Mike La Rosa Archives - Florida Politics

Lawmakers want to toss ‘patchwork’ of local vacation rental regulations

Two measures that would preempt local regulations on vacation rentals featured on sites like Airbnb are facing backlash from the bed and breakfast industry which claims short-term rentals are a “serious risk” to tourists.

“We urge our lawmakers not to put Florida’s world-class lodging reputation at risk for illegal commercial operators,” said Carol Dover, the president of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association.

Despite the criticism, dozens of sign-wielding vacation rental advocates gathered at the state Capitol on Tuesday campaigning for the bills, which would preempt a myriad of local rules on vacation rentals that have been set throughout the state.

Sen. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, is fighting for legislation that failed last year that would expand the state licensing system to include vacation rentals. Steube says it’s a “private property rights issue,” but critics call it “Big Government overreach.”

“Just like hotels and motels are regulated at the state level, so you don’t have all this piece meal regulation throughout all the cities and counties, it’s the same reason why we want to do this for vacation rentals,” Steube said.

Steube sponsored similar legislation that passed the House last year, but didn’t get a final vote in the Senate. Republican State Rep. Mike La Rosa is also pushing the measure again this year.

Currently cities and counties have the power to place their own rules. In some areas, homeowners are not allowed to rent their homes for less than 6 months at a time. Others allow renting for a monthly and weekly rentals. And in beachfront communities like Miami-Dade, fines in the tens of thousands of dollars are levied against renters on Miami Beach.

The issue is also heated in Sarasota, a beach community dotted with resorts, which is Steube’s hometown.

While those who oppose it say weekly and nightly rental impact their quality of life, the latest numbers released by Airbnb show there is a great economic impact that comes with vacation rentals.

The online hospitality giant said that in 2017, approximately 40,000 Florida hosts earned a combined $450 million and welcomed 2.7 million guests, boosting tourism numbers and taxes to local communities.

Airbnb is clearly in support of the measures, saying the policy change would add more protections for homeowners using the platform.

“It’s protection for them, so they don’t have to worry about these increasingly creative attempts to get around the state law, which is what we are seeing,” Ben Breit, a company spokesman said.

David Santiago raises $30K for HD 27 campaign, leading all Central Florida candidates

With two big fundraising dates in December, Republican state Rep. David Santiago of Deltona raised $30,000 in December, leading all house candidates throughout Central Florida, according to the latest campaign finance reports posted by the state.

Santiago, of House District 27 serving western and southern Volusia County, had his third month in a row of at least $10,000 raised, and finished December with a total of $104,845 raised, and about $72,000 in the bank.

Santiago’s December haul was highlighted by 26 $1,000 checks that came in on either Dec. 7 or Dec. 28, none of which came from within his district.

That’s without a significant opponent. Democrat Tyran Basil of Deltona filed to run against Santiago last April, but as with most months, in December he reported no campaign finance activity. He finished the year with about $600 in the bank.

The one district in Central Florida that saw both an incumbent and a challenger have competitively solid fundraising months in December was in House District 42, covering southern and eastern Osceola and southern Polk counties. Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa of St. Cloud reported raising $12,750, the second-highest December haul of any incumbent in Central Florida after Santiago. Meanwhile, Democrat Barbara Cady of Kissimmee reported raising $8,106, the highest haul of any challenger in Central Florida.

La Rosa has now raised $88,907, and finished 2017 with just over $50,000 in the bank. Cady’s December was her first serious fundraising month. She now has brought in about $10,400, and finished the year with about $6,400 in the bank.

In other Florida House races set in Central Florida:

– Republican David Smith of Winter Springs raised $4,898 and Democrat Lee Mangold of Casselberry raised $900 in the House District 28 contest. Smith finished the year with $115,000 in the bank, while Mangold entered 2018 with $11,000 in cash.

– Republican incumbent state Rep. Scott Plakon of Longwood raised $6,850 and Democratic challenger Patrick Brandt of Longwood reported raising only $25 in House District 29. Plakon entered 2018 with about $44,000 in cash, while Brandt had about $1,100.

– Republican incumbent state Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs reported raising $6,800 in December and finishing the year with almost $68,000 in the bank while seeking re-election in House District 30. Democrat Clark Anderson of Winter Park has not reported any campaign finance activity yet.

– Republican incumbent state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan of Mount Dora reported raising $5,500 in December and entering 2018 with about $17,000 in the bank while seeking re-election in House District 31. Challenger Debra Kaplan of Eustis reported raising $1,365 in December and entering 2018 with about $4,000 in the bank.

– Democratic incumbent state Rep. John Cortes, who has no competition yet in House District 43, reported raising $3,745 in December and entered 2018 with about $21,000 in cash.

– Republican incumbent state Rep. Bobby Olszewski of Winter Garden reported raising $5,550 in December, giving him about $19,000 toward his re-election campaign for House District 44. He has three Democratic challengers. Matthew Matin of Winter Garden reported raising his first $1,515 in December, and has it all left heading into 2018. Dawn Antonis of Winter Garden reported no campaign finance activity and entered 2018 with $1,355. Eddy Dominguez has not yet reported any campaign finance activity.

– Democratic incumbent state Rep. Kamia Brown of Ocoee reported raising $6,000 in December and finishing the year with $10,300, with no challenge yet in her re-election bid in House District 45.

– Democratic state Rep. Rep. Bruce Antone of Ocoee has no opponent yet in his re-election bid in House District 46. He reported no financial activity in December and entered the new year with about $9,700 in the bank.

– Democrat Anna Eskamani of Orlando reported raising $11,570 in her bid to flip the likely open seat in House District 47. She finished the year with about $115,000 in cash. In his bid to keep the seat in Republican hands, Stockton Reeves of Winter Park reported raising just $250 in December, and entered 2018 with about $90,000.

– Republican incumbent state Rep. Rene Plasencia of Orlando reported raising $8,000 in December, allowing him to enter 2018 with about $62,000 in the bank for his re-election campaign in House District 50. Democratic challenger Pamela Dirschka of Titusville raised her first $683, and spent none of it.

– In the contest for the open seat in House District 51 in central Brevard County, three Republicans each reported modest months, while Democratic newcomer Michael Blake of Cocoa jumpstarted his new campaign with a $2,100 loan. Republican Tyler Sirois of Merit Island reported bringing in just $150 in December, but enters 2018 with almost $37,000 in the bank. Jeffrey Ramsey of Merritt Island reported raising just $1,000 in December, giving him about $17,600 in his campaign. Thomas O’Neill of Rockledge reported no campaign finance activity in December, and entered 2018 with about $6,300 in the bank.

– In House District 52 in eastern Brevard County, Republican state Rep. Thad Altman of Indalantic reported raising $4,000 in December, and finished the year with about $17,000 in the bank for his re-election bid. Republican challenger Matt Nye of of Melbourne report draining $1,950 in December and entered 2018 with $3,400.

– In House District 53 in southern Brevard County, Republican state Rep. Randy Fine of Palm Bay reported raising $4,650 in December, finishing the month with about $81,000 in the bank. His opponent Democrat Phil Moore has not reported any campaign finance activity yet.

Bobby Olszewski, Rene Plasencia, Anna Eskamani, lead Central Florida House campaign gains

Five Central Florida candidates for the Florida House each raised more than $10,000 for their campaigns in November, including incumbent Republican state Reps. Bobby Olszewski, Rene Plasencia, David Santiago, and Bob Cortes along with first-time Democratic candidate Anna Eskamani.

Olszewski of Winter Garden, who took his seat after winning a special election in October, reported raising $14,000 in November — top among Central Florida candidates for the Florida House. That gave his re-election campaign about $17,000 after expenses going into December.

He has two Democratic opponents, neither of whom reported raising any money in November. Dawn Antonis of Winter Garden began and ended November with $1,355 cash in her campaign. Matthew Matin of Winter Garden has not yet reported any campaign financial activity.

Not far behind Olszewski in fundraising for November, Plasencia of Orlando brought in $13,500 for his re-election campaign in House District 50; Eskamani of Orlando raised $13,114 in her bid for House District 47; Santiago of Deltona, $13,100 for his re-election push in House District 27; and Cortes of Altamonte Springs, $11,125 in his re-election bid in House District 30.

Plasencia finished November with just over $61,000 in his campaign fund.

He also picked up an opponent, Pamela Joy Dirschka, 63, of Titusville, who filed to run on Dec. 8, and has not filed any campaign finance reports yet.

Eskamani finished the month with more than $110,000 in cash. She faces Republican businessman Stockton Reeves of Winter Park, seeking a seat expected to be open as Republican incumbent state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park is running for Congress.

Reeves reported raising $200 in November. He entered December with about $91,000 cash in hand, though almost all of that came from a personal loan.

Santiago finished November with almost $46,000 in the bank. His opponent, Democrat Tyran Basil did not report any financial activity in November and finished the month with $1,591 in hand.

Cortes finished November with $61,000 cash in his campaign account. His challenger, Democrat Clark Anderson of Winter Park, just entered the race in the last days of November and has not yet filed any campaign finance activity.

In other raises, Republican David Smith of Winter Springs reported raising $8,907 in November in the House District 28 race. He finished November with more than $139,000 in the bank. Democrat Lee Mangold of Casselberry reported raising $1,972. He finished November with about $7,300 in his campaign. They’re both seeking to replace Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur.

Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon of Longwood reported raising $1,000, giving him about $38,500 in his re-election campaign in House District 29. His opponent Democrat Patrick Brandt of Longwood reported raising $150, finishing the month with $1,300 in hand.

In House District 31, Republican state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan reported raising $7,800 in November, and entered December with just over $18,000 in her campaign. Democratic challenger Debra Kaplan of Eustis reported raising $165, finishing the month with $4,300 in her campaign.

In House District 42, Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa of St. Cloud reported raising $6,725, and entered December with about $42,100 for his reelection campaign. Democratic challenger Barbara Cady of Kissimmee reported raising $335, and finished November with about $3,900. Independent challenger Lonzell Ivory of Poinciana raised the first $200 for his campaign, and finished the month with that in the bank.

In House District 43, Democratic state Rep. John Cortes did not report raising any money in November, and finished the month with about $18,000 in his re-election campaign. He does not have an opponent.

In House District 45, Democratic state Rep. Kamia Brown of Ocoee did not raise any money in November and entered December with $10,350. She does not have an opponent.

In House District 46, Democratic state Rep. Bruce Antone of Ocoee did not report raising any money in November, and entered December with about $700 cash in his campaign. He does not have an opponent.

In House District 48, Democratic state Rep. Amy Mercado of Orlando reported raising $2,050, and finished November with about $17,600. She does not have an opponent.

In House District 49, Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando reported raising $2,110, and finished November with about $7,700. His opponent, Republican Pepito Aponte of Orlando, did not report any financial activity in November and entered December with $100 in his campaign.

In House District 51, three Republicans seeking to succeed outgoing Republican state Rep. Tom Goodson all had minimal campaign finance activity in November, and a Democrat entered the race in early December. Thomas O’Neill of Rockledge reported raising just $100, finishing the month with $5,900. Jeffrey Ramsey of Merritt Island did not raise any money in November, and finished the month with $15,700. Tyler Sirois of Merritt Island reported raising $150, and finished the month with $37,800.

New to the race is Michael Cavis Blake of Cocoa.

In House District 52, Republican state Rep. Thad Altman of Indialantic reported raising $1,500 and finishing the month with about $13,000. Republican challenger Matt Nye of Melbourne reported raising $2,535 in November, and entered December with $1,700.

In House District 53, Republican state Rep. Randy Fine of Palm Bay report raising $4,000. His re-election campaign entered December with about $65,000.

Seminole Tribe fires warning letter to Legislature over fantasy sports

The Seminole Tribe of Florida‘s top in-house lawyer told lawmakers this week that their fantasy sports bills are a dealbreaker.

A $200 million dealbreaker.

The Tribe now says fantasy sports bills filed for the 2018 Legislative Session, if passed, would violate the Seminole Compact. That’s the gambling agreement struck by the state and the Seminoles that, among other things, promises them exclusive rights to certain games. In return, the Tribe pays the state hundreds of millions per year.

Break that deal, the Tribe says, and it’s entitled to pay not one more dime. Around 3 million Floridians say they play some sort of fantasy sports.

Jim Shore, the Tribe’s general counsel, sent a warning letter dated Tuesday to Sen. Travis Hutson, a St. Augustine Republican, and Rep. Mike La Rosa, a St. Cloud Republican. Hutson chairs the Senate’s Regulated Industries Committee, which oversees gambling issues; La Rosa chairs the House’s Tourism & Gaming Control Subcommittee.

While Tribal leaders “remain willing” to talk about the legislation, Shore said any violation of their exclusivity deal “would allow the Tribe to cease all revenue sharing payments to the State.” That amounts to over $200 million yearly.

But that’s only if the state “expands” gambling. Fantasy sports fans have long argued their hobby – such as played on websites like FanDuel and DraftKings – is a game of skill and not of chance, and thus shouldn’t be considered gambling.

A bill (HB 223) by Republican Rep. Jason Brodeur of Sanford would exempt fantasy sports play from state gambling regulation. Another bill (SB 374) by GOP Sen. Dana Young of Tampa would do the same.

Past measures in the Legislature would have gone further by explicitly declaring that fantasy play is not gambling.

Hutson’s own omnibus gambling bill for 2018 (SB 840) includes a section on fantasy sports, defining it as being driven by player performance rather than team performance, and as long as someone isn’t “commissioner” of more than ten leagues, he is exempt from regulation.

A proposed omnibus gambling bill failed this past session, getting caught up in a late-session meltdown over a renewed blackjack agreement with the Seminoles and related measures that would have expanded gambling in the state.

Requests for comment on the letter are pending with lawmakers.

Jacksonville correspondent A.G. Gancarski contributed to this report. 

BOOZE BILL

Drinking, advertising—and ‘extortion’? Beer bill back for 2018

Legislation that critics said would allow theme parks to “extort” advertising dollars from beer companies has been re-filed for the 2018 Legislative Session.

The bills (HB 775, SB 822), filed by Republicans Rep. Mike La Rosa of St. Cloud and Sen. Travis Hutson of Elkton, generally would allow “cooperative” advertising in theme parks.

Hutson, chair of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, sponsored the language in the previous Session. At the time, he said Florida would be the fifth state to allow beer ads in theme parks if the measures passed. He didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Both bills now include this language: “Within 10 days after the execution of such agreement, the vendor files with the (state) a description of the agreement which includes the location, dates, and the name of the manufacturer or importer that entered into the agreement.”

Last year’s measures grew contentious, however, when beer industry representatives started privately complaining of fears they’d be “extorted by the theme parks.”

Lobbyists for MillerCoors; the Beer Industry of Florida, the association of Florida’s MillerCoors distributors; and the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association, which represents Anheuser-Busch distributors; all opposed it in various committee hearings.

“We are opposed to continued alcohol deregulation and we believe the tide of public opinion is shifting toward a more conservative approach,” said Eric Criss, president of the Beer Industry of Florida, in an email last week.

The legislation, by allowing ads, could include a beer company sponsoring a concert or festival within a park.

“We kind of see a situation where (the parks) say, ‘We do such-and-such theme night, but now we’d like you to pay’ ” to sponsor it, said one person, who asked not to be named, earlier this year. “… We all feel like we’ll be put over a barrel.”

Another person who works in the state’s craft beer industry raised a concern that “the biggest players will come in and write the biggest checks.”

“So when you sit down in a park to order a beer, you’ll look up, see the signage, point to it and tell your waiter, ‘I guess I’ll just have one of those.’ ”

David Santiago leads all Central Florida House candidates in October fundraising

Note: a previous version of this story inaccurately reported the campaign finances of Lee Mangold, Democrat running in House District 29 in northern Seminole County.

Republican State Rep. David Santiago led all Central Florida candidates for the Florida House of Representatives in October fundraising drawing in $21,000 for his re-election bid in Florida’s House District 27 in Volusia County.

Santiago, of Deltona was one of five candidates region-wide who were able to attract at least $10,000, along with two other Republican incumbents, state Reps. Randy Fine of Palm Bay, and Mike La Rosa of St. Cloud; Republican hopeful Tyler Sirois of Merritt Island; and Democratic hopeful Anna Eskamani of Orlando.

The trio of Republican incumbents with five-figure October hauls got virtually all of their campaign donations in October from political action committees, lobbyists, and corporations, almost all of it coming in $500 or $1,000 checks, a common occurrence across all incumbents’ campaign finance reports for October.

Santiago raised all $21,000 of his October bounty from PACs, corporations, or lobbyists. Fine, who is unopposed, raised $20,500 in the month for his re-election bid in House District 53 in Brevard County, all of it in checks of $500 or $1,000 from PACs, lobbyists or corporations. La Rosa, $13,515 in his re-election quest for House District 42 in Osceola County, including $515 that came from individuals.

By contrast, Eskamani raised $16.892 through 221 donations from individuals. Sirois also raised much of his October revenue of $10,130 from individuals, though his 36 contributions included some from a couple of local car dealerships, a gun store, and a gambling interest.

Eskamani’s quest to succeed Republican incumbent state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park continues to be the region’s hottest race. She now has raised $126,267, and spent about $25,000 of that. Her opponent Republican Stockton Reeves, a Winter Park businessman, reported raising $1,300 in the month. Including a $90,000 loan he made to open his campaign, Reeve’s campaign has about $93,000 in cash, not far behind Eskamani’s war chest total.

In HD 27, Santiago’s opponent, Democrat Tyran Basil of Deltona, reported raising $125 in October, giving him about $1,591 in total funds raised, and about $650 in the bank.

In House District 28, for a Seminole County seat being vacated by Republican incumbent state Rep. Jason Brodeur, Republican David Smith of Winter Springs continues to have the most dominant position in fundraising. He reported raising just $1,406 in October, but finished the month with about $113,000 in the bank. Fellow Republican Chris Anderson of Lake Mary reported raising no money in October, and finished with about $7,700 in the bank. Democrat Lee Mangold of Casselberry raised just $120. That left him with nearly $10,000 in the bank.

In House District 29, Republican incumbent state Rep. Scott Plakon of Longwood reported raising $8,000 in October, all through PACs, corporations, and lobbyists, giving him about $37,500 in the bank. October reports have not yet been posted for his Democratic opponent, Patrick Brandt of Longwood. Brandt started October with about $100 in the bank.

In House District 30, Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs, who is unopposed, picked up $9,000 in October, all of it from PACs, corporations, and lobbyists. He finished the month with about $53,500 in the bank.

In House District 31, Republican incumbent state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan of Mount Dora reported raising $500 in October, giving her about $15,700 in the bank. October reports have not yet been posted for her Democratic opponent Debra Kaplan of Eustis, who had finished September with about $1,700 in the bank.

In HD 42, La Rosa has now raised $69,432 and spent $30,018, giving him $39,416 in the bank. October reports have not yet been filed on his opponent Barbara Cady of Kissimmee, who had finished September with about $3,500 in cash.

In House District 43, Democratic incumbent state Rep. John Cortes of Kissimmee, who is unopposed, raised $2,500, all from unions and corporations, giving him $19,000 in-hand.

In House District 44, newly-sworn-in Republican incumbent state Rep. Bobby Olszewski of Winter Garden reported raising $6,200 in his first two weeks of a re-election campaign, which included $5,000 from various Walt Disney Co. companies. Democratic challenger Dawn Antonis‘s October reports were not yet posted Monday morning. She had finished September with $1,355. Democratic challenger Matt Matin just entered the race, and reported no financial activity yet.

In House District 45, Democratic incumbent state Rep. Kamia Brown of Ocoee, who is unopposed, reported raising $2,500 all from PACs and corporations, giving her $10,350. In neighboring House District 46, reports had not yet been posted for Democratic incumbent state Rep. Bruce Antone of Ocoee, who also is unopposed. In House District 48, Democratic incumbent state Rep. Amy Mercado, also unopposed, reported raising $3,500 in October, all from unions and corporations. She finished the month with $23,843 total raised, and about $16,000 in the bank.

In House District 49 Democratic incumbent state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith now has an opponent, Jose “Pepito” Aponte, an Orlando Republican. Smith raised $5,300 in October, with $3,000 of that coming from PACs and unions. He finished the month with about $5,800 in the bank. Aponte has not yet reported any campaign finance activity.

In House District 50, Republican incumbent state Rep. Rene Plasencia, now unopposed since his former opponent dropped out last month, collected $5,500 in October, all from PACs and corporations, giving him $76,200 raised so far, and more than $50,000 in the bank.

In HD 51, Sirois’s big October puts him solidly ahead of two Republican primary candidates who had mostly kept up with him in the money chase until recently. Sirois now has raised $56,650 and finished October with about $39,000 in the bank. Republican Thomas O’Neill of Rockledge raised no money in October and finished the moth with about $5,800. Republican Jeffrey Ramsey of Merritt Island raised $500 in October, leaving him with about $17,400 in the bank.

In House District 52, Republican incumbent state Rep. Thad Altman of Indialantic reported raising $4,500 in the month, most of it from PACs and lobbyists, giving him about $12,400 in the bank. Republican Matt Nye of Melbourne reported raising $550, giving him $508 in the bank.

Bobby Olszewski HD 44 fundraiser packed with Republican leaders

The Republican primary for House District 44 may have deeply split support from top Republicans but now that Bobby Olszewski has won he’s bringing much of that together behind his special election campaign.

Olszewski’s campaign announced a fundraiser set for the evening of Aug. 30 that will feature the current speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, the next three most-likley speakers, several past speakers, plus scores of other Republican leaders, including quite a few who had supported Olszewski’s opponents in last week’s primary.

The fundraiser is set for the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, with contributions of up to $1,000 per person.

Olszewski won the Aug. 15 Republican primary and now faces Democrat Paul Chandler in an Oct. 10 special election to fill the vacant seat representing southwest Orange County.

Among those set to attend the fundraiser are Florida Speaker Richard Corcoran and speaker designates Jose Oliva, Chris Sprowls, and Paul Renner, along with special guest U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster, a longtime Olszewski supporter who also is a former speaker of the Florida House. Other past Florida House speakers Steve Crisafulli, Tom Feeney, Mike Haridopolos, and Will Weatherford also are among the named guests.

The supporters listed for the fundraiser also include Bruno Portigliatti and Usha Jain, two of the Republican candidates whom Olszewski defeated in the Aug. 15 primary. The fourth in that primary, John Newstreet, is not included, but a number of his former backers are, including state Reps. Jason Brodeur, Bob Cortes, Mike La Rosa, Mike Miller, and Rene Plasencia.

 

Mike La Rosa, Neil Combee and John Cortes defend attacks on VISIT FLORIDA

Kissimmee may be part of the heart of Florida’s tourism district, but three local lawmakers told the Kissimmee/Osceola Chamber of Commerce Tuesday why they did not openly support VISIT FLORIDA during the political wars of this year’s Legislative Session.

Republican state Reps. Mike La Rosa and Neil Combee and Democratic state Rep. John Cortes described surviving a 2017 Legislative Session and Special Session that Combee declared had “a lot of Republican-on-Republican violence” and Cortes said was no fun for Democrats. But La Rosa pointed out that in the end, after the Special Session, Floridians got what they needed.

In the end the Florida Legislature gave VISIT FLORIDA what it and Gov. Rick Scott wanted, $76 million, but both Republicans and the Democrat representing parts of Osceola County in the Florida House said that was not before they and the House leadership extracted accountability and transparency assurances and reforms.

This, before the group that represents Walt Disney World and countless tourism and lodging business interests that dominate Kissimmee’s economy, and which lobbied them hard to support VISIT FLORIDA. But the hometown lawmakers bucked the call for months, and offered no apologizes Tuesday.

Combee recounted the account of VISIT FLORIDA paying Pat Roberts $2.8 million to produce a cable-TV fishing show “that nobody watches,” a story broken this spring by the Naples Daily News.

“When people look at that they say, ‘Is this the best way for us to be spending our money?’ I think there’s a lot of folks who think we deserve more accountability out of VISIT FLORIDA, out of Enterprise Florida. So I don’t apologize for the speaker,” Combee added, referring to House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s crusade to take down VISIT FLORIDA.

That crusade ended with full funding during the Special Session, but the message had been sent, Combee said.

“VISIT FLORIDA. I have to say, this is not an attack on Florida tourism,” La Rosa said. “It’s important to our economy. It will continue to be important. What happened this past year was an attack on the way taxpayers’ dollars were being spent, how transparent or less transparent it ultimately was.”

Cortes was less pleased with the final outcomes, from VISIT FLORIDA to the education bill, House Bill 7069, from the expanded Homestead Exemption and home rule changes hitting local governments to the $85 million provided Gov. Rick Scott for an economic incentive fund.

“VISIT FLORIDA, Enterprise Florida, the governor’s slush fund, that totals $177 million of your tax dollars. VISIT FLORIDA, I got crucified for this one because I’m against it, and I was against Enterprise Florida. But I come back to VISIT FLORIDA because a lot of folks came to see me because they said it would help businesses out. If this is going to help businesses out, I’d like to see more transparency, which they put in,” Cortes said.

Cortes was to have been joined by fellow Democratic state Sen. Victor Torres, but he had to cancel Monday.

David Smith pours another $25,000 personal money into his HD 28 race, topping Central Florida races

Faced with a potentially-serious Republican nomination challenger, David Smith dropped another $25,000 loan into his campaign for what will be an open seat in Florida House District 28.

Smith’s June 30 loan was augmented by $2,963 in fundraising in June, giving him $100,855 in total contributions and loans. He had primed his campaign when he kicked it off in February with an initial $25,000 personal loan.

Smith, a Winter Springs businessman and former Marine Corps officer, drew a Republican nomination challenger in June with the entry of Lake Mary’s Christopher Anderson, a Seminole County deputy sheriff and Army veteran. HD 28 covers northeast Seminole County including Sanford, Winter Springs and Oviedo, and is being vacated by Republican incumbent state Rep. Jason Brodeur of Sanford.

Anderson did not report any campaign finances in June.

Democrat Lee Mangold of Casselberry, who runs a cyber security firm, reported raising $1,310 in June, giving him about $2,100 total.

Smith was one of the few Central Florida Florida Legislature candidates who raised any significant amounts of campaign money in June, according to the latest campaign finance reports posted on the Florida Secretary of State’s Office.

One major exemption to that was in the crowded Republican nomination field gathering in House District 51 in Brevard County, where the two largest June fundraising efforts were found.

Tyler Sirois of Merritt Island, executive director of the 18th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office, reported raising $8,100 in June, giving him a campaign contributions total of $40,420. Sirois also has spent $12,780.

Teacher and retired Air Force officer Jeff Ramsey of Merritt Island, who entered the race on June 1, raised $2,900 in contributions and lent $2,000 to his own campaign in June to get it started. He spent $400.

Thomas O’Neill of Rockledge raised $240 in his HD 51 bid, leaving him with $4,440 total raised, including a $4,00o personal loan. Tom Tumulty raised $100 in June, for a total of $1,350.

There are no Democrats yet in the HD 51 race to succeed Republican incumbent state Rep. Tom Goodson, who is term-limited out.

Elsewhere in Central Florida:

Brodeur raised $1,000 toward his 2020 run for the Florida Senate in Senate District 9, which will be vacated by Republican state Sen. David Simmons. Brodeur is flush with $150,474 in total contributions received, and has spent $37,370. His Democratic opponent Frederick Ashby II has not yet reported raising any money.

Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa of St. Cloud raised $1,500 in June. He’s raised $32,172 total, and spent $1,410 for his re-election bid in the eastern Osceola County House District 42. He picked up an opponent in June, independent Lonzell Ivory.

Democratic challenger Debra Kaplan of Eustis raised $350 in the House District 31 race in eastern Lake County, her first contributions. Republican incumbent state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan did not raise any money in June, and had raised $9,500 going in.

Democratic challenger Tyran Basil of Deltona raised $240 in June, adding to his contributions total that reached $1,166 for western Volusia County’s House District 27. Republican incumbent David Santiago of Deltona did not raise any money in June, but came in having raised $32,950 so far. Santiago had spent $11,754.

None of the other Central Florida incumbent lawmakers reported raising any money in June, and only one of them had an opponent. House District 50 Republican incumbent state Rep. Rene Plasencia picked up a Democratic opponent Kyle Mitchell Walcott of Orlando late in the month in House District 50, covering east Orange County and north Brevard County. Plasencia had raised $40,600 and spent $13,600 prior to June. Walcott has not yet reported.

 

Rick Scott approves 5G wireless bill over League of Cities’ opposition

A 5G wireless technology bill that was vigorously opposed by the Florida League of Cities was nonetheless signed into law Friday by Gov. Rick Scott. 

The bill (HB 687), sponsored by St. Cloud Republican Mike La Rosa in the House, pre-empts to the state the regulation of telecommunications companies putting “small wireless facilities in rights of way.”

The League asked Scott to veto the measure, saying it will “deprive cities of their authority to regulate the use of public rights of way.” Such equipment, including antennas and related equipment, can be as big as a kitchen refrigerator.

“The G in 5G means it’s a generation of wireless technology,” PCMag.com explained in May. “While most generations have technically been defined by their data transmission speeds, each has also been marked by a break in encoding methods, or ‘air interfaces,’ which make it incompatible with the previous generation.”

The bill “may leave local governments minimal ability to control the aesthetics of their public rights of way, but it effectively hands significant control to the wireless industry,” League Executive Director Mike Sittig had said in a press release.

“Florida cities embrace the deployment of 5G (wireless) technology in their communities (but) this bill offers deep discounts to multi-billion dollar telecommunications companies at the taxpayers’ expense,” he added.

By setting this “arbitrary and artificially low cap on the fee,” Sittig wrote, “cities could lose $50 million to $100 million a year in revenues they would otherwise receive if free-market rates were allowed to apply.”

Sittig also noted in the release that “the telecommunications industry has acknowledged that the technology to enable 5G communications will not be ready to be deployed until 2022, and asked, ‘Why rush and pass legislation that creates and undercuts city police powers? Rather, Florida should protect the free market.’ ”

Brewster Bevis, senior vice president of state and federal affairs for Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), applauded the bill’s signing.

“This new law … will make faster wireless communications, connected cars and smart cities a reality for Floridians sooner rather than later,” he said in a statement.

“Investing in Small Cell Deployment technology gives the Sunshine State the ability to attract innovative, technologically advanced companies, (which) will not only bring Florida into the technological future, it will create an economic environment where businesses can grow, innovate and thrive.”

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