Steve Crisafulli Archives - Florida Politics

Matt Caldwell plans run for Agriculture Commissioner this summer

State Rep. Matt Caldwell is planning to file paperwork this summer in a bid for Florida Agriculture Commissioner.

Caldwell, a North Fort Myers Republican, on Thursday said he has “every intention of filing to run in August.” Caldwell, first elected in 2010, will be term limited in 2018.

The 35-year-old, chair of the House’s Government Accountability Committee, has been rumored to be considering a run since former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli announced he wouldn’t seek the seat.

“I was fully ready to support Steve Crisafulli,” said Caldwell. “I never really thought about (running for the seat) until he suggested it.”

A lifelong Floridian, Caldwell has spent much of his career in the Legislature focused on environmental and agricultural issues, a background that could serve him well.

He organized a recent helicopter tour for reporters from the Miami Herald and POLITICO to view Everglades restoration efforts.

“It’s wonderful and I enjoy it, but we created the water conservation areas,” he told the Herald. “That’s former farmland that we turned back into marsh in the ’60s, so if I could just build a reservoir today and spend half as much, I could put it there on 60,000 acres.”

Last year, Caldwell – a real estate appraiser – passed on the race to succeed Curt Clawson in the state’s 19th Congressional District. Naples Republican Francis Rooney later won the seat. 

Tom Grady

Jeff Atwater’s surprise departure makes CFO job the hottest in state

Never mind who’s running for Governor in 2018, Floridians want to know which Republicans are in the running for Florida Chief Financial Officer now that CFO Jeff Atwater announced he is leaving this year, with speculation starting with Tom GradyTom Lee, Will Weatherford and Teresa Jacobs and including seven or eight others.

Grady, a securities lawyer who is a former state representative who also has held several positions in state government, is widely reported as a close friend of Gov. Rick Scott, who will select a replacement for Atwater for the nearly two full years left in the term.

Weatherford, a venture capital and business consultant, is a former Speaker of the House who draws praise from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and who recently announced he’s not running for Governor.

Jacobs is the Orange County Mayor and a former banker who always sounds like she’s already someone’s chief financial officer, and who reportedly has been exploring a possible state run for that job in 2018 when she’s term-limited from the mayor’s office.

Names tumbling around Tallahassee  – some with more spin than others – also already have included Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, former Speakers Steve Crisafulli and Dean Cannon, state Sens. Jack LatvalaAaron BeanJeff BrandesLee and Lizbeth Benacquisto, state Rep. Jim Boyd, former state Sen. Pat Neal, and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

Atwater was once a widely-speculated candidate for Governor himself, but that buzz cooled to nothing and on Friday he surprised much of Florida’s political establishment by announcing that he’s planning office to become vice president for strategic initiatives and chief financial officer at Florida Atlantic University after the Florida Legislative Session.

Besides overseeing the states’s financial operations and financial and insurance regulations, as well as the state fire marshal’s office, the job is a full-voting position on the Florida Cabinet. It’s normally filled by statewide vote, for a four-year term, and Atwater was to be term-limited out with the 2018 election.

Atwater’s office’s imminent availability is so fresh almost no one has had time to actually declare interest in it. No one has filed to run in 2018.

Said Brandes in a tweet Friday, “I haven’t talked to the governor yet, but if I was asked, I would carefully consider it.”

Grady, from Scott’s hometown of Naples, has been looking around. He recently was interviewed for the open president’s post at Florida Gulf Coast University, and last cycle talked briefly about running for Congress in Florida’s 19th District. Last year he declined an opportunity to become the state’s insurance commissioner. He’s on the state board of education, is a former commissioner of financial regulations and a former interim president of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. the state-chartered insurer of last resort.

Once this is done there may be another opening on the cabinet, as state Attorney General Pam Bondi remains a widely-speculated prospect to move on to Washington as part of President Donald Trump‘s team.

Denise Grimsley running for Agriculture Commissioner in 2018

Denise Grimsley has made it official, announcing she filed to run for Agriculture Commissioner in 2018.

Grimsley, who told FloridaPolitics.com in January she was eyeing a run, filed her statement of candidacy with the Division of Elections. She is vying to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who can’t run again because of term limits.

“Florida has many challenges in our agriculture industry, yet we have so many more exciting opportunities,” she said in a statement. “We will continue to fight for a smart statewide water policy, we will protect our environment and blessed Florida resources, and we will pursue expansion of the over two million jobs Florida agriculture provides our state. I offer my broad life experience and an optimistic vision to achieve so much for our state.”

A fifth generation Floridian, Grimsley was first elected to the Florida House in 2004, where she served until 2012. Grimsley was elected to the Florida Senate in 2012. She ran unopposed in 2016 and easily won re-election. She served as the Senate’s deputy Majority Leader from 2014-16.

Grimsley served as vice president and chief operating officer of her family business, Grimsley Oil Company. She’s also been involved in the citrus and ranching industry, and is a member of the Peace River Valley and Highlands County Citrus Growers Association, and the Florida Cattlemen’s Association.

A registered nurse, Grimsley has been certified in trauma and pediatric advanced life support. She is currently a hospital administrator for Florida Hospital Wauchula and Lake Placid.

“We are the sum of our experiences, and I offer my candidacy to continue the principles of conservative public service I have followed in my career, both in the private sector and in the Florida Legislature,” she said in a statement Wednesday. “Serving on the Cabinet as Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services would be a tremendous honor, and I look forward to earning our Republican Party’s nomination and competing for the general election in November 2018.”

While much of the 2018 chatter has been about the governor’s race, attention turned to the race to replace Putnam in recent weeks after former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli announced he would not run for the office in two years.

Crisafulli, with his deep roots in the state’s agriculture community, was considered a frontrunner to win the Republican nomination.

Grimsley isn’t the only one vying for the spot. Republican Paul Paulson has already filed to run, and Rep. Matt Caldwell and Sen. Greg Steube are both considering a run.

In Florida House, Cyndi Stevenson negotiates St. Johns County’s growing pains

FloridaPolitics.com caught up with State Rep. Cyndi Stevenson this week at the St. Johns Legislative Delegation meeting.

For Stevenson, a former county commissioner, it was a return to familiar ground.

St. Johns County, the Republican said, “is becoming a more complete community,” which she believes is also “good for the region.”

“We have over 200,000 people. We’re working on a strong, diverse tax base,” Stevenson said.

However, with growth – especially at the rapid pace of the last couple of decades – St. Johns County experiences unique challenges.

And there are gaps between the county’s legislative priorities and what may be possible in the Florida House.

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One such seeming gap: the county wants to see more state level economic money, via a restoration of the Quick Action Closing Fund.

“Enhance funding for the State-level Economic Development Incentive Toolkit and Workforce Education and Training Programs, including the reinstatement of the Quick Action Closing Fund (QACF) or similar performance-based program to allow Florida to be more competitive with other states to attract high-impact projects, diversify our economy, and create jobs,” read the county commission’s ask list.

However, that doesn’t jibe with the sentiments of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who falls into the camp of those who believe such is corporate welfare.

Stevenson, when asked about that gap, redirected the question after a sigh of what sounded like dismay.

“It sounds to me that the House is really interested in infrastructure and in training. I haven’t heard any threats to QTI at this point,” Stevenson said.

“I was a commissioner here for a long time and I know that incentives have been an important part of getting some good manufacturing jobs in St. Johns County. And that benefits not only us, but our neighbors in Putnam and Flagler. And I’m sure we get some people who drive down from Jacksonville as well,” Stevenson maintained.

When asked if St. Augustine and St. Johns County were becoming regional economic hubs, Stevenson responded that “we hope” that’s the case.

A problem she identified, in terms of that development: “we have so much waterfront property, such a robust tourism industry, and such great schools that having a balanced tax base is hard. For a county like ours, incentives are especially important. In the short run, the price of our real estate works against us.”

“I’ve heard some discussion about a job center near the [St. Augustine] airport, and those types of things. We try to work in a creative way to make things work,” Stevenson added.

“Each county has different challenges. And this county, in the long run, has a problem with diversification of employment opportunities,” the representative noted.

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Another ask the county has: ambitious road projects.

Transportation asks for the fast-growing Northeast Florida county are significant, including $95 million for the proposed State Road 313 (SR 313) Extension/Bypass from State Road 207 (SR 207) to State Road 16 (SR 16) (and $30 million more for right of way acquisition and design.)

As well. St. Johns County seeks another $90 million for the proposed County Road 2209 (CR 2209) from County Road 210 to SR 16.

Stevenson’s take?

“I have not heard a lot of pullback in the transportation area. I believe they have in their five-year plan some of these projects, like the 9B extension. They may not get it this year, but in the long run it’s certainly needed,” Stevenson noted.

Road congestion is “one of the things that drives the accident and fatality rate,” Stevenson said of her county.

Especially north of World Golf Village on I-95, Stevenson notes that “we have a very dangerous stretch of road there. Those road projects are the alternative roads to alleviate some of the local traffic, and they’re high priorities for the state government as well, as they help protect capacity on I-95.”

These road projects, Stevenson added, may alleviate Jacksonville’s rush hour traffic as well.

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Stevenson is experiencing her second Speaker – she actually began her House tenure during the Steve Crisafulli speakership.

Has she noticed any differences between Crisafulli and Corcoran?

Stevenson noted that Corcoran “seems to be paying a lot of attention to his relationship with the members,” and is “focused on reform.”

“I’ve always heard that Speaker Crisafulli was kind of the ‘accidental speaker’. I think he did a terrific job in difficult times. I’m hoping that Speaker Corcoran will do as well,” Stevenson added.

“It’s a different time and he’s got a lot of reform on his plate. We’re just looking for those good opportunities to put Florida on a sustainable path for the long term.”

Denise Grimsley eyeing Agriculture Commissioner run in 2018

Add state Senator Denise Grimsley to the growing list of Florida politicos thinking about 2018.

The Sebring Republican said Tuesday that she is considering a 2018 run for Agriculture Commissioner. A registered nurse and hospital administrator, Grimsley said in a interview via text message that agriculture has always played a big role in her life.

“It’s a big decision and one I’ve been discussed with both my family and my employer,” she said. “Agriculture has always been a big part of my life and having someone hold the office who brings the unique qualification of hands on farming and ranching is important to me.”

While most 2018 chatter has been about who will occupy the Governor’s Mansion, the race to be the next Agriculture Commissioner has been thrust into the spotlight in recent days. Former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli announced last week he would not run for the office in two years.

With deep roots in the state’s agriculture community, Crisafulli was considered to be a frontrunner to win the Republican nomination to succeed Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who can’t run for re-election because of term limits.

His decision to pass on 2018 leaves a wide open Republican field, and could give Grimsley an edge.

A fifth generation Floridian, Grimsley was first elected to the Florida House in 2004, where she served until 2012. Grimsley was elected to the Florida Senate in 2012. She ran unopposed in 2016 and easily won re-election. She served as the Senate’s deputy Majority Leader from 2014-16.

A member of the Highlands County Citrus Growers Association, Grimsley touts the work she’s done for the agriculture community on her Facebook page.

“Over the past few years, we have partnered together in assisting farmers affected by natural disasters and raising the profile of Florida’s first-class agricultural community; communicating the economic development challenges and needs of small counties and rural areas; (and) finding common sense solutions for quality health care and the desperate need for more qualified health professionals like nurses,” she wrote.

Grimsley isn’t the only name being floated as a possible 2018 contender. Rep. Matt Caldwell, a North Fort Myers Republican, is also believed to be eyeing the office. Last week told FloridaPolitics.com that he has discussed the possibility with his wife, who has said she is “comfortable with that if that’s the decision” he makes.

Caldwell cannot run for re-election in 2018 because of term limits.

Also in the mix are state Reps. Ben Albritton and Halsey Beshears.

In a statement Wednesday, Grimsley said she expects to make a decision about 2018 soon.

“I’ve been humbled by all the calls I’ve received offering support,” she said. “You can expect to hear more soon.”

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster contributed to this story.

 

New video from Richard Corcoran boasts ‘We are One House’

A new video produced by the Florida House seeks to remind citizens of the Sunshine State that lawmakers, who will soon convene for the 2017 Legislative Session in March, are united in service to all Floridians.

In the clip from Speaker Richard Corcoran’s First Principles Production, group of Florida House members show that — despite political differences — “We are One House.”

The 90-second video — which begins with the passing of the gavel between former Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Corcoran — features a stream of House members such as Republican Reps. Jose Diaz (HD 116), Alexandra Miller (HD 72), Michael Grant (HD 75), Dane Eagle (HD 77) and Democrats Sean Shaw (HD 61) and Matt Willhite (HD 86) among others.

Each lawmaker talks about how the are representing all Floridians, first responders, seniors, veterans and those in need.

“I am so thankful to our colleagues who participated in our ‘One House’ project,” Corcoran said in a statement.  “With this video, we aimed to show the public, the press, and each other, that we share many broad goals and in the end, we are no different, and no more important than any of the people we collectively represent.

“Because, as the video says, ‘all of them, are all of us,’” he added.

Corcoran encourages everyone to watch, share, and participate in the next video, as well as “always remain honored — even when we disagree — to serve together.”

 The video is available on YouTube.

Personnel note: Steve Crisafulli joins Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida board

Former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli will serve a three-year term on the board of directors of the Fish & Wildlife Commission of Florida.

“Steve has been an extraordinary leader in all of his community, business and legislative endeavors,” chairman Rodney Barreto said in a written statement Tuesday.

“His thoughtful pragmatism, deep ties to the land, and dedication to preserving Florida’s natural heritage and traditional outdoor pastimes make him an ideal addition to our board.”

The nonprofit foundation supports the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission in protecting the state’s natural resources.

“As someone who enjoys Florida’s outdoors, I look forward to being part of the discussion as to how we best preserve the environment in which our state’s wildlife and fishing resources thrive, protecting them for the generations to follow,” Crisafulli said.

Crisafulli served as speaker of the Florida House during the 2014-16 Legislature. His business background is in agribusiness — he directed the Brevard County Farm Bureau from 2003 to 2005, and the Florida Farm Bureau from 2003 to 2005.

You’ll find more information about his background here.

Several top Florida fundraisers among those listed as hosts for Donald Trump transition event

Donald Trump’s transition finance committee will host a major fundraiser in New York next week, and several well-known Florida politicos are among those supporters listed on the invitation.

The fundraiser, which was first reported by POLITICO, is scheduled for Dec. 7 in New York. According to POLITICO, the $5,000 per person fundraiser will benefit Trump for America, the group funding the transition. Trump is expected to attend the breakfast, according to POLITICO.

The hosts include Brian Ballard, the president-elect’s top Florida fundraiser and a well-known lobbyist, former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, former Ambassador Mel Sembler, and Darlene Jordan.

Crisafulli was a top supporter for Trump, raising money for the New York Republican and helping to bring him to the Space Coast for rallies. His name has been mentioned as one of several Floridians who could land jobs in the Trump administration, and earlier this month he told the Tampa Bay Times he would consider working for him if he was offered a job.

Another top fundraiser, Sembler is the former U.S. ambassador to Italy and the former U.S. ambassador to Australia and Nauru. He signed on to help Trump earlier this year, and was named the vice chairman of the Trump Victory Committee in May.

Jordan, the executive director of the Gerald R. Jordan Foundation, is another top Republican fundraiser in the Sunshine State. She served as co-chairwoman of Gov. Rick Scott’s 2014 re-election bid. Scott was an early supporter of Trump, penning an op-ed in January praising him.

Republicans win two Brevard County races

Republicans won handily two Brevard County races for state House seats.

House District 51

Republican Tom Goodson won the HD 51 seat in Brevard County.

He received 50,163 votes, or 60 percent, over Democrat Mike Blake’s 33,971, or 40 percent of the vote.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, who currently represents District 51, could not seek re-election because of term limits. Goodson currently represents House District 50, but switched to the District 51 race to face Blake, a Cocoa City councilman.

HD 51 includes the Cape Canaveral, Cocoa, Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island, and Rockledge areas.

House District 53

Republican Randy Fine was named the winner of the HD 53 race.

Fine received 46,205 votes (57 percent) over Democrat David Anthony Kearns’ 34,987 votes (43 percent).

Republican House Speaker hopeful Fine, 42, is a small-business owner and decided to run after becoming angry about his son’s public education. Kearns, 53, is a Palm Bay real estate agent.

HD 53 covers the southern portion of Brevard County.

Incoming Speaker Richard Corcoran to propose dramatic changes to House appropriations process

House members hoping to get money in the 2017-18 budget will be asked to file a bill for every appropriations request they make.

That change is one of several to be coming down the pike as part of new House rules, according to sources close to incoming Speaker Richard Corcoran, who will announce the new rules to members on Nov. 10. Corcoran has spent months re-writing the rules, which many expect will take a take a tough stance on special interests within the capital.

A change to the budgeting process wouldn’t be surprising. As chairman of the House appropriations committee, Corcoran, with the help of House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, instituted a process requiring members to attach their names to budget items they were seeking.

During the 2016 Legislative Session, the House posted all of the member request forms to the House website. Those forms included the name of the member requesting the money, background about the project, and the contact information of who requested the money.

Additional changes are on the way, as the House will move to a system that requires members to file an individual bill for each budget request. In that scenario, members would like be required to file all of their requests by the bill filing deadline at the beginning of session.

It is unlikely the member request bills would count toward the limited number of bills members can file each year, according to those briefed on the Speaker’s plans.

The member requests would likely then have to go through the same process as any other bill, clearing several committees before being taken up by the full floor. The request would need likely to pass the full House to be included in its version of the budget.

If the House were to institute such a rule change, Florida would be the first state in the nation that requires members to file individual requests in the form of a bill. The change would also likely receive pushback from the Senate, particularly since there are rumblings House members will be asked to include a Senate sponsor on the request.

Corcoran has been tight-lipped about many of proposed changes, saying they are still hammering out the details. When asked about whether there will be changes to how members submit budget requests, Corcoran said the House has made transparency a priority.

“We have said for four years now, going back to our blueprint that we wrote, that we will have the most transparent House of Representatives in the entire nation,” he said Friday.

Another change to the rules will include requiring lobbyists disclose more information. Gary Fineout reported this week that lobbyists could be required to not just name their clients, but disclose the bills, amendments and appropriation items on which they are lobbying House members.

Corcoran alluded to that during his designation speech in September. In prepared remarks, the Land O’Lakes Republican said the House must “change the lobbyist registration rules by requiring every lobbyist to disclose which bills, which amendments and which appropriations they are trying to influence.”

The Tampa Bay Times reported this week that Corcoran was looking to end the practice of local governments — like counties, cities and school boards — hiring outside lobbyists. He told the newspaper he considered it a “disgrace that taxpayer dollars are used to hire lobbyists when we elect people to represent them.”

Corcoran has also signaled he plans to push to end the so-called revolving door between the Legislature and lobbying industry through a constitutional amendment barring legislators from lobbying the legislative or executive branch for six years. Currently, they can begin lobbying after two.

The House is expected to make the 2016-18 Rules of the Florida House available by Nov. 10. The House will be tasked with adopting the new rules during the organizational meeting on Nov. 22.

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