February 02, 2017

State of Florida joins lawsuit against Miami Beach’s minimum wage law

CityHall

@joeflech

When Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine proposed creating a mandatory citywide minimum wage, he touted the proposal in radio ads that ran in California while Gov. Rick Scott was there recruiting companies to move to Florida.

It was a clear move by Levine, a Democrat, to distinguish himself from the Republican governor and an indication the mayor might be eyeing a run for higher office.

Now, Tallahassee is joining a lawsuit filed by business associations against Miami Beach over the city law. Attorney General Pam Bondi filed a motion to intervene in the suit and defend the constitutionality of a state law that the Beach is challenging.

Attorneys at City Hall who drafted and championed the ordinance welcome the challenge. So does Levine, who is now seriously considering a run for governor in 2018, when Scott is term-limited out. The mayor looks to raise his profile during a tour of Florida this spring.

"So to the state, I say, see you in court," said Levine in a statement Thursday.

Read more here.

February 01, 2017

State senator declares bid for Florida Ag Commissioner

Senator_Denise_Grimsley@ByKristenMClark

A longtime state lawmaker from Central Florida announced Wednesday she’s running for state Agriculture Commissioner in the 2018 election, setting up a GOP primary for the open seat.

Sen. Denise Grimsley, a Republican from Sebring, called her candidacy “a continuation of the public service that has meant so much in my life.”

Current Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is term-limited next year, after having served two terms. The only other candidate seeking to replace Putnam so far is Orlando Republican Paul Paulson, who launched his campaign in December.

Grimsley said she intends to file paperwork with the state on Wednesday, which will allow her to begin raising campaign money. That paperwork is not yet available through the state Division of Elections. State records show she has less than $4,300 in the bank from her state Senate re-election fund.

Grimsley is a nurse and hospital administrator, as well as a businesswoman, citrus grower and rancher. She has been in the Florida Senate since 2012 and, last term, served as the deputy majority leader. She was re-elected in November to a two-year term. Previously, she was in the state House from 2004-2012.

“I’ve operated our family businesses and know treating the customer well and with respect is key to any success,” Grimsley said in her campaign statement. “We are the sum of our experiences, and I offer my candidacy to continue the principles of conservative public service I have followed in my career, both in the private sector and in the Florida Legislature.”

“Florida has many challenges in our agriculture industry, yet we have so many more exciting opportunities,” she added. “We will continue to fight for a smart statewide water policy, we will protect our environment and blessed Florida resources, and we will pursue expansion of the over 2 million jobs Florida agriculture provides our state.”

January 03, 2017

Report: Women in Florida are poorer, have less health care and make up a growing racial divide compared to other states

via @BRENDAMEDINAR

In Florida, women are poorer and have less access to healthcare and development opportunities than most states in the country, according to a recent poverty report.

The number of women 18 and older in Florida living below the poverty line is 15.4 percent (compared to men, which is 12.2 percent), according to the study, The Status of Women in Florida by County: Poverty & Opportunity, by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. In 2004, the percentage of women below the poverty line was 12.6.

The number of women and men living below the poverty line in Florida is higher than the national average. In the United States, 14.6 percent of women 18 or older and 11.1 percent of men live below the poverty line.

“Poverty, and especially poverty among women and women of color, continues to be a persistent problem” in Florida, states the annual report, published since 2004 and supported by various women and non-profit organizations. The Institute has been publishing a national report on the status of women since 1996.


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/state/florida/article123365229.html#storylink=cpy

December 07, 2016

Report: After Senate loss, Murphy 'not going to rule anything out' for his political future

2016 Election Senate Murphy

@ByKristenMClark

Since losing his bid for U.S. Senate last month, Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy has kept a low-profile -- but he's now signaling that this might not be the end of his time in the political spotlight.

In the 2016 election, Murphy had planned on riding a Hillary Clinton wave and nabbing Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat, extending his political career in Washington. Instead, Murphy got shot down not only by Rubio's own victorious campaign but by an unrealized level of support for Donald Trump that prevented Clinton from winning Florida and the White House.

In what appears to be Murphy's first media interview since Election Day, the 33-year-old Jupiter resident told his hometown newspaper, The Palm Beach Post, that he's not ruling out future jobs in public service when he leaves Congress in January.

He told The Post he plans to, for now, "focus on the private sector" but "I've made it clear to all my friends and supporters that I do have a desire to serve."

"I don't know how I'll feel in six months, maybe I'll feel different, I don’t know. But for sure I know I’m going to miss certain aspects of the job," said Murphy, who has represented northern Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast in Congress for the past four years.

When The Post asked Murphy specifically about the upcoming 2018 governor's race, Murphy said: "I'm certainly not going to rule anything out. I want to keep all options on the table and I want to just see how I'm feeling, see how the political environment is, see the issues people are talking about."

Read The Post's full story here, in which Murphy also reflects on Trump's victory driven by passionate support that Murphy described as "an undercurrent that I didn't see."

On Tuesday in a farewell speech on the floor of the U.S. House, Murphy said it's "been the honor of a lifetime" to represent Florida's 18th Congressional District, and he reflected on his accomplishments since he first took office in 2013.

Photo credit: Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy gives his concession speech following his loss to Sen. Marco Rubio at the Palm Beach Gardens Marriott in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. Jim Rassol/Sun Sentinel via AP

November 22, 2016

Negron, Corcoran now officially in charge of Florida Legislature

Cx4yeUfXgAAwDEB

@stevebousquet @MaryEllenKlas @ByKristenMClark

Under new leadership, the Florida Legislature entered a strange new world Tuesday as the House speaker condemned the entrenched power of lobbyists and called for major changes in spending sure to be opposed by the Senate and Gov. Rick Scott.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, described a Capitol controlled by lobbyists and politically-wired vendors, with lawmakers doing their bidding at the expense of taxpayers.

“Too many bills filed in session are given to members by lobbyists and special interests,” Corcoran said. “Too many lobbyists see themselves as the true power brokers of this process. Too many appropriations projects are giveaways to vendors and the decision of whether they get in the budget has more to do with their choice of lobbyist than the merits of the project … It all ends, and it all ends today.”

But it won’t all end as easily as it sounds.

Despite Corcoran’s zeal for reforming the process of lawmaking, he controls only one side of the Capitol. The Senate, led by Republican Joe Negron of Stuart, has very different ideas.

More here.

Photo credit: Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

November 21, 2016

Oscar Braynon, Lauren Book named Florida Senate Democrats' top leaders

SP_407425_KEEL_11_FLGOV

@ByKristenMClark

A longtime legislator from Miami Gardens will lead the Democrats of the Florida Senate for the next two years.

Sen. Oscar Braynon’s ascension to Senate minority leader was made official Monday evening in advance of Tuesday’s organizational session for the 2016-18 Legislature. He’s now in charge of a 15-member Democratic caucus, of which 11 are newly elected senators.

“I’m happy to be taking on that role,” Braynon said. “We’re going to have a bunch of blank slates when it comes to what happens in the Senate. There’s a lot of potential there.”

One of those newcomers is freshman Broward County Sen. Lauren Book, whom the Democratic caucus also unanimously elected as Braynon’s No. 2 in the role of Senate Democratic leader pro tempore.

Book, of Plantation, is a prominent advocate for victims of childhood sexual abuse and the founder and CEO of Aventura-based Lauren’s Kids. She is also the daughter of powerful Tallahassee lobbyist Ron Book, whom she called “her best friend, rock and mentor.”

Although the Republican majority in the Senate will drive the agenda, Braynon said his goal as minority leader is to continue pushing for Democratic priorities, such as equal pay for women and raising the minimum wage, protecting the environment, improving access to health care and strengthening public education.

Read more.

Photo credit: Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

Florida Legislature's leadership for 2016-18 includes major Miami-Dade influence

OT_402078_KEEL_7_flgov (2)

@ByKristenMClark

For the next two years and potentially beyond, lawmakers representing Miami-Dade County are poised to wield extreme influence in the Florida Legislature — the likes of which they haven’t had in a decade or more.

At least seven Miami-Dade legislators — and potentially a few more yet to be announced — will hold powerful leadership positions from now through 2018 under incoming Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes.

These roles should ensure Miami-Dade’s mark on everything from school choice measures and gambling regulations to which local projects get funding priority.

The 2016-18 Legislature will be sworn in Tuesday during a one-day organizational session, when Negron and Corcoran will also formally take over as chamber leaders.

Both the new Senate president and House speaker have chosen Republican women from Miami as their top lieutenants: Sen. Anitere Flores and Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, respectively.

Below them will be a slew of committee chairs from Miami-Dade, too, who will have the ability — particularly in the House — to hold sway over statewide policy and the purse strings of the state’s $82 billion budget.

Among those chairs is Miami Lakes Republican Rep. Jose Oliva, who Corcoran named leader of the powerful House Rules and Policy Committee. Oliva is also what his Miami colleagues call the “speaker in waiting,” poised to succeed Corcoran as head of the chamber two years from now.

For local residents, these positions of influence for Miami-Dade legislators mean the senators and representatives they elected — especially the Republican ones, since that party holds the majority in both chambers — will be among the key decision-makers in Tallahassee with the ability to put the county’s needs and priorities at the forefront for possibly years to come.

“It’s access to where decisions get made,” Nuñez said. “We really are in a unique position and our citizens are the better for it.”

More here.

Photo credit: Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

November 17, 2016

Miami-Dade declares Asencio finished ahead by 53 votes, but Rivera challenges result

via @glenngarvin

The recount of the nip-and-tuck legislative race between Democrat Robert Asencio and Republican David Rivera ended Thursday with Asencio 53 votes ahead — but even before the last ballot was checked, Rivera officially contested the election, a move that will likely delay the naming of a victor for weeks or even months.

After 10 hours counting ballots, the Miami-Dade County elections department declared that Asencio finished with 31,412 votes and Rivera 31,359 — a margin 15 votes closer than when the recount began.

The race was so close it actually triggered two recounts — the first by machine, and the second a hand-examination of ballots the machines thought were marked with votes for too many candidates or too few.

And it may get even tighter. Rivera’s lawyers asked elections officials to impound about 300 disputed ballots — mostly absentee ballots on which the voter’s signature was either missing or ruled not to match signatures in elections department records.

“We’ve already got affidavits from 59 of those voters saying they legitimately voted by mail and cast their ballots for me,” said Rivera, noting that would be enough to tip the election the other way.

More here.

November 14, 2016

Florida Senate already critical of Corcoran plan to 'shut down' budget

The ink wasn't dry on incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran's rewrite of House rules and the Senate's first reaction was not positive -- the first of what will be many signs that his new way of doing things will cause a major stir in the Capitol.

Corcoran's 117-page rewrite of House rules is a manifesto for many changes to the status quo in Tallahassee. What has drawn much early media attention is his insistence on less interaction between lawmakers and lobbyists, such as a texting and email ban during floor sessions and committee meetings.

But a far-reaching change that could set the tone for the entire 2017 session is Corcoran's creation of an entirely new system for getting local projects funded in future state budgets. The new rules require that every project paid for with one-time or nonrecurring money also be filed as stand-alone bills by March 7, the first day of the session, meaning each one must be debated on its merits and they can no longer be tucked inside a mammoth spending plan in the final days.

Corcoran's counterpart for the next two years, Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, is, like Corcoran, a budget wonk. Negron has been chairman of the appropriations committees in both chambers and is a sealous protector of the Senate's spending prerogatives that now must respect the House's rigid timetable. Negron flatly disputed Corcoran's contention that the House plan increases budget transparency.

"I respect the right of the House to produce its own rules on the budget, and I certainly think that there's a case to be made that there should be an opportunity for the public to be heard," Negron told the Times/Herald. "But the budget process should not be shut down before the session starts. That results in less public input, not more public input."

Another new layer of spending scrutiny will soon emerge from the House.

Corcoran and his staff are putting the final touches on a survey questionnaire that every group seeking money for projects will have to complete. The survey, with about 40 questions, requires information on who's registered to lobby for the project, what services will be provided to citizens and whether financially disadvantaged Floridians will benefit.

November 11, 2016

With state order, machine recount for Asencio-Rivera House race set for Monday

@ByKristenMClark

As expected, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner has ordered a machine recount in a tight race between Democrat Robert Asencio and Republican David Rivera for Miami-Dade County's House District 118 seat.

In unofficial results, Asencio edged Rivera by just 68 votes -- a tenth of a percentage point. State law requires automatic recounts when results are within a half of a percentage point.

More here.