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Rick Scott claims $24 million gain from his Argentina trade mission

Gov. Rick Scott’s trade mission to Argentina has resulted in $24 million in sales to companies that participated, the governor’s office announced Monday.

“Enterprise Florida led this mission, and they do important work to connect Florida small business with opportunities in international markets,” Scott said in a written statement, referencing the state’s embattled economic development arm.

“We are competing in a global economy, and many of these businesses would not have the resources or opportunities to market themselves across the world if not for Enterprise Florida. It is disappointing that the Legislature chose to disregard the impact not fully funding EFI could have on our job creators and families,” Scott said.  

Scott led the mission last month. Also participating were the U.S. Commercial Service, the U.S. Embassy in Argentina, the American Chamber of Commerce in Argentina, and the Florida Ports Council.

Since then, the Ports Council has signed a memorandum of understanding to develop direct sea routes between Argentina and Florida, Scott’s office said.

“This was a successful mission. I believe we will build some great business relationships here in Buenos Aires,” said Arley Bedillion, industrial sales manager for the Mastry Engine Center in St. Petersburg, which participated under an Enterprise Florida trade grand.

“Our success is a direct reflection of the efforts and hard work of Enterprise Florida,” Bedillon said.

Fourth Republican, Bruno Portigliatti, enters HD 44 race

Republican businessman Bruno Portigliatti announced his candidacy for what will be a special election this summer for House District 44 in the Orlando area.

Portigliatti, 29, of Orlando, is chief executive officer of Excellence Senior Living, a developer of luxury assisted living facilities for seniors, and executive vice president of Florida Christian University, a global online university. He also helps manage real estate enterprises for his family’s Portigliatti Group LLC.

He’ll be running on a platform topped by his passions for reducing regulation and red tape for businesses, creating businesses, and fostering education.

He enters a race that already features Republicans Bobby Olszewski of Winter Garden, John Newstreet of Orlando and Dr. Usha Jain of Orlando. The Democrats are running Paul Chandler of Orlando.

“As an entrepreneur and CEO of a small business, I know what it’s like to face tough decisions and make payroll,” Portigliatti stated in a news release. “Central Florida can’t afford politics that simply show up – we need a fresh face, a new voice with real world business experience and true understanding of our community.”

He is a rookie candidate but said he has contributed and assisted in other campaigns.

“I know it’s going to be a very spirited campaign, a very spirited race,” he said. “But I strongly believe that out of all the options I feel I will be the strongest voice in Tallahassee. I will bring a fresh face, a new voice, with real-world business experience that the others don’t have.”

A native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Portigliatti has been a Central Florida resident since 1999. He graduated froM Dr. Phillips High School, received a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida, a law degree from the Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville, and a master of business administration degree from Florida Christian University in Orlando

He was recently married, and he and his wife Stephanie are both active members of the First Baptist Church of Orlando. He’s also a board member of the Dr. Phillips YMCA, Chairman of the City of Orlando Minority & Women Business Enterprise Certification Board, and a member of the Rotary Club of Dr. Phillips. He’s also president of New Beginnings Global Outreach, a non-profit charitable organization, and manages several of his families real estate properties and developments.

Drug Free America Foundation wants medical marijuana Special Session

The Drug Free America Foundation is adding its voice to those calling for a Special Session on Medical Marijuana Implementation, according to a Monday press release.

“It is critical that our leaders call a special session to complete the unfinished business of implementing Amendment 2,” said Calvina Fay, executive director of the Foundation. “Moreover, it is short-sighted to think that the lack of legislation to implement Amendment 2 will stop the marijuana industry from operating.”

Fay, among other examples, cited a recent cease and desist letter from the Department of Health to Trulieve, telling it to stop selling its whole-flower cannabis product meant for vaping that also could be broken down and smoked.

“These and other similar issues are all addressed in compromise legislation that died when members of the legislature could not come to an agreement on the number of dispensaries allowed for each licensee,” Fay added.

“It is imperative that our legislators come together, take action and not allow the marijuana industry to operate as it does in some states, with no regards to public health and safety.”

A Special Session could be called jointly by Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, but Negron has not yet made up his mind whether to convene lawmakers.

The regular 2017 Legislative Session ended earlier this month without agreement on a bill.

Joe Henderson: We already term limits. They’re called ‘elections’

I am not a fan of term limits.

I understand the argument from those who say we need a law that limits the power of incumbency. They say the longer a politician stays in office, the more likely they are to accumulate so much recognition and money that it becomes almost impossible to beat them.

What they’re really saying is that voters need protection from themselves. I have a problem with that because it still comes down to this basic fact: We already have term limits. They’re called elections.

No matter how long a politician has been in office, voters still have the final say. If they decide that lawmaker is doing good work, there should be no reason that person can’t stay on the job.

I mention this because of what is happening with the Hillsborough County Commission. Three of the board’s seven members are in a game of musical chairs that on the surface seems a goofy way to stay in office.

There is a loophole the size of the Grand Canyon in the Hillsborough charter that allows a commissioner restart their term-limit clock if they are elected in a different district than the one they currently serve.

That’s how we get this: Sandy Murman and Victor Crist have announced intentions to run for two of the board’s three countywide seats because they are prohibited from running for a third consecutive stay in the single district each represents.

While that is going on, long-serving Commissioner Ken Hagan is mandated to leave the countywide seat he has held for two terms, so he will run in District 2. That’s the district Hagan represented when he was first elected to the Commission in 2002 before he had to run for the at-large chair in 2010 and, oh man … this makes my head ache.

State Sen. Tom Lee of Thonotosassa, who has mentioned once or 300 times that he might prefer a Commission seat to the one he currently occupies in Tallahassee, is considering a push to outlaw the chair-swapping that Crist, Murman and Hagan are using.

In theory, that means they could keep jumping from seat to seat and stay on the board until they are called to the Great Beyond. Lee has said the practice violates the spirit of the charter and he is considering a push for an amendment that would stop that.

There is some merit to Lee’s argument, but I think a better idea is doing away with mandated term limits. Voters would still be able to pass judgment at the ballot box and it would stop the kind of silliness we’re now seeing.

Personnel note: Laura Lenhart joins Frontier Communications

Laura Lenhart is joining Frontier Communications as its head of government and regulatory affairs for Florida, the company announced last week.

“We are delighted to welcome Laura as a strong addition to the Frontier team,” said Allison Ellis, Frontier’s senior vice president for regulatory affairs, in a statement. “As we continue to execute our growth strategy in Florida, Laura’s regulatory and government affairs expertise will be a valuable asset in ensuring that state and local policies continue to encourage investment in and expansion of critical telecommunications products and services.”

Lenhart most recently served as the public affairs strategist at the Moffitt Cancer Center. In that role, she was responsible for administering the government relations social media, facilitating grassroots management and the continued growth of Speak Out Moffitt, and advocating for the Cancer Center before the Florida Legislature.

Before joining Moffitt as its public affairs strategist, she served a stint as a government affairs contractor and coordinator of “CCRAB” Florida’s Cancer Control and Research Advisory Council, which is housed within Moffitt. She also served as the governmental affairs coordinator for the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Lenhart, who received both her bachelor and master’s degrees from Florida State University, will be based out of Tampa.

Andrew Gillum picks up Julian Castro’s endorsement in Governor’s race

Democrat Andrew Gillum has picked up the endorsement of former HUD Director Julian Castro in his quest for the Florida governor’s office in 2018.

Castro, from San Antonio, was U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development under former President Barack Obama.

He also will participate in a fundraising event in Miami early next month for Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, Gillum’s campaign announced.

“Our nation is at its best when it matches hard work with real opportunity. That’s the essence of the American Dream,” Castro said in a news release issued by Gillum’s campaign. “I’m proud to support Andrew Gillum for Governor because Andrew, the son of a construction worker and a bus driver, has worked hard to achieve his own dreams — and he’s worked just as hard to ensure that Floridians from every walk of life can achieve theirs.”

Gillum faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Winter Park affordable housing developer Chris King heading toward a Democratic primary. So far Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has the Republican path pretty much to himself.

“When Andrew is Governor, he will fight so that every child in Florida has the opportunity to grow and succeed in the Sunshine State,” Castro continued. “He is the candidate Democrats can best trust to stand with the courage of conviction, even when it’s not politically convenient,” Castro continued.

Gillum called Castro’s endorsement an honor.

“As HUD Secretary and San Antonio’s Mayor, Julian has put children’s health, well-being and opportunity at the forefront of his work. He has worked to ensure all of our children — no matter if they grew up in a big city or rural town — have every chance to succeed,” Gillum said. “It is an honor to have his endorsement as we continue sharing our vision for a Florida that works for everyone.”

Heather Fitzenhagen highlights Session wins for Southwest Florida

State Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen is offering her Southwest Florida constituents a list achievements of the 2017 Legislative Session, which ended May 8.

During the last two weeks of Session, the Fort Myers Republican said in an email that lawmakers spent a majority of time on House floor debating the state’s “Tax Package” and the upcoming budget, which is now on its way to Gov. Rick Scott for final approval.

“I am proud of the unified approach we took in the Florida House to solve important issues that affect everyday Floridians,” Fitzenhagen writes. “We helped to pass meaningful tax cuts, including an increase in the Homestead Tax Exemption, which is projected to save Floridians about $644.7 million.  Additionally, we protected our beaches and waterways and supported Florida’s future by voting to increase K-12 spending.”

Most importantly for Fitzenhagen, lawmakers fulfilled their constitutional requirement by passing “a balanced $82.4 billion fiscally responsible budget.”

Fitzenhagen then offered a brief glimpse of some of the budget that will directly benefit her House District 78, which covers Fort Myers, parts of Lehigh Acres and Estero.

In the Agriculture, Natural Resource and Transportation budgets, Fort Myers Billy’s Creek Restoration would get $775,000; Good Wheels, Inc. is slated for $225,516 for route scheduling software. The Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida would get $400,000, and the Lee Board of County Commissioners UF/IFAS gets $74,319.

The City of Fort Myers Community Violence Reduction Initiative will also get $350,000.

As for higher education, the budget gives Florida Gulf Coast University $15 million for a new classroom and lab building, $1.5 million for a new Honors College and $1 million for new degree programs. FGCU’s WGCU public media station also would receive another $1.8 million for a transmission tower replacement.

Florida Southwestern State College gets $6.3 million For The final phase of renovations to the Lee County campus.

Other budgetary highlights include:

General Government Budget

Centennial Park Playground Equipment Replacement — $228,000
Fort Myers Gulf Coast Multi-Use Trail Feasibility Study — $600,000
McCollum Hall Preservation — $500,000

Health and Human Services Budget

Ft. Myers Salvation Army — $165,000
SalusCare (Lee Mental Health) — $750,000
Saluscare (Reach Institute Behavioral Health Services) — $442,709
Southwest Florida Autism Center    $62,000

Fitzenhagen also praised the budget for returning $1.3 billion to Floridians, which include a tax-cut package of back-to-school sales tax holiday, sales tax exemption for boat trailers for the Edison Sailing Center, a reduction in the business rent tax, among others (HB 7109).

As Chair of the Florida Legislative Women’s Caucus, Fitzenhagen also helped pass a sales tax exemption for feminine hygiene products.

Fitzenhagen also highlighted a few of the most important bills passed to help Southwest Floridians, including SB 10, the much-heralded bill establishing “options for creating additional water storage” south of Lake Okeechobee.  A priority of Senate President Joe Negron, the bill would allow for the construction of a water storage reservoir south of Lake O, to hold runoff water and help prevent algae blooms in nearby estuaries.

Another success was HJR 7105, which seeks to increase the Florida homestead exemption from nonschool property taxes by $25,000 in assessed value between $100,000 and up to $125,000.

“Voters deserve to decide to implement the extension and give homeowners this tax relief,” Fitzenhagen wrote.

Fitzenhagen also praised the passage of landmark ride-sharing regulation (HB 221), which creates a statewide framework companies like Uber and Lyft, creating a “more competitive and predictable marketplace to ultimately benefit consumers.”

Other bills include the Murder Witness Confidentiality (HB 111), creating a public-records exemption for identifying information about murder witnesses. Fitzenhagen also applauded the Newborn Screen Legislation (SB 1124), designed to ensure “all newborns are screened, tested, and diagnosed as early as possible; providing patients to the earliest access to lifesaving therapies, saving money and lives.”

slot machines

Pari-mutuels subdued on next steps after Supreme Court slots decision

With the state Supreme Court’s decision last week striking down the possibility of a slot machine expansion, what’s next?

A unanimous court ruled against pari-mutuels seeking to add slot machines in counties that passed a referendum in support of them: Brevard, Duval, Gadsden, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Washington.

Those concerns are holding their cards close to the vest, at least publicly.

That includes bestbet in Jacksonville, which unsuccessfully applied to the state for a slots license.

Spokesman Brian Hughes told the Times-Union’s Tia Mitchell last week that “the company was disappointed by the ruling but hopeful that the Legislature will pass new laws that negate its effect.”

“Something it clearly demonstrates is that the Legislature still has an opportunity to respect the will of the people at the local level,” Hughes told the paper.

But lawmakers have been sequentially unable to pass new gambling laws for years, the most recent attempt ending in impasse this Legislative Session.

The Senate declined to back down on its insistence that slots should be expanded to pari-mutuels in counties that approved them, while the House opposed such a move.

The track that brought the litigation, Creek Entertainment/Gretna in Gadsden County, said it was “disappointed” in the ruling, but didn’t hint what it might do.

“Because of this ruling, we are now unable to create new jobs,” spokeswoman Sarah Bascom said. “We are considering our options on how to proceed.”

Izzy Havenick, a member of the family that owns Naples Fort Myers Greyhound Racing & Poker in Bonita Springs, said he too will go back to the drawing board with lawmakers.

Lee County passed a slots referendum with almost 63 percent of the vote in November 2012; turnout that election was nearly 69 percent.

“What do we do? We go back to the Legislature next year and hope they honor the will of the people,” Havenick said.

And according to TCPalm, Fort Pierce Jai-Alai & Poker in St. Lucie “wants to invest $100 million to expand its facility into an entertainment complex (that) owner Casino Miami says would employ about 500 people, but only if it can add 1,000 slots.”

A representative for Casino Miami couldn’t be reached Friday.

Tom Delacenserie stepping down as Florida Lottery secretary

Florida Lottery Secretary Tom Delacenserie is resigning effective the beginning of June, sources told FloridaPolitics.com on Friday.

The move was confirmed by the Governor’s Office, which provided a copy of his resignation letter. The letter did not mention his future plans but Delacenserie wrote that he “enjoyed all of my 17 years with the Florida Lottery but none more than the time spent under your leadership.”

Delacenserie has been in the top job since November 2015, when he replaced former Secretary Cynthia O’Connell. A spokeswoman for the Lottery was in a meeting Friday afternoon and unavailable, an assistant said.

Delacenserie has overseen the growth and escalating sales of Lottery products, leading to the “strongest start ever to the final quarter of the fiscal year, with record sales for the month of April totaling more than $528 million,” a recent press release said.

The Lottery’s profits go into the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, which among other things pays for Florida Bright Futures Scholarships.

“I am extremely proud of our Florida Lottery team and retailers as we continue to shatter previous records,” Delacenserie said in the release. “In addition to their winning experiences, our players should take pride in knowing that with the purchase of every Lottery ticket, they are making a difference in the lives of Florida’s students.”

There have been stumbles, however.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran sued the agency in February, saying it went on an illegal spending spree last year when it inked a $700 million deal with IGT (International Game Technology) for new equipment. The next month, a Tallahassee judge sided with Corcoran and invalidated the contract.

Judge Karen Gievers faulted the agency for, among other things, not first seeking the Legislature’s permission to enter into a deal that committed the state to as much as two decades’ worth of funding.

Moreover, lawmakers this Session passed a bill requiring lottery ticket warning labels after removing a requirement that warnings also be displayed at counters where tickets are sold. It has not yet been sent to Gov. Rick Scott.

The bill mandates six rotating warnings on lottery tickets and advertisements. They include “WARNING: GAMBLING CAN BE ADDICTIVE” and “WARNING: YOUR ODDS OF WINNING THE TOP PRIZE ARE EXTREMELY LOW.”

A press release sent later Friday said “further announcements on agency leadership will be made at a later date.”

“Tom has done a great job and under his leadership, the Lottery has seen record sales and made historic contributions to Florida’s education system,” Scott said in a statement.

“Tom has been a valued member of my team since the start of my administration and I am proud of the great work he has done for Florida’s students,” he added. “I wish Tom and his family the very best in their future endeavors.”

Delacenserie began with the Lottery in 2000 as the Fort Myers district manager, later promoted in 2005 to the Lottery’s Director of Sales. In 2013, he became the Lottery’s Deputy Secretary of Sales and Marketing, then served as interim secretary after O’Connell’s departure.

She quit after four years as secretary amid questions about her work habits, travel schedule and spending.

Her abrupt resignation came shortly after POLITICO Florida reported that she had taken nearly nine weeks of vacation and racked up nearly $30,000 in travel bills.

Jack Latvala tells Pensacola crowd that Tallahassee’s becoming too much like D.C.

If Jack Latvala runs for governor — and, mind you, he’s not saying he is — it would be to keep career politicians from taking over Tallahassee like they have done in Washington.

“They start out as legislative aides, they become House members, then they become senators, with very minimal experience in the real world,” Latvala told an audience in Pensacola Friday.

“The real world, to me, is making a payroll, paying workers’ comp insurance. We couldn’t get a workers’ comp bill done this year. Part of that is because, of 40 members of the Senate, there’s only six or seven of us who actually have businesses where we employ people — who have to pay workers’ comp,” he said.

“We need a business perspective. We need experience in the real world. I just don’t see that on my side of the aisle in the governor’s race.”

Latvala was in town to address the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club. He traveled in the footsteps of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, another potential aspirant to the governorship, who visited in March. Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, who campaigned elsewhere in the Panhandle Friday, has already declared.

Latvala said he’ll announce his attention in August.

Introducing Latvala, former Senate President Don Gaetz claimed his former colleague as a vacation neighbor in Seaside. “He knows our area. He cares about our area,” Gaetz said. “He made sure there’s more money to protect our beaches than ever before in Florida’s history.”

Pensacola Republican House member Frank White agreed.

“People in the Panhandle like Sen. Latvala,” White said. “He spends a lot of time on 30-A, along the beaches. He has some long-term friendships. He was particularly helpful in getting the Triumph legislation across the finish line.”

They referred to legislation on the governor’s desk to spend $1.5 billion over 15 years — Florida’s share of the BP Deepwater Horizon settlement — in the Panhandle counties worst affected by the 2010 spill. Next year’s share is $300 million.

Latvala was a “bulldog” for the legislation, Sen. Doug Broxson of Pensacola said. “If he tell you he’ll do something, he’ll do it.”

Discussing the recently concluded Legislative Session, Latvala complained that term limits have given the House and Senate presiding officers too much power. That’s how the House forced the Senate to swallow a massive education bill containing elements the Senate had defeated in committee, he said.

“I felt 95 percent positive the governor will veto. I still believe he will veto that bill. I’ve asked him to veto that bill. Then we start over with the House on the defensive, because it will be their priority that got beat,” Latvala said.

Latvala’s pugnacious manner seemed to go down well — he drew a standing ovation.

“He understands things south of the I-4 corridor. The people here in the Panhandle understand that the vast majority of the population lives down in that area,” developer Cris Dosev, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year, said.

“At the same time, he recognizes the value of the Gulf Coast,” Dosev said.

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