Jack Latvala Archives - Page 6 of 37 - Florida Politics

Jack Latvala to FDOT: Don’t turn lanes on Howard Frankland into toll roads

State Sen. Jack Latvala on Monday wrote to the Florida Department of Transportation objecting to any plan to start charging tolls on current lanes of the Howard Frankland bridge.

Latvala was reacting to recent news that state officials plan to take one of the four existing lanes in each direction on the bridge and charge tolls. Until recently, local officials understood the plan, which is part of a wider highway expansion proposal known as the Tampa Bay Express, was to add new lanes to the bridge. Those new lanes would be tolled.

Instead, FDOT planned to reduce the non-toll lanes in each direction from four to three and charge a fluctuating rate for the use of the toll lane. Latvala objects to the idea, saying it will make the commute across Tampa Bay even longer for those who can’t, or won’t, pay the toll.

Latvala’s letter to Paul Steinman, FDOT district secretary:

“I write you today with great concern about any notion or idea to take current lanes of the Howard Frankland Bridge and turn them into toll lanes. This would be an immediate impediment to creating a business environment uniting the entire Tampa Bay region. With the Howard Frankland Bridge reaching its end of serviceable years, now is not the time to take current lanes and collect tolls from my constituents who use the bridge to get to work and do not want to have their commute times increased.

“In discussions with previous secretaries from the Department of Transportation, they assured me that if express lanes with tolls were to be implemented, they would be new lanes, not taking already existing lanes and designating them as express lanes.

“This pay-to-commute-efficiently concept is counterintuitive to creating a friendly business environment for the greater Tampa Bay Region and is a proposal to which I believe my constituents stand firmly opposed. I urge you to reconsider any proposals creating tollways using current lanes and to instead, wait until additional capacity is constructed to consider that idea.”


In first video ad, Jennifer Webb slams special interests

Jennifer Webb vows in her first video ad of the campaign season to fight the special interests she says are dominating Tallahassee.

“For too long, big special interests have gotten their way in Tallahassee and we’re paying the price,” Webb says in the 30-second spot.

Examples flash on the screen: “Duke Energy customers will pay $108 million a year for canceled nuclear plants” and “Teco, Duke Energy get electrical rate increases.”

Also flashing on the screen are Webb’s campaign promises: To take on special interests, protect drinking water, oppose fracking and stop Duke’s utility tax.

“Let’s put the people of Pinellas first,” Webb concludes.

Webb, a Democrat, is making her first run for public office against HD 69 incumbent Kathleen Peters.

Thus far, Peters is outdistancing Webb in fundraising. In the period from Sept. 3—16, Peters brought in $26,418.25. Of that, $10,118.25 came from the Republican Party of Florida. Peters has an overall total of $256,543.66.

Peters has another fundraiser scheduled from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. hosted by fellow Republican Sen. Jack Latvala and Frank Chivas. The event is at Marina Cantina, 25 Causeway Road.

During that same period, Webb received $18,775 in donations for a grand total of $107,755.46.

Webb and Peters are facing off in two debates this week.

The first is at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at a Tiger Bay luncheon. They’ll be featured with other candidates for the state House — Republican incumbents Chris Latvala (HD 67) and Larry Ahern. Democrat Lorena Grizzle, who is opposing Ahern for the HD 66 seat, will also be speaking. Latvala’s opponent David Vogel has said he will not be there.

The second faceoff between Webb and Peters is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Operation PAR, 13800 66th St. N on the 3rd floor. Topics include policies and funding for mental health, substance abuse, and homelessness.


SD 8 candidates Rod Smith, Keith Perry spend big in first half of September

The Senate District 8 race between Alachua Democrat Rod Smith and Republican Keith Perry is a competitive race with splashy fundraising totals and spending both.

For evidence of that robust trend of contributions and expenditures, look no further than the candidates’ finance reports covering the period between Sept. 3 – 16.

Spending is especially big for both Smith and Perry.


Smith’s two-week spend of $113,508 is notable.

Over $102,000 of that went for a TV shoot and for an ad buy seen throughout Northeast Florida, including broadcast stations in Ocala, Jacksonville, High Springs, and Gainesville.

Smith, despite that big spend, has $195,000 on hand, and has benefited from $191,746 extra of in-kind contributions.

Smith also raised $20,925 in hard money during the period.

Among the max contributors: Mears Destination ServicesCity Cab Company of Orlando, and the Florida Police Benevolent Association.


Perry is slightly behind Smith’s $195,000 on hand; as of Sept. 16, the Republican had just under $155,000 on hand.

Perry brought in $27,760 in hard money during the two week period, with the bulk of that being max contributions from the citrus industry, the insurance sector, developers, and political committees, such as “Working for Florida’s Families” (associated with Sen. Rob Bradley) and the “Florida Leadership Committee” (associated with Sen. Jack Latvala).

As well, $17,621 more of in kind contributions from the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee came through, for research and polling.

The FRSCC has been active on behalf of Perry.

In terms of expenditures in the two-week period, Perry spent $77,639.

Though Perry did spend on television, the amount was a fraction of what Smith spent, with a more modest geotargeting in the ad buy, with roughly $25,000 spent on television.

Perry also spent $4,254 on promotional sunglasses, $7,500 on magazine ads with Advantage Publications, and  $3,089 on mail with Data Targeting

Clearwater Chamber announces local endorsements; virtual tie between Charlie Justice, Mike Mikurak

clearwater-regional-chamber-of-commerceClearwater’s Chamber of Commerce announced endorsements in several local races, and a virtual tie between two equally qualified candidates for a Pinellas County Commission seat.

In a statement Friday, CLEARPAC, the committee for the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Chamber’s board of directors, made recommendations based on “the importance of Election Day to the continuing success of local business.”

CLEARPAC is endorsing Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala for re-election to Senate District 20, as well as Republican State Reps. Chris Sprowls (House District 65), Larry Ahern (HD 66), Chris Latvala (HD 67) and Kathleen Peters (HD 69).

For the Pinellas County School Board, the group is also backing Matthew Stewart in District 1 and Carol Cook in District 5.

As for the tie, CLEARPAC said that in the race for Pinellas County Commission District 3, both candidates were qualified. Incumbent Democrat Charlie Justice “has consistently stood up for the business community,” whereas Republican challenger Mike Mikurak has “an extensive business background and a keen understanding of the challenges that businesses both large and small face.”

With that race, voters are on their own; CLEARPAC suggests further research on both candidates in the District 3 race.

A retired businessman, Mikurak is a founding partner of Accenture, a global consulting firm specializing in strategy and technology. The New Jersey native is making his first run for public office, facing Justice for the at-large District 3 seat.

“CLEARPAC is pleased to support the above slate of candidates who best understand the importance of maintaining a pro-business environment and who are willing to collaborate in order to advance public policy that allows our businesses to prosper, grow and create new jobs,” said CLEARPAC chair Judy Mitchell.

Founded in 1922, the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce has become the voice of business in the Clearwater region, representing more than 1,000 member businesses. Since then, The CRCC has become 1 of the largest chambers in the Tampa Bay region.

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.

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