Joe Negron Archives - Florida Politics

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Planning pays off

Financially, Florida is equipped to weather the financial losses incurred by Hurricane Michael.

That’s according to Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who this week cited a recent analysis of the state’s financial resiliency from credit reporting agency Moody’s Investment Service.

“The news from Moody’s Investors Service that Florida will not only weather Hurricane Michael, but our response and resiliency is viewed as a credit positive, is the news that the impacted communities and our state need to hear at this time,” Patronis said.

CFO Jimmy Patronis says preparation, planning was key to keeping Florida financially healthy during hurricane season.

Indeed, Moody’s concluded the estimated $702 million cost of Hurricane Michael would be reimbursed by the feds, “a credit positive,” per Moody’s.

While that estimate is likely to increase as the need for individual assistance and transitional support assistance unfolds, “the state maintains ample reserves to manage unanticipated budget needs, including storm-related expenditures.”

Those same reserves were a driving factor behind Florida’s bump to a AAA credit rating — the best achievable — in June.

At the local level, a similar narrative of financial resiliency is applicable. Per Moody’s, “local governments in Florida are in a healthy financial position, despite two hurricanes in the past two years, partly because of federal financial assistance and strong local reserves.”

“Our solid fiscal health has put us in a good position to not only recover but come back stronger than ever,” Patronis said.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Danny McAuliffe, Drew Wilson, Jim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Take 5

Bondi approves marijuana-based drug — Attorney General Pam Bondi this week issued an emergency rule allowing a new drug for child epilepsy patients that contains CBD, a ‘non-euphoric’ chemical from cannabis. According to Bondi, as many as 4,000 Floridians, many of whom are children, could use the drug, known as Epidiolex. A delay or disruption to the rule could “result in serious bodily harm to seriously ill Floridians.” According to the filing, Bondi intends to follow up with the 2019 Legislature to memorialize the rule through legislation. The term-limited Attorney General has used her authority “to schedule 133 chemical compounds commonly used in deadly synthetic drugs,” according to Bondi’s spokesman Whitney Ray. But, this week’s news marked the “the first time she has used her authority to de-schedule a drug.”

Scott asks Supreme Court to reconsider nominee ruling — Lawyers for Gov. Rick Scott this week petitioned the state Supreme Court, arguing justices may have “misapprehended” Scott’s arguments in the legal fight over who has the authority to fill three upcoming high court vacancies. Justices earlier this month ruled that the next Governor will have the authority to appoint the three new justices. But this week, lawyers for Scott said that ruling the focused on the “scope of the gubernatorial appointment power.” This time, Scott’s lawyers are making an argument about the nomination process. The ruling that determined the next Governor can appoint the new justices also ruled that the nominating process “begins to run only when the governor with the authority to appoint has taken office,” as reported by the News Service of Florida.

Supreme Court rules in car-weapon case — Florida Supreme Court justices in a 6-1 decision this week upheld a lower court’s classification of a car as a “weapon” in a manslaughter case. Adam Shepard, reports the News Service of Florida, fatally struck Spencer Schott with a car in January 2011. Once convicted, Shepard received a harsher sentence because the car was reclassified as a “weapon.” The high court affirmed the reclassification this week: “Here, the plain and ordinary meaning of the word ‘weapon’ includes not only those objects designed with the purpose of injuring or killing another, such as guns, clubs or swords, but also any object used with the intent to cause harm,” Justice Jorge Labarga wrote in an opinion joined by Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justices R. Fred Lewis, Peggy Quince, Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson. “This is evident in dictionary definitions, which consistently define ‘weapon’ to include objects used as weapons, even if they were not designed for that purpose.”

Former Speakers kick-start Michael relief effort — Former Republican Florida House Speakers Will Weatherford and Allan Bense this week launched the 850 REBUILD Initiative, challenging other entities and people to “donate, volunteer, visit and invest” in the Big Bend and Panhandle areas hit hardest by Hurricane Michael, which swept through North Florida Oct. 10. Kicking off the effort is a $25,000 donation from Bense, who presided over the Florida House from 2004-06. By enlisting help from several nonprofit organizations, along with public-private agencies VISIT Florida and Volunteer Florida, the coalition hopes to accomplish its multipronged goal. “This effort, REBUILD 850, is about making sure the Panhandle is not forgotten,” said Weatherford. Complementing REBUILD 850 is news last week that VISIT Florida, the state’s tourism-marketing agency, intends to spend $5.1 million on an advertising effort in support of tourism in the affected region.

Early voting ballots mount — More than 2 million Floridians already have voted ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm election. Republicans cast — via by mail or early voting — nearly 920,000 ballots by Friday morning. Just more than 880,000 ballots returned through the same period came from registered Democrats. The remaining 200,000 ballots came from nonparty affiliated voters. Remaining vote-by-mail ballots requested by Republicans total nearly 380,000. Democrats have yet to return nearly 500,000 vote-by-mail ballots requested. In the Aug. 28 primary election, approximately 4 million Floridians cast ballots by mail or at early polling locations. Early voting locations are required to stay open through Saturday. In eight counties in the North Florida region hit hardest by Hurricane Michael, early voting locations have the option to stay open through Election Day.

Scott invests in final phase of Everglades highway lift

The Tamiami Trail, the portion of US 41 pavement that connects Tampa to Miami, could soon see ramped up efforts to lift a portion of the road over the Everglades.

Gov. Rick Scott this week directed the state Department of Transportation to pour $3.5 million into the final phase of the highway project, which seeks to raise portions of the Tamiami Trail to allow more water to flow south through the Everglades.

Gov. Rick Scott announces a $3.5M investment to finish Everglades highway project.

Scott, who’s running for the U.S. Senate, faulted the federal government for remaining “$1 billion behind in its commitments.”

“With today’s announcement, we are proving once again that when Congress fails and stalls, Florida acts,” Scott said. “During my time as Governor, we have worked relentlessly to protect and restore the Everglades, and I am proud to direct even more funding today to help complete the Tamiami Trail project which raises nearly 6 miles of this important road allowing billions of gallons of water to flow south.”

The Governor also is directing the state Department of Environmental Protection to request an additional $40 million to help complete the project.

Job Growth Grant Fund dishes out $28M

Eight more job-growth projects will soon be underway with monetary support from the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund.

Gov. Rick Scott approved $28.6 million in grants this week, noting the funded projects are expected to improve public infrastructure and enhance workforce training in the Sunshine State.

Gov. Rick Scott approved nearly $30 million for the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, funding an additional eight job-growth projects.

“The Florida Job Growth Grant Fund supports job growth through projects that allow communities to meet the changing infrastructure and workforce needs for their regions, encouraging business to invest and expand in Florida, which means more opportunities for Florida families,” Scott said.

With the latest batch of awards, more than $113 million in funding has been doled out to 41 communities across the state since the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund was established. More than $39 million has been awarded to 15 rural communities.

The grant fund, overseen by Scott and the Department of Economic Opportunity, has since July received more than 90 proposals requesting more than $531 million in funding. A list of the latest funded projects can be found here.

Instagram of the Week

November is ‘Family Engagement in Education Month’

Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart is highlighting the need for schools and families to coordinate in support of children during November.

Dubbed “Family Engagement in Education Month,” the awareness initiative seeks to convey to communities the “crucial role of parents and families” play in a child’s education.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart is promoting Family Engagement in Education Month.

“We know that when parents and families are involved in a child’s education, the result is higher student achievement and more students prepared for future success,” said Commissioner Stewart. “I encourage all Florida families to get involved throughout the school year, stay informed and continue to make their child’s education a top priority.”

According to the education department, a multitude of positive results is more likely to occur when a parent gets involved in a student’s success. Among them: higher grades, test scores and graduation rates, along with increased motivation and self-esteem.

Online, the education agency has published a toolkit for parents or those looking to help spread the word.

Fundraiser seeks to restock Panhandle bookshelves

Five Florida bookstores are teaming up with the Florida Department of Education and Florida Education Foundation to fund grants that will help schools impacted by Hurricane Michael restock their libraries.

On Saturday and Sunday, the booksellers participating in the “Re-book Re-build” program will dedicate a portion of sale proceeds to the grants. The stores include Bayou Books in Niceville, Books & Books in Coral Gables, MacIntosh Books in Sanibel Island, Tallahassee’s Midtown Reader, and Story & Song in Fernandina Beach.

First Lady Ann Scott, a longtime child literacy advocate, is helping restock libraries after Hurricane Michael.

The resulting grants are expected to help districts and educators in the Big Bend and Panhandle regions purchase books. Those unable to visit one of the stores can give a tax-deductible donation to the Florida Education Foundation.

Commending the effort is First Lady Ann Scott, who spent her eight years at the Governor’s Mansion in part by promoting child literacy.

“Reading has always been important to our family, and I truly believe that a strong foundation of literacy is important for students to achieve their dreams and career goals,” Scott said. “The Re-book to Re-build program is a wonderful opportunity to help impacted schools receive the resources necessary for students to succeed.”

Detzner delivers E-Day update

The 2018 election is three days away and to help Floridians prep for polls, Secretary of State Ken Detzner sent out a “readiness update” with some last-minute info for those yet to cast their ballots.

“I encourage all Florida voters to get to the polls and exercise their right to vote,” Detzner said. “This year’s ballot is long and includes many constitutional amendments, so it is critically important that voters review their sample ballot ahead of time.

Voters in hurricane-ravaged counties can vote early Monday and Tuesday, per an executive order from Gov. Rick Scott.

“Voters can even fill out their sample ballot and bring it with them into the polling place to make casting their official ballot quick and easy. I also encourage eligible voters to take advantage of early voting in their county to avoid the potential for long lines on Election Day.”

The window has closed for requesting a mail ballot, but the door hasn’t shut on early voting yet. Detzner’s refresher: EV will be available in all counties through this evening, and a handful of counties — Bradford, Broward, Charlotte, Duval, Hillsborough, Leon, Miami-Dade, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Polk, Seminole, St. Lucie, Suwannee and Volusia — will keep the doors open Sunday as well.

Those in the counties hardest hit by Hurricane Michael — Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf and Jackson — will be able to vote early on both Sunday and Monday thanks to an executive order issued by Gov. Scott last month.

Child safety group grades legislative candidates

It’s almost universal for interest groups to grade state lawmakers based on their actions during each legislative session.

But Stop Child Predators, a national child safety advocacy group and nonprofit organization that has spent the last 13 years combating the sexual exploitation of children, is assessing candidates even before they get to the Legislature.

Safety advocates at Stop Child Predators are taking a proactive approach to grade political candidates.

A newly released report card from the group grades more than 30 candidates from both major political parties running for the state House and Senate.

For the most part, candidates did well. Those who took the survey were asked “for their position on topics such as the civil statute of limitations for sexually abusing children, Jessica’s Law and legislation to regulate short-term rentals, which have made tools like sex offender lists obsolete by replacing neighbors with a revolving door of strangers with no way of knowing who is renting the home next door,” according to Stop Child Predators.

“It is encouraging to see our candidates advocate for legislation to improve the safety of our communities,” said Stacie Rumenap, president of the organization. “Our top priority must be to protect our precious children, and these candidates have clearly made child safety a major legislative priority.”

Regulators consider repair help program

State regulators have scheduled an emergency meeting to consider a proposal by Florida Public Utilities Co. that could help Hurricane Michael victims finance electrical repairs to their homes.

The Public Service Commission scheduled the meeting for 1 p.m. Monday in Tallahassee.

State regulators are considering helping pay upfront costs for electrical repairs from Hurricane Michael damage.

The utility would pay upfront costs for electrical repairs to homes and then recoup the money from the customers over the following year. The program would be optional and would finance repairs up to $1,500.

Hurricane Michael caused major damage in Jackson, Calhoun and Liberty counties as it moved north, caused all Florida Public Utilities Co. customers in the region to have power outages.

As of Thursday, the utility said it had restored power to 97 percent of customers in the region who can have electricity but that 9 percent of homes cannot be reconnected because of damage to electrical equipment that is the responsibility of the customers.

“In an effort to assist customers faced with the prospect of having to repair customer-owned electrical equipment in order to have service restored, FPUC proposes to offer a temporary program that would allow customers the opportunity to have the repairs made as expeditiously as possible, but with payments spread out over a reasonable period of time.”

— From the News Service of Florida

FSU research seeks to curb wrong-way driving

Wrong-way crashes are the least common, but the most fatal.

That’s what caught the attention of Walter Boot, a cognition and perception expert at Florida State University.

FSU researchers are using virtual reality simulators to help prevent wrong-way driving. (Image via FSU)

Determined to reverse the fatal results of wrong-way driving, which kills nearly 350 people each year, Boot and a team funded in part by the Florida Department of Transportation set out to identify and evaluate effective countermeasures.

Boot recorded live footage of wrong-way countermeasures in use, and those recordings were then uploaded to FSU’s driving simulators. The team then recruited 189 drivers to get behind the wheel of the simulators to test each countermeasure.

“We tested new technology-based, radar-triggered road alerts to determine which worked best,” Boot, an associate professor at FSU’s Department of Psychology, said.

“The evidence we collected suggested these detection-triggered countermeasures will be more effective than traditional wrong-way countermeasures.”

Haunted by hazardous waste?

The Leon County Solid Waste Management Division is collecting haunted TVs and ghoulish light bulbs at the monthly Household Hazardous Waste & Electronics Collection. That takes place today, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., at the Public Works Operations Center, 2280 Miccosukee Road.

Businesses and other agencies must call (850) 606-1816 to make an appointment, Monday through Friday, to drop off their items at the Leon County Hazardous Waste Center, 7550 Apalachee Parkway. Some fees will apply.

The monthly Leon County Hazardous Waste and Electronics Collection is a hit. (Image via WCTV)

Leon County can’t accept old Halloween costumes (no matter how toxic they look), residents can bring up to 50 pounds of hazardous waste, in addition to their electronics. Only one large-screen television per vehicle will be accepted. Propane tanks must weigh less than 40 pounds, and there is a limit of one tire per participant.

There is also a limit of 25 fluorescent tubes per vehicle at the collection event. Medical sharps, medicines and radioactive waste cannot be accepted. The division cannot take bulky items such as appliances (refrigerators, stoves/ovens, washing machines, dryers, etc.), furniture, yard waste, construction and demolition debris, household garbage or Styrofoam.

Due to limited space, loads over 50 pounds will be directed to the Leon County Hazardous Waste Center, 7550 Apalachee Parkway. Additionally, residents can visit the Leon County Hazardous Waste Center during normal business hours — Monday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, call the Leon County Hazardous Waste Center at (850) 606-1803 or visit for the complete collection schedule and safe packing guide.

Dat’s a lot of debris

How about 20,000 dump trucks’ worth?

That’s the amount of debris in Tallahassee caused by Hurricane Michael, which tore through north Florida last month, delivering a glancing but still strong blow to the capital region.

Tallahassee has more than 20,000 dump trucks worth of debris from Hurricane Michael.

City Commissioner Scott Maddox posted on Facebook this week that city workers have so far “collected 240,000 cubic yards of debris, … surpass(ing) the 202,000 cubic yards that were picked up in 2016” because of Hurricane Hermine.

Storm debris can be “vegetative” (leaves and branches), shingles and siding from homes and buildings, and anything in between.

“With more than 100 trucks in the field, crews continue to work from sunrise to sunset, seven days a week to clear the remaining debris and clean up our city,” Maddox said.

City, County seek hurricane feedback

Leon County Government and the City of Tallahassee will host a “community dialogue session” to talk disaster response and recovery efforts for Hurricane Michael.

On point: Officials want to know how to meet the needs of the community best during future disasters.

At this meeting, staff will give a brief overview. Following the presentation, residents will have an opportunity to share feedback that will be used to enhance future response efforts. Representatives from emergency management agencies will also be in attendance to answer questions.

That’s Thursday, Nov. 6, at 6 p.m., Trinity United Methodist Church, in downtown Tallahassee, 120 W. Park Ave.

If you can’t attend, send comments to or

New cigar bar slated for capital

It feels like it’s 1996 all over again.

Urban Tallahassee reported last month that the old Lester & Company Fine Jewelry store at 926 N. Monroe St. will become the city’s newest cigar lounge.

The Lester and Company Fine Jewelry store on Monroe Street will be making way for Tallahassee’s newest cigar bar. (Image via Urban Tallahassee)

“The proposal includes renovation of 2,366 square feet of existing interior building and the addition of 1,079 square feet of outdoor patio space,” the site reports.

By the looks of the “coming soon” sign out front, the bar is an offshoot of Cigars of Tally, the Market Street outpost that’s been around for several years and owned by Lila Jaber and her husband, Saed.

Jaber, a former Public Service Commissioner, is now Regional Managing Shareholder for the Gunster law and lobbying firm. She confirmed the news, saying they plan to open early next year.

The development also means Fuma Cigar Social, the cigar bar next to Lucky Goat Coffee also on North Monroe, will have competition within walking distance.

Calling all animators

The Florida Animation Festival is again accepting submissions for its fourth-annual exhibit.

Held each year at Tallahassee’s All Saints Cinema — formerly an operating passenger-rail Amtrak station — the festival is the only North Florida showcase to recognize and screen world-famous animation. It was launched in 2016 by The Tallahassee Film Society in partnership with The Pod Advertising to honor animation talent.

An audience awaits a showing at the 2016 Florida Animation Festival. (Image via Florida Animation Festival)

But what makes the festival unique is that it’s evolved from airing existing animations to almost entirely screening submissions from artists. In its third year, 90 percent of screened content came from submissions.

Two Florida State University faculty members, Jonathan Stone and Tom Mikota, work on the Florida Animation Festival’s organizing committee. Filmmakers at FSU are encouraged to submit their work.

The festival is set to take place June 13 through June 16 in 2019. Submissions can be entered here.

Beer festival will help Michael relief

The 2018 Florida Tap Invitational continues Saturday in Tallahassee, and now there’s an even better reason to drink the state’s craft beer there.

Organizers will donate a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales to Volunteer Florida and the Florida Disaster Fund. Volunteer Florida is the state’s lead agency for volunteers and donations before, during and after disasters.

Bring a jacket; it’s getting chilly out! Florida tap invitational general admission tickets available at the door and online

“Our neighbors in the Florida panhandle were hit hard by Hurricane Michael,” a news release said. “We also will be collecting hurricane relief supplies for our neighbors in need at the festival Saturday.”

The Sixth Annual Invitational is presented by Proof Brewing Company and For the Table Hospitality, and sponsored by Visit Tallahassee. The two-day event is one of North Florida’s largest beer festivals. For more info, click here.

Capitol Directions

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Is Bird the word?

They’re inexpensive, quick and ideal for short-distance trips — and they could be coming to a Florida city near you.

Dockless scooters are the latest disruptions to the continually evolving transportation industry. But the two-wheeled rides — provided by companies like Bird and Lime — aren’t yet ready for a prime-time fight in the Legislature.

Currently, local communities are assessing whether scooters are a meaningful mode of transportation. And it’s likely to stay that way for the time being, according to state Sen. Jeff Brandes.

A series of Lime scooters lined up in Pinellas County.

“It’s way too early for the Legislature to get engaged in the discussion, other than to make sure that we allow them to exist in markets that want them,” Brandes told us.

What makes an area ripe for scooters? “Anywhere where you have density and a large number of small trips, you could see this working,” the St. Petersburg Republican said. But “for some communities, they won’t work.”

“In Pinellas, whether it be along the beaches or in the downtown areas of the larger cities, there’s a great opportunity for this micro mobility to take place.”

When implemented correctly, scooters are almost immediately available to patrons upon request, Brandes said.

Earlier this year, Miami, welcomed the scooters into highly trafficked areas. But city commissioners pushed the companies out, citing the need to create an ordinance governing the new tools. On record, however, commissioners seemed supportive of the idea.

“You’re starting to see more cities recognize that micro mobility is a meaningful option,” Brandes told us.

That recognition is also occurring in the private sector. Other disruptive transportation services — like Uber and Lyft — already have launched scooter lines in some parts of the country.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Danny McAuliffeDrew WilsonJim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Take 5

Lake O reservoir gets Trump approval — President Donald Trump this week backed construction of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee that is expected to help offset harmful toxic algae blooms. By signing America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, Trump authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin working on the reservoir. Congress will have to allocate $200 million a year to fund the $1.6 billion project, according to The News Service of Florida. Senate President Joe Negron said the finished reservoir would reduce discharges by 63 percent and send more than 120 billion gallons of clean water south to the Everglades each year. “Florida and our federal partners should immediately begin planning and designing the Reservoir, as well as obtaining the necessary permits,” added Negron. “We should set a goal to complete construction of the Reservoir in three to five years.”

Arguments set for Senate discrimination case — Arguments for the state Senate’s request to end an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigation into a top aide’s sexual harassment and retaliation claims will be heard by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle Nov. 8. The Senate is seeking to halt the EEOC investigation. Earlier this month, lawyers for the Senate wrote “the ongoing EEOC action violates the Florida Senate’s sovereign and constitutional rights,” including “violat(ing) the Senate’s sovereign immunity.” Rachel Perrin Rogers, a chief assistant to Senate Republican Leader and future Senate President Wilton Simpson, filed the complaint with the EEOC alleging in part that she faced retaliation for sexual harassment claims.

Gun pre-emption suit won’t be dismissed — Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson this week refused the state’s request to dismiss a lawsuit challenging part of the state’s 2011 gun pre-emption law. The lawsuit, joined by more than 30 local governments, was filed after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February. The plaintiffs in the suit argue that the penalties imposed by the state for violating the pre-emption statute “are unconstitutional on a series of grounds and have had a ‘chilling effect’ on local officials considering gun restrictions,” according to the News Service of Florida.

Education panel retains Commissioner Stewart — The State Board of Education this week voted unanimously to keep Education Commissioner Pam Stewart in her position for an additional year. Stewart accepted the retention, promising to “continue advocating for the best interests of our students.” The education panel’s chair, Marva Johnson, credited Stewart’s leadership for helping schools reach “unprecedented levels of achievement.” “I am grateful for her willingness to continue serving the people of Florida in this role, and I look forward to continuing to work with education leaders throughout the state in promoting students’ ongoing success,” added Johnson. The panel, made of gubernatorial appointees, has the power appoint the Education Commissioner. Stewart has served as Commissioner since 2013.

Department of Education wants school safety funding boost — Florida Department of Education put out its legislative budget request for the 2019-20 fiscal year and making its funding wishlist are a slate of budget increases that would amount to a $200 increase in per-pupil funding. Most of the requested raise would help pay for new requirements in the school safety package lawmakers passed earlier this year in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland. Among the boosts it’s seeking from the Legislature: $100 million for school safety, $67.5 million to provide training to armed school personnel, and $10 million for mental health programs. If granted, the budget increase would increase per-pupil funding from $7,407 per student in the current budget year to $7,607 in 2019-20.

Scott: Utilities shoot for restoration by early November

Electric providers in the Panhandle and Big Bend regions have set a goal to have nearly all power restored by early November, Gov. Rick Scott announced this week.

Widespread power outages occurred after Hurricane Michael swept through the region Oct. 10.

Rick Scott and Donald Trump tour areas of the Panhandle devastated by hurricane Michael. (Image via AP)

The goal applies to even the hardest-hit areas — like Mexico Beach, where Michael made landfall as a Category 4 storm. There, electrical infrastructure requires a complete rebuild.

“Florida is strong and while we have made incredible progress in the past 13 days, there is much to do,” Scott said in a statement. “We will never stop working until everyone is back on their feet following Michael.”

When the utility providers announced the goal, less than 50,000 accounts remained without power. An estimated 20,000 line workers and utility professionals are working in the affected region.

Patronis urges cooperation between banks, Michael victims

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is encouraging banks and credit unions to “do everything they can to support victims of Hurricane Michael.”

“It is absolutely essential that financial institutions support those impacted by Hurricane Michael by waiving fees and penalties to aid the victims,” Patronis said in a public statement this week. “Many financial institutions have already announced they are taking these steps to help families in the Panhandle and I encourage all banks and credit unions to follow suit and help these communities recover.”

Jimmy Patronis joins Rick Scott and VP Mike Pence to visit Panhandle residents impacted by hurricane Michael. (Image via Facebook)

Among some of Patronis’ suggested considerations: Waving late fees, lending fees and ATM fees in affected areas. As well, Patronis implored financial institutions to offer any provision that can “aid in speedy recovery.”

On Thursday, Patronis joined Gov. Scott and Vice President Mike Pence to tour the damage in Panama City.

Putnam opens camps for vets

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam this week participated in the grand opening of the American Warrior Pride Lodge, the third Operation Outdoor Freedom camp solely dedicated to hosting wounded veterans.

Operation Outdoor Freedom is a Florida camp catering exclusively to wounded veterans.

It’s located in the Withlacoochee State Forest in Citrus County. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Friday.

Since Commissioner Putnam and the Florida Forest Service officially launched Operation Outdoor Freedom, the first and only program of its kind in the nation, more than 3,800 wounded veterans have participated in over 500 outdoor, recreational and rehabilitative events throughout the state.

Free school meals available to students in Gulf, Washington counties

Putnam announced that students in Gulf and Washington counties are eligible for free school meals through Nov. 30.

“Our neighbors and fellow Floridians all across the Panhandle are in need after Hurricane Michael, and we’re going to provide all the help and support we can,” Putnam said. “To any families who were knocked down and are trying to get back up on your feet: you will not have to worry about how you’re going to pay for your child’s school meals.”

Students in Gulf and Washington counties will be eligible for free school lunches, according to Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

The federal government’s National School Lunch Program will provide the meals. In total, 13 schools and 4,333 students will be covered.

All students in Calhoun, Franklin, Jackson and Liberty counties already have access to free school meals, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Florida participates in drug take-back day

Attorney General Pam Bondi is encouraging Floridians to take part in the 16th National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, officials at designated locations will collect unwanted prescription medications.

Though the federal Drug Enforcement Agency hosts the take-back days, the concept is supported by Bondi, a state official.

Attorney General Pam Bondi is encouraging the safe disposal of prescription medication.

“Sadly, users will often rummage through the medicine cabinets of family members or friends in search of opioid pills,” Bondi said in a statement this week. “Drug take-back days encourage citizens to get rid of these addictive medications, and potentially save a life in the process.”

The last take-back day in April saw Floridians dispose of more than 30,000 pounds of medication.

Instagram of the Week

The week in appointments

North Broward Hospital District Board of Commissioners

Gov. Scott appointed Stacy Angier for a term ending May 7, 2022. Angier 65, of Margate, is the principal of Abundant Life Christian Academy.

Family Care Councils

Scott reappointed seven and appointed seven members.

In Area 7, Daniel Bayley, 45, of Palm Bay, is reappointed for a term ending June 29, 2020.

In Area 8, Casey O’Halloran, 37, of Fort Myers is appointed for a term ending Aug. 14, 2019.

Amy Johnson, 45, of Cape Coral, is reappointed for a term ending April 9, 2020. Patricia Oglesby, 57, of Fort Myers, is reappointed for a term ending Aug. 24, 2020.

In Area 9, Elaine Scola, 67, of Lake Worth, is reappointed for a term ending March 19, 2021.

In Area 10, Gilda Pacheco, 70, of Miramar, is reappointed for a term ending June 29, 2020.

In Area 11, Susan Danglade-Ali, 60, of Doral, is appointed for a term ending Aug. 8, 2019.

Wilma Steiner, 68, of Miami, is appointed for a term ending July 1, 2019. Mireya Camino, 65, of Doral, is appointed for a term ending March 13, 2019.

In Area 12, Rosemary Revoir, 75, of Palm Coast, is appointed for a term ending Jan. 23, 2020. Charlene Greene, 56, of Ormond Beach, is appointed for a term ending Jan. 24, 2020.

In Area 13, Paula Whetro, 55, of Mascotte, is appointed for a term ending Sept. 30, 2019.

In Area 15, Krystal Sims, 32, of Port St. Lucie, is appointed for a term ending June 10, 2020. Mozelle Green, 37, of Fort Pierce, is reappointed for a term ending June 5, 2019.

Detzner reminds of early voting

Early voting for the Nov. 6 midterm election begins statewide Saturday.

Floridians should take note of the early voting period, which is required to last through Nov. 3, according to Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner urges Floridians to take advantage of early voting periods, which are now underway.

“Early voting offers registered Florida voters another convenient way to cast their ballot and reduces the potential for waiting in line on Election Day,” said Detzner.

Also highlighted by Detzner is the optional early-vote extension in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Liberty and Washington counties, prompted by Hurricane Michael.

Early vote times and locations can be viewed online here. Some locations opened for early voting this week. As of Friday morning, nearly 560,00 voters had already cast their ballot an early voting location.

Michael recovery fund established

The CareerSource Florida Board of Directors said it is allocating an additional $1 million to help coordinate and continue the work of the initial state responses.

That includes Disaster Unemployment Assistance benefits, the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps), Disaster Dislocated Worker grants and services offered by other community partners.

Florida CareerSource has established a Hurricane Michael Recovery Fund.

“Following Hurricane Michael, we are doing everything we can to help our communities return to normal,” Gov. Scott said in a statement.

“CareerSource Florida’s Hurricane Michael Disaster Recovery Fund will move these efforts forward by helping more people get back to work. We won’t rest until every Floridian has the needed resources to recover.”

Services may include individual career consulting services, the creation of a Specialized Job Development Team, extended hours at career centers, or recruiting and hiring events, to name a few.

For a comprehensive list of recovery resources, visit the Hurricane Michael Disaster Recovery Programs page. To find recovery-related jobs, visit the Disaster Recovery Jobs Portal.

VISIT FLORIDA launches hurricane, red tide marketing initiative

The state’s tourism-marketing agency is spending nearly $9 million on a robust advertising campaign to highlight the Sunshine State after it was struck particularly hard this year by red tide and Hurricane Michael.

Visit Florida CEO Ken Lawson (center) is pushing a new marketing campaign to support the Panhandle, and communities affected by red tide.

VISIT FLORIDA announced this week that more than $5.1 million would be spent to support the Panhandle, which suffered extensive damage from the hurricane. Nearly $3.8 million will be spent to assist communities affected by red tide, a naturally occurring algae outbreak that prompted a state emergency in August.

“We have been focused on helping our state’s tourism industry remain strong before the upcoming winter season,” Gov. Scott said in a statement.

“It’s more important than ever to provide Florida with an aggressive marketing plan that showcases the areas of the state that are ready to welcome visitors now,” added VISIT FLORIDA president and CEO Ken Lawson.

Honoring those who hire people with disabilities

In recognition of Disability Employment Awareness Month, Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) staff at the Department of Education recognized five Miami employers for their “commitment to hiring people with disabilities.”

The following were honored: Academica, Chick-fil-A, Red Lobster, Vezina Lawrence & Piscitelli, and Wingstop.

Education Secretary Pam Stewart is honoring a group of companies that give jobs to people with disabilities.

“Individuals with disabilities contribute greatly to our communities and are integral to our state’s workforce,” Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said.

“Through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, we are proud to connect job seekers with disabilities to career opportunities that enable them to lead more independent lives. I hope more businesses will follow in the footsteps of today’s honorees.”

VR is a federal-state program that is committed to helping individuals with disabilities find meaningful careers and helping employers find qualified employees.

“As a partner in Florida’s statewide workforce system, VR focuses on helping youth, students and adults get the skills, education and supports needed to compete in today’s labor market,” a news release explained.

For more information, visit

Volunteer Florida grants to nonprofits

Volunteer Florida this week said it was awarding $360,000 in Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) grant funding to 24 nonprofit and service organizations throughout the state.

Volunteer Florida, the lead agency for volunteerism and national service in Florida, administers $31.7 million in federal, state, and local funding for national service and volunteer programs statewide. (Image via Volunteer Florida)

Each organization will receive a $15,000 grant, and together they will match the funding with $360,000 in local donations. In total, $572,000 will be invested in Florida’s communities.

David Mica Jr., CEO at Volunteer Florida, called it “a unique program, strategically promoting skills-based volunteerism in order to increase productivity within organizations, and in turn, generate a more significant impact among their respective beneficiaries throughout Florida.”

In 2018-2019, VGF will help grantees recruit, manage and support approximately 9,600 skills-based volunteers, who will collectively contribute a minimum of 72,000 hours of service throughout the state — a value of $1,679,760.

Click here to see the full list of VGF grantees.

Conservatives grade Florida Legislature

From the perspective of the American Conservative Union Foundation, the Legislature improved in 2018.

In a scorecard released this week by the right-leaning group, the overall “conservative score” improved from 69 percent to 75 percent.

American Conservative Union Foundation Chair Matt Schlapp says the Florida Legislature is getting just a little bit more conservative.

“Florida lawmakers voted to reduce the tax burden on Florida families and advance a constitutional amendment to limit the legislature’s power to increase taxes in the future,” said ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp. “We applaud them for enacting common-sense conservative reforms that benefit families and small businesses.”

On average, Republican House members scored 98 percent, while the Democrats scored an average of 32 percent. In the Senate, the average Republican finished with a 95 percent score. The average Democrat, 45 percent.

The complete scorecard is available here.

Parks foundation offers aid to DEP employees

The Florida State Parks Foundation is establishing a $50,000 grant fund for Department of Environmental Protection employees who suffered hardships from Hurricane Michael.

“With so many of our neighbors in North Florida impacted, we wanted to help DEP employees get back on their feet — which puts them in a better position to provide help to their neighbors, as well,” said Pingree, president of the foundation “Working with DEP, we can quickly provide support to the employees who work tirelessly to protect Florida’s natural resources and award-winning state parks.”

Ben Pingree, president of the Florida State Parks Foundation, is working toward a quick recovery to DEP employees affected by Hurricane Michael.

The money will be made available to DEP employees in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, Taylor, Wakulla and Washington.

To be eligible for the grant money, an applicant must be a DEP employee. As well, the applicant must have “suffered a complete loss or significant damage of habitation by Hurricane Michael’s impacts or be without life-sustaining necessities such as food, water, medicines or medical services.”

FSU researchers examine Wakulla Springs browning

The water at Wakulla Springs is turning brown, and the reason isn’t crystal clear.

But Florida State University researchers recently discovered two possible contributing factors.

“We’re surrounded in the southeast by dark waters, so these clear-water springs have been seen as a boon to tourism for the area,” said Robert Spencer, an associate professor who directed the study into the browning waters. “Historically, it’s one of the things that Tallahassee is most famous for. Aside from the potential effects on local tourism, it’s inherently gloomy to see these changes in such a beautiful local landmark.”

FSU assistant professor Robert Spencer is seeking an explanation for why the clear water of Wakulla Springs is turning brown. (Image via FSU)

Spencer and a team of scientists found that the foliage of the Apalachicola National Forest, “leach down into the groundwater, giving it a distinctive earthy shade.”

Because groundwater extraction has rapidly increased in the past 50 years, the water getting into the springs could be less diluted, or more brown, than before.

Rising global sea levels could also be a factor, the scientists found. Underwater springs transport brown water out to sea, but with more ocean water available, the springs can become “backed up.”

Capitol Directions

Donald Trump signs off on major reservoir project

Construction of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee that state lawmakers envision as a way to help a region beset by toxic algae blooms was part of a wide-ranging water bill signed Tuesday by President Donald Trump.

The $6 billion America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 includes authorization for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin work on a massive reservoir project that has been a priority of Florida Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican.

The next step is for Congress to allocate the $200 million a year needed for construction of the roughly $1.6 billion project, which supporters have envisioned as being half-funded by the federal government.

Negron on Tuesday called the reservoir “an indispensable component to ending the ruinous discharges from Lake Okeechobee.”

The idea of the reservoir is to move water south from Lake Okeechobee into the reservoir instead of releasing it into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries in Southeast and Southwest Florida.

The issue has been high-profile in Negron’s Treasure Coast district, where residents blame releases from the lake for algae-tainted water in the St. Lucie Estuary.

“Simply put, it is time to start construction of the reservoir that will reduce discharges from Lake Okeechobee by 63 percent and send more than 120 billion gallons of clean water south to the Everglades each year,” Negron said in a statement.

The federal money would trigger the design work, but concerns remain that construction could take up to a decade.

Everglades Foundation Chief Executive Officer Eric Eikenberg said Floridians, the state’s estuaries and coastlines and the Everglades cannot afford to wait.

“If the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can repair the Mosul Dam in Iraq in one year, this critical Florida reservoir should not take another decade,” Eikenberg said in a prepared statement. “It now falls on Congress to appropriate the $200 million annually that is needed to construct the reservoir and move other critical Everglades restoration projects forward quickly. Be assured, the people of Florida will be watching.”

Negron is pushing for a fall groundbreaking and for a goal of three to five years to complete the reservoir.

“If the government is not up to the task, then we should competitively outsource the project to the private sector and build in financial incentives for early completion,” Negron said. “The nearly 21 million residents of Florida do not want to hear weak excuses about why earlier generations of Americans could apparently solve problems and accomplish goals without tedious procrastination.”

A Negron-backed bill, signed into law by Scott in May 2017, allows Florida to bond up to $800 million for the reservoir.

The bill capped annual state funding at $64 million and placed the reservoir on state-owned land rather than private farmland in the Everglades Agricultural Area.

To make the proposal more acceptable to farmers, residents and politicians south of the lake, Negron’s plan was redrawn to lower the costs and the bonding amounts. Also thrown in were a number of economic development projects in the Glades region, including an expansion at the Airglades Airport in Clewiston and an inland port in western Palm Beach County.

Scott said Tuesday the bill he signed into law “will help end the algal blooms on our coasts.” But Scott, who is running for U.S. Senate in the Nov. 6 election, added that Congress has failed to “properly” fund Everglades restoration.

“Everglades projects should have a 50-50 cost share between the state of Florida and the federal government, yet, thanks to inaction by Congress, the federal government is nearly $1 billion behind on its commitment,” Scott said.

Personnel note: Jeremiah Hawkes now state Senate’s top lawyer

Jeremiah Hawkes, formerly a top official under Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco, is now general counsel of the Florida Senate, its spokeswoman said Friday.

Hawkes, who started Monday, will be paid $135,000 a year. He replaces Dawn Roberts, who served as the Senate’s top lawyer under outgoing Senate President Joe Negron.

Roberts is returning to her previous job as staff director of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, spokeswoman Katie Betta said.

Hawkes, who unsuccessfully ran for a Pasco County judgeship this year, was asked to take the position by Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, Betta said. Hawkes also has previously applied for judicial appointments.

The 41-year-old is the son of Tallahassee lobbyist Paul Hawkes, a former 1st District Court of Appeal judge.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the younger Hawkes was commander of the Management Services bureau under Nocco, overseeing budgeting, finance, and legal operations.

“He joined the department in 2009 under then-Sheriff Bob White as part of a post-election shake-up among the sheriff’s top aides that also saw (outgoing) House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Nocco come to the agency,” the Times reported.

“All three had worked under (U.S. Sen.) Marco Rubio during his tenure as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, with Hawkes serving as the House’s general counsel.”

In other moves in the general counsel’s office, Christie Letarte moves to “special counsel to the President” from deputy general counsel, and Ashley Istler replaces Letarte as deputy general counsel. Istler was the attorney for the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee.

Dorothy Hukill to be remembered Sunday

The family of state Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Port Orange Republican who died this week, will host visitors Sunday in Volusia County.

People may pay respects from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Volusia Memorial Funeral Home in Port Orange, Senate President Joe Negron said in a memo to lawmakers and staff members.

Negron said a formal memorial service will be a small, family gathering.

Hukill, 72, died after battling cervical cancer. She had served in the Senate since 2012, after eight years in the House.


Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Forget Brett Kavanaugh; Florida facing its own ‘Supreme’ drama — in triplicate

While the nation was fixated on the drama surrounding Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, Floridians were reminded this week that they have their own Supreme Court controversy in triplicate.

Gov. Rick Scott reasserted his claim in court that he has the power, before he leaves office in January, to appoint replacements for three Florida Supreme Court justices who have reached a mandatory retirement age. Opponents contend the next governor, who takes office on Jan. 8, has that right.

Meanwhile, former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor, told the Florida Chamber of Commerce this week that he intends to appoint the new justices.

“It’s important that we have a governor who understands that we have to appoint solid constitutionalists to our state courts, including our state Supreme Court,” he told the chamber members, who were meeting in Orlando.

“The next governor probably, and I know there’s a little bit of controversy about when these appointments happen, but I’m presuming that I get elected governor and get sworn in, that I will have three appointments to the state Supreme Court,” DeSantis said.

It’s not the first time DeSantis has asserted his right to make the court appointments. It became an issue in his final debate with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the Republican gubernatorial primary.

“They’re not your appointments. They’re Gov. Scott’s appointments,” Putnam told him, saying DeSantis was aligning himself with groups like the League of Women Voters of Florida, who is challenging Scott on the court appointments.

For his part, Scott, who expects to get a list of potential court appointees by Nov. 8, has said he will work on the appointments with the winner of the Nov. 6 election.

Reaching an accommodation with DeSantis, who shares a similar conservative philosophy with Scott, seems possible. But if Democrat Andrew Gillum prevails, Floridians can expect the appointment controversy to intensify.


Scott’s lawyers on Wednesday argued the governor has the authority to appoint the replacements for justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince, who are all leaving the court in early January because they have reached the mandatory retirement age.

The lawsuit, filed by the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause, has asked the Supreme Court to block Scott’s action, through a procedure known as a “writ of quo warranto,” arguing the new governor who takes office on Jan. 8 should have that appointment power.

But in a 33-page res1ponse, Scott’s lawyers said he is following the precedent of beginning the appointment process before the vacancies actually occur, noting numerous justices have been appointed using this procedure in order to avoid prolonged vacancies on the court.

“The petitioners’ interpretation of the applicable constitutional provision is contrary to its plain language, the long-standing historical practice of the judicial nominating commissions for the Supreme Court and district courts of appeal, and the clearly articulated public policy underlying Article V of the Florida Constitution: avoiding extended vacancies in judicial office,” the lawyers wrote.

Earlier this month, Scott directed the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission to begin accepting and reviewing applications for the court appointments. The commission has set an Oct. 8 deadline for the applications, followed by a Nov. 8 deadline — two days after the general election — for submitting names of potential justices to the governor.

Scott, a Republican who is running against incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, said he has the “expectation” that he and the incoming governor could reach an agreement on the appointments.

Underscoring the legal challenge is the fact that the new appointments are likely to reshape the seven-member Supreme Court for years, if not decades. Pariente, Lewis and Quince are part of a liberal bloc, which now holds a slim 4-3 majority, that has thwarted Scott and the Republican-dominated Legislature on numerous occasions since the governor took office in 2011.


In another Florida parallel to the Kavanaugh controversy, where the nominee has been accused of sexually harassing women while in high school or college, a sexual discrimination case involving the Florida Senate advanced this week.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and four high-ranking senators — including President Joe Negron — are among the witnesses being asked to testify in a discrimination case filed by legislative aide Rachel Perrin Rogers, who accuses the Senate of retaliation after she filed a sexual harassment complaint last year against former Sen. Jack Latvala.

Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who held the powerful post of Senate budget chief and was a candidate for governor when Perrin Rogers’ allegations against him first came out, resigned from the Senate shortly before the legislative session began in January. He has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.

Latvala is among the witnesses Tiffany Cruz, a lawyer who represents Perrin Rogers, is asking to appear at a Jan. 14 federal administrative-court hearing in Tampa, according to court documents first reported Wednesday by Politico Florida.

The list of witnesses gives just a glimpse into the allegations made by Perrin Rogers, who filed the discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in January.

One of the witnesses is Jean Seawright, who was hired by the Senate to conduct an investigation into Perrin Rogers after the aide filed the complaint against Latvala, according to court documents. Senate Special Master Ronald Swanson, who investigated Perrin Rogers’ allegations against Latvala, is also on the witness list.

Negron, a Stuart Republican who is leaving office after the November elections, “has knowledge that complainant suffered retaliation for making a report of sexual harassment,” Cruz wrote in a four-page list of witnesses submitted Tuesday to U.S. Administrative Law Judge Alexander Fernández.

The Senate president denied anyone punished Perrin Rogers, a high-ranking aide who works for Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, after she complained about Latvala.

“The complaint of sexual harassment, in this case, was immediately and fully investigated. At all times the Senate has acted appropriately and there has been no retaliation,” Negron said in a text message Wednesday.

But Cruz told The News Service of Florida on Wednesday that “there has been constant retaliation” against Perrin Rogers since she first complained about Latvala last fall. And the retaliation got worse after Swanson’s report was completed and the Senate aide filed her discrimination complaint, Cruz said.

“Instead, what we’ve seen happen here is the Senate has taken almost no action as the employer to protect Rachel when the retaliation was happening, and then subsequent to the investigation, they’ve actively taken steps to treat her differently as a result of her complaint,” she said.

The investigation into Latvala came amid a national spotlight on revelations of sexual harassment lodged against powerful men in Hollywood, business and politics that led to the demise of entertainment-industry titans such as Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose and Les Moonves.


Gov. Scott reasserted his right to appoint three new justices to the Florida Supreme Court before he leaves office in early January.


“The message that women are receiving, to me, is you become a pariah for saying something about any type of misconduct that’s happening to you by a man, especially by a man of power. If you say something too late, you get attacked for that. If you say something right away, you get attacked for that. So essentially the message is, be silent, or these are the consequences.” — Tiffany Cruz, a lawyer who is representing legislative aide Rachel Perrin Rogers, who is suing the Florida Senate in a discrimination case.


Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Tallahassee who’s-who on Rachel Perrin Rogers’ witness list in Florida Legislature suit

Rachel Perrin Rogers is seeking court testimony from a who’s-who list of Tallahassee powers and insiders in her lawsuit alleging discrimination and retaliation against her from the Florida Legislature regarding the sexual harassment claims she raised last fall against former state Sen. Jack Latvala.

Perrin Rogers, who is pursuing a lawsuit case through the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, informed an administrative law judge Tuesday that the witnesses she intends to call include Latvala, outgoing Senate President Joe Negron, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, other lawmakers, as well as Florida Legislature staff, lawyers, lobbyists and others including Florida Politics Publisher Peter Schorsch.

Her witness list was first reported Wednesday by Politico Florida.

Perrin Rogers, chief legislative aide for Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, alleged late last fall that the once-powerful Senate Budget Committee chair and Republican gubernatorial candidate from Clearwater, Latvala, had repeatedly groped her and made unwelcome comments about her body over a period of four years. A legislative investigation of allegations against Latvala led to a special master’s report finding probable cause to support allegations. Latvala resigned Dec. 19. A separate criminal probe ended in July without any charges being brought.

Perrin Rogers filed a complaint with the EEOC, against the Florida Legislature, alleging she was the victim of discrimination and retaliation after she came forward with her accusations against Latvala. Her case was assigned to EEOC Administrative Law Judge Alexander Fernandez.

The witness list Perrin Rogers’ attorney Tiffany Cruz  filed with Fernandez on Tuesday included Bondi; Latvala; Negron; Simpson; Schorsch; Negron’s Chief of Staff Cheri Vancura; Florida Senate Legal Counsel George Meros; Jean Seawright; former Judge Ronald Swanson, who was the Special Master; state Sens. Lizbeth Benacquisto and Lauren Book; Caitlin Murray; Nancy Black-Stewart; and Florida Senate Sergeant At Arms Tim Hay.

Latest on the legislative staffing merry-go-round

With a tip of the hat to LobbyTools, here are the latest movements — both on and off — of the legislative merry-go-round.

Off: Sandra Stovall is no longer staff directory for the Senate Committee on Health Policy.

Off and on: Reynold Meyer, former Deputy Chief of Staff on Policy, replaces Cheri Vancura as Chief of Staff to Senate President Joe Negron.

Off: Bobby Harris is no longer assistant to the House Clerk.

On: Cameron Pennant went from program support to legislative research assistant in the House Office of the Majority Leader.

Off: Samuel Gilot stepped down as a program analyst in the House Minority Leader office.

On and off: Jeff Armstrong replaced Steve Godwin as acting staff director in the office of the House General Counsel.

Off and on: Jason Welty is no longer a budget specialist with the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee. Sean Smith moved from budget analyst to budget specialist on the committee’s staff.

On and off: Whitney Hall replaced Tracy Sumner as policy chief for the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. Hall previously served as an attorney for the House Judiciary Committee.

Off: Matthew MacNamara is no longer an attorney for the House Judiciary Committee.

Off: Tracy Sumner has stepped down as policy chief for the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.

On and off: Lisa Larson replaces Erin Juszczyk as the new administrative lead in the House Rules & Policy Committee.

Off: Lindsey Locke is no longer administrative support for the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee in the House Commerce Committee.

Off: Emily Bland is no longer a communications assistant for the House Majority Office.

Off and on: Kevin Hoeft has moved from administrative support to legislative analyst for the House Education Committee.

Off: West Gregory and Ronni Moore has stepped down as attorneys for the House Natural Resources & Public Lands Subcommittee.

Off: Joseph Endicott is no longer legislative assistant to Sen. Aaron Bean.

Off and on: Alexis Mansolo has stepped down as a legislative assistant and Joshua Goergen has become the new district secretary for Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto.

Off: Steven Richardson is no longer legislative assistant to Sen. Rob Bradley.

Off: Karina Pereira is no longer secretary to Sen. Gary Farmer.

On: Jerome Maples has returned as Sen. Audrey Gibson‘s district secretary.

On and off: Cameron Bradley is a new district secretary to Sen. Dorothy HukillMichael Strynkowski has stepped down as Hukill’s legislative assistant.

Off and on: Amelia Johnson Smith is no longer district secretary to Sen. Debbie MayfieldAdrienne Cronebaugh is her new legislative assistant.

On: Nazbi Chowdhury is a new legislative assistant to Sen. Bobby Powell.

On: Ashley Cacicedo and Jessica Celona are new legislative assistants for Sen. Kevin Rader.

On: Chelsea Olivera is a new legislative assistant for Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez.

Off: Matthew Alford has stepped down as a legislative assistant to Sen. Linda Stewart.

On and off: Iman Sandifer has replaced Dan Horton as the new legislative assistant for Sen. Annette Taddeo. Crystal Morales has joined her office as district secretary.

On: Alexis Andres is the new district secretary for Rep. Joseph Abruzzo.

Off: Eired Eddy has stepped down as a legislative assistant for Rep. Larry Ahern.

On and off: Cyrus Calhoun replaced Navael Fontus as district secretary for Rep. Ramon Alexander. He previously was a legislative assistant for Rep. Wengay “Newt” Newton.

On: James Befanis is has gone from executive secretary to district secretary for Rep. Thad Altman.

On: Katelyn Norman has joined Rep. Loranne Ausley‘s office as district secretary.

Off: Silvia Castellanos has stepped down as a legislative assistant to Rep. Bryan Avila.

Off: Jack Harrington has stepped down as a legislative assistant for Rep. Michael Bileca.

Off: Sydnie Tiseo has stepped down as a legislative assistant to Rep. Jason Brodeur.

On: Daniel Leon is a new legislative assistant in Rep. Danny Burgess‘ office.

Off and on: Sarah Goldman has left Rep. Kathleen Peters’ office to join Rep. Ben Diamond‘s office as district secretary. Mariah McQueen and Amanda McNichols are no longer Diamond’s district secretaries.

Off: Maddie Dawson has stepped down as executive secretary to Rep. Byron Donalds.

Off: Robert Bogle has stepped down as a legislative assistant to Rep. Bobby DuBose.

Off: Justin Gendler has stepped down as executive secretary to Rep. Katie Edwards.

Off and on: Chesten Goodman has stepped down as a legislative assistant to Rep. Jay Fant, becoming a new legislative assistant to Sen. Bean.

On and off: Melissa Thompson replaced Charles Smith as a legislative assistant to Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen.

Off and on: Bryan Vallejo has stepped down as a legislative assistant to Rep. Joe Geller. Joel Ramos moved from senior executive secretary to legislative assistant.

Off: Joshua Aman has stepped down as district secretary for Rep. James Grant.

Off: Derick Tabertshofer is no longer legislative assistant to Rep. Shawn Harrison.

On: Melissa Thomas is a new district secretary for Rep. Lawrence McClure.

Off: Kassie Satterly has stepped down as a legislative assistant to Rep. George Moraitis.

On: Michelle Grimsley is the new legislative assistant to Rep. Newton.

Off and on: Christina Castillo is no longer legislative assistant to Rep. Jeanette Nunez. Maria L. Evora moved from executive secretary to legislative assistant. Denise Irvine is the new district secretary.

Off: Samuel Wagoner has stepped down as a legislative assistant to Rep. Bobby Payne.

Off: Daniel Leon is no longer legislative assistant to Rep. Daniel Perez.

Off: Kathy Gilland has stepped down as senior executive secretary to Rep. Scott Plakon.

Off and on: Kristie Johnson has replaced Doniel Wolfe as district secretary for Rep. Mel Ponder.

Off: Taylor Ferguson is no longer legislative assistant to Rep. Jake Raburn.

Off: Anna DeCerchio has stepped down as a legislative assistant to Rep. Paul Renner.

Off: Sarah Johnson is no longer legislative assistant to Rep. Emily Slosberg.

Off: Josh Barnhill is no longer legislative assistant to Rep. Charlie Stone.

On and off: Sara Lynn Ard is a new legislative assistant and Aline Guy is district secretary for Rep. Jennifer Sullivan. Morgan Hatfield is no longer Sullivan’s executive secretary.

Off: Colton Curry is no longer legislative assistant to Rep. Jackie Toledo.

On and off: Rachel Witbrach is a new district secretary for Rep. Frank White. Charles Withers has stepped down as White’s executive secretary.

On: Sabrina McLaughlin is the new district secretary for Rep. Jayer Williamson.

Joe Negron political committee nearly tapped out

As he prepares to leave office in November, a political committee that has played a key role for Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican, appears to be winding down.

The Treasure Coast Alliance, which has raised nearly $4.86 million since being formed in 2013, had $5,106 in cash on hand as of Aug. 31, according to a newly filed finance report. That came after the Treasure Coast Alliance sent $116,000 to two other political committees — Taxpayers in Action and the First Amendment Fund — on Aug. 27.

The Treasure Coast Alliance also had not received any contributions since January.

Negron announced this year that he will leave the Senate when his term as president ends in November. Negron could have stayed in the Senate until 2020, when he would have faced term limits.

Gayle Harrell tops Belinda Keiser in SD 25

State Rep. Gayle Harrell has earned the chance for a promotion to the state Senate in November, defeating Belinda Keiser in the GOP primary for Senate District 25.

Harrell ended the night with 56 percent of the vote, while Keiser earned 44 percent despite Keiser dumping $1.6 million into her campaign account.

The pair were running for the right to compete for the seat held by Senate President Joe Negron, whose term ends this year. Negron decided to retire rather than serve out the remainder of his Senate term, which runs through 2020.

Bill Galvano, the Senate-President-designate, issued a statement Tuesday night congratulating Harrell on her victory.

“Gayle has been a tireless leader on the Treasure Coast, and having served with her in the Florida House, I have seen her hard work and commitment as a public servant firsthand. I look forward to campaigning with her as we head toward the general election,” Galvano said.

Harrell has served two eight-year terms in the Florida House. The most recent stretch began in 2010, meaning Harrell would have been term-limited this year. So she sought to leave House District 83 for a position in the state Senate.

Keiser, who served as vice chancellor of Keiser University, used a large amount of self-funding to help finance her run. Nevertheless, a poll released a week before Tuesday’s vote showed her trailing Harrell by a large margin.

Both candidates put their support of Donald Trump at the forefront of their campaigns. But Keiser was also hit over her past affiliations with Democrats.

Harrell will take on Rob Levy, a Stuart Democrat, who ran unopposed in his primary. The district leans Republican, however, having voted for Rick Scott in 2010, Mitt Romney in 2012 and Donald Trump in 2016.

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