Influence – Florida Politics
Amy Hass UF

Personnel note: UF makes interim VP permanent

After a year in the job, Amy Hass lost the “interim” tag and is now the University of Florida’s vice president and general counsel.

The decision was announced Thursday by UF President Kent Fuchs, who said that Hass was university’s top pick after a nationwide search.

“Amy has been an exceptional member of the Office of the General Counsel and also has served as interim vice president with distinction,” Fuchs said. “Feedback that emerged from a national search indicated strong support for her and a real appreciation for her capabilities, work ethic, and expertise.”

Hass has been in the role since July 2017, following predecessor Jamie Keith’s resignation in the midst of an investigation. She has worked for the UF Office of the Vice President and General Counsel since 2006.

Prior to joining the University of Florida, she was a litigator with Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP in Atlanta and New York. While in private practice, Hass represented financial services companies and individuals in a wide range of government enforcement proceedings, civil litigation, white collar criminal defense, arbitrations and internal corporate investigations.

Hass is an alumna of UF law school as well as Furman University. She is a member of The Florida Bar and the State Bar of Georgia and is also admitted to practice in the Northern and Southern U.S. District Courts of Florida and the Northern U.S. District Court of Georgia.

Newly elected lawmakers eligible for pay — despite not casting a vote

State Rep. Javier Fernandez, a Miami Democrat, and Rep. Josie Tomkow, a Polk City Republican, most likely will never cast a vote as part of the 2017-2018 Legislature, but both are eligible to pocket more than $15,000 from the taxpayer-funded job.

The two have been on the books since their separate special elections on May 1 — 51 days after the end of the regular 2018 Legislative Session — for the $29,697 a year job, which pays $571 a week.

The results of their elections were certified on Tuesday.

Both seats are again up for election Nov. 6, which is 27 weeks from the time Fernandez and Tomkow were elected.

Fernandez won in Miami-Dade County’s House District 114. Scott called the special election after former Rep. Daisy Baez, a Coral Gables Democrat, resigned after pleading guilty to a perjury charge in an investigation into her residency.

Tomkow, meanwhile, was elected in House District 39, which includes parts of Polk and Osceola counties. Scott called that election after former Rep. Neil Combee, an Auburndale Republican, resigned last year to take a job in the Donald Trump administration.

Philip Levine

Personnel note: Philip Levine campaign building communications team

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine’s gubernatorial campaign announced Thursday that it’s expanding its communications team with a pair of new hires.

The announcement included a promotion for William Miller, who will now serve as deputy communications director, and the addition of Guillermo Perez, who will serve as the campaign’s Hispanic media coordinator.

“As our campaign builds momentum ahead of the August primary, William will help implement our communications strategy, working to ensure the Mayor’s vision and record of progressive accomplishment reaches voters in all of Florida’s 67 counties,” said Christian Ulvert, senior advisor to the campaign.

“We are also excited to integrate Guillermo Perez as our Hispanic Media Coordinator where he will ensure that Mayor Levine—the only bilingual candidate on either side of the aisle—is taking his message to the diverse, Spanish-speaking communities across our state.”

Miller’s new role is an upgrade from his former job as communications coordinator, which he’s held since Levine entered the Democratic Primary last year. His resume includes working as a South Florida press assistant for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 White House run.

Perez comes to the Levine campaign from Ulvert’s EDGE Communications, where he’s worked since the start of the year. His prior experience includes an internship in the offices of U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Connecticut U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

“Our campaign is building the infrastructure and campaign operation to win in August and November. With the Primary election fast approaching, our team is well positioned to continue to effectively reach voters throughout Florida,” Ulvert said.

Levine is running against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and Orlando-area businessman Chris King in the Democratic Primary. On the Republican side, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam faces Northeast Florida U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

The primary election is Aug. 28. The general election is Nov. 6.

Six firms earn more than $1 million for legislative session lobbying

First quarter reports are in for Florida’s lobby firms, and Ballard Partners again topped the list with an estimated $2.5 million in compensation for legislative lobbying during the first three months of the year.

Ballard, which topped all firms in 2017 compensation, was one of six outfits reporting at least $1 million in legislative lobbying compensation for the reporting period.

Taking the No. 2 spot was Southern Strategy Group followed by Ronald L. Book, P.A., Capital City Consulting, Greenberg Traurig and GrayRobinson.

Florida lobbyists report their pay in ranges for each client, except those that pay more than $50,000 a quarter. Those ranges show Ballard Partners brought in between $1.7 million and $3.3 million for the quarter, with $2.5 million falling in the middle of the two extremes.

Their first-quarter effort is a bump up from Q4, which saw the firm bring in $2.3 million. Ballard’s 20-person team had dozens of clients on its roster during the 2018 Legislative Session, including three dozen that paid $20,000 or more for representation.

Shands Teaching Hospital topped their list with $84,000 paid, followed by Automated Healthcare Solutions at $60,000, Resorts World Miami at $53,000, and Tampa General Hospital at an estimated $45,000.

With 215 principals Southern Strategy Group had the longer client sheet, with 33 of those handled pro-bono. Its report was topped by Vestcor Companies, which paid them $57,000, followed by FCCI Insurance Group at $53,000 and a pair of clients showing up in the $40,000 to $50,000 range.

Their range for the quarter went from $1.4 million to $3.2 million, with $2.3 million being the average.

If the list were based on earnings per lobbyist, Ron Book’s shop would be atop the list yet again. He, Rana Brown and Kelly Mallette took in between $1.8 million and $2.6 million for estimated earnings of $2.2 million. That tighter spread is the result of 10 clients breaking through the $50,000 cap on reporting in ranges.

Four of those principals paid more than $100,000 in Q1: Ashbritt, K.A.S. & Associates, Performance Title Services and Title Clerk Consulting Company. Also at the $50,000-plus level were the Florida High School Athletic Association, the Miami Project/Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, the Rosemary Beach Property Owners Association, and The SEED Foundation.

Coming in behind Book was Capital City Consulting, which received an estimated $1.7 million from its 128 principals. Tying for the top spot were three clients showing up in the $40,000 to $50,000 range: Aetna, Creative Core Group and Swisher International.

The 11-member firm had another nine clients pay at least $30,000, while 17 fell into the $20,000 to $30,000 range.

The No. 5 earner was Greenberg Traurig. The international law firm’s nine-person Tallahassee team handled the needs of more than 100 clients in Q1 and brought in an estimated $1.2 million.

GT’s top-paying client was UMB Bank, which payed $66,000 for legislative lobbying, followed by Bankers Life Insurance Company, Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance Company and The Nemours Foundation, all three of which fell in the $40,000 to $50,000 range.

Another eight clients paid somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000.

Rounding out the $1 million-per-quarter club was GrayRobinson, which scored somewhere between $420,000 and $1.65 million from its extensive client sheet.

The top-paying client was FMSbonds, which paid the 22-member firm between $30,000 and $40,000 between New Year’s and March 31. Of its 151 other principals, 87 paid an estimated $5,000 apiece, while 31 showed paid around $15,000 each, and four showed up in the $20,000 to $30,000 range.

Manny Diaz Jr.

Miami Lakes mayor endorses Manny Diaz in SD 36

The mayor of Miami Lakes says he’s backing Manny Diaz in the race for Senate District 36.

Mayor Manny Cid becomes the fourth Miami-Dade mayor in recent weeks to endorse Diaz, following the mayors of Hialeah, Hialeah Gardens, and Doral.

Diaz has represented House District 103 since 2012, but now has his eyes on the Senate.

Mayor Cid says Diaz’s time in the House shows he’s ready to make the move: “Manny was an effective state representative, and there’s no question that he will be an outstanding state senator.”

Cid went on to note the work Diaz has done to help the Miami Lakes community.

“When residents in West Lakes and Royal Oaks needed help with flooding, Manny delivered much-needed funds to revamp their drainage system,” he said.

“When dozens of Miami Lakers saw their property lines being eroded into the public canal system, Manny responded by funding the stabilization project that saved millions of dollars worth of homeowners’ private properties. He delivered for Miami Lakes, and that’s why I am proud to endorse him.”

Cid was elected as Miami Lakes mayor in 2016 after serving on the city’s Town Council.

“Mayor Manny Cid is a great public servant, and I’m proud to have his support,” said Diaz. “He works hard for the people of Miami Lakes, and I look forward to working with him to maintain the high quality of life we enjoy in our community.”

The Diaz campaign also received a recent boost in fundraising, crossing the $500,000 mark in contributions. That should help him in his bid to replace outgoing state Sen. Rene Garcia, who is term-limited.

SD 36 covers parts of both Broward and Miami-Dade counties. No Republicans are currently challenging Diaz for the nomination. Only Muhammad Amin has filed as a Democrat, but so far he has reported no fundraising information with Florida’s Division of Elections.

Jason Pizzo

Jason Pizzo earns mayoral endorsements in SD 38 race

Former prosecutor Jason Pizzo announced he’s receiving support from several Miami-Dade County mayors in his race to challenge incumbent state Sen. Daphne Campbell.

Among those now supporting Pizzo are Aventura Mayor Enid Weisman, Bay Harbor Islands Mayor Stephanie Bruder, Miami Shores Mayor Mac Glinn, North Miami Beach Mayor Beth Spiegel, and Surfside Mayor Daniel Dietch.

“It’s time we have fresh leadership in Tallahassee fighting for our community, instead of their self-serving interests,” said Pizzo. “As we grow our coalition of support, I’m thankful to have the support of area Mayors who recognize a need for a new direction, and I look forward to continuing our service to the people of Miami-Dade County.”

Pizzo is running for the Senate District 38 seat after finishing second to Campbell in the Democratic primary in 2016. In addition to the endorsements, he’s also brought in more than $100,000 to help fund his primary challenge.

Campbell has also earned her fair share of endorsements, including that of incoming Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson.

Pizzo, who now works as an attorney in Miami, seemed confident in his chances following the latest round of support. “In the weeks ahead, our campaign will be working harder than ever as we meet with voters and get them engaged in this critical election.”

SD 38 represents a portion of northeast Miami-Dade County. The Democratic primary will be held on August 28, followed by the November 6 general election. Currently, no Republicans have filed to run in SD 38.

Humana makes changes in Capitol, parting ways with Jon Bussey

After scoring a big victory in a statewide Medicaid managed-care procurement, Humana and Jon Bussey, who served as its regional director of corporate affairs, have parted ways.

Humana Director of Corporate Communications Mark Mathis confirmed the separation in an email to The News Service of Florida, saying the company made a decision last year to “restructure our Tallahassee government affairs team to align with new business strategies.”

According to his LinkedIn profile, Bussey was the health insurance company’s principal representative before state executive, legislative and regulatory bodies, including departments of insurance as well as state health and Medicaid agencies, in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, North Carolina and South Carolina. In the profile, he said he was responsible for providing strategic support on policy, political, public-sector procurement and regulatory matters, including commercial, long-term-care, Medicaid and Medicare and specialty insurance products.

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration announced April 24 its decision to enter into five-year Medicaid contracts worth up to $90 billion with nine Medicaid managed care plans. If the decision stands, Humana will operate statewide.

Twelve managed care companies have filed petitions with the state notifying Medicaid officials of their intent to legally fight the decisions if changes aren’t made.

AHCA Secretary Justin Senior, Medicaid director Beth Kidder, and three other agency staff members have been meeting with the companies this week in hopes of avoiding litigation.

Personnel note: Marti Coley Eubanks joins PinPoint Results

Former state Rep. Marti Coley Eubanks has joined the lobbying-consulting team at PinPoint Results, the firm announced.

Coley Eubanks had been governmental relations director for Nemours Children’s Health System Florida.

“Marti is an awesome addition to our team,” said Robert Beck, partner of PinPoint Results, in a statement. Her “character, professionalism, work ethic and experience are top tier. She will be an integral member of our PinPoint team.”

Added Coley Eubanks: “I look forward to being a part of the PinPoint Results team and working together to achieve our client’s goals and priorities through a committed team of professionals.”

She served 2005-14 in the Florida House, rising to Speaker Pro Tempore in her final two years in the Legislature.

Coley Eubanks was widowed after the March 2005 death of her husband, the late Rep. David Coley, whose place she took in the House after a special election. She is now married to Bennett Eubanks, whose company owns filling stations in north Florida.

“During her legislative service, Coley Eubanks was known for her untiring advocacy for education, children’s issues, cancer research and economic development initiatives,” the firm’s press release said.

She began as an English teacher, teaching on the middle school, high school and college levels, and worked at Chipola College in Marianna for more than 20 years.  

More cities join challenge to gun-law penalties

An additional 10 municipalities have joined a challenge to the constitutionality of a state law that imposes strict penalties on local governments and officials who violate a restriction on regulating guns and ammunition.

The lawsuit was filed last month in Leon County circuit court by 10 South Florida communities and numerous local officials, and an amended complaint was filed Tuesday that added 10 municipalities and more officials.

The additions were Boca Raton, Surfside, Tallahassee, North Miami, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Gainesville, St. Petersburg, Maitland and Key Biscayne.

The case is rooted in a decades-old law that gives the state power to regulate firearms and ammunition and “preempts” the ability of local governments to approve such regulations.

In 2011, the Legislature approved stiff penalties for local governments and officials who violate the state preemption law, including potential removal from office and fines.

The municipalities allege in the lawsuit that the penalties are unconstitutional on a series of grounds. In a statement issued Tuesday after the amended complaint was filed, lead attorney Jamie Cole described the penalties as “onerous” and “unprecedented” against local governments and elected officials.

“Municipalities and elected officials from across the state, in urban, suburban and rural communities, have all joined the fight to protect the home rule authority of local governments, and to reflect the passion of their residents,” said Cole of the firm Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman.

Ray Rodrigues draws second Democratic foe

House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, an Estero Republican, faces a second Democratic opponent as he runs for a final term in the Florida House.

Fort Myers Democrat David Benjamin Bogner opened a campaign account Monday in Lee County’s House District 76, according to the state Division of Elections website. Bogner joined Fort Myers Democrat Neilson Cross Ayers, who opened an account last week.

Rodrigues, who was first elected to the House in 2012, had raised $150,710 for his re-election campaign as of April 30 and had about $44,000 in cash on hand, a newly filed finance report shows.

A Rodrigues-chaired political committee known as Free Markets for Florida had about $424,000 in cash on hand.

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