Jack Latvala to be first inductee into Legislative Hall of Fame at Pasco-Hernando State College

State Senator Jack Latvala will be the first legislator to be inducted into Pasco-Hernando State College’s Legislative Hall of Fame.

Latvala will be honored at a brief ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Alric C.T. Pottberg Library at the College’s West Campus, 10230 Ridge Road, New Port Richey.

Morris Porton, chair of the PHSC District Board of Trustees, will officiate over the ceremony, which will include the unveiling of a plaque that will be displayed in perpetuity in the Legislative Hall of Fame. An identical plaque will be presented to Latvala.

PHSC President Timothy L. Beard will also recognize Latvala’s efforts leading to the construction of several buildings on the college’s West Campus, for strengthening articulation agreements with the University of South Florida and preserving the integrity of the college’s local service areas.

Latvala, a Republican, represents District 16 (District 20 before redistricting) that covers northern Pinellas County. Latvala first served in the state Senate from 1994 to 2002, when he termed out.

Latvala concentrated on his business interests after leaving the Senate. He decided to run again in 2009 when the state House voted to allow oil drilling within three miles of Gulf beaches. He was elected and has been re-elected since then. Latvala is running for re-election this year.

During his first stint in the Legislature, Latvala served as Senate Majority Leader and was named as a rising star by the Wall Street Journal. He was also repeatedly ranked as one of the most effective senators in an annual survey by the Miami Herald. He has been named “Legislator of the Year” more than 40 times by a wide range of statewide groups including law enforcement, first responders, environmentalists, business groups, medical associations and educators.

Among his accomplishments: Florida Forever, a land preservation program; creation of Tampa Bay Water, a national model for regional water supply planning; and the outlawing on predatory title loans in Florida. Other accomplishments: passing laws requiring Duke Energy to refund $600 million to customers in Florida; reforming laws prohibiting the bulk purchasing of condos which required owners to sell for pennies on the dollar; and ending Florida’s last-in-the-nation status of banning 64-ounce growlers which stifled the growth of small microbreweries in Florida.

He is a proponent of reducing taxes, reforming the state’s welfare system, enacting tough consumer protection laws and cracking down on violent crime and criminals. He also wants to improve the state’s educational system by providing sufficient funding for public schools, enforcing accountability in education, and providing opportunities and resources to children and families who need additional support to succeed.

He is the father of state Rep. Chris Latvala, also a Republican.

The Legislative Hall of Fame establishes a new PHSC tradition that recognizes legislators for supporting the college and higher education opportunities for their constituents. The event is open to the public.

PHSC serves the educational needs and interests of its community by awarding certificates, diplomas, associate and baccalaureate degrees. As a comprehensive, multi-campus learning-centered institution, PHSC utilizes various instructional modalities and support services. PHSC provides an accessible, diverse teaching and learning environment rich with opportunities for students to achieve academic success and cultural growth in a global society.

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State leaders, experts to discuss future of mobility at Better Transportation Summit

With the fatal crash of Tesla car on autopilot near Williston in May, Floridians already know the future of transportation is impacting the state’s highways.

Exploration of that future will be one of the themes when the 2016 Floridians for Better Transportation Summit meets Tuesday and Wednesday at the Loews Don CeSar Hotel on St. Pete Beach.

“Transportation is transformative. It has the power to fuel the economy, stimulate job creation and change the way we live,” said Floridians for Better Transportation President Matthew D. Ubben. “If Florida can get transportation right, the rest will follow.”

The keynote speaker will be Lawrence Burns, a former University of Michigan engineering professor who has also served as a vice president for research and development at General Motors.

Burns, the author of “Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st century,” has long been a champion of the “reinvention of the automobile,” including driverless cars, vehicle electrification, fuel cells, advanced batteries and other innovative vehicle concepts.

Other summit speakers include Sen. Jack Latvala, the incoming state Senate budget chair, and state Rep. Lake Ray, who will talk about local and statewide transportation issues.

Florida Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary Brian Blanchard will discuss developments in Tampa Bay’s transportation system.

Janet Zink, assistant vice president at Tampa International Airport and Jim Kuzma, chief operating officer at Space Florida, will provide updates on aviation and aerospace developments.

Port Tampa Bay Vice President Ram Kancharla will discuss the impact of the newly expanded Panama Canal.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, by video, will give an update on transportation developments in Washington, D.C., impacting Florida.

Other confirmed speakers include: FDOT District Secretary Paul Steinman, All Aboard Florida Vice President Rusty Roberts, Kenworth of Jacksonville President Denny Ross, BB&T Capital Markets Managing Director Kevin Sterling and Jim Tymon, chief operating officer for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

Ed Moore, president of the Independent Colleges & Universities of Florida, will talk about Florida’s political outlook.

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Jack Latvala facing only write-in candidate in re-election bid for SD 16

Clearwater Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala will not face opposition from either a Republican or a Democrat this fall in Senate District 16, with only write-in candidate Katherine Perkins standing in the way of his being re-elected.

As the qualifying period came to a close Friday, no Democrat rose up to challenge the Pinellas County power broker, who lost out in a battle for the Senate presidency last year to Palm City Republican Joe Negron.

In exchange for a final detente with Negron, Latvala got a coveted consolation prize: the Appropriations Committee chairmanship, making him arguably the most important player in the budget process, given his extensive experience and mastery of the rules.

During the 2016 Legislative Session, Latvala chaired the Senate budget panel on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development and co-chaired the overall committee that oversees the spending of related dollars.

A staple of the Florida Senate across much of the last three decades, Latvala is known as a consummate dealmaker who “would rather get half of what I want that none of it,” as he once said — and knows how to negotiate for it.

A Tampa Bay Times story about the 2015 Legislative Session, for instance, portrayed the “gruff and tough” Latvala thusly:

“The veteran Republican lawmaker from Clearwater is having another Latvala-esque legislative session, relishing his role on a wide range of issues, from housing to beer to state troopers to Florida’s space program. He’s where the action is.”

Another write-in candidate, Michael Ryan, had been listed on the Division of Elections website, but Ryan did not qualify on Friday.

The 64-year-old Latvala initially served in the Florida Legislature from 1994-2002, and came back to the Senate in 2010.

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George Gainer becomes instant winner in SD 2

George Gainer is on his way to the Florida Senate.

The Bay County Republican won the Senate District 2 seat Friday after no other candidate qualified for the race.

“I am humbled and honored to have been elected without drawing another candidate to run against me,” Gainer said in a statement. “From the first day I announced my candidacy, I have worked to visit with as many voters as possible throughout the district. They have my pledge that my door is always open to them and I will do my absolute best to serve them with honor in Tallahassee.”

The Senate District 2 race was expected to be one of the most expensive and hotly contested races this election cycle. Gainer was set to face Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican and the son of former Senate President Don Gaetz.

At the time, the race had high stakes — Gainer was backed by Sen. Jack Latvala, who was locked in a battle for the Senate presidency with Sen. Joe Negron, of whom the elder Gaetz is an ally.

But those stakes dropped significantly when the presidency was decided in Negron’s favor late last year.

And in March, when Rep. Jeff Miller announced he wasn’t running for re-election, the younger Gaetz dropped his state Senate bid to run for U.S. House.

Gainer is a Florida native, who has spent much of his life in Bay County. He opened his first car dealership in 1968. That same year, Gainer made his first run for public office. He was elected to the Bay County Commission at the age of 25, and served on the board until 1972.

He ran again and was elected to the Bay County Commission in 2002. Gainer is married with six children and 12 grandchildren.

According to LobbyTools, SD 2 is heavily Republican, with 55.5 percent of active voters in 2012 identifying with the GOP; 30.7 percent identified as Democrats. Another 13.9 percent of voters were either NPA or another party.

In 2012, The district overwhelmingly voted for Mitt Romney 74-26 percent over President Barack Obama in 2012; two years earlier, Gov. Rick Scott 70-30 percent over Democrat Alex Sink.

The voting age demographics of SD 2 is 62 percent white, 29 percent black and 5 percent Hispanic; the district has a median age of 40 years old.

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New poll of Florida’s battleground 13th Congressional District: David Jolly 44%, Charlie Crist 44%

Jack Latvala was not exaggerating.

Earlier this week, the Republican state Senator said he had paid for the polling that shows David Jolly leading Charlie Crist in Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

Latvala said he conducted “multiple polls, actually, because we didn’t believe it the first time.”

Latvala’s right, the numbers are hard to believe.

According to a new survey conducted by St. Pete Polls, Jolly leads Crist by less than a tenth of a point, 44 to 44 percent among likely CD 13 voters. These numbers are startling considering that the way the district is drawn; it should favor a Democrat. Also, previous polling by St. Pete Polls of this district showed Crist to be enormously popular with the Democratic base.

But like Rick Baker before him, who a previous poll showed would have run competitively against Crist, the Republican Jolly fares very well in CD 13.

Of course, Jolly is technically the incumbent in the Pinellas-based congressional district, but, as of this moment, he is still running for the U.S. Senate. However, both Jolly and Marco Rubio are under intense pressure from national, state, and local Republicans to reconsider their plans for 2016. GOP leaders want Rubio to run for re-election to his Senate seat and Jolly to fight for a full second term in the House.

Jolly has shown numerous signs that, instead of going all-out on that campaign, he is positioning himself to appeal to the moderate voters who would decide the race for his House seat, Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith wrote in a column Wednesday.

“Does this look like a man consumed with winning a statewide Republican primary?” Smith wrote. “No. What it looks like is a candidate hugging the center and consciously reaching out to Democrats, independents and moderates alike.”

Jolly’s favorable ratings with CD 13 voters appear to be what’s driving much of his strong poll numbers. Asked if they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Jolly, 48 percent of voters said favorable, compared to just 26 for unfavorable. These numbers stand in stark contrast to Crist’s favorable ratings, which are upside-down at 43 percent to 46 percent.

The poll also asked CD 13 voters who they would vote for in the presidential election. Democrat Hillary Clinton received 47 percent support in this bellwether district, while Republican Donald Trump received 37 percent and Libertarian Gary Johnson took 9 percent.

This result clearly shows that this poll is in no way skewed to favor the Republican. In fact, when asked who they voted for in the 2012 presidential election, 53 percent of respondents said Barack Obama.

Only those voters that voted in a general election in 2012 or 2014, or the 2016 Presidential Preference Primary were included in the results. The poll has a sample size of 746 and a 3.6 percent margin of error.

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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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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 – of the legislative merry-go-round.

Off and on: Maggie Mickler is no longer press secretary for the Senate Majority Leader’s office. She has become director of communications at the Department of Management Services.

On: LaQuisha Persak has become the new press secretary for the Senate Majority Leader’s office.

Off: Lindy Smith is no longer legislative assistant for Cape Canaveral Republican state Sen. Thad Altman.

Off and on: Drew Aldikacti is no longer legislative assistant in Inverness Republican state Sen. Charlie Dean‘s office, moving to Clearwater Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala‘s office.

Off: Avery Coleman is no longer Latvala’s legislative assistant.

On: Macey Smith is a new legislative assistant for Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano.

Off: Larry Ford is no longer legislative assistant for Senate Deputy Majority Leader Denise Grimsley.

Off: Maria Nieto is no longer legislative assistant for Tampa Democratic state Sen. Arthenia Joyner.

Off: Daniel Bruno is no longer legislative assistant for Miami Democratic state Sen. Gwen Margolis.

Off: Bret Prater is no longer deputy chief of staff in the House Speaker’s Office.

Off: Gail Lolley is no longer legislative analyst for the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee.

Off: Ryan Cox is no longer an attorney for the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.

Off: Lara Medley is no longer legislative assistant for Lakeland Republican state Rep. Colleen Burton.

On: Erik Silveira is the new district secretary for Coconut Creek Democratic state Rep. Kristin Jacobs.

Off: Milan Thompson is no longer district secretary for Jacksonville Democratic state Rep. Mia Jones.

Off: David Shane is no longer legislative assistant for Palm Springs Democratic state Rep. Dave Kerner.

On: Marion Dozier is the new legislative assistant for West Palm Beach Democratic state Rep. Bobby Powell.

On: Elizabeth Bolles became the district secretary for Sarasota Republican state Rep. Greg Steube.

On: Adam Miller is the new legislative assistant for Melbourne Beach Republican state Rep. John Tobia.

Off: Macey Smith is no longer Tobia’s legislative assistant.

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Responding to Times reporter Robert Trigaux’s ‘three pointed questions’ for Duke Energy

On Wednesday, Robert Trigaux penned a column asking “three pointed questions” for Duke Energy in the fallout of a flat quarterly earnings report and its annual shareholder meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Trigaux prefaces his piece by proposing a mild winter is what brought lower demand for power – hence the softer earnings report. Next, he piles on several “missteps,” including Duke’s shelved nuclear power program and a “less-than-inspiring role as a bully of Florida’s young solar power industry.”

Trigaux then suggests CEO Lynn Good will assert the “industry challenges” facing Duke, where she argues the company is “well positioned to handle them all.”

He also questions Duke’s touting it’s lower electric rates in Florida, which are higher on average than the rest of the nation.

Next, he wonders why Duke and “fellow monopoly power providers” are not upfront with consumers about its role in the proposed Florida solar energy amendment.

Finally, Trigaux asked when – if ever – Duke will give up the ghost on the “hideously expensive and economically absurd idea” of using nuclear power to generate energy.

Overall, Trigaux appears to be trying to make a splash with recently acquired Tribune readers by digging up old tired issues.

So while he floats rhetorical questions, here are a few thoughts in response.

First, Trigaux posed his questions by way of a newspaper column, rather than contacting the company for an interview, according to Florida Politics’ sources at Duke. Nor did he participate in the status meeting held with the Times editorial leadership in March.

If he did, Trigeaux would learn that Duke Energy Florida residential prices are indeed lower than the majority of electric utilities in the state, as well as below the national average. And it’s commercial and industrial rates are some of the lowest in Florida.

Duke has made significant efforts to reduce rates by refinancing costs for the Crystal River nuclear plant at a lower interest rate. The change was included in a Public Service Commission reform measure sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala and unanimously supported in the 2016 Legislative Session by the Senate Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities Committee.

The move sought to save customers more than $700 million over the next 20 years. The estimated $2.93 charge per 1,000 kWh/per month is approximately $2.00 less, or 40 percent, than the rate without these bonds.

As for the Levy nuclear project; it has not been “shelved.” Duke Energy is currently pursuing an operating license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the project, which is expected this year.

Trigaux is well aware that a balanced power generation mix is needed in both Florida and the country. Power plant planning takes years; states and communities are best served by keeping options open and staying prepared to react to market and industry changes. Duke has also taken advantage of significant drops in natural gas prices with plans for additional clean-burning natural gas plants.

In Florida, solar is a vital component of the energy mix; Duke Energy recognizes that. As costs come down, and output improves, Duke continues to build and expanded its commitment to solar capability. To that end, the proposed solar amendment seeks to protect individual businesses and homeowners interested in adding their own panels. Duke has not only supported the measure from the beginning but has publicly endorsed it and contributed to its campaign.

What part of that is not transparent?

It could entirely be possible that Trigaux is seeking headlines over information, sensation over sensibility.

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Dana Young to launch Senate bid with Tampa kickoff event May 3

Tampa Republican Rep. Dana Young is kicking off her Senate District 18 campaign with a fundraiser May 3.

The event will be 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at 1601 South MacDill Ave. For more information, or to RSVP for the event, contact Sydney Ridley at sydney@danayoung.com.

The House Majority Leader announced she would skip her final term in the House to run for the newly redrawn seat back in January, and is currently the only candidate in the race for the open Hillsborough County seat. The third-term representative entered the Senate contest with about $216,000 in on hand cash from her House campaign.

Since her announcement, Young has received the nod from top-ranking Senate Republicans, including incoming Senate President Joe Negron, who called her “a hard-working, principled leader” who “will be a great addition to the Florida Senate.”

Clearwater Sen. Jack Latvala, who is set to chair the powerful Appropriations Committee next year, future Senate President Bill Galvano and Republican Sens. Lizbeth Benacquisto, Anitere Flores and Wilton Simpson also threw their support behind Young’s candidacy.

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Mitch Perry Report for 4.27.16 – Time for Hillsborough BOCC to make a decision

Hillsborough County Commissioners unanimously approved increasing what used to be call impact fees but are now dubbed mobility fees.

It’s actually a pretty big deal by itself, considering that they hadn’t done so since Ronald Reagan was still president. The fees are designed to have developers pay for the increase in construction to roads needed to handle the increased traffic.

Fees for home developers building a house that range between 1,500-2,500 square feet would rise from $1,792 currently to $4,967 in an urban area and $7,535 in a rural area.

Next up is a vote on the proposed, 30-year half-cent sales tax to pay for transportation projects. You know, that whole “Go Hillsborough” thing.

As has been known for months, the only commissioner’s vote who is in question is Victor Crist.

Some say that Kevin Beckner is in that camp as well, but it would be a pretty big deal if he were to oppose the measure. What you might expect to see Beckner unveil tonight is his own preferred plan, which is to reduce the duration of the tax from 30 years to 10 (some say perhaps to just five years).

While he may have an ally in Sandy Murman, that measure is not going to pass. And it really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, frankly. Proponents of this measure say that a smaller tax will persuade skeptics who don’t trust the county.

But what that fails to address is that most folks who are against a 30-year tax are also against a one-year tax. They don’t want to pay higher taxes. Period.

The safe vote is to allow the measure to go on the ballot, where there can be the entire summer and part of the fall for the community to decide whether this plan – clearly programed to get buy-in from the more conservative parts of the county outside of Tampa – deserves to be implemented.

It’s taken nearly six years for the BOCC to even get to this point after the Moving Hillsborough Forward transit tax went down to defeat in 2010. If the board fails to put the measure this year, it’s unlikely it will even come up for discussion until 2020.

The public hearing takes place tonight at the All Peoples Life Center at 6105 E Sleigh Avenue in Tampa at 6:00 p.m.

In other news..

The long awaited report from the Department of Justice regarding the Tampa Police Department’s bicycle citation program went public on Tuesday. The upshot? The TPD wasn’t discriminating against blacks when they cited them in disproportionate numbers, but it wasn’t very effective, either.

An advocacy group that has been targeting Debbie Wasserman Schultz for her position on payday loans is about to expand their efforts to include another Florida member of Congress, and they’re asking the public to tell them who that should be.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus’s PAC is endorsing Eric Lynn in the CD 13 contest.

With the heat soon about to come in the Tampa Bay area, Congresswoman Kathy Castor brought together some local health experts to talk about how to with the Zika virus.

Carlos Lopez-Cantera’s senate campaign spokeswoman had some harsh words for David Jolly for having the heretical GOP take that Supreme Court justice nominee Merrick Garland deserves a vote in the Senate.

And Rick Kriseman formally responded on Tuesday to Jack Latvala’s issue with him being “too parochial” by creating efforts on keeping the Rays in St. Petersburg, vs. all of Pinellas County.

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