Violators of the price gouging statute are subject to civil penalties of $1,000 per violation and up to a total of $25,000 for multiple violations committed in a single 24-hour period.
Scott declared a state of emergency, which gives the state flexibility to work with local governments to ensure they have the resources they need, on Monday morning. The declaration came as Tropical Storm Emily made landfall at Anna Maria Island, just west of Bradenton, around 11:10 a.m.
The Florida Highway Patrol closed the Sunshine Skyway Bridge due to high winds, and a flood watch is in effect for much of the Tampa area. The storm is expected to cross the state in the coming hours.
The emergency declaration covers all of the counties in the central and southern regions of the state.
The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.
Scott began by appointing Judge Charles Sniffen to the 12th Judicial Circuit Court, which covers DeSoto Manatee and Sarasota counties.
Sniffen, 44, of Parrish, is currently a county judge for Manatee County. He previously worked in private practice, and as an Assistant State Attorney for the 12th Judicial Circuit. Sniffen fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Janette Dunnigan.
Scott announced the appointment of James Jefferson Goodman Jr., to the 14th Judicial Circuit Court, which covers Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson and Washington counties.
Goodman, 38, of Bonifay, is currently a solo practitioner, with prior experience in both the public and private sectors. He previously served as an Assistant State Attorney for the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit, and as a litigation associate for Balch & Bingham, LLP. Goodman fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Hentz McClellan.
Scott also appointed LaTasha Green-Cobb to the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, which helps provide Floridians with a range of affordable housing opportunities, working with local governments, nonprofits, elected officials and others.
LaTasha Green-Cobb, of Jacksonville, is the chief executive officer of Empowered Action Corporation. She succeeds John Hawthorne for a term ending Nov. 13, 2020. Green-Cobb’s appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.
Finally, Scott appointed Jim Murphy to the Governing Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which covers an area between Port Charlotte to north of Homosassa Springs, roughly 10,000 square miles over 16 counties, serving a population of nearly 5 million people.
Murphy, 57, of Lakeland, is the division president of Florida Sealing Products, Inc. He is appointed to fill a vacant seat for a term ending March 1, 2021. Murphy’s appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Florida’s price tag for losing legal battles – which has included courtroom fights over drug testing, voting rights and gay marriage – continues to grow under Gov. Rick Scott.
Scott recently agreed to pay $1.1 million to cover the legal bills of physicians and medical organizations in their successful challenge of a law that restricted doctors’ ability to talk to patients about guns. The law had been pushed through the Florida Legislature at the urging of the National Rifle Association.
In early July, the state also agreed to a $2 million payment that will go to lawyers who sued on behalf of disabled inmates.
A review of records by The Associated Press shows that since Scott took office in 2011 the state has paid at least $19 million to cover expenses and fees for lawyers who have sued the state. Many of those lawsuits took aim at policies put in place by Scott and the Republican-controlled Legislature.
The Scott administration has defended the legal expenses in the past, saying the governor will “vigorously defend” Florida’s laws.
In February a federal appeals court ruled that Florida doctors can talk to patients about gun safety, declaring a law aimed at restricting such discussions a violation of the First Amendment’s right to free speech. The state did not appeal the decision and in late June reached a settlement to pay $1.1 million for attorney fees and costs.
One of the firms involved in the lawsuit – Ropes & Gray – announced it would donate $100,000 of its fee award to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
“This award is a message to states to think twice before enacting or defending laws that put lives at risk just to boost the gun industry’s bottom line,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, in a statement.
John Tupps, a spokesman for Scott, defended the state’s fight over the law. He said the governor was a “strong supporter” of the 2nd Amendment and that he signed the bill “after it was approved by a large, bipartisan majority in the Florida Legislature.”
Earlier this month, the state agreed to pay $2 million to cover the fees and costs for groups that sued the state in 2016 over its treatment of inmates with hearing, vision and mobility disabilities.
Randall Berg with the Florida Justice Institute said the money will go to reimbursing the institute, Disability Rights Florida, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and the well-known personal injury law firm Morgan & Morgan. John Morgan is a frequent Democratic donor and has been speculating about running for governor next year.
In the last six years, the state has agreed to pay attorney fees of lawyers who have sued the state over everything from employee discrimination to drug testing of welfare recipients.
The total includes $12 million paid to attorneys who represented pediatricians in a more than 10-year legal battle over whether Florida violated federal mandates by failing to deliver critical health services to 2 million children on Medicaid.
The state also paid more than $800,000 to lawyers working for the American Civil Liberties Union and nearly $513,000 to lawyers who defeated a state law targeting businesses doing business in Cuba.
An AP review found that between 2011 and early 2017 that Florida had spent more than $237 million on outside lawyers hired to defend the state.
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.
A state agency overseen by the governor and two cabinet members would be prohibited from doing business with any outfit tied to the Maduro regime in Venezuela, under a proposal released Thursday by Gov. Rick Scott.
Scott’s anti-investing outline for the Florida State Board of Administration, which doesn’t currently have any such investments, coincides with international efforts aimed at putting pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to cancel a controversial election planned for Sunday. Maduro is pushing ahead with the election, which critics fear will weaken the country’s democracy and strengthen Maduro’s position in a country embroiled in protests that have left more than 100 dead over the past few months.
“I look forward to working with the SBA on this important proposal and I will work with the Florida Legislature during the next legislative session to take more action against Maduro and his gang of thugs,” Scott said in a press release issued Thursday.
The measure doesn’t appear to go as far as one initially floated by the governor earlier this month, when Scott said he was “proposing that the State of Florida be prohibited from doing business with any organization that supports this dictatorship.”
Scott’s proposal is slated to go before the trustees of the State Board of Administration – comprised of Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis – on Aug. 16.
Patronis, appointed by Scott last month, quickly voiced support for Scott’s plan while announcing that the Florida Treasury does not conduct any business with Venezuelan companies tied to the Maduro administration.
“The Maduro regime is known for inflicting gross human rights abuses against the people of Venezuela, and under no circumstances should Florida’s investment funds be tied to such tyranny,” Patronis said in a release.
Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Miami Democrat, said Scott is sending a much-needed message to Wall Street.
“I think the idea is to use the power of the state of Florida,” Rodriguez, who is running for Congress, said. “The question is, is this going to be enough?”
Rodriguez is crafting legislation for the 2018 session that would expand Scott’s proposed prohibition on investments to encompass all state agencies and would require divestment of existing investments.
Under Scott’s proposal, the State Board of Administration would be prohibited from investing in securities issued by the Venezuelan government, companies that are majority-owned by the government, or businesses that trade in or with the government.
The order would also prohibit the State Board of Administration from participating in any proxy vote or resolution that advocates or supports the Maduro regime.
Florida law already bans the SBA from engaging in similar conduct with Cuba and Syria.
The proposed order won’t require any agency action, according to John Kuczwanski, manager of external affairs for the State Board of Administration.
“As a result of prudent investing and disciplined policies and procedures, the SBA does not maintain any investments related to or owned by the Venezuela government,” Kuczwanski said in an email.
The agency doesn’t have figures on state investments in companies that may have advanced money or that continue to trade with the Venezuelan government, he said.
Scott hasn’t named or targeted any individual company, but Goldman Sachs Asset Management, which has taken heat for its purchase of $2.8 billion in bonds of Venezuela’s state-run oil company through a broker in the secondary market, has met with the Florida governor and others to discuss his proposal.
As of early this month, Goldman Sachs, an investment manager of part of what is known as Florida’s “long duration portfolio,” had an allocation from the state of $478 million, according to the state chief financial officer’s office.
On Wednesday, the U.S. imposed sanctions on 13 high-ranking government and military officials in Venezuela, along with managers of the state oil company known as PDVSA.
Republish with permission of the News Service of Florida.
Gov. Rick Scott joined local law enforcement and legislative officials Thursday to ceremonially sign a bill that brings stiffer penalties for dealers of synthetic opioid drugs and fentanyl.
The bill cuts through the bureaucracy and allows state officials to immediately draw more than $27 million in federal grant money from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Opioid State Targeted Response Grant, awarded to Florida April 21.
Republican state Rep. Mike Miller, who co-sponsored the bill with Republican state Rep. Sam Killebrew, participated in the ceremonial signing at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
“The opioid crisis is affecting younger people every day,” Miller said. “Teenagers are now stumbling into a culture of drug addiction.”
Miller said the bill (HB 477) ensures that dealers of opioids and fentanyl will be charged with murder if someone dies from drugs they sold.
“This is the most damning public safety crisis in Central Florida,” said Special Agent in Charge Danny Banks, Florida Depatment of Law Enforcement special agent in charge. “This has affected more families than any other violent crime we’ve ever seen.”
The governor spoke about his brother’s struggle with drug addiction. One of five children, Scott said his mother fought valiantly to help her son.
“It impacted my family my entire life,” Scott said. “Up until the day she (Scott’s mother) died, it was the issue she struggled with most.”
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said that his department has seen a 137 percent increase in heroin overdoses between January and June of this year, compared to 2016. The number of deaths during that same period jumped 127 percent to 25 this year.
The sheriff said that the purchase of Naloxone, an emergency treatment for opioid overdoses, has saved 88 lives this year.
Westgate Resorts founder David Siegel, who lost his18-year-old daughter Victoria to a heroin overdose in 2015, attended the signing and showed a nasal inhaler version of Naloxone that first responders wear in a pouch on their uniforms. Siegel pushed legislators to pass a bill allowing Nalozone to be purchased over the counter for $150 for a pack of two. Local law enforcement agencies can buy the two packs for $96.
“This is my daughter’s legacy,” Siegel said. “If 160 sailors were killed in North Korea, we would be at war. How many more lives have to be lost? This is an epidemic that kills 160 people nationwide a day.”
Orlando Police Chief John Mina said his officers put their lives at risk dealing with criminals but the drug epidemic has been tough. He said three first responders were taken to the hospital last weekend after experiencing breathing problems during a drug arrest involving fentanyl. All three were released the same day.
Gov. Rick Scott wants the state’s highway patrol troopers, wildlife officers and law-enforcement agents to get another pay raise.
Scott announced the proposal Wednesday during a visit to a Florida Highway Patrol station in Jacksonville.
This year legislators agreed to give the state’s nearly 4,000 sworn-law enforcement officers a 5 percent raise. Scott wants to set aside an additional $30 million in 2018, a number that would roughly double the financial commitment made recently.
In a statement, the governor said the money could be used to recruit and retain officers. But Scott said each agency would come up with a plan to parcel out the raises.
FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen noted that the money would be used to “recruit seasoned investigators,” helping to reverse a trend of losing “the best and the brightest” to other jurisdictions.
Scott will include the request in budget recommendations he’ll give legislators later this year. The Florida Legislature will consider the pay raise during the regular session that starts in January.
In Jacksonville, Gov. Scott was accompanied by Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Kim Daniels, along with law enforcement leaders who lauded the proposal.
Scott noted that the job of law enforcement officers is only getting harder, with officers “targeted for the uniform they were” — an all too topical point given that a Jacksonville policeman, Jeremy Mason, was shot less than 24 hours ago on the Northside of town.
Scott noted that he had been talking to law enforcement across the state, and “heard firsthand how grateful they are” for the raise, which he sees as something to build on.
“I will keep fighting,” Scott vowed.
The legislators echoed the Governor’s sentiments.
Sen. Bradley asserted that “the people of the State of Florida are behind you 100 percent,” noting that state officers have had raises three of the last five years.
Rep. Daniels, a Desert Storm veteran, noted that in that theater “we got extra pay for being in the midst of war.”
For law enforcement, Daniels added, “every day is a war.”
Also supporting the proposal: Secretary of Agriculture Adam Putnam, who hopes to succeed Gov. Scott next year.
“Our state law enforcement officers deserve all the support we can give them, as they’ve achieved a 46-year crime low and face unprecedented challenges, such as the current opioid crisis.
“Our 240 law enforcement officers with the Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement and their peers at other state law enforcement agencies deserve a raise. In order to recruit and retain the best law enforcement officers to keep Floridians and visitors safe, this is a much-needed step in the right direction. I thank Governor Scott for this proposal.”
In Jacksonville Wednesday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott gaggled with local press after an event announcing $30M in proposed raises for state law enforcement in his next budget.
The gaggle afterwards was more wide-ranging, however, and included queries about President Donald Trump‘s proposed ban of transgender people from the military, as well as the fate of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Gov. Scott was not willing to go especially deep in addressing the latest issues regarding his “partner in the White House,” hewing to generalities and avoiding specific criticisms.
Regarding the announced ban of transgender people in the military, Scott avoided any specific comments as to whether or not the President is right.
“I do know the President’s worried and focused on the safety of all Americans, and I do know that he relies on his military leaders to make decisions. I don’t know the details of that,” Scott said.
When asked about the disconnect between Trump’s commitment to LGBT rights in the campaign and the ban announced via Twitter, Scott noted that he didn’t know the details of the policy change Trump tweeted out.
“I do know that when I talk to him, he cares about the safety of all Americans and I do know he does rely on military leaders to make decisions.”
“With regard to appointees of the President,” Scott continued, “those issues he works on with his own appointees — we all have a way of doing that. I do that with my appointees. I work to make sure everybody knows what my expectations are.”
Dan Raulerson is resigning from the Florida House.
The Tampa Bay Times reported Tuesday that the Plant City Republican has announced he will resign his seat effective Aug. 15. The announcement, according to the report, comes about a month after he made public comments critical of House leadership.
Raulerson had back surgery, which kept him away from the Capitol this year, leading some members to speculate that he was planning to resign. But Raulerson dismissed the rumors, telling Florida Politics Capitol correspondent Jim Rosica in December it was “absolutely untrue.”
Raulerson, who was first elected to the Florida House in 2012, filed to run for re-election in February. State records show he has only raised $2,000 toward his re-election bid since filing to run.
Raulerson told the Tampa Bay Times that he changed his mind about running for re-election, saying he needed to focus on his health and his business.
Gov. Rick Scott will likely call a special election to replace Raulerson, but the timing could be tricky. The 2018 Legislative Session begins in January, and the first committee is scheduled for September.
Shawn Mathis Gilliam, a no-party affiliation candidate, is the only candidate who has filed to run for the House District 58 seat in 2018.
For those in Jacksonville City Hall, these are halcyon days (somewhat). The mayor proposed the most ambitious budget in nearly a decade, addressing long-deferred needs.
But, as is always the case in a Florida summer, storm clouds are on the horizon — with quiet assaults on the mayor’s vision.
We cover two of them here: A bill to push a referendum to gut term limits for Jacksonville’s elected officials and a push to hike property taxes.
Both are non-starters for the mayor and — as affronts to his vision — will join a bill from earlier this summer to allocate budget increases to the pension debt.
When the TV cameras find them, everyone is all smiles; on the record, there isn’t much daylight between Lenny Curry and leading City Council members.
However, these bills are meaningful, in that the City Council is staking out significant differences in policy vision with the Mayor’s Office, challenging Curry for the first time in over two years.
This is, to be very clear, a Cold War. No one is giving interesting quotes.
When cameras are off? That’s when s**t gets real.
Curry introduces new Jacksonville budget
On Monday morning, Jacksonville Mayor Curry released his first budget since pension reform passed: a $1.27B budget, up from the $1.2B budget the previous year.
With budget relief available after pension reform, Curry made the decision to invest in long neglected city infrastructure and employees, spending more than in the previous two years and adding 175 new hires total — 100 on the police side, 42 in Fire and Rescue, and — as a measure of the ongoing economic boom in Jacksonville — eight new building inspectors.
According to the Florida Times-Union, the spending increase is the “result of a strong economy, growing property values and far more flexibility stemming from a complex series of reforms to the city’s employee-retirement system.” Pension debt is now at hundreds of millions of dollars each year, but it is a trend that reforms had reversed, for the short term.
Curry also focused on putting money into contingency accounts for salaries and committed to hiking reserve levels in the coming years. As well, a $105M budget for capital improvements includes plans for a near-term demolition of the old Courthouse and City Hall.
Council President Anna Brosche said the budget was “in line with what we’ve seen” in recent years, lauding the proposed increase of the emergency reserve in light of impacts created by Hurricane Matthew last year.
Curry, compassionate conservative
One of the interesting evolutions in local political life has been Curry’s path from “party boss” of the local and state GOP to a mayor focused on equity.
This week saw multiple examples: the budget (discussed above); the release of a book to be given to new mothers at local hospitals to encourage them to read to their children and a Thursday commencement address for graduates of the Mayor’s Summer Jobs Program.
The remarks were notable as Curry described his own bootstrap narrative, including his career in accounting that he put on hold to launch his own business and then his move into politics.
Curry told the graduates that they would get a lot of advice, from a lot of people, but his one takeaway for the students: “You only get to do this thing called life one time.”
Curry went on to describe a run for Mayor that the smart set attempted to discourage him from. They said Curry couldn’t win: no name ID; no resources, they said.
“The voices were loud and persistent, but I ignored them,” Curry said.
“Want your dreams,” Curry added, “more than you want to breathe.”
Will Curry break his “no tax hikes” pledge?
He’s not inclined to, but the Jacksonville City Council auditor wants a 0.25 mill raise in property tax, the Jacksonville Daily Record reported this week.
Curry noted that his finance team is 3-for-3 regarding delivering balanced budgets, a deliverable driven by sweeping $60M money from sub-funds in 2015, going lean in 2016, and pulling off pension reform earlier this year.
Finance Chair Garrett Dennis is more open to a millage hike, saying he would “support” it to invest in the city.
The Dennis/Curry dynamic is worth watching this year. In many ways, they are mirror images of each other. Affable, smart politicians who underneath it all play to win. The moments where collaboration falters, as was the case with swimming lessons money this summer, are those that reveal potential fault lines that will occupy city politics for the next generation.
Council to gut term limits?
Pieces on Jacksonville City Council committees are sometimes just inside baseball — bills and concepts that may never come to pass.
And other times, they strike a nerve — such as Tuesday’s pieces on two committees voting to gut term limits via putting a referendum on the ballot.
As with the millage hike, this is yet another issue where council members seem more enthusiastic than the mayor: it passed both committees of reference 5-2, with lots of self-congratulatory shtick about “institutional knowledge” as a justification for giving incumbents more time to incumb.
In addition to giving another term to City Council members, the measure would afford constitutional officers and School Board members a three-term limit, pending voter approval in a 2018 referendum.
There isn’t universal buy-in on this one, and one could imagine there being trouble for the bill Tuesday.
Councilman Scott Wilson voted against the bill, saying he believed the community would “overwhelmingly reject” the measure, given that the public doesn’t like elected officials any more than they did in the 1990s.
“I don’t see what we’ve done to change their opinion about a third term,” Wilson said.
Wilson, a pragmatist, did not have his question answered in committee. But it should have been.
Donors give Duval County Schools an ultimatum
Several major donors on major education initiatives – worth over $122 million in the past decade – have given Duval School Board members an ultimatum over plans to reduce funding those projects.
The Florida Times-Union is reporting on one such party, the Quality Education for All Fund (QEA), that sent a letter to all seven members of the Duval School Board, threatening to “cut ties with the district” if it reneges on an “implicit understanding” that the district would continue funding the programs.
“We in the private community want to continue to honor our part of the Quality Education for All Fund commitment … but only if we can believe that we can count on the underlying partnership that has existed since we began this journey to improve public education for our most at risk students,” said the letter, signed by QEA chair J. Wayne Weaver, a philanthropist and owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Other names on the letter include Gary Chartrand, Lawrence Dubow, Cindy Edelman, Matt Rapp and David Stein.
“If you are not willing to invest in those programs that have proven successful, we must consider that this bond has been broken and we will have no choice but to step back our part of this arrangement until a new understanding can be established,” the letter continued.
To prove their point, the QEA board froze nearly $5 million in contributions from going to the district, Chartrand told the T-U this week. “We think these investments have proven out,” he said. “We asked the board do their part in funding them. If they don’t, it will send a loud signal to the philanthropic community that it’s a one-way street. I don’t know if we can keep the private community as engaged.”
Gwen Graham snags Duval endorsements, talks MMJ
Gubernatorial candidate Gwenn Graham scooped up two key Jacksonville endorsements this week from Councilman Garrett Dennis and former Mayor Jake Godbold.
Graham, who had already been endorsed by former Mayor Tommy Hazouri, nearly crossed paths with another Democrat in the building for another purpose: Sen. Audrey Gibson, Dennis’ political mentor.
The Duval Democrats chair beat a hasty retreat from the cameras, likely mindful of a chair’s need to be neutral in primaries.
Graham talked to media for over a half-hour, with the big news being a more aggressive position on medical cannabis than some may have expected.
The greatest pyrotechnics came when she discussed medical marijuana, and the state Legislature’s lack of fidelity to the Constitutional Amendment passed in 2016.
“I am so sick and tired of the Florida Legislature not doing what the people of Florida have overwhelmingly said they want done,” Graham said regarding the smoking prohibition, putting MMJ in the same bucket with lottery money and Amendment 1 funds, which did not go to Forever Florida this year.
Graham noted the palliative effects of cannabis, and said that it is a “good replacement for opioids.”
Bill Gulliford: ‘Christian Communist’ Pope
Jacksonville City Councilman Gulliford is still sticking to his guns, asserting that Pope Francis indeed is a “Communist,” albeit a “Christian Communist.”
We reached out to him for further clarification after his take roiled some people last week — and many of his comments came back to schisms in the Church between the conservative American Catholic wing and the “liberation theology” school from which the pontiff hails.
“Liberation theology,” said Gulliford, is a “form of Christian communism,” and one that Francis’ “narratives and pronouncements” still echo.
“All he talks about is social justice,” Gulliford added.
“If he is the head of the Catholic Church, he should put salvation over social justice,” Gulliford continued, adding that “any friend of the United Nations is no friend of mine.”
Murder charges for overdoses?
Murder charges for death-dealing drug dealers? State Attorney Melissa Nelson says yes, but not everyone is on board, the Florida Times-Union reports.
The goal, Nelson told the T-U: “to keep the public safe from those responsible for this deadly crisis” … an appropriate “legal response to the loss of life.”
However, the T-U notes some issues.
“Beyond the policy questions, there are concerns over the legality of such a prosecution. While Florida’s murder statute allows prosecutors to go after drug dealers in overdose cases, the statute lists what drugs apply, and fentanyl isn’t specifically listed. Just last week Gov. Rick Scott held a ceremony to celebrate the addition of fentanyl to the law, but that addition will only affect cases after Oct. 1 and won’t impact Nelson’s murder prosecution.”
Despite qualms, Nelson commits to exploring this, at least.
“If I’m a drug dealer and I know I’m cutting heroin with fentanyl, and I know I can be prosecuted for murder, I’m just telling you common-sensically, maybe I think otherwise about what I’m doing. If there’s research that shows what I’m saying is off base, I’d like to be able to look at it. I’m telling you something by my gut right now. I can’t point to research that proves what I’m saying.”
Nancy Soderberg hits campaign trail
DeLand is a trek from Northeast Florida, yet that’s where UNF professor and former U.N. Ambassador Soderberglaunched her campaign in Florida’s 6th Congressional District this week.
Soderberg has rented an apartment in the district, and her first stump speech as a candidate was — as our Orlando correspondent Scott Powers called it — “moderate Democrat.”
Light on attacks on Republicans, heavy on policy, it’s clear where Soderberg’s base is — old-school ClintonWorld. In a “wave election” year, that might be enough.
Soderberg may need some help with comms though. An email from her campaign, for example, said that when she worked in her DC gig, she “reigned in terrorism” as a negotiator.
Curry boosts Rick Baker
Mayor Curry helped out fellow Republican Rick Baker last month, as the former Mayor of St. Petersburg is running to reclaim his job.
Curry knows that money is oxygen for campaigns. And by helping Baker by raising $25,000, that gives Baker — ahead in most polls — some air.
According to the most recent campaign finance reports, which covered activity from June 24 to July 7, Curry and his political allies from northeast Florida donated $18,000 to Baker’s campaign. That’s more than incumbent Rick Kriseman raised from all sources during the same period.
Feeling generous: Gary Chartrand, the Jacksonville Kennel Club, Tom Petway, Wayne Weaver, and others who opted to max out.
Curry’s political committee will also slide $7,000 to Baker’s, adding up to $25,000 in total.
Scott talks Venezuela with Goldman Sachs
Gov. Scott cut a Jacksonville press event a bit short Wednesday, and media was told the governor had a meeting.
Turned out that meeting was important.
A re-released copy of Scott’s Wednesday schedule included a new entry: an 11:30 meeting with Jacksonville’s “Goldman Sachs Asset Management.”
We reached out to Scott’s office for more detail; the meeting had to do with Scott’s policy on companies doing business with Venezuela.
“Goldman Sachs Asset Management requested to meet with the Governor … to discuss his upcoming policy to prohibit Florida from doing business with anyone who supports the brutal Maduro regime,” emailed Kerri Wyland of the Governor’s office.
Wyland added that more “details on his policy will be announced before the Aug. 16 Cabinet meeting.”
Scott foreshadowed this position earlier in July, via a strongly-worded news release.
“During the next meeting of the Florida Cabinet in August,” Scott asserted, “I will bring forward a proposal that will prohibit the State of Florida from doing business with any organization that supports the oppressive Maduro dictatorship.
“Floridians stand with the people of Venezuela as they fight for their freedom, and as a state,” Scott added, “we must not provide any support for Maduro and his thugs.”
Gov. Scott announced two reappointments to the Clay County Development Authority.
Russell Buck, 56, of Middleburg, is the regional vice president of Vystar Credit Union. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland.
Gregory Clary, 65, of Middleburg, is the president of Clary & Associates. Terms of both reappointments are through July 1, 2021.
Rayonier, one of the key companies in Nassau County, finds itself encountering pushback in an attempt to acquire Tembec, reports the Jax Daily Record.
“Although we appreciate the strategic rationale of a Rayonier-Tembec combination, we believe Rayonier’s current offer significantly undervalues Tembec. If the offer is not increased, we believe Tembec shareholders would be better off if Tembec remains independent,” reads the letter from Tembec’s largest shareholder.
“The price offered to Tembec shareholders does not fully recognize these benefits, nor does it appropriately compensate Tembec shareholders for the increased risk associated with combining with Rayonier,” it said.
City Hall for sale
You can’t fight City Hall. But in Neptune Beach, the Jax Daily Record reports, you soon may be able to buy it.
City Hall out there is in a prime location, a short walk to the ocean. The facility needs repairs also and is too small to accommodate city staffing needs.
And, at a time when property values are peaking, Neptune Beach’s mayor looks to ride the wave.
“We’re sitting here with both of these buildings off the tax rolls in prime locations,” Mayor Elaine Brown said. “I think there’s an opportunity to bring in some more revenue in the form of property taxes and sales taxes.”
Jax Beach Mayor mulls overdose epidemic
Opioid addiction is fast becoming a story that is numbing in the retelling, but anecdotes like those from Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham reveal how deep the epidemic runs.
The overdose victim was, said Latham, “very purple.” And it took two medics to revive him from the brink of death.
But, via Narcan, he was revived.
“I was in the hospital right when he came around. He acted like it was another day at the office,” Latham said. “Shortly after that, his parents came in, and it looked like, of course, they were facing the worst possible, (worst) imaginable scenario.”
The overdose crisis is hitting Duval County hard, both regarding time and budgetary demands for EMTs and in body count — which exceeds, by multiples, the county’s homicide rate.
Doggone doped-up dogs
BestBet President Jamie Shelton decried “sensationalized” reports of dogs failing post-race drug tests for cocaine metabolites this week.
“We contract with kennel operators that acquire or lease dogs from people who raise greyhounds around the country. They are independent contractors. They are licensed by the state of Florida, and they also receive a badge from us so they can come on to our property to race their product at our facility.” Shelton explained at a Rotary Club meeting, as quoted by First Coast News.
“My oversight of the independent contractors other than me being to ensure that the safety and welfare of the greyhounds while they are in my premises in the kennels and they are being cared for they are being turned out, they are being fed, they are air-conditioned kennels,” Shelton added. “All the things you are asking about, that’s my No. 1 concern.”
BestBet is one of the most politically connected companies in Northeast Florida.
The contractor that supplied the dogs in question no longer works with BestBet.
The latest: no napping by conductors who are on break, said CEO Hunter Harrison.
“We had a rule that said you could take a nap while you worked,” Harrison told The Wall Street Journal. “We don’t have that now.”
The goal: “Precision scheduling.”
The reality Jacksonville people experience: Stalled out trains on tracks stymying their commutes.
Speaking of stalled out: CSX equity price momentum, after what the Journal called a “bombshell” announcement on an earnings call this week.
“I’m a short-timer here,” said Harrison. “I’m the interim person that’s going to try to get this company to the next step and good foundation.”
Harrison pledged 700 more layoffs on the call, a strategy which seems to be helping with earnings in the short term, yet raising long-term existential questions.
Chris Hand talks downtown development
Former Alvin Brown chief-of-staff Chris Hand is now in the byline journalism game and his first column in the Florida Times-Union addresses downtown development.
“Downtown revitalization needs a constant supply of fuel to keep running. Unfortunately, the city agency charged with overseeing Downtown revival is nearing an empty gas tank,” Hand notes.
Hand adds that “the DIA has little investment funding to prime the pump on additional Downtown development. The City Council should rectify that worrisome deficiency in this year’s budget process.”
The whole column is worth a read.
JIA opens Firehouse Subs location
Jacksonville-based Firehouse Subs opened its first airport kiosk at Jacksonville International Airport, the latest phase in the rise of the fast-casual food chain.
According to the Jax Daily Record, Firehouse Subs expansion plans include more non-traditional locations, such as U.S. airport terminals, college campuses and military bases.
The JIA location is located in the post-security food court, with a menu that includes the chain’s staples as well as breakfast options geared toward travelers. It incorporates a revised restaurant design to accommodate smaller spaces.
Robert Palmer buys the Armada
The Jacksonville Armada have been sold. Just seven months after the North American Soccer League (NASL) assumed control of the club when original owner Mark Frisch bailed out, Robert Palmer has stepped into the fold. The new ownership assumes control of the club immediately and secures the long-term future of pro soccer in Jacksonville.
“While sports ownership has been a dream of mine since I was young, the business opportunity with Armada FC and the NASL was simply too good to pass up,” said Palmer. “I care deeply about the Jacksonville market and have both personal and professional interests in the area. My team at Robert Palmer Companies and I look forward to bringing our proven marketing and business strategies to this outstanding organization.”
A native of Lakeland, Palmer and his wife, Jill, have local ties to the Jacksonville area and have maintained a residence in Neptune Beach since 2007. He is the founder and CEO of Robert Palmer Companies, which is based in Central Florida and is involved in the financing, marketing, and escrow of more than $5 billion in residential real estate.
In addition to RP Funding, Palmer has started several other companies including Homevalue.com, which provides personalized reports on homeowners’ property values from a local real estate agent and Listing Power Tools, a company that helps real estate agents craft the perfect listing presentation, among others.
Palmer is bullish about the market and said at the Press Conference unveiling his ownership, “You’ll have to be under a rock to not know that the Jacksonville Armada will be playing on any given Saturday .” He continued, ” (We will focus on) aggressive, targeted advertising… these guys know soccer, I know advertising.” Palmer also stated RP Funding ads will include Armada pitches within them. He is also committed to growing the fan base not just in terms of attendance for home matches but also other revenue streams including those who watch away matches on television.
The Armada just concluded the NASL Spring Season finishing in the top half of the table. The Fall Season begins on July 30 with a match-up against the San Francisco Deltas at Patton Park.
Gov. Rick Scott said ‘let there be jobs’—and there were jobs. And the jobs numbers were good.
In fact, in one key metric—the official unemployment rate—the numbers were the best in a decade.
Florida’s unemployment rate “has dropped to its lowest rate in 10 years and nearly 18,000 new jobs were created for families across the state in June,” Scott said in a statement.
In a release with a Las Vegas byline (where Scott is today for economic development meetings with Zappos, Allegiant Air, and other companies), the Governor’s Office noted that Florida’s unemployment rate of 4.1 percent in June is the lowest since June 2007.
As many as 18,000 new private-sector jobs were created in June, part of the nearly 1.4 million such jobs created since December 2010.
And the private sector job growth rate, a healthy 3.1 percent, is nearly double that of the nation’s rate of 1.7 percent. It’s no surprise Scott wants to keep the momentum going.
“Our newly established $85 million Florida Job Growth Grant Fund will keep Florida on track to becoming the national leader for job growth,” he said. “I encourage businesses interested in growing in Florida to learn more about the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund today.”
Department of Economic Opportunity director Cissy Proctor attributed the boon to Florida’s “pro-growth policies.”
Moreover, Orlando in particular continues to lead the state in job creation, Scott said.
“It is great news that the Orlando area continues to lead the state in job creation with more than 46,000 new jobs created over the past year,” he said.
“I am proud to meet with Allegiant Air today to recognize their continued investment in Florida,” he added. “While this national company could have chosen any location for their new training center, they ultimately decided that Florida was the best place to grow their business and create new jobs.”
Allegiant houses its East Coast Training Center at Orlando/Sanford International Airport, and is responsible for 15,000 jobs in Florida, according to the Governor’s Office.
Further, there are nearly a quarter-million job openings in Florida now, Governor’s Office statistics show. June saw nearly 23,000 people placed in jobs in the Sunshine State, according to the state’s regional workforce boards.