Jack Latvala Archives - Page 7 of 39 - SaintPetersBlog

Could Pat Neal’s anti-Donald Trump hurt his chances of becoming CFO?

Not surprisingly, Donald Trump hasn’t been too keen on hiring those associated with the “Never Trump” movement of conservative policy who surfaced in last year’s presidential campaign.

The most glaring example of this is the case of former State Department official Elliott Abrams. A meeting between the two last month reportedly went well, according to CNN. Ultimately, though, Trump opted not to hire Abrams for the Deputy Secretary of State position once he learned that Abrams criticized him during his White House run.

With the in mind, might strong criticism of the President during the campaign turn off Rick Scott, a close ally of Trump’s, specifically when it comes to naming a new Chief Financial Officer?

While there have been a host of names floated as possible contenders (including state Senators Jack Latvala, Jeff Brandes, Tom Lee and Lizbeth Benacquisto, state Rep. Jim Boyd, former interim head of Citizens Property Insurance Tom Grady, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, former Speaker of the House Will Weatherford, and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera), Pat Neal, the Manatee County real estate developer and former state lawmaker, is being looked at by many as the top choice to succeed Jeff Atwater.

Atwater announced last month that he would step down as CFO to serve as Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Chief Financial Officer at Florida Atlantic University at the end of the Florida Legislature’s regular session in May.

Neal announced last June that he would not be a candidate for the CFO position in 2018, telling the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that he was “dispirited with what I see every morning having to do with the Trump campaign.”

He went on to tell reporter Zac Anderson that he viewed Trump as an incredibly “vulgar” candidate  who “is leading our party off a cliff.”

Neal later told the Times’ Adam Smith: “I, Pat Neal, have never had a bankruptcy, never had a bank default. When you sign a note of bonds, or sell stock with investors the right thing to do is pay them back. Not only did he lose money for people he borrowed from, but for a period there he lost money for his investors, particularly in the casino deals. That isn’t the way you do it, and I would not say he is a credit to the real estate industry.”

When asked to comment, a spokesperson for Scott simply sent the same statement that Scott said when Atwater announced he would be leaving the CFO spot last month.  It was filled with effusive praise for the Palm Beach County Republican, with Scott adding, “The role of the CFO is incredibly important to our state, and I will begin the process to appoint someone to serve Florida families.”

It should be noted that not everyone who has had critical words for Trump has been banned from working with him in his new administration.

Take Rick Perry, Bush’s Secretary of Energy.

On the campaign trail, the former Texas Governor called Trump a “cancer on conservatism,” before ultimately endorsing Trump for president calling the the New York City real estate magnate “one of the most talented people who has ever run for the president I have ever seen.”

Senate committee unanimously approves bill to ban fracking

The Senate Environmental Preservation & Conservation Committee unanimously approved a bill to ban fracking Tuesday, marking a reversal from previous legislative actions on the issue.

“Florida has such a unique geological make up and one-of-a-kind environment that we should not be putting it at risk by allowing fracking in the State of Florida,” said Sen. Dana Young, the bill’s sponsor. “This is the same sentiment that I’ve heard echoed from concerned Floridians from the panhandle all the way to the Florida Keys – we should not be jeopardizing our drinking water supply or our beautiful natural environment.”

The bill (SB 442) passed with little public comment, with most of the public speakers waiving in support or opposition of the bill. Four of the seven members of the committee are co-sponsoring the legislation, including Sen. Lauren Book, the committee’s chairwoman, and Sen. Jack Latvala, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

“As the old and wise voice of the Senate here, as was announced earlier all four people sitting here are co-sponsors of this bill,” said Latvala at the beginning of the public comment period, before encouraging speakers to waive their time. “I feel pretty confident of the success of this bill. You’ve got the votes here.”

Industry officials did not waive their time, using their time to speak out against the measure. And on Tuesday, an attorney for one landowner said the proposal indicated the proposal could lead to litigation.

Jake Cremer, an attorney with Stearns Weaver Miller, said his firm represents Collier Resources, which manages and develops more than 800,000 mineral acres in Collier, Lee and Hendry counties.

“No matter whether good policy or bad policy, this bill will be a lightning rod for litigation in the state,” he said.

But Sen. Gary Farmer, a trial attorney who spent years representing consumers, pointed out more than 30 cities and counties have already passed bans. Farmer asked Cremer how many of those bans have resulted in successful litigation; Cremer said he didn’t know of any.

Young seemed unfazed by the threat of litigation, saying the bill doesn’t prohibit traditional oil and gas drilling.

Jack Latvala files bill to create regional transit authority for Tampa Bay

Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala has filed legislation (SB 1672) that would create the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority  consisting of Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, and Pinellas Counties,

The board would consist of 13 members, three of whom would be selected by the Governor. The Senate President and Speaker of the House would get two selections. The four counties would select one representative; there would be one representative from the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA). They would serve two year terms, for no longer than three terms.

According to the bill’s language, the authority is charged with developing a regional transit development plan “that provides a vision for a regionally integrated multimodal transportation system.”

The authority would have the ability to employ an executive director, an executive secretary, its own legal counsel and legal staff, technical experts and engineers.

The wheels for such an agency have been in motion for months, ever since Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long began speaking about of combining the transit agencies of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties for a “Regional Council of Governments.” Recently the two agencies signed a local operating agreement.

The Tampa Bay Partnership has also made it a priority to impress upon state legislators that there is a need for regional transportation governance in the Tampa Bay region.

There is no companion bill yet filed in the Florida House.

Jack Latvala, Kathleen Peters file beach renourishment bill

The state’s sandy shores have a powerful ally in the Florida Legislature.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala announced Friday he filed legislation aimed at saving the state’s beaches from continued erosion. The proposal (SB 1590) would, among other things, dedicate a minimum of $50 million a year to beach nourishment and inlet management restoration projects in Florida.

The proposal also adds transparency and accountability measures to the use of state funds; directs the Department of Environmental Protection to develop a new three-year work plan for beach repair, similar to the Department of Transportation’s five-year work plan; and refocuses attention on effective sand management at the state’s inlets.

“We’ve got tangible evidence that the health of our beaches is a big return on our investment. Everyone acknowledges that, even the House acknowledges it,” said Latvala, who announced the legislation at Lowdermilk Park in Naples. “We’re fighting over some of the other economic development programs, but no one’s fighting over this. So let’s at least get this done right.”

While Latvala’s district includes between 25 to 30 miles of beaches, there was a reason behind his decision to unveil his legislation a few hours south of his home turf. He attended the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association Convention in Naples back in September, and committed to do what he could protect Florida’s beaches. A spokesman for Latvala said the senator wanted to return to the community to make good on his commitment.

But that wasn’t the only reason Latvala decided to head to the Paradise Coast to announced the legislation. Latvala said the reason he decided to announce in Naples was because of the “really outstanding effort the Naples Daily News has put forward on this issue and bringing this issue to our attention.”

In November, the Naples Daily News released a four-part series called “Shrinking Shores” looking at beach nourishment programs and how much money the state has set aside to re-nourish beaches. The report found that state lawmakers have some years failed to deliver money promised under state law, leaving beaches vulnerable to erosion.

Rep. Kathleen Peters, a South Pasadena Republican, introduced the House companion measure.

“For years, I have expressed the importance of taking care of our beaches,” said Peters. “This bill will make sure we prioritize coastal projects that need our attention and ensure our state appropriately manages one of our greatest economic drivers.”

Legislative leaders strike deal to write state budget

House and Senate leaders have tentatively brokered a rules deal to avoid a meltdown over how requests to fund hometown projects get into the state budget.

Released Friday, the proposed joint rule follows Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala telling his chamber’s Rules Committee in February that House leaders had agreed to compromise to streamline the process.

“I think this is a big potential problem that’s been dodged,” the Clearwater Republican said following an event in Naples on Friday. “The only thing you have to do in the Constitution during the session is do a budget, and by having a game plan and a joint approach to that before we start out is a big deal.”

The new rule first defines an appropriations project identically to the House Rules. It also stipulates that no appropriations project “may be included in a budget conference report unless the project was included in the House or Senate general appropriations act,” according to a memo to House members from Speaker Richard Corcoran.

In the memo, Corcoran goes on to say that the “Senate has agreed to collect and post online specific detailed information on each appropriations project prior to the passage of their proposed general appropriations act.”

“The House is getting something that is important to them … written documentation of a request, so they’re not just in the middle of the night, on a napkin, or whatever they want to say. We’re getting what we wanted, in that we still have until we pass our budget the right to put in our requests, and it’s not arbitrarily cut off four or five weeks before session starts,” said Latvala. “Could this have been done before the process started this year? Yes. But I’m glad it’s done now.”

The new rule further grandfathers in existing recurring projects as long as they do not receive additional funding. New money must be non-recurring, meaning not required in future budgets, and “the project must be clearly identified in the conference report.”

The House requires each funding request to be filed separately. But the House’s method also required any senator’s project request to have its companion filed in the House or that chamber would not consider it.

The rationale behind the House’s system stems from Corcoran‘s desire for greater transparency in the budget process, particularly on local project funding.

“Today’s announcement that the House and the Senate achieved an agreement on the strongest, most transformational joint budget rules in Florida history, demonstrates that people of good will, negotiating in good faith, can make government better,” said Corcoran in a statement. “The joint rules, agreed to by President Negron and I, are unprecedented in both accountability and transparency. … I believe deeply that we’ve produced a paradigm shift in how budgets are made and it should become a model for other legislatures.”

An existing Senate rule, however, limited what the Senate can consider in conference, when members of both chambers get together to hammer out a final state budget to present to the governor.

“Establishing a joint rule to govern the budget conference process assures fidelity to the Constitution and preserves the autonomy of both Chambers,” said Senate President Joe Negron in a statement. “Both the House and Senate will be able to represent our constituents throughout Session as we construct a budget that reflects our values and priorities.  I look forward to a vibrant budget process in both the House and Senate as we make tough choices on how to allocate the revenue entrusted to us by the citizens of Florida.”

As of Friday, there were over 1,100 requests filed in the House, worth nearly $2.5 billion, according to a running list on LobbyTools.

— Reporters Jim Rosica in Tallahassee and Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster in Naples contributed to this report.

Jack Latvala raises nearly $1M in February

Sen. Jack Latvala’s political committee had one of its strongest fundraising period to date, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in February.

Florida Leadership Committee, Latvala’s political committee, raised at least $870,083 during the one-month fundraising period, according to contribution data posted to the committee’s website. That number is expected to rise to more than $1 million when final numbers are calculated and reported to the state later this month.

That one-month fundraising haul boosts total contributions to the committee to more than $7.7 million.

Top contributors during February included FCCI Services, Altria Client Services, The Voice of Florida Business PAC, Mednax Inc., LEMA Construction & Developers, Broadview Realty, Equestrian Sport Productions, Costa Nursery Farms, and Southeast QSR.

The big fundraising month comes as rumors have been circulating that Latvala is mulling a 2018 gubernatorial bid. The Clearwater Republican can’t run for re-election in 2018 because of term limits, but earlier this month told the Tampa Bay Times he considering a run for governor.

A prolific fundraiser, the February numbers mark one of the biggest fundraising period the committee has reported since 2013. State records show the committee raised $487,625 in February 2015, the next largest haul posted on the state’s campaign finance website.

Latvala is one of several Republicans believed to be considering a run in 2018. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Richard Corcoran are often mentioned as possible contenders.

On the Democratic side, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum made it official this week, announcing he plans to run for governor. State records show he filed his paperwork Tuesday, and he formally announced his run Wednesday. Gwen Graham, Philip Levine and John Morgan are also considering a run.

Email Insights: Adam Putnam political committee brings in more than $2M in February

The political committee backing Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says it raised more than $2 million in February, bring total contributions to more than $9 million.

In an email  to supporters from Justin Hollis, the chairman of Florida Grown, said the committee raised more than $2.25 million in February 2017. Hollis said that one-month fundraising haul brought total contributions to the committee, which is expected to fuel Putnam’s 2018 campaign, to more than $9.4 million.

“Support for Adam’s Florida Grown PC is not only evident through fundraising, however, it’s also seen on social media platforms,” wrote Hollis. “More than 170,000 people follow Adam on Facebook, while Phil Levine has just 44,000, Bob Buckhorn has just 17,000, Gwen Graham has just 13,000 followers and the newly announced gubernatorial candidate from the Capital City Andrew Gillum has just under 17,000.”

Gillum formally announced his 2018 bid Wednesday; while Levine and Graham have both indicated they are mulling a bid. Buckhorn is also believed to be considering a run.

Putnam is expected to run in 2018. House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Sen. Jack Latvala are believed to be considering a run.

Hollis went on to say that behind the scenes, the Florida Grown team is “working hard, traveling the state and building relationships.”

It’s official: John Legg not running in 2018

It’s time for the Leggs to enjoy it being “Quiet Uptown.”

Former state Sen. John Legg said Monday he will not run for Senate in 2018, quashing rumors he might considering a comeback in the coming years.

“After 12 years my family and I need a break,” he said.  “Also, I am enjoying working on education issues and innovation both national and statewide. I feel like I can make a bigger difference in education right now outside of the Florida Legislature. However, that may change in time.”

Legg was first elected to the Florida House in 2004, serving there eight years. He was elected to the Florida Senate in 2012, but a court order redistricting forced him make a difficult decision in 2016: Run for re-election and challenge Sen. Wilton Simpson, who is in line for the Senate presidency, or step down at the end of his term.

The father of five decided not to run for re-election, telling the Tampa Bay Times at the time he was “not worried” about his future.

Many pondered whether Legg was considering in 2018 in Senate District 16, the seat currently held by Sen. Jack Latvala. Legg backed during the contentious leadership battle, and Legg indicated in the past the the north Pinellas seat was one of several options he had been considering.

But Legg said there is no state race in his immediate future, saying Monday “we are not running in 2018.”

Ed Hooper, a former Republican state representative and and Clearwater City Commissioner, filed to run for the seat last year. A fundraiser is scheduled for March 6 in Tallahassee, and Latvala, Bill GalvanoWilton SimpsonDana Young and Jeff Brandes are among those listed on the host committee.

Jack Latvala saves Showtime Speedway from wrecking ball for Gateway Expressway project

After more than 50 years in Pinellas County, Clearwater’s Showtime Speedway and Dragstrip was spared the wrecking ball this week, thanks to State Sen. Jack Latvala.

The Clearwater Republican announced Friday he has secured assurances from the Florida Department of Transportation that the speedway and dragstrip will not be closed.

At one point, the FDOT – which owns the land off Ulmerton Boulevard – plan to close the quarter-mile track and dragstrip to make room for the $705 million Gateway Expressway project connecting Bayside bridge and Interstate 275.

Formerly known as Sunshine Speedway, Showtime Speedway opened in 1960. The land was purchased by the state in 2004 for $20 million.

“Showtime Speedway and Dragstrip are a part of Pinellas County’s history and the state’s racing history,” Latvala said during a news conference. “Drivers from NASCAR legend Bobby Allison to David Reutimann have come through here and families have enjoyed evenings at the track for decades.”

Latvala also pointed out the employment opportunities, adding he was “happy to say the future of this local institution is no longer in doubt.”

Gateway Expressway will move forward, he said, with a new road running along the western edge of Showtime.

Showtime track operator Bob Yoho praised the move: “Racing is a family sport and the Showtime Speedway family is grateful to the Senator for stepping up to make sure racing has a future in our community. When Sunshine closed down it put a lot of people out of work and over the last five years, the momentum’s been building.”

“Now that the track is truly back,” Yoho said, “we can start planning for the long-term.”

Located at 4550 Ulmerton Road in Clearwater, the track’s current entrance is on the west side of the facility off 126th Avenue N.

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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.

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