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Staff Reports

Capitol Reax: Visit Florida funding, Uber, high-speed rail

The Senate Government Oversight and Accountability Committee voted 5-1 to approve a proposal (SB 596) that would allow telecommunications companies to put small wireless communications infrastructure in public rights-of-way.

Tom Feeney, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida: “AIF supports legislation to bring technology of the future to Florida, allowing our communities to be a part of the smart cities revolution.  Florida’s economic environment will greatly benefit from this good legislation, allowing new technologically advanced companies to locate here in the Sunshine State.

AIF applauds Senator (Travis) Hutson for championing this legislation and the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee for passing this bill out of its committee today.  SB 596 will allow technology of the future, like smart cities, autonomous vehicles and instantaneous speeds, to become a reality through uniform deployment of small cell technology.”

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee temporarily postponed a proposal (HB 269), which would have established the Florida High Speed Passenger Rail Safety Act.

Brent Hanlon, chairman of Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida (CARE FL): “I want to once again thank Representatives MaryLynn Magar and Erin Grall for filing legislation this session to protect citizens from subsidizing high speed rail projects that pose risks to public safety.  We are disappointed that the subcommittee did not debate the bill today, but we respect the legislative process, and look forward to more dialogue about this important legislation in due course.

All Aboard Florida (AAF) is taking a victory lap today in its public statements, but its latest actions are nothing more than a special interest group flexing its political muscle in a desperate attempt to protect its profits which are reliant on taxpayer subsidies.

AAF continues to put the communities of South Florida on the hook for millions in upgrades to enhance safety measures and make a grab for taxpayer subsidies.

We will continue to advocate for legislation that puts public safety first and we know that our elected leaders want the same. This is nothing more than an ill-conceived rail project by a private company that wants to shift costs to the taxpayers.”

The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee has proposed matching Gov. Rick Scott’s budget proposal of $76 million for Visit Florida, while setting aside $80 million for Enterprise Florida.

Chris Hudson, state director for American for Prosperity-Florida: “The Florida Senate is sending a bad message to their constituents. They are telling the hardworking small business owners that don’t even qualify for the handouts their proposing to sustain by maintaining funding to Enterprise Florida are more important than properly funding real priorities for their communities. The Senate should pick up where the Florida House left off and come together to eliminate corporate welfare by eliminating Enterprise Florida.

The Florida Senate is also wrong to fund Visit Florida with another $76 million dollars. Visit Florida’s lack of transparency and lack of accountability have engulfed the Sunshine State in national embarrassment that should not be rewarded. This failed program needs more than just reform; it should be completely eliminated.

Our grassroots teams will be deployed throughout the state in the districts of Senators who support funding corporate welfare. We will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that Floridians know which members of the legislature support corporate welfare and the programs that give away their tax dollars to private businesses instead of better supporting real priorities like education and infrastructure.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a bill (SB 340) to create a regulatory framework for transportation network companies, like Uber and Lyft.

Stephanie Smith, senior manager, public policy for Uber Technologies: “Today’s unanimous vote on Senate Bill 340 by the Senate Committee on Judiciary is a positive indication that Florida lawmakers support the safety, economic, and mobility benefits that come from ridesharing services like Uber.

We are grateful to all of the Senators who voted ‘yes’ on the bill, with special thanks to Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) who continues to be a champion for modern transportation options.”

Logan McFaddin, regional manager of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America: “PCI applauds the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senator Brandes for supporting legislation that addresses the insurance gaps when a driver is engaged in rideshare activity.  PCI and our members believe it is imperative rideshare drivers and their passengers are protected as they travel from point A to point B.

The insurance coverage concerns are significant, especially if ride share drivers use their personal vehicles for this commercial activity but only have personal auto insurance coverage. The standard personal auto insurance policy may not provide coverage if the vehicle is being used for commercial purposes and an accident were to occur.

With model legislation already passing in 45 other states, PCI encourages Florida lawmakers to do the same for Florida and protect the public.”

Family affair: Chris Hart, family open home decor and design firm

Chris Hart

Chris Hart is getting back to business, and this time it’s a family affair.

Hart, the former president and CEO of Enterprise Florida, and his wife, Amy, recently opened The Hare & The Hart, a home décor and design firm in Tallahassee.

The family-owned company specializes in toile with a hometown twist.

“As a tribute to the town I’ve called home for a good part of three decades, I have designed a toile that shows some of its iconic sites and scenes,” wrote Amy Hart on the company’s website. “Depicting venues running the gamut from the new amphitheater at Cascades Park to the 1600’s-era Mission San Luis, I’ve brought my sketches together in a design that tells the love story of a town full of history, canopy roads, magnolias, rolling hills, beautiful architecture, gardens, and hip new hangouts.”

The Hare & The Hart debuted its toiles during the spring edition of French Country Flea Market. During an interview on ABC 27 earlier this month, Amy Hart said the toile was designed to “celebrate our town.”

While toile is traditionally a fabric, The Hare & The Hart has several options for people looking to get their hands on the scenes, including wallpaper and mugs. The company also has a Woodland Creature series, designed by the Harts’ daughter Maddie.

“At The Hare & The Hart, we live a life that is English at heart with a Southern soul (and a French twist!), and we are thrilled to debut or toiles and other lines that embody all three,” wrote Amy Hart on the company’s site.

A former state legislator, Chris Hart took over the helm at Enterprise Florida in January. Two months later, he announced his resignation, citing ongoing differences with Gov. Rick Scott over the future of the agency.

Nielsen is demanding $800K property-tax refund from Pinellas County due to accounting error

Global marketing research company Nielsen is demanding a refund of thousands in Pinellas County property taxes after the company discovered an accounting error.

On March 10, the New York-based firm filed suit against Pinellas County Property Appraiser Mike Twitty, Tax Collector Charles Thomas and Leon Biegalski, who serves as executive director of the Florida Department of Revenue.

Nielsen is asking for $800,000 returned from the $2-million paid in Pinellas County property taxes for the years 2013 and 2014 for its building at 501 Brooker Creek Blvd. in Oldsmar.

The company behind Nielsen ratings says the overpayment was due to a bookkeeping error.

The overpayment, Nielsen claims, was based on an accounting error connected to its 2010 corporate merger. After the merger, staff had miscoded its “Claritas” asset as machinery and equipment – a taxable category – and not capitalization of goodwill, which is tax exempt.

In January 2017, Nielsen finalized the sale of its Claritas subsidiary, which a provides consumer and demographic segmentation analysis for marketers.

Documents filed with the lawsuit show the company began overpaying county property taxes in 2011. However, the statute of limitations on refunds is four years, so Nielsen is not requesting a refund that year.

The company argues it overpaid by $468,252 in 2012, but it is not requesting a refund, suggesting it may have received a refund for that overpayment. Documents also show that Nielsen overpaid in the tax year 2015, but the lawsuit does not specify why they didn’t request a refund for that year.

Per court documents, Nielsen alleges it discovered the error in 2015 and afterward sought a refund from the Pinellas Value Adjustment Board. Although the company said local magistrate was sympathetic, the county denied the refund request for tax years 2013 and 2014.

Nielsen is now asking the courts to intervene.

 

Report: Mike Huckabee not interested in running for Florida governor in 2018

Looks like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won’t be moving to Tallahassee any time soon.

According to a Northwest Florida Daily News report, Huckabee told attendees of the annual Okaloosa County Republican Party Lincoln Dinner on Saturday that he was not interested in running for governor of Florida.

“There may be somebody thinking about it, but let me be real clear — it ain’t me,” he said, according to the report. “There is a greater likelihood that I will have transgender surgery than I will run for the governor of any state, at any time, or anything, anywhere. It ain’t happening.”

The Blue Mountain Beach resident has been mentioned as a possible 2018 gubernatorial contender.

In September, a poll by Public Policy Polling found 42 percent of voters said Huckabee should run for governor in the Sunshine State. The poll found 50 percent of Florida Republicans said Huckabee should run, compared with 21 percent of Democrats who thought he should throw his hat in the race.

Huckabee served as governor of Arkansas from 1996 until 2007. He first ran for president in 2008, where he was heralded as a conservative champion. He ran again in 2016, but didn’t make as much of an impact as he did eight years earlier.

The former governor might not be interested in making Tallahassee his adopted hometown, but look for him in the capital city later this week. He’s scheduled give the keynote address during the Legislative Prayer Breakfast at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center on Wednesday.

More legislative hopefuls file to run in 2018

It’s never too early to start thinking about the next election cycle, and a host of legislative hopefuls are already thinking about the next election cycle.

State election records show dozens of members of the House, Senate, and other legislative hopefuls have filed to run in 2018.

Rep. Shevrin Jones filed to run for re-election in House District 101 in 2018. The 33-year-old West Park Democrat filed to run for re-election March 6. First elected to the House in 2012, Jones served as the Democratic Deputy Whip during the 2014-16 term. Rep. Roy Hardemon also filed to run for re-election in 2018.  The Miami Democrat was first elected to his District 108 seat in 2016, and filed to run for re-election on March 7.

Ray Guillory is looking for a rematch in House District 2. Guillory filed to run against Rep. Frank White, a Pensacola Republican. The Democratic activist ran against White in the solid red district in 2016. White defeated Guillory with 61 percent of the vote.

Republican George Agovino is eyeing the seat currently held by House Speaker Richard Corcoran. Agovino, who retired from the FBI, filed to run in House District 37 on March 8. Corcoran can’t run for re-election again because of term limits.

Rep. Jamie Grant picked up a challenger in House District 64. State records show Democrat Christopher Smutko, a teacher from the Tampa Bay area, filed to run against Grant on March 23.  Andy Warrener, a no-party affiliation candidate, also filed to run in House District 64.

A Democrat has jumped in the House District 71 race to replace Rep. Jim Boyd. Bradenton Democrat Randy Cooper filed to run for seat on March 10. Cooper is a civil engineer with a degree from the University of South Florida. He served 11 years with the Florida National Guard and is a volunteer firefighter in Hillsborough County.

Two Republicans are also vying to replace Boyd. Sarasota Republican James Buchanan filed to run on March 2. If the name sounds familiar, there’s a reason for that: Buchanan is the son of five-term U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan. The younger Buchanan founded James Buchanan Realty after graduating from Florida State University with degrees in finance and entrepreneurship.

Will Robinson, a Bradenton Republican, also filed to run for the seat. Robinson is an attorney at Blalock Walters law firm.

Michelle Graham, a Fort Myers businesswoman, is throwing her hat in the race to replace Rep. Matt Caldwell in House District 79. Caldwell, a North Fort Myers Republican, can’t run again in 2018 because of term limits.

Graham is the president and owner of Siesta Pebble, a family-owned business launched in 1995, and is the only woman-owned company of all 60 licensed and certified Pebble Tec installers throughout the country.

There will be another rematch in House District 112. Republican Rosa “Rosy” Palomino has filed to run against Rep. Nick Duran in the South Florida House District. Palomino is president of Tropical Nostalgia, Inc. and a producer of a late night radio program on WZAB 880 AM. Duran won the seat with 53 percent of the vote.

Three Republicans are vying for the seat being vacated by Rep. Michael Bileca.

The Miami Republican can’t run for re-election again because of term limits. Republican Vance Arthur Aloupis filed to run for the House District 115 seat on March 1. Aloupis is the CEO of the Children’s Movement of Florida. The University of Miami alumnus, spent several years practicing law before joining the Children’s Movement.

Carlos Gobel filed to run for the seat on March 21. The Miami Republican is the executive director for real estate firm GRE Group, Inc. He ran for property appraiser in 2014, and has an MBA from the University of Florida and a bachelor’s of business administration from Florida International University. Republican Carmen Sotomayor has also filed to run.

Three Republicans are eyeing the House District 116 seat being vacated by Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in 2018. He can’t run for re-election because of term limits.

Jose Miguel Mallea filed to run for the seat on March 7. Mallea, the owner of JM Global consulting, ran Sen. Marco Rubio’s successful U.S. Senate campaign in 2010. Prior to that, he served as chief of staff to former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz. He’s also served stints with the federal government, working at the U.S. Department of State and the White House.

Republican Daniel Perez, an associate at Cole Scott & Kissane’s Miami office, filed to run for the seat on Feb. 23; while Ana Maria Rodriguez filed to run in December.

Republican Enrique Lopez has thrown his hat in the House District 119 race to replace Rep. Jeanette Nunez in 2018. The Miami native served on the Residential Board of Governors of the Miami Association of Realtors. He’ll face Andrew Vargas, a partner at Trujillo Vargas Gonzalez Hevia, in the Republican primary. Nunez can’t run again because of term limits.

Rubin Anderson is looking to give it another try, challenging Sen. Bobby Powell in Senate District 30 in 2018. The Democrat made headlines when he failed to qualify for his seat because of a bounced check, filing a lawsuit with Republican Ron Berman to have a primary-race do-over. The suit was eventually dropped after Powell was sworn into office.

Belleair attorney Katie Cole named to district board of trustees for St. Pete College

Katherine “Katie” Cole is the newest member of the St. Petersburg College District board of trustees.

Gov. Rick Scott announced the appointment in a statement Friday.

Cole is an attorney with the Tampa-based law firm Hill Ward Henderson.

According to her Hill Ward Henderson bio, the 42-year-old Belleair resident specializes in real estate and land use issues on the local and state level. Working with clients in Pinellas and Pasco counties, Cole also serves as Chair-Elect for the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce and is a past member of the City of Clearwater Business Task Force. She also served on the Charter Review Committees for both the City of Clearwater and Pinellas County.

A University of Tennessee graduate who received her law degree from Stetson University, Cole serves on the board of directors for Morton Plant Mease Hospital, and was the 2013 co-chair of the Omelette Party Committee, a fundraising event for ARC of Tampa Bay, the Clearwater-based service provider for developmentally challenged individuals.

Cole will fill a vacant seat for a term ending May 31, 2017.

Florida politicians react to failure of the GOP health bill

As U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was gathering his conference and then announcing the failure of the Republican health care plan, many Florida Democrats were swiftly calling for bipartisan work to improve the Affordable Care Act instead.

Republicans who opposed the bill also responded swiftly, calling for a better bill to be crafted, and some even called for some bipartisan work but showed but showing no interest in using the Affordable Care Act as a starting point.

But Democrats, recognizing the ACA remains in trouble, are offering to work across the aisle on it — after criticizing the Republican bill.

Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz — Florida’s 1st Congressional District:

“We did so in the most cowardly, craven way possible — by failing to vote on the repeal of Obamacare. I share the frustration and disappointment of Northwest Floridians who expected and deserved action. We should know who was willing to stand with President Trump and who wasn’t. Now we never will.

“In the weeks and months ahead the Republican party must demonstrate the competence to govern. It is possible.

“I plan to redouble my efforts to bring a renewed sense of urgency to this corrupt and disconnected town. In the face of this setback, we need bold, conservative reform more than ever. The fate of our nation is at stake,”

Republican U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn — Florida’s 2nd Congressional District:

“Obamacare will continue to harm Americans with higher costs, lost coverage, and fewer choices. That’s unacceptable. We were sent here with orders to end this law and replace it with a patient-centered approach that actually lowers the cost of care. Today’s events will not deter or discourage us from honoring the commitment we made to the voters that elected us.”

Republican U.S. Rep. John Rutherford — Florida’s 4th Congressional District:

“Maintaining a status quo is not an option. There is a widespread consensus that President Obama’s signature health care law is broken and unsustainable. I remain committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare to improve and protect Americans’ access to quality, affordable health coverage.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis — Florida’s 6th Congressional District:

“The House health care bill is a flawed piece of legislation produced by a hasty process and it shows: by leaving the core architecture of Obamacare in place, it does very little to address the core problems of rising health insurance premiums and lack of consumer choice that have harmed so many Americans,” DeSantis declared. “In fact, it very well may have caused insurance premiums to increase 15-20 percent over and above the anticipated Obamacare increases over the next several years, which is unacceptable.”

“There was no reason to rush this bill through the House to begin with,” DeSantis added. “Congress should take its time and pass a good bill that actually repeals Obamacare, puts a downward pressure on insurance premiums and expands competition in the marketplace. Failure is not an option.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy — Florida’s 7th Congressional District:

“I believe every American should have access to quality, affordable health care, which is why I’m pleased House leadership pulled this bill from consideration,” stated Murphy of Orlando. We must reform the Affordable Care Act, but it should be done in a transparent, bipartisan way that lowers costs and strengthens coverage for all.”

“What we must do now is come together to work to improve the Affordable Care Act,” Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee said in a statement. “It took us centuries to get to where we are now with our health care, and we’ve already helped 20 million people get the health care they need. Let’s improve the ACA to see how we can help even more people get the health care they need and deserve.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings — Florida’s 10th Congressional District:

The “voices of the American people were heard.”

“Republicans have been promising to replace the Affordable Care Act with something better for seven years, but the destructive bill that they proposed would force people to pay more for less coverage, erase protections for pre-existing conditions, deny veterans additional benefits, force seniors to pay more for care and prescriptions, and shorten the life of Medicare,” Demings said. “I will continue to stand strong for my constituents in my fight to protect the Affordable Care Act.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Webster — Florida’s 11th Congressional District:

“For six years, I have advocated for repealing the [un]Affordable Care Act and replacing it with real healthcare reform. Obamacare is collapsing across the country – currently 4.7 million people are without an insurer. This failed policy is raising costs for patients and forcing insurers out of the marketplace, which leaves patients and families with nowhere to go.”

“As I have said, I have concerns with the bill that was to come up for a vote today. In particular, it does not provide the dollars needed for the Medicaid-funded nursing home beds that many of our seniors rely on. I have expressed these concerns to House leadership and the administration.”

“It is my hope that House and Senate leadership and the administration will work together and bring to the floor the conservative, common-sense healthcare reform that Americans deserve.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis — Florida’s 12th Congressional District:

“My main concern has been, and will continue to be, making sure my constituents have access to the best possible health care. Our efforts do not stop here to ensure our nation’s health care system is stronger, more affordable, and truly patient-centered. That is my goal, and I will keep working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to accomplish it.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist — Florida’s 13th Congressional District:

“This is a win for the American people,” stated Crist of St. Petersburg. “It was a bad bill, plain and simple. It would have harmed our seniors, and particularly those who often don’t have a voice in the debate — ‘the least among us’ if you will, the poor and the disabled. We have the opportunity now to drop the rhetoric, roll up our sleeves, and work together to fix what needs fixing to bring down costs, expand access, and protect the most vulnerable in our society. I’m an optimist, this was a teachable moment, and I think the lesson will be learned. Work together, put people above politics.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor — Florida’s 14th Congressional District:

“Today, my neighbors in Florida and hardworking families across America can breathe a sigh of relief that the Republican TrumpCare bill failed thanks to the outpouring of opposition from citizens, doctors, nurses, hospitals and advocates. They knew it would rip coverage away, raise costs and provide a massive tax break to wealthy special interests.”

“Although we must remain vigilant about future Republican attempts to weaken health care in America, the failure of the Republican bill will allow millions of families to keep their health care and peace of mind. Hopefully we can work together to build on the success of the Affordable Care Act that has dropped the number of uninsured Americans to its lowest in history and ended discrimination against our neighbors with pre-existing conditions.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast — Florida’s 18th Congressional District:

“Over the last several months, one of my top priorities has been listening to people in our community about how they will be impacted by health care reform.  I’ve heard over and over again about the incredible burden that Obamacare has placed on 18th District families.  Because of Obamacare, two of our counties now have only one insurer on the individual exchange, while premiums and deductibles have become beyond unaffordable.

“During my more than 12 years in the Army, I never went into one battle that was finished with one shot and I never went in with the perfect plan either, but what I learned is that when we went in unified and we worked together, we never lost.  Our broken healthcare system will not be fixed overnight. As I have said from the beginning, the only way we can fix the failures of Obamacare is through a fully transparent process that engages voices all across the country.  Moving forward, I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join me in working to improve our nation’s healthcare system to ensure that everyone has the liberty to choose the health care that is best for their life.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings — Florida’s 20th Congressional District:

“House Republicans and President Trump tried to takeaway healthcare from millions of Americans and they failed. Today’s defeat of TrumpCare is a victory for seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, families, children, women, and every one of the 24 million people who would have had their health coverage stripped from them under the Republican plan.

“When Congress reconvenes next week, Democrats will continue to stand up for the most vulnerable among us. There are many aspects where healthcare in America can be improved. For many of my constituents, the cost of care remains far too high, while for others, access to care remains a challenge. I, like all Democrats, want to make healthcare better for all Americans. If Republicans are willing to join this process in good faith, I would welcome the conversation and work to make improvements that benefit all Americans.”

“President Trump’s plan failed today because his legislation did not prioritize the American people. It prioritized a select few – the millionaires and billionaires that President Trump has surrounded himself with – and ripped coverage away from millions of hard working and working poor Americans,” Hastings continued. “I will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that all Americans have access to the healthcare they need. I hope Republicans learn from this experience and begin the process of working Democrats moving forward.”

Democratic U.S. Ted Deutch — Florida’s 22nd Congressional District:

“President Trump and Speaker Ryan should be ashamed of themselves for trying to force through a disastrous bill that would have ripped away health coverage from tens of millions of Americans, dramatically increased premiums, and severely cut Medicare and Medicaid,” Deutch of Margate declared. “The American people spoke loud and clear; they do not support gutting their own health benefits in order to give massive tax cuts to health insurance companies. House Republicans need to start working with Democrats on real policy solutions that will benefit the American people.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz — Florida’s 23rd Congressional District:

“America’s seniors, women, children and families scored a major victory today. Trumpcare was a horrible bill from the start, and was only made worse the more it was amended. The lack of transparency, hearings and proper vetting was appalling. President Trump obviously didn’t do his homework, and Republicans are clearly at war with themselves. This defeat was earned and well deserved.

“More importantly, for millions of individual Americans, Trumpcare would have been devastating. It reduced coverage for millions, gutted benefits and massively increased costs, and added what amounted to an “age tax” for older Americans. It was the worst bill for women’s health in a generation. In fact, for the entire health care system, it would have been a nightmare. The solvency of Medicare would have been weakened, Medicaid would have been gutted, and safety-net hospitals would have been further burdened to truly distressing levels. Doctors, nurses, hospitals and nearly every major medical or health advocacy group opposed it, with good reason.

“Hopefully, Republicans will now reach out to Democrats to improve the Affordable Care Act in a serious, meaningful way. We’re more than ready to participate if it means truly improving our health care system.”

 

State Rep. Cary Pigman, HD 55

Report: Cary Pigman charged with early morning DUI

State Rep. Cary Pigman faces a misdemeanor drunk-driving charge in St. Lucie County after a traffic stop late Thursday, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report.

The FHP charged the Avon Park Republican as he was driving on Florida’s Turnpike.

Pigman, first elected in 2012, is an emergency medicine physician and U.S. Army Reserve doctor who served in Iraq. He chairs the House Health Quality Subcommittee. The Legislature concluded the third week of its annual Session on Thursday. 

The arrest report says a trooper noticed Pigman’s southbound Jeep “drifting” between his lane and the highway’s shoulder around 10:45 p.m. Thursday. Pigman was alone in the vehicle.

The trooper reported “immediately smell(ing) an odor of alcoholic beverage” when he came up to the open window, and “saw an open wine bottle in the front passenger seat.” Pigman told him he was headed to Okeechobee, but the trooper noted the lawmaker was stopped in Fort Pierce, to the east.

Pigman had “a difficult time” getting out of the car when asked, and continued to “smell of alcohol,” the report said. “His pupils were constricted, his eyes were bloodshot,” but he denied drinking.

Pigman then failed field sobriety tests, including almost falling and not following instructions, the report said.

At around 12:30 a.m. Friday, his blood alcohol level was measured at .14 and .15, it added. A DUI in Florida is .08 or above. Pigman was later booked into the St. Lucie County jail.

Messages were left Friday afternoon at Pigman’s district office.

“We’re aware of the situation involving Dr. Pigman and know he will fully cooperate with authorities,” House Speaker Richard Corcoran said in a statement. “We will follow the case closely and continue to monitor the situation.”

Pigman represents House District 55, which includes Glades, Highlands and Okeechobee counties and western St. Lucie County.

The Florida Commission on Ethics last year found probable cause to believe that Pigman “link(ed) his efforts to obtain legislative funding for the (Okeechobee) School District to retaliate or attempt to retaliate” against Okeechobee County high school principal Tracy Downing, according to a statement.

Downing’s brother, Devin Maxwell, is the ex-husband of Elizabeth “Libby” Maxwell, a former district secretary for Pigman, with whom the lawmaker had been having an affair at the time, according to reports. They are now married.

Probable cause means it is more likely than not that a violation of state law has occurred but is not a definitive finding. Pigman went to a hearing before an administrative law judge in January to resolve the case; a recommended order is pending. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Tampa Bay Rowdies welcome 2017 Season with 1,000 fans at Mahaffey Theater

The Tampa Bay Rowdies kicked off their 2017 Season Thursday night.

Rowdies officials and players were joined by over 1,000 fans at the Mahaffey Theater in downtown St. Petersburg to welcome in the regular season.

Highlights of the night included a question and answer session with Rowdies Chairman and CEO Bill Edwards, former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker and Rowdies COO Lee Cohen, moderated by the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Alexis Muellner.

In the Q&A, Edwards and Baker emphasized the upcoming St. Petersburg referendum on May 2 which would allow the Rowdies to negotiate a long-term use agreement with City Council for the use of Al Lang Stadium.

As the show continued, a Rowdies midfielder debuted an all-new white alternate kit featuring a single sharp green and gold stripe on both the jersey and socks. Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens debuted a new electric blue goalkeeper jersey, while Akira Fitzgerald modeled a gray version.

In addition to the white alternate kit, the Rowdies will continue to use their famed hooped jerseys and the green kits from 2016.

The party leads into Saturday’s home opener against Orlando City B. Tickets are available by calling (727) 222-2000 or online to purchase.

 

Florida’s unemployment rate holds steady at 5%

Florida’s unemployment rate held steady at 5 percent in February.

This marks the second month in a row the state’s unemployment rate has been at 5 percent, and mirrors the unemployment rate the state experienced in the first two months of 2016, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

The state added 239,800 jobs private sector jobs year-over-year in February. According to the DEO, the professional and business services industry added the most jobs — 43,000, or 3.4 percent increase — during the one-year period.

“I am proud to announce that Florida’s private-sector businesses have created nearly 54,000 new jobs in 2017,” said Gov. Rick Scott in a statement Friday. “Over the past six years, we have been relentless in our efforts to make Florida the most business-friendly state in the nation because a job is the most important thing to a family.”

The agency reported trade, transportation, and utilities added 42,000 jobs, or a 2.5 percent increase; education and health services added 40,500 jobs, or a 3.3 percent increase; and the leisure and hospitality industry added 40,300 jobs, or a 3.5 percent increase, during the same one- year period.

The Orlando region continued to lead the state in year-over-year job gains, adding 50,900 jobs between February 2016 and February 2017. The Tampa Bay region added 36,100 jobs during the one-year period, followed by Jacksonville with 25,900 jobs.

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