Orlando Archives - Florida Politics

With vacation rentals now legal in Orlando, city offers amnesty period to rogue listers

The city of Orlando was once one of the biggest holes in the international vacation rental home sharing market: one of the world’s great tourist destinations, where vacation rental homes were against the law.

That came to an end in July when a new city ordinance took effect essentially legalizing vacation rentals in the City Beautiful. And now the city is trying to get the word out that rogue property owners who had been illegally running vacation rental homes have an amnesty registration period through October 1 to become legit under the new law.

The new city ordinance requires full registration, an issue that’s been at the heart of state debates at the Florida Legislature the past three years, where proponents of vacation rentals have been pushing for rollbacks of local ordinances specifically targeting them, while cities and counties have argued they should have the ability to self-govern.

Orlando’s law also applies within all residential zoning districts, but only for properties that are rented for 30 days or less; provided that the rented portion of the home is 50 percent or less of the total number of bedrooms in the residence, that there is only one booking at a time and that the owner lives on-site and is present when hosting guests. Orlando charges $275 for an initial registration fee.

The city has opened a beta website for online registrations and information on rental homes.

City officials, starting with their legal staff, are confident the new city ordinance will hold up under state pre-emptions against local vacation rental home laws, approved in recent years by the Florida Legislature. The state grandfathered in local laws that predate 2011, but reserves everything else to state laws, rules and regulations, not to cities and counties. Orlando’s ban on vacation rental homes predates 2011.

Still, the rapidly growing, internet-driven business, which counts tens of thousands of vacation rental homes statewide being marketed through such firms as Airbnb, HomeAway, and FlipKey, or independently marketed, may have sprouted an estimated 2,000 rogue vacation rental properties in the city of Orlando, officials estimated.

“By offering an amnesty period, we are allowing time for public outreach and education, giving residents the opportunity to become familiar with the new requirements for home sharing,” Mike Rhodes, the city’s deputy director of economic development stated in a news release. “As a city, we made the conscious decision to only allow residents to rent a portion of their home to reduce the potential impacts renting an entire dwelling could have on housing affordability and the inventory of housing stock.”

Jerry Demings announces firefighters’, Young Dems’ endorsements in Orange mayoral race

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings has the backing of the Orange County Fire Fighters Association, the Young Democrats of Orange County and two other groups in his quest to be elected Mayor of Orange County.

His campaign announced the endorsements Wednesday of the Orange County firefighters union; the Young Democrats; Equality Florida Action PAC, and the EMGAGE PAC.

Demings faces Winter Park businessman Rob Panepinto and Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke in the Aug. 28 primary. If no one receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two move on to a Nov. 6 election.

The firefighters union, also known as Local 2057 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, adds to Demings’ list of local first-responders unions that have endorsed him, including the police unions representing both the deputy sheriffs he now oversees and the Orlando police.

Equality Florida Action PAC supports rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer residents.

EMGAGE PAC is a national organization that supports candidates at all levels of government who commit to “upholding civil rights, welcoming diversity, and protecting religious freedom.”

Frank Kruppenbacher leaves Florida Virtual School

Orlando lawyer and Florida Republican stalwart Frank Kruppenbacher has left the Florida Virtual School after serving as its general counsel for 18 years.

Kruppenbacher submitted his resignation at Sunday’s board meeting and the board accepted it, a school spokesman said Tuesday.

“It’s been 18 years. I just didn’t want to do it anymore. It was time to go,” Kruppenbacher told Florida Politics.

Kruppenbacher’s activities in state and regional boards is widespread, as has been his involvement in political activities, chiefly for the Republican Party. He is chairman of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, the board that runs the Orlando airports; and served as a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission this year. He’s also a past president of the Greater Orlando Chamber of Commerce, was the general counsel for the Orange County School Board and several city and county governments, and served on the Florida Ethics Commission.

The Florida Virtual School is the state’s online K-12 school. It began in 1997 as the nation’s first, statewide internet-based public high school. In 2000 it became an independent institution, serving students from all 67 counties through contracts with local school boards.

Kruppenbacher became its general counsel when it became an independent institution in 2000.

Voter registration trends suggest tougher races for Mike La Rosa, Bob Cortes

Democrats’ voter registration gains in greater Orlando is spelling bigger challenges for several Republicans running in GOP-held Florida House seats.

It includes state Reps. Mike La Rosa and Bob Cortes, whose districts are turning bluer as they seek re-elections this fall.

In many ways, Central Florida mirrors statewide trends in the era of President Donald Trump, with Democratic voters increasing as percentages of the electorates in urban and, increasingly, in suburban areas. Republicans are gaining voters in more outlying areas that may be parts of the metropolitan media market but center more on smaller cities such as Melbourne, Daytona Beach, and Leesburg.

Democrats are seeing improved chances for their ambitions to knock off Republicans in the immediate Sanford-Orlando-Kissimmee corridor and gaining more advantage in their safe urban districts. However, in a few areas farther from the urban core, Republican voter bases are growing. That’s solidifying the GOP’s holds for such seats as House District 52 in north Brevard County and House District 25 in Volusia County, and also making inroads in more purple areas such as House District 27 in western Volusia.

La Rosa’s House District 42, which includes part of Kissimmee but otherwise covers huge, mostly rural parts of Osceola County and some of east Polk County and a few small towns, is a bit of an exception. That’s due in large part to the swell of Democratic voters throughout Osceola County.

Republicans have lost almost two percentage points of the HD 42 voter base in the latest book closings for the Aug. 28 primary compared with the 2016 primary. As a result, Democrats in that previously purple district now have almost a 6-point advantage over Republicans in voter registrations.

Democratic HD 42 nominee Barbara Cady said she’s sensing that on the campaign trail, saying voter turnout will be critical to her hopes to unseat La Rosa.

“I think it’s going really good. the campaign is terrific. … I think we have a good chance in November,” said the Democratic activist from Kissimmee. “I have a cautious, optimistic sense that it’s just about voter turnout, and that’s what we’re focusing on. If they come out to the polls, we have a really good chance.”

Yet  La Rosa, of St. Cloud, is a well-known figure; a three-term representative who has won easy re-elections; chairman of the House Tourism Gaming Control and Tourism Subcommittee; and an active fundraiser, who’s outraised Cady $158,000 to $42,000.

He said things are going well for his campaign.

“Of course the district is changing. It’s been changing since Day 1 for me, and I just do what I need to do to represent the district,” La Rosa said.

As Osceola turns deep blue throughout and HD 42, taking in most of the more conservative areas, is turning pale blue. The latest voter numbers show the HD 42 voter base to be 37 percent Democrat, 31 percent Republican, and 32 percent independent.

Cortes’ House District 30 in south-central Seminole County is following the lead of that county’s voter base, where Democrats have made the most significant gains, relative to Republicans, since 2016. Democrats picked up two percentage points in HD 30, and now have almost a 4-point advantage there, 37.4 percent to 33.5 percent.

Cortes, a two-term lawmaker from Altamonte Springs who is reportedly on U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis’ short list of possible Lieutenant Governor running mates, awaits the Democratic primary to see whom he will face in November. The Democratic battle is between Maitland City Councilwoman Joy Goff-Marcil, Brendan Ramirez, and Clark Anderson.

Others where Republican voters slipped as percentages of their districts’ overall electorates: Seminole County districts represented by Republicans, House District 28 with Jason Brodeur and House District 29 with Scott Plakon.

Also feeling the pinch are three Orange County districts represented by Republicans, House District 44 with Bobby Olszewski, House District 47 with Mike Miller, and House District 50 (split between Orange and Brevard counties) with Rene Plasencia.

Miller is not seeking re-election in HD 47. Democrats are running activist Anna Eskamani, while lawyer Mikaela Nix and businessman Stockton Reeves VI are battling toward the Aug. 28 Republican primary.

The other four Republican-held districts in Orange and Seminole still have more Republican voters than Democratic voters, but the gaps are shrinking.

In HD 28, where Brodeur is not running for re-election, and where Republican David Smith will be facing Democrat Lee Mangold, Republicans’ advantage is now five percentage points, down from seven.

In HD 29, Plakon’s 8-point advantage for Republican voters in 2016 is down to 5 points. He awaits the winner of a Darryl BlockTracey Kagan Democratic primary.

In HD 44, Olszewski’s district, Republican voters had almost a 6-point advantage in 2016, and that’s down to 3. He awaits the winner of the Melanie GoldGeraldine Thompson Democratic primary.

In HD 50, Republicans’ advantage has slipped by almost 2 points, and they now have an advantage of 36 percent to 34 percent for Democrats. Plasencia’s facing his own primary challenge from Republican George Collins, with Democrat Pam Dirschka waiting for next.

Only one Central Florida seat held by Democrats saw any shrinkage of its Democratic voter base compared with Republicans, but that’s a relatively safe seat in Volusia County, House District 26, held by Democratic state Rep. Patrick Henry. Even with a 2-point swing toward Republicans in the past two years, the district still is 41 percent Democrat and 30 percent Republican, by voter registration.

Most of the deep-red or deep-blue Central Florida districts got more so in the past two years.

In Republican strongholds, state Rep. Thad Altman’s advantage in House District 52 in Brevard County has increased to slightly, with Republican voters now up 19 percentage points over Democrats. State Rep. Jennifer Sullivan‘s House District 32 in Lake County plus a corner of northwest Orange County, saw Republicans edge up toward a 14 point advantage in voter rolls. House District 51, held in Brevard County by state Rep. Tom Goodson but featuring a Republican primary battle this year between Tyler Sirois and Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish, saw Republican voters’ increase to an 11 percent advantage over Democrats.

In Democratic strongholds, state Reps. Bruce Antone in House District 46 in Orange County; John Cortes, in House District 43 in Osceola County; and Kamia Brown, in House District 45 in Orange County, do not have Republican opponents. Here’s why: Democratic voters expanded their dominance in each of those districts to way more than 30 points greater than the percentages of Republican voters.

In partisan contested races, state Rep. Amy Mercado‘s District 48 in Orange County tipped a bit further toward Democrats, who now have a 30-point lead over Republicans there; and state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith‘s House District 49 in Orange County saw Democratic advantage grow to be 15 percentage points better than Republicans in voter registration.

NFIB back Tyler Sirois in HD 51 race

The National Federation of Independent Businesses is throwing its support behind Republican Tyler Sirois in the race for Florida House District 51, his campaign announced Tuesday.

Sirois, executive director of the Office of State Attorney for the 18th Judicial Circuit, faces Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish in the Aug. 28 Republican primary. The winner faces Democrat Michael Blake, a teacher and former Cocoa mayor, in the Nov. 6 election.

“NFIB is proud to endorse candidates whose priorities align with those of the small business community,” Bill Herrle, NFIB’s executive director in Florida, stated in a news release issued Tuesday morning by Sirois’s campaign. “The candidates receiving NFIB’s endorsement have a proven track record of supporting small-business issues, and have committed to working with NFIB to help Florida maintain its pro-small-business climate.”

The contest is to succeed Republican state Rep. Tom Goodson to represent HD 51, which covers northeast Brevard County.

“Creating an environment where small business and entrepreneurship can thrive is critical to maintaining a strong Florida economy,” Sirois stated in the news release. “Returning vocational and technical training to our public schools will produce a workforce ready to participate in the small business sector. “

Nurses’ union backs Darren Soto in CD 9 race

Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto has picked up another endorsement from a reliable Democratic ally in his battle with his predecessor former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson for the party primary in Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

National Nurses United, the largest organization of registered nurses in the country, has endorsed Soto, his campaign announced Monday.

In its endorsement letter, the union said Soto “embodies nurses’ values of caring, compassion and community.”

The winner of the Soto-Grayson primary faces Republican Wayne Liebnitzky in the Nov. 6 election. The district covers south Orange County, Osceola County and east Polk County.

“I’m honored to have the support of nurses in our community and nationwide. We must care for the caregivers,” Soto stated in a news release from his campaign. “Nurses, like all workers, deserve wages that can support a family, safe working conditions, and the right to unionize and bargain collectively. Throughout my career, I’ve fought for the working people of Central Florida, and I’m proud to be supported by many unions including the Florida AFL-CIO.”

Orange Republicans pick George Chandler to run in HD 48

Former federal officer George Chandler of Orlando has been picked by the Orange County Republican Party to be the replacement candidate to run for the Florida House of Representatives in House District 48.

Chandler, 62, of Orlando, is the county Republican’s choice as the replacement candidate for Scotland Calhoun, who initially filed in June to run for the post but withdrew two weeks ago after officials learned she is too young to qualify, not turning 21 until next spring.

If all goes well, Chandler will enter the Nov. 6 election battle with incumbent Democratic state Rep. Amy Mercado of Orlando. The district covers parts of south-central and east Orlando. The latest voter registrations show the district is strongly Democrat: 47 percent of registered voters are Democrats; 17 percent are Republicans, and 36 percent are unaffiliated or registered with a minor party.

Chandler is in Tallahassee Monday morning to file his paperwork as a candidate.

He is a real estate agent, and a former officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and for the U.S. Department of Justice, who had, as a young man, served in the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry.

Chandler has been very active, including holding leadership positions, in the Freedom High School PTA, the Knights of Columbus, and County Watch, and has been the school choice chairman for Orange County Schools. He also is a former student body president at the University of Central Florida, from 1980.

Stockton Reeves goes after Mikaela Nix’s voting record in HD 47 primary battle

Republican Florida House of Representatives candidate Stockton Reeves VI has attacked the primary voting record of his Aug. 28 primary opponent Mikaela Nix, charging that she’s been a Democrat until recently and doesn’t often vote in primaries, in mailers that were delivered this weekend in House District 47 in Orange County.

“MIkaela Nix wants your vote in the Republican primary… but she’s almost never come out to vote for anyone else,” declares the stark-looking red, black and white mailer.

The mailer unleashed a counter-attack from Nix’s campaign Monday, centering on a newly-filed ethic complain filed Friday against Reeves, involving his personal financial disclosures and campaign finance reports.

Reeves’ new mailer includes a breakout of Nix’s voting record in the past seven primaries showing that she was a Democrat in 2006 and 2008 and did not vote in 2002, ’04, ’12 or ’16.

“When our Republican leaders needed every vote, Mikaela Nix couldn’t bother to show up,” the mailer declares.

Nix’s campaign responded Monday morning by counter-charging that Reeves is going negative with misleading information because he’s trying to deflect attention from financial discrepencancies and other matters that Nix’s campaign is seeking to highlight in Reeves’ campaign finance and financial disclosure reports. Her campaign also contends that she switched party affiliation from Democrat to Republican in college after learning more about party ideologies in college.

But Reeves maintains that Republican voters need to know Nix’s record, or lack of record, in voting Republican.

The two are squaring off Aug. 28 in the Republican primary seeking a chance to run against Democratic nominee Anna Eskamani. The district covers north-central Orange County, including downtown Orlando. Incumbent Republican state Rep. Mike Miller is not seeking re-election because he is running for Congress.

“You’ve got an individual who is trying to portray herself one way when she is, factually, something quite different,” Reeves said Monday. “You can say, ‘lifelong conservative.’ But she’s running in a Republican primary, and I think it’s important for voters to know these things. First, she’s not a lifelong Republican; and second, her voting record is abysmal.”

Reeves said he himself registered as a Republican voter before his 18th birthday – legal in the 1980s. And he maintained he has voted in every election since.

“If you’re asking people to make you someone who casts votes in Tallahassee on a variety of issues, I think you should have an intererst in voting in elections, in participating. It’s that simple,” Reeves said.

Nix’s campaign responded Monday by charging that Reeves’ financial disclosures appeared to be hiding something, as they at least initially showed fewer assets than would be necessary for him to lend his own campaign $90,000, as he did last year.

Last Friday former Orange County Republican Executive Committee offiical Scott Prosinowski filed an ethics complaint against Reeves alleging “significant omissions.”

Reeves said his initial financial disclosure filings were not as detailed as they could be and that he is filing an addendum to clarify the matter.

Nix’s campaign also cited a 1994 Orange County political lawsuit case in which Reeves, then a political consultant, and others were ordered by a circuit court judge to stop making a false claim against an opposing candidate.

“Stockton Reeves has a history or running negative and misleading campaigns, and he’s doing it again against Mikaela,” Nix campaign manager Zac Stone said in a written statement. “A judge even ordered him to stop at one time. It’s obvious why he’s doing it; he doesn’t want the voters to know about his financial problems, that he has an ethics complaint filed against him, and that he’s unsuccessfully run for office so many times.”

“As for Mikaela’s voting record, she joined the Republican Party after taking a ideology class in college. Most find that refreshing and Mikaela has made that part of her story,” stated Stone. “She’s been a Republican for ten years and started voting in Primaries in 2014. Before that, she was either in college, law school and in her twenties.”

Pete Clarke charges Jerry Demings failed to act to protect school students

Orange County mayoral candidate and County Commissioner Pete Clarke charged his election rival Sheriff Jerry Demings with failing to do what was necessary to provide enough deputies to protect students in Orange County Public Schools at today’s start of the school year.

Clarke is citing an exchange of memoranda between current Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Demings late last week, in which the sheriff said the Orange County Sheriff’s Office will need several additional months to provide enough sworn officers to have resource officers at all schools, even though the county authorized funding this summer in the wake of the state law passed in April as a response to the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

“On the first day of school, Sheriff Demings said an additional 5 months and additional deputies were needed. Where was he in March when the law was signed?” Clarke declared in a news release issued Monday morning by his campaign,. “We did our part, and he failed to do his.”

Demings and Clarke are locked in a three-way battle with businessman Rob Panepinto heading toward the Aug. 28 election. If no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two advance to an Nov. 6 election showdown.

Later Monday morning, Panepinto jumped into the matter.

“As our kids head back to school today, Mayor Teresa Jacobs is working overtime to clean up Sheriff Jerry Demings’ mess,” Panepinto said in a written statement. “Sheriff Demings promised last Wednesday during our televised mayoral debate that our schools would have the resource officers needed to keep our kids safe. Yet by Friday he suddenly had to admit he didn’t have enough deputies or funding for the school resource officers, even though he had returned millions of dollars back to the county.”

Late Monday, Demings responded with a written statement that read, in part, “It’s deeply disappointing that my opponents in the race for mayor would politicize the issue of school safety.

“Over last 30 years, I have a proven track record of making the safety of our children a top priority.”

In his memo to Jacobs sent on Friday, Demings contended the sheriff’s office will need to add 75 deputies, and that manpower needs to be approved by the Orange County Board of County Commissioners before the hiring and training can begin. “Realistically, even though the funding may be available, initially, the sheriff’s office would not be able to hire that many qualified officers to meet the requirement. Until the new SRO’s can be hired and trained, overtime details of existing deputies will be used in conjunction with OCPS police to provide daily patrols of all public schools in unincorporated Orange County,” he wrote.

Demings then requested commission approval for 75 deputies to satisfy the mandate of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. In the meantime, he said he has temporarily assigned 38 additioanl deputies to be school resource officers.

“Although these new positions will be employed as soon possible at an estimated cost of $11.2 million dollars, it still will take several months or longer to be fully deployed,” Demings wrote.

Clarke responded with frustration as a member of the board of commissioners.

“The sheriff had the resources, failed to use them, and only needed to make a request if he needed more,” Clarke stated in a release issued Monday. “Every school should be provided a full time resource officer. The safety of our children is of paramount importance, and all resources should have been used to ensure the safety of our students. We have an obligation as public servants to plan appropriately and take action when action is needed.”

Joy Goff-Marcil endorsed by Alex Sink

Democratic Florida House of Representatives candidate Joy Goff-Marcil has received the endorsement of former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink in the House District 30 race.

“Joy has served her hometown of Maitland thoughtfully as their Vice Mayor and on the council where she had to tackle difficult decisions. She did so by asking the right questions and by making her vote about her entire community, not just a few voices. We need that call to action at the state level,” the Democrats’ 2010 gubernatorial nomineee stated in a news release issued by Goff-Marcil’s campaign.

“Joy is someone who will represent the interests of all of us, not just special interests. I applaud her passion for public education, clean waterways, sensible gun legislation and small businesses. I know with her ability to work with all sides we will take back our state and put all Floridians first again,” Sink added.

Goff-Marcil, a member of the Maitland City Council, is in an Aug. 28 Democratic primary battle with Clark Anderson of Winter Park and Brendan Ramirez of Orlando for the nomination to run in HD 30 against Republican incumbent state Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs. The district straddles the countyline to include parts of south-central Seminole County and north-central Orange County.

“Joy is thrilled to have received Alex Sink’s endorsement,” her campaign stated.

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