Staff Reports - 5/49 - SaintPetersBlog

Staff Reports

Final push for fundraising before 2017 Session kicks off

Think of it as the last hurrah before the 2017 Legislative Session.

Members of the House and Senate can’t raise money while the Legislature is session, putting a 60-day pause on fundraising each year. And while that may be good news for their most loyal contributors’ pocketbooks, it does mean you can expect a mad dash for last minute fundraising before clock starts on the 2017 Session.

House Majority, the fundraising arm of House Republicans, has a bevy of fundraisers planned for Monday. All of the events are hosted by Speaker Richard Corcoran, Rep. Jose Oliva, and Rep. Chris Sprowls.

Reps. Cord Byrd, Clay Yarborough, and Jason Fischer will kick off their fundraising early in the day with a reception at the Governors Club, 202 S. Adams Street, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Yarborough will be back at the Governors Club at 5 p.m. for another fundraising reception, this time with Reps. Thomas Leek and Stan McClain.

The Southern Public House, 224 East College Ave, is the place to be Monday evening from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. That’s where you’ll find a fundraiser for Reps. James Grant, Mel Ponder, and Halsey Beshears. Rep. Brad Drake will be raising dough a few blocks away at Clyde’s and Costello’s, 210 South Adams Street. His fundraiser is also scheduled for 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

If hanging out at bars aren’t your style, then the fundraising reception for Reps. Cary Pigman, Michael Grant, Bryon Donalds, Joe Gruters, Ralph Massullo, and Julio Gonzalez might be up your alley. The event is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Governors Inn, 209 S. Adams Street.

Senators are also getting in on the action. Senate President Joe Negron, Sen. Bill Galvano, Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, and Sen. Jack Latvala will host a fundraiser for Ed Hooper, who’s hoping to replace Latvala in the Florida Senate, from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at The Governors Club.

Galvano and Simpson are also hosting a fundraiser for Sen. Frank Artiles and Rep. Manny Diaz, who is running for Senate in 2018, from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at The Maddox House, 510 North Adams Street.

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Lisa Carlton not running for Florida Agriculture Commissioner

Lisa Carlton has decided she will not run for Florida agriculture commissioner.

Instead, the former state Senator, who co-owns a cattle ranch with her family, will focus on her new role as a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission.

As first reported by Zac Anderson the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Carlton, a Sarasota Republican, has changed her mind since January, when she told the paper she was considering a statewide campaign in 2018 for agriculture commissioner.

Last week, Gov. Rick Scott appointed Carlton to the CRC, the panel which meets every 20 years to put Florida Constitution amendments on the ballot in 2018.

“It is imperative that my service to the CRC not conflict with the politics of campaigning for a statewide office,” Carlton told the Herald-Tribune. “Therefore, while my family and I have sincerely appreciated the strong support from friends around the state who have been encouraging me to seek the Florida Agricultural Commissioner seat next year, at this time I do not plan to seek elected office.”

Carlton said she wants to spend the next year “traveling the state and hearing my fellow Floridians’ ideas for improving our state’s founding document.”

 

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Daughter of Everglades Foundation founder says group ‘badly lost its way’

The daughter of Everglades Foundation founder George Barley says the group today is nothing like the one her father launched decades ago.

In an op-ed for the Orlando Sentinel Catherine Barley-Albertini, now a freelance writer in California, says the Everglades foundation has “badly lost its way” from its initial mission of Everglades restoration.

Barley-Albertini reflects on her father’s “passion for nature,” and the family vacations centered around it. She says she still visits Florida frequently, and possesses a deep appreciation for the region’s fragile ecosystem.

“He taught us to love and protect nature and wildlife,” Barley-Albertini writes, adding that her father “would never support a plan to send massive amounts of polluted lake water south to the Everglades when it was already too full.”

If her father were alive, she believes he would be “appalled at today’s political, economic and scientific shenanigans.”

In more than two decades after his death, Barley-Albertini says nothing has really changed, despite supporters vowing to fight for his cause at his funeral.

As an “extremely conservative, low-key person” Barley-Albertini says her father was fiercely honest and would stop at nothing to find the truth.

“While he wasn’t able to realize his dream,” she writes, “I feel an obligation to help fulfill it.”

Barley was relentless in his goal of restoring the “River of Grass” and the day he died, he was on his way to meet with the Army Corps of Engineers.

Since then, his name became “nearly synonymous” with Everglades restoration and the effort that has now spanned nearly three decades.

“Sadly, his dream of saving the Everglades is slipping away,” Barley-Albertini says, “as that focus has been replaced by the battle pitting coastal environmental groups against agriculture over damaging Lake Okeechobee discharges.”

Environmentalism has become “just another special interest” with fundraisers, lobbyists and paid staffers. Barley’s passion was to work with the public and private sectors as well as political leaders to act.

“Today’s activists are spreading a message of hate and division,” Barley-Albertini says.

While Barley battled farmers to make sure they assume their fair share of responsibility for pollution, including stricter water-quality requirements, his daughter said he would be happy that sugarcane farmers are cleaning water and “paying their fair share” of restoration.

“Mostly, he’d have been thrilled with the incredible progress today with more natural water flow and more than 90 percent of the Everglades meeting strict clean-water standards,” Barley-Albertini says.

Nevertheless, she says, today’s Everglades Foundation “has strayed far” from her father’s mission.

According to Barley-Albertini, false science is being used to promote false solutions.

In discussing with scientists, she found that excess nitrogen in the 1990s created the massive algae blooms and wildlife mortality.

But her father was “misled by scientists Jay Zieman and Ron Jones.”

Now environmentalists are ignoring generational family farming communities south of Lake Okeechobee. Instead, they are calling to flood both land and the Everglades.

“My father would never support a plan to send massive amounts of polluted lake water south to the Everglades when it was already too full,” Barley-Albertini says. “He would consider the issue more comprehensively, balancing the entire ecosystem, north, south and central, while considering the complex and comprehensive effects of the many septic systems as well as the effects of nitrogen, fertilizers, pollution and pesticides from our air and soil.”

After billions of both state and federal money spent on “timing, quantity and quality and more natural conveyance of water south,” development has rendered what’s left of the Everglades to half its original size.

What was never intended as part of Everglades restoration was rerouting hundreds of billions of gallons of nutrient-rich Lake Okeechobee water south.

It may sound simple, Barley-Albertini says, but introducing that much lake water would “destroy what’s left of the Everglades.”

Of course, estuary damage must be addressed, and excess water must be kept out of the lake and estuaries.

But for Barley-Albertini, the solution could not come at the expense of a recovering Everglades.

The Florida Legislature must “stay focused on solutions that continue real restoration,” she says. “We have only one Everglades.”

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Hamilton coming to Tampa in 2018-2019

Theatre fans wondering when the national tour of the Broadway musical sensation Hamilton will reach Tampa Bay now have a tentative date.

The Straz Center announced Sunday that the multiple Tony Award winning show will run during the 2018-2019 season.

The musical, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda is based on the life of Alexander Hamilton and features music that weaves hip-hop music with other contemporary styles in an unconventional setting, the Revolutionary War.

According to the Straz Center. subscribers of the 2017-2018 season who renew for 2018-2019 will guarantee their tickets to Hamilton before they go on sale to the general public.

The dates for the show have not been released. More information about that, group tickets and single tickets will be released at a later time.

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Legislative leaders strike deal to write state budget

House and Senate leaders have tentatively brokered a rules deal to avoid a meltdown over how requests to fund hometown projects get into the state budget.

Released Friday, the proposed joint rule follows Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala telling his chamber’s Rules Committee in February that House leaders had agreed to compromise to streamline the process.

“I think this is a big potential problem that’s been dodged,” the Clearwater Republican said following an event in Naples on Friday. “The only thing you have to do in the Constitution during the session is do a budget, and by having a game plan and a joint approach to that before we start out is a big deal.”

The new rule first defines an appropriations project identically to the House Rules. It also stipulates that no appropriations project “may be included in a budget conference report unless the project was included in the House or Senate general appropriations act,” according to a memo to House members from Speaker Richard Corcoran.

In the memo, Corcoran goes on to say that the “Senate has agreed to collect and post online specific detailed information on each appropriations project prior to the passage of their proposed general appropriations act.”

“The House is getting something that is important to them … written documentation of a request, so they’re not just in the middle of the night, on a napkin, or whatever they want to say. We’re getting what we wanted, in that we still have until we pass our budget the right to put in our requests, and it’s not arbitrarily cut off four or five weeks before session starts,” said Latvala. “Could this have been done before the process started this year? Yes. But I’m glad it’s done now.”

The new rule further grandfathers in existing recurring projects as long as they do not receive additional funding. New money must be non-recurring, meaning not required in future budgets, and “the project must be clearly identified in the conference report.”

The House requires each funding request to be filed separately. But the House’s method also required any senator’s project request to have its companion filed in the House or that chamber would not consider it.

The rationale behind the House’s system stems from Corcoran‘s desire for greater transparency in the budget process, particularly on local project funding.

“Today’s announcement that the House and the Senate achieved an agreement on the strongest, most transformational joint budget rules in Florida history, demonstrates that people of good will, negotiating in good faith, can make government better,” said Corcoran in a statement. “The joint rules, agreed to by President Negron and I, are unprecedented in both accountability and transparency. … I believe deeply that we’ve produced a paradigm shift in how budgets are made and it should become a model for other legislatures.”

An existing Senate rule, however, limited what the Senate can consider in conference, when members of both chambers get together to hammer out a final state budget to present to the governor.

“Establishing a joint rule to govern the budget conference process assures fidelity to the Constitution and preserves the autonomy of both Chambers,” said Senate President Joe Negron in a statement. “Both the House and Senate will be able to represent our constituents throughout Session as we construct a budget that reflects our values and priorities.  I look forward to a vibrant budget process in both the House and Senate as we make tough choices on how to allocate the revenue entrusted to us by the citizens of Florida.”

As of Friday, there were over 1,100 requests filed in the House, worth nearly $2.5 billion, according to a running list on LobbyTools.

— Reporters Jim Rosica in Tallahassee and Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster in Naples contributed to this report.

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Davis Islands woman who went to court over Derek Jeter fence is at it again

Deborah Ann Zomermaand is at it again.

Zomermaand is the Davis Island woman who took New York Yankees superstar Derek Jeter to court last month over the fence height surrounding his massive waterfront home.

Now, the 59-year-old treasurer of the Davis Islands Civic Association and vice president of Zomermaand Management Services is targeting Frank Paul Ripa, the Tampa construction firm owner who is building a new home nearby.

Ripa, 66, is the owner and CEO of Ripa & Associates, one of the largest construction firms in the Tampa Bay area with $203 million in local revenue for 2015.

In May 2016, Ripa formed 198 Blanca LLC to purchase a waterfront home on Davis Island at 198 Blanca Avenue, for which the entity paid $1.925-million. Ripa then demolished the existing structure, and 198 Blanca LLC submitted plans for a new, two-story home that exceeded the city’s 35-foot height limit by 18 inches.

Court documents are not clear as to whether Ripa plans the home for his own use or to sell.

The company applied for and was recently granted a variance from the Tampa City Council.

In a 140-page petition filed Feb. 23 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court without the aid of an attorney, Zomermaand seeks the court to overturn the city’s approval of Ripa’s 18-inch height variance. She claims the real reason Ripa sought the height variance was “personal preferences,” pointing out that nearby homes currently being built on the same block — including one next door — did not seek a height variance.

Zomermaand’s home at 192 Corsica St., is located about 500 feet from the proposed home at 198 Blanca Avenue. In 2006, Zomermaand and husband Randy purchased a $1.35-million, 4,608-square-foot home. Four years later, the couple bought the home next door at 190 Corsica St.

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Report: Rick Scott to invoke Donald Trump in battle with House

Gov. Rick Scott will is expected to bring President Donald Trump into his battle with the Florida House over taxpayer incentives during a speech at a Republican National Committee fundraiser this weekend.

POLITICO Florida reported Friday that Scott is expected to insert Trump into his messaging. According to excerpts of the speech provided to the news organization, Scott is expected to say that the “biggest surprise President Trump will have in his transition in his transition from business life to political life is the same surprise I had — the number of people who treat politics as a game.”

The Naples Republican is in the middle of a well-publicized fight with House Republicans, led by Speaker Richard Corcoran, who want to shut down Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development agency. Legislation passed the House Appropriations Committee last month that would eliminate the agency and a slew of other economic incentive programs, as well as drastically slash funding for Visit Florida, the state’s tourist marketing agency.

POLITICO Florida reported Scott will also cast House Republicans as hypocrites. According to excerpts provided to POLITICO Florida, Scott is expected to say he has “vowed to fight against this kind of hypocrisy and I know President Trump will do the same thing at the national level.”

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Ramon Alexander endorses Andrew Gillum for governor

State Rep. Ramon Alexander, a Tallahassee Democrat, has endorsed Mayor Andrew Gillum‘s bid for governor.

The Tallahassee Democrat newspaper reported the endorsement Thursday.

Ramon Alexander
Alexander

Alexander mentioned Gillum’s “grassroots and coalition-building abilities for ‘generating excitement’ for the Democratic base.”

“Mayor Gillum has my full support and I will do everything in my ability to support his candidacy as he moves forward,” he told the paper.

This is Alexander’s first term in the House, representing District 8, which includes parts of Leon County and Gadsden County.

Gillum formally announced his candidacy Wednesday, but FloridaPolitics.com first reported Tuesday that Gillum said he was running in a conference call with supporters.

Gillum is the first person to officially declare his candidacy for governor, followed by Orlando Democrat Chris King on Thursday. No Republican has yet formally announced.

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Black students sue Pinellas County school district over killing ‘successful’ reading program

Attorney Todd Hoover

Parents of two Pinellas County students are suing the school district over the cancellation of a “highly effective” reading program for African-American students. They claim it was due to personal animosity toward the program’s founder, who happens to be the attorney representing the plaintiffs.

Jadrius Boykin and Malik Williams are African-American students attending schools in Pinellas County’s “Area 3” district. A story published May 15, 2016, suggests Boykin is a student at Melrose Elementary.

The boys’ mothers — Tracie Boykin and Camille Archie — filed a joint suit against the Pinellas County School District saying their children are more likely to end up “illiterate” as a result of what they claim is a “callous decision” to shut down rather than expand the “First 25” reading program.

They say top school officials — including Area 3 Superintendent Robert Poth and Pinellas County District Superintendent Michael Grego — were “hostile” to the program because of a personal animosity toward the program’s founder, attorney Todd Hoover.

Poth is a former Pinellas County teacher who became an administrator after 15 years of teaching. He was named Outstanding Mathematics Teacher of the Year by the Pinellas Classroom Teachers of Mathematics and was a finalist for Pinellas County Teacher of the Year in 1990.

Also named in the suit is Deputy Superintendent William Corbett.

Hoover, who represents the parents in the suit, is a graduate of Stetson Law and was admitted to the Florida Bar September 2016. While attending Stetson, Hoover introduced a voluntary, weekly, before-school reading and athletics program at St. Petersburg’s John Hopkins Middle School which later became known as “First 25.”

The goal of the nonprofit program was to improve the reading fluency of struggling African-American students. Barry Brown was principal at John Hopkins when First 25 began in 2012, and is still principal there.

In 2014, Bay News 9 named Hoover one is its “everyday heroes.” Nevertheless, the school district decided to end the program in 2015.

When district leaders decided to discontinue First 25, Hoover asked the full school board for an investigation — which later found no sign of malfeasance. However, Hoover claims the request made district officials even more hostile toward both him and the program.

The lawsuit, filed Feb. 25 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, says that although John Hopkins principal Brown was initially a supporter of First 25, he scaled back enthusiasm after district officials opposed to the program.

After the end of First 25, Hoover criticized the district in a 2015 Bay News 9 story, saying that the refusal to consider the program on its merits “cost the district an opportunity to improve the reading skills of African-American students, whose performance on average not only trails local whites’ but that of their black counterparts elsewhere in Florida.”

School district spokeswoman Lisa Wolf responded that the PCS was not trying to kill the reading program, but wanted to bring First 25 “into compliance with district guidelines.”

Hoover blasted that as “more excuses … the question is, why don’t you want 25 kids from the toughest neighborhoods showing up on their own to read?”

The suit argues that the program was effective — 75 percent of the students participating in First 25 saw increased reading scores, and 55 percent saw improvements so great as to be considered “learning gains” by Florida Department of Education standards.

According to the lawsuit: “By suppressing successful reading programs for black children, Defendant has increased the chances that Plaintiffs will be illiterate” and that “domestic strife and unrest” will continue to bedevil the black community.”

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St. Pete City Council sets Al Lang Stadium Special Election for May 2

On Thursday, St. Petersburg City Council voted to approve and set the Al Lang Stadium special election for Tuesday, May 2. This is another positive step in bringing Major League Soccer to St. Petersburg.

The May 2 voting will allow residents of St. Petersburg to vote on giving City Council the authority to negotiate a long-term use agreement for Al Lang Stadium.

The use agreement, which can’t exceed 25 years, would allow Al Lang Stadium’s primary purpose to be the home field for a potential Major League Soccer team.

Rowdies owner Bill Edwards will cover the entire cost of the May 2 election.

In a statement, the Tampa Bay Rowdies expressed appreciation for the Council In approving the May 2 Referendum and allowing the club to continue its aspirations of bringing another major league sports team to the city.

The Rowdies announced their #MLS2StPete campaign in December 2016, only to be named as one of the 12 candidates in the running for an MLS franchise less than two weeks later. The campaign also includes a privately funded renovation and expansion plan to Al Lang Stadium in downtown St. Petersburg.

For more information, visit MLS2StPete.com.

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