Joe Negron Archives - Florida Politics

Bill Galvano wants to revisit school safety

As students across Florida start the new school year, incoming Senate President Bill Galvano wants lawmakers to think about expanding the school-safety efforts approved during the 2018 Legislative Session after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

In a series of tweets Tuesday, the Bradenton Republican implored senators to look more at school safety.

“As incoming Senate President of the third-largest state in the nation — a bellwether for others — I am committed to making sure our re-examination of school safety policies does not end here,” Galvano tweeted. “Some issues simply must transcend politics. The safety of our children is one.”

In the 2018 Session, lawmakers approved a wide-ranging, $400 million measure (SB 7026) measure that includes requiring schools to have safety officers, bolstering mental-health services and upgrading protections through school “hardening” projects.

The law also allows includes-gun related changes, such as adding a three-day waiting period for all firearm purchases and increasing from 18 to 21 the minimum age to buy rifles and other long guns. The National Rifle Association has filed a lawsuit challenging the age change.

“We cannot be complacent, or think our work is done — we must continually review existing policies and encourage new ideas to keep our students safe,” Galvano continued in his tweets. “Florida’s experiences and reforms should be shared and exported to other states. 6 months later, as millions of students begin a new school year, we cannot help but reflect back on that heartbreaking day. As we do, we can mark this moment as a time when grief galvanized action, and we were not immobilized by our differences.”

Galvano, who helped spearhead the school-safety bill, is set to take over from Senate President Joe Negron after the November election.

Senate Presidents endorse Denise Grimsley for Agriculture Commissioner

Senate President Joe Negron and a half-dozen of his predecessors announced Thursday that they were backing Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley in the Republican primary for Agriculture Commissioner.

“Denise undeniably has the best experience and background to be Florida’s next Commissioner of Agriculture,” said Negron, who is leaving the Senate effective Election Day. “I am proud to lend her my full endorsement and support, and look forward to seeing her continue to connect with voters around the state as she shares her compelling story of growing up in agriculture and becoming a nurse, businesswoman and lawmaker.”

Joining Negron were his three immediate predecessors, former Sens. Andy Gardiner, Don Gaetz and Mike Haridopolos, who, taken together, have headed the Florida Senate for the entirety of the 2010s. Also backing Grimsley were former Senate Presidents Ken Pruitt (2006-08), John McKay (2000-02), and Jim Scott (1994-96).

“Many of us, having worked in the Florida Legislature alongside Denise, have seen firsthand her determination and passion to help make Florida a better place to live and work for all Floridians,” said Gaetz, who served as Senate President during Grimsley’s first two years in the Florida Senate.

Gardiner added that Grimsley’s “background in health care, in management of a business and as a compassionate conservative will give all Floridians a caring voice,” while Haridopolos said Grimsley “was a force in the Florida Legislature and she’ll be a force in the cabinet.”

“Her management and budget experience both in the Legislature and in business gives her an unmatched ability to expertly lead the Florida Department of Agriculture and  Consumer Services,” Haridopolos continued.

Like Haridopolos’ tenure, Pruitt’s time as Senate President aligned with Grimsley’s service in the Florida House, where she represented Collier, Glades, Hendry and Highlands County in the old House District 77.

“Denise Grimsley is battle tested and ready to step into the role of Commissioner of Agriculture and I am proud to lend her my endorsement,” Pruitt said.  “She knows just how important agriculture is to Florida because she grew up in it, most importantly, she has a plan for its future that will ensure future generations of farmers and ranchers will prosper.”

McKay’s and Scott’s terms came before Grimsley’s first election, but nonetheless, they were impressed with her background and her 14-year record as a lawmaker.

“I grew up in the same part of the state that Denise did and I know much of her strength comes from being a daughter of Florida’s Heartland,” McKay said. “We need a thoughtful fiscal conservative on our Cabinet, a person who will fairly listen to all views and truly represent our best future, so I am pleased to endorse Denise Grimsley for Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services.”

Negron and the past Senate Presidents join incoming Senate President Bill Galvano and his likely successor, Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, in endorsing Grimsley for Agriculture Commissioner. She recently landed support from another nine sitting Senators, making for 12 of the 22 sitting Republican Senators, excluding herself, who have signed on in support of her statewide bid.

“I am honored to have the support of so many experienced leaders who have dedicated themselves to serving our state’s citizens by determinedly leading the Florida Senate,” Grimsley said. “As a mother and grandmother, businesswoman and legislator, and the fifth-generation Floridian in my family to be involved in agriculture, I know that the hard work to improve our state isn’t done yet; and, I am grateful to this esteemed group of servant leaders who have endorsed my campaign.”

Outside of legislative support, Grimsley has picked up endorsements from dozens of local officials, 36 current county sheriffs, the Fraternal Order of PoliceFlorida Professional Firefighters, the Florida Realtors and the Florida Medical Association, among many others.

Grimsley faces Lehigh Acres Rep. Matt Caldwell, retired U.S. Army Col. Mike McCalister and former Winter Haven Rep. Baxter Troutman in the Republican primary.

Caldwell and Grimsley are the standouts on the Republican side, with Caldwell also announcing endorsements by the truckload — his most recent bulk endorsement came in from 16 county constitutional officers, with other nods including the National Rifle Association and several of his Republican colleagues in the state House.

Grimsley, who recently released her first TV ad, leads the primary race in true fundraising with $2.65 million in outside cash raised since she entered the race in February 2017. She also currently holds the cash lead with more than $1.1 million in the bank between her campaign account and two political committees, Saving Florida’s Heartland and Let’s Grow Florida.

Caldwell, meanwhile, has also broken the $2 million mark since entering the race in April 2017 and had a little over $1 million in the bank at last check-in.

Troutman, however, has pumped $3 million into his campaign fund and raised about $500,000 in outside cash, though his high burn rate has left him with just $322,500 on hand as of Aug. 3. McCalister, for his part, has raised just $22,604, including nearly $19,000 in candidate loans.

The winner of the Republican nomination will move on to November when they’ll face one of three Democrats: lawyer Nikki Fried, Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter or South Florida Audubon Society President Roy David Walker.

Of the three, Fried has had the most success in fundraising and endorsements, with her most recent backers being Democratic U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist and Lois Frankel.

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

Gayle Harrell leads Belinda Keiser 48-26 in fresh SD 25 poll

Despite being massively outspent by Keiser University vice chancellor Belinda Keiser, a new poll shows state Rep. Gayle Harrell with a commanding lead in the Republican primary for Senate District 25.

The St. Pete Polls survey, conducted Aug. 8, found Harrell with 48 percent support among voters who said they had either already cast a ballot or that they planned to vote in the Aug. 28 election.

Keiser, who has juiced her campaign with $925,000 in candidate loans, was the pick for just 26 percent of those polled, with a slightly higher share saying they were still unsure which of the two candidates they would vote for.

Among the 22 percent of Republicans who said they had already voted, Harrell’s lead expanded to 35 points. It contracted to 44-26, however, among the 78 percent whose vote is still outstanding.

Another piece of good news for Harrell: Voters who know about her tend to like her.

About 51 percent of Republicans offered their opinion on the term-limited state representative, handing her a plus-13 in favorability. The margin was only a little tighter among those who haven’t voted, with 35 percent saying they saw her favorably compared to 23 percent with an unfavorable view.

Keiser, the poll found, holds a double-digit lead when it comes to name ID, but there weren’t too many fans of the Broward Republican. Of the 65 percent of Republicans who gave their opinion, she scored a minus-16 in favorability. The measure bottomed out at minus-36 among early voters, while those who haven’t voted saw her unfavorably by a 35-26 percent margin with 39 percent undecided.

Harrell and Keiser are the only Republicans running for SD 25, which is open two years ahead of schedule due to exiting Senate President Joe Negron’s decision to resign the seat rather than serve out the remainder of his term.

The winner of the Harrell versus Keiser contest will move on to face Port St. Lucie Democrat Robert Levy in the Nov. 6 general election.

SD 25 includes the whole of Martin and St. Lucie counties, where Harrell has held elected office for 16 of the past 18 years, as well as part of Palm Beach County. The district is safely Republican — Negron was re-elected with nearly two-thirds of the vote in the 2016 cycle, while Trump carried the district by double digits.

The St. Pete Polls robopoll took responses from 357 registered Republicans who said they planned to vote in the SD 25 primary. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.2 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.

Tom Lee says he’s looking forward to leadership change in Senate

Tom Lee is psyching himself up for another term in the Florida Senate.

“I was pretty much resolved to step away for a little while, and get on with some business and try to help my son get through high school,” the Thonotosassa Republican (and Senate President in 2004-06) said last week.

After considering runs for Chief Financial Officer and for Congress, and even leaving politics altogether, he decided last month to seek re-election.

He faces John Manners Houman in this month’s Senate District 20 primary. Joy Gibson and Kathy Lewis are vying to be the Democratic nominee.

Lee, who has served a combined 16 years in the chamber, clashed regularly with leadership under President Joe Negron of Stuart, but expects better days when Bradenton Republican Bill Galvano wields the gavel, as expected next year.

“My sense is there are going to be a lot of changes in the Senate, and it’s going to be a more rewarding place in which to serve in the coming years,” Lee said.

Then there’s the good of the party to think about.

“It’s much easier to recruit for the other party if you’re not running against an incumbent — depending on the incumbent, I guess,” he said.

“In this case, I think it would have been much easier for the Democrats to recruit candidates. And there’s no question about it — there would have been a Republican primary, and that would have cost a substantial amount of resources.

“Resources are finite. If those resources could be saved and utilized in other races where we have thin margins for error, it can help people sleep a little better at night.”

Belinda Keiser pours another $225K into SD 25 campaign

Keiser University vice chancellor Belinda Keiser inked another six-figure check for her campaign to succeed Senate President Joe Negron in Senate District 25.

During the reporting period covering July 7 through July 20, Keiser brought in just $10,600 in outside cash while boosted her campaign fund with another $225,000 in candidate loans. To date, the Broward County Republican has put up $925,000 of her own money and raised about $98,000 for a total campaign fund of more than $1 million.

The majority of that cash has been spent on consulting contracts a torrent of direct mail campaigns. Of the $215,000 in spending shown in the new report, nearly $104,000 paid for mailers from Clearwater-based Direct Mail Services, while another $70,000 was paid to Kingston Public Affairs, founded by Donald Trump-connected Karen Giorno, for consulting work.

Keiser finished the reporting period with just over $208,000 in the bank.

Stuart Republican Rep. Gayle Harrell, who is running against Keiser in the primary, showed $9,875 raised in her new report and only spent $251. Harrell has now raised $84,000 in outside money and kicked in another $100,000 in loans since entering the race last year. She had $168,000 at the ready on July 20.

While Harrell hasn’t been able to go toe-to-toe with Keiser’s checkbook, she has had more success landing endorsements. Her most recent nod came from the Florida Realtors, with prior backers including Martin County Sheriff William Snyder, former Senate President Ken Pruitt and the Florida Medical Association.

Senate District 25 wasn’t scheduled to open up until 2020, but will be open this year due to Negron’s decision to leave the chamber two years early. Following Negron’s announcement, Gov. Rick Scott called a special election for the district that will be held concurrently with regularly scheduled 2018 election.

The winner of the Aug. 28 Republican primary contest will move on to face Port St. Lucie Democrat Robert Levy in the Nov. 6 general election.

Levy showed $3,825 in fundraising in his new report, making for $19,825 in outside fundraising thus far. He’s taken a page from his rivals across the aisle, however, and brought another $150,000 in candidate loans to the table.

After spending $10,600 during the reporting period, including nearly $8,400 for communications work, he had about $75,000 left in his campaign account.

SD 25 includes the whole of Martin and St. Lucie counties, where Harrell has held elected office for 16 of the past 18 years, as well as part of Palm Beach County. The district is safely Republican — Negron was re-elected with nearly two-thirds of the vote in the 2016 cycle, while Trump carried the district by double digits.

State appeals conservation funding case

Legislative leaders are appealing a Leon County circuit judge’s ruling that the state has not properly carried out a 2014 constitutional amendment that required spending on land and water conservation.

Attorneys for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, and Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican, filed a notice this week of taking the case to the 1st District Court of Appeal.

As is common, the notice does not detail the arguments that the Legislature will make at the appeals court. Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson last month ruled that lawmakers had failed to properly comply with the voter-approved constitutional amendment, which required using money from a real estate tax to bolster land and water conservation.

Environmental groups filed legal challenges against the state, contending that lawmakers had diverted portions of the money to other expenses.

The notice of appeal was filed after Dodson refused to grant a rehearing in the case.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Direct mail roundup: ‘Blue wave’ Belinda Keiser donated to Debbie Wasserman Schultz

A new mailer is heading out to Senate District 25 voters blasting Republican candidate Belinda Keiser for her past campaign contributions to Democratic politicians.

“’Blue wave’ Belinda Keiser gave money to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the loud-mouthed, ultra-liberal party-boss that ran the DNC under Barack Hussein Obama,” the mailer reads. “Debbie Wasserman Schultz ran her party so shady that she had to resign after the famous email leak because she knew her behavior was immoral and shameful.”

Further down on the full-page mailer, paid for by the Venice-based political committee Make American Great Again, is a clipping from a 2016 New York Times article from when the Democratic congresswoman stepped down as DNC chair, saying it came about “after a trove of leaked emails showed party officials conspiring to sabotage the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.”

Also included are pictures of spreadsheets highlighting the contributions Keiser made to Schultz, dating as far back as 1996 to as recently as 2014.

“’Blue wave’ Belinda Keiser wants us to believe she’s a conservative,” the reverse side of the mailer reads. “What kind of conservative gives money to Obama-era Democrat party boss Debbie Wasserman Shultz???”

The attacks on Keiser’s past contributions are nothing new.

Last month, a political committee tied to the Florida Medical Association released a “Brady Bunch” inspired ad hammering her for donations to Wasserman Schultz as well as Hillary ClintonCharlie Crist, Bob Graham, Al Gore, Alcee HastingsBuddy MacKay and Bill Nelson.

All told, Keiser has given nearly $200,000 to Democratic candidates running at the state and federal level over the years, and many were made well after the former Democrat claimed to have joined the Republican party in 2007. She now claims to have switched her party affiliation in 2001.

This election cycle alone, she’s sent checks to Plantation state Sen. Lauren Book and Crist’s re-election campaign in Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

Keiser, who lives 80 miles south of SD 25, entered the race shortly after Senate President Joe Negron announced he would leave his seat early. The special primary and general elections to replace Negron will be held concurrently with the regularly scheduled midterm elections.

Keiser faces Stuart state Rep. Gayle Harrell in the Aug. 28 Republican primary. The winner of that contest will face Democratic nominee Robert Levy in the Nov. 6 general election.

As of July 6, Keiser led the money race with $87,000 raised and $700,000 in candidate loans. She has $187,000 in the bank. Harrell has raised $74,000 and kicked in $100,000 in loans and has $159,000 on hand. Levy has brought in $16,000 and anteed up $150,000 in loans and has an on-hand total of $82,000.

SD 25 covers all of St. Lucie and Martin counties, along with a small portion of Palm Beach County. The safe Republican seat voted plus-12 for Donald Trump two years ago.

The mailer is below.

Lawmakers want judge tossed off environmental funding suit

Saying he violated their constitutional rights “in multiple ways, and over repeated objections,” House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron asked a Tallahassee judge to remove himself from future proceedings in an environmental funding case.

The legislative leaders filed their disqualification request with Circuit Judge Charles Dodson earlier this week.

On June 28, Dodson had granted a “final (summary) judgment for (the) plaintiffs” in a lawsuit over how lawmakers fund environmental conservation. Summary judgments allow parties to win a case without a trial.

A notice of appeal has not yet been filed, according to court dockets. But attorneys sometimes move for disqualification to avoid having the same judge if a suit on appeal gets kicked back down to the lower-court judge for further action.

The case, first filed in 2015, was over the Water and Land Legacy Amendment, also known as Amendment 1. The 2014 constitutional change, mandating state spending for land and water conservation, garnered a landslide of nearly 75 percent, or more than 4.2 million “yes” votes.

Amendment 1 requires state officials to set aside 33 percent of the money from the real estate “documentary stamp” tax to protect Florida’s environmentally sensitive areas for 20 years.

Advocates — including the Florida Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club — sued, saying lawmakers wrongly appropriated money for, among other things, “salaries and ordinary expenses of state agencies” tasked with executing the amendment’s mandate.

Dodson agreed, declaring a laundry list of 2015 and 2016 appropriations unconstitutional.

“The clear intent was to create a trust fund to purchase new conservation lands and take care of them,” he wrote. “The conservation lands the state already owned were to be taken care of, certainly, but from non-trust money.”

But Andy Bardos, the GrayRobinson lawyer representing Corcoran and Negron, said in his filing the plaintiffs never asked for a final judgment, “but only for partial summary judgment as to nine of 114 appropriations challenged in (the) complaint—or eight percent of its case.”

That violated lawmakers’ right to due process, Bardos said, which has now “eliminated the Legislative Parties’ confidence in the fairness and impartiality of this proceeding.”

In response, David Guest – one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers – said “the alleged bias is based entirely on Judge Dodson’s rejection of their legal arguments, all of which were squarely presented at various points in the proceedings.

“That a judge finds a party’s legal argument unpersuasive cannot be the basis of a motion to recuse the judge – only the basis for an appeal,” he added.

This sets a very low bar for what counsel for the Legislature considers to be acceptable conduct. Expect more of this kind of play before this case is over.”

As of June 21, the Senate spent $229,172 in total “litigation expenses” defending the suit, Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta said. Similar information was not immediately available from the House.

A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Ken Detzner, also a defendant named in his official capacity, said his department “did not obtain outside counsel on this case.”

The full filing, with exhibits, is below:

White House backs Everglades reservoir

The White House has backed Florida’s effort to secure federal funding for a reservoir intended to move water away from Lake Okeechobee and reduce discharges that residents blame for repeated toxic algae outbreaks spreading on both coasts.

The request by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to include funding for the roughly $1.6 billion Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir, approved by the state Legislature last year, now heads to the U.S. Senate. The plan is expected to be included as part of America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018.

The reservoir was a priority for Florida Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican who is leaving office in November.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio quickly welcomed the White House action.

“This project, spearheaded by state Sen. Negron and coupled with existing efforts, will greatly reduce the harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges once again threatening our coastal communities,” Rubio said in a press release before discussing the algae outbreak on the Senate floor on Tuesday.

“I am encouraged by the administration’s continued engagement on Florida’s water issues, and I look forward to working with the president to fund the expedited construction of these critical Everglades restoration projects.”

On Wednesday, Rubio asked the Small Business Administration to provide help to small businesses adversely affected by the algal blooms.

Gov. Rick Scott, who has close ties to President Donald Trump, took to social media to praise the White House action, which came a day after the governor took a boat tour of the impacted waters in Southwest Florida and issued an emergency declaration regarding the outbreak.

“This critical project will help us move & store more water south of Lake Okeechobee,” Scott, a Republican running against incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, tweeted Tuesday.

The state is banking that the federal government will pick up the tab for half of the project, projected to cost about $1.6 billion.

“This reservoir is an indispensable component to finally eliminating the harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee that are polluting our estuaries and waterways,” Negron said in a statement Tuesday night.

Negron expressed hope that the initial permitting and engineering for the reservoir can begin within the next few months.

“This is an emergency; time is of the essence,” he said.

Tuesday’s approval by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget came a day after Scott imposed an emergency order for Glades, Hendry, Lee, Martin, Okeechobee, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties over the reemergence of toxic algae outbreaks in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. A similar outbreak of “guacamole-thick” algae blooms spreading across the Treasure Coast spurred the Legislature to advance plans for the reservoir two years ago.

Scott’s emergency declaration Monday also enlisted a number of state agencies to address the toxic waters.

The governor directed the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the South Florida Water Management District to waive various restrictions and regulations to store water in additional areas south of the lake.

Also, Scott ordered the DEP to set up a grant program to help local governments pay for clean-up services. The governor told the Department of Economic Opportunity to assist businesses impacted by the algae outbreak.

And Scott ordered state health officials to inform Floridians and visitors of the dangers of algal blooms, and directed tourism officials to find ways to reduce the impact of the outbreak on the state’s travel industry.

Updated 1 p.m. — Scott in a statement said he has “aggressively fought for these communities since I became Governor … The approval of the reservoir project is a tremendous step toward storing more water south of Lake Okeechobee.

“Once again, our communities are facing a threat from water being released by the federal government from Lake Okeechobee. In Florida, to minimize the impact of these water discharges, we have taken decisive action to find more water storage to protect our rivers and coastal estuaries. This includes the reservoir project that I worked with the Florida Legislature to accelerate and the critical repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike that we urged to be included in supplemental disaster funding.

“Also, I issued an emergency declaration this week, so the state can do everything in our power to mitigate the immediate threat of the Army Corps of Engineers’ water releases.

“Now that this project has been approved by the White House, there is no excuse for Congress not to advance and fund the reservoir as soon as possible. Congress must act immediately to help find a solution to the water that the Army Corps of Engineers is releasing into our coastal communities.”

Belinda Keiser dumps another $200K in to SD 25 bid

After stocking her campaign account with a $500,000 loan in May, Belinda Keiser put another $200,000 down for her bid to succeed exiting Senate President Joe Negron in Senate District 25.

Keiser, a Democrat-turned-Republican who lives 80 miles away from the Treasure Coast district, brought in just $21,775 in outside money.

Her donors included the Florida Police Benevolent Association and lobby firm Colodny Fass as well as various individuals and businesses, many of them from out of state and only one of them from within SD 25. That lone contribution was a $250 check from J & P Macarthur Inc. of Hobe Sound.

Keiser also spent more than $300,000 last month, including $196,000 on media placement through Southern Campaign Resources and $64,000 on mailers through Clearwater-based Direct Mail Systems. She finished the June 1 through June 22 reporting period with $432,890 in the bank, including the $700,000 in loans.

Stuart Rep. Gayle Harrell is Keiser’s main competition in the Republican primary, though Dr. Joe Smith of West Palm Beach also qualified for the ballot.

Harrell showed $44,855 in fundraising and $12,326 in spending in her new report. Her donors included lobby firm Becker & Poliakoff and numerous political committees, including ones tied Republican Sen. Aaron Bean and Republican Rep. Ray Rodrigues.

Expenditures included more than $5,600 in payments to Jupiter-based Public Concepts for printing and advertising expenses. Since filing for the seat in October 2017 — well before Negron’s announcement he would leave two years early — Harrell has raised $69,285 and kicked in another $100,000 in loans. She finished the reporting period with $156,421 on hand.

The only income listed in Smith’s report, his first since filing, was a $5,000 loan. Meanwhile, the lone Democrat in the race, Robert Levy, raised $4,125 and spent nearly $14,000.

His contributions included a $1,000 checks from Stuart artist John Longmaid and Winter Park animal care worker Nicole Taylor. His spending included $6,500 for campaign staff and $5,000 for consulting from Washington-based Jones & Associates.

Since filing in February, he has raised $13,650 and loaned his campaign another $150,000. He had $93,500 on hand on June 22.

SD 25 includes the whole of Martin and St. Lucie counties, as well as part of Palm Beach County. The special election to replace Negron will be held concurrently with the 2018 midterm elections. The primary is Aug. 28 and the general election is Nov. 6.

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