Mike La Rosa – Florida Politics

Ten Central Florida house seats set for primaries August 28

Ten seats in Central Florida’s portion of the Florida House of Representatives will have primaries on August 28, with four Republican and six Democratic in-party battles set by Friday’s ballot qualifying.

The big primary battles among Republicans are preparing for two open seats now held by Republicans, and among the Democrats for four places where they see prospects to knock off incumbent Republicans.

Meanwhile, five other seats are lined up for November showdowns between one Republican and one Democrat.

Two other races already have been decided, as Democratic state Reps. John Cortes in House District 43 in north Osceola County and Kamia Brown in House District 45 in western Orange County drew no opponents and won. In House District 46, Democratic state Rep. Bruce Antone has all but won but still must go into the November election because a write-in candidate qualified to challenge.

The most intriguing primary matchup for Democrats emerges in House District 44, where five Democrats jumped in wanting to take on Republican state Rep. Bobby Olszewski, and then started dropping out. The third withdrawal, Eddy Dominguez, occurred this week, leaving former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson and activist Melanie Gold, both of Orlando, remaining for the Democrats’ primary.

Olszewski gets the HD 44 Democratic primary winner in November election to represent southwest Orange County.

A winnowing of potential candidates also occurred in House District 27, in western Volusia County, leaving Democrats Neil Heinrichsen and Carol Lawrence, both of Deltona, set to meet in a primary after another Democrat dropped out.

Republican state Rep. David Santiago of Deltona will meet the HD 27 Democrats’ winner in November.

In House District 29, lawyer and social worker Darryl Block of Lake Mary faces lawyer Tracey Kagan of Longwood in the Democratic primary, again after another Democrat dropped out.

Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon of Longwood will get the Democrats’ HD 29 primary winner in November for that north-central Seminole County district.

In House District 30, Clark Anderson of Winter Park, Maitland City Commissioner Joy Goff-Marcil, and newly-entered Brendan Ramirez of Orlando all have qualified for the Democratic primary.

The winner will face Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes in the November election for HD 30, covering south-central Seminole and north Orange.

House District 47 is the only seat that will see primaries for both parties, thanks to the late entry of Lou Forges on the Democrats’ side this week. Forges, of Apopka, meets Anna Eskamani of Orlando on the Democrat side, while Mikaela Nix of Orlando meets Stockton Reeves VI of Winter Park in the preliminaries. The seat will open up with the departure of Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Miller.

In House District 50, covering part of east Orange and north Brevard County, incumbent state Rep. Rene Plasencia of Orlando will meet George Collins of Orlando in the Republican primary.

The Republicans’ HD 50 primary winner meets Democrat Pam Dirschka of Titusville in November.

In House District 51, an open seat representing central Brevard, Republicans Tyler Sirois, and Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish will meet in the Republican primary, with the eliminations of two other Republicans who also had filed for that seat. It’s opening up with the departure of Republican state Rep. Tom Goodson.

The HD 51 Republican primary winner faces Democrat Mike Blake of Cocoa in November.

In House District 52, incumbent state Rep. Thad Altman of Indialantic meets Matt Nye of Melbourne in the Republican primary for the central-Brevard district.

Democrat Seeta Durjan Begui gets the winner of that HD 52 Republican primary in November.

In House District 53, covering south Brevard, Democrats Phil Moore of West Melbourne and FiorD’Aliza A. Frias of Palm Bay meet in the Democratic primary.

The winner of the Democrats’ HD 53 primary will face incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Fine in the general election.

The head-to-head general elections set for the November 6 general election include:

— Republican David Smith of Winter Springs versus Democrat Lee Mangold of Casselberry, battling for the open seat for Florida’s House District 28, covering eastern Seminole. That’s an open seat, being vacated by Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur.

— Republican state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan of Mount Dora will meet Debra Kaplan of Eustis battling for House District 31, covering northern Lake County and a piece of northwest Orange.

— Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa of Saint Cloud will meet Democrat Barbara Cady of Kissimmee for House District 42 covering east and central Osceola.

— Democratic state Rep. Amy Mercado of Orlando will face Republican Scotland Calhoun of Orlando for House District 48, including parts of south and east Orange.

— Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando will face Republican Ben Griffin for House District 49, covering parts of north and east Orange.

Polk County delegation piles on the campaign cash in May

The five lawmakers representing a piece of Polk County in the Florida House continued cruising toward Election Day with more than $90,000 in combined campaign fundraising.

Winter Haven Republican Rep. Sam Killebrew had the strongest May fundraising report of the five members of the Polk delegation, all of whom are Republicans.

The House District 41 lawmaker added $35,525 in contributions and spent just $2,395, leaving him with $80,790 in the bank as he runs for a second term against Democratic challengers Carmelo Garcia and Alex Perkins.

Garcia, who filed May 26, posted a waiver for the brief period he was a candidate last month, while Perkins hasn’t reported raising a dime since filing for the Republican stronghold in February.

Over in House District 56, term-limited Wauchula Rep. Ben Albritton showed $24,450 in new money for his campaign to succeed exiting Republican Sen. Denise Grimsley, who is running for Agriculture Commissioner in the fall.

The report, his best since October, brings his fundraising total to $172,050 with $105,646 banked. His opponent in the Senate District 26 race, Democrat Catherine Price, had raised just under $17,000 for her campaign through the end of April and had $14,263 on hand.

The gulf in fundraising between Albritton in Price is even wider when committee money is included in the tally —Albritton has another $175,000 on hand in Advancing Florida Agriculture, including $11,000 raised in May.

Taking the No. 3 spot on the Polk delegation list was Lakeland Republican Rep. Colleen Burton, who received $19,150 in campaign contributions for her House District 40 re-election bid.

Burton, currently in her second term, has now raised nearly $135,000 for the 2018 election cycle. After $7,666 in May spending, she has $88,080 banked.

Her lone opponent is Democrat Shandale Terrell, who showed $250 raised in May. Since filing for the seat in November 2016, Terrell has raised about $3,200 and had $2,330 in the bank heading into June.

St. Cloud Rep. Mike La Rosa, who represents a piece of western Polk, was $50 shy of the $10,000 mark in his May report. The third-term HD 42 lawmaker’s $9,950 in fundraising was almost completely wiped out by $9,843 in spending, leaving him with $66,765 in his campaign account on May 31.

His main opponent, Democrat Barbary Cady, hasn’t posted her May numbers yet, though she had raised a not insignificant $32,000 through the end of April with $20,175 on hand.

Also running are Republican Bienvenido Valentin and unaffiliated candidate Lonzell Ivory, neither of whom have gained traction in the money race.

The final member of the Polk delegation is also the newest member of the Florida House: Polk City Rep. Josie Tomkow.

In her first campaign finance report since winning the special election to replace former Rep. Neil Combee in House District 39, Tomkow showed $2,220 in contributions.

The small haul isn’t anything to worry about — no other candidates have filed for the seat and it’s unlikely another Republican files to challenge her before the end of the candidate qualifying period on June 22. If a Democratic candidate were to enter the fray HD 39 already proven to be a safe fortress to ride out “blue wave.”

Latest on the legislative staffing merry-go-round

With a tip of the hat to LobbyTools, here are the latest movements – both on and off – of the legislative merry-go-round.

On: Connie Ennis is a new administrative assistant for the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee.

On: Karina Pereira is a new legislative assistant for Fort Lauderdale Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer.

On: Elise Minkoff is the new legislative assistant for St. Petersburg Democratic Sen. Darryl Rouson.

Off: Vanessa Thompson is no longer legislative assistant for St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes.

Off: Shawn Hall is no longer legislative assistant for Boynton Beach Democratic Rep. Joseph Abruzzo.

On: Kavanjote Birdi is the new district secretary for Miami Democratic Rep. Robert Asencio.

On: Brandon Johnson is the new district secretary for Ocoee Democratic Rep. Kamia Brown.

Off: Rebekah Hurd is no longer legislative assistant for St. Cloud Republican Rep. Mike La Rosa.

Off: Janine Kiray is no longer district secretary for Clearwater Republican Rep. Chris Latvala.

Off: Dylan Fisher is no longer legislative assistant for Ormond Beach Republican Rep. Tom Leek.

Off: Sarah Sims is no longer legislative assistant for Naples Republican Rep. Bob Rommel.

On: Shorty Robbins is the new district secretary for St. Johns Republican Rep. Cyndi Stevenson.

On: Melissa Santoro is the new district secretary for Wellington Democratic Rep. Matt Willhite.

Republican lawmakers earn high grades on Associated Industries’ report card

The Associated Industries of Florida on Tuesday released a report measuring how closely Florida lawmakers’ votes aligned with its interests.

The conservative business group’s 2018 Voting Records report found a slight uptick in lawmaker support for AIF-backed legislation, with 78 percent of the Senate and 91 percent of the House voting in favor of its priorities.

AIF also recognized five lawmakers – three in the Senate and two in the House – with “non-voting” awards for going above and beyond during the 2018 Legislative Session.

“Our team goes to great lengths to ensure legislators are aware of AIF’s positions on issues of great importance to Florida’s business community. And, after every session, AIF compiles a record of success with our Voting Records” said Tom Feeney, president and CEO of AIF.

“We are proud to honor elected officials as Champions for Business – those lawmakers who take risks for his or her beliefs in the free-enterprise system, who defy the status quo when it’s harmful to our state’s competitive climate and who face down opponents to grow prosperity for Floridians.”

Though lawmakers scored higher marks in 2018 than years prior, the scorecard results don’t paint a complete picture of the session according to Brewster Bevis, senior vice president of state and federal affairs for AIF.

He explained that the focus shift brought about by the February mass shooting in Parkland “resulted in a slowed legislative process and fewer bills making it through to the end – the lowest number of bills passed since 2001.

“So while AIF’s Voting Records show more favorable outcomes for the business community compared to last year, it is important to note the political environment and the impact it had on the legislative process this year.”

The AIF report, now in its 43rd year, is a compilation of voting records based on committee, amendment and floor votes cast.

“Votes provide tangible evidence of whether a legislator supports the ability of Florida companies to prosper and operate free of overly burdensome state regulation and taxation,” Feeney said.

He went on to name AIF’s five 2018 Champions for Business: Republican Sens. Rob Bradley, Kathleen Passidomo and Dana Young, and Republican Reps. Joe Gruters and Mike Miller.

“Whether they proposed an important bill, authored a key amendment or toiled behind the scenes, these legislators are the ones who made a difference during the 2018 Legislative Session,” Feeney said.

Only Dana Young, who represents Tampa-based Senate District 18, has received the Champion designation in the past. AIF will present the Champions for Business awards to the lawmakers at its annual conference, to be held Sept. 12 through 14 in Orlando.

AIF also recognized another 33 members of the Florida House for achieving a 100 percent voting record for the 2018 Legislative Session.

“These lawmakers showed a commitment to sound policy that supports Florida’s employers and job creators. Not only does this score encompass votes to pass legislation beneficial to businesses, it includes votes to defeat policies that would have a detrimental impact on businesses and their employees.  We applaud all 38 lawmakers highlighted in our Voting Records for helping make Florida the best place to do business,” Feeney said.

The full list of 100 percenters: House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Indialantic Rep. Thad Altman, Hialeah Rep. Bryan Avila, Bradenton Rep. Jim Boyd, Lehigh Acres Rep. Matt Caldwell, Jonesville Rep. Chuck Clemons, Altamonte Springs Rep. Bob Cortes, Orange Park Rep. Travis Cummings, Naples Rep. Bryon Donalds, DeFuniak Springs Rep. Brad Drake, Palm Bay  Rep. Randy Fine, Jacksonville Rep. Jason Fischer, Venice Rep. Julio Gonzalez, Stuart Rep. Gayle Harrell, Spring Hill Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, Winter Haven Rep. Sam Killebrew, St. Cloud Rep. Mike La Rosa, Clearwater Rep. Chris Latvala, Daytona Beach Rep. Tom Leek, Port Richey Rep. Amber Mariano, Beverly Hills Rep. Ralph Massullo, Plant City Rep. Lawrence McClure, St. Petersburg Rep. Kathleen Peters, Sebring Rep. Cary Pigman, Ft. Walton Beach Rep. Mel Ponder, Lake City Rep. Elizabeth Porter, Valrico Rep. Jake Raburn, Palm Coast Rep. Paul Renner, Palm Beach Gardens Rep. Rick Roth, Riverview Rep. Ross Spano, Ocala Rep. Charlie Stone, Royal Palm Beach Rep. Matt Willhite and Pace Rep. Jayer Williamson.

All recognized were Republicans except for Willhite, a Democrat.

Henry Parrish

Henry Parrish has second big fundraising month in HD 51 race

The House District 51 open seat race in Brevard County is heating up as Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish posted his second big month of fundraising since entering the race in February.

Parrish, a Republican, raised $12,012 in March, following up the $21,100 brought in during his debut month; he said it’s reflecting the revival the city of Cocoa is experiencing.

“I’m just getting started. I’m very lucky; I have a lot of supporters,” Parrish said.

With Parrish’s entry, the campaign of Republican Tyler Sirois is finding new energy, too. The $11,140 raised in March is his biggest monthly haul his campaign has brought in since its debut a year ago. Sirois now has raised about $71,000 and has about $55,000 in the bank, while Parrish’s campaign headed into April with about $32,500.

They’re striving to succeed term-limited Republican state Rep. Tom Goodson of Rockledge in the north coast Brevard County district.

Also in that contest, Republican Jeffrey Ramsey of Merritt Island had no campaign finance activity in March, and had raised about $15,000, with about $7,800 in the bank; Republican Thomas O’Neill of Rockledge had no campaign finance activity in March, and has raised $2,290, and had about $800 in the bank; Democrat Michael Blake of Cocoa raised $666 in March, giving him $766 total raised, and about $80 in the bank; and newcomer independent Shain Allen Honkonen has not yet filed any reports.

Parrish’s and Sirois’ March campaign contribution totals were among the largest among Florida House of Representatives’ campaigns in the Central Florida area, not including that of House District 47 Democrat Anna Eskamani of Orlando, who has made a habit of topping House in campaign contributions in the region in most months. Earlier this week, her campaign reported bringing in another $19,234 for March, pushing her total contributions over $203,000 and her cash holdings to $152,000.

Also in the HD 47 race, Republican Mikaela Nix of Orlando raised $8,037 and lent her campaign $2,500. That brings her total haul to about $31,500, leaving her with just under $29,000 in the bank by the start of April. Stockton Reeves of Winter Park brought in $2,950 and lent his campaign another $4,700. That gives him $118,000 raised, including $94,000 he put in, and about $105,000 left in the bank going into April.

HD 47 is likely to be an open seat in north-central Orange County as Republican state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park is running for Congress.

Republican David Smith of Winter Springs again led all Seminole County house candidates as he reported raising $11,494 in March for his run in House District 28 in northeast Seminole. Including $85,000 he has put into his own campaign, Smith has gathered about $189,000 and has about $149,000 left. Democrat Lee Mangold of Casselberry raised just $941 in March. With $10,000 he lent his campaign, he has raised $25,400 and ended March with about $13,200 left.

They’re eying for the seat being vacated by Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur of Sanford.

In another race heating up, Republican state Rep. Bobby Olszewski reported raising $6,000 in March, giving him $43,300 raised and about $35,500 in the bank. Democrat Eddy Dominguez of Orlando reported raising only $1,000, but he also reported receiving $11,000 in in-kind contributions, including staff time. He has reported more than $20,000 in such in-kind support in two months, though his campaign has raised only $3,525 overall, and finished March with only about $1,500 in the bank. Democrat Matthew Matin of Winter Garden reported raising $2,000 in donations. With $1,070 loaned to his campaign, Matin raised $12,200 and had about $9,600 left.

That southwest Orange County race is likely to change now with the entry this month of former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson of Orlando. She has not filed any campaign finance reports.

In three other Florida House of Representatives contests in Central Florida, Democratic challengers sent significant fundraising challenges toward their Republican incumbent opponents, who had been barred from fundraising during the first 11 days of the month due to the Legislative Session.

In the central Brevard County House District 52 race, Democrat Ann Fuller of Melbourne reported raising $8,157, her second $8,000 month since she entered the race in early February against Republican state Rep. Thad Altman of Indialantic. Fuller now has raised $16,677 and ended March with $15,582 in the bank, while Altman did not raise any money in March, and finished the month with a total raised of $25,050, and only $18,803 in the bank.

In the House District 30 race, covering south-central Seminole County and parts of north-central Orange County, Democratic Maitland City Commissioner Joy Goff-Marcil reported raising $7,340. In less than two months she has raised $14,890 and entered April with about $11,560 left. Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes raised $5,760 in March. Yet Cortes already had a comfortably-sizable campaign fund, and now has raised $94,675, with about $77,440 left in the bank. Democrat Clark Anderson of Winter Park reported raising $1,275. With the $10,000 he had previously lent his campaign, he finished March with $12,525 raised and $11,666 in the bank.

In east and south Osceola County’s House District 42, Democrat Barbara Cady of Kissimmee reported raising $5,380 in March. That gives her $26,754 so far, and $16,831 left heading into April. Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa of St. Cloud raised just $60 in March, though, like Cortes, he already had a hefty campaign fund. He has raised $112,467 overall and entered April with $61,282 in the bank.

In four other contested house races in Central Florida, Democratic challengers raised modest or small amounts of campaign money for campaign fund totals still under $10,000, while House District 29 Republican State Rep. Scott Plakon of Altamonte Springs; Republican House District 31 state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan of Mount Dora; Republican House District 50 state Rep. Rene Plasencia of Orlando; and Republican House District 53 state Rep. Randy Fine of Palm Bay also raised little money in March, most of them held comfortably-large campaign fund balances.

Raising little money in March were unopposed Democratic state Reps. John Cortes of Kissimmee in House District 43; Kamia Brown of Ocoee in House District 45; Bruce Antone of Orlando in House District 46; Amy Mercado of Orlando in House District 48; and Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando in House District 49. Each entered April with modest campaign funds of less than $50,000 apiece.

Honor roll: State legislators receive high marks from Florida Chamber

The grades are in, and from the perspective of those pushing for a more fertile business climate in the Sunshine State, the Legislature is getting better — but there’s still work to be done.

Each year the Florida Chamber grades state legislators after tabulating votes on measures backed by the pro-business group. The 2018 Legislative Report Card, released Thursday, showed significant improvement from the 2017 Session.

Forty-seven percent of legislators earned an A — that’s up from a mere 9 percent in 2017. The average GPA for both chambers came in at 78 percent, up from last year’s 73 percent.

The House performed better than the Senate; 64 representatives earned an A and the chamber’s GPA came to 79 percent, compared to eight A-earning senators and an average GPA of 74 percent for the upper chamber. House Speaker Richard Corcoran earned an A. Senate President Joe Negron earned a C.

A news release from the Chamber attributed the higher overall scores to “cutting red tape, chipping away at Florida-only taxes, funding for economic development, tourism marketing and infrastructure investments, and targeted education reforms.”

Unresolved matters, the Chamber contends, include reforming assignment of benefits and lawsuit abuses, stabilizing workers’ compensation and increasing investments in Florida’s workforce colleges.

“While there is always room for improvement and more work to be done, this legislative session’s grades showed many legislators took steps in the right direction on several policy fronts and voted to prevent harmful ideas from becoming law. We look forward to a session when every legislator earns an ‘A’ and Florida’s competitiveness outranks every other state,” said David Hart, executive vice president of the Chamber. 

The grades shouldn’t come as a surprise to lawmakers. The Chamber released its legislative priorities ahead of the 2018 Session and hand-delivered its agenda to every legislator. The group alerted lawmakers prior to each time it intended to factor a vote into its report card. In total, the Chamber scored 2,900 votes.

Along with the report card, the chamber announced its Distinguished Advocate award winners. The recognition is reserved for a handful of legislators who fought tirelessly for the passage of pro-business legislation – no matter how difficult – and furthered the Florida Chamber’s goals of securing Florida’s future through job creation and economic development,” according to the Chamber. 

Fifteen lawmakers received the distinction this year. Most were recognized for their pro-business efforts. St. Petersburg Rep. Ben Diamond, the lone Democrat on the list, was honored for championing a lawsuit-limiting amendment. Incoming chamber leaders, Republicans Rep. Jose Oliva and Sen. Bill Galvanowere recognized for their roles in championing school safety measures in the wake of the Parkland tragedy.

“We’re pleased to recognize members of the Florida Legislature with Distinguished Advocate awards who had the courage to put free enterprise principles for job creation above special interest,” said Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson.

Other honorees include:

– Rep. Manny Diaz

– Rep. Joe Gruters

– Rep. Clay Ingram

– Rep. Mike La Rosa

– Rep. Scott Plakon

– Rep. Holly Raschein

– Rep. Paul Renner

– Rep. Jay Trumbull

– Sen. Dennis Baxley

– Sen. David Simmons

– Sen. Wilton Simpson

– Sen. Kelli Stargel

Jennifer Frankenstein-Harris: Fight to protect property rights far from over

In the final weeks of the 2018 Legislative Session, immense tragedy struck a quiet community right here in our state. Our elected officials rightfully focused their remaining time and energy on ensuring school safety and addressing mental health issues in the wake of the Parkland school shooting.

While legislators appropriately turned their attention to addressing these priorities, their bandwidth to tackle other issues was understandably reduced. Though legislation to create statewide standards for vacation rentals did pass committees in both the Florida House and Senate, ultimately time ran out and Senate Bill 1400 and House Bill 773 did not make it across the finish line this Session.

Some special interests are promoting this as a win—I challenge that narrative. Continuing to trample the private property rights of Floridians seems, to me, like anything but a victory.

The truth is, it is far too early for anyone to declare success just yet—we are only in the midst of this discussion. As president, I personally guarantee the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association (FL VRMA) will continue to bring forth education and a fierce determination to fight for the rights of property owners across the state of Florida.

I assure you this fight is far from over.

This year’s legislative session was, in reality, filled with small victories that added up to big gains for our cause. With each public discussion, the tide seems to be turning, we find we have more support than some may have expected, and important issues and hypocrisies are being brought to light.

These successes would not have been possible without the relentless work of Senator Greg Steube and Representative Mike La Rosa. We are so grateful for their faithfulness and continued determination to bring this matter to the forefront and promote bills that defend and protect the basic right of every Floridian to own and use their property to prosper.

I am confident we are getting close to our goal of reasonable vacation rental rules that are immune to the whims of unfriendly local ordinances. FL VRMA is working diligently with our partners and allies, including Airbnb and HomeAway, to ensure elected officials are educated and private property rights are protected, and we will continue to do so.

Property ownership is the American dream and should not be shattered by unfriendly local representatives and arbitrary barriers that make vacation rentals difficult or in some cases impossible.

Jennifer Frankenstein-Harris is president of the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association.

Two Democratic newcomers make up cash ground in Central Florida House races

While state lawmakers have been away in Session unable to raise campaign money, a handful of Central Florida challengers – mainly women first-time-candidate Democrats – played a little catch-up on fundraising in February, led by Ann Fuller, who reported raising $8,520 in her first month of a House District 52 campaign, and  Joy Goff-Marcil, who reported raising $7,500 in just two weeks in her new bid for House District 30.

Fuller, of Melbourne, is taking on Republican state Rep. Thad Altman for the central Brevard County HD 52 seat. In her first month she reported receiving more than 50 donations totaling $8,520, and she finished the month with about $7,800 in the bank.

Altman of Indialantic, who, like all other sitting lawmakers, was barred from fundraising during the Florida Legislative Session, came out of February with just under $19,000 in campaign cash.

There also is a Republican challenger in the race. Matt Nye of Melbourne reported raising $1,095 in February and finished the month with about $4,400 in the bank.

Meanwhile, in HD 30 covering south-central Seminole County and north-central Orange County, Goff-Marcil, a member of the Maitland City Commission, entered the race Feb. 16 and picked up $7,550 in cash plus another $3,000 in in-kind professional campaign services in the final 13 days of February. She finished the month with all $7,550 in cash left.

She’s seeking to take on Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs. Cortes’s campaign spent some money in February and finished the month with about $77,700 in the bank.

Also in that race is another Democrat, Clark Anderson of Winter Park, who did not raise any money in February and, in fact, had to return a $1,000 donation improperly logged from his wife in January. [The contribution put her over the $1,000 limit from one person.] Anderson finished February with about $11,000 in cash, $10,000 of that coming in a personal loan he earlier had made to his campaign.

Throughout Central Florida, the biggest cash haul for the month was taken by Democrat newcomer Anna Eskamani of Winter Park, who reported raising $15,816 in February, plus receiving another $1,743 in donated campaign services. She is running for an open seat for House District 47 in central Orange County, as Republican incumbent state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park is running for Congress. She finished the month with about $138,000 in cash.

Also in that race, Republican Stockton Reeves VI reported raising $9,400 in February, and finishing the month with $100,000 in the bank, thanks largely to a $90,000 personal loan he made at the start of his campaign. Another Republican, Mikaela Nix‘s February campaign finance filings have not yet been posted by the Florida Secretary of State. She entered the race in late January.

In another race for an open seat, Republican David Smith, a Winter Springs businessman, reported raising $4,046 in February and donating another $5,000 to his campaign for the House District 28 seat representing northeast Seminole County. Republican incumbent state Rep. Jason Brodeur of Sanford is not seeking re-election. Smith, who now has lent his campaign $85,000, finished the month of February with about $143,000 in the campaign account.

Democratic candidate Lee Mangold of Casselberry reported raising $2,483 for his HD 28 campaign. He earlier lent his campaign $10,000, and he entered March with just under $13,000 available.

Continuing the theme of Democratic women newcomers having decent months in February, Barbara Cady kept the heat on some in her bid to take on Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa in House District 42 in east and south Osceola County. Cady, of Kissimmee, reported raising $5,515 in February, her second-straight month of at least $5,000. She finished the month with about $10,500 in cash. Another Republican, Bienvenido Valentin Jr., reported raising $525 and spending just about all of it, finishing the month with about $90 in cash.

La Rosa entered March with about $66,000 in cash.

In House District 44, in southwest Orange County, Matthew Matin Winter Garden is beginning to make a statement as a Democrat to be reckoned with, raising $5,195 in February and lending his campaign another $550. He finished February with about $6,400 in the bank.

Democrat Eddy Dominguez, who ran for the Democrats in the HD 44 special election in October and just entered the 2018 race in January, had drawn significant in-kind support in his first month, but his February campaign finance reports have not yet been posted. A third Democrat, Dawn Antonis of Winter Garden, withdrew in late February.

HD 44 incumbent state Rep. Bobby Olszewski‘s February numbers also have not yet been posted. He finished January with about $30,000 in the bank.

In the House District 53 race in south Brevard County, Democratic challenger Phil Moore of West Melbourne reported raising $3,652 in his bid to unseat Republican state Rep. Randy Fine of Palm Bay. Moore’s two-month-old campaign entered March with about $3,945 in cash. Fine entered March with about $77,000 in his campaign account.

In the House District 50 race, Democrat Pamela Joy Dirschka reported raising $1,608, her first four-digit month, and finished with about $2,500 in the bank. Republican U.S. Rep Rene Plasencia of Orlando went into March with about $59,000 in cash, seeking re-election in a district stretching from east Orange County into north Brevard County.

In House District 29 in southwest Seminole County, Democratic challenger Darryl Block of Lake Mary reported raising $1,386 in his bid to take on Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon. Block finished the month, his second in the campaign, with about $3,100 in the bank. A second Democrat in the race, Patrick Brandt of Longwood, reported no campaign finance activity for the second consecutive month. He has about $1,325 in his account. Plakon went into March with about $54,000 in cash.

And in House District 31 in northwest Orange and east Lake County, Democratic challenger Debra Kaplan of Eustis reported raising $310 in February, and her campaign finished the month with about $4,100 in the bank. She’s taking on Republican state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan of Mount Dora, who finished February with about $25,000 in her campaign fund.

Snake eyes: Gambling bill dies for 2018

The Florida Legislature’s last best chance to pass comprehensive legislation on gambling came up a bad beat on Friday, with a conference committee calling it quits.

Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran released a joint statement Friday night.

“Despite the good faith efforts of both the House and Senate, a gaming bill will not pass the Legislature this session,” they said.

That means the status quo abides, and no renewed deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida that would have guaranteed $3 billion into state coffers over seven years. Tribe spokesman Gary Bitner declined comment.

It’s not clear when lawmakers will get another shot: A proposed “voter control of gambling” constitutional amendment will be on November’s ballot. If that’s approved by 60 percent, it would give statewide voters sole power to approve future expansions of gambling in Florida.

“We appreciate the tireless efforts of Chair (Travis) Hutson and Chair (Mike) La Rosa, as well as the many members of the House and Senate, and the professional staff, who worked diligently during these final days and hours of session,” the two legislative leaders said.

Sen. Hutson, a St. Augustine Republican, and Rep. La Rosa, a St. Cloud Republican, led their respective Senate and House contingents in the Conference Committee on Gaming.

“Gaming remains one of the most difficult issues we face as a Legislature,” Negron and Corcoran said. “We are pleased with the progress made over the last week and know that our colleagues will continue to work on this important issue.”

The House had made the last offer: Five new “limited gaming” licenses for either 500 slot machines or the ability to offer a certain type of card game—but not both.

Those licenses would be for any of the eight counties that approved slot machines through a local referendum: Brevard, Duval, Gadsden, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Washington.

“We were going to get creative, think outside the box,” La Rosa told reporters earlier Friday, explaining the offer.

It was too creative, however, for Negron. He’s long pushed to expand slots to referendum counties, including St. Lucie, which he represents.

As a gaming industry source privately explained: “The House offer was too cute. Joe (Negron) wasn’t having it. He was willing to extend gaming conference over the weekend, but the last House offer killed it. So we’re done.”

Negron put it a little differently late Friday as regards the slots referendum counties.

“When we got to the details of what would be required to take advantage of those slots, it was just a bridge too far,” he said. “I think we just ran out of time … The positions ultimately weren’t reconcilable.”

The House also was intransigent on designated player games, a hybrid of poker and blackjack that’s proved lucrative to pari-mutuel cardrooms, being banned everywhere else.

Saved by the collapse of talks are pre-reveal machines, video games that look and play like slot machines that the House sought to explicitly outlaw.

Supporters say they’re for entertainment only, though they do pay out winning plays. Opponents, including the Tribe, say they’re illegal and violate its exclusive rights to offer slots outside South Florida.

A Tallahassee judge’s ruling that they constitute illegal gambling is on appeal.

The Tribe pays between $200 million and $300 million a year into state coffers as part of a deal that guarantees it exclusivity to offer certain games, particularly blackjack.

Though the Tribe and the state settled a lawsuit over blackjack, allowing them to offer the game till 2030, the Tribe’s ongoing payments to the state are contingent on state gambling regulators promising “aggressive enforcement” against games that threaten their exclusivity.

That has included pre-reveal, some kinds of designated player games, and even fantasy sports.

The sides are now in a “forbearance period” that ends March 31. But most gambling industry insiders don’t believe the Tribe would ever stop paying.

“That would just give the Legislature the excuse they need to finally do a deal with the pari-mutuels that would pass,” said one person, who asked not to be named.

The various offers from Friday are below.

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cardrooms

House strikes back on gambling: Five ‘limited gaming’ licenses

The House’s turn to deal in talks toward an omnibus gambling bill produced an proposal for five new “limited gaming” licenses for either 500 slots or designated player games—but not both.

And designated player games, a hybrid of poker and blackjack that’s proved lucrative to pari-mutuel cardrooms, would be banned everywhere else. And no new pari-mutuel, cardroom or slots licenses could be issued in the state.

The latest offer came at the Conference Committee on Gaming‘s second meeting on Friday.

“Our goal is to contract gaming as much as possible,” Rep. Mike La Rosa said after the meeting. “You can have slot machines or you can have designated player games.”

Earlier, the Senate came to the table with a plan for six new slots licenses, upping the House’s open of three new slots licenses.

The House’s caveats were that the licenses go outside Miami-Dade and Broward counties to any of the eight counties that approved slot machines through a local referendum: Brevard, Duval, Gadsden, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Washington.

The House returned to its insistence that counties ratify their vote in a second slots referendum after this July 1, and that license  applicants “relinquish” five or more pari-mutuel permits. It added a $1 million non-refundable application fee.

The House contingent also insisted on an earlier provision that any new facility be at least 100 miles away from the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, and at least 20 miles away from any other Seminole casino, including the one in Hollywood.

To renew a proposed limited gaming licenses, a pari-mutuel has to pony up $40 million in taxes and fees after one year.

In other provisions, the eight existing slots casinos in South Florida would have to reduce slot machines to 1,500 from 2,000.

The House would outlaw pre-reveal machines, video games that look and play like slot machines.

“This is not the type of gaming we want to allow,” said La Rosa, a St. Cloud Republican. “Slot machines are illegal unless we authorize them. We don’t see these as any different.”

Supporters say they’re for entertainment only, though they do pay out winning plays. Opponents, including the Seminole Tribe of Florida, say they’re illegal and violate their exclusive rights to offer slots outside South Florida.

A Tallahassee judge’s ruling that they constitute illegal gambling is on appeal.

“We try to include them,” La Rosa said of the Tribe. “We are thinking about them … Right now, we need to figure this out with the Senate.”

“The jet’s not in the air,” added Travis Hutson, La Rosa’s Senate counterpart, referring to the Seminoles’ method of travel to Tallahassee.

A pending deal with the Tribe would renew their exclusive rights to offer blackjack in the state and slots outside South Florida in exchange for $3 billion over seven years. The Senate wanted a 22-year deal; the House was at 20 years.

A next meeting conference committee meeting was not immediately set.

“I think the ball’s in our court,” said Hutson, a St. Augustine Republican. “We’ll take a look at this, seriously consider it, see what we want to do, if it’s something we want to move forward with.”

The various offers are below.

 

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