Land O’ Lakes Republican Ardian Zika is rolling out a new ad touting an endorsement from Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco in the Republican primary for House District 37.
“I’m Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco and in this election, I’m standing with Ardian Zika for state representative,” Nocco says in the ad. “Ardian stands with our first responders, that’s why he is endorsed by the Police Benevolent Association and the Fraternal Order of Police.
“I hope you join me and the men and women who wear the badge and so many others in our community and vote for Ardian Zika for state representative,” Nocco concludes.
Zika, a businessman, faces Elle Rudisill and Ryan Patrick Boney in the Aug. 28 Republican primary to succeed term-limited House Speaker Richard Corcoran in the Pasco-based House seat. The winner of that contest will go up against Land O’ Lakes Democrat Tammy Garcia in the Nov. 6 general election.
Through July 20, Zika had cracked the $200,000 mark in total fundraising and had more than $164,000 in the bank. That puts him far ahead of the combined total of his challengers.
HD 37 covers the majority of inland Pasco County, including the communities of Land O’ Lakes, Odessa, Heritage Pines, Shady Hills, Meadow Oaks and Moon Lake.
Corcoran never faced an Election Day challenger in his four campaigns in the House, three of which came after HD 37 was redrawn. The seat is a Republican stronghold that voted plus-27 for Donald Trump two years ago.
Legislative leaders are appealing a Leon County circuit judge’s ruling that the state has not properly carried out a 2014 constitutional amendment that required spending on land and water conservation.
Attorneys for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, and Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican, filed a notice this week of taking the case to the 1st District Court of Appeal.
As is common, the notice does not detail the arguments that the Legislature will make at the appeals court. Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson last month ruled that lawmakers had failed to properly comply with the voter-approved constitutional amendment, which required using money from a real estate tax to bolster land and water conservation.
Environmental groups filed legal challenges against the state, contending that lawmakers had diverted portions of the money to other expenses.
The notice of appeal was filed after Dodson refused to grant a rehearing in the case.
Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.
Land O’ Lakes businessman Ardian Zikahit another fundraising milestone in the race to succeed House Speaker Richard Corcoran in Pasco County’s House District 37.
Zika, a Republican, tacked on another $6,150 during the middle two weeks of July, bringing his overall fundraising past the $200,000 mark since he entered the race in August 2017. He has more than $164,000 in the bank.
“I am humbled by the strong financial support our campaign has received from throughout the district and from the Tampa Bay area,” Zika said. “I am grateful for the many generous donors who have heard our message and have given of their hard-earned resources to help us get the message out to the voters in House District 37.
“I’m also extraordinarily grateful for the many volunteers, who have given of their time as we have walked door to door throughout House District 37,” he continued. “Only our campaign qualified for the ballot by petition, our campaign has large signs and yard signs in neighborhoods across the district, and most importantly, we have walked every single precinct, knocking on doors and meeting voters at their homes.”
Zika’s fundraising tally keeps him far ahead of his primary opponents, Elle Rudisill and Ryan Patrick Boney, neither of whom have made much headway on the fundraising trail.
Rudisill, also of Land O’ Lakes, has raised a little over $14,000 for her campaign after more than a year in the race. She had about $5,400 at the ready as of July 20. Boney, of Odessa, has only shown about $1,800 in activity since joining the fracas in January. He spent every dime in his campaign account covering the qualifying fee to make the ballot.
The primary election is Aug. 28. Whomever emerges from the three-way battle will be the heavy favorite to succeed Corcoran, who cannot run for re-election due to term limits. Still, the Republican nominee must defeat Land O’ Lakes Democrat Tammy Garcia in the Nov. 6 general election. She had raised a little over $10,000 for her campaign and had $6,100 on hand through the reporting period ending July 6.
HD 37 covers the majority of inland Pasco County, including the communities of Land O’ Lakes, Odessa, Heritage Pines, Shady Hills, Meadow Oaks and Moon Lake. Corcoran never faced an Election Day challenger in his four campaigns in the House, three of which came after HD 37 was redrawn. The seat is a Republican stronghold that voted plus-27 for Donald Trump two years ago.
The Florida Board of Education on Wednesday unanimously approved a rule to help move forward with a controversial new program that will let bullied students transfer to private schools.
With some 2.8 million students returning to their classrooms next month, “Hope” scholarships will allow students who are victims of bullying or other violence to receive public funding to move to private schools or other public schools.
The program, a priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, was approved this year by lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott. Under it, once an incident is reported to a school principal, the school district must notify the student’s parents about the scholarship opportunity within 15 days or upon the completion of an investigation, whichever occurs first.
The rule approved by the state board includes a “notification form” that will be sent to parents if a student is involved in an incident that could qualify for the scholarship. The form specifically cites 10 types of incidents including bullying, harassment, hazing, threat or intimidation, physical attacks and fighting. Potentially more-violent incidents include battery, kidnapping, robbery and sexual offenses.
Tom Grady, a member of the state board, asked what provisions are in place to prevent fraud or abuse in the new voucher-like scholarship program.
“What prevents someone who would just like to have a scholarship to attend another school from simply claiming they are the victim of the incident that would give rise to the scholarship?” Grady asked.
Adam Miller, director of the Department of Education’s Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice, said in addition to the specific eligibility categories cited in the new law, there is an additional “evaluation process” for schools that have a higher number of transfers.
If a school reports 10 or more students have used Hope scholarships to leave, it will trigger an independent evaluation of that school, Miller said.
“A third party actually goes in and evaluates the climate of school, will evaluate the investigation process that takes place at the school district. And some of that (possible abuse of the program) comes to light through that evaluation process,” Miller said.
Grady also asked how qualifying incidents are defined. Miller said the school districts will use standards already in place under the state’s “school environmental safety incident reporting system.”
For instance, bullying is defined as “systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students or employees that is severe or pervasive enough to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.”
The Hope scholarship plan drew heavy debate during this year’s legislative session, with many Democrats arguing it is more about expanding school vouchers than addressing problems with bullying.
In the 2015-2016 school year, districts reported more than 47,000 incidents that could qualify under the new scholarship program, with nearly 22,000 fighting incidents being the most common.
However, funding for the scholarships is unclear, at least in the first year, and could limit their use.
The program will rely on voluntary contributions made by Floridians when they buy new or used vehicles. Beginning Oct. 1, motorists will be able shift up to $105 from the sales taxes they would normally pay on vehicle transactions to the Hope scholarship program.
But state officials and Step Up For Students, a nonprofit agency that will administer the scholarships, do not expect to start seeing the actual contributions until late November or early December.
State analysts project 7,302 partial-year Hope scholarships being awarded in the 2018-2019 school year, with some $27 million in funding. The scholarships will be awarded on a “first-come, first-served” basis.
Once fully implemented for private-school transfers, the scholarships, which are based on the statewide per-student funding level, would be worth more than $7,112 for high-school students for a full year, $6,816 for middle-school students and $6,519 for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
The program provides up to $750 in transportation costs for students transferring to other public schools.
Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.
Land O’ Lakes Republican Ardian Zika announced Monday that two chapters of the Florida Police Benevolent Association have endorsed his bid to succeed House Speaker Richard Corcoran in Pasco County’s House District 37.
“The West Central Florida Political Benevolent Association and the Tampa Police Benevolent Association is proud to inform you of our endorsement for your candidacy for State House Representative, District 37,” West Central Florida PBA president Nick Marolda and Tampa PBA president Abe Carmack said in a joint statement.
The two PBA chapters join the Pasco County branch of the Fraternal Order of Police in backing Zika, a businessman who immigrated to the U.S. from Kosovo in the 1990s. He has also been endorsed Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco, who announced his support alongside Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasanoin May.
“I am honored to have the endorsement of the women and men of law enforcement, who put their lives on the line each and every day, for us,” said Ardian Zika. “Our community respects, values and trusts these law enforcement professionals and I am humbled to have earned their confidence and support. No one will fight harder for law enforcement, first responders and their families in our state capitol.”
Zika faces Ryan Patrick Boney and Elle Rudisill in the Republican Primary, while Tammy Garcia has already locked up the Democratic nomination.
As of July 6, Zika held a massive lead in the money race with more than $195,000 raised and nearly $168,000 in the bank. No other candidate has cracked the $15,000 mark in total fundraising.
HD 37 covers the majority of inland Pasco County, including the communities of Land O’ Lakes, Odessa, Heritage Pines, Shady Hills, Meadow Oaks and Moon Lake. It is a safe Republican seat.
Saying he violated their constitutional rights “in multiple ways, and over repeated objections,” House Speaker RichardCorcoran and Senate President JoeNegron asked a Tallahassee judge to remove himself from future proceedings in an environmental funding case.
The legislative leaders filed their disqualification request with Circuit Judge CharlesDodson earlier this week.
On June 28, Dodson had granted a “final (summary) judgment for (the) plaintiffs” in a lawsuit over how lawmakers fund environmental conservation. Summary judgments allow parties to win a case without a trial.
A notice of appeal has not yet been filed, according to court dockets. But attorneys sometimes move for disqualification to avoid having the same judge if a suit on appeal gets kicked back down to the lower-court judge for further action.
The case, first filed in 2015, was over the Water and Land Legacy Amendment, also known as Amendment 1. The 2014 constitutional change, mandating state spending for land and water conservation, garnered a landslide of nearly 75 percent, or more than 4.2 million “yes” votes.
Amendment 1 requires state officials to set aside 33 percent of the money from the real estate “documentary stamp” tax to protect Florida’s environmentally sensitive areas for 20 years.
Advocates — including the Florida Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club — sued, saying lawmakers wrongly appropriated money for, among other things, “salaries and ordinary expenses of state agencies” tasked with executing the amendment’s mandate.
Dodson agreed, declaring a laundry list of 2015 and 2016 appropriations unconstitutional.
“The clear intent was to create a trust fund to purchase new conservation lands and take care of them,” he wrote. “The conservation lands the state already owned were to be taken care of, certainly, but from non-trust money.”
But AndyBardos, the GrayRobinson lawyer representing Corcoran and Negron, said in his filing the plaintiffs never asked for a final judgment, “but only for partial summary judgment as to nine of 114 appropriations challenged in (the) complaint—or eight percent of its case.”
That violated lawmakers’ right to due process, Bardos said, which has now “eliminated the Legislative Parties’ confidence in the fairness and impartiality of this proceeding.”
In response, David Guest – one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers – said “the alleged bias is based entirely on Judge Dodson’s rejection of their legal arguments, all of which were squarely presented at various points in the proceedings.
“That a judge finds a party’s legal argument unpersuasive cannot be the basis of a motion to recuse the judge – only the basis for an appeal,” he added.
“This sets a very low bar for what counsel for the Legislature considers to be acceptable conduct. Expect more of this kind of play before this case is over.”
As of June 21, the Senate spent $229,172 in total “litigation expenses” defending the suit, Senate spokeswoman KatieBetta said. Similar information was not immediately available from the House.
A spokeswoman for Secretary of State KenDetzner, also a defendant named in his official capacity, said his department “did not obtain outside counsel on this case.”
A political committee tied to House Speaker RichardCorcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, spent nearly $200,000 in June — but still had more than $1.4 million in the bank, according to a newly filed finance report.
Corcoran raised $6.9 million for the committee, known as Watchdog PAC, in 2017 and early 2018 as he considered a possible run for governor. But Corcoran announced this spring that he would not run for governor and stopped raising money for the committee.
From June 1 through June 29, the committee spent $196,540, according to the report, with the largest single expenditure a $50,000 contribution to the Republican Party of Florida. The committee also paid tens of thousands of dollars to consultants.
As of June 29, the committee had about $1.44 million on hand.
As the state’s budget year came to an end, Gov. RickScott doled out the last of an initial $85 million pot of “job growth” dollars that lawmakers approved in an economic-development compromise.
In a news release late Friday, Scott’s office announced more than $16 million from the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund would be set aside for six applicants, with the largest amount, $5.5 million, going for water, sewer and roadway improvements to assist the Florida Crossroads Commerce Park in Marion County.
The state’s 2017-2018 budget year ended Saturday. And with the new fiscal year starting Sunday, a second pool of $85 million immediately became available to Scott and — depending on how much he uses — his successor after Scott leaves office in January.
“I look forward to even more Florida communities benefiting from this accountable program, so every Floridian can find a great job right here in our state,” Scott said in a prepared statement announcing the latest grants.
The other new awards Friday were $4 million for the construction of a highway for an industrial warehouse and logistics facility in Hialeah; $3.02 million for a manufacturing training center at Immokalee Technical College in Collier County; $2.07 million for improvements to Atlantis Drive to support commercial development in Clay County; $1.9 million to develop a manufacturing training institute at Gulf Coast State College; and $135,000 to create a construction industry training program for high school and postsecondary students at Withlacoochee Technical College.
The Florida Job Growth Grant Fund was created in 2017 after a legislative battle about economic-development funding. Scott had sought $85 million for incentives that would be available through the business-recruitment agency Enterprise Florida. But led by House Speaker RichardCorcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, lawmakers objected to money going directly to specific companies.
Under the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, money is required to go to regional projects, rather than individual businesses. The money is handled by the state Department of Economic Opportunity, which received more than 250 applications, collectively seeking $877 million in assistance, during the past fiscal year.
The creation of the fund drew concerns from some Democrats, who said it could become a “slush fund” for the governor.
Scott has made a series of announcements about awarding the initial $85 million. The announcement Friday from his office said the 33 proposals that have received grants are expected to provide a return on investment of “more than $321 million to taxpayers.”
Yet the number of jobs on the table is somewhat difficult to quantify, even though a question on the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund application seeks “a description of the number of jobs that will be retained or created.”
Based on the 33 applications that received funding, the money could be tied to nearly 100,000 jobs over the next decade.
But several factors play into the estimates from the applicants.
For example, often the numbers in applications involving college vocational training are based on estimates from business groups, which envision boosts in people landing jobs within a set number of years. Meanwhile, the impact of proposed new roads and infrastructure is often based on projections of commercial centers or businesses attracting new companies and employees.
Also, not every award from the fund matched the amounts of money requested.
In Marion County’s application, which sought $22 million, the state’s contribution is anticipated to help quickly get the Florida Crossroads Commerce Park underway.
The commerce park is envisioned as doubling the “success” of the Ocala/Marion County Commerce Park that “has seen the creation of nearly 1,500 jobs, 1.4 million square feet of new construction, and $270 million in capital investment.”
The amount eventually awarded was slightly more than the $4.97 million being put up by the county through sales and gas-tax revenues.
Other job projections also appear to raise questions.
Marianna, which received $1.99 million in March to extend a runway at Marianna Airport Commerce Park, estimated “hundreds, if not thousands” of new jobs, as the lengthened runway would help it compete against similar facilities in Georgia and Alabama.
St. Johns River State College, which on May 30 received nearly $1.4 million to expand an advanced manufacturing and robotics training program, noted in its application that employers in Clay, Putnam and St. Johns counties anticipate the program will directly support more than 100 new jobs. The application also said “the manufacturing sector provides thousands of good jobs and is anticipated to grow significantly over the next 10 years, with retirements and new growth due to the completion of the First Coast Expressway.”
Nearby, Florida State College at Jacksonville, which received $710,352 to enhance the Northeast Florida Advanced Manufacturing & Logistics Job Growth program, said it anticipates enrolling 75 participants, with 63 completing the program within one year, from which 80 percent — about 50 — will be placed in jobs.
The school also pointed out in its application that the First Coast Manufacturers Association said that “without this program, manufacturers will continue to struggle to find qualified workers, limiting the economic growth of our region and its people.”
While the president may have a ‘Winter White House’ in Mar-a-Lago, Florida doesn’t quite make the cut as one of the most patriotic states in the union.
According to a new WalletHub study that compiled the “Most Patriotic States in America,” the Sunshine State could use a bit more of Uncle Sam’s spirit. Florida didn’t become a state until 1845, which perhaps explains its relatively low ‘Patriotic’ ranking (30) among the other 49 states.
The rankings, of course, were somewhat arbitrarily arrived at by assessing “Military Engagement” and “Civic Engagement.”
The armed forces metric used weighted, average scores for military enlistees per 1,000 civilian adults (25 points); veterans per 1,000 civilian adults (~8.33 Points); active-duty military personnel per 100,000 civilian adults (~8.33 Points); and the share of civilian adult population in the reserves (~8.33 Points).
The civic metric looked at the share of adults who voted in the 2016 Presidential Election (~10.26 Points) and the share of adults who voted in the primary (~5.13 Points). It also had lower weights attributed to volunteerism, including activity in the AmeriCorps and Peace Corps. As well, it looked at juror participation and the “frequency of Google searches for American flags.”
The most powerful weighted item for “Civic Engagement” was the civic education requirement in the state (~10.26 Points).
Virginia topped the list overall, and WalletHub found that Republican-voting, or ‘red,’ states fared better in the rankings than blue states. Florida ranked the worst for volunteerism.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Drew Wilson, Danny McAuliffe, Jim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Florida gets minor win in ‘water war’ — The U.S. Supreme Court this week overturned a 2017 special master recommendation that claimed Florida did not adequately demonstrate that putting a cap on Georgia water consumption would benefit the Apalachicola Bay in Florida. In effect, SCOTUS is giving the state another chance to make its case before RalphLancaster, the court-appointed special master who issued the recommendation last year. Reports LloydDunkelberger for the News Service of Florida, “Among the key questions Lancaster will have to settle is whether an ‘equity-based cap’ on Georgia’s water consumption in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint system would increase the water flow into the Apalachicola River and whether the amount of that extra water would ‘significantly redress the economic and ecological harm that Florida has suffered.’” Leaders in state government hailed the decision as a victory. Dubbed the ‘water war,’ Florida has for decades been embattled in a series of litigation addressing water use in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin.
Wildfire sparked by controlled burn — Shortly after a wildfire scorched the Franklin County town of Eastpoint, destroying 36 homes and damaging four more, state officials linked the mishap to a controlled burn overseen by a company that inked a land-management deal with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Agriculture Commissioner AdamPutnam announced Wednesday that Wildlands Service, Inc., caused the fire on FWC land. The blaze, which broke out Sunday, burned more than 800 acres of land. After a brief investigation, the state linked the fire directly to Wildlands Service, Inc., ruling out other possible causes, such as lightning, arson and fire accidentally caused by man. Controlled burns are used to clear brush from the forest floor and manage forest growth.
More trouble at Department of Agriculture — Inspector general reports dating back to incidents that began in 2015 documented three Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services employees’ admissions to sexual harassment and watching pornography on an agency computer. The inspector general reports were obtained and brought to light by POLITICO Florida’s MattDixon. One staff member of the agency’s Jacksonville Division of Fruit and Vegetables office had viewed pornographic material more than 1,000 times on a work computer. He was suspended for five days and is no longer with the department. The other two agency inspectors were found to have sexually harassed grocery store workers in separate occasions. Both still work at the agency.
Discharges temporarily halted at Lake Okeechobee — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced this week it will stop discharging water from the Lake Okeechobee reservoir into the St. Lucie River for nine consecutive days beginning Saturday. The announcement followed reports of toxic algae in the area, along with pressure from Gov. RickScott last week to redirect the flow of water south. After July 8, the Corps will begin discharging water in pulses. Stopping discharges, the Corps hopes, will allow areas like the St. Lucie River to regain salinity. “Water levels in the lake remain high for this time of year,” Lt. Col. JenniferReynolds, Jacksonville district deputy commander for South Florida, told EdKiller of TCPalm.com. “The water conservation areas south of the lake are also above their preferred ranges. We continue to work with the South Florida Water Management District to move water through multiple canals to create storage throughout the region to handle the near daily rainfall events we expect during wet season.”
Force could form behind legal pot — JohnMorgan, the Orlando trial attorney who backed a 2016 amendment legalizing medical marijuana, is considering a push to place an amendment legalizing recreational marijuana on the ballot in 2020. “Maybe it’s just time for full legalization,” Morgan tweeted this week. “It would pass with flying colors!” He added: “I’m going to look at starting a fund where we all can donate to get full marijuana legalization on the ballot in 2020. When you mess with the will of the people there are unintended consequences!!” Reports JimRosica for Florida Politics, Morgan organized a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on smoking medical marijuana. It’s currently making its way through the judicial system. Leon County Circuit Judge KarenGievers ruled the ban unconstitutional, but the state immediately appealed that decision.
Scott highlights affordable housing options
FEMA’s Temporary Shelter Assistance Program, currently providing hotel vouchers for Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria, is set to expire Saturday.
Fearing some families will have a continued need for resources, Gov. Scott this week highlighted other state-backed options currently available for those seeking aid. First and foremost, according to the Governor’s office, those needing help should contact the local emergency management office in their county. As well, Scott suggested those in search of housing use a wide array of sources available through the federal HUD and floridahousingsearch.org, or consult a FEMA disaster agent, if available.
“Since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, Florida has done everything possible to help our neighbors both on the island and here in our state,” Scott said in a prepared statement. “After multiple extensions, FEMA’s TSA program is ending this week and Florida does not have the authority to extend this federal program; it is a decision that must be made by the government of Puerto Rico. We are committed to taking every possible action to ensure every family displaced by Maria in Florida receives the best possible care.”
Additionally, Scott announced this week that federal grants are ready to “repair damaged homes, build new affordable housing and provide grants to impacted businesses.” The grants total $616 million and will be administered by the state Department of Economic Opportunity.
“Through this program, we can continue to move forward with long-term affordable housing solutions for displaced families as well as provide grants to businesses who were impacted by the storm,” Scott said. “We won’t stop working until all of Florida’s communities have fully recovered.”
Scott’s net worth soars
The governor’s worth ballooned to nearly $232.6 million as of the end of 2017, up more than $83 million from a year earlier, according to a financial-disclosure report filed Friday with the state Commission on Ethics.
Scott, who made a fortune in the health care industry and other businesses before entering politics, has put his investments in a blind trust while serving as governor. As a result, the new financial-disclosure report did not detail the reasons that his net worth increased substantially in 2017.
But the report showed the value of the blind trust at $215 million as of the end of 2017, up from $130.5 million at the end of 2016. Overall, Scott reported a net worth of about $149.3 million as of Dec. 31, 2016.
The new disclosure listed a home in Naples valued at slightly less than $14.1 million as of the end of 2017, down nearly $1 million from the previous year. Scott, who is running for the U.S. Senate this year, also listed a $1.5 million residence in Montana, with the value unchanged.
Scott’s campaign issued a news release Friday evening that said he will file a federal disclosure report next month that is required for Senate candidates. The campaign said that report will make available additional details about Scott’s investments.
Patronis aids wildfire victims
Quick remedy came from the state for the 36 victims who lost their homes in Eastpoint, the area that was partially consumed by a recent Franklin County wildfire.
Chief Financial Officer JimmyPatronis this week dispatched an insurance team he oversees to Eastpoint to assist victims in filing partial settlement claims. Each emergency filing can request up to $5,000 for household and living expenses such as temporary housing, food, clothing or pet care.
“Residents who lost everything shouldn’t have to wait for government bureaucracy,” Patronis said in a prepared statement. “I’ve directed my staff to get boots on the ground to help those impacted to have an expedited track back to normalcy.”
Patronis’ Division of Risk Management will be sending adjusters to the area. The CFO’s Division of Investigative and Forensic Services also have helped assess the initial damage.
“We will continue working to find ways to help Franklin County recover from this tragedy,” added Patronis.
Four other Floridians suffered damage to their homes as a result of the fire. Those who missed the adjusters this week are asked to call the Division of Risk Management at 850.413.3122 for assistance.
State targets cryptocurrency
With the increasing prevalence of digital currencies like bitcoin, CFO Patronis wants the Sunshine State to create a ‘statewide cryptocurrency chief’ to regulate the nuanced legal tender.
“Florida can no longer remain on the sidelines when it comes to cryptocurrency,” Patronis said in a prepared statement. He’s directed his agency to develop a position for a person that “will oversee how current securities and insurance laws apply to Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and cryptocurrencies as well as shape the future of these regulations in our state.”
The CFO acknowledged the validity of cryptocurrency but said he cannot let it grow “unfettered and unchecked.” He assured: “My goal is to keep pace with demand and not deter innovation while monitoring for fraudulent behavior and scams.”
Patronis’ concept for a new regulatory position already has the backing of a powerful member of the state Legislature.
“As technology continues to develop, our state needs to be both on the forefront of emerging trends and ahead of the game when it comes to protecting consumers from those who want to scam our residents,” state Senate President-designate BillGalvano said. “I applaud CFO Patronis for putting innovative proposals forward and will work with him on any forthcoming policy changes.”
‘Framers’ allowed to enter education case
The Florida Supreme Court on Friday allowed 10 members of the 1998 state Constitution Revision Commission to file a brief in a legal battle about whether Florida is meeting its constitutional duty to provide a high-quality system of public schools.
Describing themselves as the “framers” of a 1998 ballot measure that put the duty in the Constitution, the former Constitution Revision Commission members filed a motion in May asking for approval to file a friend-of-the-court brief at the Florida Supreme Court. But attorneys for the state objected.
The 10 former commissioners who sought to file the brief included former Attorney General Bob Butterworth, former Supreme Court Justice Gerald Kogan and former House Speaker Jon Mills.
The Supreme Court issued a one-paragraph order Friday allowing the group to file a brief but also appeared to leave open the possibility that the state could object to parts of the brief, known formally as an amicus brief.
The order said the approval was granted “without prejudice to the subsequent presentation of objections by respondents to specific content of the amicus brief filed.”
The brief stems from a long-running lawsuit led by the group Citizens for Strong Schools, which argues that the state has failed to comply with the 1998 voter-approved amendment.
DenaPittman fills the vacancy created by the resignation of PhillipPelletie. Pittman, 49, resides in Clewiston and served as the Chief Deputy Hendry County Property Appraiser before June 25, when she took over the top spot. Her term will end Nov. 13.
Franklin County School Board
Kristy Branch Banks fills the District 3 vacancy created by the resignation of Teresa Ann Martin. Banks, 47, of Apalachicola is a lawyer and will serve a brief stint on the Board until Nov. 13. Banks did not qualify for the District 3 post and cannot be elected for another term in the upcoming election.
Children’s Services Council of Martin County
Stuart men JamesCampo and JoshuaFerraro fill two vacancies on the Council. Their terms will end Dec. 31, 2020. Campo, 54, is the former mayor of Sewall’s Point and a CFP by trade. Ferraro, 38, is an attorney and the current president of the Martin County Police Athletic League.
Florida Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council
PamOlsen was reappointed for a term that will end July 18, 2021. She is the current Executive Director of the Hilltop House of Prayer.
Northwest Florida State College District Board of Trustees
Major General DonLitke, U. S. Air Force, Ret., was appointed to fill a vacant seat for a term that will end May 31, 2019. His appointment is subject to state Senate confirmation.
Geller, aide recognized for ‘home rule’ efforts
Aventura Democratic state Rep. JosephGeller and his Legislative Aide BryanVallejo were recently honored by the Florida League of Cities for their work protecting local governments.
In accepting an award from the League, Geller pointed to his fight for home rule, the phrase coined for the concept that many governing decisions are best determined at the local level.
“In Tallahassee, sometimes our colleagues need a reminder of the importance of Home Rule powers and that the governments closest to the people govern best,” said Geller. “They are on the front lines of what matters most to local citizens and therefore should be protected to ensure their priorities are safeguarded. Every day, I proudly fight for the cities and municipalities that continue to strive to advance our local communities.”
When the Legislature pre-empts powers to the state or passes expensive, unfunded mandates, it is typically regarded as an affront on local governments. The League represents several municipalities as an active voice in the Legislature to fight against these actions.
Florida League of Cities Legislative Director ScottDudley said Geller and Vallejo’s “dedication to and support of Home Rule is incredible, and we owe them a great deal of thanks.” Vallejo is the first aide to receive the distinction from the League.
Florida think tank supportive of Supreme Court decisions
It was a good week at the high court for the James Madison Institute.
The free market think tank lauded two U.S. Supreme Court rulings: NIFLA v. Beccera, in which the court ruled unconstitutional a California law requiring crisis-pregnancy centers to advertise state-backed abortion services, and Janus v. AFSCME, in which the court ruled public employees could no longer be required to pay dues to government unions.
JMI hailed NIFLA v. Beccera as a First Amendment win. Saying that “liberty was defended” in the ruling, JMI President Dr. RobertMcClure pointed to now-retiring Justice AnthonyKennedy’s concurring opinion.
“Justice Kennedy, in his concurring opinion, put it perfectly when he wrote that, ‘Governments must not be allowed to force persons to express a message contrary to their deepest convictions. Freedom of speech secures freedom of thought and belief. This law imperils those liberties,’” McClure said.
In Janus v. AFSCME, JMI had actually filed a ‘Friend of the Court’ brief with SCOTUS and dubbed the ruling a victory for workers’ rights.
“JMI has been supporting the cause of worker freedom for years and congratulates Mark Janus on standing for what he believes in, for being a superb representative for 5 million employees across the country, and for the character he displayed throughout the process that led to today’s historic decision,” JIM Vice President of Policy SalNuzzo said.
New laws taking effect
To violently paraphrase the theme from David Letterman’s old CBS Mailbag feature, “We got laws, we got sacks and sacks of new laws.”
Yes, more than 100 bills that Gov. Scott signed into law from the 2018 Legislative Session will go into effect Sunday, including a new state budget that tops $88 billion.
Among laws taking effect:
— HB 21: With Florida still facing an opioid epidemic, the measure will place limits on prescriptions that doctors can write for treatment of acute pain. Doctors in many cases would be limited to writing prescriptions for three-day supplies, but they could prescribe up to seven-day supplies of controlled substances if “medically necessary.”
— SB 140: The bill will largely block minors from getting married in Florida. Marriage will generally be barred for people under age 18, though an exception will be in place for 17-year-olds who have written consent from their parents or guardians. Also, the 17-year-olds will not be able to marry people who are more than two years older than them.
— SB 472: Lawmakers approved placing a statue of civil-rights leader and educator Mary McLeod Bethune, the founder of what became Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C.
— SB 1013: The measure seeks to place Florida on year-round daylight saving time. The change, promoted as a way to help Florida tourism, still needs congressional approval.
— HB 7055: The measure expands the use of voucherlike scholarships to send more public-school students to private schools. One program in the bill will let students who face bullying or harassment in public schools transfer to private schools.
National parks recognize Florida city for historic merit
The City of Arcadia this week was accepted into the Certified Local Government program following certification from the National Park Service.
Secretary of State KenDetzner announced the news, declaring the Southwest Florida city as Florida’s 75th Certified Local Government.
“As a Certified Local Government, Arcadia will now have access to training, technical support and special matching grants to support local historic preservation efforts,” explained Detzner.
Detzner said the 58-block district “passed a local historic preservation ordinance in 2016 and assembled a qualified historic preservation commission with seven members.”
Established in 1980 by the National Park Service, the Certified Local Government program links local, state and federal efforts to preserve areas deemed worthy of the designation. CLGs have exclusive access to some historic preservation grants.
Progressives to protest at Capitol
A coalition of progressive groups announced they would be “speaking out” on Saturday evening “against Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance policy that separates immigrant children from their families.”
The action starts at 5 p.m. on the steps of the old Capitol in Tallahassee.
“We will also be calling out Gov. Rick Scott and Mayor Andrew Gillum to keep Tallahassee and Florida’s immigrant communities safe and promote safe pro-immigrant sanctuary cities,” the groups said in a joint news release.
“President Trump’s current border separation and deportation policies are horrendous and unacceptable and must be stopped,” they said.
“We call on the President, the Governor and the legislature to protect immigrants in Florida and keep families together by abolishing ICE and ending harsh immigration policies that attack and separate primarily black and brown immigrants.”
The event is hosted by Students for a Democratic Society, the Florida State University NAACP chapter, and Faith in Public Life, and includes members of several local faith institutions, such as from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tallahassee, Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, Islamic Center of Tallahassee, and Temple Israel.
New grants aim to attract skills-based volunteers
A grant fund totaling $360,000 is expected to help nonprofits in the Sunshine State looking to recruit and retain skills-based volunteers.
Volunteer Florida, the Governor’s lead service agency, announced this week that the Volunteer Generation Fund will dole out grants worth $15,000 to 24 recipients in the 2018-19 fiscal year. In total, the grants are expected to help nonprofits manage and support approximately 9,600 skills-based volunteers, who will through their service contribute $1,679,760 to the state.
“As Florida’s lead agency for volunteerism, we are excited to announce this grant funding that will strengthen the operations of nonprofits in the state,” Volunteer Florida National Service Programs Director CatKeen said. “Our investment will put volunteers to work in diverse and high-impact positions, such as teaching financial literacy, providing disaster recovery and helping job-seekers find employment.”
The grants will help nonprofits needing specialized volunteers like teachers, IT consultants, accountants and attorneys. Volunteer Florida, which will administer the grants, said “special consideration” will be given to groups who specialize in disaster management or preventing drug abuse and addiction.
Nonprofits will match the funding through local investments. A technical assistance call is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 10, via GoToMeeting.
New association represents local government communicators
A new group of Florida professionals formed this week, providing leadership and support for communicators working in Florida’s cities, towns and villages.
Dubbed the Florida Municipal Communicators Association, or FMCA, the group seeks to offer “communications professionals opportunities to learn, share and develop innovative solutions for the municipalities they serve,” according to a news release announcing the association’s formation.
“Regardless of the size of your city or staff, this association can be a valuable resource to your daily operations,” said City of Parkland Public Information Officer and FMCA President ToddDeAngelis. “On behalf of the founding Board, we are confident that FMCA will provide valuable and substantive resources for communications professionals at city halls throughout the state.”
FMCA is affiliated with the Florida League of Cities, which will provide contractual support services to the association.
“The Florida League of Cities has built its reputation on identifying the needs of our member cities and providing the support and resources necessary to meet those needs,” said Florida League of Cities Communication and Education Director and FMCA Executive Director JennaTala. “We are thrilled to be part of such a dedicated group of professionals who play an instrumental role in our cities.”
According to FMCA, “membership is open to any person employed by a Florida municipal government who performs communications functions in the regular course of his or her official duties.”
FSU leads schools in graduation rate
With latest data showing 68.4 percent of students grabbing degrees in four years at Florida State University, the school ranks ahead of every other public university’s graduation rate.
The State University System’s 2018 Accountability Plan reported that FSU’s graduation rate is nearly three points higher than the previous year’s cohort — making it the highest graduation rate since SUS began tracking the metric.
“That’s a very big deal,” said SallyMcRorie, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs. “That’s among the Top 15 public universities nationally.”
McRorie said the school has been deliberately working to make sure students are educated in a timely manner.
“We made the decision that student success was our primary goal and the key fulfillment of our mission,” McRorie said. “This success is a return on those investments, which have been major for a university that has the second-lowest state tuition in the country.”
The newest rating tracked the Class of 2013 at FSU and other universities. In a news release, the university noted that its 2005 rate paled in comparison at just 49.3 percent.
FSU President JohnThrasher attributed the success to his staff, which he claimed is “putting students on a path toward earning a degree while providing them with a strong undergraduate experience that prepares them to be successful after graduation.”
Tallahassee gets free electric-car charging
Leon County has begun installing electric-vehicle (EV) charging stations for public use, with the first one ready to go at the Leon County LeRoy Collins Main Library, 200 W. Park St., Tallahassee.
“The electric vehicle charging station can charge all new generation electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles,” the county said in a news release. “They are safe, easy and reliable, and as simple to use as just plugging in a cord.”
The station is free and open to the public. By the end of the summer, Leon County also will install another electric-vehicle charging station at the Leon County Eastside Branch Library, 1583 Pedrick Road.
Leon County closures, changes for July 4
The following holiday closures and service changes will occur in observance of the Fourth of July Holiday.
Closed Wednesday, July 4: Leon County offices, Leon County libraries, Leon County community centers, Leon County Animal Control, Leon County Solid Waste and Rural Waste Service Centers and Household Hazardous Waste Center.
Remaining Open: Leon County parks and recreation facilities (parks and boat landings).
The LeRoy Collins Leon County Branch Libraries will close Tuesday, July 3, at 8 p.m. The LeRoy Collins Leon County Main Library will close at 9 p.m. Tuesday, July 3. The LeRoy Collins Leon County Main Library will resume normal operating hours Thursday, July 5, at 10 a.m. and branch libraries will resume normal operating hours Thursday, July 5, at 11 a.m.
Also, the Leon County Solid Waste Facility and the Household Hazardous Waste Center will close Tuesday, July 3, at 5 p.m. and will resume normal hours Thursday, July 5, at 8 a.m.
In the event of an animal-related emergency, service is available by calling the Consolidated Dispatch Agency at (850) 606-5800. Leon County Animal Control encourages residents to only use this service to report dangerous or aggressive dogs, sick or injured domestic animals and animal cruelty. Injured wildlife calls will be forwarded to the St. Francis Wildlife Association at (850) 627-4151.
It’s scallopin’ time
The coastal waters near the capital city will soon be open for business to eager snorkelers looking to fill their mesh bags with a Gulf of Mexico delicacy.
Beginning Sunday, waters bordering Franklin through northwest Taylor counties will be open to bay scallop harvest. Levy, Citrus and Hernando counties also begin the season July 1. Each county will remain open to harvest through Sept. 24.
“Scalloping is a great way to enjoy Florida’s incredible waters and pristine beaches,” Gov. Scott said in a prepared statement. “I encourage all Floridians to get outside and enjoy our world-class scallop season with family and friends.”
The scallop fishery is overseen by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Added FWC chairman BoRivard: “The season brings people and an economic boost to these coastal areas, all the while encouraging conservation and connecting residents and visitors to the wonders of Florida’s outdoors.”
As with any controlled fish or game, Floridians must observe the rules and regulations set forth for the season. Per FWC: “Bag and vessel limits in open bay scallop harvest zones are 2 gallons whole bay scallops in shell or 1 pint of bay scallop meat per person, with a maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell or 1/2 gallon of bay scallop meat per vessel.”
Some content this week provided by The News Service of Florida, reprinted with permission.
Instead, they decided to keep the application period open through mid-July. Thirty-four people already had applied.
Scott, Attorney General PamBondi, Chief Financial Officer JimmyPatronis, and Agriculture Commissioner AdamPutnam held a conference call and interviewed their top five applicants to replace outgoing OFR Commissioner DrewBreakspear.
Meantime, PamEpting will become interim commissioner at the post’s $135,000 salary. Breakspear’s official last day is June 30.
He recently announced he was stepping down after Patronis pressured him to leave the position. Patronis’ office had said he received numerous calls for a new top regulator from mortgage and security industry leaders who had clashed with the agency.
Any permanent replacement will face a new governor and Cabinet in 2019, as all four positions are up for election in November.
After interviewing the five – including state GOP state Rep. JayFant of Jacksonville – Scott balked, saying he wanted more time to make a decision. Scott and the others also agreed to accept more applications and decide at the next Cabinet meeting on Aug. 14.
Fant, who ran his family’s Jacksonville bank before it was shut down, dropped out of the race for attorney general to apply for OFR Commissioner.
Fant had been on Scott’s side last year, when he voted against a bill backed by House Speaker RichardCorcoran that sought to abolish Scott’s favored Enterprise Florida economic development organization.
But during his interview Patronis raised the issue of the failure of Fant’s family-run bank amid the recession.
Fant said “community banks” like his family’s were hurt by the federal government’s bailout, which he said benefited only the big banks and left smaller banks in the dust: “Capital wasn’t available to the small companies.”
They were “terrible times for us as Floridians, as Americans,” Fant said, but added he would apply lessons from that experience “to the future.”
Two additional applicants with years of regulatory experience, WilliamJannace and KevinRosen, had been advanced for consideration by Bondi.
Also applying were banking lobbyist ScottJenkins and LindaCharity, a former OFR official who served as interim commissioner twice.
The OFR reports to the Financial Services Commission, which is made up of the Governor and Cabinet. State law says they can hire or fire the OFR’s head “by a majority vote consisting of at least three affirmative votes, with both the Governor and the Chief Financial Officer on the prevailing side.”
Ed. Note — A live-reporting Twitter thread with details from the interviews during Wednesday’s meeting is here.
Florida Politics Jacksonville correspondent A.G. Gancarski, Gainesville correspondent DrewWilson, and The News Service of Florida (content republished with permission) contributed to this post.