August 30, 2017

Florida Democrats urge state lawmakers to remove Confederate statue in U.S. Capitol

Confederate Statue Florida



The entire Florida Democratic congressional delegation wants Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers to remove a statue of Confederate general Edmund Kirby Smith from the U.S. Capitol.

On Wednesday, 11 House Democrats from Florida sent a letter to Scott, State House speaker Richard Corcoran and State Senate president Joe Negron urging the trio to call a one-day special session to replace the statue in September.

“No family visiting our nation's Capitol should have to explain to their child that the statue representing our state honors someone who fought for a philosophy built on hatred, inequality and oppression,” the letter said.

Last year, the state legislature agreed to remove Smith's statue but it remains in National Statuary Hall in Washington, where daily tours are conducted in the Capitol, because lawmakers couldn't agree on a replacement.

But with the recent violent protests in Charlottesville and elsewhere over the legacy of Confederate statues, and debates about streets named after Confederate generals in Florida, Democrats around the country are pushing to remove statues in public places.

Two weeks ago, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, asked state lawmakers to make the change.

“It's time to stop playing games,” Wasserman Schultz said.

Now, Wasserman Schultz is joined by her Democratic colleagues in Washington, including Miami Gardens Rep. Frederica Wilson.

Scott and Corcoran ruled out the possibility of a special session two weeks ago.

“Like most politicians in Washington, the Congresswoman is out of touch,” Corcoran said on Twitter. “We've already made this decision and are now having a conversation about which great Floridian we should honor. The Congresswoman should stop grandstanding and focus on balancing the Federal budget.”

Read more here. 

August 28, 2017

How Richard Corcoran prepares for a possible 2018 run for governor

House Speaker Richard Corcoran says he won't announce whether he'll run for governor until seven months from now, after the 2018 legislative session. But the Pasco County Republican is laying the groundwork for a candidacy in a field where Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has a big head start and where Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, has entered the field.

He may run and he may not, but Corcoran, 52, who began his rise through Republican ranks as a campaign strategist, has the instincts of an operative and the travel schedule of a full-time candidate. Whether dining with donors at Tampa's Capital Grillle or borrowing lobbyist friend Bill Rubin's Fort Lauderdale conference room to huddle with consultants, Corcoran keeps much of his political activity under the radar and does not publicize what he's doing.

Read more here about the four signs of a budding candidacy.

August 19, 2017

Should Capitol's Confederate monument be removed? Scott won't say.

Capitol confederate monument@ByKristenMClark

Florida’s Republican governor won’t take a position on what should be done with a monument that honors slain Confederate soldiers on the state Capitol grounds, even as a growing number of elected leaders around the country take steps to remove such monuments after last weekend’s violent white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va.

Rather than lead on the issue, Rick Scott is deferring to state lawmakers and has remained silent on whether such monuments in Florida — and particularly the one at the Capitol — should be taken down.

After Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democratic candidate for governor, on Wednesday called on Scott to remove the Capitol monument, Scott’s office would only acknowledge they had “received” that request.

His office on Thursday pointed to general remarks Scott had made two days earlier about how federal, state and local officials ought to “review” what should be done with Confederate monuments. “We need to go through a process where everyone comes together and has a legitimate conversation, then we go forward,” Scott had said.

But Scott, through his spokesmen, has repeatedly declined to answer questions from the Herald/Times this week — including again on Friday — about what direction he wants elected officials in Florida to take: Whether monuments celebrating the Confederacy, such as the one at the Capitol, should be removed or kept, and why.

Full story here.

Photo credit: Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times

August 10, 2017

Proposal to allow guns at courthouses will be back in 2018

1st dca - June 7  2016


Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube is reviving one of the less controversial of his gun bills from last session, which would let concealed-weapons permit-holders carry their firearms into Florida courthouses and store the weapons temporarily with building security.

Steube on Thursday filed a bill for the 2018 session (SB 134) that puts that same proposal back on the table. It has a viable chance, if this spring was any indication.

The measure nearly cleared the Legislature during the final week of the 2017 session, when House Republicans abruptly moved to rush his bill to the floor even though the chamber had not yet considered any such proposal. (Steube’s measure had passed the Senate by a 19-15 vote just a couple days prior, after being vetted and approved by three Senate committees, but no companion measure existed in the House.)

But the House backtracked the next day after trading with Democrats to ensure a priority of Senate leadership would be voted out instead. Steube’s bill died as a result, although it likely had the votes to pass.

Steube could not be reached for comment Thursday morning, so it’s not yet clear whether a House version will be offered in 2018. Lawmakers are just beginning to file bills for the next session.

Steube has argued the so-called “courthouse carry” measure would particularly help attorneys to defend themselves, if needed, while entering and leaving courthouses because current law forces visitors to leave their firearms in their vehicles.

The concept drew relatively little opposition compared to other, more polarizing gun bills the Legislature debates annually. However, the plan would impose an unknown — and likely unfunded — cost on local and state courts because officials would have to install lockers or other secure storage for which to temporarily house visitors’ firearms.

Steube, a staunch advocate of Second Amendment rights, is also the architect of more divisive gun proposals that are likely to resurface in 2018, such as “campus carry” — which would let concealed-carry permit-holders carry guns on public college and university campuses. Nearly 1.8 million people have concealed-weapons permits in Florida.

The 2018 session begins in January, but legislative committee weeks — when lawmakers begin to hear bills — start in September.

Photo credit: Herald/Times file

July 27, 2017

Republicans pump $100,000 into Senate committee to help Diaz in SD 40 race -- but is it insurance or worry?

DiazAndTaddeoInsurance money or concern? That is the question after the Republican State Leadership Committee sent a $100,000 check late Wednesday to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, run by state Senate leaders, to boost the chances of Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in the Miami District 40 special election. 

A Democratic poll conducted in June and released on Wednesday found that Democratic nominee in the race, Annette Taddeo, edged Diaz 42-38 percent. According to the memo by pollster Anzalone Liszt Grove Research for the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, Taddeo was also ahead by 16 percentage points among voters without party affiliation who couldn't cast primary ballots.

But, as the primary turnout showed, ensuring voter enthusiasm in the district for the Sept. 26 general election is going to be a challenge -- and margins will matter.

On Tuesday, only 10.4 percent of the district's registered Democrats showed up to vote and 13.5 percent of the registered Republicans. Diaz collected more total votes against his two rivals, 7,678, than Taddeo -- who got 7,101. 

The poll also suggests that Diaz's allegiance with Donald Trump could spell trouble in the district. Hillary Clinton beat Trump in SD 40 but the same voters also preferred Republican Marco Rubio over Democrat Patrick Murphy in the U.S. Senate race and elected Republican Frank Artiles over Democrat Dwight Bullard for the Senate seat that's now open as a result of Artiles' resignation.

Diaz, a former contestant on Trump's "The Apprentice" reality TV show, did not distance himself from the president in the primary and included pictures of himself with Trump in campaign materials. He has, however, removed all but one photo from his Facebook and Twitter feeds of him attending inaugural events, including one of him posing with the president. He cited “aggressive trolling” from enemies as the reason.

Diaz, an attorney and lobbyist who was the favorite of Tallahassee Republicans, spent more than $2 million between his campaign and political committee, Rebuild Florida -- much of it after the poll was taken. Taddeo, by contrast, spent $60,000.

The Republican State Leadership Committee has raised and spent much in Florida in recent election cycles. In February it gave $125,000 to the Florida Republican Party. It's chair is former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and former Republican House Speaker Will Weatherford sits on its board of directors. 

Here's the RSLC announcement: 

Continue reading "Republicans pump $100,000 into Senate committee to help Diaz in SD 40 race -- but is it insurance or worry?" »

June 26, 2017

Don Gaetz likes Jimmy Patronis as CFO -- but really likes Tom Lee

Don GaetzFormer Senate President Don Gaetz joined the growing list of Republicans commending Public Service Commissioner Jimmy Patronis, whom the governor appointed today as the state's next Chief Financial Officer, replacing Jeff Atwater who is resigning to work in academia.

"He would be eminently qualified,'' Gaetz said Friday, reached after a fishing trip in Canada. He noted that he has known Patronis 10 years, that his son, Matt, was positioned to run against him in the state Senate seat Gaetz was vacating and that he sees Patronis' skills as a restaurant owner and manager helpful to being the man in charge of overseeing one of the state's most important agencies.

"He spent his entire life working and expanding and managing one of Florida's most successful small businesses,'' Gaetz said. "It's a very complex and very successful business. Jimmy has been pivotal in the expansion and success of the business."

But Gaetz has a unique perspective. Gaetz is business partners with the other likely candidate in the race, Democrat and former state senator and Yahoo executive Jeremy Ring but hints that he'd prefer another person -- who is not an announced candidate -- former Senate President Tom Lee. 

 "If the governor doesn't appoint Jimmy as a caretaker and chooses not to run -- even though Jeremy is a great friend of mine -- I would certainly be supporting Tom Lee,'' Gaetz said. 

He said he hasn't spoken to Lee, now a senator from Thonotosassa, who unsuccessfully ran against Democrat Alex Sink for the CFO job in 2006, about the job but would like him to consider it. 

"I've had the chance to see Tom operate as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and also as a highly successful business owner and I think Tom Lee would be an outstanding CFO,'' Gaetz said. "He has the experience, the maturity and understanding of how government should work That would make him a great CFO."

The job requires innovation and an ability to take the bureaucratic and political establishment -- particularly the lobbying interests that have an outsized-influence on the contracting process, Gaetz said.

Atwater tried to increase the financial accountability and oversight role of the department "but he hasn't gone as far as he would like to because he hasn't had enough support from the Legislature and governor to make the innovative changes that would result in more financial accountability and more smart contracting,'' Gaetz said. "And I think Tom Lee would be a perfect fit for that."

Read our stories on this here: Florida CFO: Flaws in contracts could be costing taxpayers millions of dollars

Atwater hopes to reform flawed contracting process by exposing it to sunlight

Cashing in on state contracts is a Florida growth industry

June 22, 2017

Florida lawmakers will return to Tallahassee in less than 3 months



Not even two weeks removed from a special session to close out this year's legislative agenda, Florida lawmakers are already looking ahead to 2018.

Because that's an even-numbered (i.e. election) year, the 60-day session will run from January through early March -- which means pre-session committee weeks will start this fall.

In less than three months, to be exact.

Mark your calendars -- here are the House's and Senate's schedule, released Thursday afternoon:

-- Week of Sept. 11, with meetings starting no earlier than 1 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12
-- Week of Oct. 9
-- Week of Oct. 23
-- Week of Nov. 6 (finishing before the Veterans Day Holiday that Friday)
-- Week of Nov. 13
-- Week of Dec. 4

The 2018 regular session starts Tuesday, Jan. 9.

Photo credit: Florida Senate during the 2017 session. Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times