Staff Reports - 4/75 - SaintPetersBlog

Staff Reports

Baxter Troutman opens iGrow PC to fund Ag. Commissioner bid

Baxter Troutman has opened a political committee, allowing him to raise unlimited dollars toward his bid to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in 2018.

State records show Troutman launched iGrow PC, a state political committee. He filed a statement of solicitation with the Division of Elections on June 14, two days after he filed to run for the statewide seat. POLITICO Florida first reported the creation of Troutman’s political committee.

Troutman filed the necessary paperwork to run for Agriculture Commissioner on June 12, and opened his campaign account with a personal contribution of $2.5 million. He is the grandson of late citrus baron and one-time gubernatorial candidate Ben Hill Griffin Jr.

The 50-year-old served in the Florida House 2002 to 2010. Troutman, who proposed to his wife Rebecca on the floor of the House while it was in session, campaigned for her last year in her unsuccessful run for Polk County School Board. She will serve as the co-chair of his campaign, and Troutman said he looks forward to “spending the months ahead traveling the state to talk with Floridians about our future.”

“Every corner of this great state feels the practical and economic impact of agriculture, and we simply cannot afford someone in this important leadership position who doesn’t understand how to make it work for taxpayers,” he said. “For these reasons, I have spent the past few weeks talking to friends, neighbors and my family. The strong encouragement to move forward with this campaign has been humbling. Winning the faith and support of so many is truly a blessing.”

Republicans Denise Grimsley, Matt Caldwell, and Paul Paulson have already filed to run for the seat. Putnam can’t run for re-election again in 2018 because of term limits.

The Florida Bar

Florida Bar holds annual convention this week

The Florida Bar‘s Annual Convention begins Wednesday at the Boca Raton Resort & Club, with “a focus on the future of the legal profession and the challenges lawyers face,” the organization said in a news release.

On Friday, Miami attorney Michael J. Higer will be sworn in as the Bar’s 69th president, and West Palm Beach attorney Michelle Suskauer will become the Bar’s president-elect. She’ll assume the presidency next June.

The Bar is charged with regulating the state’s 104,000 licensed attorneys.

The theme of this year’s convention is “Inspire the Future,” focusing on “the future of the legal profession and the importance of working with colleagues to bring about positive change. Seminars and programs will address the rapid technological changes in legal services,” the release said.

The schedule also includes a judicial luncheon on Thursday, with Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga as keynote speaker and a tribute to retiring Executive Director John F. “Jack” Harkness Jr., who’s been the Bar’s head for 37 years.

A President’s Showcase on Thursday will be “Constitution Revision Commission & Florida’s Judiciary” to “ensure that Florida Bar members are informed as to how CRC proposals may affect the judiciary and, in turn, the practice of law in Florida.”

And 254 attorneys who have been practicing for 50 years will be honored during a luncheon sponsored by the Bar’s Young Lawyers Division.

The convention ends Saturday. A full schedule is here.

For more details, click here. Also, “a mobile app provides meeting schedules, exhibitor and sponsor listings with links, a personal schedule tracker and updates throughout the convention,” according to the release.

Rowdies concede in final seconds of 1-1 draw against Richmond

The Tampa Bay Rowdies and Richmond Kickers played to a 1-1 draw Saturday night at City Stadium.

After going up 1-0 early in the second half via a Marcel Schäfer goal, the Rowdies were seconds away from winning before conceding an equalizing goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

“It’s a tough result,” said Head Coach Stuart Campbell. “We controlled most of the match, and to get scored on in the final play of the match is hard.”

It was Richmond who got the first chance of the match in the fourth minute, drawing a dangerous free kick just inches outside the 18-yard box. Midfielder Raul Gonzalez set up to take the kick and curled it to the far post, but fortunately for the Rowdies, there was no one there to tap it in.

The Rowdies would answer in the 12th minute, after forward Martin Paterson pressured the Kickers’ defense into a mistake and recovered the ball in the opposing 18-yard box. After trying to find an incoming Joe Cole, Rowdies midfielder Leo Fernandes was on the end of a poor clearance and fired his shot. The Kickers scrambled to get back in position and were able to get a piece of it to clear it for a corner.

The Rowdies were forced to use an early substitution, as Leo Fernandes was forced to come off due to injury in the 21st minute.

The clearest chance of the night came in the 26th minute when Schäfer curled a perfect corner kick to a towering Neill Collins, but the Scotsman’s header was just wide of the frame.

Richmond closed out the half holding possession and creating several chances of its own. A Fernando cross in the 40th minute nearly found an open Yudai Imura at the far past, but the Japanese midfielder was unable to get his header on goal.

The Rowdies would jump ahead in the 64th minute via a Marcel Shäfer free kick from just outside the 18-yard box. His rocket hit the wall and trickled past Richmond goalkeeper Matt Turner, who was diving the other way.

“It’s always nice to score, but I would change a goal for three points any day,” said Schäfer. “We controlled the game and getting scored on in the last moment of the match is hard. We picked up a point on the road, but it could’ve easily been three.”

Minutes later, midfielder Joe Cole had the chance to double the lead after stealing the ball off a Richmond center back and going in on goal, but Richmond recovered well and blocked Cole’s shot.

The Rowdies would regret not securing the match, as Richmond’s newcomer Frank Tayou scored the equalizer in the final play of the match. The second-half substitute, who only signed with the Kickers Friday, received a ball from defender Mallan Roberts and fired a volley from outside the 18-yard box into the top corner of the net, denying the Rowdies the three crucial road points.

The Rowdies will play on the road Thursday, June 22, this time flying up to Pittsburgh to face the Riverhounds. They will then have another road match July 1, this time facing the first-place Charleston Battery.

“We have another important road match Thursday,” said Campbell. “We’re going to look at this game and work on several things. We need to learn from games like these and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Scoring Summary
Rowdies: Marcel Schäfer — 64th minute
Kickers: Franck Tayou — 90+’ minute (assisted by Mallan Roberts)

Caution Summary
Rowdies: Luke Boden — 41st minute
Rowdies: Keith Savage — 44th minute
Rowdies: Damion Lowe — 60th minute

Starting Lineups
Rowdies XI (4-2-3-1) GK Matt Pickens; D Darnell King, Damion Lowe, Neill Collins, Luke Boden; M Marcel Schäfer, Keith Savage; M Georgi Hristov, Joe Cole, Leo Fernandes (Darwin Jones 21′); F Martin Paterson (Deshorn Brown 80′)

Richmond XI (4-5-1): GK Matt Turner; D Alex Lee, Conor Shanosky (c), Mallan Roberts, Braeden Troyer; M Luiz Fernando (Finnlay Wyatt 70′), Yudai Imura (Fred Owusu Sekyere 77′), Raul Gonzalez, Chris Durkin, Sunny Jane; F Anthony Grant (Franck Tayou 66′)

 

Rick Scott signs 13 more bills into law

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday evening announced he had signed another 13 bills from the 2017 Legislative Session into law.

Those bills include SB 118, which Scott’s office said would “prevent businesses that publish arrest photos from charging a fee to remove them if requested.”

The measure was aimed at the growing number of websites that showcase booking mugshots and charge people who ask for their photos to be taken down.

But the bill also includes a section on the “administrative sealing of criminal history records” that open government advocates fear could result in the shutting off of booking information of people whose charges are later dismissed.

The First Amendment Foundation had asked Scott to veto the bill, saying it would “create a process by which millions of criminal history records will be automatically sealed,” posing “a significant threat to the public safety.”

“A person could be charged and tried one or more times for a lewd and lascivious act on a child, for example, and if acquitted or found not guilty, that person would not show up on (a) criminal background check,” wrote Barbara Petersen, the foundation’s president. “If that person then applies for a position with a school or day care center, there would be no mention of the charges.”

Scott, however, said that part of the measure “will not take effect” because it depended on passage of a linked bill, SB 450, to become law. That bill, which died in the Rules Committee, would have exempted “personal identifying information of an adult who participates in a civil citation or prearrest diversion program … from public inspection and copying.”

Scott also approved SB 90, the implementing bill for a constitutional amendment passed by voters in August 2016 that exempts solar and renewable energy devices from property taxes.

“The bill removes burdensome taxes on solar installations by exempting 80 percent of their value from the tangible personal property tax,” according to a Friday evening press release from Floridians for Solar Choice. “It also exempts 80 percent of the value of a solar installation from the assessment of real property taxes for commercial properties.”

“Reducing taxes is smart energy policy, and I’m proud to see Gov. Scott sign this important legislation into law,” said Tory Perfetti, chair of Floridians for Solar Choice and Florida director of Conservatives for Energy Freedom.

“This effort has been supported by a historic coalition and unanimous legislative support, along with a resounding public vote,” Perfetti added. “The Sunshine State has spoken, and they said: We want the freedom to choose solar.”

The other bills are listed below, with descriptions provided by the Governor’s Office: 

SB 474 Hospice Care – This bill directs the Florida Department of Elder Affairs and the Agency for Health Care Administration to adopt national hospice outcome measures.
SB 494 Compensation of Victims of Wrongful Incarceration – This bill expands the eligibility requirements of the Victims of Wrongful Incarceration Compensation Act.
SB 724 Estates – This bill revises provisions relating to the elective share of an estate.
SB 1520 Termination of a Condominium Association – This bill revises requirements for the termination of a condominium association.
SB 1694 Support for Parental Victims of Child Domestic Violence – This bill allows the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice to coordinate with organizations to enhance resources available to parents who are victims of domestic violence.
SB 1726 Industrial Hemp Pilot Projects – This bill authorizes the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to oversee the University of Florida and the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in developing industrial hemp pilot projects.
SB 2504 Collective Bargaining – This bill resolves collective bargaining issues.
SB 2506 Clerks of the Court – This bill makes changes to the clerks of court budget process to ensure adequate funding.
SB 2508 Division of State Group Insurance – This bill allows for an audit of dependent eligibility for the state group insurance program and revises pharmacy benefits.
SB 2510 Public Records/ Dependent Eligibility Verification Services – This bill creates a public records exemption for information collected when determining a dependent’s eligibility for the state group insurance program.
SB 2514 Health Care – This bill conforms health care statutes to the funding policies used in the General Appropriations Act.  

Rick Scott orders flags at half-staff for officer from Pinellas

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday ordered flags at half-staff to honor Pinellas County’s Joshua Albert Sanchez Montaad, an Agricultural Law Enforcement Officer who died in a wreck while on duty.

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, Montaad—a 25-year-old from Safety Harbor—was killed in a single car crash this Tuesday on U.S. 19 in Taylor County.

“His patrol car left the roadway and struck a tree during a period of heavy rain,” the site said. His “vehicle caught fire and became engulfed in flames.” Montaad was pronounced dead at the scene.

Scott ordered the U.S. and state flags at half-staff at the county courthouse in Safety Harbor, at Station 2 of the Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement in Rock Bluff, and at Safety Harbor City Hall from sunrise to sunset this Saturday.

“Ann and I are saddened to hear of the tragic death of Officer Montaad and our hearts go out to his family and loved ones during this difficult time,” Scott said in a statement.

“Choosing to serve our state as a law enforcement officer is a heroic and selfless decision, and Joshua will be remembered for his courageous service and commitment to protecting our families and communities,” he said. “We are thankful for the brave law enforcement officers that work each day to keep our state safe and we will continue to pray for their safety.”

Florida retailers expect record Father’s Day spending

Florida retailers expect dads to be showered with gifts, with a record-setting Father’s Day in 2017.

The Florida Retail Federation, the state’s leading trade association for the retail industry, predicts consumers will spend an average $134.75 for the holiday, up almost $10 from last year’s $125.92.

Spending nationwide is also expected to reach $15.5 billion, the highest in the survey’s 15-year history – nearly a billion more than 2016.

“I am very encouraged to see that Floridians and families across the country are planning to spend more than ever before to celebrate their dads,” said FRF President/CEO R. Scott Shalley. “These results show that Americans are feeling more and more confident and optimistic in this improving economy, and fathers and retailers can expect to benefit this Father’s Day.”

In the annual survey from the National Retail Federation, conducted by Prosper Insight and Analytics, consumers will spend $3.3 billion in 2017; 48 percent say they will take dads to outings such as dinner, brunch or other “fun activity/experiences,” clothing (46 percent) and gift cards (43 percent), making up $2.2 billion. Next most popular is consumer electronics (21 percent) at $1.8 billion.

As with Mother’s Day, greeting cards are the most common gift (64 percent), accounting for $861 million of projected spending. Other popular gifts include personal care, automotive accessories, books, music, home improvement/gardening supplies and sporting goods.

The survey found 27 percent of shoppers will give dad a “gift of experience” — concert tickets, sporting events and the like.

The category with the largest growth trend is “personal care” — cologne, razors, aftershave, etc. – showing a 20 percent increase over last year.

For the perfect gift, 40 percent of consumers will head to department stores; 34 percent will shop online; 26 percent will shop at a discount store; 24 percent at a specialty store and 19 percent at a local business.

One-third of smartphone owners will use their device to research gift ideas, but only 18 percent will use them to make a purchase. Tablets are more popular for research (32 percent) and purchases (19 percent).

More than half of those surveyed plan to buy for a father or stepfather (54 percent), others will shop for a husband (29 percent) or son (10 percent).

Capitol Reax: Rick Scott signs HB 7069

Gov. Rick Scott signed a sweeping education bill (HB 7069) that, among other things, sends more public money to privately-run charter schools. The legislation, a top priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, also requires recess in elementary schools, makes changes to the state’s standardized testing system, and includes millions of dollars for teacher bonuses.

The governor’s decision to sign the bill sparked a reaction from both sides of the issue.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran

“Today is a great day for Florida’s students, parents, and teachers. This bill is the most transformative pro-parent, pro-student, pro-teacher, and pro-public education bill in the history of the state of Florida. It ends failure factories. It rewards the best and brightest teachers and principals. It gives bonuses to every highly effective and effective teacher. It puts a focus back on civics education and teaching our students about what made our country great. It provides scholarships to students with disabilities. It mandates recess for our students. It reduces testing. And last, but not least, it forces more money into the classroom by making the money follow the students. In other words, it gives children hope and dignity. It says all children deserve a world-class education.

“Today is a great day for Florida’s students, parents, and teachers. This bill is the most transformative pro-parent, pro-student, pro-teacher, and pro-public education bill in the history of the state of Florida. It ends failure factories. It rewards the best and brightest teachers and principals. It gives bonuses to every highly effective and effective teacher. It puts a focus back on civics education and teaching our students about what made our country great. It provides scholarships to students with disabilities. It mandates recess for our students. It reduces testing. And last, but not least, it forces more money into the classroom by making the money follow the students. In other words, it gives children hope and dignity. It says all children deserve a world-class education.

I want to thank Governor Rick Scott for his courage and commitment to education options for our poorest kids. The Governor has taken on the status quo his entire career and the people of Florida are better off for it. I believe one of the great legacies of this session will be saving school childrens’ futures.”

Sen. Linda Stewart 

“I would like to thank the Governor for visiting Senate District 13, but I’m very disappointed that he used the signing of HB 7069 as the reason to stop by.

 “This bill is an unwise experiment in education policy opposed by our state’s teachers, parents, professional administrators and superintendents. That’s why I urged him to veto it. Many of those that have opposed HB7069 have dedicated their lives to educating the students in Florida’s schools. HB7069 was secretly produced and passed as a 278-page bitter pill that flew in the face of every tradition of transparency and openness required by our state’s laws and constitution.

 “Let’s be clear about what HB7069 actually does: it enriches the for-profit education industry at the expense of Florida’s traditional public schools. The same schools that educated the vast majority of Floridians for generations despite daunting odds and an indifferent legislature for the past two decades.

 “The legislation you signed today gives to the charter school industry a free hand and promises them a bountiful reward. It allows corporations with no track record of success, no obligation to struggling students, and no mandated standards of accountability to flourish, with the sole obligation to their shareholders. Not the public. Not to well-intentioned parents desperate to see their children succeed – but to a group of investors who have made a business decision to add these companies to their portfolios because they are interested in making money.

 “I would remind those who stand to profit personally from this legislation, some of whom hold high office, that an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

Sen. Gary Farmer

“Today I am saddened by the Governor’s action in signing HB 7069. This devious bill, hatched in secret, and strong-armed through the Legislature will deal a significant blow to our State’s public education system. For the first time, private charter school operators will now have access to local school district tax revenue. This will undoubtedly lead to less money for our already starved-traditional public schools. I fear that a lack of accountability in these charters will result in wasted dollars for untested and redundant facilities, all to prop up private entities that are closing down nearly as fast as they are opening up. I join the thousands of parents, schoolteachers, and education advocates around Florida in bowing my head in shame. Our government can do better.”

Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon 

“To no one’s surprise, but to many Floridians’ disappointment, Governor Rick Scott approved HB 7069 today, firmly cementing his legacy of putting campaign politics above sound public policy.

Equally troubling, he signed off on a bill hatched in secrecy which he had openly criticized, but now suddenly agrees that it’s ok to circumvent transparency, it’s ok to negotiate in secret, it’s ok to pull a fast one.

HB 7069 aims an arrow straight at the heart of public education in Florida, a system that is struggling to stay alive despite repeated overhauls, starvation, and mandates under the latest standardized tests-du-jour.

And it sets up a guarantee for the profitability of the charter school industry in this state by delivering public schools we’ve purposely ignored to corporate managers we’ve deliberately positioned for success.

All of these perks we give to this industry under this bill — unregulated expansion, temporary teacher employment, financial self-rewards through cherry picking by principals — none of this is found in traditional public schools. Nor is the amount of state aid we owe to build or maintain the public schools long relegated to second-class status.

 “For all of these reasons, it’s a bill that should have been vetoed, as countless Floridians continuously urged. And it’s a bill that we will not soon forget.”

Rep. Jason Fischer, a Jacksonville Republican

“I want to thank Governor Scott for signing HB 7069 into law. The Governor’s signature marks the start of a bold and innovative plan to reform and strengthen Florida’s K-12 education system. Today is a momentous occasion for Florida’s students and hardworking teachers and I’m excited about what the future holds with this legislation in place. I would also like to thank Speaker Corcoran, Representative (

“I want to thank Governor Scott for signing HB 7069 into law. The Governor’s signature marks the start of a bold and innovative plan to reform and strengthen Florida’s K-12 education system. Today is a momentous occasion for Florida’s students and hardworking teachers and I’m excited about what the future holds with this legislation in place. I would also like to thank Speaker Corcoran, Representative (Michael) Bileca, and Representative (Manny) Diaz for their leadership and for their dedication to helping students and teachers.”

House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz

“Not since the creation of the unconstitutional voucher system has there been an assault on our public schools as flagrant and hurtful as what’s contained in HB 7069.

Rather than providing additional resources for public schools, Republicans have instead chosen to divert $140 million into a slush fund for private charter school corporations. Rather than providing our school districts the resources they need for maintenance and upkeep, Republicans have instead chosen to divert local capital funding districts rely on into buildings the state does not own. And rather than giving our overworked and underpaid teachers the raise they deserve, Republicans have instead chosen to continue to fund an arbitrary bonus system based on test scores from when they were in high school.

“Most disappointingly, Republican leadership, and now Governor Scott, have chosen to ignore the voices of thousands of frustrated parents, teachers, and public school administrators and associations in favor of the AstroTurf efforts of private foundations awash in your tax dollars. It is my hope that next session we can look for ways to repair this misguided legislation in a bipartisan manner. Our parents and teachers deserve to have their voices heard.”

Rep. Shevrin Jones, the ranking Democratic member on the House Education Committee

“HB 7069 exemplifies confronting critical problems in our public education system with unreasonable and impractical solutions. This law will significantly hurt our public education system, rather than providing our teachers and students with the resources they need to succeed. On both sides of the aisle, we have kept education at the forefront of our priorities and though we claim to have a common goal, the outcome of signing this legislation is a step in the wrong direction.

“We cannot continue to place politics over people. It is unbelievable that Governor Scott has ignored the frustration and concerns that were made through phone calls, letters, and emails from parents, teachers, students, and superintendents.

“As a former educator and a believer in our process, this is the one time I can say, the process was violated and the people were ignored. It is my hope that every school district will look at this law and challenge the constitutionality of how it degrades our public school system. I am not against creating new standards for our lowest performing schools, but I am against violating the process of legislating that our constituents sent us to Tallahassee to uphold.”

Rep. Michael Bileca, chairman of the House Education Committee 

“I commend Governor Scott for signing HB 7069 into law. This legislation has the power to transform the lives and futures of poor children across the state of Florida. It puts their future before the agenda of bureaucrats and institutions that have deprived them of the quality education they deserve. This legislation is a direct and targeted approach that will break the cycle of poverty by enabling world class schools to flourish in high poverty areas. I would also like to thank my fellow lawmakers who have worked alongside one another to fight against a system resistant to change, and afford our children the best education we can provide.”

Rep. Manny Diaz, chairman of the House PreK-12 Education Appropriations Committee  “I want to commend the Governor for his continued support of the best educational options for all students in our great state regardless of what ZIP code they reside in. Today marks another transformational step for Florida as a nationwide leader in education reform. I want to thank Speaker Corcoran for his leadership and steadfast support for All kids in our state, it is truly an honor to work side by side with him and Chair Bileca to fight for what is right.”

“I want to commend the Governor for his continued support of the best educational options for all students in our great state regardless of what ZIP code they reside in. Today marks another transformational step for Florida as a nationwide leader in education reform. I want to thank Speaker Corcoran for his leadership and steadfast support for All kids in our state, it is truly an honor to work side by side with him and Chair Bileca to fight for what is right.”

Andrew Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee and a Democratic gubernatorial candidate

Public education has made all the difference in my life and so many others. Were it not for the guidance and work poured into me by public school teachers like Linda Awbrey, there would be no Mayor Gillum, and I would never have dreamed I could succeed at a run for Governor. The signing of H.B. 7069 is another deeply painful decision by our state’s leaders giving tax dollars away to for-profit charter school executives — instead of to our students. It’s a stark reminder that we must take back this state in 2018 from the well-heeled special interests, and when I’m Governor, revitalizing public education will be at the top of my list.:’”

Gwen Graham, a former Democratic congresswoman from Tallahassee and a 2018 candidate for governor

“This bill is another massive step toward turning Florida’s public school system into a public school industry designed to benefit corporations and powerful interests at the expense of our kids and schools. Teachers and parents called, wrote and even protested Governor Scott, imploring him not to sign this bill — but yet again, he’s abandoning his responsibility to our children and instead siding with special interests.”

As Governor, I will veto any budget or policy that shortchanges our schools in favor of the education industry. I’ll work with the legislature at every step of the process to build an education policy that puts our public schools and students first. We will end teaching to the test, end the lottery shell game and pay teachers what they deserve.

As a mother, former PTA president, and school district official, nothing is more important to me than our students and public schools. I’ve worked alongside the teachers who will be hurt by this legislation. I’m running for governor to be their advocate.”

— David Bergstein, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

 “Scott is proving once again that he is a typical Tallahassee politician who is only ever looking out for himself — his pathetic and transparent efforts to advance his own political interests at the expense of hardworking Floridians is the kind of toxic baggage that will follow him into any political campaign he mounts. Wherever he goes, Scott will have to explain why he’s draining resources from schools in order to spend tax dollars on a slush fund for his campaign contributors and political cronies. For voters, this bill is just another demonstration that Scott is only ever looking out for one person: himself.”

Johanna Cervone, communications director for the Florida Democratic Party

“There are no words. By signing HB7069, Rick Scott and Tallahassee Republicans have declared war on our public schools. This bill is a national disgrace and was universally regarded by school boards and superintendents to be a death knell for public education. Scott and Corcoran are caricatures of themselves — crooked Tallahassee politicians cutting backroom deals and pilfering dollars from our children to ensure their corporate benefactors get funded. Scott got his slush fund, and Corcoran got millions of dollars for for-profit charter schools, but Florida’s families are left with next to nothing. Voters will remember who was responsible for this legislation — including those who were complicit in its signing, like noteworthy political coward, Adam Putnam, who tiptoes around every issue.”

Mark Ferrulo, executive director of Progress Florida 

“Today, Gov. Rick Scott ignored thousands of parents, teachers and community leaders who have spoken out against this travesty of a bill and embraced a secret and unaccountable process to deal an underhanded sucker punch to public education in our state. Our students — the next generation of Floridians — are the ones who will pay the price.

 “Floridians deserve a strong and well-funded public school system so that a child’s opportunity to learn isn’t dependent on where they live or whether they win a school lottery. We shouldn’t waste precious resources on a parallel system of for-profit private voucher and charter schools that is less accountable to citizens and has produced mixed results at best.”

— Joshua Karp, spokesman for American Bridge

 “Since his first year in office, Rick Scott has fought against public schools on behalf of wealthy corporate special interests. Today’s anti-education bill was crafted in secret by lobbyists and Tallahassee insiders to funnel millions of dollars to corporations that seek to profit off children’s education while diverting precious funding from Florida’s public schools where every dollar is precious. Yet again, Floridians will be worse off because Rick Scott and his friends care more about making money.”

Charly Norton, executive director of FloridaStrong

“For the second time in two days, the Governor has made clear he serves only his own agenda — not the people he was elected to represent. The fact that Scott ignored thousands of veto calls over this past month from parents, school boards, educators and other public school advocates demonstrates his shameful disservice to the state of Florida. Speaker Corcoran and the lawmakers who pushed this ‘scam‘ of a bill are actively dismantling Florida schools and undermining our kids’ chance at success as a result. They can claim they care about the future of this state until they are blue in the face, but their actions prove otherwise.

William Mattox, director of JMI’s Marshall Center for Educational Options

“Education choice is an idea that ought to unite liberals and conservatives because it acknowledges that students are diverse and that they are often ill-served by one-size-fits-all schooling policies that fail to account for each child’s unique learning needs. We commend the legislators in both parties who voted to expand student options in 2017, and we hope legislators will work together in 2018 to move us even closer to the goal of universal education choice for all Florida students.”

J. Robert McClure, president and CEO of The James Madison Institute For 30 years, The James Madison Institute has been on the front lines of the battle of ideas and principles in Florida. We thank Governor Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran for their support of this legislation. They have been steadfast in their efforts to match students with educational opportunities that provide the greatest chance for success in life, and this commitment is reflected in legislation that expands school choice for economically-disadvantaged students and those with unique abilities, while providing more digital education access and allowing successful charter schools to open new schools in areas with chronically failing public schools.”

For 30 years, The James Madison Institute has been on the front lines of the battle of ideas and principles in Florida. We thank Governor Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran for their support of this legislation. They have been steadfast in their efforts to match students with educational opportunities that provide the greatest chance for success in life, and this commitment is reflected in legislation that expands school choice for economically-disadvantaged students and those with unique abilities, while providing more digital education access and allowing successful charter schools to open new schools in areas with chronically failing public schools.”

Blake Williams, communications director for For Florida’s Future

“Last week Rick Scott convinced Tallahassee Republicans to replenish his Enterprise Florida slush fund with taxpayer dollars to pay off his political donors, and in return, he’s giving Republicans millions in taxpayer dollars for a slush fund of their own. HB 7069 is corporate welfare plain and simple, and the opposition to it has been broad and bipartisan. Florida’s largest school districts have publicly opposed it, teachers and parents have opposed it, and nearly every editorial board in the state of Florida has urged a veto. The job of Florida leaders should be to ensure equal access to properly funded education. Rick Scott failed that test miserably today.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permissions.

In new video tied HB 7069 signing, Florida House declares ‘hope has arrived’

The Florida House is touting the signing of a wide-sweeping education bill with a new video.

The nearly 3-minute web video, released ahead of a bill signing event at Morning Star Catholic School in Orlando, features news clips showing parents talking about their children and reporters highlighting the 2015 “Failure Factories” series by the Tampa Bay Times.

After the words “failure no more, hope has arrived” flash onto the screen, the video shows footage of Rep. Byron Donalds talking about the bill (HB 7069) during a committee hearing earlier this year.

“We are wasting the educational time and the economic future of the kids who sit in those classrooms,” the Naples Republican is shown saying in the video. “The real conversation is what are we doing to make sure the children who are in the biggest need have the greatest opportunity for success.”

“What we’re doing here is allowing operators who have a demonstrated track record of success in low-performing areas in other parts of the United States of America, and we are giving them the opportunity and the ability to come to Florida and perform for the kids who are at risk the most,” continues Donalds, who was an advocate for the bill. “That’s what we’re doing in this bill.”

The Governor’s Office announced Thursday he planned to sign a major education bill at 3:45 p.m. The governor’s daily schedule listed the event as “HB 7069 Signing and Budget Highlight Event.”

The bill, among other things, creates the “Schools of Hope” program that would offer financial incentives to charter school operators who would agree to take students who now attending chronically failing schools, many of them in poor areas and urban neighborhoods. Additionally, up to 25 failing public schools may receive up to $2,000 per student for additional student services.

It extends the Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program, expands eligibility for the Gardiner Scholarship Program for disabled students, and requires 20 minutes of recess each day for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

The bill also requires school districts share capital project tax revenue with charter schools, which Corcoran argued is one of the reasons why some school district officials have come out in opposition to the bill.

The Associated Press contributed to this reported, reprinted with permission.

Sundial launches Friday Night Summer Music Series

Sundial, downtown St. Petersburg’s high-profile retail, dining and entertainment center, will offer guests a special treat all summer, with its Friday Night Summer Music Series which begins this Friday.

Each Friday from 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. artists will entertain shoppers, happy-hour enthusiasts, and diners. The series showcases some of the best local talents in the Tampa Bay region, with a different musical experience each week.

Acts include DJs, singer-songwriters, folk artists and jazz ensembles.

For updates and a schedule, visit Sundial’s Facebook page or sundialstpete.com.

Starting the series is a local pop-folk duo, Shane & Emily. The duo presents a positive, energetic vibe while incorporating elements of multiple genres into their original music. They travel the country playing venues of all sizes and opening for some of their favorite acts, including Caroline Kole, but they always return home to Tampa Bay.

Other acts include Austen van der Bleek, a local DJ known for creating feel-good atmospheres with an eclectic mix of styles; Shoeless Soul, a genre-bending four-piece band and newcomer to the St. Pete music scene and Jen Lowe, a singer-songwriter and multi-percussionist who has played with artists such as Jason Mraz and Ed Rowland of Collective Soul.

Sundial’s Summer Music Series is sure to add something new and fresh to an already vibrant downtown, and offer an extra incentive for St. Pete residents to visit the popular lifestyle center Friday evenings.

Associated Builders and Contractors endorse Rick Baker for St. Pete Mayor

The Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) is supporting Rick Baker for St. Petersburg Mayor.

“Rick Baker understands that administrative red tape hurts small business. He will fix it,” said Jason Spears, Peninsular Mechanical, in a statement Thursday.

Established in 1979, the Spears family owns Peninsular Mechanical, a 35-person small business that handles design-build air conditioning projects.

“I’m honored to have the support of the Associated Builders and Contractors Gulf Coast Chapter,” said Baker, candidate for Mayor. “I look forward to continuing our conversations with industry representatives on how to best move forward and support jobs in the construction industry and related fields throughout our region.”

“Baker has a proven history of positively working with the commercial construction industry to ensure smart growth in St. Petersburg,” said Steve Cona, ABC Florida Gulf Coast Chapter President and CEO. “He understands how free enterprise principles can bring necessary services to every neighborhood which helps create a seamless city.”

ABC is a national trade association representing 22,000 members from more than 19,000 construction and industry-related firms. Founded on the merit shop philosophy, ABC and its 70 chapters help members develop people, win work and deliver that work safely, ethically and profitably for the betterment of the communities in which they work. For more information, please visit www.abcflgulf.org.

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