Jack Latvala Archives - Page 7 of 37 - Florida Politics

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.

Mitch Perry Report for 8.29.16 — Colin Kaepernick says he can take the heat for speaking out

The National Football League concluded its third and most interesting weekend of pre-season games last night, and while there are stories galore about what’s happening on the gridiron (Denver sacking Mark SanchezTony Romo out for a few months with another injury, Jameis Winston looking quite impressive with the Tampa Bay Bucs against the lowly Cleveland Browns), the big story was out of Santa Clara, where 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem before their game against Green Bay on Friday night, the third time he’s done so this exhibition season, but the first time anybody noticed.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

He spoke with the media yesterday about why he did what he did, and he’s absolutely NOT backing down (you can read that entire transcript here).

Kaepernick is the first high-profile professional athlete in America who has refused to stand for the anthem since Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf did so in 1996 — an action which got him suspended by the NBA. The NFL has said they won’t do that.

Naturally, this has created a firestorm, with a lot of folks bashing the 28-year-old athlete, who surely knew that would be the case. One of the more interesting comments about this came from Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, 28, who, it’s been reported, has often spoken about race relations during his eight-year career. He said the national conversation would devolve around Kaepernick, and not the issues he wants to bring to the fore.

“It’s not going to be about the lives that have been lost across the country, the injustices that are being done to minorities all across this country; that’s what’s not going to be in the headlines. It’s going to be about him,” Jenkins said. “It’s a tough situation, but at the same time, if you’ve got something that you’re passionate about and that’s your way of expressing it, you’ve got all the right to do it. I’m a guy of conviction, I speak out on things I see. So I can’t really look at what he’s doing and tell him he’s wrong.”

It is going to be about him, and since he makes millions of dollars playing in the NFL, plenty of it that commentary will be along the lines that he should shut up and be grateful for getting the opportunity to play in the pros.

“I think there’s a lot of consequences that come along with this,” Kaepernick admitted yesterday. “There’s a lot of people that don’t want to have this conversation, they’re scared they might lose their job or they might not get the endorsements, they might not be treated the same way … At this point, I’ve been blessed to be able to get this far and have the privilege of being in the NFL and making the kind of money I make and enjoy luxuries like that … But I can’t look in the mirror and see other people dying in the street that should have the same opportunities that I’ve had and say, ‘You know what; I can live with myself.’ Because I can’t if I just watch.”

This takes guts, whether you’re with him or against him. Not being said at all was that he looked extremely rusty against the Packers, though it was his first game in nearly 300 days after battling injuries a year ago. People praised Muhammed Ali when he passed away for being an athlete who used his powerful platform to talk about social change — forgotten was how scorned he was by large segments of (white) America when he did so.

And note this — Kap has issues with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

“I mean, we have a presidential candidate who’s deleted emails and done things illegally and is a presidential candidate,” he said of the former first lady and secretary of state. “That doesn’t make sense to me, because if that was any other person, you’d be in prison.”

In other news, a day before the primary election in Florida….

Win or lose, Augie Ribeiro has helped make a few political consultants wealthier in the last month, as the SD 19 candidate has now spent more than $672,000 in his quest to go the Florida state Senate.

Darryl Rouson and Alan Grayson made beautiful music together late last week in Tampa.

Clearwater state senator and incoming appropriations chairman Jack Latvala called out local Republicans for having “their head in the sand” when it came to stepping up on supporting mass transit in the Tampa Bay area.

The cantankerous Republican also said come hell or high water, he’ll be voting for Donald Trump in November, in part because of his feelings about Hillary Clinton following his viewing of the film, “13 Hours.”

Republican Senate leaders raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in run up to primary elections

Top Senate Republicans brought in big hauls through their political committees over the past two weeks, according to newly filed finance reports.

Between Aug. 13 and Aug. 25, Fort Myers Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto raised $142,500 through her “Protect Florida Families” committee, including $50,000 checks from Trilby Sen. Wilton Simpson’s “Jobs for Florida” committee and Sen. Bill Galvano’s “Innovate Florida” committee.

Benacquisto’s PAC contributed $200,000 of its balance to “Truth Matters Inc.,” the committee behind ads attacking her primary opponent, Jason Maughan, in the SD 27 race, leaving “Protect Florida Families” with about $166,000 on hand.

Simpson’s committee also broke the six-figure mark with $185,500 in contributions during the two-week reporting period. Among his donors were Associated Industries of Florida, which gave $130,000, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which gave $35,000.

The future Senate president had about $771,000 on hand in his committee Aug. 25, while Senate Majority Leader and fellow future Senate President Bill Galvano had about $885,000 in the bank.

The $132,500 in contributions on Galvano’s report came in through 21 checks, including two from Disney that combined to $35,000. MCNA Health Care Holdings chipped in $25,000, while lobbyist Ron Book gave $10,000.

Incoming Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala bested them all with $207,750 in contributions to his “Florida Leadership Committee.” The Clearwater Republican’s top donor was 2022-24 House speaker hopeful Randy Fine, who gave $36,000 through his committee, “Foundation for our Children’s Future.” Former House Speaker Will Weatherford’s PAC, “Committee for a Stronger Florida,” also chipped in $25,000.

FLC finished the reporting period with a little over $2 million on hand.

Chauncey Goss gets $1,000 donation from Jack Latvala in CD 19

Chauncey Goss is getting a little financial help from a top Florida Republican.

Campaign finance documents filed with the Federal Election Commission show Sen. Jack Latvala donated $1,000 to Goss’ congressional campaign Aug. 18. The donation was included in a 48-hour notice filed with the FEC on Aug. 19.

Goss is running in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. He’ll face Republicans Francis Rooney and Dan Bongino in the Aug. 30 primary.

A well-known Sanibel Island Republican, Goss ran for the seat in 2012, but came in second. He announced his 2016 run within hours of news that Rep. Curt Clawson wouldn’t run for re-election. Records show he raised $346,017 through Aug. 10. That number doesn’t include donations received in the final few weeks of the campaign.

This isn’t the first time Latvala, the incoming chairman of the Senate appropriations committee, has given to a congressional candidate this election cycle. The Clearwater Republican donated $1,250 to David Jolly, who announced in June he was dropping his U.S. Senate bid to run for re-election, on June 17 and another $189 on June 20.

Federal elections records also show he gave $1,000 to Rebecca Negron, who is running in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. The Stuart Republican is the wife of Senate President Designate Joe Negron, who had been locked into a battle with Latvala over the Senate presidency.

According to the same campaign finance report, Goss gave his campaign $15,000 on Aug. 18.

Jack Latvala says Michael Bay’s ’13 Hours’ one of two reasons he’s voting for Donald Trump

Nationally and in Florida, there are many, many Republican elected officials who seem to equivocate when asked whether or not they’ll support Donald Trump for president.

Jack Latvala is not one of those Republicans.

The always-irascible Pinellas County lawmaker made it clear Friday morning that while the Manhattan real estate developer is hardly his cup of tea, there are two reasons why he won’t be holding his nose when he pulls the lever for him this fall (or scribbles in a circle next to his name, to be more accurate).

One is the power the next president has to nominate what could be multiple selections to the U.S. Supreme Court — besides the already-open seat left bare as Senate Republicans have refused to give Merrick Garland a hearing.

The other is the visceral disdain Latvala says he feels toward Hillary Clinton, a feeling he says he’s had ever since watching “13 Hours,” the Michael Bay-directed dramatic portrayal account of what happened at the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, when Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

“I will tell you that it had a very profound impact on me,” the Clearwater Republican told an audience in South Tampa Friday morning.

“I do not believe that Donald Trump would leave four American employees of our country — officers of our country — in a situation like that, and never try to help them, and that’s the tie-breaker for me,” he said.

Along with the burgeoning issues with her private email server and perceptions of “pay-to-play” that those emails have shown regarding the Clinton Foundation, Clinton’s role as secretary of state during the Benghazi attack has been an issue that Republicans have attacked her on since she officially became a candidate for president last year. She testified for nearly 11 hours last October before a House committee examining the attack.

“I’ve always been a Republican, and even though I don’t agree with the choice that our party has made, I still think that he’s a whole lot better than the candidate on the other side,” Latvala said, adding that he thinks virtually any other one of the original group of 17 Republican who vied for the nomination a year ago would be leading Clinton decisively at this point of the campaign.

Latvala also questioned the conventional wisdom regarding the potential nominees for governor in Florida in 2018, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in particular, who appears to be the Republican to beat. Latvala said a party that favors Donald Trump would hardly be the same one to support someone who’s been serving in Tallahassee and Washington for almost two decades.

He mentioned Southwest Florida congressional candidate Frances Rooney, CFO Jeff Atwater and incoming Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran as the ones to watch. “Richard Corcoran is running for governor,” he said definitively.

He also scoffed at the conventional wisdom that has Tallahassee U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham in the driver’s seat for the Democrats, calling it “incredible” that because of her last name (she’s the scion of former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham) she’s at the top of the charts.

He gave a shoutout to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine as possible contenders.

Jack Latvala says his GOP colleagues have their ‘heads in the sand when it comes to transportation’

Incoming Florida Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jack Latvala said Friday a lack of mass transit in the Tampa Bay area has become a bigger problem than ever, and he blasted his fellow Republicans in Tallahassee for failing to lead on the issue.

“We’ve got a lot of folks in my party that just bury their head in the sand when it comes to transportation,” the always outspoken Clearwater Republican said, addressing dozens of people who gathered at 8 a.m. to hear him speak at the weekly “Cafe con Tampa” breakfast in Tampa’s Hyde Park.

Latvala said unless something changes soon, the lack of a capable transit system in the region will ultimately force the Tampa Bay Rays to leave the market.

“It’s not going to be a question of whether the Tampa Bay Rays are in St. Petersburg or in Tampa, it’ll be a question of whether they’re in Hartford (Connecticut), or Montreal. We WILL lose our baseball team,” he said with obvious disdain. “What a blow to the image of our area. All because of people who keep their head in the sand.”

Latvala said the lack of transit options was exposed nationally when the Republican National Convention was held in Tampa exactly four years ago. “Trust me, we will NEVER have another one because of the transportation embarrassments of the delegates getting back at to their hotel at three o’clock in the morning because of our lack of a transit and transportation system in the Tampa Bay area,” which happened on one notorious night of the 2012 RNC.

As has been widely reported, two transit referendums have gone down to defeat in the Tampa Bay area over the past six years. Resistance amongst the current Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners and elements on the left and right in Tampa ended any plans to put another type of sales tax on the ballot this fall. Several Democrats running for state office on the campaign trail this summer have talked about pushing for the Legislature allow large cities like Tampa and St. Petersburg to have the ability to place their own referendums on the ballot.

“I never had a problem allowing people to vote on whether they wanted to tax themselves,” Latvala said when asked about that proposal. “If people are tired of sitting still on the interstate and they want to do something, then why as government leaders should we tell them they don’t have the option of voting for that? Because we’ve got our head in the sand.”

He later added he didn’t think the measure had any chance of passing in the Legislature, though he did praise Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman for continuing to push that and other transit measures forward.

Four years ago, Latvala said it was time to examine consolidating HART and PSTA, the transit agencies in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, respectively. Two separate studies were taken on looking at a merger. The first showed a savings of $2.4 million, but a second KPMG study in 2014 showed those savings to be more modest at $330,000.

When anti-tax activist Tom Rask mentioned to Latvala that HART was opposed to the measure, Latvala simmered. “Of course both agencies are opposed to it, because people are going to lose their jobs!” He said both agencies had CEOs who made six-figure salaries, had lobbyists who came close to costing nearly $100,000, as well as various administrative staffs that could be reduced. “I cannot imagine you would not support something to reduce bureaucracy!,” he barked at Rask.

Rebecca Smith, a Republican running on Tuesday in the House District 60 race, challenged Latvala about his emphasis on mass transit, instead waxing rhapsodically on a future of autonomous vehicles. Latvala was unmoved, saying, it sounded like she was from the “Jeff Brandes school of mass transit” (the St. Petersburg Republican is an enthusiastic champion of such technology).

“You’re still talking about a vehicle on the road,” he countered. “The only difference is that they don’t have a driver.”

Latvala said he’s taken it relatively easy regarding contemplating state issues this summer, but now will begin digging in as he becomes Senate Appropriations Chair after the November elections. He said transit and the Rays’ fate will two of his biggest priorities moving forward.

Will Florida’s ‘eyeball wars’ flare up again doing the 2017 Legislative Session?

It’s been several years since the war ended.

Many of the veterans who fought the battles of this war are no longer with us.

All that’s left are the headlines declaring the end of hostilities.

I am referring, of course, to the “Eyeball Wars” that raged through the last decade and the beginning of this one.

And while a fragile peace has held for nearly five years, the threat of renewed fighting looms, say some Capitol insiders.

Need proof the war could be heating up? The Florida Optometric Association is pouring millions of dollars into legislative races this election cycle.

Record show that through July 29, the Florida Optometric Association and associated organizations have given more than $2.1 million to committees and candidates across the state.

The biggest contributor was OD-EYEPAC, the political arm of the Florida Optometric Association, which gave more than $1.1 million to committees and candidates through July 29. The Florida Optometric Association gave $535,000; while the Florida Optometric Eye Health Care Fund gave $260,000.

Local associations, including the Palm Beach County Optometric Association, the Broward County Optometric Association, and the Southwest Florida Optometric Association, have also poured a significant amount of money into the races. The Palm Beach association gave $25,000, while the Broward County association gave $21,000.

When it comes to where the cash is flowing, records show committees received $2 million through July 29. That includes $125,000 to the Republican Party of Florida and $10,000 to the Florida Democratic Party. Other committees received more than $1.1 million.

Candidates received $117,300 of the $2.1 million. Records show Republicans received $84,800; while Democrats received $31,500. Senate candidates are receiving a bigger piece of the pie, receiving $64,800 through July 29. House candidates received $50,500.

Are the optos making all of those contributions because they believe in good government? Undoubtedly. But they may also be looking to have the rules and regulations governing the profession changed and/or softened. Specifically, the optometrists’ lobbyists, the well-skilled David RambaBill Rubin, and Michael Corcoran, could push during the 2017 Legislative Session for optometrists’ scope of practice to be expanded.

That’s what the last war was about.

It was between optometrists, who test vision and fit patients for eyeglasses, and ophthalmologists, medical (or osteopathic) doctors who specialize in eye care.

They skirmished over scope of practice — what kind of care a health care professional can provide — and how optometrists were allowed to care for patients.

Indeed, the Florida Optometric Association has long had its own well-established stable of influence professionals.

The next dispute was over contact lens manufacturers wanting to prevent retailers from selling or advertising contact lenses below a set price.

Sen. Tom Lee, brought in lobbyists from Las Vegas, Utah, and Washington, leading former Senate President Don Gaetz to joke that Lee, another past Senate president, deserved the “Visit Florida” award for the number of lobbyists who traveled to the state to testify on the bill.

Lee noted the number of people who wear contact lenses and the amount of money they could save if the Legislature passed a bill.

State Sen. Jack Latvala also waded into the fraught world of vision care, once pushing a measure to prevent the concentration of too much control by insurers over access to eye and vision care.

The Clearwater Republican wanted to prevent health insurance providers from forcing either ophthalmologists or optometrists — perennial foes in legislative food fights — from joining a particular network.

That would have spared vision care providers the expense and limitations that go along with joining a given insurance network.

His bill explicitly said insurers could still contract with other vision care plans, but that they could not collude to restrict vision care providers from accessing certain suppliers or laboratories.

At the cessation of conflict, two of the main lobbying protagonists, Rubin and Brian Ballard, reached an agreement that there would be no further hostilities.

But this has always been a fight with serious implications for interested insiders of The Process, combining regulation, prestige and good ol’ fashioned money. War could break out at any time.


Editor’s Note: After our story ran, Mark Landreth, who managed the Florida Optometric Association from 1986-98, wrote to add that optometrists “have been treating posterior chamber eye diseases since 1986 and glaucoma since 1992. [The posterior chamber is the fluid-filled space behind the iris but in front of the lens.] They are now authorized to treat using oral medications.”

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