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Staff Reports

Vern Buchanan honors Memorial Day by laying wreath at Tomb of Unknown Soldier

In honor of Memorial Day, Vern Buchanan laid a wreath Friday at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

Joining the Sarasota Republican, who represents Florida’s 16th Congressional District, was his wife Sandy.

“America must never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their country,’’ Buchanan said. “Our nation owes a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid to the brave men and women of our armed forces.”

Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia is the final resting place for more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans and their families.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, on a hill overlooking Washington D.C., was created in 1921 as a monument to American service members whose remains were never identified.

Soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” guard the tomb 24 hours a day.

“The United States stands strong today because of those who answered our nation’s call generation after generation,” Buchanan said. “We must never forget those who gave all. This Memorial Day, we honor all American veterans killed in action, from the sands of Normandy to the mountains of Afghanistan.”


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Tampa Bay Rowdies in 1-1 draw against Saint Louis

Neill Collins thumped a header over the line in the 87th minute to give the Tampa Bay Rowdies a 1-1 draw Saturday night against Saint Louis FC at Al Lang Stadium.

Tampa Bay (6-3-3 (W-T-L), 21 points) trailed for much of the second half after Jose Angulo’s 59th-minute free kick goal, but Collins stepped up to rescue the Rowdies a point by burying a Michael Nanchoff corner kick at the near post.

It was a testy match that had very little flow. Thirty fouls were called and eight yellow cards were dished out in a tight battle.

“It was a little frustrating tonight,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “The guys showed great resilience. We conceded a goal against the run of play when I thought we were going to score. We were on top, dominating and looking dangerous and then they had a moment of brilliance from (Angulo.) We responded well because it would have been easy for the guys to feel sorry for themselves with some of the decisions that went against us. The guys didn’t. They kept going and got the goal they deserved.”

The Rowdies dominated for most of the first half with lots of possession in the Saint Louis (3-3-3, 12 points) 18-yard box, but the cutting edge wasn’t quite there.

Rowdies captain Joe Cole had the first great scoring chance of the night in the 13th minute, taking a free kick from deep that looked bound for goal before a well-timed palm from Saint Louis goalkeeper Adam Grinwis to push it over the crossbar.

Saint Louis could’ve scored two minutes later when Christian Volesky led a swift counterattack into the Rowdies’ 18, but the sliding efforts of Darnell King, Tamika Mkandawire and Matt Pickens were enough to stamp out the chance.

The match went into halftime without a goal.

Tampa Bay stepped on the accelerator in the second half, with Alex Morrell taking a left-footed shot in the 50th minute that was saved by Grinwis.

The Rowdies shouted for a penalty kick in the 53rd minute when Cole was clipped as he received a pass 13 yards from goal, but the appeal was unsuccessful.

Leo Fernandes was whistled for a foul just outside the box in the 58th minute. Initially, Saint Louis was granted the advantage, but when Angulo lost the ball after a sloppy touch, the free kick was given.

Angulo would lift it over the wall and beat Pickens on his left-hand side to put the visitors ahead.

Despite playing their fifth game in 15 days, compared to Saint Louis playing for the first time since May 17, the Rowdies looked like the stronger side down the stretch.

Tampa Bay pushed for an equalizer and looked to be running out of time until King won the Rowdies a corner kick with a low cross in the 86th minute. One minute later, Nanchoff’s cross found the forehead of Collins for the equalizer.

“I thought we deserved the goal,” Collins said. “After a really tough week, it’s not the worst point. We’ve got to give (Saint Louis) credit. They’re a hard-working side and they came here with a good game plan and well rested, so it’s not the worst point in the world.”

Tampa Bay dominated statistically with 12 goals (four on goal) compared to three for Saint Louis. The Rowdies had 27 crosses, 22 more than Saint Louis.

The Rowdies return to Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play Wednesday night with a Third-Round match against the NASL’s Miami FC in South Florida. Tampa Bay’s next home game is June 10 the Rochester Rhinos.

Scoring Summary
Saint Louis – Jose Angulo – 58th minute
Rowdies – Neill Collins – 87th minute (Assisted by Michael Nanchoff)

Caution Summary
Rowdies: Leo Fernandes – 6th minute
Saint Louis: Wesley Charpie – 12th minute
Rowdies: Alex Morrell – 39th minute
Saint Louis: Emir Alihodzic – 41st minute
Saint Louis: Konrad Plewa – 55th minute
Rowdies: Darnell King -56th minute
Rowdies: Michael Nanchoff – 76th minute
Rowdies: Tamika Mkandawire – 82nd minute

Starting Lineups
Rowdies XI (4-2-3-1): GK Akira Fitzgerald; D Darnell King, Tamika Mkandawire, Neill Collins, Marcel Schäfer; M Michael Nanchoff, Keith Savage; M Alex Morrell (Darwin Jones 63′), Joe Cole (c), Leo Fernandes (Deshorn Brown 73′); F Martin Paterson (Georgi Hristov 67′)

Saint Louis XI (4-4-2): GK Adam Grinwis; D Wesley Charpie, Konrad Plewa, Aedan Stanley, Erick Cabalceta; M Sebastian Dalgard (Mats Bjurman 46′), Dragan Stojkov (c), Tony Walls, Emir Alihodzic; F Jose Angulo (Octavio Guzman 68′), Christian Volesky (Tyler David 62′)


Without Senate confirmation, Rick Scott reappoints 11 to state boards

After the Florida Senate failed to consider several names for confirmation before sine die of the 2017 Regular Session, Gov. Rick Scott announced 11 reappointments Thursday to various boards statewide.

Florida Prepaid College Board

Ambassador John Rood, 62, of Jacksonville, is the chair of the Vestcor Companies, Inc. He served as United States Ambassador to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas from 2004 through 2007. Rood previously served as a member of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Board of Governors of the State University System. He is reappointed for a term ending June 30, 2017.

Governing Board of the Northwest Florida Water Management District

Samuel “Bo” Spring, 41, of Port Saint Joe, is the managing member of Big Fish Construction LLC.

Jonathan Costello, 36, of Tallahassee, is a governmental consultant with Rutledge Ecenia P.A. and an adjunct professor at Florida State University.

Both reappointments are for a term ending March 1, 2020.

Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District

Daniel O’Keefe, 49, of Windermere, is an attorney with Shutts and Bowan LLP.

Federico Fernandez, 41, of Coral Gables, is an attorney with DiFalco and Fernandez LLP.

Both reappointments are for a term ending March 1, 2020.

Governing Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District

Michelle Williamson, 54, of Dover, is a manager at G & F Farms.

Bryan Beswick, 50, of Arcadia, is a grove manager with Premier Citrus Management LLC.

Mark C. Taylor, 58, of Brooksville, is the president of TTG Properties Inc.

Each reappointment is for a term ending March 1, 2020.

Governing Board of the St. Johns River Water Management District  

Douglas Bournique, 65, of Indian River, is the executive vice president of the Indian River Citrus League. He is reappointed for a term ending March 1, 2020.

State Retirement Commission  

Thomas Napier, 82, of Tallahassee, was a former special projects manager for the Clerk of Circuit Court of Leon County. He is reappointed for a term ending Dec. 31, 2020.

Board of Orthotists and Prosthetists

Paul Weott, 56, of Bradenton, is the owner of Orthotic and Prosthetic Centers, Inc. He is reappointed for a term ending Oct. 31, 2020.

Constitution Revision Commission will debate, vote on rules on June 6

The chairman of the Constitution Revision Commission has called a meeting of the full panel in Orlando on June 6 to debate and vote on a package of procedural rules.

Carlos Beruff said in a letter to members Friday that the panel’s rules committee had reached consensus in some, but not all, areas.

“In light of the extensive time required by the working group to continue its work and the likelihood that much of their discussion will need to be reiterated with the full commission, I think you will agree that consensus on rules must be achieved on an expedited timeline to ensure we can continue our very important commitment to Floridians,” Beruff wrote.

He imagined the meeting would last all day. His letter did not mention a venue.

“Any commissioner can propose an amendment to the rules. Each amendment will be taken up in the order in which it was filed and disposed of,” Beruff wrote.

The commission will take up the rules package the committee reviewed on March 20, adopting provisions by majority vote of those present. Amendments are due by Thursday.

“Because of staffing and technology limitations, floor amendments will not be permitted,” Beruff wrote.

Beruff proposed additional meetings through next May, the dates to be settled once the final rules are in place.

Earlier this month, 16 organizations, including the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, Florida Consumer Action Network, and unions, including Florida AFL-CIO, critiqued the proposed rules in a letter to the commission’s rules committee.

The groups warned the draft version could let members deliberate in secret, limit public participation, bottle up ideas in committee, or bog down debating proposals with little support.

Rick Scott: Florida GDP continues to outpace national growth rate

Florida’s gross domestic product grew by 3 percent last year, outpacing both the national rate of 1.5 percent and the other large states, Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday.

“This great news is further proof that our economy is booming and we must stay focused on continuing this growth so Florida can out compete other locations for jobs wins,” Scott said.

“While it is disappointing that the Legislature did not fully fund Florida’s economic development programs, we will keep fighting to make sure Florida businesses keep growing,” he said.

Florida lagged only behind Nevada and Utah in overall GDP growth. But the state has exceeded national growth for 61 consecutive months, Scott said.

The state added 36,600 jobs last year in the trade, transportation, and utilities sectors, more than any other state. It ranked second in construction, manufacturing, financial activities, and professional and business services.

Florida’s real GDP was $815.1 billion.

“Florida’s focus on business-friendly policies has allowed the state to soar past our competitor states’ job growth rates,” said Cissy Proctor, executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Rick Scott gets $178M serving of Florida TaxWatch ‘budget turkeys’

Thanksgiving is six months away, but Friday is “turkey” day for Gov. Rick Scott.

Florida TaxWatch, the nonpartisan government watchdog group, released its annual “Budget Turkey List,” of almost $178 million in line-item projects that are part of the $82.4 billion budget passed May 8 by the Florida House and Senate.

Budget Turkeys are individual line items added to the spending plans—usually last minute or in committee — without a thoughtful and thorough budget process. A “Turkey” label does not pass judgment on the project’s overall worthiness, does comment on the process. The purpose of the label is to make sure all projects using public funds are properly vetted.

“The result was that only a handful of projects made into the budget during conference. While falling short of the goal of no conference additions, this is still a very positive improvement, as projects being added in conference have become an epidemic,” the report says.

Even so, “with a few exceptions, committee hearings on member projects were pro forma, with very little discussion or debate,” the report continues.

The group is calling for Scott to veto the items when he signs the budget, expected within the next week.

For the 2017-18 fiscal year, which begins July 1, TaxWatch identified 111 budgetary Turkeys, suggesting around $177.8 million in savings.

“Budget Turkeys are items, usually local member projects, placed in individual line-items or accompanying proviso language that are added to the final appropriations bill without being fully scrutinized and subjected to the budget committee process or that circumvented established processes,” the organization said.

In the past 28 years, Florida governors vetoed more than $2 billion in projects that have appeared on the TaxWatch report. For example, in the first two years of Scott’s administration, the governor vetoed 70 percent of TaxWatch Turkeys for $244 million in savings.

Throughout the current state spending plan, Florida TaxWatch recognized surplus projects in a variety of state agencies, including the Department of Transportation, which had a majority with 79 projects (worth $139.4 million) that were not in the DoT Work Program.

The report says: “Because new appropriations rules resulted in many member projects being heard in committee and very few projects being added during the budget conference committee process, the budget contains approximately 600 additional member projects worth more than $425 million that do not qualify as Budget Turkeys.”

Among the TaxWatch 111 ‘turkeys’ worth $117.8 million: An engineering building for Florida International University worth $10 million. A $500,000 rodeo facility in Arcadia. Local transportation projects valued at $81.5 million.

The report credits budget rules pushed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran for keeping additional turkeys out of the budget. The rules required House members to file special requests and individual bills for every member project.

The Senate ultimately agreed upon joint rules barring projects not heard in committee for inclusion in the final budget.

“This rather cursory public review was expected, there is simply not enough time during Session to thoroughly debate each project when there are so many requested. This highlights the need for the establishment of more competitive review and selection processes that take place before the Legislature decides what to fund.”

Among its recommendations, the report suggests making the new project vetting process permanent. It also suggests extra scrutiny for categories given to abuse, including economic development, housing and community development, workforce, and water projects.

Personnel note: House Democrats staff-up for 2018 campaign cycle

Florida House Democrats are beefing up their campaign arm for next year’s elections, hiring a communications chief and operatives to begin work immediately.

Kionne McGhee, scheduled to become House leader following the 2018 elections, said it is “imperative” that Democrats “take back power” in the House.

“I’m pleased to welcome our new staff into the fray,” McGhee said in a written statement.

“They represent part of our bold, aggressive effort towards the critical elections ahead of us. Together, we will hold House Republicans accountable for their extreme policies that have ignored the voters’ will, degraded our environment, put our public schools on the back-burner, and hurt working families across Florida,” McGhee said.

Democratic House Victory’s new operatives include Reggie Cardozo, formerly of the Hillary for America Florida campaign and Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign. State party chairman Stephen Bittel added Cardozo to his staff following his selection in January. He will serve the House Democrats as a general consultant.

Janee Murphy, a political consultant from the Tampa area, former Democratic National Committee member, and former state party secretary, becomes a senior adviser.

Ryan Ray is the new communications director. He covered state government and politics for Florida Politics and the News Service of Florida and was a field director for Gwen Graham’s 2014 congressional campaign.

Scott Kosanovich is voter contact director. He was former Rep. Amanda Murphy‘s field director in 2013 and deputy organizing director for Hillary Clinton‘s Florida campaign.

Also joining the staff is Neil Spencer, a graduate student in politics and policy at Florida State University who organized campus Democrats for Bernie Sanders and served as a field organizer for the Clinton campaign in Pinellas County; and Alec Polansky, a recent FSU graduate and intern in the House Minority Office.

“I’m proud to support Leader-Designate McGhee’s talented team at House Victory,” sitting Democratic Leader Janet Cruz said. “I believe our vision combined with the team’s dedication and experience provides for the leadership needed to make gains in the Florida House.”

Rick Scott names John Tupps communications director

John Tupps is heading back to the Governor’s Office.

Gov. Rick Scott announced Thursday that Tupps would be returning to the Governor’s Office as his communications director beginning June 5. He will replace Jackie Schutz Zeckman, who has been tapped to serve as Scott’s chief of staff.

“John has demonstrated an incredible commitment to supporting our mission of making Florida the top destination for businesses, families and visitors,” said Scott in a statement. “I know John will use this experience and dedication each day to lead my communications efforts as we continue to fight for Florida jobs.”

Tupps, who worked in the governor’s press office from 2011 until 2016, currently serves as the vice president of government relations for Visit Florida. Before joining Visit Florida, he served as the deputy chief of staff at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. While in the Governor’s Office, Tupps served as a deputy press secretary, press secretary, and deputy communications director.

A graduate of the University of Tennessee, Tupps worked as producer for South Central Radio Group in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Scott announced earlier this month that Zeckman, the current communications director and longtime aide, will replace Kim McDougal as chief of staff beginning July 1. McDougal, a veteran state government employee, is leaving her post to pursue opportunities in the private sector, according to the Governor’s Office.

Automation marketing startup choosing downtown St. Pete as second home

A Pennsylvania-based startup is making St. Petersburg its second home, bringing 20 jobs.

MXTR Automation, a digital marketing and marketing automation firm, is choosing downtown St. Petersburg for a new location, to open in the next 18 months.

Currently, the company is leasing space in St. Pete’s Tec Garage innovation center on Second Avenue North. MXTR develops software programs to automate marketing for franchises and other businesses.

According to MXTR Co-Founder and President Mickey Locey, St. Pete’s robust workforce will help guarantee the company’s success. Front end developers and account managers will be among the first hired, he added.

“St. Petersburg will provide us access to one of the broadest and deepest talent pools in the country with a business-friendly tax environment. The lifestyle the downtown affords is exactly what we are looking for,” Locey said in a statement.

Founded in Williamsport, Pennsylvania in 2015, MXTR considered several other locations, including some in Florida, before choosing St. Petersburg.

“I couldn’t think of a better second home for MXTR. The technology and business ecosystems in St. Petersburg are truly second to none,” said MXTR founder Joe Mauro. “The concierge-level service provided by the EDC, City of St. Pete and Tec Garage have shown us just how great the opportunities are here.”

Mauro said what attracted MXTR was the city’s culture and its ability to draw highly skilled, creative talent as well as training and support offered by organizations such as the Greenhouse and the Iron Yard.

The Greenhouse is a collaboration between the City of St. Petersburg and St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce to promote innovation and economic growth. Iron Yard is a Tampa Bay area training and mentorship program for tech-focused education.

“St. Pete has become a community where creative, high-impact companies want to be,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. “MXTR’s decision to locate here shows, once again, that St. Pete is a great place for these highly sought-after companies. We are excited to continue to support the creation more jobs in this thriving city we are so proud of.”

Michael Vivio of the St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corporation points to the MXTR deal as proof of continued momentum for the city’s economic growth as part of the Grow Smarter Strategy. The EDC will continue working with the company to aid in expansion and development, he said.


DEO seeks applicants for grant opportunities

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) on Wednesday invited “communities across Florida to submit proposals for three grant funding opportunities for the upcoming fiscal year,” according to a press release.

The department “is committed to using our resources and tools to help all Florida communities and their residents flourish,” DEO Executive Director Cissy Proctor said in a statement. “These programs help communities strengthen infrastructure, enhance business development and improve their residents’ quality of life.”

The programs in question are:

The Competitive Florida Partnership Grant, a two-year program that “provides technical assistance and support to rural areas seeking to improve their communities through an asset-based economic development strategy.”

The Competitive Florida Economic Development Project Grant, which “provides funding that allows communities to pursue a specific economic development project or supplement an existing project.”

Community Planning Technical Assistance Grants, which “assist counties, municipalities and regional planning councils with Community Planning Act-related projects that benefit local governments.”

Here’s more from the release:

Communities qualifying for the Competitive Florida Partnership Grant include all rural Florida counties and their municipalities, or rural municipalities in an urban county.

The Competitive Florida Partnership provides grant funding and staff support in the first year of the program. In year two, communities continue to receive technical assistance from DEO and may be eligible for additional grants. It began in 2013 to help rural communities meet their goals with expert support and additional resources that may be otherwise unavailable.

Competitive Florida Economic Development Project Grants are available to all counties and municipalities to help the community learn more about local assets and economic conditions, and develop a specific local project. Grant awards range from $5,000 and $15,000.

Community Planning Technical Assistance Grants are available to all counties and municipalities for one fiscal year. Regional Planning Councils may also be eligible for projects at a regional scale that include more than one county. Projects seeking grant funding must be completed by June 1, 2018. Typical grant awards will be between $25,000 and $40,000 per project.

Proposals must be received by the department by June 23, 2017 at 11:59 p.m.

For more details on the Competitive Florida program go here, and for more information on DEO’s technical assistance efforts, click here.

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