Headlines Archives - Florida Politics

DEO seeks applicants for grant opportunities

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) on Wednesday invited “communities across Florida to submit proposals for three grant funding opportunities for the upcoming fiscal year,” according to a press release.

The department “is committed to using our resources and tools to help all Florida communities and their residents flourish,” DEO Executive Director Cissy Proctor said in a statement. “These programs help communities strengthen infrastructure, enhance business development and improve their residents’ quality of life.”

The programs in question are:

The Competitive Florida Partnership Grant, a two-year program that “provides technical assistance and support to rural areas seeking to improve their communities through an asset-based economic development strategy.”

The Competitive Florida Economic Development Project Grant, which “provides funding that allows communities to pursue a specific economic development project or supplement an existing project.”

Community Planning Technical Assistance Grants, which “assist counties, municipalities and regional planning councils with Community Planning Act-related projects that benefit local governments.”

Here’s more from the release:

Communities qualifying for the Competitive Florida Partnership Grant include all rural Florida counties and their municipalities, or rural municipalities in an urban county.

The Competitive Florida Partnership provides grant funding and staff support in the first year of the program. In year two, communities continue to receive technical assistance from DEO and may be eligible for additional grants. It began in 2013 to help rural communities meet their goals with expert support and additional resources that may be otherwise unavailable.

Competitive Florida Economic Development Project Grants are available to all counties and municipalities to help the community learn more about local assets and economic conditions, and develop a specific local project. Grant awards range from $5,000 and $15,000.

Community Planning Technical Assistance Grants are available to all counties and municipalities for one fiscal year. Regional Planning Councils may also be eligible for projects at a regional scale that include more than one county. Projects seeking grant funding must be completed by June 1, 2018. Typical grant awards will be between $25,000 and $40,000 per project.

Proposals must be received by the department by June 23, 2017 at 11:59 p.m.

For more details on the Competitive Florida program go here, and for more information on DEO’s technical assistance efforts, click here.

The hangover: Rick Scott vetoes ‘whiskey & Wheaties’ bill

Saying it could hurt job creation, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a contentious bill that would have removed the ‘wall of separation’ between hard liquor and other goods.

Scott filed his veto letter of the measure (SB 106) on Wednesday night, his deadline to act on the bill. It’s the first veto of a bill from the 2017 Legislative Session.

It would have removed the 82-year-old requirement, enacted in Florida after Prohibition, that hard liquor be sold in a separate store. Beer and wine already are sold in grocery aisles in the Sunshine State.

But independent liquor store owners and other opponents flooded the Governor’s Office with thousands of emails and petitions against the bill.

Scott was careful to explain his position in his veto letter, balancing his concerns over jobs with the desires of big businesses that sorely wanted him to approve the legislation.

“Since becoming governor in 2011, I have repealed almost 5,000 regulations to reduce unnecessary burdens on Floridians,” he wrote. “From the day I took office, I have been committed to eliminating regulations that impose duplicative and unnecessary requirements on Florida’s citizens and businesses.

“I carefully reviewed this bill and I have met with stakeholders on both sides,” the governor added. “I listened closely to what they had to say and I understand that both positions have merit.

“Nevertheless, I have heard concerns as to how this bill could affect many small businesses across Florida. I was a small business owner and many locally owned businesses have told me this bill will impact their families and their ability to create jobs.”

For example, Kiran Patel, who owns liquor stores in Melbourne and Palm Bay, told lawmakers earlier this year that if the proposal became law, “we are finished … There’s no way we can even compete with” big box stores, which will “put pallets and pallets” of booze out in the open.

Amit Dashondi, who owns liquor stores in Brevard County, said his customers had been rooting for a veto.

“They love their independent liquor stores,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday night. “We know our customers by name. That’s not going to happen in big, corporate stores. They know how to take your money, and that’s it.”

Most recently, Costco had joined Wal-Mart, Target and others in one last push to get Scott to sign the bill, known by the nickname “whiskey and Wheaties.”

“Requiring retailers to segregate spirits into a separate store is outdated, discriminatory and unnecessary in a modern marketplace,” said Jay Hibbard, vice president of the Distilled Spirits Council, which supported the bill. “Florida consumers want the same convenience of one-stop shopping that consumers in most states enjoy. We encourage the Legislature to make this a priority in the next session.” 

Whole Foods Market and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association also were for the bill. But the Publix supermarket chain was against it because of its investment in its many separate liquor stores.

The veto effort was a rare effort by rivals: Florida’s own ABC Fine Wines & Spirits opposed the measure, as did the Florida Independent Spirits Association, representing smaller, independent liquor stores. Both were led by lobbyist Scott Dick, who fought against the proposal every year since it was filed in 2014.

There was last-minute lobbying on the measure: Scott’s public schedule for Tuesday shows he had taken a call with Wal-Mart U.S. President and CEO Greg Foran, and met in Tallahassee with ABC’s CEO and Chairman Charles Bailes III. 

“Thanks to Gov. Scott, we now have the opportunity to keep our doors open and keep our Florida workforce going strong,” said Rory Eggers, president of the Florida Independent Spirits Association, in a statement.

Added Bailes: “We believe he made his decision based on what is best for the State of Florida. We applaud the governor for saving hundreds of Florida small businesses that employ thousands of Floridians, while at the same time keeping safeguards in place for minors.”

The bill passed both chambers on close margins: 21-17 in the Senate and a razor thin 58-57 in the House. Also, five House members who missed the vote voted ‘no’ after the roll call.

Among other things, the bill would have required miniature bottles to be sold behind a counter and allowed for a 5-year phase-in. It further called for employees over 18 to check customers’ ID and approve sales of spirits by cashiers under 18.

Zika hit Florida months before infections found, study says

Zika began spreading in Florida mosquitoes about three months before infections showed up in the Miami area last summer, and the virus likely was carried in by travelers from the Caribbean, new research suggests.

Mosquitoes there started picking up the virus from infected travelers as early as March last year, according to scientists who examined genetic information from samples from about 30 people with Zika as well as from mosquitoes. It wasn’t until July that Florida health officials said they had detected a local infection – the first in the U.S. mainland. Mosquitoes spread Zika by biting someone who’s infected, then biting another person.

The bugs may have been causing infections in Miami as early as March, too, said researcher Kristian Anderson of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. But there were likely few cases before July, and it’s not clear any of them sought treatment, he said.

Most people infected with Zika don’t get sick. It can cause a mild illness, with fever, rash and joint pain. But infection during pregnancy can lead to severe brain-related birth defects in babies.

Anderson said it likely took mosquitoes biting 30 to 40 infected travelers to produce the outbreak that flared last year in Florida. Most of the 256 cases reported in the Florida outbreak did not occur until late summer, he added. Health officials declared Miami-Dade County clear of continuing Zika infections by December, though isolated infections have continued, including this year.

Texas is the only other state that had homegrown Zika cases last year. All the other Zika cases in the U.S. have been connected to travel to areas with recent large outbreaks, mostly to South America and the Caribbean.

Zika that spread in Florida mosquitoes mainly came from the Caribbean, the genetic information studied indicated. About 3 million travelers arrived in Miami from the Caribbean during the first half of 2016. About 2.4 million of them came on cruise ships, but it’s not clear that cruise ship passengers were the main spark in the Florida outbreak, Andersen said.

The Florida research was one of three papers on Zika published Wednesday in the journal Nature. The two others concluded there was a lag of six to 12 months between Zika’s arrival and its detection in Brazil in 2015 and other parts of South America.

Screening efforts using new technologies – if developed further – could change that, wrote the University of Arizona’s Michael Worobey, in an editorial accompanying the Zika articles.

“We should be detecting such outbreaks within days or weeks” and not months or years, he wrote.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Florida reaps $1.6 million from settlement with Johnson & Johnson

Florida’s share of a settlement with Johnson & Johnson over adulterated over-the-counter drugs will exceed $1.6 million, Attorney General Pam Bondi announced Wednesday.

Florida was among 43 states that sued the company and its Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. subsidiary, alleging that they misled consumers into believing that they’d manufactured the medications in FDA-compliant facilities.

In a consent decree dated Wednesday, J&J agreed to pay $33 million to the states and to improve internal and marketing controls. The company pleaded guilty in 2015 to selling liquid medicines contaminated with metal, and agreed to pay $25 million to the federal government.

According to the complaint, J&J’s McNeil-PPC Inc. subsidiary marketed over-the-counter drugs as complying with federal Good Manufacturing Practices between 2009 and 2011 when not all of its plants met those standards. That noncompliance was the equivalent of selling adulterated medicines, the document says.

That document cites recalls in 2009 and 2010 of drugs including Tylenol, Infants and Children Tylenol, Benadryl, Rolaids, Motrin, and Zyrtec.

“When a consumer purchases over-the-counter drugs, they should be able to trust that the medication is produced in a safe facility,” Bondi said in a written statement. “Thanks to collaborative multistate efforts, this settlement will help us better protect consumers buying OTC drugs across the country.”

In Donald Trump’s private moments, it’s small talk and compliments

What do world leaders talk about when they are alone? Not much, it seems.

President Donald Trump spent part of his two-day visit to Israel with open microphones nearby, giving the world a small glimpse into his private banter with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu between official appearances.

They chatted about paint on the walls, their wives and where to stand during a ceremony. And they exchanged compliments — lots of compliments.

This presidential small talk provided just some of the memorable moments of Trump’s swing through the Middle East, the first stop on his first overseas trip as president. There was an awkward Saudi sword dance, an airport selfie with a pushy Israeli lawmaker and a possible snub by Melania Trump.

With Trump now in Rome to meet the pope, here is a look at some of the highlights:

SAUDI ARABIA

—The Orb: While Trump’s speech before Muslim leaders grabbed headlines, the buzz on social media was the image of him, Saudi King Salman and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi with their hands on a lighted sphere to mark the opening of state-of-the-art counterterrorism center in the capital, Riyadh. Some joked it looked like the orb from Woody Allen’s 1973 film “Sleeper.”

—Always With the Right: In another widely shared moment on social media, Trump and the Saudi monarch are seen drinking traditional Arabic coffee in small cups. Trump is about to take a sip, holding the cup with his left hand — a taboo in the Muslim world — when Salman explains “with the right hand” in accordance with the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad. Trump replies: “Always the right hand, right. Always the right hand.” The video has been viewed more than 184,000 times.

—Sword Dance: Taking part in local customs and traditions is a must for American presidents when they travel the world. On Saturday night, Trump and his entourage were treated to a royal dinner hosted by King Salman. The delegation was greeted to a traditional all-male Saudi sword dance. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Saudi king, Trump swayed side to side and briefly joined the groove.

—Golf Cart View: In another part of town, American country star Toby Keith performed with an Arabian lute player at a free, male-only concert in Riyadh. Keith performed cover songs of American classics and steered clear of performing his ballads “Whiskey Girl” and “Beer for My Horses” since alcohol is banned in the deeply conservative kingdom. In a bizarre moment, Trump caught a glimpse of the concert with first lady Melania Trump when, in a golf cart, they slowly rolled past a screen broadcasting it live.

—Pantsuits and Dresses: Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka, sparked an online sensation when she arrived in Riyadh wearing a long-sleeved, billowy navy dress as her blonde hair blew in the breeze. The hashtag “bint Trump,” meaning Trump’s daughter in Arabic, began trending, with one Twitter user even proposing in an online video. Like other high-level female visitors to Saudi Arabia, Mrs. Trump also did not cover her hair while in the kingdom. For her arrival to Riyadh, she wore a long-sleeved, black pantsuit accented with a wide, gold-colored belt and gold necklace.

—Was It a Bow? Trump accepted Saudi Arabia’s highest civilian honor and ignited a debate over whether he bowed to the king. King Salman placed the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud — a gold medal hanging from a long, gold chain — around Trump’s neck hours after he arrived in the kingdom. Trump had to bend down so the king could put the medal around his neck, and that ignited debate over whether he had bowed to the king.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, have all received the award. Republicans — including Trump — criticized Obama for a move during his 2009 visit to Saudi Arabia, interpreting it as an American president subserviently bowing to a foreign dignitary.

ISRAEL

—The Selfie: Israel is known for its boisterous and informal behavior, and Trump got a first-hand taste of this at his airport arrival ceremony. Just moments after he landed, a hard-line Cabinet minister asked Trump to recognize Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, one of the most explosive issues in the conflict with the Palestinians. Then, a backbench lawmaker who had not even been invited to the ceremony pulled Trump aside for a selfie. With Trump waiting patiently after a camera glitch, and Netanyahu unsuccessfully reaching out to block the scene from unfolding, lawmaker Oren Hazan snapped the shot that made him famous. “Thank you, Mr. President – it was my pleasure!” Hazan tweeted alongside the picture.

—Speak to the Hand. The selfie was not the only time that Trump was caught off guard. As he and his wife Melania walked on the red carpet, he turned and reached out to grab her hand. The expressionless Mrs. Trump, wearing dark sunglasses, appeared to brush away his hand, raising speculation in local media of a possible first family fracas. It happened again in Rome on Tuesday: as the couple emerged from the plane, Trump waved to the crowd and seemed to look for her hand. She quickly moved it away, raising it to her head to brush her hair aside.

—Budding Bromance: Netanyahu had a strained relationship with Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama. But he appeared to have an easy rapport with Trump, with the two men repeatedly embracing and professing their deep friendship. At the airport ceremony, Netanyahu playfully warned Trump about the confusing protocol. “What is the protocol? Do you have any idea?” Trump asked. “Who knows?” Netanyahu responded with a smile.

—I Share Your Pain: Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, also found common ground with Mrs. Trump. Speaking to the first couple at the airport, Mrs. Netanyahu complained that they were both victims of an unfair press. “The majority of the people of Israel, unlike the media, they love us so we tell them how you are great and they love you,” Mrs. Netanyahu said. “We have very much in common,” Trump said.

—Home Sweet Home. The Netanyahus hosted the Trumps for a private dinner on Monday that began with a brief tour of their official residence. “Welcome to our palace,” Netanyahu said sarcastically. “It’s something very modest,” his wife said.

The two couples sat at a table as the president signed a guest book. “Thanks to you, we could paint the walls. We got the budget to paint the walls,” Netanyahu said. “All the house is painted for you,” Mrs. Netanyahu added.

Trump thanked Mrs. Netanyahu for arranging a hospital tour with Mrs. Trump, where both women met with a mixed group of Arab and Jewish children. “We kind of make, bring a smile to the children,” Mrs. Netanyahu said. As they all got up to take a picture, Netanyahu boasted that he is serving his fourth term as prime minister and then presented the first couple a gift: a 150-year-old bible.

“It describes what happened here. It all took place here,” Netanyahu said.

“That is really beautiful,” Trump answered.

“It’s a good book. It’s THE good book,” Netanyahu said.

“It’s THE book,” his wife added.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Jeff Clemens endorses Andrew Gillum for Governor

Add Sen. Jeff Clemens to the list of Democratic leaders backing Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

The Gillum campaign announced Wednesday that Clemens, the Senate Democratic Leader-designate, has endorsed Gillum’s 2018 gubernatorial bid. In a statement, Clemens called Gillum a “bold leader whose vision will transform Florida.”

“Andrew will prioritize the people we serve, not the privileged few who have had their way in Tallahassee for decades,” said Clemens. “Strong values like top-flight education for every child, an economy that works for workers as well as small business owners, and healthcare that protects the vulnerable by covering Floridians with pre-existing conditions.”

Clemens went on to say that Gillum is the best person to “challenge the status quo.”

“Andrew knows we can do better, and I have confidence he will make the Legislature do its job,” he said.

Gillum is one of three Democrats currently vying to replace Gov. Rick Scott in 2018. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Orlando businessman Chris King have also filed to run.

“It’s an honor to receive Leader Designate Jeff Clemens’ endorsement. He is a true champion for Florida’s working people, and as a former Mayor, he knows the critical importance of building strong communities everywhere in Florida,” said Gillum in a statement. “I look forward to working with him to build an economy that serves all Floridians – not the special interests.”

 

Raquel Regalado announces bid to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Add Raquel Regalado to the list of politicos vying to replace Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Congress.

Regalado, a former Miami-Dade school board member, announced Tuesday she was running to replace Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 27th Congressional District. The Miami Herald reported she is the second big-name Republican to enter the race, after Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro.

Republican Maria Peiro has also filed to run, and the Herald reported Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has considered running for the spot.

Regalado is a 42-year-old mother of two, who has a history of crossing party lines. POLITICO Florida reported Regalado, the daughter of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, backed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink in 2010 over Republican Rick Scott. She endorsed Scott in his 2014 re-election grid. And in 2016, she challenged Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, a fellow Republican. Gimenez won, 56 percent to Regalado’s 44 percent.

Ros-Lehtinen announced earlier this year she plans to retire when her term ends in 2018. Democrats look at the seat as a possible pick-up, since Hillary Clinton won the district by 20 percentage points. The district includes parts of coastal Miami-Dade, including Miami Beach.

State Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez has said he plans to run for the seat, and is the most favored to take the Democratic nomination. He’ll face Democrats Scott Fuhrman, who ran against Ros-Lehtinen in 2016, and Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez.

3 more arrests in Manchester; London tourist sites protected

British police and intelligence agencies arrested three more suspects Wednesday in connection with the Manchester suicide bombing and moved quickly to secure key sites across the country, including Buckingham Palace and the British Parliament at Westminster.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the bomber, identified as British-born Libyan Salman Abedi, “likely” did not act alone when he killed 22 people and wounded dozens at an Ariana Grande concert Monday night in Manchester. She said he had been known to security forces “up to a point.”

Officials are examining Abedi’s trips to Libya as they piece together his allegiances and try to foil any new potential threats.

Police said three men were arrested Wednesday in south Manchester, where a day earlier a 23-year-old man was also arrested and a number of homes were searched.

Britain raised its threat level from terrorism to “critical” after an emergency government meeting late Tuesday amid concerns that the 22-year-old Abedi may have accomplices who are planning another attack. British soldiers have been deployed in place of police officers to guard high-profile sites such as Buckingham Palace and Parliament.

The changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace was canceled Wednesday so police officers can be re-deployed, Britain’s defense ministry said. The traditional ceremony is a major tourist attraction in London.

The Palace of Westminster, which houses the British Parliament in London, was also closed Wednesday to all those without passes, and tours and events there were cancelled until further notice. Armed police were also seen on patrol outside St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, another popular tourist spot.

Officials said 984 soldiers were deployed Wednesday in London and in other locations.

Suicide bomber Abedi was born in Britain to a Libyan family, grew up in Manchester’s southern suburbs and attended local Salford University for a time.

Police on Tuesday raided his house, using a controlled explosion to blast down the door. Neighbors recalled him as a tall, thin young man who often wore traditional Islamic dress and did not talk much.

British Prime Minister Theresa May chaired a meeting Wednesday of her emergency security cabinet group to talk about intelligence reports on Abedi and concerns that he might have had outside support.

Police also raided and searched a property elsewhere in Manchester where Abedi’s brother Ismail is thought to have lived.

Officials are probing how often Abedi had traveled to Libya, which has seen an eruption of armed Islamist groups since dictator Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown and killed in 2011.

France’s interior minister said Abedi is believed to have traveled to Syria and had “proven” links with the Islamic State group.

Minister Gerard Collomb said Wednesday on BFM television that British and French intelligence have information that Abedi had been to Syria. He did not elaborate but said it’s unclear whether Abedi was part of a larger network of attackers.

British officials have not commented on whether Abedi had links to IS or other extremist groups.

Rudd said Britain’s increased official threat level will remain at “critical” as the investigation proceeds and won’t be lowered until security services are convinced there is no active plot in place.

She also complained about U.S. officials leaking sensitive information about Abedi to the press. Rudd said Britain’s operational security could be harmed by the leaks, taking “the element of surprise” away from security services and police.

“I have been very clear with our friends that that should not happen again,” she said.

In addition to those killed in the concert attack, Manchester officials raised to 119 the number of people who sought medical treatment after the attack, including those who traveled to hospitals on their own.

Sixty-four people are still hospitalized, Jon Rouse of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership said Wednesday. Officials say 20 of them are being treated for critical injuries.

Many of those still hospitalized had serious wounds that will require “very long term care and support in terms of their recovery,” Rouse said.

Officials said all those hospitalized had been identified.

Soldiers were replacing armed police on Wednesday at sites like Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street and Parliament. London Police Commander Jane Connors said the goal is to “make our city as hostile an environment as possible for terrorists to plan and operate.”

She said armed police patrols had been increased and will be ready to respond quickly to any incidents.

Collomb, who spoke with May after the attack, said the two countries should continue cooperating closely on counterterrorism efforts despite Britain’s pending exit from the 28-nation European Union.

Reprinted with permission of the Associated Press

Citing need for ‘new energy,’ Ryan Torrens becomes first Democrat in Attorney General race

For Ryan Torrens, the primary job of a state attorney general is consumer protection; it’s something the 32-year-old Odessa-based lawyer does every day.

That’s why Torrens, who specializes in foreclosure defense and consumer protection litigation, became the first Democrat to file for Florida’s Attorney General race in 2018.

“We have helped so many people, and so I believe that the office fits my background,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday morning. “I’ve been speaking about to local DEC’s and people just feel it, people are ready for a change, they’re ready for some new blood, they’re ready for somebody who has new energy. That’s what I offer.”

Torrens, whose family has Cuban roots, believes Floridians are first and foremost looking for an attorney general to protect them from criminals. If elected, that will be his first priority.

As a political novice, Torrens has never run for public office. But the fifth-generation Tampa native is very aware that mounting a year-and-a-half long statewide campaign means he’ll need to raise millions.

Nevertheless, Torrens is confident he will meet the challenge, and believes he can do it without Wall Street contributions.

While busy hiring campaign staff and volunteers, Torrens begins the task of introducing himself to Democrats statewide. He’s already spoken to a Largo Democratic group, and intends to meet with Broward and Miami-Dade Democrats later in the week.

Torrens’ aspirations began in 2001, when the events surrounding the 9/11 terrorist attacks exposed the then-16-year-old to a wider world of politics.

“I really started reading about Middle East politics and the threat of terrorism and domestic politics and policy,” he said, resulting in the decision of his major at the University of Tampa.

Torrens attended high school in Temple Terrace before earning a bachelor’s degree in government and world affairs from UT (graduating magna cum laude). He then migrated to George Washington University Law School in Washington D.C.

As opposed to other open Cabinet positions, not much clamor has surrounded the in 2018 Attorney General’s race.

Earlier this month, Jacksonville Representative Jay Fant became the first Republican to enter the race. Another Democratic name being suggested for a possible run is Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler.

Administrative judge says 2 should get medical pot license

An administrative ruling has paved the way for at least one more medical marijuana distributing organization in Florida.

Division of Administrative Hearings Judge John Van Landingham ruled Tuesday that Plants of Ruskin and Tornello Landscape/3 Boys Farm are equally qualified to receive licenses, but if the state’s Department of Health would approve only one, then it should go to Tornello/3 Boys.

Department of Health spokesman Brad Dalton said they are reviewing the order and in the process of determining their next steps. There are currently seven distributing organizations.

This was the last of the administrative challenges since the five original licenses were decided in December of 2015. Two additional were awarded last year due to either settlements or an administrative ruling.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons