year – announced that he will seek $50 million from the Legislature to deal with the issue, but he has yet to release a detailed plan for how the money would be spent.

Substance-abuse treatment providers on Thursday also asked for $50 million to address what at least one doctor called “chemical warfare” as lawmakers begin to put together a state spending plan in advance of the 2018 legislative session, which begins in January.

The number of Floridians dying from overdoses – involving prescription drugs, street drugs like heroin or the synthetic opioid fentanyl, or combinations of the drugs – has steadily increased over the last few years, following a dip after lawmakers cracked down on prescription drug “pill mills” in 2011.

Heroin overdoses jumped by 1,000 percent between 2007 and 2015, and most experts agree the number of deaths is much higher than what is being reported by the state’s medical examiners.

Overdoses related to fentanyl, which is often mixed with heroin, are also climbing.

The information about the rising number of deaths associated with opioids is perplexing for lawmakers who thought they stymied the state’s opioid plague by shutting down the pill mills.

“My concern as a policymaker is, how do we make sure we don’t do the same thing … because if not, then three years from now, instead of saying fentanyl and heroin, there it will say something else,” said Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican, referring to a chart of deaths due to overdoses. “I don’t want to see fentanyl and heroin in three years just turn into x, y, z.”

Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford offered a suggestion.

“One of the answers is going to be the investment in treatment resources,” he said.

“I think that’s the ultimate point. How do we get to the root of the problem? Is it a mental health issue? We gave it a Band-aid, but the underlying (root) is still there,” Flores said.

While the picture appears grim, Ann Berner, CEO of the Southeast Florida Behavioral Network, told the committee that the state can “turn the tides” on the opioid epidemic.

The $50 million sought by providers to address the issue would go toward housing vouchers and employment assistance for people in recovery, medication-assisted treatment programs that use drugs like Suboxone to help keep addicts off opioids such as OxyContin and heroin, residential treatment and detox beds, which are a critical first step in getting users clean.

The request for the funds comes as lawmakers begin to grapple with what will certainly be a tight budget year, made even leaner because of the impacts of Hurricane Irma.

Senate budget chief Jack Latvala wouldn’t say if $50 million is enough to combat the state’s opioid crisis.

“We just started working on this. This is the very first meeting of committees, very first meeting that this has been discussed. We have a lot of work to do before we can make opinions like that,” Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who is running for governor, told reporters after the meeting.

Latvala has made battling opioid addiction one of his top priorities, and asked Scott to use executive authority to release $20 million in emergency funds for the problem. Scott recently activated a $25 million emergency loan program for the citrus industry, which was devastated by Hurricane Irma.

“I asked for $20 million on an emergency basis to get us through the rest of this year. I’m still waiting. People are still dying. Nobody’s dying because oranges fell off of a tree,” Latvala said.

He again called on Scott to release the money.

“I think we need to treat the opioid crisis just like we’re treating the economic crisis from the hurricane. He (Scott) has the same ability on the opioid crisis to deal with that through the executive order as he has on the hurricane,” Latvala said.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Berny Jacques fundraising slows as Nick DiCeglie enters race

Nick DiCeglie has been in the race for House District 66 for a month and his first campaign finance report, released Tuesday, signals a momentum shift in the GOP primary between him and Berny Jacques.

Jacques filed March 3 and was the first-in candidate for the Pinellas County-based seat. Since showing $30,000 raised in his initial report, his contributions have slowed.

April brought him about $11,000 in campaign cash, and after the dog days of summer, he posted another five-figure report in August. His September report, though, brought about a new low: just $1,875 in new money came in, while about $5,500 went out the door.

His lone $1,000 check for the month came in from Sarasota attorney Patrick McCardle, while the remainder came from a smattering of small-dollar donors most of whom gave $50 or less.

In all, Jacques has raised $67,344 over the past six months and has about $52,000 in the bank.

DiCeglie, who entered the race at the start of last month, raised $30,751 in 30 days. All of that money that came in before his official campaign kickoff event, too. That event is set for Thursday evening in Bellair and features more than 50 names on the host committee that no other first-time candidate could dream of getting in the same room anywhere outside the Governor’s Club.

The abbreviated list: St. Pete Sen. Jeff Brandes, Clearwater Sen. Jack Latvala and his son Rep. Chris Latvala, and Pinellas County Commissioners Dave Eggers, John Morroni and Karen Seel, as well as Commission candidate and current HD 69 Rep. Kathleen Peters.

His pull with local Republican rock stars isn’t a surprise. In addition to owning and operating the lauded waste management company Solar Sanitation, Inc., for over decade, he spent two terms chairing the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce and earned a gubernatorial appointment to the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.

Being the current chair of the Pinellas County Republican Party certainly doesn’t hurt, either.

Among his September donors were renowned attorney Brian Aungst Jr., Clearwater City Council Member Doreen Caudell, former Pinellas GOP Chair Jay Beyrouti, and lobbyist Alan Suskey.

Chris King raises $148K in September for governor’s race

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King raised $148,000 in September, giving his campaign a total of $2.6 million raised, his campaign reported.

King, a Winter Park-based developer of affordable housing and senior housing, raised $77,500 for his official campaign and $70,500 for his independent political committee Rise and Lead Florida, according to data posted by the Florida Division of Elections. Those totals included $47,000 he donated to his own campaign, and $25,000 donated to Rise and Lead by Serenity Towers On the St. Johns, one of the senior centers his company runs.

His campaign now has raised $1.67 million, most of it coming from his own contributions. Rise and Lead has raised $948,000. Together, the two committees ended the month with $1.7 million in hand, his campaign reported.

King faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in his quest for the Democrat’s primary nomination in 2018. The leading Republicans are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow and state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater.

“Despite being a newcomer to politics, Chris King continues to remain competitive with career politicians with deep institutional and establishment support,” King’s campaign spokesperson Hari Sevugan stated in a news release issued late Tuesday. “Whether it’s fundraising, grassroots activity online or what we’re seeing and hearing across the state, what’s clear is that Democrats are tired of losing statewide, and are looking for new ideas and a fresh approach to leadership to break one-party control in Tallahassee. This consistent fundraising has also demonstrated that Chris is positioned to be the clear alternative to Gwen Graham.”

Gwen Graham blasts Everglades oil permit renewal

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham on Tuesday blasted a state decision to renew an oil exploration permit in the Big Cypress National Preserve in the Everglades.

Graham, a former congresswoman from Tallahassee, criticized the decision by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to renew the exploration permit for Burnett Oil Co. of Texas, and for doing so two weeks before the Oct. 24 deadline on the request.

“Protecting Big Cypress National Preserve is vital to preserving and restoring Florida’s Everglades. The state should be working to end oil drilling in the Everglades, not expand it,” Graham stated in a news release issued by her campaign. “As governor, I will fight to protect our clean land and water from oil drilling and fracking.”

The department responded by saying the activity was first approved by the U.S. National Park Service under President Barack Obama, and that position was upheld by a U.S. District Court decision in the Middle District of Florida earlier this year. Florida DEP Communication Director Lauren Engel said in a statement that the department “will take every step possible to protect Florida’s environment.”

Federal authorities have control over the lands, while the Florida department reviewed the permit to determine if it met all Florida requirements, she added.

Graham is battling with fellow Democrats Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park businessman Chris King for the party primary nomination to run for governor in 2018. The leading Republicans are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow and state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater.

Her campaign noted that several environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Center for Biological Diversity all asked the Florida Department of Environmental Protection not to renew Burnett Oil Co.’s exploration permit. The groups cited several potential violations, including killed or damaged trees, ruts in the soil and working without the supervision of National Park Service staff, Graham’s campaign stated.

“Conserving land and protecting the Everglades should not be a partisan issue, but under Rick Scott and Republican politicians in Tallahassee, the state has disregarded preservation in favor of profits. Under this administration, the DEP has become the Department of Environmental Pollution,” Graham said in the release. “This effort was started by a Republican governor. Legislation to protect the park was signed by a Republican president. Even George W. Bush and Jeb Bush wanted to stop oil drilling in the preserve. When the Bushes oppose drilling, you know it’s bad.”

 

Richard Corcoran committee raised $445K in September

House Speaker Richard Corcoran brought in another $445,000 for his political committee and possible governor’s race fund, “Watchdog PAC,” between Sept. 1 and Oct. 9 according to reports available on the committee’s website.

The committee has now raised $4.4 million total since Corcoran started it up in June, and has just shy of $3.9 million on hand.

The largest contribution last month was a $100,000 check from The Voice of Florida Business, a political committee tied to the Associated Industries of Florida. Following the six-figure check is a three-way tie between Miami auto dealer and former Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman, Wal‐Mart Stores, and Conservative Principles of Florida. Each gave $50,000.

A committee controlled by Republican Rep. Jason Brodeur chipped in $30,000, while a number of other GOP movers and shakers came in at the $25,000 level.

Among them are former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli through his Growing Florida’s Future committee, political consultant Anthony Pedicini through Citizens Alliance for Florida’s Economy, and Rep. Jamie Grant through Floridians for Liberty and Innovation.

Corcoran’s committee received the money across just 27 contributions. And one of those, a $25,000 check from Orlando law firm Newsome Melton, was refunded.

Expenditures clocked in at $265,814 through Oct. 9, with $68,800 of that money heading to Ft. Lauderdale-based Fabrizio, Lee & Associates for surveys, consulting and travel expenses.

Rapid Loop Consulting received $42,500 for consulting work and expenses, followed by D.C.-based Go Big Media which took home about $33,000 for consulting and travel, and Jacksonville-based Political Capital with $20,000 for consulting.

Corcoran has said he is waiting to announce his future plans after the 2018 Legislative Session, which ends in March.

Currently, the only two major Republicans running to succeed Rick Scott as Florida governor are Adam Putnam and Jack Latvala. Putnam’s fundraising has reached the double-digit millions through his committee, Florida Grown, and campaign accounts, while Latvala has a few million of his own in his committee, much of it left over from his campaign to be Senate President.

Utility companies have contributed $800K, while funneling as much as $2.5M through committees, to Adam Putnam’s campaign

Florida’s private utility companies have donated nearly $800,000 to support Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam‘s political committee seeking to get him elected governor, and also have donated another $1.8 million that may have been re-directed to him through other political committees.

A review of campaign finance data available through the Florida Division of Elections shows that Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy have been major contributors to Putnam’s Florida Grown, the political committee supporting his Republican gubernatorial candidate. Gulf Power Co. and TECO, the natural gas company, also have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Florida Grown.

All totaled, they’ve contributed $795,560 directly to Florida Grown since the start of 2015, when Gov. Rick Scott‘s second term began and the cycle for the 2018 gubernatorial race officially began.

Counting contributions from utility companies made to other business groups, which then cut checks to Florida Grown around the same time or shortly after, the amount of money passing from utilities to Florida Grown may be more than triple that amount, as much as $2.5 million.

Florida Jobs Political Action Committee, which represents the Florida Chamber of Commerce; the Associated Industries of Florida Political Action Committee; The Voice of Florida’s Business, which represents Associated Industries; and two similar organizations have written checks totaling $1.8 million to Florida Grown, on dates around or shortly after receiving hefty contributions from FP&L, Gulf Power or TECO.

The matter of the utilities’ contributions has become an issue in the governor’s race because Putnam’s rival for the Republican nomination, state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater, last month swore off utilities contributions to his campaign.

Latvala did so in the face of the public’s growing criticism of the utilities’ hurricane recovery performances, following Hurricane Irma’s Sept. 10-11 roar through Florida.

“It’s time the utilities stop spending money on political candidates and instead protect the residents of this state,” Latvala said on Sept. 19.

Florida Politics received a spreadsheet of campaign contributions from an anonymous source. Florida Politics double-checked the numbers, and also ran additional data analysis, checking on contributions to Latvala and other candidates as well.

Neither Putnam’s campaign nor Latvala’s campaign responded to inquiries from Florida Politics about the data.

Latvala, too, has received sizable contributions over the past two and a half years from the utility companies, though not on the same scale as Putnam. His Florida Leadership political committee has taken in about $100,000 of utilities’ money directly, and perhaps as much as $116,000 in pass-through donations from business groups’ political committees.

He has not given any of it back.

Democrats running for governor, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and businessman Chris King of Winter Park, have received nothing directly from the utilities in their respective political committees, Our Florida, Florida Forward, and Rise and Lead.

The Democratic candidates all have been stronger critics of the longer-term course for Florida’s utilities, particularly as each of them has vowed to push solar energy in big ways.

The direct contributions to Putnam’s Florida Grown include $587,060 from FP&L, $110,000 from Duke, $75,000 from TECO, and $22,500 from Gulf Power.

Another $575,000 in contributions to Putnam’s Florida Grown from Voice of Florida Business Political Committee tracks closely to the timing of money FP&L and TECO had given to that Associated Industries of Florida-affiliated committee throughout the past two and a half years. Another $500,000 in contributions to Florida Grown from Florida Jobs tracks fairly closely to money FP&L and Gulf Power had given to that chamber-affiliated committee. The Associated Industries of Florida PAC made $350,000 in donations to Florida Grown around the times of money it received from FP&L. Floridians United For our Children’s Future gave Florida Grown a total of $275,000, after receiving money from FP&L; and growing Florida’s Future provided $100,000 to Florida Grown, around the times of receiving utilities money.

Around the same times, Latvala’s Florida Leadership Committee got $56,000 from Florida Jobs, $40,000 from Associated Industries of Florida, and $20,000 from Floridians United for Our Children’s Future.

All of those may be coincidences.

Each of those business-promoting political committees receives numerous large contributions from all sorts of businesses and business interests, and cuts millions of dollars all totaled in checks to all sorts of political campaigns and committees. Florida Jobs, for example, has made more than $3.5 million in political donations since the start of this gubernatorial cycle.

The Florida Jobs committee also has made additional contributions to Florida Grown that do not necessarily align with incoming money from the utilities, such as a $150,000 donation made on July 31.

And Putnam’s pro-business positions have made him a favorite to the Chamber and the Associated Industries of Florida regardless of what the utility companies may wish to support.

Still, after the utilities used direct and pass-through contributions to push a Constitutional Amendment 4 last year that would have given them more control over solar energy production had it passed, elections watchdog and consumer groups have grown wary.

“There are definitely dots connecting to that, and our elected officials don’t seem to take notice of rate increases, or the lack of solar growth, or the pursuance of solar growth or other renewable energy. They seem to be fairly quiet on that front, and so why is that?” said Pamela Goodman, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, which campaigned against Amendment 4.

 

Gwen Graham raises $300K in third quarter

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham raised more than $300,000 for her campaign and her independent political committee during the third quarter of 2017, her campaign announced Monday.

Graham’s campaign said it has  amassed more than $3.6 million dollars for the 2018 election campaign, and had more than $2.5 million cash on hand at the end of September. The new money included more than $165,000 for her campaign and over $135,000 for her Our Florida independent political committee.

Graham, a former congresswoman from Tallahassee, is in a battle for the 2018 Democratic nomination with Winter Park businessman Chris King and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. Going into the third quarter, she led both in the money race, though trailed Republican candidates Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow and state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater by sizable margins.

Her campaign said she added 1,000 new donors in the quarter, bringing her total to 8,850 individual donors so far.

“This campaign is about more than winning back the governor’s office. This campaign is about undoing nearly 20 years of damaging one-party rule,” she stated in a news release. “When I’m elected governor, the decades of privatizing our education, paving over our environment and profiting off the backs of the middle class are going to end. I’m proud of the coalition we’re building — thousands of donors from every corner of the state — to turn Florida blue. Together, we will support our public schools, create good paying jobs, and prepare our state for the effects of climate change.”

 

‘Water bills’ already on the move in the Senate

A Senate panel on Monday cleared a ‘water bill’ aimed at cleaning up some of the state’s waterways.

The Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee OK’d the measure (SB 204) with a unanimous vote. Legislative committees are meeting in the Capitol this week, in advance of the 2018 Legislative Session that starts in January. 

The bill, by committee chair Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, would approve spending at least $75 million a year on springs projects and $50 million annually on projects related to the restoration of the St. Johns River—the longest entirely within Florida—and its tributaries, as well as the Keystone Heights Lake Region. 

Bradley said it’s “incredibly important” that the river “remain healthy”: “It really defines the character of so much of our state.”

But, he added, “there’s a limited pie of dollars and we need to figure out where to put them,” he added, referring to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.

A 2014 constitutional amendment, known as the Water and Land Legacy Amendment, or “Amendment 1,” requires state officials to set aside 33 percent of the money from the real estate “documentary stamp” tax to protect Florida’s environmentally sensitive areas for 20 years. That amendment, which needed a minimum of 60 percent to pass, got a landslide of nearly 75 percent, or more than 4.2 million “yes” votes.

The mechanism to spend that money is through the Florida Forever conservation program. Florida Forever regularly received upward of $300 million annually after it became law in 1999, but those expenditures were dramatically reduced after the recession hit a decade ago.

The current 2017-2018 state budget included nothing for Florida Forever, but the Department of Environmental Protection has asked for $50 million for Florida Forever in next year’s state budget.

Moreover, environmental advocacy groups filed suit in 2015, saying lawmakers wrongly appropriated “doc stamp” money for, among other things, “salaries and ordinary expenses of state agencies” tasked with executing the amendment’s mandate. A Tallahassee judge scheduled a trial for that suit next July 23-27.

The committee also took up a bill (SB 174), filed by Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican. It would set aside at least $50 million a year to help address issues such as beach erosion.

“We’re gonna get (the bill) out early so there aren’t any questions” about its effect on appropriations, Latvala said.

The bill, supported by the affected coastal counties, also cleared the committee without opposition.

Both pieces of legislation next head to the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources and the full Appropriations Committee.

Background provided by the News Service of Florida, reprinted with permission. 

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons