Joe Negron Archives - Page 5 of 35 - Florida Politics

Janet Cruz latest Democrat to call for Frank Artiles resignation

Florida Democratic Minority House Leader Janet Cruz is calling for Miami Republican Sen. Frank Artiles to step down, following the outrage over published remarks of his racist comments to black Democratic lawmakers.

“Frank Artiles’ comments Monday night transcend politics and get to the idea of who we are as people,” said the Tampa Representative in a statement issued late Wednesday afternoon. Her response was the latest in a series of calls by Democrats for Artiles to resign.

The Florida Legislative Black Caucuswhich includes seven senators and 21 state representatives, issued a letter Wednesday calling for the Senate Rules Committee to begin the process of ousting Artiles from the Senate.

Fort Myers Republican Lizbeth Benaquisto, the Rules chair, agreed there was “probable cause” Artiles violated Senate rules  that say a senator must “maintain the integrity and responsibility of his or her office.”

Artiles apologized on the floor of the Senate Wednesday morning, less than 24 hours after the Miami Herald reported on racist comments he made to Democratic Sens. Audrey Gibson from Jacksonville and Perry Thurston from Fort Lauderdale.

Artiles also made a sexist remark to Gibson, the Herald wrote.

“My comments to you were the most regretful of all because they injured you personally,” Artiles said to Gibson. “No one deserves to be spoken to like that.”

Senate President Joe Negron stripped Artiles of his chairmanship of the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee, while Florida Gov. Rick Scott called the comments, “disgusting,” but would not respond to questions about whether he thinks Artiles should step down.

Cruz had no such qualms.

“Do we believe in equality and treating each other well?” the Minority Leader asked in her statement. “Or do we believe that loose slurs and misogynistic attacks should be a part of our rhetoric? These disgusting remarks do nothing to bring us closer together as people and should not be tolerated by a civil society. Senator Artiles should take into account the best interests of his constituents and resign immediately.”

Black lawmaker seeks to remove Frank Artiles from Senate

Surrounded by fellow black and Democratic lawmakers, Sen. Perry Thurston announced Wednesday he had filed a complaint to remove fellow Sen. Frank Artiles from the Senate.

In a move sure to send chills through the Capitol’s lobbying corps, he suggested influencers who were within earshot when Artiles went on his tirade in the private Governors Club could be called to testify.

Artiles, a Cuban-American Republican from Miami-Dade County, created a national spectacle when news broke that he had accosted Thurston, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, and Sen. Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat, calling her a “b—h” and a “girl” in a dispute over legislation.

“This incident is not the first, nor do we believe it will be the last,” he told reporters. Thurston and Gibson are black.

Artiles ran into them at the club on Monday night, just a short walk from the Capitol. He also used a variation of the “N-word,” referring to her and to Republicans who supported Joe Negron as Senate President.

Thurston’s complaint was filed with Rules Chair Lizbeth Benacquisto for the “expulsion” of Artiles, elected to the Senate just last year after serving in the House since 2012. He says Artiles violated a Senate rule on legislative conduct.

Rep. Kamia Brown, an Ocoee Democrat, said Artiles was “unstatesmanlike” and a “bully:” “As a woman … as an African-American, I have to speak out on this. (Artiles) has not shown leadership.”

Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon II called it “asinine” that Artiles said his use of the N-word was because he grew up in Hialeah, a “diverse community.”

He also dismissed Artiles’ claim that he was being politically targeted: “This isn’t a Democratic issue—this is a Senate issue, a people issue, this is a human being issue,” Braynon said.

But Braynon also mused whether the election of President Donald Trump, supported by a fringe element of white supremacists, “emboldened” the kind of language that Artiles used.

“The shadow he has cast over our chamber deserves the most severe punishment available,” Thurston’s complaint says. “His public comments were overheard by elected officials and citizens alike who were” in the club. The press coverage over the incident has brought “more disrepute” to the Senate, he added.

Under the Senate’s rules, Benacquisto must find that Thurston’s complaint “support(s) a finding of probable cause” or she can dismiss it.

Otherwise, she must appoint a “special master,” a kind of quasi-judicial officer, who will “conduct an investigation” and hold hearings, ultimately issuing a recommendation to Benacquisto and Senate President Joe Negron.

“The President shall present the (Rules) committee’s recommendation, along with the special master’s report and recommendation, to the Senate for final action,” the rule says.

Andrew Gillum: Frank Artiles needs to go

Andrew Gillum is refusing to forgive Miami Republican Frank Artiles, who apologized on the Senate floor Wednesday for using the N-word toward two black lawmakers.

The Tallahassee mayor, an African-American who is running for governor next year, says Artiles needs to resign from the Florida Senate.

“We have struggled with days when these words were too common,” Gillum said. “They are the ugliest words in our language and they tear at the fabric of our society. They have no place in 2017, just as Senator Artiles has no place in the Florida Senate.”

Artiles appeared before the entire Senate Wednesday morning to apologize — less than 24 hours after the Miami Herald reported he had gone up to Sens. Audrey Gibson from Jacksonville and Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale  Monday night, adding that Senate President Joe Negron of Stuart came to his leadership role because “six n****rs” in the Republican caucus elected him.

Artiles also called Gibson a “b***h” and a “girl.”

“There’s no excuse, nor will I offer one,” Artiles said. “No one deserves to be spoken to that way, much less a person of your stature, dignity, and integrity.”

“With regard to the word which I used to no one in particular,” Artiles said he grew up in a “diverse community.”

In his race for governor, Gillum is attempting to become the first black official to be elected to a statewide position in Florida. He said Artiles’ apology did not register at all with him.

“His statement this morning fell well short of what Floridians expect: his resignation,” said Gillum. “He must step aside immediately.”

Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, who is also black, also says Artiles apology on the Senate floor was insufficient.

“Simply dismissing these charges Senator Artiles has admitted to as a passing lapse, or his temper getting the better of him, or a product of his childhood town, doesn’t cut it,” Braynon said. “At some point, it’s time to take a stand, to say that words are not enough. At some point, the Senate must be compelled to act.”

Perry Thurston says ‘there will be consequences’ for Frank Artiles

Democratic Sen. Perry Thurston on Wednesday said “there will be consequences” for fellow Sen. Frank Artiles after he spouted insults and used a form of a racial epithet in front of Thurston and Sen. Audrey Gibson Monday night.

“We’ve got a (Legislative Black) Caucus meeting” later today, Thurston said. “After that, I’m sure there will be some actions taken.”

Thurston had been asked whether he planned to file a complaint with Rules Chair Lizbeth Benacquisto as allowed under the Senate Rules, or whether he knew if anyone else planned to.

Senate Rule 1.43 permits “any person (to) file a sworn complaint with the Rules Chair … alleging a violation by a Senator of the Rules regulating legislative conduct and ethics … (A) Senator determined to have violated the requirements of the Rules regulating legislative conduct and ethics may be censured, reprimanded, or expelled.”

Rule 1.35 says that “every Senator shall conduct himself or herself to justify the confidence placed in him or her by the people and, by personal example and admonition to colleagues, shall maintain the integrity and responsibility of his or her office.”

Artiles, a Cuban-American Republican, hurled insults at Thurston and Gibson at the private Governors Club on Monday night, using a variation of the “N-word,” and calling Gibson a “b—h” and a “girl.”

In a public apology on the Senate floor, Artiles explained his use of the N-word as a result of growing up in a “diverse community.”

In comments to reporters later on Wednesday, Senate President Joe Negron said he’d done all he was going to do about the incident, adding that Artiles’s political future is “now a matter between him and his constituents.”

Frank Artiles dropped as Senate committee chair

As the sordid story of Sen. Frank Artiles’ Monday night rant, replete with racist and sexist phrases, continues to develop, Florida Senate President Joe Negron issued a punitive action Wednesday morning.

Negron removed Artiles from his chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities.

Kelli Stargel will replace Artiles.

___

Negron took his time on Tuesday formulating a statement, releasing something after 9:30 p.m.

“(Senate Minority Leader Oscar) Braynon reported this incident to me earlier today, and I was appalled to hear that one Senator would speak to another in such an offensive and reprehensible manner. My first priority was to ensure that this matter was promptly addressed between the two Senators involved, which occurred this evening. Racial slurs and profane, sexist insults have no place in conversation between Senators and will not be tolerated while I am serving as Senate President. Senator Artiles has requested a point of personal privilege at the beginning of tomorrow’s sitting, during which he intends to formally apologize to Senator Gibson on the Senate Floor.”

Artiles, of course, did apologize to Gibson and others on Wednesday, as Negron indicated.

___

Artiles extended a “heartfelt apology” to the body, signaling out Gibson.

“There’s no excuse, nor will I offer one … no one deserves to be spoken to that way, much less a person of your stature, dignity, and integrity.”

To Sen. Thurston, Artiles lauded his “friendship” as a “man of principle.”

And Sen. Negron got an apology also, for Artiles’ “crass and juvenile comments.”

“With regard to the word which I used to no one in particular,” Artiles noted that he grew up in a “diverse community” with what apparently was a robust “vernacular.”

No opportunity was immediately ceded for Gibson, Thurston, or Negron to respond to those comments, as the Senate moved immediately into the consideration of bills.

___

Negron’s response was measured, given that he himself was a reported target of Artiles’ vitriol.

The Miami Herald reported Artiles’ assertion that Negron “had been risen to his powerful GOP leadership role because ‘six niggers’ in the Republican caucus had elected him.”

Pressure is coming, especially from Democrats, for Artiles to resign.

Thus far, the GOP appears willing to weather the storm.

Of course, Frank Artiles should resign. Does the Senate have the steel to make that happen?

My father-in-law being a U.S. Marine, I’ve learned not to use the past tense to describe his service. Even at 67 years old, my father-in-law is a Marine, not was a Marine.

Republican state Senate Frank Artiles is a Marine, not was a Marine.

Volunteering to serve our country shows Artiles has far more courage than I’ve ever had in my life; for that, Artiles — no matter what he says or does — deserves respect.

But now, Artiles must find a level of courage and self-sacrifice beyond wearing the uniform.

He must resign from the Florida Senate.

As was first reported by the Miami Herald’s Patricia Mazzei (during her first day of platooning in Tallahassee to cover the final weeks of the 2017 Legislative Session), Artiles dropped the N-word to a pair of African-American colleagues in private conversation Monday night — after calling one of them a “f—— a——,” a “b—-” and a “girl,” the two senators said.

Over drinks, after 10 p.m. at the members-only Governors Club just steps from the state Capitol, Artiles told Sens. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville and Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale that Senate President Joe Negron of Stuart rose to his powerful GOP leadership role because “six n——-” in the Republican caucus had elected him.

No matter what your stomach feels about political correctness, especially in this era of Donald Trump, what Artiles said is abhorrent.

Actually, that’s not the right word for what Artiles said because there isn’t the right word to describe what he did other than to say it crossed a line in a way that cannot be forgiven.

He must resign.

Otherwise, every black lawmaker who serves in the Legislature while Artiles is a member will see his square jaw and say to themselves, ‘That man called us all niggers. And his white Republican colleagues let him get away with it.’

That’s right, Sens. Negron and Wilton Simpson and Bill Galvano. If Artiles is allowed to continue to serve in the Florida Senate, it’s because you permitted it. Contra, if the three of turned your back on him now, he’d have no choice but to resign.

Instead, he may survive behind the cloaks of your indifference.

Harsh statements — Galvano’s was the strongest of the three, while Negron should face questions about why it took him so long to fully condemn Artiles — are not enough.

He must resign.

Of the forty members of the most elite club in the state of Florida, is it any surprise that it is Artiles who dropped the nuclear n-bomb? Not to anyone who tracks Capitol politics.

Artiles is the lawmaker who once sponsored a bill limiting transgender people from using restrooms of their choice.

He made headlines in 2015 when he punched a college student in the face at Clyde’s & Costello’s, a bar just a block away from the Capitol.

Late Tuesday night, The Miami Herald reported it received a copy of a 2014 recording of Artiles in which the former Marine used the term “hajjis” — an anti-Muslim slur used by many U.S. soldiers.

And those are just three of the stories which have made it to the media.

The reality is, as countless individuals who work in The Process could attest, there are dozens of stories of Artiles, fueled by far too much alcohol, intimidating (or in some cases, physically threatening) people.

In fact, that’s not the only epithet tossed out that evening.

A lobbyist, who shall remain unnamed, said it was reported to him after he left the Governors Club that same night that Artiles called him and another person who works in the Capitol “faggots.”

That’s according to two friends of the lobbyist, who told him of the exchange later in the evening. The lobbyist then told me.

Everybody is something in Frank Artiles’ book. His colleagues who supported Negron for Senate President are “niggas” while Negron himself is a “pussy.”

(By the way, someone should ask Artiles what he means when he said Negron won the Senate presidency because “six niggas” in the Republican caucus had elected him. Sens. Aaron Bean and Jeff Brandes were two of the key votes for Negron; does that make them “niggas?”)

Being a drunk asshole is not reason enough for Artiles to resign. Were that the case, there’d rarely be a quorum in the Florida Senate.

It’s doubtful Negron and Co. will have the steel to force Artiles from the Senate. There are disappointing whispers that they don’t want to give up the Democratic-leaning district Artiles represents.

Perhaps the black members of the Florida Senate can make this enough of an issue so that Artiles has to resign. They should threaten to boycott the rest of Session if he doesn’t.

Or, if Artiles doesn’t resign, maybe Negron can send Artiles home without his supper. The Senate President could instruct Artiles to not participate in the rest of the 2017 Session as a punishment for his hate. It’s not a full-blown resignation, but it’s better than a tersely-worded news release.

Of course, Artiles himself should find the courage to resign after realizing that he doesn’t deserve the privilege of serving in the Florida Senate.

At this point, Artiles has made too many mistakes to continue to serve.

I say this as someone who himself once made so many mistakes I had to take myself out of the political game, so I could deconstruct all that was wrong with me.

Self-sacrifice for an institution you respect is not a bad thing.

A Marine like Frank Artiles knows this.

House ‘assault’ derails Senate, budget chief Jack Latvala tells Tiger Bay

In the venue where newly qualified, but unlikely, candidate Rick Scott introduced himself to Tallahassee in 2010 and another potential gubernatorial candidate, John Morgan, came to visit in February, Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala paid a visit Monday to the Capital Tiger Bay Club.

While rumors swirl about Latvala’s possible 2018 run for Florida’s top spot and his fundraising apparatus runs full speed ahead, he played coy when asked about his future political ambitions.

“I’m not going to answer that specifically … I don’t think I’m finished,” he said. “I think if this session shows anything, it shows me that we still need the kind of approach that I bring up here — problem-solving and kind of a big-picture approach — the experience I have in all facets of government for 22 years.

“I’m not ready to hang it up, but I’m not ready to say what I’m doing, either.”

As the 2016 session speeds toward its planned May 5 sine die, Latvala predicted (only half in jest) it could drag on until July. And he puts the blame squarely at the feet of the House and its leadership.

After a three-and-a-half-year tug-of-war, Sen. Joe Negron was named Senate president and Latvala was given the powerful appropriations chairmanship.

“I’m very happy with the way that’s turned out,” he said. “I was hopeful we could come up here, and we could do some good,” with ambitious projects like beefing up Florida’s universities to compete for the nation’s best students, cleaning up Lake Okeechobee and other waterways, addressing a coming freshwater shortage, boosting “good-paying jobs,” and shoring up infrastructure.

“I came to Tallahassee ready to start working on these, and instead, unfortunately, we got involved in an all-out assault on Florida’s economic development apparatus …. from the House of Representatives.”

He spoke of the House’s efforts to defund Enterprise Florida completely, and dramatically slash the state’s contribution to Visit Florida, as well as an “unprecedented” attack on home rule.

Close to home for him, Latvala singled out a House bill that would preclude sports facilities or teams from getting funding from local governments or building facilities on government-owned land.

“They do that in the name of not picking winners and losers. This is the mantra,” he said. “That’s all well and good, except that that doesn’t apply to a lot of the other efforts that we’ve got going on out there.”

Latvala specifically mentioned the elimination of no-fault auto insurance and an attempt to allow Florida Power & Light, Florida’s largest electric company, to charge ratepayers to explore for gas.

During the Q&A portion, Latvala was asked whether it was “more fun” being on the inside or an outsider in the process.

“Maybe give me a couple more weeks to answer that one,” he quipped. “I generally try to cope with whatever the cards are that are dealt me. I’m on the inside now, I think, and I’m trying very hard to make the Senate successful with the team that we have in place.” The Everglades bill was one example. “Even though it wasn’t my issue, the president asked me to get involved and see if I could get it to a point where we could pass it out of the Senate,” he said.

He said he invoked a little “Latvala magic” to get the job done — an inside joke about him blowing his stack. “But it is almost unfailingly successful in getting people to compromise and getting people to get together and work toward a solution.”

About 200 people came to listen to Latvala talk, spending a half-hour before the luncheon greeting members as they walked in along with Sen. Bill Montford, who made his introduction.

Surveying the audience, Latvala got one of the biggest laughs of the day.

“I always wondered where old lobbyists went when they retired. And now I know — they’re at the Tallahassee Tiger Bay Club,” he said. “And this is probably not politically correct, but there’s actually a couple people here I thought had died. But I’m glad you didn’t.”

Matt Caldwell: House will take Senate Everglades bill ‘seriously’

An Everglades reservoir bill pushed by Senate President Joe Negron passed the state’s upper chamber Wednesday, with state Rep. Matt Caldwell saying the House will take the $1.5 billion plan “seriously.”

“This gives us a great starting point,” Caldwell, chair of the House Government Accountability Committee, told POLITICO Florida. “We’ve been waiting to see what the final senate proposal would look like. It’s changed several times.”

Senate Bill 10, which featured Negron’s reservoir proposal, was approved by the Senate 36-3, with its next stop the House. HB 761, the House companion, is not yet had a committee hearing.

A sugar company spokesman told POLITICO reporter Bruce Ritchie that he “hopes the House will deal with issues in the Senate bill, including the timing of the project.”

Environmentalists were supportive of the Senate measure, and expect the House will follow suit.

However, some House leaders – including speaker Richard Corcoran – have been hesitant over parts of Negron’s proposal that would purchase farmland for the reservoir, as well as calls for building the reservoir sooner than the Everglades restoration schedule beginning in 2021.

Corcoran did admit chances for the bill were getting “better and better” after amendments to SB 10 reduced the overall impact of the plan. He still questions issuing bonds to pay for the project.

Caldwell, a North Fort Myers Republican, told reporters Wednesday he was not sure what SB 10 ultimately faces in the House, or if it’s even been scheduled for a committee hearing.

“We’re still kind of chewing on that,” he said.

Senate proposes compromise over plan to build Everglades reservoir

Senate President Joe Negron appears ready to compromise in order to get a top priority through the Legislature.

On Tuesday, Sen. Rob Bradley filed a wide-sweeping amendment to a bill (SB 10) that would, among other things, set aside money for water storage south of Lake Okeechobee, a top priority for Negron.

The amendment essentially rewrites the bill, removing the requirement to buy up to 60,000 of agriculture land to build a water storage reservoir. Instead under the new proposal, the would convert 14,000 acres of state-owned land in the A-2 parcel to create a water storage reservoir. That land is currently being leased by Florida Crystals.

Negron has long called on the state state lawmakers to set aside money to purchase land for water storage south of the lake, and in August, even rolled out his own plan to do so. Under the the original plan, the state would have purchased 60,000 acres of private land at the cost of about $2.4 billion. That proposal included bonding, something House leaders have been opposed to.

But private landowners have been opposed to the proposal. In February, several of the largest land owners — including U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals — in the Everglades Agricultural Area said they did not support “any governmental acquisition of additional farm lands south of Lake Okeechobee to solve issues that are being caused north of Lake Okeechobee and in Martin County.”

The plan faced opposition from Senate Democrats. A similar proposal has stalled in the House

Divided over dollars: Florida legislators split on spending

With about a month left in the regular session, Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature is on a major collision course over spending.

This past week the House and Senate released rival budgets for the coming year that reveal a wide divide between the two chambers on everything from taxes to schools to state worker pay raises.

The two sides don’t even have the same bottom line: The Senate’s overall budget is more than $85 billion, or roughly $4 billion more than the House proposed. The current state budget is nearly $82.3 billion.

Part of the reason for the disparity is that House Republicans sought aggressive budget cuts, aimed largely at hospitals and state universities. But the House budget also sets aside money for roughly $300 million in tax cuts, including a reduction in the tax charged on rent paid by businesses.

House leaders say they pushed ahead with deep spending cuts to help the state avoid possible shortfalls that are projected over the next two to three years by state economists. In describing the need for cuts, House Republicans have referred to a budget “deficit” even though state tax collections are actually growing.

“We have to make informed decisions, and we have to make tough decisions,” said Rep. Carlos Trujillo, a Miami Republican and the House budget chairman. “We can’t be all things to all people.”

A big sticking point between the House and Senate will be over money for public schools.

The Senate is recommending a nearly $800 million increase for day-to-day operations that would boost the amount spent on each student by close to 3 percent. That contrasts with the House’s proposal that would increase the per-student amount by 1.25 percent.

“The budget meets the needs of our growing state in a manner that reflects the priorities of the constituents who elected us,” said Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican.

But a large portion of the Senate plan relies on an increase in local property taxes triggered by rising property values. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has vowed to block any proposal that relies on higher taxes.

Corcoran and other House Republicans have proposed steering large amounts of money into contentious programs, including an ambitious $200 million “Schools of Hope” plan that would offer money to charter school operators that set up schools near failing public schools.

Another wide area of disagreement: Money for economic development programs and tourism promotion that has already pitted House leaders against Gov. Rick Scott. The Senate has kept intact the state’s economic development agency known as Enterprise Florida and agreed to keep spending on tourism marketing close to current levels. The House is proposing to shutter Enterprise Florida, while slashing the state’s tourism ad budget by roughly $50 million.

“Over and over again, politicians in the House have failed to understand that Florida is competing for job creation projects against other states and countries across the globe,” Scott said this week about the House proposal.

The House and Senate also differ on the need for across-the-board raises for state workers. The Senate is offering a raise of $1,400 to all employees making $40,000 or less, and $1,000 to those who earn more than $40,000. The House is recommending targeted pay raises to corrections officers and state law-enforcement agents.

The Senate is also proposing to borrow up to $1.2 billion to acquire 60,000 acres of land and build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries that have been blamed for toxic algae blooms. House leaders have said they are opposed to borrowing money this year but have not rejected the Senate plan.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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