Rob Bradley Archives - Page 4 of 33 - Florida Politics

Rob Bradley environmental bills now one stop away from Senate floor

Thursday saw a Senate subcommittee — the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources — approve two priority environmental projects of Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican.

Both bills were approved without objection.

The full Appropriations Committee is the next stop for these bills, all but ensuring the Bradley bills will be mulled by the full Senate.

SB 204 approves spending at least $75 million a year on springs projects and $50 million annually on projects related to the restoration of the St. Johns River and its tributaries, as well as the Keystone Heights Lake Region.

SB 370 would mandate a $100 million minimum spend from Amendment One funds on the Florida Forever program. That number doubles the budget ask from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

That money would go to “rare and sensitive” land acquisition and water projects.

Sens. Linda Stewart and Debbie Mayfield, a Democrat and Republican respectively, lauded Bradley for filing SB 370, which they contend reflects the intent of the voters.

“This is the year where we on a bipartisan basis need to make this strong step forward,” said Bradley. “It’s the right thing to do for the state and is good public policy.”

“We have an obligation to ensure future generations get to enjoy the wonderful gifts we get to enjoy,” Bradley said, in reference to Florida’s rivers and springs.

Bradley held a dramatic press event in March in Keystone Heights, in which he remarked that “the lakes have left us.”

The increasingly powerful North Florida Senator is a step closer to redressing that regional issue.

Rob Bradley on Jack Latvala investigation: ‘There is a process in place’

As storm clouds continue to build around Sen. Jack Latvala in the wake of sexual harassment charges, many politicians with statewide notoriety have made their positions clear.

The tipping point occurred this week, when Rachel Perrin Rogers, a legislative aide to Republican Sen. Wilton Simpson, went public with her accusations against Latvala. Perrin Rogers was tired of Latvala lying about the motivations of her and her husband, political consultant Brian Hughes.

Attorney General Pam Bondi was “astonished to learn that one of the victims of the recent allegations in Tallahassee is a woman who I’ve known and respected for years,” adding that there must be “respect” for “the investigation by the Florida Senate and the privacy of all parties involved.”

Gov. Rick Scott likewise vouched for the character of Perrin Rogers and Hughes.

“Brian Hughes worked for me. I can only say my experience with him is positive,” Scott said to POLITICO. “My experience with his wife has been very positive. When I’ve been around her, she has been a wonderful lady.”

Scott also deemed Latvala’s continued presence in the Senate a “distraction.”

“It is obvious that Senator Latvala remaining in the Senate is a distraction. It seems that everyone in Tallahassee is talking about this and not how to make Florida better. It is my understanding that there’s an investigation underway, and when that is complete, the Senate will have a decision to make,” Scott said. “As I have said all along, if these allegations are true, he must resign immediately.

Adam Putnam, who still has to deal with Latvala as a nominal opponent in the Governor’s race, has begun to work references to “corruption and predation and harassment” into his stump speech.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that the legislative business has slowed to a crawl as they’ve struggled to deal with multiple complaints. And no woman should have to endure the type of treatment that has been alleged in this situation. And if it’s true, he needs to go,” Putnam told Florida Politics.

However, the calculus is different for those actually in the Senate, such as Fleming Island Republican Rob Bradley — who took Latvala’s place as Appropriations Chair last month.

We asked Bradley if Latvala had become a distraction, if Latvala should resign, and if Latvala has the votes in the Senate to survive this.

Bradley, an attorney by trade, framed his comments on the side of due process.

“Regarding the Latvala matter,” Bradley told us Saturday morning, “there is a process in place and we need to let it work.”

“The process may include the Rules Committee and full Senate considering evidence and arguments, and then making judgments. As a member of the Rules Committee,” Bradley added, “it’s appropriate for me to refrain from responding to these questions at this time.”

One can expect that the process that a Senate investigation will take will happen against a backdrop of leaks and allegations from Latvala and his attorneys, as well as from those aligned with Hughes and Perrin Rogers.

It’s an ugly time in Florida politics, and if the last month is any indication, it’s not about to get better anytime soon.

Rob Bradley offers glimmer of hope for fracking ban

A top senator is leaving open the possibility that a proposed ban on ‘fracking’ in Florida will be considered in the 2018 Legislative Session.

Bradley

Rob Bradley, the Fleming Island Republican who recently was named chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, also leads the chamber’s Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee.

That’s the first committee of reference for Sen. Dana Young’s bill (SB 462) to prohibit hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the controversial drilling technique that involves shooting water and chemicals deep underground.

That breaks up rock to get at oil and natural gas that’s unreachable by conventional drilling, but critics say it can potentially damage subterranean drinking water supplies.

This is the second year Young, a Tampa Republican, has run a fracking ban. Similar legislation died in the House last Session. And this upcoming Session’s Senate measure has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

When asked whether he would hear the bill, Bradley on Tuesday offered a terse text-message response: “No final decisions have been made on future agendas.”

But that was enough to steel Young as to her bill’s chances.

Young

“My good friend Sen. Bradley has just moved into a major role as Appropriations Chair, and I want to give him all the time and flexibility he needs to consider the bills on his environmental policy agenda,” she told Florida Politics.

“I am pleased that Sen. Bradley supported the bill last year in committee and I’m hopeful that he will place it on his agenda in the near future,” she added.

An identical companion (HB 237), sponsored by Republican state Rep. Kathleen Peters of Treasure Island, also has been assigned to committees but not heard.

“The oil and gas industry has been misleading the public and our lawmakers for decades about the safety of their equipment and infrastructure,” said Aliki Moncrief, executive director of Florida Conservation Voters, in a statement.

“Now they want to bring fracking to Florida. And they are making the same impossible promises,” she added. “But the Legislature has a choice this year. They can ban fracking now, or they can wait until after a spill. With more than 90 percent of Floridians getting their drinking water from underground aquifers, the choice shouldn’t be this difficult.”

Property taxes likely to spur school funding fight

Another battle about using increases in local property taxes to bolster public schools will complicate upcoming state budget negotiations.

In his $87.4 billion budget proposal for 2018-2019, Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday called for a $770 million increase in funding for Florida’s kindergarten through 12th-grade education system. But nearly $7 out of every $10 of that increase would come from rising local property-tax revenue, much of it the result of increasing property values with a stronger economy.

Senate leaders support the governor’s plan, while House leaders remain firmly opposed to using the increased local property tax collections, arguing that such a move would represent a tax increase.

The projected $534 million increase in local property tax revenue includes $450 million in “required local effort” taxes and $84 million in discretionary local school taxes.

In an explanation of Scott’s budget, his office noted the school proposal does not change the required local property-tax rate, meaning “there is not a tax increase.”

“The amount of local funding provided in the (school funding formula) calculation primarily increased due to a 6.15 percent, or $117.1 billion, rise in the school taxable value that was the result of an increase in the value of Florida property,” the explanation said. “When property values rise, it’s a good thing for Florida families.”

Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley of Fleming Island said the Senate supports Scott’s K-12 plan, including the use of increased local property tax collections.

“It’s not a tax increase. It’s just simply not,” Bradley said.

“If I were to buy a lawnmower at Home Depot for $200 in January and then buy the same lawnmower as a present for my brother four months later and it’s priced $230, there will be more taxes owed on the $230 purchase, but that’s not a tax increase,” Bradley said.

He said it’s “just the same tax rate being applied to a purchase that is a little higher than it used to be.”

But House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O’Lakes, reaffirmed Wednesday the House’s strong opposition to using increased property tax collections.

“I think our position has been very clear for the last two years and it will not change,” Corcoran said. “We’re not raising taxes.”

The House prevailed in the negotiations on the current 2017-2018 budget, with the Senate agreeing to roll back the “required local effort” property tax rate to offset the increase in tax collections.

Rather than having the majority of an increase for the K-12 system come from local property tax collections, lawmakers funded most of the $455 million increase from state revenue, along with a $92 million increase in discretionary local property-tax collections.

But that meant the Legislature had to shift $364 million in state revenue, which could have been used in other areas of the budget like health care or criminal justice, to come up with a $100 per-student increase in funding.

Under Scott’s new plan, per-student funding would rise by $200, but that is based on $450 million in property taxes. If lawmakers reject using the property tax revenue, they will have to again shift more state revenue into the schools’ budget, which will be even more difficult in the coming year.

“We’re very committed in the Senate to K-12 education,” Bradley said. “And an important part of that commitment is making sure that we have the (local property tax collections). It’s not a tax increase. I agree with the governor. And that’s where we are.”

Corcoran downplayed the differences with the Senate over the next state budget, which will be debated when lawmakers begin their annual session in January.

“Where we are right now is in a good place and the likelihood we’re going to end in a good place is as strong as ever,” he said. “I think it’s a good situation.”

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Mary McLeod Bethune statue may replace Confederate general in Capitol

A likeness of educator and civil-rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune is one step closer to replacing a statue of a Confederate general as one of Florida’s two representatives in the U.S. Capitol.

On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee cleared a bill (SB 472) to replace the statue of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith with Bethune, who lived 1875-1955. Only Sen. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican, voted in opposition.

Each state has two statues on display in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall. Florida’s other statue, a marble rendering of scientist-inventor Dr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola, a pivotal figure in the invention of air conditioning, will remain.

The move to replace Smith’s statue came after a renewed debate in recent years about Confederate symbols, including the battle flag ubiquitous in the South.

In 2016, lawmakers in 2016 agreed to remove Smith’s statue but didn’t settle on a replacement.

Bethune was the founder of Bethune-Cookman University and the first African-American woman to lead a federal agency, serving as director of the Division of Negro Affairs during President Franklin Roosevelt’s tenure.

She was born to former slaves in South Carolina in 1875 and was the only candidate to receive the unanimous support of the state’s Great Floridians Committee who gathered to choose a replacement for Smith.

The vote to replace Smith came months after the shooting deaths of nine black worshippers at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. After those killings, photos emerged showing the Charleston shooter, Dylann Roof, posing with the Confederate battle flag in the months leading up to the killings.

That photo was “Photoshopped,” claimed H.K. Edgerton, a black member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the former president of the NAACP chapter in Asheville, North Carolina, who opposed the proposal.

“This body should not be talking about taking down the statue of General Smith, it should be educating the masses about his glorious and wonderful life,” shouted Edgerton.

That prompted Committee Chairman Rob Bradley to inform the general public that the debate about whether to maintain the state of Smith in the Statutory Hall was decided last year, and the issue of the day was whether a statue of Mary McLeod Bethune was worthy of representing the state of Florida.

Despite that admonition, several speakers who followed spent their time before the committee lamenting that 2016 decision.

“You need to reconsider what you’re doing,” said Jacksonville resident Henry Russ, member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. “No decisions are ever in concrete as we’re fast finding out, because they’re tearing down things that have been up for more than 100 years.”

In fact, the Hillsborough County Commissioners voted earlier this year voted to remove a Confederate statue that had stood in front of a county courthouse since 1911.

“At [a] minimum, the process needs a do-over,” complained David McCallister from Save Southern Heritage Florida, which led the opposition to remove the Confederate monument in Hillsborough County. He argued that removing a military official like Smith should be replaced with another member of the military.

But it wasn’t only members of the public who wanted to re-litigate the 2016 legislative vote on removing Smith from Statutory Hall. Ocala Republican Dennis Baxley called the removal of Smith’s statue as a form of “cultural purging.”

“I do hope that we would rethink this idea of purging what we don’t like and we don’t think represents everything about us, of our history, and instead say, ‘how do we build and honor each other more?'”

“Let’s talk about this cultural purging there,” replied Jacksonville Democrat Audrey Gibson. “Cultural purging is a war term, we’re not at war here, we are to talk about what’s already been done actually, taking down the statue of one great American and replacing that statue with another great American.”

The National Statuary Hall allows each state to be represented by the likenesses of two people. Along with Smith, Florida has long been represented by John Gorrie, widely considered the father of air conditioning.

After lawmakers decided in 2016 to replace the Smith statue, a panel known as the Great Floridians Committee nominated three potential replacements. The other two nominees were Everglades activist and writer Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Publix grocery story founder George Washington Jenkins Jr.

Lakeland Republican Kelli Stargel said she supported Thurston’s proposal, but also opposed removing Gen. Smith and said her first choice to replace him in Washington would have been Jenkins.

“The state of Florida has an opportunity to communicate that in Florida we value women, we value innovators, we value visionaries, we value diversity, we value individuals, like Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune who will join Rose Parks as one of the African-American females in Statuary Hall,” said Orlando Democratic Senator Geraldine Thompson. 

The bill is being sponsored in the House by Daytona Beach Democrat Patrick Henry (HB 139).

NE Florida fundraising round-up: Paul Renner shines; HD 15 is competitive

October brought big scores to some Northeast Florida campaigns and committees. Here’s the seat-by-seat rundown.

State Senate

Senate District 4’s Republican incumbent Aaron Bean brought home the bucks.

October saw $36,000 come into Bean’s coffers: $24,000 to his campaign account, and another $12,000 to his committee, “Florida Conservative Alliance.”

All told, Bean has roughly $78,000 of hard money, and $102,000 in committee coffers: a total of $180,000 in deployable resources.

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SD 5 incumbent Audrey Gibson — the next leader of the Senate Democrats — brought in $10,000 in October, which was her third straight month in five figures. More than half of that money came in from Big Pharma.

Gibson has roughly $88,000 cash on hand

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Fleming Island Sen. Rob Bradley is not up for re-election, but his fundraising was notable also.

“Working for Florida’s Families,” Bradley’s political committee, reached a milestone with a $40,000 October, clearing $500,000 cash on hand.

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House candidates and committees

HD 11 Republican incumbent Rep. Cord Byrd raised $2,000 in October, spent $2,500, and has $15,392 on hand.

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Southside Jacksonville’s HD 12 is seeing a competitive race, with Republican incumbent Clay Yarborough winning the money race handily against Democrat Tim Yost.

Yarborough brought in $21,750 in October, giving him roughly $73,000 on hand. Yost finished October with roughly $2,300 on hand, with $1,208 brought in from individual contributors.

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HD 13 incumbent Democrat Tracie Davis brought in $7,500 of new money in October, giving her $28,190 raised and on hand. Davis thus far faces no opposition in her safe Democratic seat.

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Incumbent HD 14 Democrat Kim Daniels raised nothing and spent $1,500 on a “media consultant” based in South Florida. She has almost $600 cash on hand, but faces no ballot opposition.

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HD 15 Republican Wyman Duggan had a strong month:  $20,500 in October, bringing him to $84,600 raised, with nearly $77,000 on hand. Democrat Tracye Polson kept pace. 

She brought in $14,090 off of 64 contributions in October, bringing her total raised to $65,189, with over $64,000 of that on hand. Her committee has another $12,000 banked, giving her $76,000 raised.

Notable: the majority of Polson’s contributions are from outside HD 15, with many of them in the Washington D.C. area. And much of what she has amassed is self-financed.

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In HD 16, incumbent Republican Jason Fischer continues to rake in the bucks.

Fischer cleared over $17,000 in October, between his campaign account and that of his political committee, “Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville.”

Fischer has almost $62,000 cash on hand, with over $28,000 in the committee coffers, giving him roughly $90,000 to deploy.

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Down in St. Johns County’s HD 17, Cyndi Stevenson added just over $9,000 to her coffers, giving her $51,000 on hand, for a campaign in which she will run unopposed.

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HD 18’s incumbent Republican, Travis Cummings, had another strong month. Cummings brought in $10,000, and ended October with over $58,000 on hand; he has no ballot competition yet.

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October was a good month also for incumbent House District 19 Rep. Bobby Payne.

His primary opponent withdrew, a Libertarian opponent’s questionable past surfaced, and he almost doubled his cash on hand.

Payne raised $25,300 total; all told, he has raised $55,346 this cycle, and has almost $52,000 cash on hand.

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But we saved the best — in terms of monthly haul — for last.

Palm Coast Rep. Paul Renner in HD 24 is on the track to the House Speaker post. And Northeast Florida’s brightest hope in the House is also favored by donors outside the region.

Proof positive: the impressive October hauls of Renner’s two political committees, “Florida Foundation for Liberty” and “Conservatives for Principled Leadership.”

The former brought in $70,500; the latter, $37,500 … adding up to a tidy sum of $108,000 — much more than an incumbent running in a deep-red seat against an underfunded Democrat needs for re-election.

Rob Bradley committee clears $500K cash-on-hand

“Working for Florida’s Families,” the political committee of Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley, reached a milestone in October, clearing $500,000 cash on hand.

The committee raised an even $40,000 last month, and as one might expect, that money came in big chunks.

The “Keeping Florida Affordable” political committee, helmed by Jacksonville’s John Rood, with its biggest donation as of September from the Southern Strategy Group, anted up $10,000.

Among the $5,000 donors: the Orange Park Kennel Club of bestbet fame and Alkermes, a Massachusetts-based pharmaceutical company that focuses on central nervous system diseases, marketing opioids to that end.

Interestingly in the context of the state’s seeming inability to ramp up a functional medical cannabis program, Alkermes has hired at least one researcher whose public profile has been predicated on discrediting the palliative properties of the ever-controversial herb.

Also donating $5,000: Kuder, an Iowa-based education company that providentially manages a “statewide online career planning system” that, per a 2016 piece of corporate PR, “has everything under the sun to help you land your dream job.”

Expect donations to ramp up from other parties, as Bradley only took over the budget helm this week, with embattled Jack Latvala stepping aside.

All told, Bradley’s committee has raised roughly $1.194 million and spent roughly $689,000.

How high will tax cuts go?

Based on past years, and comments from House and Senate leaders, Gov. Rick Scott will get a tax-cut package to sign in 2018 when he is expected to be ramping up a run for U.S. Senate.

The package may not be exactly as he’s requested — a nearly $180 million proposal made up of sales-tax “holidays” and a rollback of some 2009 hikes on driver’s license fees.

But odds are, lawmakers will give Scott at least part of what he wants.

Sen. Rob Bradley, who this week took over as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said lawmakers will look carefully at Scott’s proposal.

“We also need to make sure that what we consider to be the basic needs, fundamental needs of the state government, are financed appropriately,” Bradley said. He added, “We’ve always been supportive of tax cuts. Whether the number ends up at $180 (million) or something less, that remains to be seen.”

House Ways & Means Chairman Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican, said the details will depend, in part, on the growing state tab for Hurricane Irma.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran was more confident.

“Of course, we look forward to partnering with Governor Scott on his tax cut proposal,” Corcoran, of Land O’Lakes, said in a statement.

Scott made several appearances across the state this week promoting the proposal, and even made a rare appearance before Renner’s committee.

Scott’s proposal would reverse portions of fee increases imposed on motorists in 2009 after the recession hit. He also proposed a 10-day back-to-school sales tax “holiday” on clothes and school supplies and three weeklong disaster preparedness tax “holidays” in May, June and July.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Rob Bradley will ‘hit the ground running’ as Senate budget chief

Monday may have been one of the biggest days for Northeast Florida in Tallahassee in some time.

State Sen. Audrey Gibson won a contested election Monday evening to become the Leader Designate for Senate Democrats, replacing Jeff Clemens, who resigned after news of an affair with a lobbyist broke.

And before that, Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, took over the Senate Appropriations Chair from embattled Jack Latvala.

We caught up with Bradley Monday evening, and he addressed the regional significance of the twin triumphs on Monday.

“I’m so happy for Audrey. She’s a pragmatic leader who works well with senators from both parties. Very effective,” Bradley said.

“When you think about the fact that we have Senators Bean and Hutson from our area, both highly regarded, and Senator Gibson will be leading the Senate Democrats,” Bradley added, “I’m excited because we have a strong regional team. We all work well together.”

Bradley also discussed the move to the Appropriations Chair.

“Everyone has a different style. I’m just focused on getting the job done with as little drama as possible. There’s been enough drama in politics lately. It’s time to just roll up our sleeves and get the job done,” Bradley said, noting that he’s not new to the appropriations game.

“I’ve spent a lot of my Senate career working in the Appropriations arena,” Bradley noted, “having chaired three different budget subcommittees.”

“We will hit the ground running. President Negron and I have worked together for years and had success together, and we have a great group of budget sub chairs. The transition has already been smooth,” Bradley added.

Bradley is noted for a big-picture vision — one of the reasons he was able to push Senate Bill 10 through in the last Legislative Session — and he is very well-positioned to carry key priorities, such as his proposal to allocate $100 million for Florida Forever — a program that has been underfunded since its inception.

His comments in a Senate panel Monday bear noting, in context of deployment of those funds; at long last, Bradley is positioned to ensure that North Florida gets its share.

“The acquirer doesn’t just exist in one area of the state. The precious ecosystems don’t just exist in one area of the state. The entire state is unusual as an ecosystem,” Bradley said. “That’s why you have the Acquisition Restoration Council… and do it on a basis grounded in science. And really sometimes that ends up with money going to one area of the state or the other, but I think it’s less parochial.”

With Sens. Bradley and Gibson in key leadership roles, it’s entirely possible that the time is now for North Florida’s bipartisan, yet largely collaborative, delegation.

Jack Latvala out as Senate Appropriations chair, Rob Bradley in

Sen. Jack Latvala on Monday asked to be relieved of his chairmanship of the chamber’s Appropriations Committee, a request that Senate President Joe Negron quickly obliged.

Until further notice, Fleming Island Republican Rob Bradley is Senate budget chief. Bradley did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I understand that you are in the process of hiring an independent, third party to conduct an investigation regarding the anonymous allegations made against me in a recent news article,” Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, wrote in a memo to Negron that was released by the Senate.

On Friday, POLITICO Florida reported that Latvala had sexually harassed six women who work in the legislative process. He quickly followed with a Friday night statement that he “unequivocally den(ied) the allegations.”

Still, the news dealt an uppercut to the longtime senator and Republican gubernatorial candidate, with House Speaker Richard Corcoran piling on by calling for Latvala’s resignation.

Negron has ordered an investigation into Latvala, asking “anyone with information regarding today’s report to confidentially come forward to the General Counsel’s Office.”

Latvala, who turned 66 on Friday, said it was “hard to confront anonymous accusers … and I find it interesting that these anonymous complaints have only come forward after I began my campaign for governor.”

In Monday’s missive to Negron, he “request(ed) that you permit me to temporarily take a leave of absence from my role as Chair of the Committee on Appropriations until this matter is resolved … I look forward to defending myself against these untruthful allegations and believe I will be fully exonerated.”

You got it, Negron said.

“While the independent, third-party investigation regarding Senator Latvala is pending, I believe it is in the best interest of the Senate for another Senator to temporarily serve as Chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations,” Negron said in his own memo to senators.

“Senator Latvala’s other responsibilities in the Senate will remain unchanged,” Negron said. “Accordingly, effective immediately, I am making the following Committee Chair Assignments: Committee on Appropriations, Sen. Rob Bradley; Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development: Sen. Wilton Simpson.”

Before “making these decisions, I consulted with President Pro Tempore (Anitere) Flores,” he wrote. “She has determined that she can best serve the Senate by remaining Chair of the Committee on Banking and Insurance, Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, and Vice Chair of the Committee on Appropriations.”

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