Joe Negron Archives - Page 3 of 55 - Florida Politics

Treasure Coast House seats draw new candidates

Another pair of candidates filed Wednesday for two open state House seats in the Treasure Coast region.

Jensen Beach Democrat Matt Theobald put his name down for House District 83, a Republican-leaning seat that covers part of Martin and St. Lucie counties.

HD 83 is currently held by Stuart Republican Rep. Gayle Harrell, who is term-limited in the House and is running to succeed Senate President Joe Negron in SD 25.

Theobald, a high school social studies teacher, is the only Democrat in ­­the race. He’ll face the winner of the Republican primary between attorney Sasha Dadan and businessman Toby Overdorf.

Since filing in March 2017, Overdorf has raised more than $70,000 with more than $40,000 still on hand. Dadan, who joined the race in late May, pulled in $15,000 in her first report. Almost all of that remains available.

Only Dadan had qualified for the ballot as of Wednesday afternoon.

Also on Wednesday, Fort Pierce Democrat Kim Johnson filed for House District 84 which has now added its second new candidate in as many days.

HD 84 is a swing seat currently held by Democratic Rep. Larry Lee, who is not running for re-election in the fall.

Johnson joins Forest Blanton, Delores Hogan Johnson and Robert Joseph in the Democratic primary. On the Republican side, Mark Gotz is squaring off against Teri Pinney, who filed Tuesday.

While Blanton and Gotz are the only two candidates qualified for the ballot, Johnson and Joseph are the only ones who’ve been around long enough to turn in a campaign finance report. As of May 31, Johnson had about $4,100 banked; Joseph had about $875.

Qualifying for state races ends noon Friday.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Closer look at November

Who cares? And what do they care about?

Those were two very telling — but perhaps overlooked — questions recently surveyed by the Florida Chamber. By determining how voters feel about the state’s direction and what tops their list of priorities before they head to the ballots, the Chamber’s latest poll helps to inform guesswork ahead of the midterm election, when Florida will elect a U.S. Senator, Governor, Cabinet and a slew of other positions.

Gun issues, the chamber found, have taken a back seat compared to results of an April poll in which gun-related concerns topped the list of statewide voter priorities. Currently, “jobs and the economy” rank first, topping the list for 14 percent of voters, followed by “education” at 13 percent and “gun issues” at 10 percent.

Another telling survey item gauged whether voters believe Florida is on the right or wrong track. The question is a strong predictor of voter turnout.

At the state level, Republicans are in control. This meshed well with how Republican voters feel about the state’s direction. An overwhelming majority (roughly 76 percent) answered “right track,” while just 10 percent felt the Sunshine State is heading in the wrong direction and 11 percent were unsure.

On the other hand, 50 percent of Democratic voters answered “wrong track,” while 29 percent felt the state is headed in the right direction; 17 percent were unsure.

Meanwhile, independent voters overall had a more positive interpretation of the state’s direction than Democrats. More than half answered “right direction,” 27 percent answered “wrong direction,” and 18 percent were unsure.

In total, around 52 percent of respondents felt the state was headed in the right direction. Just 30 percent believe the state is on the wrong track; 17 percent are unsure.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Drew Wilson, Danny McAuliffe, Jim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Take 5

Scott rebuts report on debris removal — Gov. Rick Scott’s administration has refuted suggestions that it steered contracts to companies to remove debris in areas especially hard-hit by Hurricane Irma. A CBS4 investigative report this week showed two companies, which submitted emergency debris removal bids at the request of the state, invoiced more than $43 million for their post-Irma services. The report claims that similar companies already under contract could’ve done the same work for $13 million. Scott responded to the report, saying the emergency services were needed: “It’s easy for these vendors to look back and say they would have shown up and completed the work for cheaper, but in the days following the storm, they were clearly overleveraged and did not have the people or equipment to fulfill their commitments. I will never let special interests get in the way of storm recovery. We sent additional resources to get the job done for a community that needed help and given a choice; I would do the same thing again.”

Putnam downplays missed background checks — Following a Florida Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam responded to questions about a Tampa Bay Times report published last week showing that an employee under his supervision failed to use a background check system (one of a few) required for some Floridians who wish to obtain a concealed-carry license. The Commissioner told reporters that “public safety was not at risk” and that none of the 291 permit holders who have since had their licenses revoked were arrested during the lapse. The initial Times report found that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) went unused for a little more than a year in 2016-17 because an employee could not log in to the system. Putnam’s office has told the public that only 365 applications would’ve required use of the NICS, because two other databases are used for most applicants. When asked how applicants got by without further review, Putnam said, “It was a thing that happens to anybody with a computer: She (referring to the former employee) emailed I.T. and said, ‘my password isn’t working.’ They emailed her back with instructions on how to fix the problem. By her own admission, she dropped the ball.”

Amendments face uphill battle — A poll conducted by the Florida Chamber shows that, as of now, only a few proposed revisions to the state’s Constitution could pass in November. Of the 13 ideas primed for the ballot, just four met the 60 percent voter approval threshold needed to pass an amendment, although many surveyed voters were “unsure” of each proposition. The amendments with enough support currently, per the poll, include: Amendment 1, which would increase the state’s homestead exemption on property taxes; Amendment 3, which would give voters sole discretion on future gambling expansion; Amendment 7, which would extend death benefits to families of military and first responders killed on duty; and Amendment 8, which would impose school board term limits and let the state establish schools without school board approval.

Horrible’ citrus season ends — The United States Department of Agriculture this week forecast Florida citrus production for the 2017-2018 season will be its lowest since World War II. The USDA estimates Florida is on track to wrap its season with 44.95 million boxes of oranges, its premier citrus crop. Before Hurricane Irma, a storm that authorities described as “lethal” to citrus groves, private estimates expected Florida growers to produce 75 million boxes of oranges. Each box weighs 90 pounds. “This brings a very difficult citrus season to a close,” said Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus. “We look forward to a quiet, resilient season in the fall.” The silver lining for Florida farmers awaits federal action. A federally funded $2.36 billion disaster package and a $340 million block grant are expected to dramatically mitigate losses incurred by Hurricane Irma.

Troubled nursing home gets small victory — The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, where 12 residents died during a power outage that followed Hurricane Irma, won a small dispute in court this week after a judge ruled the state must provide requested death records to the Broward County nursing home for “a reasonable fee.” The ruling comes after the Rehabilitation Center was asked to pay $5 each for paper records of the nearly 6,000 deaths that occurred across the state at the same time, reports Michael Moline for Florida Politics. The nursing home requested the records in the hopes of establishing that its staff acted reasonably in declining to evacuate residents before Hurricane Irma swept through the state.

Cabinet reaches conservation easement milestone

With the recent approval of more than 8,300 acres purchased through a unique conservation easement program, the Florida Cabinet is touting a more than 1,000-percent increase in acres preserved under three sitting members of the Cabinet who’ve been at their posts since 2011.

Those members include Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Current Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis replaced the former CFO Jeff Atwater, who was elected in 2011 and 2014.

Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet marks an easement record.

The easement program, known as the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, is a cooperative between the state and local ranchers that seeks to preserve active agriculture ops and the environmental benefits they offer. On Wednesday, the Cabinet surpassed 50,000 acres of protected land through 45 easements in total since Scott and most of the Cabinet took office.

“We must continue to prioritize the conservation of our agricultural lands and world-renowned natural spaces,” said Commissioner Putnam. “Through the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, we partner with farmers and ranchers to preserve the invaluable pieces of our rural economy and environment to help preserve what makes Florida such a special place to live.”

Wednesday’s approved easements include Goolsby Ranch in Highlands County, Howze Ranch in Manatee County, Sampala Lake Ranch in Madison County and Rodman Plantation in Putnam County.

Instagram of the week 

Nominate an ‘Agriculture Woman of the Year’

Agriculture Commissioner Putnam is accepting nominations for the 2018 “Woman of the Year in Agriculture” award, which recognizes women in all areas of the industry who have made outstanding contributions to Florida agriculture.

Dr. Martha Rhodes Roberts, 2017 Woman of the Year in Florida Agriculture. Nominations for 2018 are now open.

Nominations can be sent by mail to Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Plaza Level 10, The Capitol, 400 S Monroe St., Tallahassee FL 32399-0800. By fax, 850-617-7744. Or email to Clay.Hollis@FreshFromFlorida.com.

More information about the “Woman of the Year in Agriculture” award and past award winners can be found at FreshFromFlorida.com.

The deadline for submitting nominations is July 31.

Patronis highlights AOB abuse arrest

As lawmakers and elected officials target abuse of assignment of benefits, or AOB, Chief Financial Officer Patronis is spreading the word that those that engage in the form of insurance fraud could face severe criminal penalties.

In a news release this week, Patronis drew attention to the case of Timothy Matthew Cox, who arrested earlier this month for an AOB fraud scheme that impacted 19 homeowners in eight counties across Florida and in one Texas County. Cox owns Nationwide Catastrophe Services and Restoration Response Services, which he allegedly used to pocket almost $140,000 for unfinished home repairs needed after natural disasters.

Jimmy Patronis highlights the crackdown on AOB abuse.

“Criminals who prey on Florida families after a hurricane or tropical storm are some of the worst we see,” Patronis said. “This type of fraud has skyrocketed and impacts all Florida consumers.”

Per the news release, the Bureau of Insurance Fraud — overseen by Patronis — found that “Cox pressured homeowners to sign an AOB contract to have damages repaired.” But, “after receiving the insurance payments, Cox’s team never started any of the work they were contracted to perform.”

And according to Patronis, Cox’ case may not be an isolated one: “With more than 100 ongoing investigations statewide, we are coming for anyone who takes advantage of our residents during vulnerable times.”

The Week in Appointments

Miami-Dade County Expressway Authority

Luz Weinberg and Leonard Boord were appointed this week to serve terms ending April 6, 2022. Weinberg, 46, of Miami, is the CEO of GlobComm, LLC, and is a graduate of Florida International University. She succeeds Cliff Waters. Boord, 57, of Miami, founded Slon Capital. He currently serves on the Florida International University Board of Trustees.

Hernando County Board of County Commissioners John Mitten will serve during the suspension of Commissioner Nicholas Nicholson for a term ending Nov. 16, 2020.

Broward College District Board of Trustees

Matthew Caldwell, not to be confused with the state Representative from Lehigh Acres, will serve a term that began June 14 and ends May 31, 2022. He is the president and CEO of Florida Panthers Hockey Club. Caldwell currently serves on the board of directors for the Boys & Girls Club.

Women’s Hall of Fame

Adela Hernandez Gonzmart, Janet Petro and Lee Bird Leavengood were inducted Thursday by Gov. Scott. Gonzmart, (1920-2001), helped manage “The Columbia” — the oldest restaurant in Florida — and was a community advocate who helped co-found the Latino Scholarship Fund at the University of South Florida. Petro, 58, has worked as a commissioned officer and helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army and was the first female Deputy in the history of John F. Kennedy Space Center. Leavengood, 89, has a long history of contributing work to the University of South Florida. She championed the creation of the University of South Florida’s Division of Senior programs, now known as the Osher Lifelong Learning Center.

FDLE upgrades alert system

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says it updated its AMBER and Missing Child Alert Public Notification System this week.

Using what’s called an Everbridge platform, people can now receive AMBER and Missing Child Alerts through text messages as well as email. In the coming months, citizens will also be able to sign up to receive alerts through voice calls, TDD/TTY messaging, and through mobile device apps.

Known for its work during Hurricane Irma, the Everbridge platform will soon be handling AMBER Alerts.

To use the new system, however, they must create an Everbridge account (click here). Current subscribers will continue to receive email alerts, but to access the additional functions, an Everbridge account is needed.

Everbridge will use your email and phone numbers to send Florida AMBER and Missing Child Alert notifications only. Information will not be sold or distributed. Everbridge is used by government agencies to issue emergency alerts, like severe weather warnings, nationally and in Florida.

FWC to meet in Sarasota

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will meet June 19-20 at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota, 1000 Boulevard of the Arts, Sarasota. Meetings both days are open to the public.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. and the public will be provided opportunities to speak on agenda items each day. The Commission will also provide time for public comment on subjects not on the agenda at the end of the first day. Those who wish to offer comments during this period will be asked to make sure their comments are not related to any agenda item.

For the full June 19-20 agenda and links to background reports, go to MyFWC.com/Commission and select “Commission Meetings.”

Those who can’t attend can follow coverage at Twitter.com/MyFWC (@MyFWC) and join the conversation by using the #FWC2018 hashtag. Check the Florida Channel for possible live video coverage at TheFloridaChannel.org.

FWC: Don’t forget about dive flags

For some counties along the Gulf Coast, the annual quest for bay scallops begins today.

But before Floridians jump into the water, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wants them to hoist their dive flags, which signal to nearby boaters that there are divers down below or at the surface.

“Displaying and understanding what constitutes a proper divers-down symbol are critical,” said Capt. Tom Shipp of FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section. “These safety devices are meant to alert boaters to the presence of people under the water’s surface and to give them plenty of room.”

The iconic red rectangle with a white diagonal stripe must be displayed via a flag on a vessel or a buoy in the water. Each must be at least a foot in length and width if presented from the water, and at least 20 inches by 24 inches and flown at the highest point of a vessel if used in flag form.

Vessels are instructed to stay at least 100 feet from a flag when maneuvering through rivers, channels and inlets, and at least 300 feet from a flag in open waters. Divers, unsurprisingly, are asked to remain within the same boundaries of their flag.

Scallop season begins in Dixie County and a portion of Taylor County today and lasts through Sept. 10. In Franklin, Levy, Citrus, Hernando and the Northwest portion of Taylor County, the season begins July 1 and continues through Sept. 24. Pasco County’s season starts July 20 and ends July 29, and Gulf County’s season takes place Aug. 17 through Sept. 30.

Lawmakers ask for legislative action amid background check report

Politicians across the state chimed in with criticism following a Tampa Bay Times report that showed the Florida Department of Agriculture failed to use one of a few background check tools for more than a year.

A few Democratic state legislators have taken that criticism a step further and are calling for legislative action in the wake of the report.

Linda Stewart calls for action in the background check snafu.

State Sens. Linda Stewart of Orlando and Kevin Rader of Delray Beach penned a letter to Senate President Joe Negron requesting the creation of “a special select committee under Senate Rule 1.5 ‘to provide the measure of full transparency the public demands from their elected officials.’”

Rader, who is vice chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, which oversees the Department of Agriculture, said he was not made aware of the issue during the 2018 Legislative Session.

“Was it a cover-up?” Rader posited. “Was it a way to rubber stamp what they knew they had already done?”

Similarly, in the state House, Democratic Rep. Jared Moskowitz, whose district encompasses Parkland, wrote a letter to House Speaker Richard Corcoran asking him to convene the House Government Accountability Committee and the Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee to address the report.

Miami Democrats chip in for new Coral Gables fire station

State Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez and state Rep. Nicholas X. Duran this week presented a $1.5 million check to the City of Coral Gables for the purchase of land required to build a much-needed new fire station.

Funding for the land purchase was secured during the 2018 Legislative Session. It will help Coral Gables take the first step toward constructing a fire station in Cartagena Park. Currently, traffic congestion has limited first responders’ access to the area.

Jose Javier Rodriguez and Nicholas X. Duran present $1.5 million to the City of Coral Gables.

“Ensuring and supporting the public’s safety is a top priority for the City of Coral Gables. Senator Rodriguez and I are proud to support added protection measures by continuing to work closely with our municipal partners,” Duran said in a prepared statement. “Efforts to secure increased safety and expand green space is undoubtedly a win for all residents.”

Following the land purchase, the city is expected to build its fourth fire station at the park, which connects to an 11-mile bike trail along Old Cutler Road. Per a news release, “The fire station will provide necessary supervision to the area as well as enhanced safety for all visitors enjoying this regional attraction.”

Dana Young delivers check to Redefining Refuge

A Lutz-based nonprofit that advocates for sexually exploited and trafficked youth got a visit this week from Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young, who arrived with a $500,000 check from the state in tow.

Dana Young awards $500K to a Lutz-based nonprofit that advocates for sexually exploited and trafficked youth.

“Redefining Refuge fights for women and children who have been victims of sexual abuse and works to end the domestic sex trafficking of minors,” Young said. “Redefining Refuge ensures those they serve receive the specialized care they need and deserve, providing fundamental needs, such as safety, shelter, clothing and food, as well as educational, psychological or emotional support.”

Redefining Refuge founder and director Natasha Nascimento thanked Young and the Legislature for the funds, which will help the nonprofit expand its suite of services for victims.

“This appropriation will truly have a significant impact on the women and children we serve, by allowing us to further our positive contribution to the lives of human trafficking victims by equipping and empowering them to build strong foundations for their futures,” she said.

Rene Garcia wants DACA fix ASAP

Hialeah Republican Sen. Rene Garcia used his platform at the Board of Hispanic Caucus Chairmen to call on Congress to pass permanent fixes for DACA, an Obama-era policy that protects from deportation young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Rene Garcia wants a DACA fix … now!

Garcia and the BHCC said they were in support of a proposal being pitched in Congress that would provide a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, known as “Dreamers,” alongside stricter border security laws. Garcia commended CD 26 U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo for helping push that permanent fix.

“DACA has been great for the U.S. economy and recipients are estimated to contribute hundreds of billions of dollars to economic growth over the next decade. Congress must take a pragmatic approach in ensuring a path for Dreamers, while also strengthening our safety and enhancing border security,” Garcia said. “Through bipartisan compromise, Congress has an opportunity to find middle ground, push politics aside, and protect not just the Dreamers, but also all people who call the United States home.”

The alternative to that proposal, preferred by hard-line House conservatives, would give Dreamers temporary protection in exchange for ending rules that allow legal immigrants to sponsor their family members entry into the U.S., a practice derogatorily referred to as “chain migration.”

FSU Medicine among most selective schools

When prospective medical students apply to Florida State University’s College of Medicine, the odds are stacked against them.

Of the 7,200 FSU med-school applicants in 2018, just 120 were admitted. That’s a 2.6 percent acceptance rate, giving FSU the third spot in U.S. News and World Report’s list of medical schools with the lowest acceptance rates. The Mayo Clinic School of Medicine and Stanford University took the top two spots, respectively.

FSU College of Medicine Dean John P. Fogarty.

“We’re obviously pleased to see so much interest in this medical school and our unique, community-based and patient-centered approach, but we are even more excited about what a quality pool of applicants means in terms of helping us achieve our mission,” College of Medicine Dean John P. Fogarty said.

Moreover, while the med school may be selective, it boasts a diverse student population. The Class of 2022 includes 69 women and 51 men, as well as 15 black students and 15 Spanish, Hispanic or Latino students.

Those numbers make it among the top 10 for enrollment of both black and Hispanic students — the only school to do so within the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Career fairs for evacuees

Nineteen local workforce boards will host a statewide, construction industry-focused job fair beginning June 12 in cities and towns across Florida. The events bring together construction and related companies seeking to hire Floridians and individuals displaced by Hurricane Maria for a variety of high-paying jobs.

“Puerto Rico evacuees, veterans, Hispanics and other job-seeking Floridians are encouraged to attend,” said Julio Fuentes, President and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Julio Fuentes with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello.

Whether an entry-level laborer or a skilled engineer, hiring companies offer paid, on-the-job training, so applicants of all experience levels are welcome to apply. Additionally, Uber is providing discounted rates to all individuals traveling to and from the career fairs using discount code CAREERSOURCEFL.

Locations holding a one-day career fair between June 12 and July 11 include Bradenton, Clearwater, Crestview, Fort Myers, Fort Pierce, Jacksonville, Kissimmee, Lake City, Lauderdale Lakes, Madison, Milton, New Port Richey, Ocala, Rockledge, Stuart, Vero Beach and West Palm Beach. For dates and locations, click here.

FSU sports get props from Scott, Cabinet

At a Cabinet meeting this week, Gov. Scott and the Cabinet celebrated the long-term success of Florida State baseball coach Mike Martin and the newly cemented legacy of the Florida State softball squad with a pair of resolutions.

The one lauding the 2018 Seminoles softball team, fresh off winning their NCAA tournament, listed off accomplishments including their “do-or-die heroics” against Louisiana State in the Super Regional and their six-game run from the elimination bracket to their sweep of the University of Washington in the championship series.

Gov. Scott and the Cabinet honors Florida State baseball coach Mike Martin and legacy of the FSU softball squad with a pair of resolutions.

Individuals getting enshrined in the doc include WCWS Most Outstanding Player Jessie Warren, ACC Pitcher of the Year Kylee Hanson and the ACC Freshman of the Year Sydney Sherrill.

The resolution celebrating Martin recounted his first win for the ‘Noles, which came against rival Miami in 1980, before rattling off some of the most impressive stats among active NCAA baseball coaches — in his 39 seasons at the helm, FSU baseball has “won 1,987 games; scored 21,606 runs; recorded 21,623 strikeouts; hit 2,956 home runs and placed 49 former players in Major League Baseball,” the resolution said.

He also got a clap on the back for being the all-time winningest coach in NCAA baseball and having the second-best winning percentage in the record books.

Correction

Ed. Note — We misspelled the name of Collier County School Board and Constitution Revision Commission member Erika Donalds in last week’s Capitol Directions. We regret the error.

Capitol Directions

#3 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Bill Galvano

Given that he’s the incoming Senate President, there’s no way Bill Galvano wouldn’t have landed at or near the top of the list.

The Bradenton Republican representing Senate District 21, will lead his chamber over the 2019 and 2020 legislative sessions by determining legislative priorities and setting the tone of the conversations it has with the House and the governor. He replaces outgoing Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican. Galvano is a veteran in the legislature. He was elected to the House in 2002, where he served until terming out in 2010. Two years later, voters sent him to the Senate, where he served as Majority Leader from 2014 to 2016.

When his status as incoming Senate President became official in October 2017, his colleagues commended him for his thoughtfulness and ability to take a long view. During his own remarks, he promised to be an inclusive leader and to tighten the reins on the state budget.

“The President-Designate is a thoughtful conservative and a leader’s leader. He listens to all concerned then charts a decisive path,” said Seth McKeel of Southern Strategy Group.

Galvano currently chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee on Higher Education and serves on a host of other committees, including Appropriations. He represented the state Senate in talks with the Seminole Tribe that were intended to result in a deal that would have expanded gambling in the state — talks that were ultimately a non-starter. In 2017, he championed the ouster of state Sen. Frank Artiles, a Miami Republican who made racist remarks in front of his colleagues at a Tallahassee restaurant.

There’s one (pretty big) caveat that precedes Galvano’s assumption to the Senate’s top seat: if Democrats manage to take enough seats in November, they will get to choose one of their own for the role. It’s unclear whether the blue wave and other factors will provide them enough momentum to win the five seats they need to flip the Senate, or if the impressive volumes of cash Galvano and his allies control can dispense of such a threat.

His PAC, Innovate Florida, as more than $7.4 million on hand now.

Galvano moves up one slot from 2017 — from fourth place to third. Barring any earth-shattering event affecting the makeup of the Florida Senate Galvano could easily sit anywhere in the top three again in 2019.

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.

The Keiser Bunch - Belinda Keiser

FMA slams ‘blue wave’ Belinda Keiser in new ad

A political committee tied to the Florida Medical Association released a new ad Wednesday hammering Belinda Keiser, who is running as a Republican in the special election for Senate District 25.

FMA is backing Stuart Republican Rep. Gayle Harrell in the SD 25 race, which is opening up this year due to the early exit of Senate President Joe Negron.

“The Keiser Bunch,” as the title hints, borrows heavily from the intro to Sherwood Schwartz’s famous 1970s sitcom to cast Keiser as a faux Republican, still in league with the Democrats she’s been donating to for decades.

Keiser takes center square in the Better Florida Fund Corp ad while Democrats Hillary Clinton, Charlie Crist, Bob Graham, Al Gore, Alcee Hastings, Buddy MacKay, Bill Nelson and Debbie Wasserman Shultz fill out the remainder of the grid.

Those eight Democrats got a spot in The Keiser Bunch because they’re among the better-known Democrats who have received campaign contributions from Keiser, but that list isn’t exhaustive.

“Here’s the story of Belinda Keiser moving from Parkland to run as a Republican for Senate. She’s donated thousands to Democrats like ‘crooked Hillary,’ Al Gore, Debbie Wasserman Shultz and not one dime to President [Donald] Trump. And she’s even run for office as a Democrat,” the ad narrator states.

The ad then pans over a spreadsheet showing dozens of donations Keiser made to Democratic politicians over the years. Federal candidates alone have received $141,667 from the Keiser University chancellor, add in state-level candidates and the Florida Democratic Party and that figure approaches nearly $200,000 without adding in the funds she used to boost her failed campaign as a Democrat for state House.

Those aren’t all old contribs, either — just six months ago she cut a $1,000 check to Plantation Sen. Lauren Book, and in July 2017 Crist, now a Congressman, received a $2,500 check.

“Blue wave Belinda has paid her dues to the left, but this Broward County Democrat won’t fool us. Vote no on ‘blue wave’ Belinda Keiser,” the ad concludes.

Keiser’s palatial Parkland home is 80 miles away from the southern border of SD 25, which covers all of St. Lucie and Martin counties, along with a small portion of Palm Beach County. Despite the long trek, she filed for the seat using the address of Keiser University’s St. Lucie campus shortly after Negron’s announcement.

Since then she’s attempted to paint herself as a loyal Trump supporter who has been a member of the Republican Party since the turn of the century, though a cursory search of her own statements shows she joined the GOP no earlier than 2007.

The ad is below.

Belinda Keiser antes up another $500K out of pocket for SD 25 campaign

With more than $600,000 added to candidates’ coffers in May, the race for Senate District 25 just got a whole lot richer.

However, a whopping $500,000 of that was in the form of a self-loan from Belinda Keiser to her campaign. That’s on top of nearly $55,000 in donations earned by Keiser in her first month as a candidate for SD 25.

Keiser, who serves as vice chancellor of Keiser University, announced her bid back in early May. For some, the move raised eyebrows, as Keiser is based in Broward County. SD 25 covers Martin and St. Lucie counties as well as a piece of Palm Beach County.

Keiser has also taken heat for numerous past donations to Democrats despite her decision to run as a Republican. The influx of money into her campaign could help Keiser fight back if her opponents try to target her on those issues.

Democrat Robert Levy joined the SD 25 self-funding trend, loaning $50,000 to his campaign. He also took in more than $1,000 in outside donations.

Gayle Harrell, who is competing with Keiser for the Republican nomination in SD 25, raised nearly $5,000 in donations in May, according to her filings with the Florida Division of Elections.

Joining the trio is Dr. Joe Smith in a campaign for Senate President Joe Negron‘s seat. Smith has not yet registered any fundraising information with the state.

Negron announced he would step aside before his term ends in 2020, triggering a special election this November. Primary voters will decide the candidates in that election when they head to the polls August 28.

Negron has already endorsed Harrell as his successor. If she comes out on top in the primary, she’ll face a Republican-friendly electorate. The GOP nominee has won the previous two SD 25 elections by at least 14 percentage points. In 2016, the district also voted for Donald Trump by more than 11 points.

Keith Perry

Keith Perry fundraising bounces back in May

A month after he was outraised threefold by his leading challenger, Republican Sen. Keith Perry of Gainesville bounced back and expanded his cash-on-hand lead.

The first-term senator added $58,250 in May, including $47,250 through his campaign account and $11,000 in receipts for his committee, Building a Prosperous Florida.

That haul brought him past the $500,000 mark in total fundraising 18 months after filing for re-election to Alachua County-based Senate District 8.

The North Central Florida roofer now has $411,000 in the bank for his 2018 effort, putting him $105,000 ahead of leading Democratic candidate Kayser Enneking, who entered June with about $306,000 on hand.

The Gainesville physician’s May reports included $30,555 in campaign money and another $9,501 for her committee, Florida Knows Excellence. She’s raised $372,000 since entering the race nine months ago.

Perry’s campaign report lists 124 contributions, including more than two dozen checks for the maximum allowable donation of $1,000.

More than a quarter of the campaign contributions came in on May 24, when Perry held a campaign kickoff fundraiser in Gainesville with Senate President Joe Negron, Senate President Designate Bill Galvano and Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson making the host committee.

Most of the campaign contributions came from within SD 8, which covers all of Alachua and Putnam counties as well as the norther half of Marion County. That’s a notable change of pace from his recent reports, one of which featured no in-district donors.

Health insurer Florida Blue topped the committee report with a pair of $5,000 checks. The only donor on the report was a political committee tied to Sysco, which chipped in $1,000.

Enneking’s campaign report showed 119 contributions, including max checks from some of her possible future colleagues.

Showing up in May were committees tied to Democratic Sens. Lori Berman, Lauren Book and Perry Thurston. Also notable were checks from Gainesville developer Ken McGurn and a committee chaired by Coral Gables billionaire Mike Fernandez, who was until recently a major Republican donor. Most of the rest of Enneking’s campaign report came in via small dollar donors chipping in $100 or less.

The committee report was topped by Crestview physician Michael Gilmore, who gave $3,000. Further down the list was a $1,00 check from Gainesville law firm Avera & Smith. Named partner Rod Smith was the 2016 Democratic nominee in SD 8. He is also a former state Senator and former chair of the Florida Democratic Party.

Before she can go head-to-head with Perry in November, Enneking has to win an Aug. 28 primary against fellow Gainesville resident Olysha Magruder. She reported about $2,600 in new money in her May report and also kicked in a $1,000 loan. She started June with a little over $9,000 on hand.

SD 8 is one of a handful of districts that became more favorable to Democrats after the Senate map was redrawn ahead of the 2016 elections. Despite Democrats holding a 9-point advantage in voter registrations, Perry ended up defeating Smith by 4 points on Election Day. SD 8 also voted in favor of Donald Trump, though only by two tenths of a point.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Remembering Anthony Bourdain at FSU

First known for cuisine and later his storytelling, chef and TV star Anthony Bourdain had a knack for traveling the world and telling the world about it.

After news broke Friday that Bourdain tragically ended his own life in France, the world mourned and celebrated his work — which, we’ve learned, brought him to all the nooks and crannies of the planet, even Tallahassee.

Highlighted on Twitter by Gus Corbella of Greenberg Traurig, a clip shows Bourdain speaking with a group of prospective writers at Florida State University in 2011. It’s worth watching:

“I started writing at age 44 after 28 years spent standing in kitchens,” Bourdain tells the students. “Who would want to read about the squalid life of a not-particularly-good cook? This subculture of chefs and cooks and dishwashers …”

He offered tips to the students as well: “I never read what I’ve just written if I can avoid it.” And at least one student interviewed in the clip said she was inspired by how late he began to document his experiences through prose.

Even Bourdain, who at the time had reached stardom and notoriety, walked away from the lecture with something to gain. He said the writing students at FSU were likely more serious about writing than he is, and that speaking with them was flattering.

“It just feels good,” Bourdain said. “I’m walking around thinking like, ‘Damn, I’m a writer.’ ”

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Drew WilsonDanny McAuliffeJim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

State gets election security money — The Florida Department of State received $19.2 million in federal election security money this week following pressure from county and state leaders to apply for the funding. The money is part of a $380 million package approved earlier this year by Congress to enhance election security in all 50 states. In May, supervisors of elections in Florida first raised concerns that the state had not applied for the $19.2 million set aside for it, as reported by Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times. Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson applied further pressure on the Department to apply for the funding before the midterm elections. The Legislature will need to unlock the funds before the Department of State can distribute money to each county’s election office.

Tourism on record track — The first three months of 2018 saw a record number of visitors come to the Sunshine State, according to Florida’s tourism-marketing agency VISIT Florida. An estimated 33.2 million visitors traveled to Florida from January through March. The previous three-month high was 30.9 million visitors. In 2017, the Legislature appropriated $76 million to VISIT Florida for the 2017-18 fiscal year. The same amount was appropriated during the 2018 Legislative Session. The public-private agency has recently led efforts to advertise Florida tourism in Canada, and the number of visitors from that country was up 2.5 percent during the last quarter.

Judge lifts stay on marijuana smoking ban — Following her ruling last month that Florida’s ban on smoking medical marijuana is unconstitutional, Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers lifted the stay, or hold, on the ruling following the state’s immediate appeal of Gievers’ initial ruling. Gievers’ order now will come into effect Monday. But while smoking the plant for medicinal purposes will be considered legal, patients still can’t get smokable marijuana until the Department of Health finalizes new rules for Gievers’ decision. An attorney representing the state said the rule-making process could take months to complete.

Parkland panel meets again — A group charged with unearthing facts and recommending improvements to prevent another mass school shooting met again this week to review the Feb. 14 tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The fact-finding commission, which includes lawmakers, local authorities and citizens, was included in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act passed in the 2018 Legislative Session. Andrew Pollack, a former member of the commission, Thursday announced his resignation from the panel, citing the need to focus his efforts on electing members to the Broward County School Board. He is the father of one of the slain Parkland students. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who heads the commission, directed the conversation Thursday toward risk-assessment protocols that must be implemented ahead of the next school year, reports the News Service of Florida. Among them: Evidence-based youth mental health awareness and assistance curriculum, the Florida Safe Schools Assessment Tool, and a student crime-watch program.

Scott’s disclosure set for appeal hearing — A lawsuit challenging whether Gov. Rick Scott properly disclosed his wealth will now be heard by the 1st District Court of Appeal. Scott’s office argues that the issue brought forward, which claims the Governor did not fully disclose the details of his personal wealth through the use of a blind trust, should be heard by the Florida Commission on Ethics. A circuit judge ruled otherwise earlier this year, and now the appeals court will have its say on what authority will consider whether Scott properly disclosed his finances. Filed in 2017, Scott listed a net worth at $149.3 million, including a blind trust worth $130.5 million.

Puerto Rico PD gets some backup

The Puerto Rico Police Department is now home to 25 Florida Highway Patrol vehicles.

“Since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico last year, I have visited the island six times to offer guidance, assistance and support. We’ve made it a priority in Florida to aid Puerto Rico in their recovery from this devastating storm,” Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday.

Florida is giving some mobile help to the Puerto Rico Police Department.

“I’m glad that the Florida Highway Patrol, on behalf of Floridians, has stepped up and honored a request to provide additional surplus police cruisers to the island. These 25 vehicles will assist law enforcement efforts as they work to rebuild. We will continue to do all we can to support Puerto Rico’s recovery.”

The cache of cruisers each had more than 80,000 miles of service in the Sunshine State, and had been out of circulation and awaiting surplus auction before they were donated to PRPD.

“The Florida Highway Patrol is proud to continue assisting the Puerto Rico Police Department following Hurricane Maria,” said FHP Director Gene Spaulding. “These donated vehicles are another way Florida is supporting the people of Puerto Rico in their recovery.”

Though, as the Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas tweeted this week, “Oh so many questions this election year … @FLGovScott says he’s sending 25 used FHP vehicles to Puerto Rico. But his prison system struggles to have working vehicles to transport inmates. It’s received half of what it’s asked for in vehicle replacement.”

Veterans honor Putnam for outdoor initiatives

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was recently recognized at the Jacksonville Purple Heart State Convention.

Putnam, who also is vying for the Republican nod in the Governor’s race, was awarded the Military Order of the Purple Heart Distinguished Service Award.

Adam Putnam was recognized at the Jacksonville Purple Heart State Convention.

During remarks at the convention, the commissioner cited his work in Operation Outdoor Freedom, which gives certain veterans the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors at no cost.

Putnam said that camps across the state have served over 3,600 veterans so far, making it the only program of its “kind, size and scope,” at least to his knowledge.

“The therapy that’s taking place in those woods and around those campfires is extraordinary. We would not be able to continue to identify and promote this program without your help,” Putnam said. “We need to be able to let every veteran know that this is an opportunity for them and a small way for the State of Florida to say thank you for your service to our great country.”

Two camps currently operate: Camp Prairie and Peace River Camp. Both are overseen by the Florida Forest Service, which Putnam oversees. Putnam also has dedicated a Purple Heart Trail in the Withlacoochee State Forest.

Jimmy Patronis recognized for PTSD legislation

The Florida Professional Firefighters group this week honored Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis for helping champion a new law that gives first responders access to mental health care through the state’s workers’ compensation system.

Jimmy Patronis is being honored for PTSD legislation giving access to mental health care.

“I am proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish for our firefighters and other first responders. As Florida’s State Fire Marshal, I will keep fighting for those that serve and protect all of Florida. My goal is to also ensure cancer is a covered treatment, providing greater health care access to all first responders. I’m grateful that I was able to join the Florida Professional Firefighters this evening and receive this great honor,” Patronis said of the award.

Notably, the new law allows first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to receive care and treatment under workers’ comp provided by the state. First responders in Florida have suffered from PTSD as a result of their line of work. The disease has led many to take their own lives.

The CFO this week also presented more than $1 million in grant funding for firefighting equipment and facility updates across the state. The grants were awarded to Florida’s Firefighter Grant Assistance Program to Felda Volunteer Fire Department, Montura Volunteer Fire Department and Pioneer Plantation Volunteer Fire Department in the amounts of $55,414.60, and were accompanied by an additional $843,000 given to the City of LaBelle Fire Station.

“These grants will support our firefighters, improve their emergency response, and help them do their jobs safely and efficiently,” Patronis said in a prepared statement. “No matter the size of the community, fire service needs for families remain the same. Florida’s firefighters put their lives on the line every day to protect our friends and family, and we must do everything to support their heroic efforts.”

Instagram of the week

Light lunch. #Alsace

A post shared by anthonybourdain (@anthonybourdain) on

RIP Anthony Bourdain.

CFO commends SEC for enlisting crypto chief

Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis said he was a fan of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s decision to bring on its first-ever cryptocurrency adviser.

“The SEC’s appointment of a cryptocurrency chief is a forward-thinking and bold move. My office has been closely following cryptocurrency, and as with all emerging technology, there comes a new risk for consumers to be defrauded,” Patronis said in a news release. “With the Seminole County Tax Collector now accepting bitcoin as a form of payment and Tampa/St. Petersburg and Miami/Ft. Lauderdale ranking seventh and eighth in the top 10 bitcoin-friendly cities, it’s important we stay ahead of the game when it comes to consumer protection.”

The SEC named Valerie Szczepanik to oversee how securities laws apply to emerging cryptocurrencies.

The SEC announced the appointment of Valerie Szczepanik Tuesday. She’s tasked with overseeing how securities laws apply to emerging digital asset technologies, including cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and Ethereum.

Citing the recent consumer alert his office put out on cryptocurrency scams, Patronis said he’s already directed his staff to set up a call with Szczepanik “to discuss how we can continue to protect consumers in our state.”

The week in appointments

Martin County Court

Jennifer Alexandra Alcorta Waters will fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Curtis L. Disque. The 41-year-old from Palm City is a partner at Fox, Wackeen, Dungey, Beard, Bush, Goldman, Waters, Robison, van Vonno & McCluskey, LLC. She received an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and received a J.D. at the University of Florida.

Florida Virtual School Board of Trustees

Dr. Lee Mandel fills a vacant seat for a term that began this week and ends Sept. 10, 2020. Mandel, 53, of Fort Lauderdale is a physician with the South Florida Sinus and Allergy Center. He received an undergraduate degree from the University of Florida and Pursued medicine at the University of South Florida.

Pasco-Hernando State College District Board of Trustees

Robin Schneider, 55, of Springhill and Al Hernandez, 46, of Odessa were reappointed for terms ending March 31, 2022. Lee Maggard, 31, of Zephyrhills, was reappointed for a term ending May 31, 2022.

New College of Florida Board of Trustees

Garin Hoover, 55, of Sarasota, fills a vacant seat for a term ending Jan. 6, 2023. He is the owner of Hoover Realty and a retired attorney.

Florida seniors earn National Merit Scholarship

The National Merit Scholarship Corp. announced this week that 4,000 students nationwide had earned a college-sponsored scholarship, including 300 Florida high school seniors.

“These students’ scholarship earnings clearly demonstrate that hard work pays off, and I am immensely proud of them for representing the State of Florida so well,” said Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. “I also want to commend their educators and parents whose support and encouragement over the years have contributed to their success.”

The scholarships provide between $500 and $2,000 annually for up to four years of undergraduate study at the institution that awarded them.

It takes some work to earn a National Merit Scholarship — to make the grade, students must apply for the scholarship in their junior year, write an essay, score well on the SAT and lock down a recommendation from a high school official.

Mel Ponder recognized as Legislator of the Year

The Florida College System Council of Presidents (COP) and the Association of Florida Colleges (AFC) named Rep. Mel Ponder, a Destin Republican, as its 2018 Legislator of the Year.

The groups said they “recognize an exemplary legislator annually when his or her contributions during the Legislative Session significantly enhance and support the Florida College System.”

Mel Ponder: Florida Legislator of the Year.

Ponder sponsored HB 75, which now allows Florida colleges to waive certain postsecondary fees, not covered by the Department of Defense, for active duty members of U.S. Armed Forces using military tuition assistance.

“This new law will further open access to college for the men and women of the military to attend Florida’s top-rated colleges in the nation,” the groups said in a statement.

Ponder will be formally presented the award at the Council of Presidents annual meeting in Tampa June 11.

Benacquisto launches local photo contest

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto is encouraging photography enthusiasts in her area to submit local pictures to be displayed to the public.

An email distributed this week from the Fort Myers Republican asks Southwest Florida photogs to snap their favorite spots and submit them by Aug. 31.

Lizbeth Benacquisto asks Southwest Florida photogs to snap their favorite spots to be displayed at the Richard H. Rush Library Gallery.

Submissions will have a chance to be displayed at the Richard H. Rush Library Gallery, as well as other areas around Lee County. The pictures also have a chance to get sent out in Benacquisto’s monthly newsletter.

Text from an email advertising the event reads, “There are beautiful places and unforgettable moments that take place across Lee County each day: Show us the ones that mean the most to you!”

Take a hunter safety class this summer

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminds Floridians if they haven’t completed the state’s hunter safety course requirement, now’s a good time to sign up.

Many of these classes, offered statewide, fill up fast. And people born after May 31, 1975, must complete the FWC’s hunter safety class before they can buy the type of hunting license that allows them to legally hunt alone.

In Florida, safe hunting is no accident.

If one is new to our state, these classes will make new residents aware of Florida’s hunting laws.

For those who just relocated from inside the state, the FWC says the classes are “a great way to meet other hunters. You can make some new hunting buddies or maybe even get a line on a great hunt club that’s looking for new members.”

Register for a hunter safety class by going to MyFWC.com/HunterSafety or by contacting your nearest FWC regional office.

Florida Forest Service announces Longleaf Pine program

The Florida Forest Service announced this week that the Longleaf Pine Landowner Incentive Program is now accepting applications from eligible, nonindustrial private forest landowners. Applications will be accepted through Friday, July 13.

The goal of the program is to increase the acreage of healthy Longleaf Pine ecosystems in Florida by helping nonindustrial private forest landowners make the long-term investment required to establish and maintain this valuable ecosystem.

Florida Longleaf Pines.

The program offers incentive payments for completion of timber stand improvement, invasive species control, prescribed burning, planting Longleaf Pine, native plant understory establishment and mechanical underbrush treatments.

The program is offered for private lands in Florida counties located west of the Aucilla River and several counties near the Ocala National Forest.

Application forms and more information on program requirements and procedures can be found by visiting FreshFromFlorida.com or by contacting your local county forester.

DHSMV: Drive slower, stay cooler this summer

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) has launched its Safe Summer Travel Campaign.

Partnering with the Florida Highway Patrol, Department of Children and Families, Department of Transportation, Florida Police Chiefs Association, Florida Sheriffs Association and AAA, the team offers a wide variety of advice, but all agree safety begins with easing up on the gas pedal.

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles wants all motorists to drive safe and always ‘Arrive Alive.’

“There are more travelers on Florida’s roads than ever before, so it’s critical to remember to slow down, stay cool and be safe,” DHSMV Director Terry Rhodes said.

Besides slowing down, the groups encourage prevention methods, like making sure proper child restraints are in place.

However, the first line of defense should be checking your tires, according to the DHSMV. Data recorded by the agency showed there were more than 3,306 tire-related crashes last year, resulting in 285 serious injuries.

And with the hot summer sun upon the state, the groups warn to never leave children or pets in vehicles unattended. Moreover, suspicious or aggressive behavior on the roadways can be reported by dialing *FHP (*347).

VISIT FLORIDA unveils cooperative marketing effort

The state’s tourism marketing agency is now allowing industry partners to ‘buy into’ over 200 shared marketing opportunities and small business programs.

Developed with Miles Partnership, the cooperative marketing idea is expected to extend the marketing dollars of the 12,000 industry partners associated with the public-private marketing agency.

“Our new offerings allow all of our small, medium and large partners across the state to buy into unique opportunities that fit their needs and maximize their budgets,” VISIT FLORIDA CEO Ken Lawson said.

VISIT FLORIDA CEO Ken Lawson.

New programs include, per the agency, “nontraditional, such as a Google Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) content optimization program; North America, which includes tried and true sanctioned print and digital programs in publications such as AAA, Wall Street Journal and Golf Digest; International, which includes new Brand USA program packages; Regional, which focuses on brand development of regional parts of the state to build successful media plans; and Small Business, such as a video content production program to allow businesses to tell their own unique stories.”

News of the cooperative is timely, as it comes as businesses prep for the next fiscal year.

VISIT Florida and Miles Partnership designed the concept with the help of feedback and collaboration from industry partners at the agency’s Leadership Summit in December.

Florida Bar to hold convention in Orlando — with yoga

The Florida Bar will hold its annual convention June 13-16 in Orlando and will focus this year “on the importance of living and enjoying a balanced lifestyle.”

West Palm Beach attorney Michelle Suskauer will be sworn in as the Bar’s 70th president. Vero Beach attorney John M. Stewart will be sworn in as president-elect; he will become president in June 2019. The convention is being held at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek.

West Palm Beach attorney and Florida Bar President-elect Michelle Suskauer.

“Living Well, Working Well: The Balanced Lawyer,” the theme of this year’s convention, emphasizes the positive effects of learning to balance family, work, health and fitness.

This will be the first time the convention offers health and wellness activities including yoga, meditation and more. Mindfulness, stress-management and integrating work-life balance are key themes the discussions and programs will focus on.

Other highlights include:

Judicial Luncheon— Held Thursday, June 14, the luncheon will feature Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga presenting “The State of the Judiciary.” Lawyer, author and mindfulness instructor Jeena Cho will be the keynote speaker. Justice Labarga’s remarks (starting about 12:30 p.m.) and Cho’s presentation (starting about 1:15 p.m.) will be streamed live on The Florida Bar’s Facebook page.

General Assembly— The centerpiece event June 15 will include installation of incoming Bar officers and Board of Governors members. Suskauer will be sworn in as the Bar’s new president, and Stewart will be sworn in as president-elect. The entire General Assembly from 9:30 a.m.-noon will be streamed live on The Florida Bar’s Facebook page.

50-year members — The Bar will honor 313 attorneys for 50 years of service at a special luncheon. Also honored will be 14 senior counselors, who have practiced for 50 years or more but have not been members of The Florida Bar for the entire time.

Harvard faculty to lead Executive Leadership course at Florida Poly

Business executives from all over Florida are invited to participate in a one-of-a-kind leadership course developed by Harvard professors and taught at Florida Polytechnic University this Aug. 5-10.

The immersive weeklong Florida Poly Executive Leadership Course is designed for mid-career professionals looking to improve their leadership skills. Attendees will learn how to better understand their market, execute creative change, and grow their organizations through flexible and adaptive leadership.

Florida Polytechnic University welcomes Harvard professors emeritus Drs. Earl Sasser and Paul Marshall.

The course is led by Harvard professors emeritus Drs. Paul Marshall and Earl Sasser to provide participants with the most advanced leadership strategies through hands-on activities, real-world case studies, group breakouts and self-reflection.

“What makes this course unique is that it is led by Harvard faculty and modeled by what people can find at Harvard,” said Florida Poly’s president, Dr. Randy K. Avent. “It’s also a resident program which brings the opportunity to build valuable relationships with leaders from other companies.”

Attendees will spend their evenings in a residence hall. The registration deadline is July 22. For more information, contact executiveeducation@floridapoly.edu or 863-874-8614.

AARP Florida tracks lawmakers’ votes

How state legislators voted in the 2018 Legislature on issues of interest to older Floridians can be seen with the release of AARP Florida’s 7th Annual Legislative Voting Record.

This year’s voting record contains detailed, vote-by-vote information on key legislation important to those age 50 and older.

AARP wants to know how Florida seniors are voting.

AARP said it alerted legislators that it would consider their votes on certain proposals to be key votes for this voting record.

And because key decisions often occur at several stages during the long process of legislative consideration of a bill, the voting record tracks legislative committees’ actions as well as final votes.

The voting record provides information about legislative votes based on broad topics, such as regulated utilities, the state budget, health care and supportive services, prescription drugs, consumer protections and livable communities.

“AARP Florida’s Legislative Voting Record makes it easy to track legislators’ decisions on key issues that matter most,” AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson said.

The complete version of the 2018 voting record can be viewed and downloaded here.

Ports group highlights promising data

A five-year mission plan released by the Florida Ports Council bears good news: Cargo and cruise activity is increasing.

The nonprofit’s strategic plan, “Connecting Commerce: The 2018-2022 Five-Year Florida Seaport Mission Plan,” provides a few insightful data points. Among them: a 4.9 percent increase in Florida’s waterborne trade, and a $4.3 billion increase in the value of containerized cargo moved.

Gov. Scott added commentary to the news, citing the state’s $1.4 billion investment in ports since December 2010 — the month before he assumed office.

Florida Ports Council President and CEO Doug Wheeler.

“Florida’s hardworking businesses have created more than 1.5 million private sector jobs since December 2010. This job growth would not be possible without our incredible seaports,” Scott said.

Florida Ports Council President and CEO Doug Wheeler said continuing investments in ports will continue to contribute to economic growth.

“Now that Florida ports have the infrastructure to accommodate more cargo, we are seeing steady growth year after year in total cargo tonnage and value of cargo, as well as the number of cruise passengers,” Wheeler said.

“With $3.3 billion in capital improvements at Florida’s seaports identified over the next five years, we expect these numbers to continue to grow creating a stable economy for current Floridians and future generations.”

Florida Wildlife Federation praises ‘extraordinary generosity’

The Florida Wildlife Federation (FWF) recognized philanthropists Sam and Betty Shine this week, after their donation of “a critical tract of land, over 6,000 acres in size, to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge south of Tallahassee on the Gulf of Mexico.”

The land donated by the Shines will expand the Refuge northward to U.S. 98, “thereby protecting this environmental jewel from development and pollution,” the FWF said in a statement.

Philanthropist Sam Shine, founder and former CEO of Samtech. (Image via Christopher Fryer/News and Tribune)

As a habitat, it will “provide a perpetual home for a wide variety of plants and animals, including the Florida black bear and the indigo snake.” The tract’s protection also affords increased water quantity and quality to the aquifer, which helps Apalachee Bay.

“This is the latest in a long line of environmental projects involving Sam and Betty, and the Florida Wildlife Federation greatly appreciates their altruism,” said Manley Fuller, FWF president.

Capital craft brewery gearing up for move

Renovations began this week at the new South Monroe Street home of Tallahassee’s Proof Brewing Co., the city’s first craft brewery.

The move is into a 70-year-old, 34,000 square-foot former Coca-Cola bottling plant a short drive from downtown. Proof outgrew its current location, a 7,500 square-foot former warehouse in the city’s Railroad Square Art Park.

Proof Brewing Co., Tallahassee’s first craft brewery, is making a big move.

“The support and encouragement we’ve received from our community about the news of our expansion has been incredible,” it said in an email. “It’ll be here before we know it.”

The company, owned and operated by Byron and Angela Burroughs, already has begun receiving new equipment, including 60-barrel fermenters, with more tanks slated for the future.

“Every square inch is getting positioned with something,” the email said.

“The new space will allow us to take on several fun new projects — from seasonal and year-round cans, to more barrel-aged beers.” It’s expected to be open no later than January 2019.

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

Martin County’s top cop backs Gayle Harrell for SD 25

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder on Thursday endorsed Stuart Rep. Gayle Harrell in the Republican Primary for Senate District 25.

“Gayle has deep roots in our community, has a proven record of success fighting for our priorities and is a true conservative. She believes and will stand up for the rule of law,” Snyder said. “I have known and worked with Representative Harrell for years. She is without a doubt the most-qualified to continue the legacy of exceptional representation in the Florida Senate that our community has enjoyed.”

Harrell accepted the endorsement, “I am thrilled to have the support of Sheriff Snyder and share his commitment to public safety in Martin County and throughout the Treasure Coast.”

Senate District 25 wasn’t scheduled to open up until 2020, however Senate President Joe Negron announced he would leave the chamber two years early. His decision prompted Gov. Rick Scott to call a special election, to be held concurrently with regularly scheduled 2018 election, to fill out the remainder of Negron’s term.

Negron has since announced his support for Harrell, as have former Senate President Ken Pruitt and the Florida Medical Association.

Harrell faces Belinda Keiser, vice chancellor of Keiser University, in the Republican Primary. Stuart Democrat Rob Levy is also running for the seat

SD 25 includes the whole of Martin and St. Lucie counties, where Harrell has held elected office for 16 of the past 18 years, as well as part of Palm Beach County. The district is safely Republican — Negron was re-elected with nearly two-thirds of the vote in the 2016 cycle.

The primary election is Aug. 28. The general election is Nov. 6.

Gayle Harrell gets Ken Pruitt’s backing in SD 25 special

Stuart Republican Rep. Gayle Harrell has earned the backing for former Senate President Ken Pruitt in her quest to succeed current Senate President Joe Negron in Senate District 25.

Negron announced earlier this month that he would retire from the Senate, effective Election Day 2018. He was originally set to term out of the seat in 2020. The SD 25 special will be held concurrently with the regularly scheduled Aug. 28 primary election and Nov. 6 general election.

“Gayle is a dear friend, was a great partner when we worked together in the legislature, and a tireless fighter for the values and principles Treasure Coast voters hold dear. There is no other candidate who can challenge her conservative credentials nor match her involvement in the Treasure Coast. I ask all of my former constituents to join me in backing Gayle Harrell for the Florida Senate,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt, who served as Senate President for the 2007 and 2008 Legislative Sessions, represented parts of Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties when he held the old Senate District 28. SD 25 includes much of the same territory — all of St. Lucie and Martin counties, along with a small portion of Palm Beach County.

Harrell’s current seat, House District 83, is also mostly within the boundaries of SD 25. Harrell started her second stint in the Florida House in 2010, having previously served from 2000 to 2008.

“Ken Pruitt and I have a long history and have lots of shared successes for our community. I will work to uphold his legacy of protecting the quality of life we enjoy as residents of the Treasure Coast,” said Harrell, who also picked up an endorsement from the Florida Medical Association earlier this week.

She faces Belinda Keiser, vice chancellor of Keiser University, in the Republican Primary. Stuart Democrat Rob Levy is also running for the seat, though he faces long odds given SD 25’s Republican leanings — Negron received nearly 65 percent of the vote in his 2016 re-election bid against Democrat Bruno Moore. Also in 2016, the district voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by a 12-point margin.

Gayle Harrell gets clean bill of health from FMA

The Florida Medical Association on Tuesday endorsed Stuart Republican Rep. Gayle Harrell in the race to succeed Senate President Joe Negron in Senate District 25.

“Gayle Harrell has been a wonderful friend of medicine during her public service in the Florida House. We are thrilled to support her in her quest to serve in the Florida Senate and look forward to working with her on important health care issues. Gayle Harrell is a tremendous advocate not just to Florida physicians, but to the patients of this state as well,” said Dr. Mike Patete, president of FMA PAC.

Harrell has more than 30 years of experience in health care, including managing the practice of her husband, Dr. James E. Harrell, and founding the Breast Imaging Center, a mammography center specializing in preventive care for women. She currently is the CEO of Health IT Strategies and works as health information technologies consultant.

“I am very grateful for the support of the Florida Medical Association and the caring physicians who dedicate their lives to the health and well-being of their patients,” she said. “I am proud to have their endorsement and look forward to continuing our work together to put patients first and provide affordable access to the best health care possible for all Floridians.”

Harrell faces Belinda Keiser, vice chancellor of Keiser University, in the Republican Primary for SD 25, which covers St. Lucie and Martin counties, along with a small portion of Palm Beach County. Stuart Democrat Rob Levy has also announced declared for the seat.

The trio is running in a special election due to Negron’s announcement that he would leave the Senate with two years left on his term. The SD 25 special will be held concurrently with the regularly scheduled Aug. 28 primary election and Nov. 6 general election.

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