Orlando Archives - Florida Politics

Shhhh! Stephanie Murphy seeks to stop presidential leaks to enemies

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy wants to make sure that if a president or any other high official in the administration casually passes along classified intelligence to a country the United States is not happy with, he’ll have to tell Congress about it.

Murphy, from Winter Park, announced Wednesday afternoon she has introduced the Prevention Oversight of Intelligence Sharing with Enemies Act.

It would require the president to promptly notify the House and Senate Intelligence Committees if someone in the administration “intentionally or inadvertently discloses Top Secret information to government officials of nations that sponsor terrorism or, like Russia, are subject to U.S. economic sanctions.”

The bill and a press release announcing it make no specific mention of reports of President Donald Trump seemingly casually shared ISIS intelligence with Russian officials during a meeting earlier this month.

Yet Murphy, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and who has intelligence analysis background as a former U.S. Department of Defense analyst, made her ire clear.

“As a former national security specialist in the Pentagon, I’ve seen the damage our adversaries can inflict when they gain access to our classified information,” she stated in a news release. “When U.S. intelligence falls into the wrong hands, it puts our service members, intelligence operatives, and diplomats at risk and undermines our national security interests around the world.

“Additionally, our allies are unlikely to share highly-sensitive intelligence if they lose confidence in our ability to protect such information,” she continued. “My bill will enable Congress to assess any damage, conduct appropriate oversight, and keep our country safe whenever classified information is intentionally or inadvertently disclosed.”

It’s not the first time Murphy has introduced a bill taking a swipe at Trump’s national security and intelligence handling, nor is it the first time the freshman congresswoman has taken on those issues outside of trump.

Earlier she introduced the Protect the National Security Council from Political Interference Act, gained 183 cosponsors and helped generated a groundswell of public support for Steve Bannon’s removal from the National Security Council.

She also introduced a bill to create an inter-agency unit to oversee intelligence about North Korea, and another that would create a defense commission to deal with security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

Opioids epidemic crisis blamed on careless doctors, unsupervised children

The crisis of heroin and other opioids that is pounding Orlando, every part of Florida and every part of America might not be any easier to solve than it is to blame, as panelists from Orange County’s Heroin Task Force blamed doctors, middle schoolers and dealers.

It’s a crisis that is causing three to five overdoses a day in Orange County, and killing 100 people a day nationwide, surpassing gunshot wounds and car crashes for the first time in history, the panelists said.

For timeshare mogul David Siegel it’s a personal crisis, as he and his wife Jackie lost their 18-year-old daughter Victoria to a heroin overdose in 2015. Orange County Health and Public Safety Director Dr. George Ralls, its a broad crisis touching every neighborhood, straining treatment assets, and crying out for innovative efforts. For Orlando Health ER doctor and medical toxicologist Josef Thundiyil, its a day-to-day crisis, as he sees overdose victims parade through the emergency room. And for Orange County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Carlos Espinosa, commander of the narcotics unit, its a crisis of supply, where heroin is “very easy” to get, he said.

The quartet of members of the Orange County Heroin Task Force that was set up two years ago by Sheriff Jerry Demings and Mayor Teresa Jacobs spoke before the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida Tuesday. They agreed on the magnitude of the crisis, but not entirely on the necessary responses.

Siegel, the Westgate Resorts president who has become a nationally-outspoken critic of all illegal drugs including marijuana since his daughter died, pushed his call to random drug test middle-school students in public schools, saying too many heroin addicts like his daughter started out smoking marijuana a few years earlier and then stepped the stones.

“Since our children are starting to experiment with marijuana when they are 14, 15, it only makes sense to stop them then, before they go further. Every heroin addict didn’t start with heroin. They started with marijuana,” Siegel said.

“This new marijuana law is the beginning to the end,” he said. “The fear of getting caught is the best deterrent. Peer pressure…. ‘My school is testing. My parents are testing. I’m afraid I’ll get caught,'” Siegel said

But moments before Siegel made his appeal, Thundiyil made the case for why so many older heroin addicts are showing up, and dying, and it’s not because they smoked pot as kids.

“It’s a sad story how we got here. It started many times with well-intentioned physicians trying to mediate pain and suffering. If you talk to heroin addicts now, about three-fourths say they got their start through prescription drugs,” Thundiyil said. “Reversing that trend and educating physicians, educating citizens, that even as little as three days of narcotics, oral, prescribed, medical narcotics, is enough to start addition and create drug-seeking behavior.

“Drug-seeking behavior is the tendency to then go looking for more drugs. If you can’t find it in the medical system, the place you might go next is to look for heroin,” he added.

“My focus for the last two years has been to end the drug epidemic. Not to build timeshares, not to sell real estate, but to save lives,” Siegel said.

“From a law enforcement point of view, I can tell you we’re attacking the supply side of this. The demand side, that’s another animal,” Espinosa said.

“It’s a problem that has affected the entire county…. It used to be that we had pockets of Orange County that weren’t affected by this stuff. Heroin affects the entire county, all sectors, including our tourist areas,” he added.

Eric Eisnaugle makes House departure official

Call him former state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle now.

The Republican from Windermere announced his resignation would come on the last day of Florida’s Legislative Session to accept an appointment to Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals, but delayed the actual departure until late last week.

With his now official resignation — spelled out in a letter last Thursday to Speaker Richard Corcoran — Eisnaugle officially opens the way for the Florida Division of Elections and Rick Scott to set dates for special elections in Florida’s House District 44, covering western Orange County.

Already that race has drawn five candidates: Republicans Dr. Usha Jain, John Newstreet, Bobby Olszewski, and Bruno Portigliatti; and Democrat Paul Chandler.

Eisnaugle asked Corcoran to leave the district office open so that the staff may continue to serve the district.

Fourth Republican, Bruno Portigliatti, enters HD 44 race

Republican businessman Bruno Portigliatti announced his candidacy for what will be a special election this summer for House District 44 in the Orlando area.

Portigliatti, 29, of Orlando, is chief executive officer of Excellence Senior Living, a developer of luxury assisted living facilities for seniors, and executive vice president of Florida Christian University, a global online university. He also helps manage real estate enterprises for his family’s Portigliatti Group LLC.

He’ll be running on a platform topped by his passions for reducing regulation and red tape for businesses, creating businesses, and fostering education.

He enters a race that already features Republicans Bobby Olszewski of Winter Garden, John Newstreet of Orlando and Dr. Usha Jain of Orlando. The Democrats are running Paul Chandler of Orlando.

“As an entrepreneur and CEO of a small business, I know what it’s like to face tough decisions and make payroll,” Portigliatti stated in a news release. “Central Florida can’t afford politics that simply show up – we need a fresh face, a new voice with real world business experience and true understanding of our community.”

He is a rookie candidate but said he has contributed and assisted in other campaigns.

“I know it’s going to be a very spirited campaign, a very spirited race,” he said. “But I strongly believe that out of all the options I feel I will be the strongest voice in Tallahassee. I will bring a fresh face, a new voice, with real-world business experience that the others don’t have.”

A native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Portigliatti has been a Central Florida resident since 1999. He graduated froM Dr. Phillips High School, received a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida, a law degree from the Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville, and a master of business administration degree from Florida Christian University in Orlando

He was recently married, and he and his wife Stephanie are both active members of the First Baptist Church of Orlando. He’s also a board member of the Dr. Phillips YMCA, Chairman of the City of Orlando Minority & Women Business Enterprise Certification Board, and a member of the Rotary Club of Dr. Phillips. He’s also president of New Beginnings Global Outreach, a non-profit charitable organization, and manages several of his families real estate properties and developments.

Scott Boyd declines HD 44 race, backs John Newstreet

The special election race for Florida’s House District 44 became clearer Friday morning when former Orange County Commissioner Scott Boyd said he has decided to not run and will back Republican John Newstreet instead.

“Solid guy, absolutely the best qualified individual for this position,” Boyd declared of Newstreet in a message to Orlando-Politics.com.

Newstreet, the chief executive officer of the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce, entered the race Thursday, challenging former Winter Garden Commissioner Bobby Olszewski for the Republican nomination.

The race also has a long-shot Republican, Dr. Usha Jain, and Democrat Paul Chandler, an Orlando businessman. The western Orange County district is considered fairly safe for Republicans, especially if there is a low-turnout special election. And it could give the winner a legs-up as a candidate for Florida House Speaker.

The seat is open because Republican state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle who is leaving take a judicial appointment to Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals. A special election primary and general election are yet to be set.

Boyd, whose confirmed earlier this month that he was contemplating a run in HD 44 himself. His county commission seat, which he won for two terms before being term-limtied out, covered much of the same territory.

On Friday he wrote, “I’m out; 150 percent behind Newstreet.”

Bobby Olszewski fundraisers set for Orlando, Miami in HD 44 race

Republican House District 44 candidate Bobby Olszewski is rolling out his endorsement backers for two major fundraisers late this month as he gears up for what will be a big special election primary battle in Orange County.

One fundraiser, set for the Shutts and Bowen law firm in Orlando on May 30, features the trio of honorary hosts U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and former Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

It also features 30 other hosts who cover a who’s-who of local politics in west Orange County, where HD 44 is located.

The other fundraiser is set for the next night at SMGQ Law Firm in Coral Gables.

The HD 44 race has not been scheduled for a special election yet, but it will be, because incumbent state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle who is leaving for an appeals court judicial appointment to Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals,

And earlier this week the HD 44 Republican primary contest, seen by Republicans as an important seat with a strong track to a speaker’s job, became a battle, with the entry of Kissimmee chamber CEO John Newstreet.

Olszewski has spent the past couple of months lining up endorsements, and he’ll be rolling out those people at his Orland fundraiser.

Among dozens of other hosts listed are Winter Park Mayor Ken Bradley, Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn, Belle Isle Mayor Bill Brooks, Orange County School Board Members Joie Cadle, Christine Moore, and Linda Kobert, former Orange County Clerk of Courts Eddie Fernandez, Ocoee Mayor Rusty Johnson, Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer, Orlando Commissioner Tony Ortiz, Lake County Commissioner Sean Parks, and Winter Garden Mayor John Rees.

Susie Plakon honored for role in passing HB 883 for memory disorder clinic

Susie Plakon, wife of state Rep. Scott Plakon, was honored Thursday for inspiring HB 883 for the creation of a memory disorder clinic at Florida Hospital – a victory for a woman who is herself battling Alzheimer’s Disease.

The Florida-based hospital unveiled a  plaque Thursday declaring, “Florida Hospital proudly honors Susie Plakon for her courage and inspiration to help pass HB 883. The Maturing Minds Clinic was created to address the growing need for care of individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia.”

“That was a really nice moment this morning,” said Scott Plakon, a Republican from Altamonte Springs.

Scott Plakon, a Republican from Altamonte Springs, publicly announced last summer that his wife of 32 years was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

HB 883, which establishes the 16th memory disorder clinic in Florida, was approved 119 to 0 in the Florida House and 35 to 0 in the Florida Senate. Plakon and Republican state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park sponsored it, and it had a list of bipartisan cosponsors, including Republican state Reps. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Spring and Larry Metz of Yalhala, and Democratic state Reps. Amy Mercado of Orlando and Matt Willhite of Wellington. Republican State Sen. David Simmons of Longwood sponsored a Senate version.

Plakon spoke of his wife being an inspiration to his colleagues.

“Even though her words are becoming fewer, her voice is still being heard,” Scott Plakon said.

Carlos Guillermo Smith, Amy Mercado say special session needed to end cannabis legal limbo

Saying that the current limbo of law is bad for doctors and patients, Democratic state Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Amy Mercado pleaded with Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Legislature leaders to call a special session to deal with medical marijuana.

“We are here because 71 percent of Florida voters approved the constitutional right to medical cannabis. But we also are here because unfortunately once again Tallahassee politicians have thwarted the will of the people and they have refused to implement Amendment 2, medical cannabis,” said Smith, of Orlando. “They should be ashamed.

“While the out-of-touch, old-fashioned conservative majority in Tallahassee continues its hand-wringing over whether or not cannabis is actual medicine… or whether they can actually get over themselves and listen to the voters, qualified patients are dying, qualified patients are waiting,” he continued. “And there is no question that the governor, the Senate president of the senate and the speaker of the House need to be leaders and officially call for a special session and demand that the Legislature implement the will of the voters immediately.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has called for a special session to pass implementing legislation to fill out the laws for the Amendment 2 medical marijuana initiative approved by 71 percent of the voters in November. Senate President Joe Negron and Gov. Rick Scott have not. The Florida Legislature failed to pass the implementing bill on the last day of Session earlier this month.

Cannabis activist and author Gary Stein argued that the lack of implementing laws means that the qualifying patients – and the doctors who assist them – are caught in legal “fog” between what should be authorized under Amendment 2 and what little cannabis law and regulation exists based on the 2014 “Charlotte’s Web” bill the Florida Legislature approve.

Mercado, also of Orlando, talked about how her grandmother went through chemical and radiation therapy for stage 4 cancer, and she and the family wanted to try everything and anything. “Had medical cannabis been available, I’m pretty sure we’d have tried that too,” she said. “So we need to make sure, and ensure, that no one gets the way of patient access to medication that makes them feel better.”

Smith and Mercado also called on the Florida Department of Health to lift rules that would not be allowed under Amendment 2, but which slow down or prevent people from using medicines derived from cannabis.

Among them, they called for Florida to:

– Waive the 90-day waiting period for patients to access the medicines after they have been certified as qualified patients.

– “Stay out of the sacred patient-doctor relationship.”

– Stop rules that prevent qualified patients from getting access.

– Protect employees who can be legally fired from their jobs for using medicines derived from cannabis in their homes.

– Expand qualified conditions to include non-malignant chronic pain.

– Open the market to allow more competition, including to minority-owned businesses.

– Allow for smokable cannabis.

Kissimmee chamber chief John Newstreet enters HD 44 race

Orlando Republican John Newstreet, chief executive officer of the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce and a former aide to U.S. Sens. Mel Martinez and Marco Rubio, announced he’s entering the House District 44 race going to a special election this summer.

“I’m honored by the number of people in the community, and across the state, who have encouraged me to enter this race and represent West Orange County in the Florida House,” Newstreet stated in a news release from his campaign. “I believe I’m prepared and qualified to successfully champion the conservative values that will grow our economy, strengthen our schools, keep our taxes low, cut job-killing regulations and protect our Second Amendment rights.”

Newstreet enters a race in which former Winter Garden Commissioner Bobby Olszewski had established himself as the early front-runner, even before Republican state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle who is leaving to take an appointment from Gov. Rick Scott as a judge on Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals.

Republicans covet as a potential springboard to the House speaker’s position because of its relative safety, and because the special election winner will have a leg up on the freshmen of 2018. Dr. Usha Jain of Orlando also is in the Republican primary race.

The Democratic candidate is Orlando businessman Paul Chandler.

No dates have been announced for the special primary or special general election for the seat, but they are expected this summer.

Newstreet is a native Floridian who grew up in a home of nine children, and says that gave him the ability to “bring people together for a common goal.” Newstreet also is a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard and a graduate of University of Central Florida. His degree is in business administration.

“My time in the Coast Guard was a tremendous gift that helped shape who I am today,” Newstreet said in the release. “Should I earn the trust of the voters, I will be a passionate advocate for our veterans and our military service men and women.”

A resident of the Orange Tree community in the Dr. Phillips region of Orlando, Newstreet began his professional career as a financial advisor. He also has served as state director for the American Legion. For the past three years he has led the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce. That group’s board voted unanimously to allow him to run for the state representative post.

His volunteer service includes numerous charities such as Give Kids the World, as well as a leader for business and industry at the Osceola County Emergency Operations Center. Newstreet currently attends Holy Family Catholic Church.

“Serving community, lending a helping hand and doing what’s right is what we were taught growing up,” Newstreet said. “Those are the same values I will take with me to Tallahassee as West Orange’s next State Representative.”

Adam Putnam brings ‘Florida First’ tour to Altamonte Springs

Republican gubernatorial candidate and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam brought his “Florida First” campaign to the Orlando area for the first time Tuesday afternoon, promising conservative, pro-growth values and belittling liberals he expects to go after him.

The fifth-generation Floridian and former state and U.S. lawmaker continued the opening themes of his brand new campaign, declaring “Florida exceptionalism” is why people want to visit and move here and vowing to promote that as Florida’s governor, and to prevent it from turning into a liberal and high-tax bastion like California, Illinois and New York.

“I believe there is a special obligation to be a Floridian, to keep Florida special, knowing that people from all over the world want to visit or move here. I want to Florida to be more than a prize for a life well-lived someplace else. I want Florida to be the launch pad for the American dream!” Putnam said to a warm reception of more than 100 people at the Eastmonte Civic Center in Altamonte Springs.

“And it can be that if we put Florida first!” he declared.

In his speech Putnam broke little new ground compared with what he’s been saying since he kicked off his campaign before 2,000 people in his hometown of Bartow last month.

In a press availability afterwards, Putnam said there is plenty in the 2017-18 budget just passed by the Florida Legislature that he would veto, though he was not specific; he criticized the Legislature for not reaching a deal on a medical marijuana enactment bill; said he would vote as a member of the Florida Cabinet to pardon the “Groveland Four,” as requested by the Legislature.

He also deflected a question about whether he would, as governor, invoke a states’ waiver included in the American Health Care Act to opt Florida out of having to cover pre-existing conditions. As a former member of Congress, Putnam expressed skepticism that the waiver will still be in the bill when it leaves the U.S. Senate, and said he hopes the final bill includes coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Putnam begins his campaign with a 10-day, 22-stop tour that’s hitting both big cities and small towns.

So far he has no real competition for the Republican primary, and his independent political committee, armed with almost $8 million to start, may intimidate away all but the most courageous. The Democrats, meanwhile, are heading for a primary brawl, with three major candidates so far, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Winter Park businessman Chris King, and others mulling the race.

Putnam spoke of conservative leadership over the past six years fueling the Florida economy, painting images of hotel maids opening their own bed-and-breakfasts, and of the Space Coast being even better with private space industry emerging there than it ever was when it relied on NASA.

“American exceptionalism, Florida exceptionalism, is still very much alive and well in the Sunshine State in 2017 and it will be even stronger when I get elected,” he said.

“Florida, with limited government, a focus on Constitutional freedom, liberty, law and order, Florida is the destination of choice for people to come here to find their piece of the American dream,” he added.

He called for protection of gun rights and boasted that the state’s number of concealed weapons permits dramatically increased under his commission, and argued that is a key reason why Florida’s crime rate has fallen.

Putnam also called for the state to not only push technical and vocational education more, but said the state needs to do a better job of advising students of the high-wage jobs they can pursue with vocational education.

He also vowed great support and homage to be paid to service members, veterans, police and other first responders.

“And our men and women in law enforcement, the military, and those who serve our nation and their families will know that Florida is the most veteran and military and law enforcement friendly state in the entire country, hands down,” Putnam said.

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