Speaking at the 9th Annual Puerto Rico Summit in Orlando Friday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson ripped the federal response to Puerto Rico’s devastation by hurricanes last fall.
Nelson called for statehood for Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló also ripped Washington, but his ire was focused on Congress for including a new excise tax on Puerto Rican businesses in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 passed in December.
All three drew at least partial standing ovations, though the crowd was mixed, with Democrats, Republicans and others, including a scattering of elected officials from Central Florida, South Florida and Puerto Rico.
Earlier in the day, Florida Gov. Rick Scott also spoke to the gathering of more than 300 about all that his administration has done to assist Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans who fled the devastation to Florida. He too, received an ovation. And Rossello thanked Scott, along with Nelson, Levine, and U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando, who did not attend, for their help for the struggling island territory since Hurricanes Irma and Maria laid waste and left problems that persist today.
Yet in their afternoon remarks, Levine and Nelson took off gloves, and most of the crowd loved it.
Levine personally brought one of the first planes into Puerto Rico with relief supplies shortly after the Sept. 20 Hurricane Maria disaster, arriving with the goods ahead of anything the Federal Emergency Management Agency offered. The group gave Levine an award for that, and also gave an award to Scott.
“The way the administration handled that relief effort was embarrassing to our nation and the world, what they did to Puerto Rico,” Levine said. “And I don’t care if that’s politically incorrect, I’m going to call it like it is.”
Levine said the same kind of White House response would have made the Normandy invasion or the Berlin Airdrop utter disasters.
“What our country could have done for Puerto Rico, it didn’t do. Instead of throwing paper towels, what they should have done is say I want the top 25 CEOs of the top companies in America, put them on a plane, and say we will show the world what America can do!” Levine said, bringing a rousing ovation.
Nelson was more measured in his criticism of the federal response, but also far more detailed, talking about his numerous trips to Puerto Rico, including two weeks ago, when he saw small cities that still lacked power to up to 30 percent of their residents, and where clean water still is unavailable to many.
He spoke of recent decisions by the administration of President Donald Trump to end FEMA assistance, and, as of Friday, to bring home the Army Corps of Engineers’ restoration efforts. He spoke of contracts being mismanaged, and “basic necessities” such as tarps and hot meals still not available to all.
“This is completely unacceptable. Can you imagine anybody on the mainland in Texas and in Florida almost nine months after the hurricane still without electricity?” Nelson said.
“I have always supported self-determination for all U.S. citizens. Now with all the poor treatment by this administration it seems to me that statehood is the answer,” Nelson said.
“We should never accept incompetence andgross negligence as the new normal,” Nelson said. “So we have to fight.”
President Donald Trump has chosen to nominate acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie to serve in the position permanently, passing over U.S. Rep. Brian Mast of Palm City, who was under consideration for the post.
That forced Trump to go back to the drawing board as his administration faced criticism for not properly vetting Jackson. It was during this time that many names were floated for the nomination, including Mast and former Florida Rep. Jeff Miller, who once led the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
GOP officials may consider the news Mast would not be nominated a blessing in disguise. The news leaves Mast available to run for re-election in what could be a closely contested race. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC, recently announced they would be committing resources to help Mast’s re-election bid. The group says they’ll be sending volunteers to help canvass for Mast. The CLF also has a field office in Port St. Lucie, which is part of Mast’s home district.
Mast won his first re-election to the House in 2016, defeating his Democratic opponent by ten percentage points. That’s an easy gap to close if Democrats have a strong November. Having an incumbent in Mast remain in the seat will likely help Republicans’ chances to keep it red.
Wilkie will now need to be confirmed by the Senate. The VA is one of the largest agencies in the federal government, serving nine million veterans and employing around 360,000 people.
Premiums for health insurance plans sold on the federal marketplace are expected to increase by nearly 16.9 percent in Florida next year due to changes in the Affordable Care Act, according to a new analysis released Friday.
Released by the Center for American Progress, the analysis estimates that a decision by Congress and President Donald Trump to repeal the mandate that people buy health insurance, coupled with proposed changes to the types of policies that can be sold, will increase premiums for Floridians by $1,011.
The report by the left-leaning group estimates that the average unsubsidized health insurance premium for a 40-year-old male buying a marketplace policy in 2019 will be $6,995.
The Affordable Care Act has provided subsidies for many people buying coverage, reducing their costs. More than. 1.7 million Floridians enrolled in the health insurance marketplace this year, with more than 1.5 million receiving subsidies either in the form of advanced premium tax credits or additional cost-sharing reductions that help lower co-payments and coinsurance requirements.
The new analysis accounts for the impact of repealing the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that individuals buy health-insurance policies as well as a Trump administration proposed rule to rescind limits on the sale of short-term insurance plans.
The individual mandate, one of the most controversial parts of the federal health care law commonly known as Obamacare, was repealed as part of a tax overhaul that passed in December.
In a prepared statement, Topher Spiro, vice president for health policy at the Center for American Progress, blasted Trump and Congress for what he called “sabotage of the insurance marketplaces.”
“First they passed massive tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, and now they’re asking middle-class Americans and people with pre-existing conditions to pick up the tab,” Spiro said. “They should be focused on lowering health care costs, not increasing them and intentionally undermining the stability of the insurance marketplaces that millions of Americans benefit from.”
The analysis came a day after Florida Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott urging him to take steps to protect Floridians from spikes in health insurance premiums. They also asked that Scott — who adamantly opposes the Affordable Care Act — require health plans to provide for essential health benefits, like hospital care or prescription drugs, and raised concerns that consumers could end up buying low-benefit plans.
“These junk plans would return patients to the days where only upon illness did they discover their plans imposed limits on coverage and excluded vital benefits,” said the letter, signed by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Congresswoman Kathy Castor and 10 other Democratic members of the delegation. Nelson faces an election challenge in November from Scott.
The letter asked Scott to work with state Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier to take steps to make sure consumers are kept safe. Democrats also asked that Scott consider investing in outreach and enrollment efforts and help provide funding to navigators who can connect patients with the federal marketplace. Floridians buy coverage through the federal marketplace because the state decided against setting up its own exchange.
John Tupps, a spokesman for Scott, said the governor’s office received the letter, adding that “Congress hasn’t controlled the nation’s health care costs or passed a balanced budget in decades.”
Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.
As Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is fond of saying: politics is a “relationship business.”
So, this edition of Bold spotlights the utility of political friendships.
Whether running for Congress or state or local office, you’d better have your friends’ endorsements (well-timed) and the interest of the donor class (early, and often).
In each category, there will be examples of the haves — and have-nots.
File this edition away, come back to it in 100 days or so. You will see a direct correlation (if not causation) between who got the help they needed and who had juice with the voters.
Biden backs Soderberg for Congress
Ambassador Nancy Soderberg rolled out her most high-profile endorsement for her Congressional race yet Monday, with former Vice President Joe Biden backing the Clinton administration alum.
“I’ve known Nancy for three decades since she first started her work in the Senate,” said Vice President Biden. “She is a lifelong public servant who has served at the highest levels of government. At the White House and as an Ambassador to the United Nations, Nancy brokered international peace deals and helped develop and promote U.S. national security policy. She understands what it’s like to bring both sides to the table and solve complex issues. She’s been tested and she’s delivered.”
Biden is “supporting Nancy because she’s a problem solver, and will fight for the values of the 6th District: growing the middle class, creating jobs you can raise a family on, ensuring every family has access to affordable health care and every child can get an affordable education. She has the knowledge and experience to make a difference and get things done for the people of the 6th District.”
Soderberg, meanwhile, is “honored to have the support of Vice President Biden, who has dedicated his life to standing up for American men, women and children.”
Florida’s 6th Congressional District, currently represented by Rep. Ron DeSantis, extends from St. Johns County south to Volusia on Florida’s east coast.
Dems rally behind Lawson
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson hinted earlier this month about a swath of endorsements from Florida Democratic colleagues in Congress, and Monday he delivered.
In total, eight endorsements came his way: Reps. Darren Soto, Val Demings. Charlie Crist, Kathy Castor, Lois Frankel, Ted Deutch, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson.
“I am humbled to receive the support of my colleagues as we continue to make our economy stronger, communities safer and produce results that all North Florida families can be proud of,” Lawson said.
These endorsements come at a key time for Lawson. Alvin Brown, the former Jacksonville mayor currently primarying Lawson, enjoyed a two-to-one fundraising advantage during the first quarter of 2018.
And that means that Brown has pulled close to incumbent U.S. Rep. Lawson in terms of cash on hand.
For the quarter, Brown brought in $167, 088, while Lawson hauled in $83,866.
Lawson had $100,000 cash on hand at the end of 2017 before Brown got in the race. Now Lawson has just under $160,000 and Brown has just over $127,000.
A. Brown lauds Ramadan; decries anti-Muslim discrimination
As incumbent Lawson collected endorsements, challenger Brown staked out the high ground.
Former Jacksonville Mayor and current 5th Congressional District Democratic hopeful Brown became the first and so far only North Florida candidate this cycle to laud the beginning of Ramadan.
In a statement released this week, Brown lauded the beginning of the annual celebration, while decrying discrimination against American Muslims.
“At sunset, Muslims in my district and across America will begin their monthlong celebration of the holy month of Ramadan. The month is an auspicious time for the Muslim community when the faithful will use the month to not only fast from dawn to dusk each day but also spend time to renew the spirit of their faith,” Brown asserted.
“Our nation is founded on the creed ‘E Pluribus Unum’ and this creed affirms that diversity is our national strength. We celebrate that diversity by recognizing religious pluralism as foundational to our national unity,” Brown added.
“At a time when the American Muslim community is facing unprecedented bigotry and discrimination, I join all Americans of goodwill and conscience to uphold the dignity of all our citizens. May this Ramadan be a source of blessings and joy to all those who choose to celebrate this month. Santhea and I wish all my American Muslim neighbors a very Blessed Ramadan,” Brown concluded.
Gibson stretches lead over hapless primary challenger
Jacksonville political watchers are beginning to wonder about the strategy of City Councilman Reggie Brown, who opted to primary Democratic Senate Minority Leader-Designate Audrey Gibson in August but has not yet actually raised any funds.
Through April, Gibson was far in the lead fundraising wise with more than $132,000 banked, with Brown far behind, closing the month with just $4 on hand.
Gibson has been quiet about her challenger but has committed to fundraising, with strong April receipts measuring over $17,000, pushing her over $156,000 raised and to the aforementioned $132,000 cash on hand.
Gibson brought in receipts from unions, such as the police and fire locals, as well as racing interests, Crowley Maritime, and traditional Republican donors such as John Rood and John Baker.
FOP crosses party lines in state House races
Jacksonville’s local Fraternal Order of Police went bipartisan with its latest swath of endorsements for state House, including choosing a Democrat over a field of Republicans running to replace Jay Fant.
In House District 15, the FOP endorsed Tracye Polson over Republicans Wyman Duggan, Joseph Hogan and Mark Zeigler.
The language of the endorsement lauded Polson’s “dedication to her community.”
Polson is the safest bet of the four candidates in the race, in that she is unopposed for her party’s nomination. Between her campaign account and that of her “Better Jacksonville” political committee, she has raised $211,000, with $135,000 on hand.
The FOP offered two other endorsements in the latest rollout, backing incumbent Republicans over underfunded Democrats.
Democratic opponents in both those races are struggling with real fundraising, which augurs poorly for their challenges to safe Republican seats.
Moran backs Polsonover Republican field
In 2011, which was a different time in Jacksonville politics, Republican Audrey Moran was a strong candidate for Mayor.
Though Moran fell short of the runoff election, her candidacy is still seen by many as an intersection of purpose and politics.
Moran’s days of running for public office appear to be over; however, she is still active in the scene, and crossed party lines to endorse Polson in HD 15.
“Dr. Tracye Polson will bring fresh ideas and strong leadership to Tallahassee,” said Audrey Moran in a statement from the Polson campaign.
“She is smart, collaborative and courageous. Tracye is a first-time candidate for public office and a breast cancer survivor. She knows our community and is ready to fight for what Jacksonville needs. Tracye will represent all of the people in her district and I am proud to endorse her,” Moran added.
“Earning the trust and support of such an influential community presence is an indication our campaign continues to extend its reach, connecting with a wide range of voters including business leaders. Because of her experience and insight, Audrey’s counsel will be invaluable and I am deeply grateful to have her endorsement,” said Polson.
Davis pads coffers, Jackson lags
Duval Democrats are noted for their internal wars, and a good current example of such is the House District 13 Democratic donnybrook between Rep. Tracie Davis and Roshanda Jackson, a former district secretary for state Rep. Kim Daniels.
The Davis/Jackson contest is one of two major primary votes awaiting some Jacksonville voters, the other being Davis’ political ally, Sen. Audrey Gibson, being challenged by Daniels’ ally, Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown.
The Gibson/Brown contest is one-sided in terms of cash-on-hand, $132,000 to $4.00 in favor of the incumbent. And at least in the early going, the Davis/Jackson contest is lopsided in favor of the current officeholder.
Davis raised $3,100 in April, pushing her over $40,000 on hand out of $41,815 raised. Her top donors, at the $500 level: AT&T Florida PAC, Florida Dental PAC and Fiorentino Group.
Davis, who had a fundraiser in Springfield Monday evening at Crispy’s on Main Street, looks to have a stronger May than April.
Jackson, meanwhile, has raised $830 in her two months in the race and has $800 of that on hand.
Per LobbyTools, the seat “is safely blue with Democrats outnumbering Republicans 54,686 to 22,554 with another 15,550 registered as independents.”
Developer dosh finds K. Brown
Jacksonville City Councilwoman Katrina Brown has drawn no fewer than seven challengers for her District 8 seat.
Six of them were from her own Democratic Party. One of the challengers died soon after filing, leaving five Democrats and one NPA candidate in the mix.
Brown, who dealt with bad news cycles including issues with her family business defaulting on city-funded economic development loans and grants, and an altercation with local police when a Council colleague was arrested, nonetheless is running for re-election.
And April’s receipts indicate that Brown will have help from developers in her re-election bid.
In her first month of actual fundraising, Brown raked in $7,000, from $500 and $1,000 checks.
Advocates for Business Growth ponied up, as did developers (the Sonoc Company, Leone Development and Nocatee Development, along with Sleiman Holdings), and attorneys interested in development (Driver, McAfee, Hawthorne & Diebenow).
Brown is still in a distant third place in terms of total money raised. The leader, Tameka Gaines Holly, brought in $3,458 in April (much of the money from within the district), leaving her with roughly $19,000 on hand.
Another shot for Daniels
Recent electoral setbacks weren’t the last call for the peripatetic political career of Jacksonville’s Jack Daniels, as he again has filed to run for the Jacksonville City Council.
Daniels, who shares his name with a consumer product, has taken many shots at public office. Yet, despite his efforts, the glass has come up empty time after time.
Still, he continues his efforts. And in 2019, he will get an electoral rematch against District 2 Republican Al Ferraro, the man who beat him three years prior.
Daniels, who raised less than $8,000 for his race, had good ROI: he got 27 percent of the vote.
“Since I hadn’t accepted any political money, my campaign for city council consisted of almost nothing but a year of door-to-door visits. In contrast, since my opponent accepted it, his campaign consisted of paid advice from expert political consultants, continuous paid advertisement promoting his candidacy in the media, numerous paid campaigners for him who made thousands of door-to-door visits to frequent voters, a multitude of campaign signs, many mailings to frequent voters promoting his candidacy, etc.,” Daniels contended.
Despite all of this drama, Daniels endorsed Ferraro — the “opponent.” Daniels told The Florida Times-Union that Ferraro is “a really hard worker, and I think he’d be a very good person to be a council person.”
Daniels begins the race with a considerable financial disadvantage to incumbent Ferraro, who has over $35,000 on hand after raising $7,105 in April.
Sunshine Law charges cloud Council prez race
A public notice meeting Tuesday morning called by Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis addressed “allegations made by Council Vice President Aaron Bowman on the topic of Sunshine Violations for the upcoming Council Leadership vote.”
The vote comes Tuesday; Bowman has the majority of Council’s support pledged to him as he chases the top job.
However, clarity was not to be provided this week, as Bowman was not at the meeting. And neither was the head of the city’s ethics office, Carla Miller, expected to be at the meeting.
Bowman was “told by multiple sources that Dennis has been [negatively] talking about [Bowman’s] leadership endeavor.”
Dennis called the meeting to confront his “accusers,” but except for Council President Anna Brosche, no one was there.
In remarks to the media after the brief, inconclusive meeting, Dennis would not say directly that Bowman violated the Sunshine Law.
“I’ve been instructed by the General Counsel not to say that,” Dennis said.
Dennis, who chairs the Finance Committee, likely won’t have that prerogative next year. Bowman, per Dennis, is a “staunch supporter of the Mayor” — Dennis’ political enemy.
As well, with re-election campaigns looming ahead of the March 2019 “first election,” Dennis may see his opponent backed by the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce — for which Bowman is a VP for the business recruitment arm, JAXUSA.
Newby drops VP bid, leaves three candidates
The clouded picture in the race for Jacksonville City Council vice president cleared up Tuesday, with Sam Newby dropping out to focus on his re-election bid.
Newby, an at-large Councilman, faces one opponent thus far for re-election.
The first-term Republican’s exit from the race leaves three candidates standing: Democrat Tommy Hazouri and Republicans Danny Becton and Scott Wilson. And thus far, none of the candidates have galvanized much support.
Hazouri, a political veteran who has been Jacksonville Mayor as well as a State Representative and School Board member, sees the VP role as the logical next level. However, he hasn’t been put in the spotlight during his time on Council, and pledges have eluded him.
Becton, a fiscal watchdog from the Southside, is a Republican in his first-term. Jim Love is a pledged supporter.
Wilson, likewise a Republican in his first term, sought the VP role last year but was steamrollered in the vote by current VP Aaron Bowman.
Council votes on these offices Tuesday, and pledge meetings will take place throughout the next week.
New officers take control July 1.
Bean, Daniels present check to YMCA
State Sen. Aaron Bean joined state Rep. Daniels this week to present a $250,000 check on behalf of the state of Florida to Eric Mann, president and CEO of YMCA of Florida’s First Coast, the YMCA’s Metropolitan Board of Directors and the YMCA’s Senior Leadership Team.
During the 2018 Legislative Session, Bean and Daniels worked together to help secure state funding for teen programming at the James Weldon Johnson Family YMCA in Northwest Jacksonville.
“The YMCA is consistently a leader in advocating for Florida’s youth by providing programs that positively impact their lives and give them the opportunities needed to succeed,” Bean said. “This funding will allow the YMCA to increase programming for at-risk adolescents in the most underserved areas of Jacksonville, which will truly change lives and benefit our entire community.”
Daniels added: “It was an honor working with Senator Bean on the Johnson Family YMCA appropriation … This facility is strategically placed between Cleveland Arms and Washington Heights, which are high crime housing areas. The youth in these neighborhoods will benefit from the program expansion, and I am excited about what is ahead for our community.”
The funding will allow the Johnson Family YMCA to launch new programming and grow programmatic opportunities for teens and pre-teens in Jacksonville’s most disadvantaged areas. The Johnson YMCA will also use the funding to provide life skills training, job and career preparation, health education and summer employment opportunities for teens. These new programs will serve approximately 120 additional youth in the community.
Not so fast on ‘no sale’ bill
On Monday, the Jacksonville City Council’s Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health & Safety committee deferred a bill expressing opposition to selling the local utility, a hot-button issue in recent months.
2018-248, a resolution introduced by Councilors Jim Love, Joyce Morgan and Reggie Gaffney, would put the kibosh on moves to potentially sell JEA.
This discussion comes at a time when moves to sell or privatize all or part of the utility find a phalanx of detractors and no public advocates in the present tense.
Though official positions of both JEA Interim CEO Aaron Zahn and Jacksonville MayorCurry boil down to advocating a pause of some indeterminate length in a discussion of privatization of the utility, many observers of the process do not take those assertions at face value.
The deferral motion from Councilman Love seemed to catch co-sponsor Morgan and Councilman Garrett Dennis by surprise.
Dredge, baby, dredge
The Jacksonville Business Journal reports that “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is soliciting bids for the second phase of the harbor deepening project, estimated to cost between $125 million and $200 million.”
This phase, “Project B,” is expected to cost $187 million and will deepen miles 3-8 of the shipping channel.
Project A, still in progress, is expected to be wrapped next year.
Federal funding, which has been in place, is not assured for this part of the project. Jaxport could front the funds in hopes of eventual federal reimbursement.
The dredge, all told, will go from 11-13 miles, deepening the channel to 47 feet.
C. Brown drama lingers
A year has passed since Corrine Brown was found guilty of various counts of fraud and tax evasion related to her former nonprofit, “One Door for Education.”
Brown is imprisoned, yet the appeal process continues, predicated on whether the removal of a juror who claimed to be guided by a “higher power” was the reason she was found guilty.
This week, prosecutors again rejected the proposition that the discharged juror was the difference maker.
“The decision to remove a sitting juror is a significant one that justifiably warrants careful, albeit deferential, review by this (appeals) court,” the document said. “The district court’s decision here handily withstands that review. The court took this issue very seriously and removed the juror only after having carefully considered whether that juror would be able to follow the court’s instructions and decide the case based on the evidence. And the court did so only after having concluded that the juror’s decision — that he had been told by the Holy Spirit before deliberations had even begun, that Brown was not guilty of all 24 charged crimes — was not based on the juror’s evaluation of the sufficiency of the evidence.”
Brown, who was convicted last year on 18 felony counts and sentenced to five years in prison, has focused her appeal on the decision by U.S. District Judge TimothyCorrigan to dismiss the juror.
In another gambling case that could reach the state Supreme Court, a Jacksonville casino is appealing the state’s decision to end its quest for a slot machine license.
Jacksonville Kennel Club, which does business as bestbet, filed a notice of appeal Tuesday to the 1st District Court of Appeal after the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) turned down its application last month. The department regulates gambling through its Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering.
Any expansion of slots is opposed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which pays the state millions each year for the exclusive right to offer slots at its casinos outside South Florida.
And a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this November would require the statewide approval of voters before any expansion of gambling — and its backers say the measure would have retroactive effect.
The crux of the Jacksonville appeal is last May’s Supreme Court decision denying slots to a track in Gretna, Gadsden County, and in other counties that passed local referendums allowing them. Duval was one such county; bestbet Jacksonville wants to add slots to its poker and simulcast wagering.
Jags’ Bortles plays a little defense
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles was in the rare position of playing defense last week. Not on the football field, but in his own home.
News4Jax reported that a young neighbor, Joseph Horton, was able to get into Bortles’ truck parked outside his home while the quarterback was hosting a party. The 18-year-old Horton tried to steal the truck, but was unable to navigate through multiple cars belonging to those attending the party.
Not satisfied to take Bortles’ wallet, which was in the truck along with the keys, the teenager went into the house full of partygoers and went upstairs. When no one recognized him, police were called.
When they arrived, Bortles and two friends were standing guard over the young man, who claimed to enter the house in search of a girlfriend. No one had heard of her.
In the end, Horton was arrested, where it was later learned that he lived in a multi-million-dollar home with his parents on the Intracoastal Waterway. He was charged with burglary, trespassing, and grand theft and later released on bond.
A Twitter account called Blake Bortles Facts used the incident to take a gratuitous slap at the Cincinnati Bengals tweeting “Blake Bortles has prevented more truck thefts (1) than the @Bengals have Playoff wins since 1991.”
For the record, the Jaguars and Bengals do not play each other this year.
South Florida Rep. Ted Deutch is calling out the Donald Trump administration, after a move expected to ease the export of guns.
Currently, the State Department is in charge of approving the sale of weapons overseas. President Trump has now started a process that would shift approval for small arms exports over to the Commerce Department, rather than State.
That move and its effects were outlined by The Washington Times. As it stands now, all weapons exports, from tanks to handguns, go through the same approval process at the State Department. On top of that, manufacturers are forced to register with State and pay an annual fee which starts at $2,250 per year.
Now, small arms manufacturers will no longer be forced to pay that fee, nor go through as rigorous an approval process. The export of semiautomatic rifles and weapons up to .50 caliber in size will now be covered by Commerce.
The move was made to help boost trade, but Deutch says it will make other countries less safe. He targeted the National Rifle Association and its new president in a statement condemning the move.
“Remember when Oliver North – now the head of the NRA – was caught illegally selling weapons to Iran?” reads Deutch’s statement. “After only a few weeks of being the gun companies’ point man in America, the Trump Administration is moving to make it easier for American gun manufacturers to sell weapons without Congressional oversight – weapons that could wind up in the hands of human rights abusers and dictators.”
Deutch rose to national prominence as a gun control proponent after February’s mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School. Deutch represents the 22nd Congressional District which covers Parkland, the site of the shooting.
Now, he says other countries are more at risk due to Trump’s move. He says the action “will make it easier for gun companies to export gun violence around the world. Congress must act to block this proposed rule.”
The move by the Trump administration will not be implemented until a 45-day comment period is completed. After that, Congress would be able to reverse the rule change by passing legislation. However, that’s a tough sell in a GOP-led Congress.
Perhaps surprisingly, this same shift was almost undertaken by the Barack Obama administration, who thought the oversight at State was excessive for small arms shipments. However, Obama backed off on approving the change after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Vice President Mike Pence is reportedly putting his thumb on the scale for Adam Putman over Ron DeSantis in the Republican primary for Florida governor.
There is an easy way to do it.
Earlier this week, The New York Timesreported that Pence is making moves to keep President Donald Trump from getting too involved in the governor’s race, mostly because Pence had served with Putnam more than a decade ago in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“After allies of Putnam appealed to the vice president, Pence — along with cautious White House aides — argued against further meddling in the race, according to people briefed on the White House deliberations,” the Times wrote. “Trump has yet to appear with DeSantis.”
In December, Trump tweeted support for DeSantis, who had been a staunch supporter of Trump and particularly vocal against special counsel Robert Mueller in his probe on Russian influence on the 2016 election.
DeSantis was later told privately “to expect a joint appearance this spring,” and he remains optimistic Trump will actively intervene on his behalf, despite internal resistance from the vice president.
Once redistricting moved DeSantis out of his old district — and after a failed 2016 bid for U.S. Senate — he needed quick action for his re-election bid to Florida’s 6th Congressional District, a seat DeSantis held since 2012.
As POLITICO’s Matt Dixon notes: “DeSantis decided to move into a Flagler County condo whose owners include Kent Stermon and Matt Connell, both executives at Total Military Management. [The] Jacksonville-based company serves as a third-party relocation service for U.S. military personnel.”
Total Military Management is a longtime registered congressional lobbyist for defense-industry issues. Federal records show Sterman and Connell, along with a super PAC associated with the company, gave DeSantis’ campaign almost $60,000 for his congressional campaign. Dixon writes the company also wrote a $3,000 check to Putnam six months before DeSantis entered the race.
What’s more, DeSantis listed the condo as his home address when signing a mortgage in October 2017 for a house in CD 6.
“A guy he knew said he owned a condo in Flagler that he could rent while they looked,” DeSantis representative Brad Herold told POLITICO. “Moved in July, moved out in November.”
When DeSantis finally entered the race two months later (after much speculation), he vowed to “drain the swamp in Tallahassee, which needs to be drained just like Washington.”
While it’s a popular refrain that closely echoes Trump, DeSantis should be a bit more careful before making such a claim — as someone waist-deep in the same swamp he wants to drain.
And one person is definitely paying attention: Mike Pence.
August primaries are close to three months away. Vote by mail ballots will go out sooner than that.
What that means is the time is now for candidates to show what their operations on the state and federal level really look like. And on the local level, where elections are still farther away, it’s infrastructure-building time.
In federal races, we have already seen pretenders separate themselves from ostensible pretenders. State qualifying is next month; some will take passes on those races, too.
Adding to the intrigue: An opening in the Duval County Tax Collector office. While not a thrilling position, it has four candidates (as of this writing) who have real political resumes. And that election, a special, is on the August/November schedule.
As the saying goes, “buy the ticket, take the ride.” Through next May, it’s all elections, all the time — that’s when Jacksonville’s municipal races finally close out.
Rutherford seeks federal penalties for targeting police
Rep. John Rutherford is a congressional co-introducer of legislation to make it an additional federal crime for criminals to attack law enforcement officers.
In addition to any sentences they may receive for the standard crimes, the fact that the crime was committed against a law enforcement officer could add 10 years, or a life sentence if the officer dies, or the perpetrator kidnapped the officer during the course of the crime.
“As a career law enforcement officer and sheriff of Jacksonville for 12 years, I know what officers go through every day when they put on their uniform, say goodbye to their families, and go out on the streets doing the important work of protecting our communities,” Rutherford stated in a news release from his office.
“With an uptick in ambush attacks on law enforcement, like we saw last month in Trenton, Florida, we must ensure that there are steep consequences for anyone who targets our law enforcement officers. The Protect and Serve Act will serve as a significant deterrent for anyone who deliberately targets officers with violence. I want to thank my friend, Congresswoman Val Demings [a co-sponsor and former police chief] for her leadership on this bill and for her support of law enforcement officers across the country.”
The committee brought in $155,000 in April, and much of that money came from other committees.
The “Free Speech PAC” and “Citizens First,” both of 5730 Corporate Way Suite 214″ in West Palm Beach ponied up $40,000 each.
“Florida Jobs Alliance” and “Conservative Choice,” each of which share an address with Sunshine State Conservatives, were in for another $25,000.
These committees all appear to be pass-through committees, with money coming from other committees, and so on.
Also of interest: The contributions, dated April 27, represent a break from previous contribution trends for the committee, which predominantly (though not exclusively) has been from corporate and industry PACs.
The committee doled out $10,050 in April, including contributions to campaigns of Sen. Kelli Stargel, Rep. Joe Gruters, and a secondary Hutson committee, “First Coast Business Foundation.”
More significant spending could be found in March for the committee, which gave $50,000 to the FRSCC, to help with fundraising efforts.
As the race for the eventual Senate leadership continues to unfold, expect more interesting committee transfers … and, if April receipts for this committee are an indication, they will at least sometimes be hard to track.
Yarborough, Byrd pad cash leads
April told a familiar story in House Districts 11 and 12, where Republican incumbents Cord Byrd andClay Yarborough expanded leads over Democratic challengers.
In HD 11, Byrd raised $3,470 in April, bringing his cash on hand to $38,500. Among his donors: the Fiorentino Group.
While less than $40,000 cash on hand doesn’t sound like much, thus far his Democratic opponent (Nathcelly Rohrbaugh) has yet to show real fundraising prowess.
Rohrbaugh raised $560 in April and has $1,010 on hand.
HD 11 is solidly Republican, with 66,830 of them compared to 30,574 Democrats as of 2016.
Though there are rumors that Byrd may face a primary challenger, thus far they have been all sizzle and no steak.
HD 12 saw a similar scenario: an entrenched incumbent continuing to plug away against a Democratic opponent in a deep-red district.
Though Yarborough brought in just $1,000 (and spent more than that on consulting), he nonetheless has over $103,000 on hand.
Yarborough, who was a two-term Jacksonville City Councilman representing a big swath of his current House district, is also one of the better grassroots candidates in the area.
Even with just $1,000 coming in, Yarborough outraised Democrat Tim Yost, who brought in only $745 off eight contributions.
Yost has nearly $4,000 cash on hand.
Polson continues to bank in HD 15
In Jacksonville’s House District 15, Democrat Tracye Polson continues to stack chips in her campaign account, with the hope of flipping the seat from red to blue.
Between her campaign account and that of her “Better Jacksonville” political committee, she raised $36,983.03 in April. The total raised is over $211,000 now, which is far and away the biggest nest egg for any Jacksonville state House candidate, Republican or Democrat.
However, given that the seat was uncontested by a Democrat in recent campaign cycles, and given that in most other local Republican-held seats Democrats are not well-funded, Polson’s campaign stands out as one with sufficient resources to make the race competitive.
“When I got into this race, we knew people wanted change, improvement over the same politicians and lobbyists who fail to provide results that improve the lives of working families in Jacksonville,” Polson said in a media release.
Democrat fundraises for Fischer challenge
House District 16, on the Southside of Jacksonville, is typically a secure Republican hold.
The district leans Republican with a 55,593 to 35,171 voter registration advantage over Democrats, according to LobbyTools.
Rep. Jason Fischer faced no Democratic opposition in 2016. And predecessor Charles McBurney had the same luck.
However, 2018 is a different matter, with Ken Organes carrying the Democratic banner.
Organes, buoyed by $7,500 of his own money, tallied $11,743 off 34 total contributions. Aside from the candidate’s stake, the vast majority of donations were $100 and below.
The former CSX employee still has a way to go to catch Fischer, who recorded no April fundraising either for his campaign account or that of his Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville political committee.
The campaign account has $82,000 on hand, and the committee has nearly $35,000.
Elsbury to replace Korman Shelton
Jacksonville’s director of intergovernmental affairs, Ali Korman Shelton, is moving on as of the end of next week.
And Monday, the office of Mayor Lenny Curry revealed the path forward for the team, with one promotion and two internal hires effective May 21.
Jordan Elsbury, a previous “30 under 30” honoree on this site, will replace Shelton going forward.
Elsbury had already been working with Korman Shelton in intergovernmental affairs. A veteran of the campaign side who moved over to policy when Curry got elected, Elsbury has been a quick study in both the politics and personalities of City Hall.
Additionally, the team will be boosted significantly with two key hires from City Council staff to serve as Council liaisons.
Leeann Krieg, the Council assistant for Greg Anderson, and Chiquita Moore, the assistant for Sam Newby, will be moving over as coequal “Council liaison” positions.
Moore and Krieg will be charged with helping to move the Mayor’s agenda through Council, a process that may get easier at the end of June when Council President Anna Brosche relinquishes the gavel to Curry ally Aaron Bowman.
Incumbent Michael Corrigan is moving on, to become CEO of Visit Jacksonville. His resignation letter suggests that he couldn’t serve his entire term before taking that position.
Providentially, a group of Republican hopefuls, including Councilman Doyle Carter, former State Rep. and City Councilman Lake Ray, and former Councilman and Property Appraiser Jim Overton (who staked his campaign with $51,000) are already filed to run on the Republican side.
One Democrat has filed, and she is a major one: former Councilor and State Rep. Mia Jones.
There will be a special election.
The first election would be on the August ballot. If no one gets a majority of votes, the general election ballot in November would be decisive.
Qualifying for this race will occur between June 18 and June 22.
White ready to replace Carter on Council
Jacksonville City Councilman Carter was already termed out in 2019 before he threw in for the soon-to-be-vacant Duval County Tax Collector position.
And Carter made it clear that he backed his old friend Randy White for the Westside seat.
Like Carter, White is a Republican. And despite the absence of any real competition for the seat, White has maintained consistent fundraising of the sort that would discourage any late-breaking challenge for the political newcomer.
White, now in his sixth month as an active candidate, brought in a relatively modest April haul: $3,700, highlighted by donations from Duval Teachers and Nassau County Fire and Rescue employee funds.
The candidate has raised $83,386 and thus far has spent just $1,402 of that sum.
Conry presses advantage over Boylan
April continued what is becoming a familiar narrative in the two-person race in Jacksonville City Council’s District 6.
Rose Conry still holds the money lead over former WJCT CEO Michael Boylan, as the two Republicans vying to succeed termed-out Matt Schellenberg.
And cash on hand sees Conry with an almost 2-1 advantage.
Conry brought in $8,050 in April, which pushed her over $77,000 raised and $70,000 on hand.
Among notable donors for the first time candidate: Michael Munz and a political committee associated with State Rep. Jason Fischer.
Worth noting: Fischer and Conry share a political consultant, Tim Baker.
Boylan lost ground during the month in the money race, bringing in $6,250, pushing him over $48,000 raised and $36,000 on hand. Not only is Boylan raising less money than Conry, but he’s also spending more of it.
Boylan is in a more precarious position than he might expect. Conry’s political operation is situated to make attacks down the stretch count. He will want to step up his fundraising, lest he becomes unable to counter them.
Soft April for Newby
Jacksonville City Councilman Sam Newby won his at-large seat on the Jacksonville City Council three years ago on a shoestring budget of just over $9,000, defeating a candidate who raised 15 times what he did in the May 2015 unitary general election.
Newby brought in just $4,600, with a $100 personal loan and $4,500 in outside contributions from five donors.
Nevertheless, those donors are noteworthy.
Among them, a “big three” of sorts: the Orange Park Kennel Club, the Jacksonville Kennel Club, and Jacksonville Greyhound Racing.
All three gambling entities gave the maximum of $1,000, as did Sleiman Holdings, which is currently in a legal imbroglio with the city of Jacksonville over busted docks and other issues at the Jacksonville Landing.
These donors suggest that if Newby needs to raise more serious money going forward, he could.
However, he didn’t in April.
Newby has one opponent currently, Democrat Chad McIntyre, who thus far has yet to report fundraising.
Another Bishop belly flop
When then-Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Bishop finished a strong third in the 2015 mayor’s race, the Republican vowed that he would run for Mayor again, before endorsing Democrat Alvin Brown over Curry, the eventual Republican winner.
Both the early declaration of a mayoral redo and the cross-party endorsement of Brown seemed like a safe bet at the time to many.
Bishop has long since abandoned his dreams for the mayor’s office and settled into a bid for an at-large City Council seat.
But fundraising continues to elude him, as another distressing tally in April suggests.
Bishop brought in just $1,225 during the month … much less than he is spending on campaign management ($3,000), via the RLS Group.
April was the second straight month in which the belly-flopping Bishop campaign spent more on campaign management than it raised.
The leading fundraiser in the race, Republican Ron Salem, continued to bank in April. He added $4,000 to his political committee and an additional $2,850 to his campaign account.
The committee has $11,000 on hand after April receipts; Salem’s campaign account, meanwhile, is over $150,000 cash on hand.
New judges in Duval
Two unopposed judge candidates will move on to the bench in Duval, reports the Florida Times-Union.
Assistant State Attorney Collins Cooper, a former Gators kicker who has faced criticism from supervisors over his perceived incompetence, will be one of Jacksonville’s newest circuit judges … Katie Dearing, a respected business attorney and the daughter-in-law of retiring Probate Judge Peter Dearing, was also unopposed and will assume office next year.”
There is one contested election: “Former state Rep. Charles McBurney and former prosecutor Maureen Horkan will face off in an election this fall for circuit judge.”
McBurney, recall, ran afoul of Marion Hammer and the National Rifle Association when he sought a gubernatorial appointment to a judgeship in 2016.
Do they have long memories?
Jacksonville Medical Examiner exits
The “challenging” tenure of “embattled” Duval County Medical Examiner Valerie Rao, per the Florida Times-Union, is at an end.
Rao wrote Gov. Rick Scott last week signaling her intentions.
Rao’s tenure went from bad news cycle to bad news cycle, with early issues of employee turnover due to what the T-U summed up as “conflicts.”
“Rao, ironically, is retiring before she was ever reappointed to the position. She was up for reappointment in 2012, but Gov. Scott never reappointed her. Instead, he said he wanted more names to consider. Eventually, in 2014, the Medical Examiner’s Commission recommended two more candidates, but both ended up accepting other jobs. Since 2012, Rao has served as interim medical examiner.”
Behold, the highlights of a news release on the subject.
Total hotel revenue: up 12 percent year over year. Occupancy: up 3.5 percent. And average room rate is also up $5 year over year, to $96.39.
March hotel occupancy: 82.2 percent, with 462,000 rooms sold in the county, leading to $45.7 million in revenue.
Good news for policymakers counting on the bed tax. Convention traffic has been a driver, with 52 meetings through March locally. Targeted marketing and advertising, per Visit Jacksonville, have worked.
UF Health dumping outpatient dialysis
Tourism may be up … but it’s not helping the fiscal picture at Jacksonville’s UF Health.
In a letter to Jacksonville City Council President Anna Lopez Brosche, CEO Leon Haley notes that the hospital is negotiating to sell its outpatient dialysis service to a national, not-for-profit provider by the end of June.
The seeming deciding factor seems to be that the move is made necessary by what Haley calls “significant federal and state funding shortfalls.”
State funding, per Haley, has dropped by $31 million in the last three years. Additionally, $12.7 million in federal cuts will happen this calendar year.
Feds fund ferry
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority announced Tuesday a $3,356,900 Passenger Ferry Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration.
The money is earmarked for improvements for the ferry slips, the vessel and terminal.
JTA took over the ferry’s ownership and operations two years ago, noted its CEO.
“We have made a lot of improvements since JTA assumed ownership and operations of the ferry on March 31, 2016,” said JTA Chief Executive Officer Nat Ford.
“Ridership continues to grow, and improvements to the ferry’s infrastructure will continue thanks to grant awards that the JTA has received from the FTA,” Ford said. “With this recent award, the JTA will continue to strengthen the ferry’s infrastructure, and give our riders a safe and reliable service.”
In a media release, JTA thanked Florida’s Senators and Jacksonville’s two Congressmen, Rutherford and Al Lawson, for their work on behalf of the project.
Homeless rights bill filed
The Jacksonville City Council will consider in the coming weeks a “Homeless Bill of Rights,” legislation that will codify civil rights for the city’s dispossessed populations.
Ordinance 2018-308, filed by Councilwoman Katrina Brown, contends that “the basic rights all people should enjoy must be guaranteed for homeless individuals and families,” and attempts to “assure that basic human rights are not being trampled simply because someone happens to be homeless.”
The bill would guarantee the right to move freely for homeless people, as well as rights to be “protected by law enforcement,” to prayer, to voting, to quality emergency health services, to “occupy” legally parked cars, and to have a “reasonable expectation of privacy over personal property.”
Undoubtedly, at least some of the enumerated prerogatives will be major talkers in City Council committees.
A solid month of deliberation over a bill that initially intended to make all of Jacksonville’s public spaces “hit-free zones,” then was gradually watered down to just include City Hall and still make spanking permissible, ended with a 9-9 vote and the bill being killed Tuesday.
Two weeks ago, the bill was deferred, with concerns about everything from “big government” overreach and inhibiting parental discipline to effects on employees tasked with stopping people from hitting each other in offices like the tax collector and supervisor of elections shops.
On Tuesday, despite the changes, the bill couldn’t get over the hump. As has been the case for a month, Council members defended the use of spanking to discipline children during the discussion, while fretting about unintended consequences of the legislative proposal.
Councilman Garrett Dennis, the bill sponsor who has been at odds with the Mayor’s Office, hasn’t been shy about saying that his bills aren’t getting a fair hearing because of City Hall internal politics.
This was the latest example.
Oddsmakers still unconvinced about Jaguars
The NFL draft is history, the first rookie minicamp is yet to begin. The regular season is still four months away. Many of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ players, coaches and management can’t wait.
After coming within five minutes of heading to the Super Bowl and adding some core skill players, the Jags and coach Doug Marrone believe they can take the next step. Those giving odds believe their chance is average at best.
The bookies at Bovada place three AFC teams ahead of the Jaguars and one alongside when it comes to winning the conference championship. The team that kept Jacksonville out of the Super Bowl, the New England Patriots, are again favored to defend their title in the next one.
Bovada has the Patriots as 9-4 favorites to win the AFC, but the Pittsburgh Steelers, whom the Jags defeated twice in Pittsburgh last year, are second at 9-2. The Houston Texans face 10-1 odds followed by Jacksonville and the Los Angeles Chargers at 11-1.
As the season progresses, Jacksonville’s odds will improve if the play of quarterback Blake Bortles resembles the Bortles displayed in the playoffs against the Steelers and Patriots.
With the draft providing Bortles with more help on offense, as well as fortifying an outstanding defensive unit, the Jags know they can now play with anyone. With the talent with the confidence and swagger — exemplified by shutdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey — they have a chance to prove last year was no fluke.
If betting were legal in Florida, the Jaguars might be worth risking a few bucks.
Longtime federal prosecutor MariaChapaLopez has been selected by President DonaldTrump to serve as U.S. attorney in the sprawling Middle District of Florida, according to an announcement Thursday by the White House.
Chapa Lopez worked as an assistant U.S. attorney from 2000 to 2016, before a nearly two-year stint as a Department of Justice deputy attache in the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. She currently servesas interim U.S. attorney in the Middle District, which stretches from Fort Myers to Jacksonville and includes Orlando and Tampa.
Her selection by Trump is subject to U.S. Senate confirmation. Republican U.S. Sen. MarcoRubio, of Florida, quickly issued a statement Thursday supporting the pick.
“She has significant experience in this (Middle District) office and has been integral in prosecuting and dismantling drug trafficking and money laundering operations and has most recently helped lead the Department of Justice’s efforts to stop heroin, fentanyl, and human trafficking into the United States,” Rubio said. “With her knowledge and expertise, I am confident she will honorably serve the people’s interests in the Middle District of Florida.”
A new ad from Donald Trump‘s 2020 presidential campaign aims to sell voters on the benefits of last year’s tax cuts. That’s a message he hopes will resonate with voters in 2018 as well, as the GOP looks to do what it can to hold off what Democrats hope will be a blue wave in November.
The ad highlights benefits felt by the “Shortway Brewing Company,” based in North Carolina. The owners, Matt and Lindsay Shortway, say the tax cuts have been a boon for their business. “The President’s policies are helping our small business grow, ” said Matt. “With President Trump’s agenda and the way that the country is moving right now, I am very optimistic about the future of this country.”
The couple says the cuts enabled them to give raises to their employees, and even hire an additional employee.
The Trump campaign and the GOP hope ads like this which showcase the effects on small business can help turn that sentiment around.
It may pay off, as Trump’s approval ratings have steadily been rising. That could give hope to Republicans in November. A poll released Tuesday by Florida Atlantic University showed GOP Gov. Rick Scott with a four-point lead in his U.S. Senate race against Bill Nelson.
The imminent endorsement Wednesday morning of Adam Putnam for governor by the man who almost made it a three-Republcian field, Richard Corcoran, is being mocked by the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis’ campaign characterized the expected endorsement by Florida House Speaker Corcoran of Florida Agriculture Commissioner Putnam as a “career insider” endorsing “fellow career insider.”
This is what career political insiders do, suggested David Vasquez, press secretary for Ron DeSantis for Governor.
“Insiders only know how to play one game, and that’s making deals to save their own skin,” Vasquez stated in a news release issued Wednesday morning. “After a year of campaigning and millions of dollars of special interest money spent, career insider Adam Putnam’s campaign has flatlined. So, he’s turning to dealmaking in the Tallahassee swamp. Today he’ll stand in the shadow of the state capital in the middle of the Tallahassee swamp and receive the endorsement of a fellow career insider, one that will only matter to his fellow swamp dwellers.”
DeSantis is the congressman from Ponte Vedra Beach riding the endorsement of President Donald Trump. In a news release issued Wednesday morning, Vasquez characterized the two-man field for the August 28 Republican primary nomination for governor as a candidate endorsed by Trump “vs. a Never Trump career politician.”
“Conservative principles don’t matter to career insiders, just deals and dealmaking,” Vasquez continued. “That’s why we’re not surprised to see this corrupt bargain even after Richard Corcoran accurately called out Adam Putnam’s support for amnesty for illegal immigrants. Or after Adam Putnam said he wouldn’t have signed Richard Corcoran’s signature school choice legislation. But when you’re in the Tallahassee swamp, conservative principles are expendable for political expediency.”
“Career politician, Adam Putnam, will now get the two-man race he’s been fearing for a year,” he concluded. “A conservative Iraq Veteran endorsed by Donald Trump vs. a Never Trump career politician who supported amnesty for illegal aliens. We like our odds.”