November 21, 2016

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 15, 2016

66 new Florida lawmakers arrive in Tallahassee for training

Capitol

@ByKristenMClark

A week after Florida voters elected them, 66 new state lawmakers -- who make up 40 percent of the entire Legislature -- will be in Tallahassee on Tuesday for training and orientation.

More than a third of the 120-member House and half of the 40-member Senate are new to their legislative seats for 2017. Many have held elected office before (even within the Legislature itself), but for several, this is their first foray into public service.

Over the next two days, freshmen House members will learn the basics of legislating and the essentials for navigating the Capitol itself. Sessions range from "Introduction to State Government" and lessons in ethics, open meetings and public records to "How to Fill Out your Committee Preference Form" and "What to Expect in Your First Term."

Incoming senators will have similar training, too, although they're only in town for one day.

Among the 46 freshmen House members, there are expected to be 24 Republicans and 22 Democrats -- the second-largest freshman class in the Florida House's history. (There were 63 new members in 2000.) The final partisan breakdown depends on the outcome of a recount for a Miami-Dade House seat, in which Democrat Robert Acensio led Republican David Rivera by 68 votes in initial Election Day results.

Two of the freshmen House members are recently experienced in the Legislature having moved from the Senate back to the House with Tuesday's election: Palm Beach County Democrat Joe Abruzzo and Rockledge Republican Thad Altman.

In the Senate, 20 are freshmen -- the largest freshmen class in the chamber's history, with 11 Democrats and nine Republicans. At least a dozen are recently former representatives promoted by voters last week to the Legislature's upper chamber.

All 160 lawmakers will return to Tallahassee next week for the organizational session on Nov. 22, during which they'll be sworn in to their new terms in office.

Times/Herald co-bureau chief Steve Bousquet contributed to this report.

Photo credit: Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau

November 03, 2016

Legislative candidates who don't live in district they're seeking can't vote for themselves

Ap_flores2@ByKristenMClark

When she votes this fall, veteran Miami Republican lawmaker Anitere Flores might not be able to vote for herself.

Because if she votes in her current precinct, the ballot she receives will have neither her name nor her District 39 Florida Senate race on it. It will list the District 40 race instead.

The same goes for House District 103 candidate Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich, a Doral Democrat in her first bid for public office. Rather than seeing her own name on a ballot for the first time, she’ll see candidates for House District 116 if she votes in the precinct she’s assigned to now.

That’s because Flores and Gonzalez Petkovich — along with five other legislative candidates in Miami-Dade — don’t currently live in and aren’t registered to vote in the district that they’re seeking to represent.

The Herald/Times identified the seven candidates — one Republican (Flores) and six Democrats — through an analysis of current voter registration records. These candidates make up 20 percent of the 34 candidates competing for Miami-Dade legislative seats this fall.

More here.

Photo credit: AP

October 21, 2016

Rivera plays the Rubio card

FullSizeRender (21)
@PatriciaMazzei

Trying to capitalize on his most famous political friend, David Rivera sent Miami voters a new flier this week prominently featuring an old photograph with none other than Marco Rubio.

"Marco Rubio and David Rivera fighting together for a better future for our families," it reads, in Spanish. "Always by your side."

Rivera doesn't tout an explicit Rubio endorsement. But it certainly implies one.

Rubio, who is busy with his own reelection campaign to the U.S. Senate, hasn't endorsed anyone in Rivera's race. Rivera is vying to return to the state House, four years after losing his seat in Congress under a cloud of political scandal.

Ever since, Rubio has maintained a public distance from Rivera. They sold the house they jointly owned in Tallahassee last year, as Rubio embarked on his presidential candidacy. Earlier this year, Rivera quietly campaigned for Rubio in Iowa ahead of the first-in-the-nation caucuses. Rivera announced his candidacy the day after Rubio lost the Florida primary and dropped out of the race.

Rivera served as Rubio's rules chief when Rubio was Florida House speaker, and their friendship dates to long before then. The photo used in the flier shows both men when they were much younger, smiling and shaking hands in what appears to be the House floor.

This year, Rivera is embroiled in an ugly contest in House District 118 against Democrat Robert Asencio.

During the primary, Rubio's former rival, Jeb Bush, endorsed a Rivera opponent, Lynda Bell.

An earlier version of this post misstated the number of the district Rivera is seeking.

Obama endorses 13 Florida legislative candidates, including several in Miami-Dade races

@ByKristenMClark

President Barack Obama is supporting 13 Florida Democrats running for the state Legislature, the Florida Democratic Party announced this morning.

The list includes several high-profile candidates in highly competitive races -- many in Miami-Dade county.

Those include District 37 Senate candidate and current Miami state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez and District 39 candidate and political newcomer Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, of Pinecrest.

Both Rodriguez and Mucarsel-Powell are trying to unseat powerful Miami Republicans -- Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Anitere Flores, respectively -- and help Democrats narrow the Republicans' hold on the chamber majority.

On the House side, Obama also backed Miami-Dade legislative contenders Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich (challenging Hialeah Republican Manny Diaz Jr. in District 103); Nick Duran (running for Rodriguez's open seat in District 112 against Rosa Maria Palomino); Daisy Baez (running for the open District 114 seat against John Couriel); and Robert Asencio (who's in a bitter battle against former state Rep. David Rivera in District 118).

Many other Democrats also running against Republicans in Florida legislative districts weren't included in Obama's endorsement list, which is solely non-incumbents.

But noticeably absent from the list were state Sen. Dwight Bullard (who's running for re-election in District 40 in a heated race against state Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami) and District 38 Senate candidate and current state Rep. Daphne Campbell (who's running against former state Rep. Phillip Brutus).

Here is the full list of Florida legislative candidates Obama endorsed:

 

Continue reading "Obama endorses 13 Florida legislative candidates, including several in Miami-Dade races" »

October 12, 2016

Daphne Campbell sends, retracts fundraising email on official House account

HousePhotoOriginal5763

@ByKristenMClark

Prematurely describing herself as "New Senator Elect Daphne Campbell," the Miami Democratic state representative now seeking a state Senate seat accidentally sent out a fundraising invitation Wednesday afternoon on her official Florida House email account.

Campbell sent a follow-up email two hours later -- from a campaign email -- saying: "Please Ignore previous Email/Flyer which was sent by error from the State email by a Staff. See the corrected email ... Sorry for the error."

Both of Campbell's emails invited the recipient to join "the only Democratic nominee" for Senate District 38 for a fundraiser Wednesday night in Tallahassee. The event for Campbell was to be hosted by Oscar Braynon -- a Miami Gardens senator who will be the Senate Democrats' next leader.

At this point in the election cycle, all races have only one candidate from any political party. Florida's Aug. 30 primary determined party contenders for the general election.

With 31 percent of the vote, Campbell won a six-way primary to become the Democratic nominee in the District 38 race. But she's not guaranteed to be the "New Senator Elect" yet, as she called herself in the "From" line at the top of both emails.

Campbell faces former Democratic state Rep. Phillip Brutus on the Nov. 8 ballot. Brutus, of North Miami, is running as a no-party affiliated candidate in this election.

Neither candidate has raised much money this cycle, compared to other Miami-Dade state Senate races, which have attracted hundreds of thousands of dollars. As of Sept. 30 -- the most recent reporting date -- Campbell had raised about $100,000 so far this cycle and had about $4,400 in the bank. Meanwhile, Brutus had raised $12,300 -- in addition to $12,500 he's loaned his campaign -- and he'd spent about $11,400.

The winner will replace longtime state Sen. Gwen Margolis, who is retiring. The newly redrawn coastal District 38 roughly stretches from the MacArthur Causeway to the Broward County line and from the ocean to I-95.

Photo credit: State Rep. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami, in 2015. myfloridahouse.gov

*This post has been updated to correct Brutus' fundraising figures.

October 01, 2016

Ties to 'hemp honey dust,' cannabis lubricants have Miami-Dade Democrat under fire

Gonzalez petkovich

@ByKristenMClark

A Democratic legislative candidate in Miami-Dade County was previously a legal adviser to a company called Canna Teaze that marketed cannabis-infused sexual wellness products — like “hemp honey dust” and lubricants — but Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich says it’s a “dirty mischaracterization” for her Republican critics to use that job experience as a way to question her values.

Gonzalez Petkovich, an attorney from Doral who’s running for Florida House District 103, told the Miami Herald’s editorial board that she’s “very proud of the work and the help that I offered” to Canna Teaze but said she no longer represents the company because its founder, Misty Lee, moved out of state.

Gonzalez Petkovich said she met Lee two years ago when Gonzalez Petkovich was advocating for a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana in Florida. Gonzalez Petkovich — who is the registered agent and a board member of the Florida-based awareness group, CannaMoms — said she passionately supports the use of medical marijuana because “I really and truly believe that this is medicine.”

Her involvement in Canna Teaze “was just in my capacity as an attorney helping [Lee] seek investment for this particular project that she wanted to pursue,” Gonzalez Petkovich told the editorial board Thursday.

More here.

Photo credit: Gonzalez Petkovich campaign

September 30, 2016

Corcoran plans to re-structure Florida House committees

OT_402078_KEEL_6_flgov

@ByKristenMClark

Incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, on Friday announced his plans to shake-up the chamber's committees once he assumes the top leadership role in November.

Corcoran also said he'll announce his leadership team -- including speaker pro-tempore, majority leader and the chairpersons of main committees -- by Nov. 9, the day after the fall election.

The new committee structure calls for, overall, a couple fewer committees than the 2015-16 sessions, with a bit more emphasis on education and many changes to committee names and which subcommittee reports to which full committee.

For instance, Corcoran is splitting the education budget subcommittee into two: One focused on higher education and the other focused on pre-K-12. And he's re-working the K-12 subcommittees from "Choice & Innovation" and "K-12" into the Pre-K-12 "Innovation" and "Quality" committees.

Other changes: The "Finance & Tax Committee" will become the "Ways & Means Committee," and several committees and subcommittees will be lumped into two main policy areas, the newly named Commerce and Government Accountability committees.

Also, instead of having a Rules, Calendar & Ethics Committee with its own subcommittee, Corcoran is splitting them into two main committees: Public Integrity & Ethics and Rules & Policy.

The structure for the Judiciary and Health & Human Services committees and subcommittees will remain the same.

The organizational session for the 2017 Legislature will convene on Nov. 22.

Photo credit: Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

September 29, 2016

Gonzalez Petkovich challenges Diaz to debate in Miami-Dade House race

@ByKristenMClark

Democrat Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich says Republican incumbent state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. should debate her before voters start casting ballots in their District 103 House race.

Gonzalez Petkovich sent a letter to Diaz this week, challenging him to a "series of open debates to ensure that the people of District 103 have a full opportunity to hear our viewpoints and understand the real differences in our visions for the future of this state." Read the letter here.

Gonzalez Petkovich's campaign said the only scheduled debate is supposed to be Friday night but Diaz declined the invitation.

"His actions subvert the intent of having an informed electorate and hurts his constituents’ abilities to know where he stands on the issues when voters go the polls on Election Day," her campaign said Thursday evening, when announcing Gonzalez Petkovich's challenge to Diaz.

Diaz's campaign declined to comment.

Gonzalez Petkovich -- an attorney who lives in a part of Doral that lies just outside District 103 -- is making her first bid for public office. Diaz, of Hialeah, is seeking re-election to a third term in the Florida House and could be among House leadership, if he's re-elected.

District 103 is heavily Hispanic with a moderate voting bloc. The district includes parts of Hialeah, Miramar, Doral, Miami Lakes, Medley and Hialeah Gardens.

Vote-by-mail ballots go out Oct. 4.

Hialeah Republican: Who I support for president is not important to Florida House race

Manny diaz 2016 flhouse

@ByKristenMClark

Add Manny Diaz Jr. to the list of Miami-Dade Republicans who are reluctant or noncommittal about supporting Donald Trump when they have their own political campaigns to win this fall.

During an interview with the Miami Herald's editorial board this morning, Diaz -- an influential state representative from Hialeah -- wouldn't say whether he's voting for Trump in November.

Like some other area Republicans have, Diaz pivoted on the topic by saying he's "not involved in the presidential campaign" and is, instead, focused on his own bid for re-election.

"Either way, I just think we make the mistake too many times of turning these races into a proxy war and it's not," said Diaz, who's in line to be among House leadership next session if he wins his competitive re-election fight against Democratic newcomer Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich.

"I represent the people of District 103 at the state level with state issues," Diaz said. "And it doesn't matter if either one of these people wins the presidency, I'm going to have to do the same job and it's not going to make my job any easier or harder when it comes to representing my community."

The District 103 seat is heavily Hispanic with a moderate voting bloc. The district includes parts of Hialeah, Miramar, Doral, Miami Lakes, Medley and Hialeah Gardens.

"I don't think my vote -- whether I'm voting for Trump or not -- is important in this race," Diaz told the editorial board. "I just think it's important that my constituents know what I'm going to do, where I stand for them and not where I stand on the presidential race. I think it's up to them to make up their mind, clearly, on who they think their best choice for president is -- but my race is different and it has different issues that we need to deal with."

Diaz is one of the House Democrats' prime targets this fall, because if re-elected, he could wield significant power over either education policy or education spending in the 2017 session. An administrator at Doral College, Diaz is a staunch supporter of charter schools and other school-choice policies, which many Democrats argue take resources away from traditional public schools.

Photo credit: myfloridahouse.gov