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#FlaPol in Review: A weekend roundup

Professional football is underway. And so is professional politicking.

Consider this a highlight reel of Florida politicians’ activity from over the weekend.

Vice President Mike Pence hit the trail for Rick Scott:

Bill Nelson, who’s fighting to keep his Senate seat, touted the endorsement of two Puerto Rican mayors this weekend:

From Ron DeSantis :

Andrew Gillum held a rally in Orlando:

Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw spoke with University of Florida Democrats:

Agriculture Commissioner hopeful Nikki Fried joined Gillum at the Orlando rally:

Jeremy Ring, who’s running for CFO, also attended:

Incumbent CFO Jimmy Patronis welcomed Scott on the campaign trail :

U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana RosLehtinen attended the Miami Hurricanes home game:

Rep. Gus Bilirakis is representing the Buccaneers at the U.S. Capitol:

Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy canvassed Oviedo:

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith also is out on the trail in Orlando:

A slew of Northeast Florida lawmakers aided state Rep. Jackie Toledo on the trail this weekend:

State House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, who’s running against incumbent state Sen. Dana Young, attended the annual FEA conference.

 

Democrats for Cabinet calling for Groveland Four pardons, Republicans mum

In 2017 the Florida Legislature acknowledged and apologized for one of Florida’s ugliest recorded events of 20th-century racism. Yet barring a late surprise it would be left to the next state government to address the Groveland Four, and all four Democratic Florida Cabinet nominees pledged they would move swiftly, if elected, to issue long-sought pardons.

On Tuesday the Florida Board of Clemency will meet. As with the previous five times the board has met since the Florida Legislature urged Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet to issue posthumous pardons for “grave injustices perpetrated against Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas,” such pardons are not on the agenda.

The offices of Scott and the other Cabinet members, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, have never publicly said whether they have any intention of considering the pardons demanded by the Legislature and families of the four men whose lives were destroyed in 1949 after what now are recognized as false rape accusations and a series of racism-fueled injustices.

That silence continued through the end of last week, despite fresh inquiries from Florida Politics and others. On Friday, Scott’s office provided essentially the same response it did twice earlier, last October and in April, saying only that he is keeping his options open. The statement did not say what those options might be, or if the options include not acting at all.

The bipartisan-pushed and -celebrated resolution CS/HCR 631 was unanimously approved by both chambers of the Florida Legislature in April 2017, urging them to perform “expedited clemency review of the cases and grant full pardons.”

Now, all four Democratic Florida Cabinet nominees including gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum are making it clear that they would act swiftly, if elected, on behalf of the Groveland Four. The Republican nominees each declined opportunities to comment on the pardons.

The Democrats also are declaring shame on Scott, Bondi, Putnam and Patronis for doing and saying nothing so far.

There is only one more scheduled meeting of the Clemency Board under Scott and the current Florida Cabinet, set for Dec. 5.

“It makes me incensed that the Cabinet would just ignore the will of a bipartisan Legislature,” said Democratic chief financial officer nominee Jeremy Ring, a former state senator. “This was [Republican House Speaker] Richard Corcoran and [Democratic state Sen.] Gary Farmer coming together, right? This was a unanimous decision. … But more than just absurd that they would ignore the Legislature, it’s unconscionable and mean that they would ignore the families.”

“The total silence from the Governor and Florida Cabinet on expediting the pardons of the Groveland Four speaks volumes about why we so desperately need new leadership in Tallahassee,” Democratic agriculture commissioner nominee Nikki Fried said in a written statement. “As ag commissioner, and a member of the cabinet, I would not hesitate to move the clemency review process, and these long-deserved pardons, forward quickly. The Groveland Four, and their families, deserve to finally realize the justice they were never able to in their lifetimes. And Florida deserves a Cabinet that will actually act in the spirit of fairness and compassion when it comes to the clemency review process.”

“Justice for Ernest Thomas, Charles Greenlee, Samuel Shepherd and Walter Irvin is seven decades overdue,” Democratic attorney general nominee Sean Shaw said in written statement. “I will do everything within my power to bring closure for these families if this is not resolved by my first Clemency Board meeting as attorney general.”

Gillum declined to comment, though his campaign staff and his running mate made it clear he, too, is ready to issue pardons.

“The mistreatment suffered by these young men should trouble every law-abiding citizen and posthumous pardons from Gov. Scott are long overdue,” Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Chris King said in a written statement.

Records released by the FBI and evidence and testimony gathered by Civil Rights crusaiders including Thurgood Marshall, the future Supreme Court justice, laid a powerful case that the four were falsely accused of raping a white woman in a rural area of Lake County outside Groveland in 1949. The story of racism and justice gone awry, and the individual stories of nightmares-come-true of the Groveland Four, were first comprehensively detailed in Gary Corsair‘s 2012 book “Legal Lynching: The Sad Saga of the Groveland Four” and then internationally exposed in Gilbert King‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning, 2013 best seller “Devil in the Grove.”

Shepherd and Thomas were killed in custody. Greenlee and Irvin were convicted and imprisoned. They since have died.

“We hereby acknowledge that Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas, the Groveland Four, were the victims of gross injustices and that their abhorrent treatment by the criminal justice system is a shameful chapter in this state’s history,” the Florida Legislature declared in the resolution.

The resolution also extended the Florida Legislature’s “heartfelt apology to the families … for the enduring sorrow caused by the criminal justice system’s failure.”

The desperate familes, watching aging loved ones who are contemporaries of the Groveland Four move into the twilights of their lives, have gone from joyful to angry as time has slipped by since that resolution was published, Ap;ril 28, 2017, without any word of formal considerations of such pardons from the Florida Cabinet.

They’re now assisted by a loosely-defined group that is getting pro-bono help from the firm Edelman Orlando for a more organized push for the pardons. The nameless group includes several family members and several others who’ve been involved in the effort for years, such as King and Josh Venkataraman, the young activist who brought the matter to the attentions of Farmer, then-state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, state Rep. Bobby DuBose and the Legislature. The group has been writing to the Cabinet members urging action, and seeking more media attention. So far they’ve not heard anything from Florida Cabinet officials either.

“It’s like the Legislature vote did not happen,” said Greenlee’s daughter, Carol Greenlee.

Among survivors is Henrietta Irvin, sister of Walter Irvin.

“There’s an 84-year-old woman in Miami with crippled hands that no longer work, who can no longer bathe herself or brush her hair, who spends her days in bed, wasting away because she has no appetite – a divorcee who raised children, worked long hours at a hospital, buried two daughters, took care of a mentally disabled brother for decades, who has nurtured the hope that her wrongfully-convicted brother, Walter Lee Irvin, would one day be exonerated,” Corsair wrote in an email to Florida Politics. “I believe only one thing is keeping this praiseworthy woman alive – a fading hope that the state of Florida will right a terrible wrong and restore Walter Lee Irvin’s to nullify his criminal record and restore his reputation to law-abiding citizen.”

The response from Scott’s office, from his press secretary Ashley Cook, did not provide any specific reason for Irvin or others involved to hope that a resolution is forthcoming.

“Governor Scott is aware of the Groveland Four case and is strongly against any form of racial injustice or discrimination. Currently, the families of Walter Irvin and Charles Greenlee have applications pending with the Commission on Offender Review which, on behalf of the state of Florida, conducts clemency investigations per standard procedure and the Florida Constitution. After the Commission concludes clemency investigation, their findings are presented to the four-member Board of Executive Clemency,” Cook said in a written statement. “We continue to review all of our options.”

Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor, is ready to pursue pardons “following the will of the Legislature,” if he is elected governor, according to his spokesman. “The Groveland Four and their families deserve closure,” said Geoff Burgan.

Rick Scott unveils ‘Make Washington Work’ plan in Panama City

Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott today unveiled his 10-point “Make Washington Work” agenda as he kicked off a bus tour in Panama City.

Included in Scott’s plan? Term limits on lawmakers, an end to pay raises and rules barring lawmakers from taking on jobs as lobbyists for decade after their time in office ends.

As far as branding goes, the plan serves as a clear successor to the “Let’s Get to Work” message that twice propelled him to statewide wins for governor, focuses on economic messages like job creation and tax relief.

The plan serves as a policy platform for Scott’s challenge of three-term Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. Polls show the candidates in a dead heat.

Scott touts his eight-year record in Tallahassee, during which time Scott’s campaign reports $10 billion in tax cuts, reduced regulations and 1.6 million new jobs.

“I wish Washington had a similar record of accomplishment on behalf of Florida families, and all Americans,” Scott writes in the plan. “Unfortunately, however, federal spending seems to race ever higher and higher, with the national debt growing exponentially.”

Scott’s plan includes 12-year term limits for lawmakers (six full House terms or two Senate terms), as well as a requirement that elected officials work five days a week either in Washington or in district offices.

He also proposes a restriction on lawmakers become registered lobbyists for 10 years after completing their terms.

A recent analysis by The Atlantic found that after the 2014 mid-terms, about half of departing members took lobs with lobbying firms. Scott’s team says after 2016, about two-thirds of departing members did the same.

Scott proposes an end to pay cost-of-living raises — and perhaps more importantly to pensions. “Taxpayers should not be required to foot the pension bill for Members of Congress at all,” the plan states. He also wants to kill insurance subsidies for senators and congressmen.

Scott’s plan calls for a requirement of a two-thirds majority vote to raise federal taxes or fees.

He also proposes a permanent requirement for lawmakers to pass a budget each year or forgo their pay, similar to the one-year requirement put in place in 2013 by the No Budget No Pay Act.

He wants to give the president a line-item veto similar to that enjoyed by Florida’s governor, granting the ability to kill individual spending projects in the budget passed by Congress, and he wants a prohibition on omnibus spending bills.

He also calls for the creation of an ombudsman in the Congressional Budget Office to improve transparency and accountability.

Bill Nelson endorsed by Jose Alvarez, Mayita Meléndez

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson today picked up the endorsements of two Hispanic leaders—Mayors Jose Alvarez and Maria “Mayita” Meléndez.

Alvarez announced his support for the Democratic incumbent shortly after Nelson participated in the Osceola County Puerto Rican Parade this morning.

At a campaign announcement, Alvarez called Nelson “the best choice not only for the people of Kissimmee and our city’s Puerto Rican community, but for all Floridians.”

Meléndez, the mayor of Ponce, Puerto Rico, sent a video message from the island also appealing to the many Puerto Rican residents of Florida. She cited the three-term senator’s experience as reason for her support.

Nelson this year faces the toughest re-election battle of his career and remains neck-and-neck in the polls with Republican challenger Rick Scott.

The fight for support among the Puerto Rican population within Florida has been fierce. Scott’s campaign a week ago held a South Florida event spotlighting the support from Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón and other island leaders.

All citizens of Puerto Rico hold U.S. citizenship, and if they reside in the United States can vote in the mid-term elections. And a CNN analysis earlier this year showed a record number of Puerto Ricans migrating from the island in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, and Florida the state where more have settled than anywhere else.

After the heavily criticized federal response to the storm, President Donald Trump has been incredibly unpopular with island voters. But a Florida International University poll found voters from the island have a high view of Scott.

That’s part of why Nelson has worked hard to shore up support from the traditionally Democratic voting bloc.

Support from Meléndez could prove critical, as the Puerto Rican official runs the second-most populous city on the island behind San Juan. And Nelson already has the backing of San Juana Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, former Puerto Rico Govs. Pedro Rosselló and Alejandro García Padilla and former Puerto Rican Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock.

At the event where Alvarez endorsed Nelson, a number of other prominent Central Florida leaders with ties the community also appeared, including U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, state Sen. Victor Torres, state Rep. John Cortes, Osceola County Commissioners Viviana Janer and Cheryl Grieb, Kissimmee Mayor Pro Tem Jim Fisher and City Commissioner Angela Eady.

Kissimee boasts one of the highest concentrations of Puerto Rican voters in the state.

Additionally, Nelson’s camp hopes Alvarez, who was born in Cuba, can help with another Hispanic voting bloc.

The Cuban-American population has been a traditionally Republican demographic, and more than half of Cuban voters in Florida backed Trump in 2016, according to Pew Research. But Democrats for years have worked to make inroads with one of the only right-leaning Hispanic groups in the country.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — New food from a familiar face

A fresh slate of state leaders won’t be the only change lawmakers confront when they return to Tallahassee next year.  

Savour restaurant, offering traditional fare with a twist, is set to open its doors Oct. 15, replacing Avenue Eat & Drink at its former location on East Park Avenue in the heart of Tallahassee’s downtown district.

Florida Politics caught up with owner and operator Drew McLeod, who says he “absolutely” intends to cater to lawmakers, state leaders and others who inhabit the capital city. He’s betting his experience — nearly 30 years of working in the food and restaurant industry in and around Tallahassee — will translate well to his latest venture.

And Savour, he says, should complement other food enterprises popping up downtown, an area where other restaurants have recently struggled.

Avenue Eat & Drink quietly shuttered earlier this summer.

The dining will be upscale with entrees between $25-$45, but McLeod assures the price-quality ratio will keep customers coming back. Spearheading the kitchen and menu is top chef Brian Knepper, who got his start at the famous Commander’s Palace in New Orleans and has since worked at Tallahassee’s Cypress Restaurant, Governor’s Inn and Table 23.

Among the anticipated foodstuffs: Veal chops, lobster bao buns, local black grouper and escargot pot pie. McLeod expects the made-in-house desserts to also carry a “twist;” think key lime-raspberry-blackberry-flavored creme brulee.

Antibiotic-free, local and sustainable products also will be available, McLeod says. And the wine list will be “phenomenal,” boasting a “large variety from NAPA.” That’s in addition to a full bar.

“We’re going to have a menu that kind of evolves,” McLeod adds. “We’re not going to be afraid to change it every three to six months.”

Savour will operate Monday through Saturday night, and McLeod expects to open as a venue on Sundays for events.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Danny McAuliffe, Drew Wilson, Jim Rosica, and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Take 5

Supreme Court rules on CRC challenges – The Supreme Court of Florida struck an education-related amendment from the ballot Friday afternoon while upholding in separate rulings three other proposals that were approved by the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission. The education ballot item, known as Amendment 8, was struck in a 4-3 decision that affirmed a lower court’s stance that the proposal’s intentions toward charter schools were badly worded. The high court, however, disagreed with a lower court’s stance in its ruling on a proposal that would end dog racing. In a 6-1 decision, justices overturned a previous order by Circuit Judge Karen Gievers, who ruled the ballot title and summary of the proposed ban, known as Amendment 13, would mislead voters, calling it “outright ‘trickeration.’ ” Amendments 10 and 6 also were upheld by the Supreme Court on Friday.

Lower court examines ‘bundling’ – Tallahassee Judge Gievers heard arguments this week over a sweeping challenge to six of the eight proposed amendments approved by the CRC. Filed by former Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead, the lawsuit seeks to wipe the proposals off the ballot because they bundle, or logroll, separate issues into single ballot items. The practice is like forcing diners to select a set menu rather than letting them eat a la carte, a lawyer representing Anstead said. An attorney representing the state, however, argued that there is no judicial authority that guarantees one a right to vote on an unbundled CRC amendment. The case had originally been filed with the state Supreme Court, but the justices kicked the lawsuit down to Gievers’ trial court. Gievers said this week she will rule quickly on the matter.

Scott clashes with Legislature on security money – Gov. Rick Scott is pushing a special lawmaking budget panel to convene and unlock $58 million in unused school security funding, but lawmakers are resisting. Scott last week penned a letter to members of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission citing a Department of Education survey that found school districts used just $9 million of the $67 appropriated for the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program. The guardian program funds schools in districts that opted to hire security personnel or arm non-teacher faculty to staff guards at every campus. Before Scott wrote the letter, Bill Galvano, incoming Senate President, and Jose Oliva, incoming House Speaker, told The Associated Press they did not intend to shift the money out of the program. Both Oliva and Galvano are members of the special budget panel. Scott, in his letter, wrote: “Schools in your community can directly benefit from the redirection of this important funding. We cannot let this money go to waste in Tallahassee.”

Parkland SRO subpoenaed by state panelScot Peterson, the school resource officer who was stationed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the Valentine’s Day shooting that left 17 dead, has been subpoenaed to appear before the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, reports the News Service of Florida. Peterson has been widely criticized because he did not stop the shooter, Nikolas Cruz. “As opposed to going in, he retreated and ran,” said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who heads the fact-finding panel. “We’ll see him leave the door, after saying there were shots fired and hearing shots.” Gualtieri and the commission reviewed footage of the massacre this week. Peterson’s subpoena is for the panel’s October meeting.

Transportation officials: Sorry about SunPass – A Transportation Commission meeting this week began on an apologetic note, reports the News Service of Florida. Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Mike Dew apologized publicly for the issues that have accompanied a $287 million upgrade to SunPass, the state’s toll system. “This is not what they expect. This is not what they deserve,” Dew said. “This is not what SunPass is supposed to do. And they had to endure a lot of complications over the course of the summer.” The upgrades, carried out by state contractor Conduent, took longer than expected and resulted in a toll backlog exceeding 170 million transactions. The backlog has since been cleared, and the state has promised to hold Conduent accountable for its failures.   

Scott announces $1.5 million in grants for small, rural communities

Funding to the tune of $1.5 million will be available for small and rural communities across the state, Gov. Scott announced this week.

The Competitive Florida Partnership and Community Planning Technical Assistance grants will be administered by the Department of Economic Opportunity. The communities using the funding will receive assistance from DEO in planning and economic development.

Rick Scott announced the grant funding this week. It will be administered by his jobs agency, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

“Providing resources to support job creation in our rural communities plays a vital role in our state’s continued growth,” Scott said.

Added DEO executive director Cissy Proctor: “These grants are important economic development tools used to benefit Florida’s small and rural communities, allowing them to develop economic strategies to attract businesses and create jobs.”

According to Scott’s office, the grant money is in addition to more than $35 million already awarded to small and rural communities through the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, the Rural Infrastructure Fund and the Community Development Block Grant.

Ag department makes dent in invasive snails

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced some good news this week for farmers: more than 168,000 giant African land snails have been eliminated since the species’ discovery in 2011.

The invasive shelled creatures are threats to more than 500 crop varieties in Florida. They also consume plaster and stucco and are vehicles for a parasite known to cause meningitis, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

To report a giant African land snail, call the department’s toll-free help line at 1-888-397-1517.

“Giant African land snails not only threaten Florida’s $120 million agriculture industry, but they also endanger our residents and visitors,” said Putnam. “I am proud of the significant progress we’ve made to eliminate these invasive pests, and I encourage the public to report sightings.”

In partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture, Florida officials have dequarantined areas in 20 of the 32 identified snail hotspots. ‘

The snail species, originally hailing from East Africa, can grow to 8 inches in length. They have no natural predators and can reproduce rapidly, with adults capable of laying some 1,200 eggs a year.

Instagram of the Week

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The Week in Appointments

Gov. Scott this week made the following appointments and reappointments:

Board of Control for Southern Regional Education

State Rep. Rene “Coach P” Plasencia, 45, of Orlando, is a district relations manager with Florida Virtual School and previously served as a classroom instructor for 17 years. He currently represents House District 49. Plasencia is reappointed for a term ending June 30, 2022. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Florida Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council

Trenia Cox, 68, of St. Petersburg is a former senior special projects coordinator for the Juvenile Welfare Board. She is reappointed for a term beginning Sept. 6 and ending July 18, 2021. Nancy Acevedo, 69, of Winter Springs is the community relations coordinator for the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office. She succeeds Patricia Robbins and is appointed for a term beginning Sept. 6 and ending July 18, 2021. Calvin Martin, 49, of Palatka is the state director of program advocacy and inclusion of Florida Guardian ad Litem. He succeeds Karim Veerjee and is appointed for a term beginning Sept. 6 and ending July 18, 2020.

Polk State College District Board of Trustees

Gregory Littleton, 51, of Winter Haven, is the president and chief executive officer of Citizens Bank & Trust. He received his bachelor’s degree from Freed-Hardeman University and an advance banking degree from the Graduate School of Banking. Littleton is reappointed for a term beginning Sept. 6 and ending May 31, 2019. Daniel Dorrell, 71, of Lakeland, is a retired Certified Public Accountant. He received his bachelor’s degree from the Florida State University. Dorrell is reappointed for a term beginning Sept. 6 and ending May 31, 2022. These appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Florida Gateway College District Board of Trustees

Lindsey Lander, 45, of Trenton, is the owner of Lindsey Lander Attorney at Law P.A. He received his bachelor’s and law degree from the University of Florida. Lander is appointed for a term beginning Sept. 6 and ending May 31, 2022. Dr. Miguel Tepedino, 39, of Lake City, is a physician with North Florida Family Medicine and a residency and associate clinical professor at the University of Florida College of Medicine. He received his bachelor’s degree and medical doctorate from the University of Florida. Tepedino is appointed for a term beginning Sept. 6 and ending May 31, 2022. Dr. James Surrency, 66, of Trenton, is the retired executive director of the North East Florida Educational Consortium. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Murray State University, and his doctorate of Education from Nova Southeastern University. Surrency is reappointed for a term beginning Sept. 6 and ending May 31, 2022. These are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Seminole State College District Board of Trustees

Tina Calderone, 59, of Longwood, is a school board member for Seminole County Public Schools. She received her bachelor’s degree from Central Connecticut State University and her master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Florida. Calderone is appointed to fill a vacant seat for a term beginning Sept. 6 and ending May 31, 2022. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

ACA health insurance prices going up

Premiums for Affordable Care Act-complaint health insurance will rise by an average 5.2 percent as of Jan. 1, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

The office reviewed rates proposed by nine insurers, and OK’d premium changes ranging from a drop of 1.5 percent to an increase of 9.8 percent. You can review the results per insurer here.

The highest rate on offer would be from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, at $620 per month, and the lowest from Florida Health Care Plans, at $489

Those outcomes could change, depending on a review by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the state insurance office said.

Hearing set on workers’ comp premium reduction

State regulators will schedule a hearing during October to consider a 13.4 percent decrease in Florida’s workers’ compensation insurance premiums.

The National Council on Compensation Insurance, or NCCI, proposes rate levels for all of Florida’s workers’ compensation carriers. But the Office of Insurance Regulation has the final say.

CFO Jimmy Patronis oversees the regulatory body.

“As always, OIR will review the filing to ensure the proposed changes are not excessive, inadequate or unfairly discriminatory and evaluate its potential effects on the insurance marketplace and employers, who are required by law to carry this insurance on their employees,” the agency said in a press release.

In the past, regulators have deviated from NCCI’s rate proposals. If they approve this change, it would take effect on Jan. 1.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who oversees the insurance office, said the development was “a testament to our commitment to ensuring Florida is an attractive place for all business owners.

Time to register for insurance summit

Registration is open for the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation’s annual summit, scheduled for Oct. 24-25 at the Turnbull Conference Center in Tallahassee.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes is scheduled to give the keynote address. The St. Petersburg Republican carried a number of insurance reform bills last session, including a measure promoting the Florida private flood insurance market.

Sen. Jeff Brandes will deliver the keynote address the FOIR’s annual summit.

Key office staff will discuss priorities during break-out sessions covering the Medicare supplement market; flood insurance; the fine points of filing forms with the office; the state’s new insurance filing system; and the assignment-of-benefits “crisis.”

Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier will deliver remarks opening and closing the conference.

James Madison Institute opines on amendments

The Tallahassee-based James Madison Institute announced its 2018 Florida Constitutional Amendment Guide, where voters can find an analysis of each ballot initiative.

“A well-informed voter is the bedrock of our republic, and it is our hope that The James Madison Institute’s 2018 Amendment Guide will educate voters on the issues present in the upcoming election,” said Dr. Bob McClure, the group’s President and CEO.

The James Madison Institute is a liberty-minded think tank headquartered in Tallahassee.

“Educated voters help ensure that Florida will make prudent decisions for our future, and the importance of this year’s election will be examined for generations to come.”

As Florida’s premier free-market think tank, the Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational organization. It conducts research on issues such as health care, taxes, and regulatory environments.

JMI’s 2018 Florida Constitutional Amendment Guide can be found here.

Tallahassee entrepreneur honored as national retail champion

Lisa Mergel, owner of Kanvas Beauty in Tallahassee, was recently named America’s Retail Champion of the Year.  

Mergel’s brick-and-mortar location is a boutique day spa and beauty products store. In addition to managing the business, Mergel serves as a board member for the Florida Retail Federation.

R. Scott Shalley is the president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation.

“We are extremely proud but not surprised that the winner came from Florida, and there’s no one more representative of the incredible and dedicated retail employees in our state than Lisa Mergel and Kanvas Beauty,” said FRF President & CEO R. Scott Shalley. “Lisa’s commitment to her community, her customers and her industry are just some of the reasons she was selected for this prestigious award and we’re honored to have her as a board member and a leader of Florida’s retail industry.”

The America’s Retail Champions program honors retailers who contribute to and make their mark on the public policy debates affecting the industry.

More than $24M available for volunteer efforts

Volunteer Florida recently announced that $24,329,191 was secured to administer 38 AmeriCorps programs in the Sunshine State through the next fiscal year.

The Governor’s lead agency for volunteerism and service, Volunteer Florida plans to use the money to mentor at-risk students and boost the state’s graduation and retention rates. Eighty-one percent of the total figure will “help provide after-school tutoring, summer school programming and targeted interventions to prevent dropouts and encourage long-term success in school,” according to the agency.

“I am grateful for Governor Scott’s continued support of Volunteer Florida, as this funding will allow approximately 1,430 AmeriCorps members to engage in direct, high-impact service Florida’s communities,” said Volunteer Florida CEO David Mica. “These dedicated AmeriCorps members will improve individual Floridians’ lives and make the state a more prosperous place for all to live.”

Remaining funding, according to the agency, will be used to protect Florida’s natural resources, conserve public lands, promote prosperity and help the state’s disaster responses.

AmeriCorps volunteers serve a year in the program to gain valuable experience before entering the workforce or continuing their education. This year, $6,692,613 worth of scholarship funding is available for members who complete their service. View a full list of AmeriCorps initiatives receiving the funding here.

FSU student-managed fund breaks $4 million mark

Looking for financial advice? Consider consulting with a student at Florida State University.

FSU’s College of Business announced recently that an investment fund managed by undergraduate and graduate finance students exceeded $4 million, a new record in the fund’s 12-year history.

In 2013, the College of Business introduced a dedicated trading room that is used by the SIF’s student managers.

It closed last month at $4,026,382, up 17 percent from the same time last year and up 10 percent year to date.

“The fund has benefited from the strong performance of the overall market,” said Steven Perfect, associate professor of finance, a certified financial analyst and the faculty adviser of the student fund. “But we also were well-positioned in a number of high-performing technology stocks like Apple, Amazon, CRW and NVIDIA.”

“We are incredibly proud that we can offer this experience to our finance students and that they have engaged so deeply and successfully in the opportunity,” said Michael D. Hartline, dean of the College of Business. “The SIF is an invaluable tool for preparing students for the complex and challenging world of finance and a great example of why our school is recognized as one of the preeminent business schools in the nation.”

Jim Moran building wins award

The renovation of Florida State University’s new entrepreneurship-focused Jim Moran Building has won a design award “recognizing architectural features that nurture learning and imagination,” the school said.

The American Institute of Architects in Florida has presented its ‘Merit Award of Excellence for Renovations and Additions’ to the project’s architects, who “transformed the 19th-century building in downtown Tallahassee into a state-of-the-art home for entrepreneurial education.”

The building’s interior exhibits design narratives of connectivity, transparency and inspiration.

The honor notes several design elements: “We’ve taken that idea of transparency, literally, in the building,” said M. Hays Layerd, formerly of Architects Lewis + Whitlock, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in May.

“You see glass walls wherever possible. The fronts and backs of the building are glass to allow light and views to permeate through. We want everything to be open. We want to be open to the community, so people have a visual connection, understanding that the entrepreneurial process is not hidden or done in private. You really need to connect with people.”

Also, inspiring quotes from Moran, an automotive entrepreneur and philanthropist, and a timeline of his life story are displayed prominently throughout the 20,000-square-foot building, next to the new Ballard Building on Monroe Street.

Research finds bias against businesswomen

Women CEOs in America are paid less, have shorter tenures and their companies are punished in the stock market, even when their firms are just as profitable as those run by men, according to new research from Florida State University.

In addition, women CEOs are less likely to serve as board chair of their companies, and they have a much tougher time landing the top job because there is significantly less demand for their leadership compared to men.

“This research should be eye-opening to people, and I hope they take a closer look,” said Michael Holmes, FSU’s Jim Moran Associate Professor of Strategic Management. “We hope this sets the record straight on past research, some of which has produced conflicting results, and now people can build on this aggregation of findings.”

To set the record straight, Holmes and Assistant Professor of Management Gang Wang conducted an exhaustive study focusing on the influence of gender on CEOs’ careers.

The business management experts conducted a meta-analysis, examining the entire body of research completed over decades, and they pored over 158 previous studies that investigated gender, companies’ hiring choices and the impact of those decisions.

One of the key findings in that body of research reveals an extreme underrepresentation of women CEOs. Only 5.4 percent of Fortune 500 companies had female CEOs in 2017, and that figure was the all-time high in the United States.

Junior League of Tallahassee to host Sunshine State Ball

Local residents and guests from across the state will be welcomed to the capital city to enjoy dinner and live entertainment at the 2019 Sunshine State Ball.

The inaugural event, hosted by the Junior League of Tallahassee, is a celebration of Florida and its volunteers.

“We are beyond thrilled to be turning this vision into a reality,” said Junior League of Tallahassee President Lex Phillips. “It will be a historic evening. We’re setting the bar with this inaugural event and hope it begins a long tradition of fun and Florida pride that gives back in a big way to the community we love.”

The event will take place on Jan. 11 at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. Tickets for the black-tie occasion are available but are expected to sell quickly. Proceeds will benefit the Junior League’s mission.

“The Sunshine State Ball is a continuation of the Junior League of Tallahassee’s legacy, and we hope to energize and inspire others as an example of effective community volunteerism across the Sunshine State,” added Phillips. “We are women who believe in our community and want to make it a better place. This event is the next step in being the change we want to see in Tallahassee and in Florida.”

Cap City Bank named “best bank”

American Banker Magazine has listed Tallahassee’s Capital City Bank among its 2018 “Best Banks to Work For,” ranking No. 35 overall out of 85 banks that achieved best bank status.

The 2018 edition marks the sixth consecutive year the 123-year-old financial institution has appeared on the list.

As its name suggests, Capital City Bank is the financial institution of choice for many Tallahasseeans.

“Capital City Bankers are dedicated to building personal relationships while exceeding the expectations of our clients,” said Bill Smith, Capital City Bank Group chairman, president and CEO. “We aspire to be more than a bank to our clients and emphasize creating positive, memorable and exceptional service experiences.

“Our associates are our most valuable resource and make it possible to live up to this promise. I’m proud of our team and honored that Capital City Bank has been recognized in this way again this year.”

The annual “Best Banks to Work For” list was created in 2013 by American Banker Magazine and Best Companies Group.

Capitol Directions

Where will U.S. Senate, Governor candidates be this weekend?

The race for votes in November is on, but where in Florida will the candidates for statewide office look for them this weekend? Both the Democrats and Republicans have held their post-primary unity events, but every candidate will have to fight their own way into office in the end.

Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, kicks off his “Make Washington Work” event with a Panhandle bus tour and the rollout of a 10-point plan to “reform the dysfunctional and tired ways of thinking in Washington and make it actually work for families across the nation.” The event kicks off in Northwest Florida, with a 2:45 p.m. rally at Capitan Anderson’s in Panama City. Expect stops in Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Palm Beach, Space Coast, and Tampa Bay.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson plans to participate in the Osceola County Puerto Rican Parade on Sunday. The parade steps off at 11 a.m. in Downtown Kissimee. Then at 12:15 p.m., Mayor Jose Alvarez and other local officials will join Nelson for a special campaign announcement.

Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee for governor, and new running mate Chris King will officially kick off their statewide campaign with a family-friendly event at the Orlando Downtown Recreation Center, where doors open at 11:30 a.m. and speakers grab the mic around 1 p.m.

The Florida Democratic Party announced that this weekend kicks off their “Winning Ticket” campaign with more than 100 events. Those events range from canvassings to voter registration drives, and seek to organize and rally the party in an election year when many Democrats feel fired about about sending a message to President Donald Trump.

Expect more events to be announced from all the candidates seeking office statewide, and for this page to be updated.

Republicans: This election is stark choice of capitalism versus radicalism

Led by blistering attacks from Gov. Rick Scott, Republican candidates kicked off their unity rally in Orlando Thursday morning declaring that this year’s election offers stark choices that boil down to capitalism versus socialism.

Scott, the nominee for U.S. Senate; gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis; the rest of Florida’s cabinet; and the rest of the Republican Party’s nominees for the cabinet took turns Friday attacking Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum and other Democrats as radical, bent on destroying Florida’s economy and the state.

“When I was in the private sector I recalled many times that it seemed like the two political parties didn’t have very different choices. That’s not the case here in Florida today,” Scott said. “This election offers voters the starkest choice possible for the direction and the future of our state and the country. The Democratic ticket of Bill Nelson and Andrew Gillum offering a very clear, a very liberal, a very radical and a very risky direction.”

“I am the capitalist candidate for Governor for the state of Florida,” DeSantis later declared.

The event oozed unity after primary battles that left some Republicans broken and broken-hearted. On Thursday, Attorney General nominee Ashley Moody, Agriculture Commissioner nominee Matt Caldwell, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, and Attorney General Pam Bondi all called for Republican voters to support GOP candidates.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and DeSantis shared a warm handshake and a call to “rally behind our values as Republicans.”

There were, however, a couple of key Republican leaders conspicuous by their absences. The first was Republican Party of Florida Chair Blaise Ingoglia, who continued his refusal to share a dais with Scott.

The other was President Donald Trump, who, in an hour of speeches, was mentioned only once, only in passing, and not by DeSantis, his pick in Florida, nor by Scott, who seeks to join him in Washington and had previously boasted of having a close relationship with him.

Scott and others planned to join Vice President Mike Pence at private events later on Thursday, but Pence was not scheduled to join the Florida Republican unity rally.

The theme was to build on the records of Scott, Bondi, Putnam, and Caldwell, pushing for lower taxes, deregulation, and tougher law enforcement, which was largely defined as enforcement of immigration laws. Much was made of Florida’s economy, job growth, lower taxes, and lower unemployment. Scott also defended his records on education and the environment, which have been sharply targeted by Democrats.

“I think the appropriate course of action is to see what has worked here, build off of that, and enjoy even more success,” DeSantis said. “My opponent, Andrew Gillum, would really want to stop that and reverse all the progress we’ve made.

“If you want to bring more investment to Florida, you probably don’t want to campaign on the biggest tax increase in Florida’s history,” DeSantis said.

From there, DeSantis and Scott charged Gillum with socialist ideas, particularly involving health care, and warnings that would strip private health care plans away from Floridians, bankrupt the state, and send Florida tax money to states like California and New York.

DeSantis also accused Gillum of “radicalism” in calling for the abolishment and replacement of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and in his statements regarding Israel. DeSantis called him anti-Israel for opposing the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, something DeSantis helped champion in Congress.

“I think he believes Jerusalem should be divided,” DeSantis charged. “He criticizes Israel, he said they were committing murder when they were defending themselves against Hamas terrorists who were overrunning the border on the Gaza Strip. That is not representative of Florida values. I’ve always stood by Israel. I will be the most pro-Israel governor in the country.”

Scott, too, attacked Gillum and explicitly charged him with preaching socialism. His attacks on his own opponent, Nelson, was more often by association with Gillum and the Democrats, though he did take a very personal shot at the incumbent U.S. Senator.

“If you grew up wealthy like Bill Nelson, it’s all theory, it’s just about numbers,” Scott said of people struggling to make ends meet. “I grew up poor.”

Emmett Reed: As Irma anniversary nears, safety remains FHCA members’ top priority

As we reflect on what we’ve learned since Hurricane Irma blasted Florida one year ago, Florida’s nursing centers are continuing their work of improving preparations, education, and training – to be ready for a storm of comparable power and impact.

We cannot forget the lessons of the tragedy that struck a South Florida nursing center last year. Even though that center was not a member of Florida Health Care Association, the loss of life there was felt deeply throughout the long-term care profession. The episode has served as an immeasurable motivator for our member nursing centers and assisted living facilities to remain prepared to keep our more than 70,000 residents safe throughout the storm season.

Following Florida’s brush with Tropical Storm Gordon this week and three powerful systems brewing in the Atlantic as this is written, these dedicated caregivers continue to demonstrate strong leadership to be ready for whatever comes their way.

Since Governor Rick Scott implemented new generator requirements for long-term care centers, our members have been working tirelessly on their emergency power plans, including strengthening steps for both evacuation and shelter-in-place scenarios. They’re enhancing their systems for communicating with family members and enhancing relationships with emergency managers so those authorities have a better understanding of the centers’ residents and the complexities of their medical needs. They’re also putting those plans to the test, running disaster drills and training seminars so both staff and residents are familiar with the steps that will be taken during an emergency.

Centers are also working to install their permanent generators to keep residents safe, cool, and comfortable if they experience a loss of power. The generator installation process can take an average of 38 weeks to complete – these are not like a portable generator to cool your home, they are massive and custom-fit for buildings that, on average, house 120 residents. While centers are navigating through the logistics of permitting, zoning, engineering, construction, and inspection of these massive generators and the fuel to accompany them, they’re bringing in mobile generators or making plans to evacuate should the power go out.

Compliance with regulations to keep residents safe is a responsibility our member centers have and always will take seriously. At the same time, these centers are demonstrating that there’s more to their mission than just compliance – it’s about providing quality care and enriching the lives of elders who can no longer care for themselves at home.  

Every day – whether in the midst of hurricane season or not – FHCA members remain dedicated to improving health outcomes for our residents. Their care and safety remain our first priorities, and we are steadfast in our commitment to do everything we can to ensure their well-being no matter what nature throws our way.

One year after Irma, Florida’s long-term care residents should feel a greater sense of comfort knowing their caretakers are prepared for any situation that comes their way. And family members should feel at ease with the reassurance that their loved ones are in good hands.

Families with loved ones in a care center can see how facilities in that county are complying by visiting the Emergency Preparedness section of FHCA’s “Elder Care Florida” website.

Emmett Reed is the executive director of the Florida Health Care Association.

New Bill Nelson ad gives Rick Scott low marks for underfunding schools

Back to school time coincides with the ramp-up of the general election season, and Sen. Bill Nelson has bad marks for Gov. Rick Scott in his latest digital ad in the U.S. Senate race.

Nelson’s spot charges that “when it comes to education, Rick Scott failed our kids,” asserting early administration cuts in funding led to lower teacher pay and per-pupil funding.

“It’s no wonder why Florida ranks 40th in education, or why we’re experiencing a shortage of quality teachers,” the spot asserts.

Earlier this year, Scott was pilloried by Democrats for education spending cuts in real dollars, though it seems Scott sees the funding formula differently.

As Politifact spotlighted in March, Scott contends that “for the sixth straight year [in the budget process], we have secured record funding for K-12 and state universities.”

The site noted that in real dollars, that didn’t hold true, and over the last decade, schools have had more unfunded mandates, such as increased safety measures and mental health, that weren’t the case pre-recession.

The Nelson spot is below.

 

 

 

New digital ad says Rick Scott’s ‘dirty politics’ led to dirty water

Gov. Rick Scott, currently in a “too close to call” Senate race with incumbent Bill Nelson, faces renewed criticism for the ecological crisis on Florida’s waterways.

On Thursday, the League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund and American Bridge dropped a digital ad charging Scott with “spinning the facts on clean water and the devastating toxic algae crisis.”

Scott cut $700 million from Florida’s Water Management Districts early in his tenure.

“For years, Rick Scott slashed environmental protections while raking in hundreds of thousands from big polluters – all at the expense of Floridians,” said Clay Schroers, LCV Victory Fund National Campaigns Director.

“Scott is trying to pin the blame on anyone but himself,” Schroers added, “but slimy spin won’t change the fact that Rick Scott cut $700 million from water management.”

“Rick Scott only looks out for himself and his wealthy cronies, and now Floridians are paying the price,” said American Bridge Communications Director for Senate Campaigns Joshua Karp.

“The toxic algae that is making families sick and devastating small businesses is Rick Scott’s fault – and count on Floridians to hold him accountable in November,” Karp added.

The LCV has already targeted Scott, naming him a member of its “dirty dozen” — a list of the worst polluters in the country. Scott’s team disputes that characterization.

Expect groups aligned with Sen. Nelson to continue linking Scott to the algae crisis, especially because it is an issue of concern for NPAs and even some Republicans.

Nearly 12 percent of Republican voters voted against Scott in the Senate primary, and that number was closer to 20 percent in counties of the state dealing with the direst consequences from polluted waters.

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