Staff Reports - 5/63 - SaintPetersBlog

Staff Reports

Corey Givens hosting downtown business owners fundraiser May 8

A group of downtown businesses owners will be hosting a reception next week to support Corey Givens Jr. in his bid for St. Petersburg City Council.

The event will take place 11:30 a.m. Monday, May 8, at Parkshore Grill, 300 Beach Dr. NE in downtown St. Petersburg.

Givens is running for the District 6 seat, which encompasses portions of downtown, Midtown, Old Northeast, Bahama Shores and other Southeast neighborhoods. Term-limited Karl Nurse currently holds the seat.

“The purpose of this event is to provide an opportunity for entrepreneurs and small-business owners to voice their concerns about a number of issues such as jobs, The Pier, and our waterfront. We’ll also discuss ways that we can work together to diversify our economic base,” Givens said.

The host of the luncheon is local restaurateur Steve Westphal, owner of 400 Beach Seafood & Taphouse, Parkshore Grill and The Hanger.

Information and donations to Givens’ campaign can be made through

Primaries for the City of St. Petersburg mayoral race are Aug. 29; general election at-large voting is Nov. 7.

Other District 6 contenders include Akile Cainion, Gina Driscoll, James Scott, James Jackson, Sharon Russ, Maria Scruggs and Justin Bean.


Report: Rob Bradley says 2017-18 budget will include money for land conservation

Sen. Rob Bradley isn’t giving up hope the 2017-18 state budget will include money for the Florida Forever conservation lands program.

POLITICO Florida reported Tuesday that Bradley said the budget would include spending for Florida Forever, for Florida Keys wastewater projects, his proposed projects along the St. Johns River, and Senate President Joe Negron’s proposed water storage reservoir.

“This is going to be a budget that those who care about the environment are going to be very proud of,” the Fleming Island Republican told reporters, according to POLITICO.

The environmental budget has been a sticking point for budget negotiations. Lawmakers will need to go into overtime to complete the budget, since they did not finish it in time to be able to vote on it Friday. State law requires the budget be finalized 72 hours before the final vote.

The Senate’s proposed budget included $15.2 million for Florida Forever projects and $5.4 million for the the Florida Communities Trust.

Capitol Reax: Lake Okeechobee water storage reservoir

The Florida Legislature voted to send a trimmed-down version of a bill (SB 10) to build a water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. A top priority for Senate President Joe Negron, the bill aims to divert toxic algae discharges from coastal communities. The measure prohibits the state from taking private property to build the reservoir.

“Today is a momentous event. The many voices that came to the table this session – anglers, realtors, business and community leaders, and people who want the best for their state – were heard with the final bipartisan passage of SB 10, a positive and science-based step toward the restoration of America’s Everglades.

We thank the Senate and House for working together to create a solution that all parties could unite behind, and we applaud them for backing this good bill and its ultimate passage. Expediting the planning and implementation of the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir will significantly reduce the amount of harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee and provide us with the opportunity to store, clean and send large amounts of water into the Everglades and Florida Bay, where it is needed.

We recognize Senate President Joe Negron, who made this his priority from Day One, realizing the immediate need to pursue a solution to the damaging discharges, and never wavered. It is because of his unremitting advocacy and leadership that we’re seeing this legislation head to the Governor. This is a legacy that will be remembered long after his presidency ends.

Recognition is also due to House Speaker Richard Corcoran for his hard work in the House. Without his diligence and resolve, this momentous day would not have been realized.

We encourage Governor Rick Scott to join the Senate and House in embracing this long-awaited action by signing SB 10 into law.” – Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg

“Today, the Florida House stood up for Florida’s farming communities by approving legislation that does not take farmland out of production. While not perfect, Senate Bill 10 will ensure the planned EAA reservoir is eventually completed on existing state-owned land. Having turned the page on buying additional land south of Lake Okeechobee, the Florida Legislature in a future session can focus on plans that will address the excess water and nutrients originating north of the lake, which science shows can reduce the frequency of discharges by more than 60 percent.” – Ryan Duffy, spokesman for Florida Sugarcane Farmers

“Senate Bill 10 has been greatly improved, takes essentially no privately owned farmland, and even removes the threat of eminent domain.   The House deserves credit for quickly passing legislation that can provide some protection for our water resources while also protecting our farming communities and vital food production.

 U.S. Sugar always supports solutions that are based on science, which, in this case shows the source of the water significantly impacting the coastal estuaries flows from north of Lake Okeechobee, not the south.  Obviously, you’re going to have to build some solutions north of the lake to finally fix the discharge problem.  We look forward to working with legislators in the future to get that done.” – Judy Sanchez, senior director for corporate communications and public affairs for U.S. Sugar.

“We are grateful for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Rep. Matt Caldwell, Rep. Holly Raschein, Senate President Joe Negron, Sen. Rob Bradley, Sen. Jack Latvala and the entire Florida Legislature for their support of Everglades restoration projects and funding. This much-needed focus on our state’s natural resources will provide for the implementation of comprehensive solutions that will have the greatest and most immediate impact on the Everglades, Florida Bay and our south Florida estuaries.” – Kellie Ralston, Florida Fishery Policy Director of the American Sportfishing Association.

Joe Negron’s signature Lake Okeechobee project headed to governor’s desk

The Senate voted Tuesday to send a trimmed-down version of SB 10, Senate President Joe Negron’s Lake Okeechobee restoration plan, to Gov. Rick Scott.

The 33-0 vote followed approval by the House earlier in the day.

Under amendments adopted in the House, and accepted in the Senate, bonding authority to acquire land and construct reservoirs would shrink from $1.2 billion to $800 million, bill sponsor Rob Bradley explained. The complete price tag for the project is $1.5 billion.

The project is designed to avoid the runoff of toxic algae-laden water from the lake into rivers, streams and estuaries to the east and west — like those that sickened people and depressed tourism last summer.

“I promised my constituents that we would dramatically expand southern storage by leveraging existing water infrastructure, and utilizing a combination of state, local, and private land,” said Negron in a statement. “After twenty years of talking about southern storage, this legislation establishes and fully funds a concrete plan to achieve this critical component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan in a reasonable amount of time.

The bill provides for construction of reservoirs north and the south of the lake to store the overflow, and for treatment of the water and release into the Everglades and, ultimately, Florida Bay.

“Today the Florida House joined the Senate by passing SB 10, which will build additional water storage south of Lake Okeechobee. I have continued to support the diversion of Lake Okeechobee water away from our estuary as well as diversified storage options within our watershed to help protect the Caloosahatchee,” said Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, whose district includes a region impacted by the discharges.  “SB 10 will bring relief from the harmful discharges that plague our estuary. I am very proud we were able to achieve this goal in the 2017 session.”

Scott has endorsed storing water south of the Lake, but not the bill’s bonding authority.

Jeff Atwater thanks Floridians in farewell letter

CFO Jeff Atwater is saying farewell.

In an open letter to Floridians on Tuesday, Atwater recounted his achievements as the state’s chief financial officer and thanked Florida residents for their confidence over the years.

“From Pensacola to Key West, and all stops in between, I have had the unique privilege of meeting your families, hearing your stories and answering your calls. You have graciously welcomed me into your homes, invited me to share meals and memories,” he wrote in his letter. “Your words and life stories have been edifying to me and helped shape my time in public life. As I approach the end of our shared journey, the impact, influence and inspiration you have provided cannot be overstated.”

Atwater announced in February that he would be be leaving his post at the end of the 2017 Session to become the vice president for strategic initiatives and chief financial officer at Florida Atlantic University. Since then there have been several touching tributes, including a roast from Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam at the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Capitol Days.

Atwater was also honored during the Cabinet meeting earlier this month.

“I am proud of what I have fought for, accomplished and achieved. None of that could have been done without the dedicated team that has worked alongside me each day,” said Atwater. “They, and every Florida voter who has ever checked my name on a ballot, have put their faith, their finances, and their futures in my hands, and through that process I have become a better man.”

Florida consumer sentiment in April drops from record high

Consumer sentiment among Floridians in April dropped 3.5 points to 95.7 from a record-high reading of 99.2 in March, according to the latest University of Florida consumer survey.

Despite the ups and downs in the index during the first four months of 2017, consumers are overall more optimistic compared with those same months in 2016.

Among the five components that make up the index, one increased and four decreased.

Perceptions of one’s personal financial situation now compared with a year ago rose 2.2 points, from 88.7 to 90.9. This is the highest reading for this component since February 2005.

Opinions as to whether now is a good time to buy a major household item such as an appliance dropped 1.9 points, from 103.4 to 101.5.

Taken together, these two components represent Floridians’ perceptions about current economic conditions.

“Despite the decrease in one of the two components that address present conditions, current perceptions have remained stable in recent months, reflecting the favorable economic conditions that have prevailed in the state,” said Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

The three components that measure expectations of future economic conditions all shifted downward between March and April.

Expectations of personal finances a year from now declined 2.3 points, from 107.5 to 105.2. Anticipated U.S. economic conditions over the next year decreased 6.8 points, from 99.3 to 92.5. Finally, expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next five years showed the greatest decline, from 96.8 to 88.2, an 8.6 points change.

“Most of the pessimism in this month’s index figure comes from the unfavorable expectations about the future state of the economy. Notably, these perceptions are shared by all Floridians with the sole exception of those with an income level over $50,000,” Sandoval said.

“It is worth noting that those with incomes of $50,000 and over display favorable perceptions in all five components of the index. In particular, they have a very strong positive expectation about their personal financial situation one year from now. This might be a result of the proposed tax reform announced by the federal government, which is expected to slash the tax rates on corporations and high-income individuals,” Sandoval said.

Economic data in Florida continue to be generally positive. In particular, Florida’s labor market continued to expand in March. Over the last year, 246,100 jobs have been added in Florida, a 3 percent increase. The industry sector gaining most jobs was education and health services, followed by professional and business services. There were also increases in the trade, transportation and utilities sector, as well as the construction industry.

A particular bright spot: Florida’s unemployment rate in March dropped two-tenths of a percentage point to 4.8 percent, which is the lowest rate since December 2007, right at the beginning of the Great Recession.

Conducted April 1-27, the UF study reflects the responses of 568 individuals who were reached on cellphones, representing a demographic cross section of Florida.

The index used by UF researchers is benchmarked to 1966, which means a value of 100 represents the same level of confidence for that year. The lowest index possible is a 2, the highest is 150.

Adam Putnam running for governor

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is no longer just a likely gubernatorial candidate.

The Bartow Republican filed his paperwork Monday for a 2018 run to replace Gov. Rick Scott. He plans to make a formal announcement on the old county courthouse steps in Bartow at 11 a.m. on May 10, according to the Tampa Bay Times, which first reported Putnam’s annoouncement.

“I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world because I get to call Florida home,” he said in a statement. “It’s our responsibility as Floridians to keep our economy at work, to increase access to high quality education, to fiercely protect our personal freedoms, to keep our state safe, and to welcome our veterans home with open arms.”

Putnam was first elected in 2010 after serving five terms in Congress, where he was one of the highest ranking Republican members of the U.S. House. He was first elected to the Legislature when he was 22.

The 42-year-old is a fifth generation Floridian from a family of ranchers and citrus growers. He becomes the first major Republican to enter the race.

His entry into the race has long been expected. His political committee, Florida Grown, has raised $10.5 million since since February 2015. The committee ended March with more than $7.7 million cash on hand.

The committee had some of its best fundraising periods to-date in recent months. The committee raised more than $2.2 million in February and nearly $1.1 million in March.

Both Sen. Jack Latvala and Speaker Richard Corcoran are believed to be considering their options.

Latvala’s political committee, Florida Leadership Committee, has raised $8.2 million since 2013. The committee had one of its best fundraising periods to date in February, raising nearly $1.1 million.

Democrats Andrew Gillum and Chris King have already filed to run, while former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham is widely expected to announce her 2018 bid on Tuesday.

Scott can’t run again because of term limits.

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

Daisy Baez files to run to replace Frank Artiles in SD 40

Daisy Baez has officially thrown her hat in the race to replace Frank Artiles.

Baez, who was elected to the Florida House in November, filed her paperwork to run for Senate District 40, her campaign announced Monday. Baez will likely compete in a special election for the newly vacated seat.

“I’m running for State Senate which is where I believe the most good can be accomplished on behalf of Floridians,” she said in a statement. “The people of Miami-Dade deserve to have high quality public schools for their children, good-paying jobs that provide economic security for working families, and access to quality, affordable healthcare. I look forward to continuing my steadfast advocacy on behalf of Florida families in the State Senate.”

A health care consultant and Army veteran from Coral Gables, Baez defeated John Couriel in November to win the House District 114 spot. She currently serves on the Health & Human Services Committee, the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, and Health Innovation Subcommittee.

“Serving in the Florida House has been an incredibly rewarding experience, and serving in the Florida Senate will allow me to continue to work on behalf of our community in a much greater capacity,” she said.

Artiles, a Miami-Dade County Republican, resigned earlier this month in the wake of a scandal. The freshman senator made national news after he accosted two of his colleagues in a dispute over legislation at a private club in Tallahassee. He used a slang variation of the “N-word,” and called Sen. Audrey Gibson a “b***h” and a “girl.”

Rowdies defeat Richmond on Deshorn Brown ‘moment of brilliance’

A moment of sheer brilliance from Deshorn Brown lifted the Tampa Bay Rowdies to a 1-0 win over the Richmond Kickers Saturday night, breaking the Rowdies’ short winless streak in style.

The Rowdies now stand at 4 wins, 1 tie, and 2 losses, with 13 points. They entered the match on a three-game winless streak, but bounced back to climb into a tie on points for first place in the Eastern Conference standings. Attendance for Saturday’s match was 4,829.

“We knew (Richmond) would sit deep and we’d have a lot of the ball,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “I wanted us to be more patient and I wanted to win the individual battles. I wanted all of us, first and foremost, to think about their defensive roles and responsibilities and I thought every man did that and they deserve a lot of credit.”

Brown’s goal came in the 45th minute on a moment of individual skill.

Marcel Schäfer played a cross from the left wing that was contested by Darnell King and a Kickers defender, with the ball being headed back toward the penalty where Brown was waiting in more space than he should have been afforded. As Brown watched the ball fall, he gathered himself and pulled off a leaping scissor kick that Kickers goalkeeper Matt Turner was helpless to stop.

“I like doing bicycle kicks and today was a chance for me to do it,” Brown said. “I made up my mind to go for it and got the goal. … It was pretty important for us to get the win tonight because last week was a rough week for us. There was a lot of frustration for us, so to get back from that and start winning again is a good feeling.”

As a result of Brown’s goal just before halftime, Tampa Bay went into the locker room with a 1-0 lead it wouldn’t relinquish, earning its first clean sheet since April 8 in the process.

The match followed a familiar arc for the Rowdies this season, with the Rowdies dominating possession and chances, but not being clinical enough to put the match away early.

The Rowdies had 66.3 percent possession and out-passed the Kickers (2-0-4, 6 points) by a wide margin, 572 to 296, but it took nearly until halftime for the Rowdies to pull ahead.

Tampa Bay had chances to extend its lead in the second half — none better than Brown’s 81st-minute jaunt into Richmond’s box before firing a shot that missed the upper 90 by inches — but didn’t need to score a second goal to win.

The Rowdies’ defense was back to the stifling form it opened the season in, keeping the Kickers at a distance and not allowing a shot on goal all night as Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens eased to his first clean sheet of the season.

The Rowdies head on the road next week face the Ottawa Fury FC in Ottawa Saturday afternoon before returning home to host Louisville City FC at Al Lang Stadium May 13.

Scoring Summary
Rowdies: Deshorn Brown – 45th minute

Caution Summary
Rowdies: Damion Lowe – 40th minute
Richmond: Fred Owusu Sekyere – 88th minute

Starting Lineups
Rowdies XI (4-2-3-1): GK Matt Pickens; D Darnell King, Damion Lowe, Neill Collins, Marcel Schäfer; M Justin Chavez, Martin Vingaard; M Darwin Jones (Michael Nanchoff 81′), Joe Cole (c), Leo Fernandes (Georgi Hristov 60′); F Deshorn Brown

Richmond XI (4-5-1): GK Matt Turner; D Alex Lee, Evan Lee, Mallan Roberts, Braeden Troyer; M Conor Shanosky (c) (Luis Fernando 79′), Samuel Asante (Anthony Grant 64′), Patrick McCann, Fred Owusu Seykere, Oliver Minatel (Sunny Jane 64′); F Alhaji Kamara


Report: State workers to get pay raises, but changes to health benefits could be coming

State workers could get a raise under a proposed budget deal being hashed out by state lawmakers, but it could come at a cost.

The $82.9 billion budget deal is expected to provide an across-the-board raise for state workers — their first in about nine years, according to Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, for whom the raise was a priority.

But according to POLITICO Florida, the Senate has agreed to changes to the state’s health insurance plan and pension plan in exchange for those pay increases.

The health insurance proposal would encompass the changes contained in a House bill (HB 7007) passed earlier this year. The bill allows employees to choose from four different levels of health-insurance beginning in 2020. According to POLITICO Florida, the deal also requires new state employees be placed into a defined contribution plan, similar to a 401(k).

The Senate, in exchange, would receive the $220 million of state worker pay raises outlined in the Senate’s initial budget proposal.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons