Aaron Bean Archives - SaintPetersBlog

Bring on the orange juice: Denise Grimsley schedules breakfast fundraiser for March 7

It’s never too early in the day to start fundraising.

Sen. Denise Grimsley is scheduled to hold a fundraising reception for her 2018 bid for Agriculture Commissioner at 7:30 a.m. on March 7 at Florida Finance Strategies, 111-B East College Avenue in Tallahassee.

The reception, according to a copy of the invitation, is hosted by Sens. Aaron Bean, Dennis Baxley, Rob Bradley, Anitere Flores, George Gainer, Bill Galvano, Rene Garcia, Jack Latvala, Tom Lee, Debbie Mayfield, David Simmons, Wilton Simpson, Kelli Stargel, and Greg Steube.

The breakfast fundraiser comes just hours before the start of the 2017 Legislative Session.

A Sebring Republican, Grimsley was first elected to the House in 2004, before heading to the Senate in 2012.

She is currently a hospital administrator for Florida Hospital Wauchula and Lake Placid, and has served as vice president and chief operating officer of her family business, Grimsley Oil Company, as well as being involved in the citrus and ranching industry. She’s a member of the Peace River Valley and Highlands County Citrus Growers Association, and the Florida Cattlemen’s Association.

Grimsley filed to for the statewide office earlier this month, and has already lined up the backing of former state Sen. JD Alexander. And several Central Florida agriculture industry leaders appear to be lining up behind her, with many listed on an invitation for a fundraiser at Florida’s Natural Grove House in Lake Wales next week.

She isn’t the only member of the Legislature eyeing the agriculture post. Last week, Rep. Matt Caldwell told FloridaPolitics.com he intends to file to run for the seat later this summer.

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

Appropriations committee votes to OK gambling bill, now cleared for Senate floor

A wide-sweeping gambling bill is now ready to be heard by the full Senate when the 2017 Legislative Session kicks off next month, after it cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee this morning.

The bill (SB 8), sponsored by Sen. Bill Galvano, ratifies the 2015 Seminole Compact, subject to the approval of amendments to conform the agreement to provisions outlined in the bill and other actions to be taken by the Seminole Tribe and the state of Florida, and would expand the number of facilities where slot machines can be operated.

“Florida is a diverse state and our constituents have many different opinions, beliefs and convictions regarding gaming. This legislation does not attempt to make value judgments about the private activities of free, taxpaying Floridians, instead it presents a comprehensive approach to regulating a voter-approved industry that has contributed billions of dollars to our economy for education, health care and infrastructure, while providing hundreds of thousands of jobs to Floridians over the course of nearly 100 years,” said Galvano in a statement after the vote.

The bill passed 14-2, with Sens. Aaron Bean and Kelli Stargel voting against it.

“I don’t feel like we need to go down this path,” said Bean, who commended Galvano for his effort. “I see us going on the continued road of a slippery slope.”

The measure was amended Thursday to add a bingo provision for charitable organizations. Under the new section, veterans’ organizations may conduct instant bingo using electronic tickets instead of paper tickets.

The amended bill also appears to outlaw advance deposit wagering, a form of gambling in which the bettor must fund his account being allowed to place betters. The amendment makes it a third degree felony to accept those wagers on horse races, but not on dog races.

It also toughens standards for race animal doping; changes the name of the Office of Amusements, which would regulate fantasy sports, to the Office of Contest Amusements; and gives regulators no more than 45 days to approve “rules for a new authorized game submitted by a licensed cardroom or provide the cardroom with a list of deficiencies as to those rules.”

Several members expressed hesitation about what the bill could mean for the state’s future, before voting for it. Sens. Anitere Flores and Rob Bradley were among those who said they faced a difficult decision, but felt inaction was no longer an option.

“This is a difficult issue for me,” said Bradley. “If I could do one thing to wave a magic wand in our state government, I would get rid of the lottery and move on in a different direction on gaming, because I think Florida is about something different. We’re about beaches and sunshine. Not gaming. But ladies and gentlemen, I don’t have a magic wand, none of us do.”

Sen. Jack Latvala, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, called the measure a jobs bill and said he hoped it will be “one more place where the Senate comes down strong for jobs.”

The House Tourism & Gaming Control Subcommittee OK’d its own gambling bill Thursday.

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

Impressive roster of GOP leaders line up for Ed Hooper fundraiser

Clearwater Republican Ed Hooper is assembling an impressive number of high-profile state lawmakers for a Tallahassee reception next month. Hooper, a former state representative, is seeking the open Senate District 16 seat currently held by Jack Latvala.

Hooper’s campaign fundraiser will be Monday, March 6, from 2:30 p.m. – 4 p.m. at the Governors Club, 202 South Adams Street.

The host committee reads like a Who’s Who of GOP state leaders, including Senate President Joe Negron and nearly all the Pinellas County/Hillsborough delegation: Sens. Latvala, Bill Galvano, Wilton Simpson, Dana Young and Jeff Brandes.

Republican senators from beyond the Tampa Bay area will be there, too: Lizbeth Benacquisto, George Gainer, Denise Grimsley, Frank Artiles, Dennis Baxley, Aaron Bean, Travis Hutson, Debbie Mayfield, Kathleen Passidomo, Keith Perry, Robert Bradley, Doug Broxson, David Simmons, Kelli Stargel and Greg Steube.

The House will also be well represented, with Larry Ahern, Ben Albritton, Chris Latvala and Kathleen Peters.

A former Clearwater firefighter who served four terms in the House before term limits forced him out, Hooper ran for Pinellas County Commission in 2014, losing to Democrat Pat Gerard after a contentious campaign.

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

House panel to discuss changing how nursing homes that accept Medicaid are paid

Nursing homes that accept Medicaid could see changes in how they are paid in the coming fiscal year, but exactly what those changes will look like remain to be seen.

The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee is expected to begin discussions about new payment plans Wednesday, when Agency for Health Care Administration officials give members a presentation detailing the Navigant recommendations for a new payment method.

The Navigant proposal would move the state away from its current cost-based model and into a prospective payment system. While some industry officials appear supportive of a move to a prospective payment system, there are varying degree of concern about whether the Navigant proposal is right for Florida.

“We think the Navigant proposal is a good starting point,” said Tom Parker, the director of reimbursement for the Florida Health Care Association, which represents 82 percent of the state’s nursing centers. “It gets us 90 percent of the way we’d like to see it.”

Parker said a prospective payment system is “good for the industry and good for the state” since facilities have a good understanding of what the rates will be year-over-year. Still, Parker said his organization has several changes it would like to see made before a plan is adopted.

One such change would be to tweak the “Fair Rental Value System” outlined in the Navigant proposal so that providers are incentivized to do renovations or make replacements. That could be done by bumping up the minimum square footage per bed used in the FRVS parameters to 350 square feet, up from the 100 square feet per bed current recommended in the report.

Parker also said the FHCA would like to see changes as it relates to the Quality Incentive Payment Program. According to a Dec. 29 report, Navigant came up with an incentive program after “significant discussion with the Agency and considerable stakeholder input.”

That incentive program, according to the Dec. 29 report, would calculate scores based on several process and outcome measure, and each facility would be able to receive a maximum of 40 points.

The Navigant proposal recommends awarding quality incentive payments to facilities “scoring above the 30th percentile in total quality points,” but Parker said FCHA would like to see that changed to the 20th percentile. That change, he said, would allow “as many providers as possible” to take part in the quality incentive payment plan.

While the Florida Health Care Association sees the Navigant plan as a good starting point, LeadingAge Florida would would like lawmakers to scrap the model and consider an alternative. The association represents a wide variety of communities serving the state’s seniors, including nursing homes and retirement communities.

According to prepared comments posted on ACHA’s website, LeadingAge officials on Dec. 8 said “despite improvements made in an effort to adequately recognize and reward high quality care care and redistribute available funds equitably, we are convinced that the basic structure of the proposed models is fatally flawed and stated objectives for the new payment plan … cannot be obtained without a complete model redesign.”

Among other things, LeadingAge asked that the Navigant proposal include Palm Beach County in the South Region. Under the Navigant proposal, the South region is defined as Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

In December, the organization also asked that the 30th percentile threshold “exclude points awarded for year-to-year improvements,” and asked that the American Health Care Association Quality Silver and Gold Awards be removed from the Quality Matrix.

Steve Bahmer, the president and CEO of LeadingAge Florida, said in an interview last week, the Navigant proposal “shifts $109 million in Medicaid funding from the highest quality nursing homes to the lowest quality nursing homes.”

LeadingAge officials contend the shift in funding threatens the quality of care delivered by the state’s nursing home and would “devastate many of the state’s 5-star and Gold Seal providers.” According to the organization, 143 nursing homes with a 4- or 5-star rating would lose funding; while 86 facilities with a 1- or 2-star rating would gain funding.

“We don’t oppose a prospective payment plan,” said Bahmer. “We just oppose the model.”

LeadingAge is supportive of legislation by Sen. Aaron Bean. Filed last week, Bahmer said the proposal (SB 712) “creates a better way to pay for care without devastating the highest quality” facilities.

The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss the recommendations during its meeting at 1 p.m. in 404 House Office Building.

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

Activists are pushing for Pinellas to be declared a sanctuary county

Despite a published report listing it as a sanctuary county, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri adamantly rejects classifying Pinellas  with such a designation. But a group of activists who held a news conference in St. Petersburg on Tuesday want the County Commission to call themselves a ‘welcoming’ county.

They met in front of City Hall to call on the members of the City Council to support a resolution, calling on the Pinellas County Commission to give themselves that title. Although there is no formal definition of a sanctuary city or county, it’s generally recognized as a community that has advised its law enforcement officers not to cooperate with the federal government when it comes to detaining undocumented immigrants unless they have committed a crime other than legally entering the country.

A report issued out on Tuesday by the liberal Center for American Progress said that contrary to President Trump’s recent claims, low-income immigrants access fewer public benefits than U.S.-born individuals. Activist Kofi Hunt cited that report in making his case for Pinellas to become a sanctuary county.

“When you have policies that basically treat undocumented people who live in the community as residents, you don’t hunt them down, and they feel comfortable integrating into society, that it’s better for the community and that’s one reason we’re saying this,” Hunt said.

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman recently got himself into a slight kerfuffle with Gualtieri after making a statement earlier this month where he declared that “While our county sheriff’s office is ultimately responsible for notifying the federal government about individuals who are here illegally, I have no hesitation in declaring St. Petersburg a sanctuary from harmful federal immigration laws.”

The editorial page of the hometown Tampa Bay Times also criticized Kriseman for the statement, writing that “Kriseman’s statement was a well-intended message of inclusion during a time of uncertainty and division over immigrants’ place in American society. It’s a shame he muddied it with poorly chosen words.”

Hunt applauds Kriseman’s intentions, saying it reflects the character of St. Petersburg and the values of the people who live in the city.

Marc Rodrigues is with the West Central Florida Labor Council. He says that people who risk everything to make it to this country so that they could feed their families or find better opportunities “are not our enemy.”

“As the Florida labor movement we stand in opposition to Trump’s recent executive orders concerning immigration and we are also troubled by the fact that lawmakers in Tallahassee – with all the problems in this state that need to be addressed, from our embarrassingly low wages to our public school system and infrastructure – are wasting precious time and resources on trying to pass laws that would actually punish local municipalities that decide to take a “welcoming” or “sanctuary” stance toward immigrants and other vulnerable communities,” Rodrigues says in an email. “We stand with our community partners here in Pinellas and Hillsborough and elsewhere who are trying to pass such statutes and call on our local leaders to heed these efforts.”

Hassan Shibley, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida, said President Trump’s executive orders on immigration, as well as comments made on Sunday by senior White House adviser Stephen Miller that the President’s power on national security and how it will “not be questioned” are very concerning.

“The President thinks he has authority that is not granted by the constitution,” said Shibley. “The president holds these beliefs and it is up  to the states and the counties to protect their residents against a President who clearly doesn’t respect the constitution.”

Given Gualtieri’s previously very public stance against being considered a sanctuary county, Shibley admits it won’t be easy to persuade the County Commission to override their own sheriff. But he says they must.

“It’s a challenge, but I think more people are recognizing  that we need to unite to build communities where all of our residents feel safe, and I think the more we see aggressive policies coming out of the White House that show a total disrespect for the rule of law, the Constitution, and the limits on authority, that the more support we’ll see at the local level to take action that make people feel welcome and feel safe,” he says.

” I think we live in a time of a fast growing civil rights movement and I think my hope is that voices that stand in the way of that will  further be  marginalized as time goes on,” Shibley added.

“I’m sure the Sheriff will have his position, but from the energy that you’re seeing after the election, a lot of it is in tune with solidarity with immigrants,” says Hunt. “It will take some political ppressure, but that’s why I myself and others work as activists and organizers on the grass roots level,to let local residents about the issues at hand and how we can address them, and once  we get the people active and engaged in the topic, will see which way the political winds blow.”

The Center for Immigration Studies has also listed Hillsborough as a sanctuary county, a charge that Sheriff David Gee denies. Two weeks ago, a large group of citizens addressed the Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council to recommend to the County Commission that Hillsborough become a sanctuary county. BOCC Chair Stacy White says he has no interest in doing so.

Last week in Tallahassee, Fernandina Beach Republican Aaron Bean and Yalaha Republican Larry Metz introduced companion bills ( SB 786 and HB 697)  that would ban “sanctuary polices” in Florida and create fines and penalties for state agencies, local governments, or law enforcement agencies that use those policies and don’t cooperate with the federal government.

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

Aaron Bean files bill focused on nursing home Medicaid reimbursement rates

Industry advocates said a Senate proposal filed this week could change the way nursing homes that accept Medicaid are paid without severely impacting high-quality nursing homes.

Sponsored by Sen. Aaron Bean, the bill (SB 712) transitions nursing homes that accept Medicaid payments to a prospective payment system. But LeadingAge Florida CEO Steve Bahmer said Bean’s bill “creates a better way to pay for care without devastating the highest quality” homes, unlike a model recently put forth by consultants.

The Florida Legislature OK’d legislation in 2016 set aside $500,000 for a study to develop a proposal to convert Medicaid payments for nursing home services from a cost-based reimbursement to a prospective payment plan. The state hired Navigant Consulting to conduct the study, which included a series of public meetings across the state.

Bahmer said a model developed by Navigant could shift “Medicaid funding from the highest quality nursing homes to the lowest quality nursing homes.” That model divides the state into two regions — the South region, which consists of Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, and the North region, which is the rest of the state.

The median cost in each region is then determined, and Bahmer said if facilities that are being paid more than that would lose money; those that receive less than the median would receive more.

Bahmer said while there are a “number of fundamental flaws” the Navigant plan, this could be one of the most significant ones. The cost of delivering care varies widely, and Bahmer said the large losses created by the Navigant plan would make it difficult for nursing homes to continue to provide “high-quality care.”

Bean’s bill moves the state to a prospective payment system and calls on the agency to set nursing rates based only on audited cost reports. It also calls on the agency to use the Fair Rental Value System developed by Navigant Consulting to calculate the property component of reimbursement rates.

His bill also spells out that increases “shall be allocated proportionately to each nursing home facility based on the Quality Matrix without a lower threshold developed by Navigant Consulting.”

The bill currently does not have a House companion.

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

Bill to expand juvenile civil citations raises questions on officer discretion

A bill to set up a civil citation program for juveniles statewide advanced Monday through a Florida Senate committee.

However, questions about removing officer discretion may need to be addressed before the proposal gets widespread support from lawmakers later this Session.

Miami Republican Senator Anitere Flores’ bill (SB 196) would mandate law enforcement officers to offer a civil citation for youths admitting to one of 11 separate misdemeanors: possession of alcohol beverages; battery; criminal mischief; trespassing; theft; retail and farm theft; riots; disorderly conduct; possession of cannabis or controlled substances; possession, manufacture, delivery, transportation, advertisement or retail sale of drug paraphernalia and resisting an officer without violence.

Flores introduce the bill to the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice Monday.

“The reason why I find this bill to be very important is that it brings uniformity to the Civil Citation Program,” Flores said, “so that ability to get a second chance doesn’t depend on where you live or what the color of your skin is, and that it just be something that in the state of Florida we prioritize for all members of our state.”

Although civil citations are already an option for all law enforcement agencies to write up, there is a huge discrepancy in the percentages of actual use among various police and sheriff departments.

For example, in the most recent fiscal year, Pinellas County used civil citations 94 percent of the time they were available. However, across the bay, Sheriff David Gee’s agency in Hillsborough used them only 34 percent of the time.

Currently, Florida law states that law enforcement officers may issue a civil citation. Flores bill would make civil citations a requirement for law enforcement in particular cases.

Although each person in the seven-member committee indicated general support for the bill, some resistance came from St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes, who said that while 94 percent of Pinellas County Sheriff Deputies did write up civil citations, 6 percent believed placing the juvenile under arrest was the best thing to do.

“Why shouldn’t they be allowed to exercise their discretion?” he asked.

Barney Bishop, with the Florida Smart Justice Alliance, said he had been advocating such a bill since his time with Associated Industries of Florida. Nevertheless, Bishop said he had several issues with the bill as currently written.

Like Brandes, Bishop said law enforcement should not be mandated to issue civil citations; he instead suggested incentivizing police chiefs and sheriffs to create department policies to encourage the maximum use of civil citations.

Bishop also disputed the staff summary of the bill saying it will have no fiscal impact. Small counties like Taylor or Washington — ones which currently do not have any civil citation programs in place — must spend money to create such a program, he said.

Bishop then suggested small counties could work together, or with a nonprofit agency, to come up with their own program.

While Flores’ bill would only mandate a civil citation for first-time offenses, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said, currently, there is no statewide database system to allow his deputies to know if a youth found guilty of one of the offenses listed in the legislation hadn’t already received such a citation in a different county.

And though Flores emphasized that the misdemeanors requiring the offer of a civil citation were all nonviolent, Fernandina Beach Republican Aaron Bean questioned the inclusion of battery on the list.

“Battery stands out. That one might be an issue,” Flores admitted, adding that part of the problem is how expansive its definition is, including unwanted touching.

“I’m open to suggestions on how we walk that line,” she said.

The bill passed out of committee by a 5-2 vote. Brandes and Orange Park Republican Rob Bradley opposed it.

After the vote, Senate President Joe Negron issued a statement: “Instead of helping our youth to learn positively from their mistakes like we once did, they may be put in the juvenile justice system, which then creates a criminal record that could potentially follow them for their rest of their lives.”

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

Compilation of Veterans Day messages from Florida’s elected officials and politicians

A compilation of Veterans Day messages from Florida’s elected officials and politicians:

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam:

In honor of Veterans Day, I want to tell you about a little-known program that’s honoring the sacrifices of our nation’s wounded veterans. It’s called Operation Outdoor Freedom.

Since 2011, we’ve invited more than 2,000 wounded veterans to enjoy hunting, fishing, and other recreational activities at no cost to them. It’s an opportunity for them to relax and rehabilitate in Florida’s great outdoors.

And it’s an opportunity for us to honor our nation’s bravest men and women. This is just one small way we can thank those who’ve sacrificed so much for our freedoms.

State Sen. Aaron Bean, via Twitter:

Today, we recognize all of our veterans for their sacrifices to our country. We are absolutely the land of the FREE because of the BRAVE.

State Sen. Anitere Flores, via Twitter:

Thank you to all the brave men and women who have selflessly served our country.

State Sen. Bill Galvano, via Twitter:

For those who fought and who continue to fight in the name of freedom, we thank you!

State Rep. Bill Hager:

Today marks the anniversary of Armistice Day, which commemorates the peace agreement signed at the end of fighting on the Western Front of World War I. In honor of those brave men and women, and those who followed in their footsteps, we take this day each year to celebrate and thank those who have served our country so that each of us can be free.

Today we are losing our veterans from World War II, who have been called our greatest generation, at a very rapid rate. Our Korean, Vietnam, and Middle East vets face scars and illnesses long after their service. Currently, many of our neighbors have sent off their loved ones, many in harm’s way, to various military outposts around the world.

It is important that each of us on this special day take a moment to say THANK YOU to our veterans and our current military personnel. Their families also deserve our recognition, support, and thanks as well for their sacrifice.

In our private and public remembrances, we cannot ever forget the veterans who served our nation, in particular those that made the ultimate sacrifice.

State Rep. Shawn Harrison:

harrisonState Rep. Kathleen Peters, via Twitter:

To those who have served, we are forever in your debt and America salutes you. Happy Veterans Day.

State Rep. Jack Raburn:

raburn

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 Jr. to tailgate before Florida/Georgia game

As “yuuuge” as the “World’s Biggest Cocktail Party” (i.e., the Florida/Georgia game) is in Jacksonville, the tailgate scene may be even bigger for GOP partisans.

Donald Trump Jr. will tailgate with the Republican Party of Duval County Saturday at noon.

The so-called FL/GA Victory Tailgate will be on the sidewalk between Lots J and M outside of EverBank Field.

Trump will be joined by CD 4 candidate John Rutherford, Sen. Aaron Bean, and other politicians, including some Georgia representation and other Jacksonville pols who have yet to confirm.

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

In SD 18 race, Dana Young faces the toughest challenge of her political career

After it was revealed last month that Mosaic had withheld information for weeks about the massive sinkhole at their New Wales facility in Polk County which spilled 215 million gallons of contaminated water into the Florida aquifer, the Conservation Florida Voters attacked Dana Young for receiving campaign contributions from the phosphate corporation — and the fact that it’s vice president of public affairs co-hosted a fundraiser for her last year.

“Rep. Dana Young’s environmental record is as dirty as her campaign contributions,” said Jonathan Webber, deputy director of Florida Conservation Voters. “Her cozy relationship with big polluters like Mosaic shows how out of touch she is with the everyday needs of Tampa’s working families.”

Young’s campaign team fired back immediately, and she’s now criticizing the phosphate company — and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection — for their tardiness in coming clean with the public about the spill.

“I think it’s disgraceful that you can have an environmental disaster like this that truly can harm people’s health, to pour pollutants into the aquifer that could affect people’s well water,” she told FloridaPolitics last week. “I just don’t think there’s ANY excuse for not having a requirement that surrounding neighbors be immediately notified.”

A Mosaic employee discovered the water loss caused by the sinkhole Aug. 27 and the state and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was notified the next day, as required by Florida law. However, homeowners near the facility weren’t notified by Mosaic or the DEP until Sept. 19, after news broke about the sinkhole. The DEP said Mosaic wasn’t legally obligated to because there was no evidence of threat to groundwater or off-site movement. But Gov. Rick Scott said the law was “outdated.”

Young says she’s extremely disappointed by the DEP’s response.

“They have an obligation to protect the public here in Florida. That is their role, and they knew for a long time what was going on there and they did not see fit to tell anybody, and I think that is absolutely unacceptable, and that we need to pass legislation in this session to clarify the duty to report by not only the permittees like Mosaic, but the state departments and local governments as well.”

Florida Conservation Voters also has criticized Young for voting for HB 191, the controversial fracking bill that passed in the House of Representatives last spring but died in the Senate. Critics seized on the provision that would strip local governments of the power to prevent the practice, in which large amounts of water, sand, and chemicals are pumped into the ground using high pressure to extract oil and gas deposits from rock formations. It also would require a comprehensive study to determine the effects of fracking in the state and establish a regulatory framework.

Environmental groups have depicted it as an “anti-fracking” bill and have accused those who voted for it of being pro-fracking, but some Republican House members running for re-election have stressed that they supported the vote because it put a moratorium on the practice, and say that they don’t actually support the procedure.

“I’m completely against it anywhere in Florida, ” Young says about fracking, and says it’s “hurtful” that people think otherwise. “I am an environmentalist, ” she vows. “I always have been and obviously fracking is not consistent with my philosophy, nor is it consistent with the geology and makeup with our state.”

The Nature Conservancy in Florida thinks so — the group announced Monday they were awarding Young with their 2016 Legislative Achievement Award.

The criticism from the environmental groups are an indication of the forces that would like to see her out of the Legislature next year, as Young faces the race of her political career.

After winning a contested battle against the late Stacy Frank for the House District 60 seat in 2010, the Democrats failed to nominate a candidate to oppose her in her re-election bids in 2012 and 2014, before recruiting attorney Bob Buesing to oppose her in the Senate District 18 race this year.

The race is expected to be close. A poll taken in early August showed Young and Buesing in a tie at 36 percent, though it didn’t include the two independents in the race, Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove.

When she’s not working in the Legislature, Young says her full time gig is being a mom to her two daughters (one of whom is a freshman in college this year). An attorney, she says doesn’t practice much these days, but does use her legal expertise to help draft bills. Young turns 52 the day after the November election.

Although she has moved up to become House Majority Leader in the past two years in the Legislature, Buesing has said an internal poll his campaign conducted this summer shows Young’s name recognition isn’t much stronger than his own, perhaps because her previous re-election bids have been under the radar. However, one thing is certain — she will not be outspent in the race. Young has raised $727,443 in her main campaign account, and her political committee, “Friends of Dana Young,” has raised another million dollars. Buesing has raised $244,737.

When asked to recount the legislation she’s most proud of, Young chooses to talk about two issues that have widespread support – though neither have actually gone as far as she hopes they will.

One is her work to reduce the number of non-driving violations that prompt Floridians to have their drivers licenses suspended. A recent state study said the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles had suspended 1.3 million driver’s licenses in fiscal year 2012-13, and 167,000 were for non-driving reasons, mainly failure to pay fines or court fees or child support. A bill she co-sponsored with Democrat Darryl Rouson in the House last session would have reduced the number of offenses for which license suspension is prescribed and prohibit suspensions for those who show in an court an inability to pay fines and fees.

Another bill that has frustrated her over the years but which she is determined to get passed is enact a ban on greyhound racing in the state. And she’s recently cut an ad that did make her a favorite among the craft beer crowd for her support against “Big Beer” distributors in the whole 64-ounce growler battle.

Young has been a consistent “Nay” vote when Medicaid expansion has come up in the Legislature, and Buesing has been vocal in criticizing her about it. She responds with the generic Florida House GOP line on the subject — it’s a broken system that doesn’t work.

“I try to be for commonsense government — that’s my motto — and there is no common sense in expanding a program that isn’t working,” she says.

In 2015, the Florida Senate approved a proposal by Fernandina Beach Republican Aaron Bean that would have established a state-run private insurance exchange to state residents earning less than $16,000, or about $33,000 for a family of four. It included a work requirement and a monthly copay. Because it was questionable whether the federal government would approve the plan, Young says it was a no-go in the House. She says if the federal government is “bound and determined to give us money” she would like them to provide block grants to let the state decide how to aid some of the uninsured in Florida. “I think that would be a win-win for Florida,” she says.

Young supports the controversial Tampa Bay Express toll lanes project, though she emphasizes that she was not aware of the portion of the FDOT plan to toll an existing lane of the Howard Frankland Bridge, which she says is just not acceptable (On Monday, the FDOT said that they would no longer take away a free lane from the Bridge when it’s rebuilt in 2019).

Although Mayor Bob Buckhorn unsuccessfully lobbied Tampa Bay area lawmakers a few years ago to consider allowing large municipalities the power to hold their own referendums to pay for transportation projects, the idea has resurfaced this year among some local Democrats, frustrated that the Go Hillsborough plan died before ever coming before the voters.

Young is one of those local legislators who has no interest in giving Tampa that power.

“This is one of the sore subjects between me and my friend Bob Buckhorn,” she says. Recalling how the 2010 Moving Hillsborough Forward transit tax failed miserably in Hillsborough County but received a majority inside of Tampa, Young says that measure was half-baked, and if the city would have passed it “we would now be saddled with has been universally termed a terrible plan.”

“And so for me, I think that the county provides appropriate safeguards on taxpayer dollars to make sure that whatever plan is appropriate,” she says, adding it’s one of the few area that she disagrees with the mayor.

Young was a major supporter of Jeb Bush’s failed presidential run, but says now that it’s a “binary choice,” she’s with Donald Trump.

“It’s just a clear picture of how fed up people are with the way things are being done in Washington D.C.,” she says about the rise of the Manhattan real estate mogul in the presidential race. “People feel that they’ve been left behind, people feel forgotten, people feel lied to,” adding that “It’s a phenomenon of the voter that doesn’t feel that what they think matters.”

The Senate District race takes place on Nov. 8.

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