Steve Crisafulli Archives - Page 4 of 35 - Florida Politics

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 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 ( 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

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.


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.

Andy Gardiner endorses Carlos Lopez-Cantera for U.S. Senate

Carlos Lopez-Cantera has snagged the support Senate President Andy Gardiner.

The Orlando Republican announced Tuesday he was endorsing Lopez-Cantera in the U.S. Senate race. The endorsement comes about a week after House Speaker Steve Crisafulli threw his support behind the lieutenant governor.

“In Florida, Carlos has been a leader in limiting government’s influence into the lives of the everyday Floridians and the result has created less taxes, less regulation and more freedom for citizens to achieve economic independence,” said Gardiner in a statement Tuesday morning. “Carlos has a record of conservative leadership focused on delivering results, which contrasts with the empty Washington rhetoric we have become accustomed to.”

Lopez-Cantera is one of five Republicans vying for their party’s nomination to replace Sen. Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate. He’ll face Rep. David Jolly, Rep. Ron DesSantis, Todd Wilcox and Carlos Beruff in the Aug. 30 primary.

“I’ve worked with Andy for a number of years and his commitment to Florida’s success and economic freedom is going to be an incredible asset as he joins the team,” said Lopez-Cantera in a statement. “As Andy and I continue to work together on this campaign, I appreciate his efforts as we send the message to Washington that it is time for a Florida Republican in the U.S. Senate.

Steve Crisafulli to host opening/fundraiser at David Santiago’s CD 6 campaign HQ

IMG_3035In the CD 6 GOP race, David Santiago is making big moves.

Tuesday, we learned that Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry will be the special guest at a Santiago “meet and greet” next week at Jacksonville’s posh River Club.

Wednesday, we learned of more star power behind Santiago.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli will be present April 19 at the Grand Opening of Santiago’s New Smyrna Beach campaign office, for an event that doubles as a fundraiser.

As we noted Tuesday, Santiago is the choice of many prominent names in the statewide GOP for this seat. He’s been an effective legislator, and has also been major in the party’s Hispanic outreach efforts in recent years.

Clearly, loyalty and effectiveness are their own rewards.

House, Senate Republicans to hold fundraiser at Universal Orlando

How do you celebrate the end of a Legislative Session?

If you’re Florida House and Senate Republicans, you do it with a fundraiser at Universal Orlando.

Republican leaders will hold a fundraiser at Universal Orlando on April 9 and 10. The event, first reported by POLITICO Florida reporter Matt Dixon, will benefit the House and Senate Majority Committees, which oversee legislative campaigns.

Among those listed as headliners is Rep. Chris Sprowls, the Pinellas County Republican who may be the House Speaker beginning in 2021.

Last week, Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, an Orlando Republican, conceded the 2021 House Speaker race to Sprowls. The move came after state Reps. Paul Renner and Mike Miller said they would support Sprowls. Several other of his colleagues tweeted their support for Sprowls after Renner and Miller flipped.

Sprowls is one of seven House and Senate Republican leaders headlining the event.

Speaker Steve Crisafulli, Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran and future Speaker Jose Oliva will represent the House leadership team, while Senate President Andy Gardiner, Speaker Designate Joe Negron, and Majority Leader Bill Galvano will represent the Senate leadership team.

State police radios funds spared from veto list

Gov. Rick Scott declared his plan to lay waste to nearly 300 projects amounting to some $256 million with a preemptive announcement on Tuesday.

Among the roughly $82 billion in funding items left standing: a controversial appropriation of $7 million to refresh the state’s stock of radio equipment for state law enforcement agents.

The radio money making the cut is a big win for Brevard-based Harris Corporation, who argued the funds are needed to replace outdated models. A representative involved in pursuing the item described the windfall as a matter of time.  He said guidelines indicate law enforcement radios should be swapped out every seven years. The current 20-year procurement deal was awarded in 2000, meaning some units could be 15 years old or more.

Critics of the move – including representatives for Motorola Solutions, who hope to take over the contract after the current arrangement expires in 2021 – say the appropriation could unfairly bolster Harris’ grip on the contract.

The item was a priority for the House, particularly Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Rules Chair Ritch Workman, who requested the funding in the chamber’s budget. Both lawmakers represent Brevard County.

Senate appropriations chief Tom Lee told reporters after a budget conference he would have preferred not include the dollars in the budget, but accepted the deal as part of a compromise with House counterpart Speaker-to-be Richard Corcoran.

A representative from Motorola issued the following statement on the budget announcement:

“Motorola Solutions commends Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature for their support of a competitive procurement process for a cost-effective, next-generation mission-critical communications system for first responders throughout the state,” said Corporate Vice President Claudia Rodriguez, For the last two years, the governor and state legislators have wisely funded efforts to ensure that a fair and open procurement process takes place this year for a standards-based statewide communications system.”

“Florida is in a position to build a new state of the art, interoperable system that will enable public safety agencies and jurisdictions throughout the state to communicate seamlessly and effectively to coordinate a joint response – whether in a hurricane or other large-scale emergencies, as well as for everyday situations.

Several independent studies have been conducted at the request of the state that confirm that a competitive procurement process will open the door for multiple vendors to provide creative solutions to address the state’s communications needs with the best and most cost-effective solutions. We are pleased that the governor and legislators have also agreed that all vendors will have equal access to the state’s existing assets.”

Harris released a statement on the topic as well, saying, “Harris applauds Governor Scott for putting the safety of first responders and Floridians first. New state-of-the-art radios that work on the current and future SLERS systems will give law enforcement advanced interoperable communication technology now, and will allow officials to retire radio models that are more than a decade old. As hurricane season approaches and as Florida hosts more than 100 million visitors annually, it is critical that first responders have the right tools. We question why anyone would want our state law enforcement to be forced to use outdated equipment or wait another five years.”

Harris also points to the following finding from the state Joint Task Force charged with implementing the state’s police radio regimes.

“Unlike cell phones or computer systems, the law enforcement radio replacement cycle is typically longer; usually eight years for mobile and six years for portables as outlined in the State’s Law Enforcement Communications Plan guidelines. The current mobile radios used in our system have been identified for end of support and will become obsolete by December 2014. This technology must be replaced with newer mainstream equipment that is capable of operating on the federally supported P-25 platform. The cost of replacing all mobiles and portables with radios for our state agencies is estimated at $85M.”

Brian Hodgers widens fundraising lead in HD 52 race

Brian Hodgers increased his lead over the other three Republicans running for House District 52 with $6,750 in contributions last month.

“Our conservative message is hitting a nerve in our community, and I’m very grateful for the folks who want to be part of our campaign,” Hodgers said in a news release. “I look forward to continuing to work hard to get our message of lower taxes, fewer regulations, and more freedom out to all the voters of District 52.”

February’s numbers included just $2,000 in expenditures, leaving the Melbourne business owner with about $340,000 cash on hand, including $40,000 in loans.

His closest competitor, Monique Miller, raised $695 last month for an on-hand total of about $25,300 heading into March, while Robert VanVolkenburg was able to bring in $150, leaving him with a little over $7,000 on hand at month’s end.

Though Hodgers has a prohibitive lead in the money race, he is also facing Republican Sen. Thad Altman in the race, who made the rare decision to head back to the House after serving in the Senate since 2010.

Altman originally filed to run for the HD 51 seat held by House Speaker Steve Crisafulli in the 2018 cycle, when he officially terms out of the Senate but made the decision to switch to HD 52 this cycle  in December.

He’s had little time to fundraise since making the switch but was able to bring in $10,000 in contributions in the first part of January, before the 2016 Legislative Session put a freeze on fundraising for sitting lawmakers.

HD 52 is represented by termed-out Republican Rep. Ritch Workman, who is running for the newly redrawn District 17 seat in the Senate. HD 52 leans heavily toward GOP candidates, with 20,000 more registered Republican than Democrats.

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