Staff Reports - 5/43 - SaintPetersBlog

Staff Reports

Personnel note: ACLU-FL staffs up for Donald Trump era

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida announced a bevy of new staff “in preparation for the upcoming fights in the Florida legislature, in the courts, and in cities and counties across the state of Florida,” according to a Wednesday news release.

Deputy Director Melba Pearson was an Assistant State Attorney in Miami-Dade County for 16 years, serving in the Domestic Crimes Unit. She also helped the re-launch the Community Prosecution Unit, “whose goal is partnering with the community to find creative solutions to prevent crime and provide outreach,” the release said. She ended her prosecutorial career as the Assistant Chief State Attorney in the Career Criminal/Robbery Unit, supervising junior attorneys while prosecuting homicides.

Political Director Kirk Bailey will lead direct lobbying, organizing and campaign initiatives. He most recently was vice president of government affairs at the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), and has been counsel at Smith Dawson & Andrews, heading up government relations and policy development for a wide variety of local government and non-profit clients. His wide legislative experience includes working for former U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, an Alaska Republican.

Staff Attorney Jackie Azis will focus on criminal justice issues. She studied journalism at the University of Florida and went to law school at the University of North Carolina School of Law. During law school, Jackie interned with the ACLU of North Carolina and the ACLU-Capital Punishment Project, and served as the ACLU president for the UNC Law chapter. In her final year of law school, Jackie worked for the Orange County (North Carolina) Public Defender’s Office.

Legislative Counsel Kara Gross, based in Tallahassee, was Senior Counsel at Smith & Associates in Tallahassee. Gross also was Senior Assistant General Counsel for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Associate Director of Legal Programs at the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV). Before moving to Florida, she worked as an associate at Morgan Lewis in their Labor and Employment Practice Group, and as a litigation associate at Debevoise & Plimpton.  She is admitted to practice in Florida, New York, New Jersey and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Criminal Justice Reform Campaign Manager Raymer Maguire IV will coordinating criminal justice reform efforts. He founded and managed three successful small businesses from 2006 to 2013. Maguire “gained extensive knowledge of the Florida political landscape having worked in leadership positions on Florida’s two medical marijuana ballot initiative campaigns from 2013 to 2016,” the release said.

The organization’s website is <www.aclufl.org>.

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Random audits of lobbyists to kick off soon

Following a 2005 state law, legislative staff will once again randomly pick legislative and executive branch lobbying firms for audits of their compensation reports.

The selection will take place 4 p.m., Feb. 22 in Room G-01 of the Claude Pepper Building, 111 W. Madison St. in Tallahassee, LobbyTools reported Tuesday.

The last round of audits, released in September 2015, found discrepancies big and small after staff randomly picked 26 lobbying firms to be audited.

Four accounting firms were hired to do the work: Carroll and Co.; Carr, Riggs & Ingram (CRI); Grant Thornton; and Warren Averett.

Auditors discovered a number of firms either under-reporting or over-reporting the money they made in 2014. In another case, auditors couldn’t tell who had paid a particular bill.

But generally, lobbying firms were annoyed at having to undergo auditing and lawmakers were underwhelmed.

“I don’t understand how the public’s interest is advanced by this exercise,” said state Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican who formerly sat on the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee.

“I just don’t see how this information is relevant” other than being a “marketing tool for big lobbying firms,” Bradley said in late 2015.

Legislation actually was filed for the 2016 Legislative Session that would have repealed the audit requirement, but it died in both chambers.

The latest audits “are scheduled to begin on or after May 1, 2017,” according to LobbyTools.

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Capitol Reax: Rick Scott’s proposed 2017-18 budget

Gov. Rick Scott officially rolled out his nearly $83.5 billion budget during the Associated Press’ annual legislative planning session Tuesday.

“AIF applauds Governor Scott’s proposed budget that fights for the future of employers and employees in our Sunshine State. His proposed spending plan, which includes $618 million in tax cuts and $85 million for economic incentives to businesses, will go a long way in continuing to help our state achieve the prosperity and growth our Florida families deserve.

“From the proposed business rent tax reduction by $454 million, to the corporate income tax exemption, to the increase in the number of sales tax holidays, Governor Scott is clearly on a mission to ensure Florida job creators are excelling and Florida families are benefitting from a pro-business environment in their home state.

“As the 2017 Legislative Session gets underway, AIF encourages Florida lawmakers to support this good budget that fosters a competitive approach to how we do business and will set up Florida for a brighter future.” – Tom Feeney, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida

“Providing women the opportunity to detect cancer early when it is most survivable is something that everyone deserves, no matter who they are or where they live. The state has supported this program in the past and it’s critically important that House and Senate leadership step up to ensure more women have access to it, not less. This program has been a lifesaver for hundreds of women in Florida because it provides access to evidenced-based screenings, which are the most important tools for detecting breast and cervical cancer early and improving survival rates.” — Heather Youmans, senior government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).

“Governor Scott’s transportation budget makes the right investments in the right places for today’s needs while preparing for tomorrow’s demands. This budget continues to recognize the diverse needs of our residents, our businesses and our visitors.” — Jay Trumbull, chairman of the Florida Transportation Commission.

“Governor Scott’s record budget continues important strategic investments in transportation infrastructure. The budget maintains a solid foundation for a growing economy and more jobs for Florida’s families.” — Bob Burleson, president of the Florida Transportation Builders’ Association

“Governor Scott continues to make Florida’s seaports a priority by investing in the necessary improvements to keep up with current needs and prepare for future growth in cargo and cruise passengers.” — Doug Wheeler, president and CEO of the Florida Ports Council

“Florida’s transportation system continues to be the best built and maintained in the country because Governor Scott knows that our residents, visitors and businesses rely on it every day.” — Sally Patrenos, president of Floridians for Better Transportation

“Governor Scott’s investments in Florida’s critical infrastructure demonstrate his commitment to creating one of the best and safest transportation systems in the nation.” — Kevin Wall, president Florida Concrete & Products Association.

“Florida residents and visitors who rely on local transit systems will benefit from the Governor’s transportation budget. He recognizes the importance public transportation plays in the lives of those who need it most.” — Lisa Bacot, executive director of the Florida Public Transportation Association

“Thanks to the strategic investments Governor Scott has made in Florida’s airport system, we continue to be prepared to handle record volumes in traffic and operations while at the same time making critical improvements to keep our workers and passengers safe.” — Lisa Lyle Waters, president and CEO of the Florida Airports Council

“There is nothing more important than providing Floridians access to a K-12 and college education that will lead them to prosperous careers. I commend Governor Rick Scott for his ‘Fighting for Florida’s Future’ Budget, which further demonstrates his steadfast commitment to Florida’s families and their futures.” — Education Commissioner Pam Stewart

“Governor Rick Scott hit the mark with his ‘Fighting for Florida’s Future’ Budget. Florida is recognized as a national leader in the field of education, and by investing in the areas that have the greatest impact on student success, Governor Scott is investing in Florida’s next generation and securing Florida’s future success.” — Marva Johnson, chairwoman of the State Board of Education

“There has never been a more important time to focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in our state’s schools. Throughout the world, there is a growing demand for employees who can seamlessly fill positions in STEM fields, and Governor Scott’s investments will help ensure Florida students are prepared to compete in this global economy.” — Andy Tuck, vice chair of the State Board of Education

“Our state’s students will greatly benefit from Governor Scott’s focus on K-12 education in his ‘Fighting for Florida’s Future’ Budget. I am particularly pleased by the significant increase in per-student funding, which will enable us to keep our focus where it belongs – on our students.” — Malcom Thomas, superintendent of Escambia schools and president of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents.

“I appreciate Governor Rick Scott for proposing an increase of $10.5 million for the Florida College System. Our 28 colleges serve more than 800,000 Florida students and lead the nation with graduation rates topping nearly every other state. This infusion of funds will help ensure each college has the resources necessary to offer their students a world-class education and to respond to the needs of their communities.” — Ed Meadows, president of Pensacola State College

“At Santa Fe College, we are committed to helping our students achieve their academic and career goals.  Our leadership and staff strive for excellence in all that we do, and I am thankful that Governor Rick Scott has included financial incentives to reward colleges for exemplary performance.” — Jackson Sasser, president of Santa Fe College

“We appreciate the Governor’s commitment to performance funding in the Florida College System.  We are convinced Governor Scott’s consistent advocacy for performance funding represents solid business logic and will continue to drive positive student outcomes at Valencia and throughout the system.” — Sandy Shugart, president of Valencia College

“I cherish the opportunity to help mold Florida’s future generations through my work in the classroom, and I know that so many of my fellow teachers around the state share that sentiment. I am immensely grateful that Governor Scott has once again proposed $10,000 for each of the district teachers of the year and additional funds for the finalists and statewide winner. These outstanding educators truly deserve to be recognized for their dedication to Florida’s students.” — Jessica Solano, 2017 Florida Teacher of the Year

“We commend Governor Scott for his commitment to streamline and make state agencies run more efficiently through his proposed budget. We believe the Governor can go even further! We applaud Governor Scott’s focus on broad based tax cuts that can provide real relief to hardworking Floridians, but he should forgo calls to expand wasteful tax giveaway programs like Enterprise Florida that promote unfair competition to existing businesses.

“The Governor is wrong in expecting Florida taxpayers to give away their tax dollars to businesses that want to come and compete against them in the market. We believe that his broad based tax cuts should be matched with common sense spending cuts, and that the legislature should work to give as much money back to the Florida families and entrepreneurs that are the real keys to economic development.” — Chris Hudson, state director for Americans for Prosperity-Florida

“Governor Scott has been steadfast in his commitment to our state’s juvenile justice reform work and the ‘Fighting for Florida’s Future’ Budget is a reflection of that unwavering commitment. From the implementation of DJJ’s Roadmap to System Excellence several years ago to today, Florid a has and will continue in the future to serve as a model juvenile justice system for the rest of the country.” — Cathy Craig-Myers, executive director of the Florida Juvenile Justice Association

“On behalf of vulnerable girls in our state, we appreciate Governor Scott’s investment in prevention services in Florida. Under his leadership, more girls and young woman have access to education, counseling, and trauma informed services so that they can reach their full potential and successfully transition to adulthood.” — Mary Marx, president and CEO of the Pace Center for Girls

“The Florida Network would like to thank Governor Scott for continuing to recognize the importance of investing in prevention services in our state. Having the ability to reach younger children, before they come into contact with the juvenile justice system, ensures not only a brighter future for them but strong families and communities overall.” — Stacy Gromatski, president and CEO of the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services.

“While mental illness and substance abuse can be unimaginable challenges for a family, this budget recognizes the importance of supporting services to address these needs a priority for our state. I applaud the Governor’s leadership in keeping these issues in the forefront and driving long-term, effective treatment solutions.” — Mark Fontaine, executive director of the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association

“We applaud Governor Scott’s continued commitment to invest state resources in community behavioral health programs. His budget proposals will provide much-needed relief to families in need, make our communities safer, and help those at risk.”– Melanie Brown-Woofter, interim president of the Florida Council for Community Mental Health

“This budget provides additional workforce capacity and services for child victims of human trafficking and crossover youth who find themselves in both the child welfare system and the juvenile justice system. The Governor clearly understands the urgency of providing these children with relevant and timely services and specifically, ensuring effective treatment for the trauma that they have experienced.” — Jessica Pryce, director of the Florida Institute of Child Welfare

“Florida Health Care Association is grateful  to Governor Scott for his continued support of quality care and services for Florida’s frailest elders. We appreciate him fully funding Medicaid for nursing center services and for initiating the dialogue on the creation of a Prospective Payment System. In addition, his ‘Fighting for Florida’s Future’ Budget will help to further streamline the background screening process, allowing qualified employees applying at our centers to enter the long term care workforce faster so they can more quickly begin caring for nursing center residents.” — Emmett Reed, executive director of the Florida Health Care Association

“The investments in the Provider Data Management System in the ‘Fighting for Florida’s Future’ Budget will greatly streamline the application process for providers wishing to participate in the Medicaid program. Thanks to Governor Scott for streamlining the process, and allowing us to open our doors and serve Floridians in the most cost-effective, patient-preferred setting sooner.” — Bobby Lolley, Home Care Association of Florida

“Cultural organizations and museums provide many benefits to communities throughout Florida and strengthen the economy and job creation. We applaud Governor Scott for his continued dedication to cultural and museum grant funding.” —Malinda Horton, executive director of the Florida Association of Museums.

“Funding for culturally-based activities improves quality of life and increases opportunities for all Floridians. We thank Governor Scott for his support of arts and culture in the State of Florida.” — Lois Benson, chair of the Florida Council of Arts & Culture

“Governor Scott understands that historic preservation serves as an economic engine for Florida communities and supports cultural heritage tourism. Investments in historical properties are an investment in Florida’s future.” — Marion Almy, chairman of the Florida Historical Commission

“Governor Scott recognizes the significant contributions that libraries provide to Florida citizens. From supporting early learning and providing homework assistance to career exploration, information literacy, and lifelong learning, libraries provide critical services to our communities.” — Charlie Parker, executive director of the Tampa Bay Library Consortium

“The conservative estimate that Florida could be paying nearly $45 million a year in claims for ineligible dependents receiving benefits is astonishing. Florida Tax Watch commends Governor Scott’s commitment to reducing the burden on Florida taxpayers and for seeking innovative solutions to increase efficiencies throughout state government.” — Dominic M. Calabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch

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Florida consumer sentiment continues upward climb

Consumer sentiment among Floridians in January ticked up another one-half point to 97.8 — the highest reading since March 2002 — from December’s record-breaking revised figure of 97.3, according to the latest University of Florida consumer survey.

Florida’s upward trend also tracks the national figures released last week by the University of Michigan, with the national consumer sentiment index at the highest level since February 2004.

Of the five components that make up the Florida index, three increased and two decreased.

Perceptions of one’s personal financial situation now compared with a year ago showed the greatest increase, rising 5.4 points from 82.8 to 88.2. With the exception of those 60 and older, this view is shared by all Floridians.

Opinions as to whether now is a good time to buy a big-ticket household item such as an appliance increased slightly from 101.2 to 102.3.

“Perceptions of current conditions improved among Floridians in the last month as a result of the positive economic picture that prevailed in the state during the last year,” said Hector Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. “Floridians are optimistic about their own finances. The recent surge in the level of confidence comes from perceptions and expectations about Floridians’ individual financial situations.”

Expectations of personal finances a year from now rose 2.5 points, from 103.9 to 106.4. However, views on the future of the national economy were gloomier: Expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next year dropped 3.3 points, from 99.9 to 96.6, while anticipated U.S. economic conditions over the next five years decreased 2.7 points from 98.5 to 95.8.

Economic data in Florida continue to be generally positive. Although the December unemployment rate in Florida remained at 4.9 percent, the number of jobs added last year statewide was 251,400—a 3.1 percent increase compared with a year ago. The industry sector gaining most jobs was leisure and hospitality, followed by education and health services, then professional and business services.

“There is no doubt that the state’s economy is in better shape than it was several years ago,” Sandoval said. “However, both short- and long-run expectations about the national economic situation are pessimistic, particularly over the next year. These negative expectations are shared by most Floridians but are strongest among those with income under $50,000. These expectations may reflect uncertainty associated with the upcoming economic policy changes by the new U.S. administration. The next few months will be key to understanding these changes and assessing their potential impact on the economy.”

Conducted Jan. 1-26, the UF study reflects the responses of 449 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.

Details of this month’s survey can be found at bebr.ufl.edu/csi-data.

Via University of Florida News Center.

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Travis Hutson telecom bill would preempt right of way regulation

Newly filed legislation could affect how much power local governments have to regulate the right of way when it comes to telecommunications equipment.

Sen. Travis Hutson, chairman of the Senate Regulated Industries committee, filed the “Advanced Wireless Infrastructure Deployment Act” (SB 596) on Monday. The bill, among other things, would prohibit the Department of Transportation and certain local governments from prohibiting, regulating or charging for placing small wireless facilities in rights of way.

Under Hutson’s bill, local governments can’t require applicants to perform services unrelated to the approval that’s being sought, like reserving fiber or pole space for the governmental agency. It also can’t ask the applicant to “provide more information to obtain a permit than is required of electric service providers and other communications service providers that are not wire les providers.”

The bill also prohibits agencies from limiting “the placement of small wireless facilities by minimum separation distances or a maximum height limitation.” However, agencies can limit the height of a small wireless facility to no more than 10 feet above the tallest existing utility pole.

An application is automatically approved within 60 days of receipt, unless an agency approves or denies it.

The proposal has the backing of telecommunications giant AT&T.

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Rick Scott calls for widespread pay raises for corrections officers

Gov. Rick Scott is looking to give Florida corrections officers a pay raise, including $38 million for the state’s prison system in his proposed budget.

Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald reports that the increase, part of the budget Scott will announce Tuesday, is for “officers up to and including the rank of captain.”

Also, Scott wants to offer a $1, 000 signing bonus to new officers at certain understaffed prisons, and boost pay for officers at prison mental-health units. If approved, that combined program could cost taxpayers about $7.5 million.

Florida’s prison system, one of the most violent in the nation, has been plagued by corruption, reports of mistreatment and brutality, as well as low pay and high turnover staff rates. Over the past decade, employees at corrections facilities received a raise only once, which Klas writes was a one-time bonus for lowest paid employees.

“The governor believes in investments that allow the Florida Department of Corrections to better retain officers and have an experienced workforce,” Scott spokesperson McKinley Lewis told the Herald.

Despite warnings from Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones that low pay had resulted in massive turnover rates at the troubled agency, Klas notes Scott has so far fought the call for corrections employee pay increases, while pushing for more than $1 billion in tax cuts. For the 2017-2018 fiscal year, Scott is looking for another $618 million in tax cuts.

In an audit of the state prison system, conducted in 2015 for the Legislature, turnover rates in state prisons increase by nearly half from 2009-2015, leaving corrections staff with fewer than three years’ experience on average. Klas notes the audit found that “at five of the ten largest Florida prisons, only half of staff members had more than two years of work experience.” Inmate deaths in Florida prisons have also risen every year, exacerbated by “chronic understaffing and lack of experience.”

Scott’s plan would put salaries for a new corrections officers to $33,500 – up 8.5 percent from $30,926 to $33,500. Sergeants, lieutenants and captains would receive a 10 percent pay increase. Probation officers would also get a raise.

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Florida Blue Symposium to explore ‘Creating a Culture of Health’

Dr. Daniel Dawes

The Florida Blue Foundation will hold its annual Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee.

The 2017 conference will feature more than 400 Florida-based, regional and national health professionals; attendees will get an opportunity to learn about health care culture, purpose built communities and communities of health.

Discussions will focus on health issues, policy, reform and engagement. Executives on hand will be from a range of private sector, government, universities, nonprofit organizations and more.

Highlighting the two-day gathering is an April 20 keynote address from Dr. Daniel Dawes, a leading health care strategist and attorney. Dawes will talk about “Health Equity for All: Looking Back & Moving Forward with Health Reform in America.”

As a fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine, Dawes serves on the boards of several organizations that seek to improve health care access and outcomes. He is written several publications on health reform and equity, as well as the book “150 years of Obamacare,” published by Johns Hopkins University Press.

Dawes will moderate a panel April 20 titled “Affordable Care Act: Where Do We Go from Here – The Politics of Health Care.” Panelists will include Tom Feeney, the president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida; Dr. Antonia Novello, the former U.S. Surgeon General; Jason Altmire, the senior vice president of public policy and community engagement at Florida Blue; and Dr. Susan McManus, a distinguished professor of government and international affairs at the University of South Florida.

The April 19 keynote speech will be given by Carol Naughton, president of Purpose Built Community, a group that leads consulting teams that direct revitalization programs in 12 cities, vetting opportunities in 35 other cities and several in metro Atlanta.

Naughton is expected to discuss how to create healthy neighborhoods to help break the cycle of poverty.

Presentations will touch upon a variety of issues including building a culture of a healthy community, meeting future needs in the industry, strategic planning and health care reform. Mark Brewer, the president and CEO of the Central Florida Foundation, is also scheduled lead a session titled “How to Engage a Community After an Attack.”

The Symposium will conclude with the Sapphire Luncheon and Awards ceremony at 12:30 p.m.  April 20. With Patrick Geraghty, the CEO of Guidewell Holding Company, as keynote speaker.

Online agenda, registration and information on the location and special group hotel rates are available online. The Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center is at 6000 W. Osceola Pkwy. in Kissimmee. To make reservations by phone, call 877-491-0442.

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Airbnb offers free housing for refugees

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has offered free housing Saturday night to refugees worldwide who are not able to return to the United States because of President Trump’s executive order.

Chesky posted on Facebook detailing how he disagrees with the president’s order barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.

“Not allowing countries or refugees into America is not right, and we must stand with those who are affected,” Chesky wrote.

Airbnb has 3 million homes worldwide, according to the CEO.

Chesky is asking those who would like more details about the offer to email him at brian.chesky@airbnb.com.

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Dep’t of Homeland Security, White House adviser: Travel ban will remain enforced

The Department of Homeland Security and a senior White House adviser have issued statements saying that President Donald Trump’s executive order banning entry to the U.S. from several Muslim-majority countries will remain in effect.

The statements came hours after a federal judge issued a stay on the order.

According to NBC News, the statement from DHS says:

“President Trump’s Executive Order remain in place — prohibited travel will remain prohibited, and the U.S. government retains its right to revoke visas at any time if required for national security or public safety.”

The statement went on to say that the department will continue to enforce all of Trump’s executive orders to ensure the safety and security of American citizens.

Senior White House adviser Steven Miller told the Associated Press that nothing in the stay issued by the federal judge “in anyway impedes or prevents the implementation of the president’s executive order which remains in full, complete and total effect.”

The stay, issued by Judge Ann Donnelly of the Eastern District of New York, prevents the government from deporting citizens from countries included in Trump’s travel ban if they have already arrived in the U.S. The stay does not protect travelers outside the U.S., even if they have valid visas.

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House joins Joe Negron’s higher ed program

The House is now on board with Senate President Joe Negron‘s higher education priorities.

On Friday, state Rep. Bryan Avila filed companion bills (HB 3, HB 5) to Senate measures (SB 2, SB 4) filed by Bill Galvano.

The bills touch on modifying performance-based incentives, boost funding to hire and keep top faculty, and create additional scholarship programs.

The Stuart Republican had championed higher education in his December 2015 acceptance speech of the chamber’s presidency.

A few months later, Negron began a “state university listening tour” with fellow senators and other state officials, hitting 12 institutions of higher learning in four days.

Among the lessons he learned was to “make sure that students of all economic backgrounds can attend the university to which they’re accepted,” he told reporters.

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