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Jacksonville Bold for 2.26.20 — A Pound lighter

Greg Pound feeds on controversy, and always has something outrageous to say.

A Pound lighter.

The Legislative Session is in full-bore, with budget conferencing looming and the sleepless nights and tense days piling upon each other.

For Clay County Rep. Travis Cummings, this is the last. He’s termed out.

Committees stop meeting early next week, and the Appropriations Committee he chairs is near the end. 

A marathon session Tuesday saw several members of the public having their say on school choice and scholarship money relative to LGBTQ students.

A regular commenter soon came up, a Greg Pound.

Florida Channel’s favorite Greg Pound went too far for Rep. Travis Cummings.

For those who have spent time in Tallahassee, Pound is a known quantity: he has something unhinged to say on virtually every bill.

Tuesday was no exception. He ranted about the LGBTQ community, then suggested a P.

Cummings had had enough. He dropped the hammer on Pound, telling him his time was up even as Pound continued to try to bait him, and calling sergeants to handle getting the gadfly out.

Praise came in from all sides: media, Republicans, and even Democrats.

 In a long Session, that moment will be remembered by those who saw it — a few dozen in the room, and a few dozen more on Florida Channel.

It was a small victory for decency and civility. But an excellent example of the type of no-BS leadership Cummings has offered during his political career, which is over … at least for the moment … after Session wraps.

Grave concern

According to Action News Jax, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson is pushing to have the remains of African American veterans moved to the Jacksonville National Cemetery.

Rep. Al Lawson takes action against grave desecration.

Their graves were disturbed by an FDOT project.

“This is pretty significant. Especially disturbing where the remains of veterans are laid, and so we got to do more,” said Lawson.

Lawson is readying federal legislation, even as Sen. Audrey Gibson has pushed on the state level to expand SB 220, a bill that already makes provisions for similarly desecrated graves in the Tampa area.

That bill is moving through committees in the Senate, sure to be up for a floor vote soon.

The Legislative Session is slated to end Friday, March 13, unless an extension is needed because a budget deal has not been achieved. 

TV party

It remains to be seen who will win the crowded GOP primary to replace retiring Rep. Ted Yoho in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District, which runs from Orange Park to Ocala. However, one Clay County candidate is getting some earned media, as The Capitolist notes.

Gavin Rollins gets some face time on Fox News. Image via The Capitolist.

Clay County Commissioner Gavin Rollins, one of three Clay candidates in the race, got some screen time on Fox News Channel last weekend.

He explained why people are running for Congress.

“I think people are excited and energized, and they also have concern, They’re concerned if we don’t do something now, we could lose our country.”

Who “people” and “we” are, and what it would mean to “lose our country” … a subject for another recap.

Rollins is also making a play for Trump’s support, unlikely given Judson Sapp has fundraised with and for various Trumps already, by saying how he felt about serving under Trump as a National Guardsman.

“I actually had the honor of serving under President Donald Trump,” Rollins said, citing his military background that included deployments in East Africa. “He had my back in the combat zone, and when I returned home, I realized he’s getting some incoming fire from D.C., and we need to send a soldier to Washington D.C. to support him and fight against socialism.”

How the President had his back by sending a National Guard unit to East Africa is likewise obscured. However, one has to appreciate Rollins’ Nixonian ability to weave his service narrative into his campaign persona. 

Rollins was panned by departing consultant Tim Baker as not ready for the big leagues, but the Fox News placement is at least symbolically valuable. 

The race seems wide-open now, with a large field and no one who clearly has inroads throughout the sprawling district.

Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn hails from Marion County.

Former Yoho staffer Kat Cammack lives in Alachua County, as does new entrant Ed Braddy, who served a term as Gainesville Mayor. Todd Chase, a former two-term Gainesville City Commissioner, is also eyeing a run.

Judson Sapp (who ran previously in 2018, losing the primary to Yoho), Amy Pope Wells, and Rollins live in Clay County.

Cammack and Sapp each have over $100,000 banked; the rest will file Q1 2020 finance reports by April 15, where the viability of these candidacies will be more fully known.

Marrying up

For those who believe Floridians need more guidance in successfully marrying, new guidance is headed their way.

The Florida Bar last week signaled its intention to add language from a “Guide to a Healthy Marriage,” fulfilling a yearslong quest by two conservative Republican lawmakers to make guidance available to avoid family fragmentation.

Amy Hamlin, Chair of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar (“Section”), wrote Rep. Clay Yarborough advising that the language would be added to their Family Law Handbook.

Family man: Clay Yarborough gets a win.

The hand-delivered letter expressed hope that the legislation (SB 682/HB 319) would no longer be needed.

Exultant quotes were provided from Senate and House sponsors.

“We are grateful to work with the Family Law Section to place our successful family guidance issues in this single handbook for newlyweds. We need them to have the discussion tools to prevent family fragmentation,” said Sen. Dennis Baxley.

“This is a great victory for soon-to-be-married couples in Florida, and we believe it can help reduce the very high percentage of divorce in our State, which is at 49%. Family fragmentation burdens Florida’s budget by billions of dollars annually,” said Yarborough.

VRBO uh-oh

Gov. Ron DeSantis told Tallahassee reporters that he had “concerns” about legislation that could preempt the regulation of vacation rentals to the state.

Rep. Jason Fischer, a Jacksonville Republican, is carrying the bill in the House. But he may not be able to get it past the Governor’s desk.

Ron DeSantis sees the local side of the vacation-rental preemption push.

Among the gubernatorial qualms: “We’re going to be in charge of this as a state? We have 22 million people, almost. Very diverse state. For us to be micromanaging vacation rentals, I’m not sure that’s the right thing to do.”

“My view,” said DeSantis, “is probably that should be determined locally … So that’s probably where I’m leaning right now.”

The Senate legislation (SB 1128), carried by Sen. Manny Diaz, has one committee stop ahead before the Senate floor. 

Fischer’s House bill (HB 1011) has cleared all three committees of reference and should be cleared for the House calendar soon.

Bradley bonanza

Priority legislation of Sen. Rob Bradley didn’t get heard in House committees, but the Speaker has said it will get a fair shot on the floor.

As WUSF reported, Rep. José Oliva told reporters that the House is ready to discuss sentencing reform for low-level drug possession cases.

Rep. José Oliva ready to talk MJ reform in the House.

And not a moment too soon.

“Next week, we are in week 7. All things really need to start to move next week, or we are looking at delays,” Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican, said last week.

Bradley’s bill passed the Senate Wednesday.

The bill nixes mandatory minimums and lowers fines for drug-trafficking defendants with no prior felony convictions. It would also cap jail time at 12 months for those with a gram or less of meth, heroin, or cocaine.

School shuffle

The House Appropriations Committee greenlighted legislation that would consolidate some of the state’s universities Tuesday. 

Appropriations Chair Cummings weighed in on the behind-the-scenes discussions about merging the universities, a bill which has Florida Polytechnic University and New College of Florida merging into the University of Florida. 

Rep. Travis Cummings ready to move New College to a new parent.

Cummings says he has not spoken directly with UF officials on their level of interest in acquiring the two independent universities.

“I think they are in the early stages of evaluating the opportunity, and we appreciate them being open-minded,” he said.

The original proposal would have consolidated New College into Florida State University and folded Florida Polytechnic University into the University of Florida. Changes were made to consolidate both schools with UF after discussions with UF, FSU and the University of South Florida. 

Both New College and Florida Poly have been part of USF before. New College, founded as a private school, was brought into Florida’s university system in 1975 as part of USF and remained until becoming independent in 2001. Florida Poly started as a satellite campus for USF before being gaining its independence in 2012.

“UF is closer than FSU to New College,” he said. “Two, UF is the highest-ranked, and then, third, there would be more cost efficiencies if both go to one then split them up.”

Cummings added that the University of South Florida is also a good fit for both Florida Poly and New College from a geographical standpoint. That follows the musings of DeSantis, who recently wondered why USF wasn’t also being considered to house New College. 

Swindle

That’s what Jacksonville City Councilman Rory Diamond called the failed attempt to sell JEA.

Diamond helms a select City Council committee investigating the action that met Monday, as WJXT reported.

A ‘swindle’ at JEA? Image via WJXT.

He gave what THE local station called a “fiery speech” about “maybe the biggest attempt to swindle the people of Jacksonville based on the biggest lie ever told in our city’s history,” saying it was “absolutely disgusting.” 

“The people of Jacksonville were lied to over and over and over again to show that JEA was in this terrible position, but it actually wasn’t,” said Diamond, a former federal prosecutor. “It was actually increasing in value, not going down, and that’s just really a shame.”

Diamond was close with the Lenny Curry political machine through the advent of the JEA sale push going sideways. The investigation puts him on a collision course with historic allies. 

Axionlog picks JAXPORT

The Jacksonville Daily Record reports good news for JAXPORT.

An Argentine-based food service company picked the port as its conduit to Latin America. Axionlog is a full-service logistics provider that manages the transportation of restaurant supplies, including food, flatware, and paper and plastic products for fast food chains.

Axionlog picked JAXPORT, with 60 jobs coming to the region.

“In the restaurant industry, supply chain efficiency and dependability are a must,” said Axionlog Chief Operating Officer Alvaro Carretero said in a news release. “Jacksonville provides the location, connections, and services we need to provide on-time delivery for the customers who depend on us to get their product where it needs to go quickly and efficiently.”

The company will employ 60 people eventually and will add imports to the anticipated exports. The distribution center will feature a refrigerated and dry storage facility. The 38,000-square-foot space is scheduled to open in early 2021 and should expand to 100,000 square feet within five years. 

Axionlog serves some big names: McDonald’s, Quiznos, Subway and Dairy Queen among them.

Broskie’s big move

Clay County’s school superintendent, at least through the 2020 election, will be an in-house appointee.

DeSantis appointed Assistant Superintendent David Broskie of Fleming Island to the top job.

Ron DeSantis in Middleburg.

He is a Clay County lifer: a 30-year tenure, including a dozen years as a principal, in which he won Principal of the Year in 2010. 

Broskie replaces Addison Davis, whose resignation is effective Mar. 2.

Davis was selected to be the Superintendent of Hillsborough County’s school district.

Previous to his stint in Clay, Davis was Chief of Schools in Duval County.

Broskie takes over at a time when Clay County schools are enjoying metrical success.

The eighth best school district in the state, Clay now has A-rated schools, with the boom in Broskie’s own Fleming Island a key driver.

Davis was on the reelection ballot, having raised $46,000 as of the end of January.

However, he was losing the fundraising race to Charlie Van Zant, a longtime political commodity in Clay, by nearly a two-to-one margin.

Clay Today notes that Van Zant the younger was previously superintendent before losing an election to the departing Davis.

He raised $88,000 in January, with his namesake father (a former state Rep.) and former State Attorney candidate Kenny Leigh among the donors.

Barring a quick ramp-up by the appointee, the race likely is Van Zant’s to lose.

Jags hoping Ngakoue stays

Last summer, the Jaguars knew what they had in defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who was interested in a long-term deal. The two sides could not come together after what was described as contentious negotiations followed by an 11-day training camp holdout while player personnel chief Tom Coughlin was still around.

“At the end of the day, they had a chance to sign me for a long-term deal, but it didn’t get done,” he said. “I love football, love my teammates and I’m here to play games.”

Can the Jaguars afford to keep Yannick Ngakoue? Can they afford to lose him? Image via AP.

The words “they had a chance” sounded ominous at the time and may still describe a mindset where Ngakoue is ready to move on eventually.

The average annual compensation from his expiring rookie contract signed four years ago was $870,000. Reports indicate Ngakoue wants to be paid as one of the top defensive linemen in the league, somewhere in the $22 million range.

Last month, fellow defensive end Calais Campbell said, “it’s going to be very tough” to re-sign Ngakoue, a player he describes as a “once-in-a-generation talent.” Perhaps some of the bitterness lingers.

General Manager Dave Caldwell said, “we want him here” earlier this week from Indianapolis. Perhaps some sweet talk might work, but the team has another option. They can designate him as the “franchise player and keep him for at least one season at a price tag of around $19 million.

The team is reportedly in the process of clearing $35 million or more in salary cap space for player retention and acquisition. At the same time, to sign Ngakoue, they may not be able to afford Campbell, who has two years remaining on a contract that will pay him $17.5 million this year.

The highest-paid player on the team is quarterback Nick Foles, who signed a four-year $88 million deal last season with $50 million of that guaranteed. If the team feels Gardner Minshew is the way to go under center, a trade for Foles could free up enough to perhaps comfortably keep both Campbell and Ngakoue.

As former Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward revealed from his conversations with the secretive “Deep Throat” source; “follow the money.”

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