Steve Crisafulli Archives - Page 3 of 34 - Florida Politics

Florida court sides against former Miami congressman David Rivera

A Florida court is refusing to block a recommendation that a former U.S. congressman and one-time ally of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio should pay nearly $60,000 stemming from an ethics investigation.

The 1st District Court of Appeal on Wednesday rejected former U.S. Rep. David Rivera‘s contention that he was denied due process by the Florida Commission on Ethics. Rivera, a former state legislator from Miami, served one term in the U.S. House.

Rivera is accused of violating several state ethics laws. The commission recommended Rivera pay $16,500 in penalties and more than $41,000 in restitution.

It’s up to House Speaker Steve Crisafulli to decide whether to impose penalties.

Rivera’s attorney says Crisafulli has no authority over former House members, but the court said it couldn’t rule on that until the speaker acts on the case.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Joe Henderson: Richard Corcoran flexes muscles with $53K June fundraising

The latest example of Richard Corcoran’s expanding power in Tallahassee came in this little news nugget: He raised $53,000 last month, despite the fact he has already been re-elected to the Florida House without opposition.

As incoming House Speaker, Corcoran’s reach extends far beyond his campaign. One of the biggest ways is in serving as a magnet for contributions. He may not need the money himself, but he knows candidates and causes that might.

“For lack of a better word, it becomes a war chest of sorts,” Republican operative Mark Proctor said.

That war chest becomes a critical part of the legislative process.

Donors basically tell the recipient — in this case, Corcoran — here’s some money, dole it out where you see fit. So if you’re a Republican candidate a little short on funds in a tough race, the soon-to-be Speaker might direct a few bucks your way. It’s a common practice in politics.

Much of that money is funneled through Corcoran’s political committee “Florida Roundtable,” which according to state campaign documents has raised $2.041 million since it was founded in 2013. Since Jan. 1 of this year, it has raised $371,000.

That, of course, is a great way to consolidate power because nothing ensures loyalty for the Speaker’s agenda like a helping hand in the campaign.

And what might Speaker Corcoran’s agenda include?

He’ll hold the line on taxes. He’ll fight attempts at gun restrictions, like he just did when House Democrats tried to schedule a special session on guns following the massacre in Orlando. Any attempt to revive Medicaid expansion for the state’s estimated 800,000 people without health insurance will be met with a continued cold shoulder.

He also has set his sights on ending taxpayer support for Enterprise Florida on the grounds that it amounts to corporate welfare. That could lead to a showdown with Gov. Rick Scott, who wants to expand greatly the taxpayer contribution to the agency created in the early 1990s to attract businesses to the state.

During Corcoran’s rise to power, he was often considered the most powerful man in the House — even ahead of then-speaker Steve Crisafulli. As House budget chairman in the last session, Corcoran helped shepherd through an $82 billion spending blueprint.

Now as Speaker, Corcoran has a chance to shape the landscape in Florida for many years to come. Months like the one that just ended help provide the needed cash to do just that.

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Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He has covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons — Ben and Patrick.

 

Chuck Clemons picks up endorsements from past Florida House Speakers

House District 21 candidate Chuck Clemons announced Tuesday he has picked up endorsements from the past three speakers of the Florida House.

Former Republican House Speakers Larry Cretul, Dean Cannon and Will Weatherford backed Clemons’ campaign in the Gainesville-based seat currently held by Republican Rep. Keith Perry, who is running for Senate in the newly redrawn District 8.

“Chuck Clemons is a committed conservative who will be an excellent state representative,” said Cretul, who served as House speaker at the beginning of the decade. “His outstanding track record as a public servant in a variety of capacities combined with his deep personal roots in District 21 makes him uniquely qualified to be a strong leader in Tallahassee.”

Cannon and Weatherford, the House speakers directly preceding Steve Crisafulli, both praised Clemons for his leadership, with Cannon adding Clemons “has the right experience and perspective to be a very effective member of the Florida House.”

“To have the support of these great Florida leaders means the world to me,” said Clemons. “Speakers Cretul, Cannon, and Weatherford have all served our state very effectively and with great integrity. I look forward to serving the residents of District 21 with their same commitment to increasing opportunity for all Floridians.”

Clemons, an administrator at Santa Fe College, currently faces Gainesville businesswoman Wenda Lewis as well as pharmacist Tim Rogers in the Republican primary for the Alachua County seat.

Through the end of May, Lewis held a substantial lead in campaign finance with more than $172,000 in her campaign account, though $100,000 of that money came in through loans. Clemons had about $79,000 in the bank through the same date, none of it through loans, while Rogers has just shy of $10,000 on hand three months into his campaign.

The GOP-leaning seat also attracted Democrat Marihelen Wheeler, who has just over $1,000 on hand, as well as a pair of write-in candidates who filed shortly before the June 24 qualifying deadline.

Personnel note: Michael Williams to Core Message

Michael Williams is departing the Florida House Speaker’s office as communications director and heading to Tallahassee PR shop CoreMessage as managing director of media relations.

The firm announced the move Tuesday.

“CoreMessage is thrilled to add Michael to our team,” said Cory Tilley, the president of CoreMessage and former top communications aide to Gov. Jeb Bush.

“Bringing someone of Michael’s caliber and experience on board will have an immediate positive impact on our clients,” he added. “He will be an enormous asset as we continue to provide our clients with the best public relations services in Florida.”

Williams, 36, has been a spokesman for Speaker Steve Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican, since 2014.

Before that, he was deputy communications director for the House Majority (Republicans) Office. He’s also worked at Xcel Energy and the Florida Manufactured Housing Association.

During the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions, Williams was a consultant for Ramba Consulting Group, a governmental relations firm.

“Michael brings the perfect kind of experience to our firm,” said Jennifer Fennell, vice president of CoreMessage. “His extensive background in media relations, digital media, and public policy issues will only enhance our current team and our ability to deliver results for our diverse group of clients.”

Williams – who enjoys “golf, reading and playing with my kids” – starts with CoreMessage July 18.

Florida LWV wants Legislature to convene special session to address gun control issues

Eight days after the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando left 49 dead and an additional 53 injured in the single worst shooting incident in modern U.S. history, the Florida League of Women Voters is calling on state leaders to hold a special session to deal with two specific gun control issues by the end of the month.

Specifically, the LWV wants the Legislature to make it a crime to knowingly import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess a semiautomatic assault weapon or large capacity ammunition feeding device.

“There is simply no reason for private citizens to have access to weapons like the MCX Carbine firearm used to murder the 49 people in the Pulse Night Club in Orlando on June 12, 2016. These weapons have immense destructive power and do not belong in civilian hands,” writes Pamela S. Goodman, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, in a letter addressed to Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner.

The LWV of Florida also wants the state to implement universal background checks.

“Both nationally and in Florida, legal access to guns is still too easy — and this tragedy is only the latest in a long line of examples, ” Goodman writes about the massacre in Orlando. “In particular, the state should require private parties (i.e., non-federally or state licensed dealers) to conduct a background check before selling any firearm. Simultaneously, the state of Florida should ensure that all relevant records are provided to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check.”

In a conference call Monday afternoon, Goodman said the purpose of the letter was to get a response and begin a discourse from the people of Florida to their lawmakers.

Forty-nine different individuals and groups signed on to the letter, including Nadine Smith with Equality Florida and Maria Rodriguez with the Florida Immigrant Coalition.

Goodman said it was important for state lawmakers to hear from so many different organizations and individuals who are calling for specifics, “be it business, be it faith-based, the LGBT community, the Hispanic community, civic organizations, residential organizations, small businesses, entrepreneurs all around the state, from the north, the south, the east, the west, that feel quite strongly that fewer weapons in this state … is common-sense legislation.”

Gov. Scott said in an interview with WESH-TV in Orlando on Monday that he doesn’t believe gun control is the answer. “Let’s be realistic, the Second Amendment didn’t cause this,” he said when asked about the gun control proposals going before the U.S. Senate. “It didn’t shoot innocent people. I mean, evil did. ISIS did. Radical Islam did.”

Gardiner also has expressed his lack of interest in entertaining any discussion of what to do about guns in reaction to Orlando. His spokesperson, Katie Betta, reacted last week when several state Democrats similarly called for a special session on guns to be convened.

“The President does not support expending taxpayer dollars on a special session unless there is definitive support within the Senate for a concrete legislative proposal that requires time-sensitive action,” Betta said. “Absent those elements, the President has a hard time viewing press conferences calling for a special session three days after the worst act of terrorism in this country since Sept. 11 as anything more than political posturing by two senators who have declared their intention to run for Congress.”

The Florida LWV will be hosting a conference call with reporter at 2 p.m. to discuss their proposals.

Personnel note: Kristen McDonald headed to H+K

Kristen McDonald, who’s been communications director for the Florida House Republicans, is heading to Hill+Knowlton Strategies‘ Tallahassee office.

The move was announced Wednesday.

She joins another House staffer now there: H+K vice president Ryan Duffy, who was chief spokesman for former House Speaker Will Weatherford in 2012-14.

McDonald
McDonald

McDonald was communications director for the Office of the Majority Leader in the Florida House of Representatives from 2012-16, serving under three different leaders: state Rep. Steve Precourt, current House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, and current Majority Leader Dana Young.

Before that, McDonald was press secretary for the Republican Party of Florida during the 2012 election cycle, including the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

“By bringing Kristen on board, we are further bolstering Hill+Knowlton’s strong presence in Florida,” said Harry Costello, H+K Florida general manager and executive vice president, in a statement.

“Kristen’s experience in the Florida Legislature and previous work with the Republican Party of Florida broadens our public affairs footprint in the state,” he added.

She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science from Florida State University.

In 2014, McDonald was named a “30 Under 30 Rising Stars in Florida Politics” in SaintPetersblog.

McDonald joins a public affairs team led by Alia Faraj-Johnson, senior vice president and Florida public affairs practice leader.

She also will work with Ron Bartlett, deputy general manager and former public affairs leader; Susan Thurston, senior account executive; and Bob Lotane, senior consultant.

Other hires include Julie Borm, a former health industry communications director, who joins H+K Florida’s health and corporate communications practice.

Two new H+K fellows are Trip Farmer, based in Tallahassee, who’ll provide “support for research, media outreach, and legislative issue tracking for public affairs clients,” and Alison Spiegel, based in Tampa, who most recently worked as an intern at Bascom Communications & Consulting in Tallahassee.

Plaintiffs seek summary judgment in Amendment 1 suit

Advocacy groups suing the Legislature over environmental funding now are asking a judge to hand them the win.

Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club and others filed a 57-page motion for summary judgment Wednesday. Granting such motions allows parties to win a case without a trial.

They filed suit last year over Amendment 1, the constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2014 that mandates state spending for land and water conservation.

The measure requires state officials to set aside 33 percent of the money from the real estate “documentary stamp” tax to protect Florida’s environmentally sensitive areas for 20 years. This year, that number is expected to total more than $740 million.

But the suit and Wednesday’s motion allege House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, Senate President Andy Gardiner, and other state lawmakers aren’t following through. The Legislature opposes the motion and will file a response soon.

“Plaintiffs are entitled to summary judgment because Amendment One prohibits the Legislature from appropriating land acquisition and restoration funds for any other purpose, but the Legislature appropriated most Amendment One monies to salaries and ordinary expenses of four state agencies,” the motion says.

Those agencies are the Department of Environmental Protection, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Department of State and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The standard for summary judgment is “that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”

The motion says: “That the Legislature appropriated funds for those purposes is not in dispute, and as a matter of law those appropriations are unconstitutional.”

The amendment, which needed a minimum of 60 percent to pass, got a landslide of nearly 75 percent, or more than 4.2 million “yes” votes.

“Florida voters did not vote for salaries and operating expenses … Amendment One allows only for acquisition and restoration of conservation lands,” the motion adds.

“State officials have misused these funds, plain and simple,” said David Guest, managing attorney for Earthjustice, the nonprofit environmental law firm representing the groups.

“Floridians put an amendment into the Constitution directing the state to use these tax dollars to buy and restore conservation land,” he added. “With this legal action, we are asking a judge to hold up the intent of Florida voters.”

The case is in Leon County Circuit Civil Court and assigned to Circuit Judge George Reynolds III.


Jim Rosica (jim@floridapolitics.com) covers the Florida Legislature, state agencies and courts from Tallahassee. 

Ritch Workman to host June 9 fundraiser for SD 17 campaign

Republican Rep. Ritch Workman announced a fundraiser for his Florida Senate campaign on June 9, and the host committee includes none other than House Speaker Steve Crisafulli.

The event will be hosted at the home of Alan and Marnie Landman in Indialantic, and the host committee includes Scott and Kim Glover alongside Crisafulli and his wife, Kristen.

The outgoing House Speaker’s inclusion on the host committee likely signals he has picked a side in the Senate District 17 race, which currently features Workman and fellow Republican Rep. Debbie Mayfield as well as Republican State Committeeman Michael Thomas and Democrat Christopher Duncan.

The newly redrawn seat, which covers Indian River County and part of Brevard, has a decidedly Republican tilt and has drawn interest from some of the biggest names in the district, including former Republican Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who decided last month he would skip running for the seat after teasing Workman would drop out.

That fact that Crisafulli favors Workman in the race isn’t all too surprising. As House Speaker, the Merritt Island Republican gave Workman the coveted position of Rules Committee chair and the pair were pretty much in lockstep throughout Crisafulli’s tenure.

Still, the move likely stings Mayfield, who has put a substantial chunk of her own money on the line to run for the seat.

Through April, the Vero Beach Republican led the pack in fundraising with about $196,000 on hand, including $200,000 in loans. Workman, through the same date, had about $95,000 in the bank and Thomas finished April with about $2,000.

For more information on Workman’s fundraiser, or to RSVP for the event, contact Beth Babington at 407-687-8739 or bethbabington@gmail.com.

Citrus Department facing smaller budget, staff cuts

The Florida Department of Citrus could get a pared-down budget that will result in staff cuts.

The Citrus Commission, which oversees the department, meets Wednesday to consider the $20.6 million spending plan.

If approved, the department’s full-time employees would be reduced to 23 from 39.

Commissioners won’t vote on that budget, but will offer “feedback,” department spokeswoman Shelley Rossetter said.

The final proposed budget will be presented for a vote on June 14, she added.

The tax per box that growers pay will be voted on in October after the first USDA crop estimate of the season, Rossetter said.

The department is “charged with the marketing, research and regulation of the Florida citrus industry,” its website explains.

It’s funded “by a tax paid by growers on each box of citrus that moves through commercial channels.”

But, because the citrus crop is shrinking, so are the department’s finances.

An so-far incurable disease called citrus greening is attacking fruit, causing it to turn green and bitter, and eventually killing the tree. Florida’s renowned oranges are most at risk.

The department did get nearly $7.7 million in general revenue in the 2016-17 state budget, but Gov. Rick Scott put restrictions on how that money can be spent.

They include having the governor’s office vet any new contracts using state money “to ensure transparency and competitive procurements.”

A dozen growers, including Florida Citrus Hall of Famer Ben Hill Griffin III, sent a letter in February to Florida Citrus Commission Chairman Ellis Hunt Jr.

Copies of the letter went to Scott, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and others.

The growers said they “do not believe (the department’s) current marketing programs are generating an economic return.”

The current proposed budget includes an overall reduction of $9.7 million, or 32 percent, and salary reductions of $1.4 million, according to a summary.

“That reduction in staff will not be finalized until the budget is approved in June and will not take place until at least July 1, the start of our new fiscal year,” Rossetter said. “We are working with the Florida Department of Management Services, as required of any state agency, on a transition plan.”


Update—Rossetter reports after the meeting: “The commissioners requested staff add a research study concentrating on the health benefits of orange juice as a rehydration drink to the Scientific Research budget. The study, which was originally approved for funding in the current year, was canceled due to a change in crop size. That study is projected to cost about $86,000.”

Jac VerSteeg: House bullies attack Florida Supreme Court

Steve Crisafulli, speaker of the Florida House, heaped disdain on the Florida Supreme Court’s 5-2 decision to suspend the state’s 24-hour waiting period for an abortion.

“I can’t say I’m surprised,” Crisafulli said in a statement. “In my opinion, this has been one of the most activist and overreaching state Supreme Courts in recent memory. I believe our government works best when all sides respect the balance of power. It appears that several of our Justices seem to believe it is their job to invalidate any action of the Legislature, regardless of the law and constitution.”

Of course that’s pure bunk. It’s part of the effort by a GOP that’s increasingly out of touch on social issues to attack the authority of any court that Republicans haven’t stacked. Their strategy is to undermine courts until they can rig them to overturn any progressive legislation that might be passed in the future.

At that point, if it ever arrives, they’ll suddenly rediscover respect for the courts. It’s not that they don’t want judicial activism. It’s that they want reactionary judicial activism.

The Legislature is sore because Florida courts stopped the lawmakers from ignoring the state constitution after voters amended the foundational document to curb gerrymandering.

That wasn’t activism. It was the court doing its job. It was the court protecting the will of Florida’s voters.

Crisafulli’s claim the Justices want “to invalidate any action of the Legislature,” is a ludicrous overstatement. And, in fact, the ruling he’s railing against didn’t nullify anything. It suspended the abortion waiting period while the high court decides whether to rule on its constitutionality.

Abortion is a complex and emotional issue. Respect for court rulings – whether you agree with them or not – is one reason this nation hasn’t completely torn itself apart because of this issue and others. When Crisafulli attacks the court, he is the one who is not showing proper respect for the balance of power.

There’s no reason to think Republicans in the Legislature might start reading the warning signs and moderate their positions on social issues. Speaker-Designate Richard Corcoran issued a statement that was, if anything, more defensive and ludicrous than the one Crisafulli released.

“Apparently, abortion activists, and their liberal allies on the Supreme Court,” he said, “are no longer content just for abortion to be legal; their goal seems to be to ensure that the maximum number of abortions are performed each year in Florida.  How else would you explain opposition to a law that simply protects women from being pressured or bullied into making a life-altering decision?”

Really? Five justices on the state Supreme Court want to maximize the number of abortions in the state?

There is no one who wants to do that. However, there are quite a few people who want to stop lawmakers from interfering in medical decisions that should be left to a woman and her doctor.

Corcoran’s contention that the waiting-period law “simply protects women from being pressured or bullied into making a life-altering decision” is absurd.

The law isn’t “simply” some kind of anti-bullying measure. The law itself is a bullying measure imposed by bullies like Crisafulli and Corcoran to harass women who have concluded that they want or need to have an abortion.

Their bullying law might be constitutional. Many other states have imposed waiting periods – though Florida’s Constitution contains special privacy provisions that might change the outcome here.

But it is the Supreme Court and not the Legislature that will make that decision. America’s tradition calls for respecting the decision even if you disagree with it. Of course, you also are free to disagree in strong terms. But when House speakers and speakers-to-be disagree in disrespectful terms, they are straying into territory that is dangerous to democracy.

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Jac Wilder VerSteeg is a columnist for The South Florida Sun Sentinel, former deputy editorial page editor for The Palm Beach Post and former editor of Context Florida. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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