Statewide Archives - Page 4 of 637 - SaintPetersBlog

Personnel note: Rutledge Ecenia adds Mixon & Associates lobbyists

Mixon & Associates lobbyists Corinne Mixon and Jessica Janasiewicz are joining the Rutledge Ecenia law firm’s lobbying team.

Also coming to the firm on a contract basis is Mixon & Associates’ Juhan and Pat Mixon, and Jim Hamilton, the firms said in a joint announcement.

They “will bring a wealth of experience in governmental affairs and a strong client base with concentrations in healthcare and education,” the release said.

“I couldn’t be happier about the fusion of Mixon & Associates’ lobbyists and clients into our firm,” said Gary Rutledge, the firm’s founding principal. “In addition to them being well respected and knowledgeable professionals, the clients they bring to the firm complement our practice areas and give us a significant presence in the education space.

“I am confident that their addition to the firm will further our ability to advance in all practices,” he said.

Added Corinne Mixon: “We are extremely excited to join the team at Rutledge Ecenia and look forward to working with such a respected and talented group of people. With our combined expertise, I am confident that we will be able to optimize our reach and continue to grow our practice.”

She has more than 10 years of experience representing clients’ interests, with a particular emphasis on health care practitioners.

Mixon began her career as a Public Relations Account Coordinator at the Zimmerman Agency, the largest hospitality-centered communications firm in the nation. She managed the public relations efforts for major hotels stretching from the Cayman Islands to New York City.  

While earning her undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama’s School of Communications and Information Sciences, Corinne interned in the D.C. office of Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, starting her interest in professional lobbying and politics.

She has managed a large statewide political campaign and been brought on by multiple entities to provide crisis communication services. Mixon also has significant experience working in association management, having acted as Executive Director of the Independent Funeral Directors and executive vice president at two large statewide associations.

Janasiewicz has more than 10 years of experience working in and with public schools across the country. She began her career as a fourth-grade teacher in Atlanta, earned a master’s degree in literacy and another master’s degree in politics and education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

While pursuing her degree in New York, Janasiewicz served as a domestic policy intern at the William J. Clinton Foundation. She joined Mixon and Associates in 2011 and began lobbying for school districts, becoming the lead lobbyist for many of the firm’s education clients.

Mixon and Janasiewicz join Rutledge, Jon Costello and Diana Ferguson as members of Rutledge Ecenia’s government affairs team effective today (Wednesday).

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

North Florida water managers OK first-ever long-term usage, supply plan

ALACHUA, Fla. — The first-ever long-range plan for water use in a vast, North Florida region — home to around 1.5 million people in 14 counties stretching over more than 8,000 square miles — was approved here on Jan. 17, in a joint meeting of the governing boards of two water management districts.

“This plan stands squarely on our science,” said Dr. Ann Shortelle, executive director of the Saint Johns River Water Management District.

Shortelle was previously executive director of the Suwannee River Water Management District, whose governing board — along with that of the SJRWMD – approved the water plan for a region of Florida that includes more than 140 springs.

The two-hour-long meeting was the second occasion that the two boards had convened together. The first time was at the start of the regional water-planning process, in 2012.

Anticipating a large turnout for the final meeting — following dozens of meetings over four years, during which members of the public had aired a range of views on the water plan — a public address system was set up outside city hall, where the meeting was held. But only about a dozen demonstrators assembled, waving handmade posters. Some of them criticized the water plan during the public comment portion of the meeting, prior to the boards’ unanimous approval of the plan.

Dr. Robert Knight, the founder and director of the Florida Springs Institute, cited a reduction of as much of 40 percent in water flow for some rivers in the region — including Silver Springs and the Suwannee River — and urged a halt to all new permitting for water use.

“We are not protecting the natural environment as we are required to do by law,” said Knight, a wetlands ecologist who was previously employed by each of the two districts.

Florida law requires the state’s water management districts’ governing boards to “conduct water supply planning … where it determines that existing sources of water are not adequate to supply water for all existing and future reasonable-beneficial uses and to sustain the water resources and related natural systems …”

According to the new plan, the districts had determined that groundwater alone cannot supply an expected 21 percent increase in water use in the region over a planning period that extends to 2035 “without causing unacceptable impacts to water resources.” The possibility of drought would increase water demand further for the region, which extends, in the north, from the Georgia border with the Florida counties of Hamilton, Columbia, Baker and Nassau south as far as Gilchrist, Alachua, Putnam and Flagler counties and including, as well, Florida’s Atlantic coast north of Daytona Beach.

Because of the projections for increased water use — as high as 117 million gallons per day by 2035 — the North Florida Regional Water Supply Partnership was established in 2011 by the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation. And 36 public hearings were held throughout the region, including one meeting with the Southwest Water Management District.

But some environmentalists who attended the final meeting in Alachua complained that their input — throughout the public hearings, which were conducted by a Stakeholder Advisory Committee consisting of 12 appointees representing public water supply, commercial/power generation, industrial/mining, agriculture, environmental and local governments — had been ignored.

“The environmental side of the house is underrepresented on that committee,” said Dr. Pat Welsh — a retired oceanographer and environmental engineer. “It is underrepresented in everything we do.”

The advisory committee had voted unanimously in November in favor of the water plan. And Jacquie Sulek, a resident of Fort White who had served on the committee, spoke at the boards’ meeting Tuesday in favor of the plan.

“Adoption of the regional water supply plan will be a very, very important first step,” she said. “This is not the end. This is the beginning.”

Don Quincey, chairman of the SWRWMD, said of the comments from those who opposed the plan, “We haven’t heard anything today that we haven’t heard many times.”

Quincey — the owner of Quincey Cattle Company, located in Chiefland — is also a member of the board of the Florida Cattleman’s Association.

And water pollution — and water consumption — due to cattle ranching were among the concerns expressed by some who attended the meeting. Stephen Hunter, a longtime resident of Bradford County, which is included in the water-planning region, complained of the SJRWMD’s recommendation last month of approval for an increase in water consumption for a cattle ranch near Silver Springs.

“It’s our water. It’s my grandchildren’s water and yours,” he said.

The region includes the St. Johns River, Nassau River, portions of the St. Mary’s River, Orange Lake and the Santa Fe, Alapaha and Ichetucknee rivers.

To compensate for expected increase in water consumption, the plan relies heavily on increased water conservation, with conservation expected to account for 46 percent — or 54 million gallons per day throughout the region — by 2035.

Rick Hutton, an engineer who oversees water and wastewater planning at Gainesville Regional Utilities, was among the representatives of a coalition of utilities in the region who spoke in favor of the plan and its reliance on water conservation.

“Our customers have reduced their per capita water use by 28 percent since 2007,” Hutton said, adding that conservation had reduced overall water consumption for GRU by 18 percent “even though our population has increased by 13 percent.”

“We support the plan,” he said.

Protesters hold handmade signs at a meeting of the governing boards of two water management districts approving a long-range plan for water use covering a vast, North Florida region. (Image: Susan Washington)
Map provided by St. Johns River Water Management District
Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Department of Health begins Amendment 2 rule-making

More patients might be eligible for medical marijuana under Amendment 2, but a preliminary draft of new rules doesn’t appear to allow for immediate growth in the industry to meet demand.

On Tuesday, the Florida Department of Health released the preliminary text of proposed rule development. The release comes ahead of five public hearings schedule for early next month, giving Floridians a chance to weigh in on the agency’s rules and regulations governing the state’s medical marijuana program.

But the update appears to do little to establish new rules, instead creating a system that could bring new patients into the state’s existing medical pot program.

“Any proposal which seeks to mold the spirit of Amendment 2 into the narrow and flawed law on the books today should be rejected, and a more comprehensive strategy must take priority. The people of Florida overwhelmingly voted for a new direction in medical marijuana, and we must heed the will of the voters,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican. “I will support no bill, nor any rule, that maintains the established state sanctioned cartel system we have today, and I urge my colleagues to join me in proposing a free market solution for Florida.

Under the proposed rule, only patients with one of 10 specific medical conditions, like HIV/AIDs or cancer, are eligible for medical marijuana. The rule does allow for use, as long as the Florida Board of Medicine identifies which debilitating conditions it can be used for.

That’s contrary to the ballot language, which allowed physicians to order medical marijuana for a patient for if they believe “the medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh the potential health risks for a patient.”

“The proposed rule issued today by the Florida Department of Health (DOH) stands in direct contradiction with Article X, Section 29 of the Florida Constitution, the expressed intent of the authors of that section, and the will of the overwhelming majority of voters who approved the amendment,” said Ben Pollara, the campaign manager for the United for Care campaign. “If DOH’s rule is implemented as written, it will be in clear violation of Florida law.”

The proposed rule also requires patients, physicians, medical marijuana treatment centers and caregivers to be registered in state’s online Compassionate Use Registry; and requires medical marijuana treatment centers to follow the same record keeping, security, product testing, and other safety standards currently spelled out in state law and rules.

“I believe the Department is being appropriately cautious and awaiting the Legislature’s direction,” said Taylor Patrick Biehl, a lobbyist at Capitol Alliance Group who represents the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida. “The eligible patient population grows significantly under Amendment 2 — potentially tenfold. I’m confident that both the Department and the Legislature recognize the need to create affordable, safe and accessible medicine to the deserving patients.”

The preliminary rule also states all medical marijuana treatment centers, which under new rules would be the same as a dispensing organization, must go through the same “approval and selection process” outlined in existing law. Those organizations are also “subject to the same limitations and operational requirements” currently outlined in state law.

That rule means the seven nurseries currently authorized to grow, process and sell medical marijuana will have the corner on the market. Those nurseries are already growing the low THC cannabis authorized under a 2014 state law.

There is potential for more dispensing organizations to come online in the future, but not until 250,000 qualified patients register with the compassionate use registry.

The ballot initiative gives the Department of Health six months after the amendment goes into effect to write the rules governing medical marijuana. The amendment went into effect Jan. 3.

“The legislature has demonstrated a willingness and desire to implement this amendment in a reasonable manner that respects the plain language of the constitution, and reflects the mandate of the electorate,” said Pollara. “Why DOH would choose to engage in a policymaking exercise which ignores both the law and the role of the legislature in implementing the law is a mystery. Perhaps the actions of DOH shouldn’t surprise, given their history of incompetence in the administration of Florida’s medical marijuana laws.”

A spokeswoman for the health department said in an email to FloridaPolitics.com that the agency “initiated the rulemaking process as directed by Amendment 2.” She went on to say the state agency looks forward to “receiving input from all interested stakeholders through the open and transparent rulemaking process.”

The Legislature has indicated it will tackle Amendment 2 during the 2017 Legislative Session. Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, an Estero Republican, is expected to carry the medical marijuana bill in the House. And last week, the House Health Quality subcommittee held a two-hour meeting where experts, including Christian Bax with the Office of Compassionate Use, participated in a panel discussion on the implementation.

The workshops are open to the public, and anyone can comment. The meetings will be held:

— 2 p.m. on Feb. 6 at the Duval County Health Department, 900 University Blvd. North in Jacksonville

— 10 a.m. on Feb. 7 at Broward County Health Department, 780 SW 24th Street in Fort Lauderdale

— 9 a.m. on Feb. 8 at the Florida Department of Health, Tampa Branch Laboratory, 3602 Spectrum Blvd.

— 6 p.m. on Feb. 8 at the Orange County Health Department, 6102 Lake Ellenor Drive in Orlando; and

— 4 p.m. on Feb. 9 at the Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Room 148 in Tallahassee.

Those who can’t attend in person, can offer public comment on the Department of Health website.

 

Save

Save

Save

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Donald Trump inauguration a special moment for Brian Ballard

This isn’t Brian Ballard’s first inauguration, but it will likely be one of his most memorable.

Ballard, the president of Ballard Partners, is one of several Floridians expected to attend President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration this week. And while his schedule is flush with lunches and galas, he’s most looking forward to the moment Trump takes the oath of office.

“The swearing-in, for me, is going to be the cool part. It’s almost hard to comprehend and put into words. It’s going to be a hugely impactful moment,” said Ballard. “Seeing him take the oath and the government becoming Trump government, which is hard to fathom even for me. It’s going to be so exciting and emotional.”

For Ballard, that moment will also mark the culmination of months of work behind the scenes to help send Trump to the White House.

A top fundraiser for Sen. John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012, Ballard served as finance chairman for Trump’s campaign in Florida. Days after Trump won the presidency, he was selected to serve as one of the finance vice chairs on the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

The two men’s relationship goes beyond politics. Ballard served as the The Trump Organization’s lobbyist in the Florida Legislature for several years.

But Ballard wasn’t all in with Trump from Day 1. He initially supported former Gov. Jeb Bush, signing on early and raising thousands upon thousands of dollars for the former governor and Right to Rise, the super PAC that backing Bush.

He later shifted his support to Sen. Marco Rubio, saying the Bush campaign’s decision to attack the Miami Republican didn’t sit well with him. Once he joined Team Trump, Ballard emerged as one of the New York Republican’s top advisors.

There have been rumblings Ballard might be nominated for an ambassadorship, but he has dismissed them. With a multi-million construction project underway at the corner of Park Avenue and South Monroe Street and a full roster of clients ahead of the 2017 Legislative Session, Ballard appears to have plenty of things to keep him busy in Florida’s capital city.

But that isn’t stopping him from enjoying the festivities and celebrating with friends.  Ballard and his family planned to travel to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. Once there, the schedule is filled to brim with events.

A black tie dinner was scheduled for Tuesday evening to kick off the official festivities. A lunch-hour reception is scheduled for Wednesday, followed by a dinner to honor Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

There’s a leadership luncheon Thursday, and the “Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration,” a public event at the Lincoln Memorial. That evening, you might be able to find the Ballard family at a candlelight dinner.

When Trump raises his right hand to take the oath of office Friday, Ballard will be there. And he and his family will be on hand later in the evening, this time decked out in tuxedos and ball gown for the inaugural ball at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

And that is only a piece of Ballard’s schedule.

“It’s incredibly filled with events,” said Ballard, who last attended an inauguration nearly 30 years ago for President George H.W. Bush’s inauguration. “Every night there’s parties before and after, there’s lunches every day. I’m getting a lot of invitations.”

One other event definitely on his calendar: The Florida Sunshine Ball hosted by Gov. Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott. The inaugural ball, according to the Miami Herald, is being sponsored by Let’s Get to Work, Scott’s political committee.

“This is unique because of the president-elect and our relationship,” said Ballard. “You think of people who get sworn in as president as (someone) who is bigger than life, not someone you know very, very well. Knowing someone and seeing him take the oath of office, I’ll never experience (that again).”

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us
skydiving

Matt Gaetz wins appeal for northwest Florida skydiving business

Congressman Matt Gaetz, also an attorney, has won an appeal that should allow a Walton County couple to continue operating a skydiving business on their 290-acre farm near Paxton.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal issued its unanimous decision Tuesday for James and Melanie Nipper.

He “had a distinguished career as a U.S. Army Paratrooper and member of the elite Golden Knights parachute team from 1981-1997;” she “was an Army pilot,” the opinion said. They have since retired from the military.

County officials earlier had gotten a lower court order barring the Nippers from running “Skydive North Florida” at their farm, saying “it violated the County’s zoning code.”

The county had “determined that the use of the property as a commercial skydiving business violated (land) uses allowed in a Large Scale Agricultural District (in) which the Plaintiffs’ property is located,” according to the opinion.

But Judges Timothy D. Osterhaus, Brad Thomas and Stephanie W. Ray said the county “did not show a clear legal right” to ban the Nippers from running a skydiving operation.

The opinion cited the county’s land use policy, saying that language allowing outdoor recreational activities but not specifically banning skydiving “indicates that skydiving may be permissible.”

“No one denies that skydiving is an outdoor recreational activity,” the court said.

Gaetz, a Republican who was in the state House and now represents northwest Florida’s 1st Congressional District, had been with the Fort Walton Beach firm of Keefe, Anchors & Gordon.

In a brief interview, James Nipper said he appreciated the decision: “Justice was served.”

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Rick Scott to host jobs summit in Orlando

Gov. Rick Scott will focus on jobs during a summit in Orlando next month.

Scott is scheduled to host a jobs summit on Feb. 2 and Feb. 3 at the Caribe Royale in Orlando, according to an online invitation. The event, which was first reported by POLITICO Florida, appears to be similar to an education summit the Naples Republican hosted in 2016.

According to the invitation, the event will bring together “Florida’s top business leaders, economic developers, educators and community leaders” to discuss ways to “shape the future of Florida’s economy to create good, high-paying jobs for all Florida families.”

Scott first mentioned his plans for an economic conference back in September.

“I will be hosting an economic summit with economic development leaders and job creators from across the state to discuss how we can bring even more opportunities to Florida. Florida undoubtedly has a lot to offer to out compete other states for jobs wins,” he said in a Sept. 29 statement. “Our business climate, low taxes, education system, workforce, transportation infrastructure and even the weather are all variables that companies look at when considering locations to move or expand. But, we cannot lose sight that economic incentives are an important part of this toolkit.”

The summit comes just one month before the start of the annual 60-day Legislative Session, where economic development and job growth is expected to take center stage. Last year, Scott said he would request $85 million for economic incentives to bring jobs to Florida.

While Scott is a supporter of incentives, he’ll face opposition in the Florida House. The House blocked an effort to create a dedicated funding source for incentives during the 2016 legislative session, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran has said he does not support incentives.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

‘Judicial accountability’ bills filed in House, Senate

Sen. Audrey Gibson and Rep. Kionne McGhee, two Florida Democrats, announced Monday they filed “judicial accountability” bills in both chambers.

Each proposal calls for sentencing data to be compiled annually, according to a news release.

(The bills, filed this morning, have not appeared public database; when they do, more detail will be forthcoming.)

Once compiled, data will be “presented to trial and sentencing judges, the Legislature, Governor, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and posted for the public on Florida Legislature’s research arm, the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability website,” according to a news release.

Sen. Gibson said: “Faced with the reality that even using a point-scoring system and other factors added to our criminal justice system, to get control over sentencing disparities, the components still are not working.

“It is imperative that we find a better solution to a continuing grave situation, particularly for people of color,” she added.

Rep. McGhee said the bill “seeks to analyze and address judicial patterns in sentencing.”

“Bias on the bench perpetuates inequality in the courtroom,” McGhee noted.


Updated Tuesday: McGhee’s bill is now here. Gibson’s bill is here.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Larry Robinson a good choice for FAMU, Tallahassee

Florida A&M University is one of America’s most recognized Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). It is the only HBCU within Florida’s State University System.

Together with Florida State University and Tallahassee Community College, FAMU is a major presence in the Tallahassee community. Those of us who live here want a thriving FAMU that can make significant contributions to our culture, our history and, of course, our workforce.

While students, faculty, administration and alumni have a stake in a thriving university, so too do those who live and work here. Among those with no direct ties to the university, I am not alone in recognizing FAMU’s importance to the Big Bend region.

Florida A&M is again in need of another president. In the past, they have filled that role through promotions from within or from a national search following the service of an interim president.

Based upon recent history, the university does not need a national search. Someone who can do the job is already in it.

On three occasions FAMU has turned to Dr. Larry Robinson to bridge the gap between a departed president and that person’s successor. His current stint as interim president began with the ouster of the university’s first female president, Dr. Elmira Mangum, on September 15.

His first appointment came in 2007, but his most significant tenure followed the resignation of Dr. James Ammons in 2012 in the aftermath of the Robert Champion hazing tragedy.

Robinson’s interaction with the Board of Governors, his bosses, earned him high marks.

“Thank you for being so open in your affiliation with us,” said then-Chancellor Frank T. Brogan. “That has not always been the case. I know Florida A&M is going through a tough stretch. The only way you can address problems is to admit you’ve got them.”

Norman Tripp, a member of the Board of Governors, described Robinson’s resume as “astounding” at the time. Despite this, Robinson declared he was not a candidate for the appointment as full-term president. Mangum was selected following a nationwide search.

Robinson is in a different position in 2017. Last month he appeared before the Tallahassee Democrat editorial board. When asked if he was interested in the permanent position, Robinson responded with a declarative “who wouldn’t be?” He further added that he would be “honored” to serve.

He has the support of the presidents of the capital city’s other educational institutions. At a recent Martin Luther King Jr. tribute, Florida State University President John Thrasher threw his support behind Robinson.

“Larry Robinson is doing a superb job at Florida A&M University,” Thrasher told the crowd. “FAMU students deserve his leadership.”

TCC President Jim Murdaugh directed his comments to Robinson at the same event.

“I hope you get that job,” he said. “You certainly have my support. You have earned that job.”

Not everyone took the endorsements, especially from Thrasher, as a good thing.

In a column published in the HBCU Digest, Jarrett Carter Sr. wrote that Thrasher and Murdaugh’s support is “nothing good” for FAMU. He cites Thrasher’s role in advocating the splitting of the joint FSU/FAMU engineering program.

To be clear, the engineering issue divided members of the Legislature as well as supporters of both schools. However, it is difficult to see how Thrasher’s and Murdaugh’s support is a bad thing.

They not only represent their institutions, but also share with FAMU a leading role in the vibrancy of the capital community. It is in that sense, to use a legal term, that both have “standing” to do what they did.

This is the primary reason why this writer hopes that Robinson is selected. That and the memory of an opportunity I had to speak with him.

At a session-eve reception shortly before Mangum took over, Robinson was a humble, soft-spoken, advocate for his university. It did not take long to ascertain this was not only a brilliant man, but one who possessed the ability to connect with people.

Robinson is on a one-year contract as interim president. However, like sports coaches, contracts are torn up and extended when one does a good job.

Why not do the same for someone who has done so much for the university? Why not bring it up at the next board of trustees meeting?

Trustees cannot orchestrate this among themselves outside of public view, but there must be a growing sense they have their man in their midst.

Who will make the motion to make it happen?

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Stephen Bittel for Florida Democrats, what do you have to lose?

Over the weekend, Florida Democrats elected Miami rich guy Stephen Bittel to lead their party. The choice was controversial and left many members screaming that Bittel is the wrong man at the wrong time.

They have their reasons, I guess.

But, let me ask a simple question:  Whom would be the right person?

The political cosmos has been trying to send a message for years to Florida Democrats. They haven’t been listening.

They have lost five consecutive races for governor (or, put another way, they haven’t been in control of the governor’s mansion in this century). Republicans also control both chambers of the Legislature. Republicans pass whatever laws they want, many of which trample on Democratic ideals. All the Dems have been able to say is, “May I have another?”

This has happened despite the fact Democrats have long held the lead in the number of registered voters in Florida (that number, by the way, is shrinking).

It takes a special something to have turned such an advantage into what is essentially political irrelevance in Tallahassee. Democrats used to console themselves because they delivered the state’s electoral votes to Barack Obama during his presidential campaigns, but they couldn’t even keep that trend going last November against Donald Trump.

So, to borrow Trump’s own slogan and apply it to Bittel: What have you got to lose? At least the guy seems to have some energy a willingness to engage in the fight.

“Contentious elections are reflective that there are Democrats all over Florida that are passionate, committed to coming together, moving forward together to win elections. So contentious is good. It means you care,” Bittel said after beating four other candidates with more established track records.

He has a point there. Florida Democrats have “contentious” down to a science. What they haven’t shown is any evidence that they have a realistic game plan for returning some political balance to the state.

Bittel made his mark by donating and raising large amounts of money for Democratic candidates. While he told reporters Saturday at the Democratic gathering in Orlando that he is not a billionaire, as was reported, he obviously is a person of substantial wealth and energy.

Democrats? Listen up: You need energy. You need passion. You need a sense of purpose. And most of all you need to explain, in clear words, why you’re better for the state than Republicans.

Democrats deluded themselves into believing voters would never elect Rick Scott, but they didn’t understand the beautiful simplicity of his “Let’s Get To Work” message. They talked themselves again into believing that surely voters wouldn’t re-elect Scott.

Now, Scott likely is coming for Bill Nelson’s U.S. Senate seat in a couple of years, and in Adam Putnam Republicans appear to have a strong gubernatorial candidate ready to make his run. This kind of ballot box domination should send a message that doing things the same ol’ way is a losing strategy for Democrats.

So when Bittel talks about greatly expanding the staff at the state Democratic headquarters in Tallahassee and, as reported in FloridaPolitics.com, promising to “ …  grow this party to a size and strength that has never been seen before,” Democrats should be at least a little invigorated.

That is, assuming they still remember what that feels like.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Wife of Pulse shooter arrested in California

The wife of the Orlando nightclub shooter, who was extensively questioned by federal agents in the days after the massacre, has been arrested by the FBI in connection with the attack, authorities said Monday.

Noor Salman was taken into custody Monday morning in the San Francisco Bay area and is facing charges in Florida including obstruction of justice. A Twitter post from the United States attorney’s office in Orlando said Salman will make her initial court appearance Tuesday morning in Oakland, California.

Noor Salman moved to California after her husband, Omar Mateen, was killed in a shootout with SWAT team members during the June 12 massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

FBI agents repeatedly questioned Salman in the aftermath of the shooting about whether she had advance knowledge of her husband’s plans. Salman told The New York Times in an interview published last fall that she knew her husband had watched jihadist videos but that she was “unaware of everything” regarding his intent to shoot up the club. She also said he had physically abused her.

“Noor Salman had no foreknowledge nor could she predict what Omar Mateen intended to do that tragic night,” her attorney, Linda Moreno, said in a statement.

“Noor has told her story of abuse at his hands. We believe it is misguided and wrong to prosecute her and that it dishonors the memories of the victims to punish an innocent person,” Moreno said.

Mateen was the only shooter, and by the time a three-hour standoff with law enforcement had ended, 49 patrons were killed and another 53 people required hospitalization.

Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in a 911 call to emergency officials during the standoff. He also made a series of Facebook posts and searches before and during the attack.

Salman, who grew up northeast of San Francisco, wed Mateen in 2011 after the two met online. They lived in Fort Pierce, Florida, at the time of the shooting. Last month, Salman filed a petition in a California court to change the name of the son she had with Mateen.

“We said from the beginning, we were going to look at every aspect of this, of every aspect of this shooter’s life to determine not just why did he take these actions — but who else knew about them? Was anyone else involved?” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in an MSNBC interview on Monday.

The Times first reported on the arrest.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina said in a statement that Salman was facing accusations of obstruction of justice and “aiding and abetting by providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.”

“Nothing can erase the pain we all feel about the senseless and brutal murders of 49 of our neighbors, friends, family members and loved ones,” Mina said. “But today, there is some relief in knowing that someone will be held accountable for that horrific crime.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he hoped the arrest “provides some comfort to the families who are mourning their loved ones,” he added.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons