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Legislature to hear this week bills regulating ridesharing companies

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Will 2017 finally be the year the state of Florida implements a statewide regulatory framework for ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft to operate under? Legislators have failed to produce a bill over the past three regular sessions in Tallahassee, but hope springs eternal that all parties can come together this year. On Wednesday, members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure will discuss a bill sponsored by Palm Harbor Republican Chris Sprowls (HB 221). St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes is sponsoring a companion bill in the Senate.…

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Ballard Partners going national, opens D.C. office

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Ballard Partners is extending its reach, announcing it is opening an office in Washington, D.C. Brian Ballard, the firm’s president, announced this week Ballard Partners has opened an office in the nation’s capital. The announcement comes just weeks after President Donald Trump, who Ballard supported, took the oath of office. “There is great enthusiasm with President Trump’s new administration in Washington. We are thrilled to be part of this excitement with the opening of our new Ballard Partners office in…

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Matt Gaetz wins appeal for northwest Florida skydiving business

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Congressman Matt Gaetz, also an attorney, has won an appeal that should allow a Walton County couple to continue operating a skydiving business on their 290-acre farm near Paxton. A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal issued its unanimous decision Tuesday for James and Melanie Nipper. He “had a distinguished career as a U.S. Army Paratrooper and member of the elite Golden Knights parachute team from 1981-1997;” she “was an Army pilot,” the opinion said. They have since retired from…

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Greg Steube files fireworks legalization bill

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Sis-boom-bah: state Sen. Greg Steube has filed legislation to legalize consumer fireworks in Florida. Steube, the Sarasota Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, filed his bill (SB 324) Tuesday. The legislation appears to be identical to a bill (HB 4005) filed for the 2014 Legislative Session by then-state Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican. That bill died in committee, records show. Similar to Gaetz’s effort, Steube’s bill would repeal the prohibition on selling fireworks to the general public. It also would…

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Fantasy sports bill filed again in Legislature

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A bill to exempt fantasy sports play from state gambling regulation has again been filed in the Florida Legislature. State Rep. Jason Brodeur, a Sanford Republican, filed a measure (HB 149) on Wednesday. The bill would clarify that fantasy contests “reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the participants” and are not games of chance – and thus potentially illegal gambling. The legislation specifically includes games based on “athletes in the case of sports events.” It doesn’t yet have a…

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Meet INFLUENCE Magazine’s 2016 Politician of the Year Runners-Up

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They can’t all be winners, but it’s fair to say several top Florida politicians had one heck of a 2016. In the winter edition of INFLUENCE Magazine, we recognize some of the runners-up for 2016 politician of the year. Sure, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry may have grabbed the top spot, but these Floridians also had an extraordinary year. They guided their communities through good times and bad; donned windbreakers and faced down storms; and were catapulted to the national stage.…

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Erin Gaetz launches her own digital content firm

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Erin Gaetz is paving her own way, but don’t expect her to veer too far from the family business. Gaetz, the 31-year-old daughter of former Senate President Don Gaetz and sister of Congressman-elect Matt Gaetz, recently launched her own digital content firm, Southpaw Content. The firm specializes in producing faster, more engaging and less expensive social media and digital content. Or, as she puts it: No dopey ads of candidates standing around a factory and pointing. “After the experience on…

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