Jack Latvala Archives - SaintPetersBlog

At swearing in, Bob Dillinger says it’s his last term as Pinellas/Pasco public defender

The event was set up as a festive ceremony to swear in six of Pinellas County’s constitutional officers.

But amid the laughter, hugs and cheers, there were some serious moments.

One came just after Pinellas-Pasco public defender Bob Dillinger was sworn in by Anthony Rondolino, chief judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit.

In a voice choked with emotion, Dillinger announced that this would be his “last term as public defender for the Sixth Judicial Circuit.”

Dillinger did not offer reasons for his decision, saying, “It’s an honor to have served.”

He also offered his hopes that people who are powerless, poor and forgotten would be remembered and would receive “liberty and justice for all.”

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe praised Dillinger, saying, “We genuinely get along. … We collaborate together. We have a collegial atmosphere…That’s something you don’t find everywhere else.”

Another solemn moment came when Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark was sworn in. In a teary voice, Clark remembered Judge Pat Caddell, who died in 2014. Caddell had chaired the Pinellas County Canvassing Board in every election for 22 years.

“Pat was my close friend and mentor, I miss him every day,” Clark said.

For the most part, the rest of the evening was full of joking and laughter.

Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala swore in Clerk of Court Ken Burke.

“I’ve sworn at him,” Latvala said. “I guess he thought it appropriate that I swear him in.”

Rondolino, who also swore in McCabe, joked as McCabe put his hand on the Bible and raised his right hand: “I’ve been waiting 40 years to get him under oath.”

Dillinger is a native Floridian who moved to Pinellas County in 1973. He has an undergraduate degree from Columbia University (1973) and a juris doctor degree from Stetson College of Law (1976).

He served as assistant public defender from 1976 to 1981 when he left for private practice. He was elected public defender and has served in that position ever since.

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

‘Mr. Lealman’ Ray Neri dies

Ray Neri, the man who put the unincorporated Lealman area on the map, died Tuesday at Northside Hospital.

Neri was taken to Northside on Monday. He had fallen earlier in the day.

Neri was a well-known community activist whose persistent lobbying brought attention to the problems in his community. With the light he shone on Lealman came help. His activism resulted in, among other things, a renovated park, a new park, and Pinellas County’s first community redevelopment area designed to solve the problems of poverty that permeates the community.

Lealman is located between Pinellas Park and St. Petersburg on the north and south and between I-275 and Park Street on the east and west. Kenneth City divides the area into two. Most of Neri’s activism centered on the portion of the Lealman area to the east of Kenneth City.

“He’s Mr. Lealman to me,” Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala said Tuesday. “Who in the world is going to keep the focus on that community?”

Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice said, “Ray was a character who could drive you nuts but you never minded. He was so persistent in his efforts to make things better for children, specifically the children in Lealman, that you always came away admiring the way he kept pushing us forward.

“He was one of those folks that you just assumed would always be there. Hard to fathom things without his input.”

Pinellas Commissioner Janet Long said, “Such a tragedy for our county and the Lealman area. … There’s a lot of things that wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for him.”

Neri served on the Juvenile Welfare Board, the Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council, the Lealman Community Redevelopment Area Citizen Advisory Board, the Police Athletic League and was a member and former head of the Lealman Community Association.

Details about arrangements were not available late Tuesday.

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

Tom Lee wants to eliminate agency designed to use taxpayers funds for constructing or improving sports facilities

Less than three years after Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation providing for state revenues to go toward constructing or improving professional sports franchise facilities, state Sen. Tom Lee wants to eliminate the agency created to distribute those funds.

“The Sports Development Program was ill-conceived and based on the false premise that these capital improvements are a boon for economic development,” the Brandon Republican said Tuesday. “Professional teams are vying for taxpayer funds to pay for largely superficial facility upgrades, many of which are already in progress or completed. History has shown that team owners will make these investments without hardworking families having to foot the bill.”

Under the Sports Development Program created by the Legislature in 2014, sporting projects and complexes seeking Florida tax revenue must submit proposals to be evaluated by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Then the disbursement of funds must pass approval by the Florida Legislative Budget Commission. The state can award up to $13 million annually for all certified applicants. The maximum annual distribution for a single sports franchise facility is for only $3 million, and distributions can be made for up to 30 years.

In spending $100 million to upgrade Raymond James Stadium over the past year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had hoped to procure $3 million in Sports Development Program funds to help pay for that upgrade. However, their application was rejected because it wasn’t completed on time. The NFL franchise reapplied to the program last month, requesting $1 million a year for at least 10 years.

Scott hailed the legislation when he signed it into law in June of 2014, saying that the program would add more jobs to the state, as well as increase tourism.

“I am proud to support this legislation, and this Sports Development Program will allow franchises to expand in Florida, and create more jobs and opportunities for Florida families,” Scott said at the time.

The legislation was also supported by Clearwater Sen. Jack Latvala, now serving as Senate Appropriations Chairman. But it will undoubtedly be backed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who has historically opposed giving sales-tax dollars to professional sports facilities.

The anti “corporate welfare” attitude espoused by Corcoran prevailed last year in Session, when three different sports facilities — EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Sun Life Stadium in Miami-Dade County and Daytona International Speedway — received no funding from the Legislature, despite the Department of Economic Opportunity finding they qualified for the state sales-tax money.

Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Stuebe has filed legislation (SB 122) that would prohibit a sports franchise from constructing, reconstructing, renovating, or improving a facility on leased public land. Hialeah Republican Rep. Bryan Avila has filed a companion bill in the House.

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

Board member takes strong exception to potential interlocal agreement between HART and PSTA

In late October, Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long – in her role with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Agency (PSTA) – came before her counterparts with the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) to talk up the benefits of the two transit agencies collaborating on a more formal basis, which she said could be used as way to leverage the power of the region when trying to procure more federal and state funding.

However at Monday’s HART meeting of its Legislative and Strategic Planning Committee, board member Karen Jaroch strongly objected to the language of a draft copy of the agreement, calling it “very subjective.”

“I contend that there are a lot of reasons why this won’t work,” said Jaroch, who came to prominence as a leading critic of the Moving Hillsborough Forward transit tax initiative that failed in 2010. Among the more problematic proposals for Jaroch, as well as board member Mickey Jacobs, was one that said that “staff will develop a strategic coordination plan to merge operational functions in IT.” Another said that “Staff will identify two departments, including IT, for functional merge in calendar 2017.”

Jaroch also noted how there was resistance from state officials to the joint proposal from the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration that strongly encourages the consolidation of regional Metropolitan Planning Organizations in the nation’s urban areas. (On Friday, the FHA & FTA finalized that rule). 

She read several paragraphs from a letter written by officials from the Florida Metropolitan Planning Organization Advisory Council that citied several problems with the proposed rule (however, Carl Mikyska, the Executive Director of that organization, now tells SPB that “overall, MPOAC is not opposed to collaboration of MPOs. In fact, we stated in our letter that we are supportive of voluntary, incentive-based approaches to collaboration.  Our letter provides greater detail about our position related to what was at the time, the proposed rule.”).

She then followed up by reciting statements made in a critical letter from Florida Dept. of Transportation Secretary Jim Boxold to the FTA & FHA calling for the proposed rulemaking “to be suspended until legislation is enacted that clarifies the Congressional intent.”

Like several of her fellow board members, Jaroch was resistant to a call by state Senator Jack Latvala back in 2012 to study the benefits of a merger between the Hillsborough and Pinellas agencies, and she made several references to the Pinellas County Republican in her comments.

“I really hate to lose the sense of local control for unfounded reasons,” Jaroch said. “Unfortunately it’s designed to show a certain senator that we are working together. “

Jaroch said that in fact the two agencies are working together, and mentioned several examples of that, clarifying for her that there is no need for an interlocal agreement to certify that. “We need to do what’s best for HART, and not worry about one or two powerful senators who I don’t think has the power that some people may think that he has.”

Latvala is serving over the next two sessions as the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, considered to be a prestigious and yes, powerful position in the state legislature.

While no other board member was prepared to respond Jaroch’s swipe at Latvala, Sandy Murman, the chair of the committee, emphasized to Jaroch that HART was a regional transit authority and not the MPO, and said correlating the two was “a bit of a stretch.”

That then led to a general discussion with board members and HART attorney David Smith on how they could strengthen the document. Smith said he thought that some of the proposals “needed to be a little more flexible in some of the goals you’re trying to accomplish.” He also said that a termination clause should also be inserted in the event that HART wanted to get out of the agreement.

“We are moving towards regional cooperation and that is going to be the theme in the Tampa Bay area moving forward in the future with everything,” Murman later added.

HART CEO Katherine Eagan said that she would work with board members and Smith and have a new draft of the interlocal agreement available for review at the committee’s meeting next month.

Meanwhile, PSTA officials want to see the agreement go forward.

“Focusing on regionalism is something that we have been talking about at PSTA for a long time, and we are happy to see our sister-agency getting on board with drafting an early concept of what exactly that would look like,” said PSTA spokesperson Ashlie Handy.“We have a lot of great resources here at PSTA, and we are excited to start talking about the best ways to share these resources across the bay.”

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 wants it both ways: cut taxes, fund services. Can it be done?

Last April, in a news release by his office after signing HB-7099, Gov. Rick Scott bragged, “Over the past two years, Florida has cut more than $1 billion in taxes.”

What a happy day that must have been for the governor.

He has never met a tax he wouldn’t cut or gut, and that bill was a continuation of the theme. It included the permanent elimination of the sales tax on manufacturing machinery and a three-day sales tax holiday for back-to-school stuff.

Scott wants to keep cutting taxes, too.

It stands to reason, though, when there is less money coming in something has to lose. We got a hint of that right here in a story last week on FloridaPolitics.com. It included a quote from state budget chair Jack Latvala about what could be a hotly contested fight for dollars when the Legislature gets together next year.

“To do any increases, we’re going to have to find areas to cut. That’s a certainty,” Latvala said. “Just my luck to be chairman in a year like that.”

But where can the hunt to “find areas to cut” lead when the governor and House Speaker Richard Corcoran want to keep chopping taxes, while Senate President Joe Negron wants to increase funding for higher education?

The Florida Policy Institute reported that more about 70 percent of Florida’s $82.2 billion budget for 2016-17 was allocated to education (29 percent) and “human services” (41 percent). Nearly 18 percent went to natural resources, growth management and transportation.

FPI also noted that despite spending increases in that budget for service areas, “they fail to fund state services at a level that keeps pace with population growth and inflation, and do not improve Florida’s national standing in the provision of these services.”

More ominously, projections are for the state to face a $1.3 billion deficit a year from now, ballooning to $1.9 billion the year after that. Since Republicans control the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the Legislature, they can’t blame Democrats for fiscal irresponsibility. That leaves them with two choices: spend less, or bring in more.

It’s the acid test of the Republican (and Libertarian) ideal that growth comes through lower taxes. It’s the mantra they’ve preached for decades. We see it playing out now in Washington with the corporate tax cuts president-elect Donald Trump has planned.

Lower corporate taxes, they argue, will lead to job creation and expansion. Workers with a healthy regular paycheck will buy more things and that will sustain the government.

Well, that might be sort of true – provided government goes on a diet. That sounds fine in theory. In application, though, it gets trickier.

You also have to look at the complete picture. To coax businesses from other states to move here, Scott has touted Florida’s reputation as a low-tax state. Florida is one of just seven states without a state income tax, for instance.

Wallethub.com also sized up the bevy of state and local taxes and concluded Florida’s bite on median-income residents this year will be $4,868 – 10th lowest in the nation. That’s nearly 16 percent under the national average.

Scott probably wouldn’t be satisfied until Florida is No. 1. He seems driven to prove this state really can have it both ways – cutting taxes, cutting spending while keeping services and education adequately funded for a rapidly growing state.

Logic says that can’t be done. Latvala’s challenge is to prove it can be.

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 Nelson gives shoutout to Jack Latvala for stance on BP oil spill money

Among this current climate of hyper-partisanship, it is increasingly rare to find members of one party saying kind words about someone on the other.

But that was the case this week when Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson gave a “shoutout” to Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala for his efforts in making sure 2010 BP oil spill settlement money intended for the Florida Panhandle actually makes it there.

Earlier this year, Florida received its first payment of $400 million – with $300 million of that amount slated for eight counties in the Panhandle most affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The settlement totals $2 billion through 2032.

Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reports that the Legislature’s Long-Range Financial Outlook applies that initial payment to the state’s general budget for the next three years. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has launched the House Select Committee on Triumph Gulf Coast which is tasked with supervising the state’s nonprofit corporation that will assign settlement money to counties.

However, Latvala, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, says that several lawmakers believe that the final decision on how to allocate the money should be in the hands of elected officials. The Clearwater Republican said he was not interested in using BP settlement money toward Florida’s general budget. The effort to move that money into the state’s general fund was a “glitch” in the system.

“We made the commitment,” Latvala said. “And I believe in keeping my commitments.”

Nelson, who helped write federal law mandating portions of the settlement money must go to affected counties, not the state.

“A shoutout to Jack in making sure that money goes to the counties where they have suffered economic damages,” Nelson said during a news conference in Tallahassee.

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

Dana Young, Amber Mariano, others file to run for re-election in 2018

Count them in for 2018.

Dozens of state lawmakers have already filed to run for the state House and Senate in 2018. For some, their decision comes before their first bills get a hearing. Others have their eye on the higher office as they embark on their final term in the House.

State elections records show more than 50 members of the House and Senate have filed to run in two years. While many of those are incumbents who faced little-to-no opposition in 2016, many just came off hard-fought battles to secure their spot in the Florida Legislature.

Sen. Dana Young is one of those. Young, a Tampa Republican, filed to run for re-election in Senate District 18 on Dec. 2. While the former House Majority Leader easily won her seat over Democrat Bob Buesing, it was far from an easy campaign. Buesing and Joe Redner, an independent candidate, attacked Young over her voting record.

Senate President Joe Negron announced last week that Young will serve as the chairwoman of the Senate’s Health Care Policy committee during the 2016-18 Legislative Session. She’ll also serve as the vice chairwoman of the Higher Education Appropriations subcommittee.

Records show Sen. Debbie Mayfield, a Vero Beach Republican, filed to run for re-election in Senate District 17 on Dec. 1. Mayfield defeated former Rep. Ritch Workman, a Melbourne Republican and the former chairman of the House Rules committee, in one of the nastiest primary elections of the cycle.

Mayfield will serve as the vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee during the 2016-18 Legislative Session. She’s also scored a spot on the general government appropriations subcommittee, and the environmental and natural resources appropriations subcommittee.

Sen. Keith Perry, a Gainesville Republican, also filed to run for re-election in Senate District 8 on Dec. 1. Perry defeated Democrat Rod Smith in the November general election. He’ll serve as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

And while Rep. Manny Diaz still has two years left in his House career, he’s already eyeing his next step. The Hialeah Republican filed to run in Senate District 36 on Nov. 21. He’s hoping to replace Sen. Rene Garcia, a Hialeah Republican, who can’t run again in 2018 because of term limits.

In the Florida House, Reps. Randy Fine, Emily Slosberg, Tom Leek, Amber Mariano, Carlos Guillermo Smith, Chris Latvala, and Kathleen Peters are among those who have filed for re-election.

Fine, a Brevard County Republican, is one of at least three House members believed to be in the running for House Speaker in 2022-24, after winning his House District 53 seat earlier in November.

Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat and daughter of former Rep. Irv Slosberg, filed to run for re-election in House District 91; while Leek, an Ormond Beach Republican, filed to run again in House District 25. Both are freshmen lawmakers, as are Mariano, a Hudson Republican and the youngest member of the Florida House, and Smith, an Orlando Democrat.

Mariano will run for re-election in House District 36, while Smith will run for re-election in House District 49.

Latvala, a Clearwater Republican and son of Sen. Jack Latvala, will seek a third term representing House District 67. First elected in 2012, Peters, a Treasure Island Republican, has filed to run for her final term representing House District 69.

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 declines to comment on proposal to repeal immigration bill he signed in 2014

Rick Scott is declining to comment on a proposal filed for the 2017 Florida Legislative Session that would repeal a major immigration policy change that he signed into law two years ago.

Last week, Sarasota state Senator Greg Steube filed a bill (SB 82) that would repeal legislation approved by the GOP-led Legislature in 2014 that offers lower in-state tuition rates in Florida state colleges and universities for undocumented immigrants. Passage of that bill was uncertain until the end of that year’s session, but was strongly supported by then-House Speaker Will Weatherford and Clearwater state Senator Jack Latvala.

“I haven’t seen it,” Scott told this reporter about the bill as he took questions after hosting a press conference at the Florida Highway Patrol offices in Tampa on Monday.

“I think there are about 2,000 bill that are being proposed during the session, so as I go through the process if they get to my desk, I’ll review,” he added. “I need to look at the bill.”

The legislation is a political power keg, as are most items concerning immigration. Scott campaigned as a tough on immigration candidate in 2010 when first running for governor, getting behind what was then known as an “Arizona style” immigration proposal that asked suspects stopped by the authorities for proof of their citizenship, similar in nature to the conversion SB 1070 immigration law passed earlier that year in Arizona.

“We need to come up with an immigration policy that works for the country,’’ Scott told the Miami Herald back in late 2010. “If you’re stopped in our state — no different than if you’re asked for your ID — you should be able to be asked if you’re legal or not,” he told the Miami Herald.

But the Legislature failed to pass that proposal, along with other major immigration bills in the spring of 2011, including a much discussed E-Verify bill that was killed by Lake Wales Republican J.D. Alexander.

In addition to giving the undocumented a break on their college tuition payments,  the Legislature in 2014 also passed a bill that would allow some undocumented immigrants to obtain law licenses from the Florida Bar.

There has been no companion bill filed in the House, but there is plenty of time for that to happen, with the 2017 Legislative session not commencing until next March. House District 60 Republican Jackie Toledo campaigned during her primary race on a platform to repeal both measures, but has not publicly commented on Steube’s bill.

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

Pinellas Legislative Delegation to consider changes to construction licensing board

Responding to a request from Charlie Justice, the Pinellas Legislative Delegation will consider changing the way members of the Construction Licensing Board are chosen.

State Sen. Jack Latvala, the delegation chair, called on state Rep. Larry Ahern to come up with a plan by the delegation’s Jan. 31 meeting. State Sen. Jeff Brandes said he wanted Ahern to consider dissolving the board so it would come under control of the Pinellas County Commission.

The licensing board, created in 1973, regulates some construction and home improvement contractors practicing in Pinellas County. It also provides countywide certification and registration of contractors.

It has come under fire in recent weeks because of the way the board members are chosen. Certain organizations and others, named in the statute, suggest members and the chair — currently Justice — of the Pinellas County Commission is responsible for appointing them.

Justice explained the problems in a Nov. 16 letter to Latvala and the delegation:

“When the request to appoint various positions of the PCCLB came before me this fall, I noticed some discrepancies as to the number of appointees provided by the various appointing organizations … In addition, some of the appointing organizations no longer exist or have been adopted under the umbrella of another, similar organization.”

Justice concluded, “I would ask that the Pinellas Legislative Delegation review the laws that pertain to the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and consider amending them to reflect the makeup of the appointing organizations as well as the process by which the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners chair would go about appointing/reappointing board members to the PCCLB.”

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