Drew Wilson - 6/30 - SaintPetersBlog

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for SaintPetersBlog and FloridaPolitics.com. While at the University of Florida, Wilson was an editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and after graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to cover business deals for The Hollywood Reporter. Before joining Extensive Enterprises, Wilson covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools.

Adam Putnam says Chuck Clemons ‘clearly best choice’ in HD 21 race

Chuck Clemons has picked up the endorsement of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the three-way Republican Primary for House District 21.

“I am proud to endorse my friend, Chuck Clemons, for the Florida House,” Putnam said. “Over the course of our 20-year friendship, I have always known him to be a steady and committed conservative with strong leadership skills. His professional experience and deep roots in the community clearly make him the best choice to serve the residents of District 21.”

Clemons is running against Republican businesswoman Wenda Lewis and pharmacist Tim Rogers in the primary race for HD 21, currently held by Republican Rep. Keith Perry, who is running for the District 8 seat in the Florida Senate.

“Commissioner Putnam is truly a distinguished Florida leader,” Clemons said. “I am honored to have his support, and I look forward to working with him to address Florida’s pressing challenges like creating more jobs and protecting the natural resources that are so vital to our state.”

Through the June 24 reporting period, the Santa Fe College administrator had about $93,000 in his campaign account, putting him behind Lewis’ $153,000 on hand, which includes $100,000 in loans. Rogers, the last GOP candidate to file, had about $7,300 on hand through the same date.

The HD 21 electorate includes a significant portion of Gainesville’s student population and has a strong Democratic advantage in voter registrations, though that advantage doesn’t show up at the polls.

Perry’s three House elections featured double-digit wins over Democrat Andrew Morey in 2012 and Jon Uman in 2014, and his successor will likely emerge from the Republican Primary, though Democrat Marihelen Wheeler and a pair of write-in candidates are also running for the seat in 2016.

Wheeler had about $4,700 on hand through June 24, while Ryan Dyson and Richard Swilley, both of whom filed June 23, have yet to show any contributions for their campaigns.

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Without opposition, Richard Corcoran has big June, committee raises $40K

Incoming Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran raised $53,000 across his campaign and committee accounts last month, according to newly filed campaign finance reports.

Corcoran, who won re-election without opposition a week ago, raised $13,000 for his campaign and another $40,000 for his political committee, Florida Roundtable, between June 1 and June 24.

The bulk of the committee money came in through a $25,000 contribution from GOPAC Election Fund, a Republican national committee chaired by David Avella, which describes itself as “educating and electing a new generation of Republican leaders.”

Florida Roundtable also brought in $5,000 each from Coastal QSR, Florida Bells and Southeast QSR, all three of which are associated with Clearwater businessman and restaurateur Nicholas Peters.

Corcoran’s direct campaign contributions came in across 15 checks, including 11 for the campaign maximum of $1,000. Among the June donors were attorney and former Democratic House Speaker H. Lee Moffit, the Ford Motor Company Civic Action Fund and lobbying mega-firm Greenberg Traurig.

Despite spending more than he brought in last month, the third-term Pasco County representative finished the reporting period with nearly $80,000 on hand in his campaign account and another $653,000 on hand in his committee.

Corcoran was briefly opposed this cycle by Republican Ronson Biedrzycki, though he failed to get any traction in fundraising and formally dropped out of the race in May.

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Study finds 2016’s most patriotic states

Virginia, Alaska and South Carolina topped the “2016 Most Patriotic States” list released Tuesday by website WalletHub, while Florida came in below the Mendoza line.

The list ranks states on both military engagement and civic engagement, with heavy emphasis put on how many residents joined the military in 2014, the percentage of the electorate that made it to the polls in 2012 and how much residents volunteer.

Scoring also includes metrics such as how frequently a state’s residents Google search images of the American flag – worth 1.61 points out of a possible 100 in the final score.

In the final tally, Florida came in at No. 28 with an overall “patriotism score” of 44.67 points, a measly 0.08 points off No. 27 Kentucky and nearly 25 points below No. 1 Virginia.

Florida’s military engagement numbers were the tenth best on the list, boosted by a top-5 performance in military enlistment, though the Sunshine State’s civic engagement score placed a lowly 44th due to a bottom-5 performance in volunteering.

Overall, WalletHub found GOP-leaning states fared better in scoring, with the average red state ranking around 22nd while the average blue state came in at 28th.

For a full rundown of scoring methodology, and to see the top- and bottom-5 states in each category, check out the full list.

Source: WalletHub
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Gwen Graham celebrates July 4th by sponsoring bipartisan ‘Made-In-America Flag’ bill

U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham got into the Independence Day spirit Friday by co-sponsoring a bill to ensure the federal government only purchases flags made in America.

“There’s no better time than the Fourth of July to remind us how important the American Flag is to our nation,” the North Florida Democrat said. “This common-sense, bipartisan legislation would require the federal government only purchase American flags made in America. It’s the right thing to do to honor the founding fathers who declared our independence and all those who have fought to keep us free.”

HR 916 was introduced in the U.S. House earlier this year by Illinois Democratic U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos and has drawn cosponsorship from 105 representatives, including 22 Republicans and 83 Democrats.

Outside of Graham, Florida Republicans Daniel Webster, Ted Yoho, Bill Posey, as well as Democrats Corrine Brown, Kathy Castor, Lois Frankel, Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy, have signed on to Bustos’ bill as co-sponsors.

The bill would require the federal government to purchase only flags that contain 100 percent American-made materials and which are entirely manufactured in the U.S., while current law allows the government to buy flags composed of 50-percent American-made materials.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Census Data, $4 million worth of American Flags were imported into the U.S. in 2013, with $3.9 million of those flags coming from China.

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New report suggests ways government efficiency can save Florida taxpayers billions

The Florida Government Efficiency Task Force released a 29-point report Thursday that it said could produce billions in annual savings for Florida taxpayers.

“These 29 recommendations, if implemented, will lead to over $2 billion in cost-savings for the taxpayers of Florida as well as improving the functions of our state government,” said Task Force Chairman John Alexander. “I strongly urge the Florida Legislature to enact these recommendations and Governor Scott to approve them so that together we can ensure that our state remains the best state in the Union to live, work and play.”

According to the report, the biggest savings — between $269 million and $448 million a year — would come from the state paying a lower percentage of public employee health insurance premiums.

Currently, public employees receiving single health insurance coverage pay $25 biweekly for health insurance while the state pays about $300 biweekly. Employees pay a slightly higher share of spousal and family plans, though the state is on the hook for more money as well, GETF said.

GETF also recommended reinstituting matching funds programs for large donations to state colleges and universities which it said would save $179 million a year, and added that the Legislature opening up telehealth services in the state could save private businesses more than $13 billion while sidestepping future costs for the state.

Nonpartisan watchdog Florida TaxWatch praised the report in a Friday email, with the group’s president and GETF board member Dominic Calabro saying “the implementation of these recommendations would markedly improve the way government works and should save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.”

“The savings realized by implementing these recommendations could be reinvested in our children’s education, reforming our justice system, improving health care outcomes for those in need, economic development and a myriad of other crucial policy issues that need attention,” he said.

The report also includes a half dozen criminal justice recommendations which mostly align with a report put out by Taxwatch in May, including amending sentencing laws, expanding work release programs and diverting low-level nonviolent offenders. GETF estimates the state could save at least $111 million a year by following its criminal justice recommendations.

The full list of recommendations, which GETF said could save the state between $2 billion and $12 billion a year, is available here.

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Barbecues, fireworks and travel boost expected Independence Day spending to record $7 billion

Consumers are expected to spend more than $7 billion celebrating Independence Day this year according to a new survey released by the National Retail Federation.

The total slightly edges out 2015’s record-setting numbers, when consumers spent an average of $71.23 celebrating the holiday.

“Floridians will celebrate Independence Day this year by spending in record numbers, making it potentially a very prosperous holiday weekend for our retailers statewide,” said Florida Retail Federation President and CEO Randy Miller. “Low gas prices, nice weather, and a healthy state economy all add up to a fun and successful celebration for consumers and retail business owners.”

According to the survey, two-thirds of respondents plan to attend a cookout or barbecue this weekend, while 43 percent say they will watch fireworks or go to another community event, and one-in-eight say they will attend a parade.

While much of the spending this weekend will be for party supplies and food to throw on the grill, NRF said a quarter of those polled are planning to pick up something patriotic, whether it be themed apparel, decorations or an American flag.

The survey also found 13 percent of respondents plan to head out of town for the holiday, and only 21 percent of them said gas prices would affect their plans, down 1 percent from 2015 and down 26 percent from five years ago.

The NRF survey brought in 6,811 responses from consumers and was conducted from June 1 through June 7. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

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Low gas prices, airfare lead to expected record July 4 travel numbers

Low prices on gas and plane tickets could lead to the highest Independence Day travel volume on record according to the AAA Auto Club Group.

“Independence Day is always the most-traveled holiday of the summer, but this year it will be bigger than ever, primarily because of low gas prices,” said Joseph J. Richardson Jr., President and CEO of the Auto Club Group. “Airports will be just as crowded as the roads because low fuel prices are making it more affordable to fly. If fundamentals remain the same, this could be a record-breaking year for summertime travel.”

The group expects nearly 43 million Americans to travel over the holiday travel period, which it defines as June 30 through July 4. The number in an increase of about 600,000 travelers over last year, and would top the current record of 42.3 million travelers back in 2007.

More than 36 million travelers are expected to drive to their destination this year, and 3.3 million are projected to fly, while a boost in cruise trip bookings accounts for the rest of expected travel volume.

Drivers will see the lowest prices at the pump in more than a decade, the group said, with the average national price clocking in at $2.31 a gallon – 46 cents less than last year’s July 4 average and $1.35 less than the average two years ago.

“The average motorist has saved about $100 on gasoline so far this year compared to the first six months of 2015,” said Auto Club Group spokesman Mike Jenkins. “These low gas prices, combined with rising wages, are helping boost disposable income, making travel more affordable. Gas prices for the rest of the year are forecast to remain lower than last year, unless oil prices take an unexpected upward turn.”

Plane tickets and hotel rooms are also cheaper on average than a year ago, with the average roundtrip ticket costing passengers $207 – 9 percent less than last year. AAA Three Diamond Rated hotels will average $185, and a AAA Two Diamond Rated hotel will average $144 nightly. The price drops didn’t head to rental cars, however, which AAA said will cost slightly more than last year at $75 a day.

Jenkins said roadways and airports will be busiest Friday and Monday afternoons and that drivers can avoid some of the congestion by hitting the road in the morning, while those traveling by plan should plan to arrive at the airport at least two hours early to account for longer security lines.

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Retailers expect record Father’s Day spending in Florida

Father’s Day spending is poised to hit a record high according to a new survey released by the National Retail Federation.

“Father’s Day serves as an informal kickoff to the summer shopping season, and we expect it to be a record-setting start statewide,” said Florida Retail Federation President/CEO Randy Miller. “More Florida families are feeling better about their economic situation, which bodes well for dads, in terms of receiving gifts, and for retailers who can expect increased sales.”

According to the survey, shoppers are expected to spend an average of $125.92 celebrating the holiday, up substantially from the $115.57 average last year.

The boost is expected to bring total Father’s Day to $14.3 billion, which marks the highest total in the survey’s 13-year history. More than half of those polled said they will be shopping for their father or stepfather, while 28 percent said they would be shopping for their husband and 9 percent said they would pick up a gift for their son.

Restaurant meals will account for $3.1 billion of total Father’s Day spending, with nearly half of survey respondents saying they plan to take dad out to dinner this weekend. Another two in five respondents said they planned to pick up clothes or gift cards for the fathers in their lives, while about 20 percent said they planned to surprise dad with something electronic.

As with Mother’s Day, the most common purchase is expected to be greeting cards. About two-thirds of those polled plan to pick one up for Father’s Day for an estimated $833 million in sales.

The retail trade group also found 22 percent of gift givers planned to purchase “gifts of experience,” such as tickets to a concert or sporting event. The trend has picked up in recent years, and millennials are twice as likely to give an experience as older generations.

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Tampa ‘hackathon’ creates 3 apps in fight against homelessness

A weekend “hackathon” that tasked coders with designing solutions to help the bay area homeless produced a trio of apps, the Tampa Innovation Alliance announced Monday.

“We have made magnificent progress with the work that the volunteer coders did at this year’s hackathon,” said Tampa Innovation Alliance Executive Director Mark Sharpe. “This new tech is going to make it easier for Tampa’s homeless to access resources and streamline the work done by agencies trying to help.”

The Gimme Shelter Hackathon for Homelessness brought in about 40 coders who spent at least 18 hours each from Friday night to Sunday afternoon working on a half dozen projects outlined by event organizers.

“The planning that went into the modules we offered the coding teams paid off when the projects came back,” Sharpe said. “The agencies that work with the homeless population were the key to making sure we had useful projects to tackle.”

The top team, sponsored by Bloomin’ Brands, developed a smartphone app to help the homeless population more easily find resources such as shelters and soup kitchens. TIA said the application was a dire need in the homeless community, where up to 85 percent of those without a permanent home use smartphones.

Second prize went to a team, sponsored by Accusoft, which developed a web-based survey to replace paper surveys used by agencies tasked with counting and understanding Tampa’s homeless population.

The event also saw USF’s schools of Engineering and Social Work team up on an Android application to help locate homeless shelters. The collaboration marks the university’s first-ever Social Technology Initiative.

The Gimme Shelter Hackathon was part of the National Civic Day of Hacking and was hosted by Tampa’s Crossover Church. In addition to the coders, 20 additional volunteers stayed the weekend at the church to help the event run smoothly, and Tampa’s Food Truck Rally was on hand to keep coders and volunteers fed with complementary meals.

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Consumers for Smart Solar forks over $6.5M in ad buys last month, contributions slow

The committee backing an amendment adding solar power rules to the state constitution spent more than $6.5 million on ad buys last month as contributions slowed to a trickle.

According to the May report, Consumers for Smart Solar forked over more than three-quarters of its war chest to Virginia-based firm National Media Research, Planning and Placement for a campaign supporting the amendment.

The massive outflow of funds was met with just a single $5,000 contribution, leaving the committee with just over $2 million in the bank heading into June. Back in April, the committee raised more than $8.5 million.

Other expenses last month included a $37,250 payment to Winter Park-based Consensus Communications for consulting and web hosting services, and a $7,500 each for Bascom Communications and Screven Watson & Associates for communications consulting.

Though polling shows voter support for the amendment, Smart Solar critics have said the utility-backed plan would shift control of solar power in the state from rooftop solar owners to energy companies.

The amendment, which will go before voters in November, needs 60 percent support to pass.

 

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