Aaron Bean Archives - SaintPetersBlog

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

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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.

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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.

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Florida Republicans state Senate campaign arm raises more than $5M ahead of primaries

The political committee formed to help Republican state Senate candidates raised more than $5 million since April.

State records show the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee raised nearly $5.2 million between April 1 and Aug. 25. The committee is led by Senate President Designate Joe Negron, and was set up by Senate leaders to raise money for Senate races across the state.

“Treasure Coast Alliance,” Negron’s own political committee, gave $307,000 to the FRSCC. State records show Negron’s committee gave four contributions between May and August.

Other top donors include TECO Energy, which gave $200,000; “Innovate Florida,” the political committee backed by Majority Leader Bill Galvano, which gave $175,000; the Florida Medical Association, which gave $150,000; and U.S. Sugar Corp., which gave $130,000.

The committee also received $25,000 donations from the campaigns of Sens. Denise Grimsley, Aaron Bean, David Simmons, Rob Bradley, and Tom Lee. All five were elected unopposed earlier this summer.

Records show the committee spent more than $3.2 million between April 1 and Aug. 25. That sum included more than $772,500 to Data Targeting for direct mail, consulting and polling services.

The committee has raised more than $16.6 million and spent $6.7 million since October 2014. It ended the reporting period with more than $9.8 million in the bank.

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Latest on the legislative staffing merry-go-round

With a tip of the hat to LobbyTools, here are the latest movements – both on and off – the legislative merry-go-round.

On and off: Portia Palmer has been named interim Clerk of the House, and the post previously held by Bob Ward, who is retiring.

Off: Benjamin Smith is no longer a legislative assistant for state Rep. Jim Boyd of Bradenton.

Off: Rebekah Hurd is no longer a legislative assistant for St. Cloud state Rep. Mike La Rosa.

Off: Kristin Bradstreet is no longer a district secretary for state Rep. Kathleen Passidomo of Naples.

Off: Anna DeCerchio is no longer a legislative assistant for Palm Coast Republican state Rep. Paul Renner.

On: Omar Raschid has become legislative assistant for Republican state Rep. Chris Sprowls of Tarpon Springs.

On: Austin Nicklas is the new legislative assistant for Republican state Sen. Aaron Bean of Jacksonville.

Off: Michael Nachef is no longer legislative assistant for Republican state Sen. Garrett Richter of Naples.

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Instant winners aplenty in Florida Senate races

You might want to call them instant winners.

As of 5 p.m. Friday, a dozen Florida Senate candidates appeared to win their elections when the qualifying period ended without them drawing opposition.

Newcomers Lauren Book and George Gainer were among those candidates who did not draw an opponent.

Gainer, a Bay County Republican, ran unopposed in Senate District 2. That race was expected to be hotly contested and deemed one to watch by political observers. But in March, Rep. Matt Gaetz dropped his state Senate bid to run for Congress instead. Gaetz is one of the several Republicans who qualified to run in Florida’s 1st Congressional District.

Book is a well-known South Florida Democrat, having spent years trying to bring awareness to childhood sexual abuse. She is the daughter of lobbyist Ron Book. She is expected to win her bid to represent South Florida in Senate District 32.

Gainer and Lauren Book are the only newcomers who won their races after running unopposed. The remaining candidates all will return to the Senate after they failed to draw an opponent.

Audrey Gibson won re-election in Senate District 6; Perry Thurston won re-election in Senate District 33, and Oscar Braynon won re-election in Senate District 35. Braynon is set to become the Minority Leader in 2016.

On the Republican side, Aaron Bean won re-election in Senate District 4; Rob Bradley won re-election in Senate District 5; David Simmons won re-election in Senate District 9; Wilton Simpson won re-election in Senate District 10; Tom Lee won re-election in Senate District 20; Bill Galvano won re-election in Senate District 21; and Denise Grimsley won re-election in Senate District 26.

Galvano and Simpson are both believed to be in line for the Senate presidency.

Candidates had until noon Friday to qualify to be on the ballot. State elections officials said they expect all of the candidate qualifying information to be finalized by Friday evening.

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Aaron Bean to try again with “cold case” legislation

Families in Florida, who have lost loved ones to unsolved murders, often press in vain for authorities to re-examine their “cold cases.”

Duval County alone has more than 1,200 unsolved murders dating back to 1970. Jacksonville resident Ryan Blackman, who lost his father to an unknown killer, has set up an online database in an effort to make sure these many forgotten victims find justice.

And Blackman’s Project Cold Case has an ally in State Sen. Aaron Bean.

“We’ve got to give families hope,” said Bean, who co-sponsored a bill last year aimed at helping to solve cold case murders in Florida.

That Session, Governor Rick Scott vetoed $50,000 that would have created a Florida cold case task force. The vetoed proposal was based on a similar effort Colorado enacted in 2007. 

Look for Bean to try again to reintroduce the legislation.

“They say the FOURTH time is the charm when it comes to these things,” Bean told WJCT.

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AIF announces “Champions for Business”

Associated Industries of Florida’s, the state’s premier lobbying group, has announced the latest awardees of its “Champions for Business.”

The group gives the awards every year to state lawmakers “whose extraordinary efforts provide model leadership on key legislation for the success of Florida’s business community,” according to a news release.

On this year’s list are:

Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican and four-time award recipient, for championing business incentives that ultimately stalled in the House;

Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Port Orange Republican and five-time award winner, for her role in this year’s tax cuts;

Sen. Charlie Dean, an Inverness Republican who won his second award, for “defending the state’s water resources”;

Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican and three-time winner, for preserving tort reform measures this past session;

Sen. Garrett Richter, a Naples Republican and six-time winner, for carrying ‘fracking’ legislation “aimed at growing Florida’s onshore energy industry while providing safeguards for the environment”;

Rep. Jim Boyd, a Bradenton Republican and three-time winner, for “successfully sponsoring an Economic Development package”;

Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican and three-time winner, who fought for Gov. Scott’s 2016 tax cut package;

Rep. Matt Caldwell, a Lehigh Acres Republican and four-time winner, for “exhibiting significant leadership in sponsoring environmental resources legislation”;

Rep. Frank Artiles, a Miami Republican and twice award-winner, who “took the lead in sponsoring Information Technology legislation that will bring the state’s cyber security measures up to date”; and

Rep. Ray Rodrigues, a Fort Myers Republican receiving his second award, this year for his companion bill to Richter’s ‘fracking’ legislation.

“At AIF, we proudly honor those elected officials who defend Florida’s competitive climate and continually strive to keep the Sunshine State a place where businesses and families can prosper,” said AIF President and CEO Tom Feeney in a statement.

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Florida’s Pastor Protection Act doesn’t go as far as Georgia’s — and that’s a good thing for NFL fans

After the June 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Obergefell v. Hodges case that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, more than 20 state legislatures reacted by passing religious freedom laws to protect clergy.

This month, Florida became the latest state to do so after Gov. Rick Scott signed the Pastor Protection Act. The new law shields religious entities and individuals from any lawsuit if they refuse to administer same-sex weddings.

Meanwhile in Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal says he’ll decide by next month whether he’ll sign the Peach State’s version, which goes beyond Florida’s bill. Plus, critics contend the Georgia law allows for discrimination against LGBT people.

The National Football League said Friday it opposes the legislation, and could yank Atlanta from consideration to host a future Super Bowl if Deal signs off on it.

Deal said this month he’d veto any bill that legalizes discrimination. As written, though, the bill would protect clergy from performing same-sex marriages. It also would give faith-based organizations permission to deny use of their business for anything they find “objectionable. Businesses wouldn’t have to hire anyone whose religious beliefs are different from theirs, according to The Washington Post.

The Human Rights Campaign says under the bill “taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies could refuse to place children in need of homes with LGBT couples. Homeless shelters could turn away unwed couples and their families. Food pantries could turn away people of other faiths or even engage in race discrimination. Drug counseling centers could refuse to hire a qualified LGBT therapist.”

That’s entirely different than the Florida bill, said Carlos Smith, government affairs manager for Equality Florida. He said Florida’s bill sponsors – Lakewood GOP Rep. Scott Plakon and Fernandina Beach GOP Sen. Aaron Bean – promised not to expand the bill beyond its initial intent.

The bill’s language provides that “churches or religious organizations, related organizations, or certain individuals may not be required to solemnize any marriage or provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for related purposes if such action would violate a sincerely held religious belief; prohibiting certain legal actions, penalties, or governmental sanctions against such individuals or entities.”

Plakon said he’s read about the Georgia proposal, and that “they go into a lot of different areas.”

“It was born with clergy in mind, and it was passed with clergy and their facilities,” the Lakewood Republican said, adding that he worked with the Christian Family Coalition and Equality Florida to come up with the final language.

Critics such as Equality Florida contended there was no need for such legislation, saying that the U.S. Constitution and the Florida Constitution already make it clear that religious leaders can’t be forced to perform same-sex marriages.

“Pastors in churches have so many layers of protection already,” Smith said. “The idea that we wasted all of this time in Florida just to restate the current law changed nothing to accommodate people who were concerned about the Oberkfell decision is a giant waste of taxpayer resources and it was insulting, because in Florida, gay and transgender people don’t have any protections under state law from discrimination.”

Plakon acknowledged that reality, saying that he only wanted to add “an extra layer of protection” for the religious community.

“You would like to believe that it would protect these people, but the way things have been going, there’s a lot of uncertainty these days due to the Obergefell decision,” Plakon said. “It kind of left a lot of questions unanswered.”

Religious freedom bills across the country have been controversial. Indiana passed legislation last year, but after considerable backlash overhauled the law with a follow-up measure intended to ease concerns driven by businesses that it could lead to discrimination.

The NFL’s statement on Friday puts Georgia Governor Deal on notice that his state could lose the Super Bowl if he signs the proposed legislation.

That action could only boost Tampa’s chances of hosting its fifth Super Bowl. Atlanta, Tampa, Miami, Los Angeles and Charlotte all were said to be in the mix for the next Super Bowl sites to be selected by the league. Tampa residents learned last week the odds for all those cities were recently enhanced.

“It’s my understanding the dates have also been expanded to include a third Super Bowl; we’re talking 2019, 2020 and 2021,” Dennis Rogero, chief of staff for Mayor Bob Buckhorn, told the Tampa City Council on Thursday.

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Jack Latvala rues lack of business incentives in budget

State Sen. Jack Latvala brought up “the elephant in the room” during remarks on the 2016-17 state budget Friday, lamenting the lack of a $250 million business incentives fund, a priority of Gov. Rick Scott

The Clearwater Republican, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development, said the absence of the Florida Enterprise Fund was the “most disappointing point of this session.”

With the current amount of incentive dollars dwindling, Scott wanted the new pot of money to lure businesses and their jobs to the Sunshine State. But the House’s GOP leadership declined to put any money into it, and the Senate later agreed.

After some initial skepticism in the early part of the 2016 Legislative Session, Latvala came around to the idea and supported it.

When it became clear the plan would be a victim of budget negotiations, he penned an op-ed blaming the fund’s demise on “ideologues” in House leadership.

On the floor Friday, Latvala detailed how “day after day, our sheets went back and forth, and every single time the response was zero. Not even an offer in the middle” or starting somewhere over zero funding.

“We now have zero in the Quick Action Closing Fund, our most important economic development tool,” Latvala told his colleagues. He used the example of a business that was interested in relocating to Sen. Aaron Bean‘s district in Fernandina Beach. 

Now, “we won’t get it,” he said. “And we’ll hear more about these (losses) without any ammunition in the gun.”

State Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat, asked Latvala whether the rest of the economic development silo of the budget has the potential “to create tens of thousands of jobs?”

Latvala agreed, saying he was proud of next year’s $82.3 billion budget, “but not the zero in the incentives.”

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