steve crisafulli Archives - Page 2 of 21 - SaintPetersBlog

Florida court sides against former Miami congressman David Rivera

A Florida court is refusing to block a recommendation that a former U.S. congressman and one-time ally of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio should pay nearly $60,000 stemming from an ethics investigation.

The 1st District Court of Appeal on Wednesday rejected former U.S. Rep. David Rivera‘s contention that he was denied due process by the Florida Commission on Ethics. Rivera, a former state legislator from Miami, served one term in the U.S. House.

Rivera is accused of violating several state ethics laws. The commission recommended Rivera pay $16,500 in penalties and more than $41,000 in restitution.

It’s up to House Speaker Steve Crisafulli to decide whether to impose penalties.

Rivera’s attorney says Crisafulli has no authority over former House members, but the court said it couldn’t rule on that until the speaker acts on the case.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Joe Henderson: Richard Corcoran flexes muscles with $53K June fundraising

The latest example of Richard Corcoran’s expanding power in Tallahassee came in this little news nugget: He raised $53,000 last month, despite the fact he has already been re-elected to the Florida House without opposition.

As incoming House Speaker, Corcoran’s reach extends far beyond his campaign. One of the biggest ways is in serving as a magnet for contributions. He may not need the money himself, but he knows candidates and causes that might.

“For lack of a better word, it becomes a war chest of sorts,” Republican operative Mark Proctor said.

That war chest becomes a critical part of the legislative process.

Donors basically tell the recipient — in this case, Corcoran — here’s some money, dole it out where you see fit. So if you’re a Republican candidate a little short on funds in a tough race, the soon-to-be Speaker might direct a few bucks your way. It’s a common practice in politics.

Much of that money is funneled through Corcoran’s political committee Florida Roundtable, which according to state campaign documents has raised $2.041 million since it was founded in 2013. Since Jan. 1 of this year, it has raised $371,000.

That, of course, is a great way to consolidate power because nothing ensures loyalty for the Speaker’s agenda like a helping hand in the campaign.

And what might Speaker Corcoran’s agenda include?

He’ll hold the line on taxes. He’ll fight attempts at gun restrictions, like he just did when House Democrats tried to schedule a special session on guns following the massacre in Orlando. Any attempt to revive Medicaid expansion for the state’s estimated 800,000 people without health insurance will be met with a continued cold shoulder.

He also has set his sights on ending taxpayer support for Enterprise Florida on the grounds that it amounts to corporate welfare. That could lead to a showdown with Gov. Rick Scott, who wants to expand greatly the taxpayer contribution to the agency that was created in the early 1990s to attract businesses to the state.

During Corcoran’s rise to power, he was often considered the most powerful man in the House — even ahead of then-speaker Steve Crisafulli. As House budget chairman in the last session, Corcoran helped shepherd through an $82 billion spending blueprint.

Now as Speaker, Corcoran has a chance to shape the landscape in Florida for many years to come. Months like the one that just ended help provide the needed cash to do just that.

___

Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He has covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons — Ben and Patrick.

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Personnel note: Michael Williams to Core Message

Michael Williams is departing the Florida House Speaker’s office as communications director and heading to Tallahassee PR shop CoreMessage as managing director of media relations.

The firm announced the move Tuesday.

“CoreMessage is thrilled to add Michael to our team,” said Cory Tilley, the president of CoreMessage and former top communications aide to Gov. Jeb Bush.

“Bringing someone of Michael’s caliber and experience on board will have an immediate positive impact on our clients,” he added. “He will be an enormous asset as we continue to provide our clients with the best public relations services in Florida.”

Williams, 36, has been a spokesman for Speaker Steve Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican, since 2014.

Before that, he was deputy communications director for the House Majority (Republicans) Office. He’s also worked at Xcel Energy and the Florida Manufactured Housing Association.

During the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions, Williams was a consultant for Ramba Consulting Group, a governmental relations firm.

“Michael brings the perfect kind of experience to our firm,” said Jennifer Fennell, vice president of CoreMessage. “His extensive background in media relations, digital media, and public policy issues will only enhance our current team and our ability to deliver results for our diverse group of clients.”

Williams – who enjoys “golf, reading and playing with my kids” – starts with CoreMessage next month.

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Personnel note: Kristen McDonald headed to Hill+Knowlton

Kristen McDonald, who’s been communications director for the Florida House Republicans, is heading to Hill+Knowlton Strategies‘ Tallahassee office.

The move was announced Wednesday.

She joins another House staffer now there: H+K vice president Ryan Duffy, who was chief spokesman for former House Speaker Will Weatherford in 2012-14.

McDonald
McDonald

McDonald was communications director for the Office of the Majority Leader in the Florida House of Representatives from 2012-16, serving under three different leaders: state Rep. Steve Precourt, current House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, and current Majority Leader Dana Young.

Before that, McDonald was press secretary for the Republican Party of Florida during the 2012 election cycle, including the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

“By bringing Kristen on board, we are further bolstering Hill+Knowlton’s strong presence in Florida,” said Harry Costello, H+K Florida general manager and executive vice president, in a statement.

“Kristen’s experience in the Florida Legislature and previous work with the Republican Party of Florida broadens our public affairs footprint in the state,” he added.

She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science from Florida State University.

In 2014, McDonald was named a “30 Under 30 Rising Stars in Florida Politics” in SaintPetersblog.

McDonald joins a public affairs team led by Alia Faraj-Johnson, senior vice president and Florida Public Affairs practice leader.

She also will work with Ron Bartlett, deputy general manager and former public affairs leader; Susan Thurston, senior account executive; and Bob Lotane, senior consultant.

Other hires include Julie Borm, a former health industry communications director, who joins the H+K Florida Health and Corporate Communications practice.

Two new H+K fellows are Trip Farmer, based in Tallahassee, who’ll provide “support for research, media outreach, and legislative issue tracking for public affairs clients,” and Alison Spiegel, based in Tampa, who most recently worked as an intern at Bascom Communications & Consulting in Tallahassee.

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Plaintiffs seek summary judgment in Amendment 1 suit

Advocacy groups suing the Legislature over environmental funding now are asking a judge to hand them the win.

Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club and others filed a 57-page motion for summary judgment Wednesday. Granting such motions allows parties to win a case without a trial.

They filed suit last year over Amendment 1, the constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2014 that mandates state spending for land and water conservation.

The measure requires state officials to set aside 33 percent of the money from the real estate “documentary stamp” tax to protect Florida’s environmentally-sensitive areas for 20 years. This year, that number is expected to total more than $740 million.

But the suit and Wednesday’s motion allege House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, Senate President Andy Gardiner, and other state lawmakers aren’t following through. The Legislature opposes the motion and will file a response soon.

“Plaintiffs are entitled to summary judgment because Amendment One prohibits the Legislature from appropriating land acquisition and restoration funds for any other purpose, but the Legislature appropriated most Amendment One monies to salaries and ordinary expenses of four state agencies,” the motion says.

Those agencies are the Department of Environmental Protection, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Department of State and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The standard for summary judgment is “that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”

The motion says: “That the Legislature appropriated funds for those purposes is not in dispute, and as a matter of law those appropriations are unconstitutional.”

The amendment, which needed a minimum of 60 percent to pass, got a landslide of nearly 75 percent, or more than 4.2 million “yes” votes.

“Florida voters did not vote for salaries and operating expenses … Amendment One allows only for acquisition and restoration of conservation lands,” the motion adds.

“State officials have misused these funds, plain and simple,” said David Guest, managing attorney for Earthjustice, the nonprofit environmental law firm representing the groups.

“Floridians put an amendment into the Constitution directing the state to use these tax dollars to buy and restore conservation land,” he added. “With this legal action, we are asking a judge to hold up the intent of Florida voters.”

The case is in Leon County Circuit Civil Court and assigned to Circuit Judge George Reynolds III.

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House, Senate Republicans to hold fundraiser at Universal Orlando

How do you celebrate the end of a Legislative Session?

If you’re Florida House and Senate Republicans, you do it with a fundraiser at Universal Orlando.

Republican leaders will hold a fundraiser at Universal Orlando on April 9 and 10. The event, first reported by POLITICO Florida reporter Matt Dixon, will benefit the House and Senate Majority Committees, which oversee legislative campaigns.

Among those listed as headliners is Rep. Chris Sprowls, the Pinellas County Republican who may be the House Speaker beginning in 2021.

Last week, Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, an Orlando Republican, conceded the 2021 House Speaker race to Sprowls. The move came after state Reps. Paul Renner and Mike Miller said they would support Sprowls. Several other of his colleagues tweeted their support for Sprowls after Renner and Miller flipped.

Sprowls is one of seven House and Senate Republican leaders headlining the event.

Speaker Steve Crisafulli, Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran and future Speaker Jose Oliva will represent the House leadership team, while Senate President Andy Gardiner, Speaker Designate Joe Negron, and Majority Leader Bill Galvano will represent the Senate leadership team.

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State police radios funds spared from veto list

Gov. Rick Scott declared his plan to lay waste to nearly 300 projects amounting to some $256 million with a preemptive announcement on Tuesday.

Among the roughly $82 billion in funding items left standing: a controversial appropriation of $7 million to refresh the state’s stock of radio equipment for state law enforcement agents.

The radio money making the cut is a big win for Brevard-based Harris Corporation, who argued the funds are needed to replace outdated models. A representative involved in pursuing the item described the windfall as a matter of time.  He said guidelines indicate law enforcement radios should be swapped out every seven years. The current 20-year procurement deal was awarded in 2000, meaning some units could be 15 years old or more.

Critics of the move – including representatives for Motorola Solutions, who hope to take over the contract after the current arrangement expires in 2021 – say the appropriation could unfairly bolster Harris’ grip on the contract.

The item was a priority for the House, particularly Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Rules Chair Ritch Workman, who requested the funding in the chamber’s budget. Both lawmakers represent Brevard County.

Senate appropriations chief Tom Lee told reporters after a budget conference he would have preferred not include the dollars in the budget, but accepted the deal as part of a compromise with House counterpart Speaker-to-be Richard Corcoran.

A representative from Motorola issued the following statement on the budget announcement:

“Motorola Solutions commends Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature for their support of a competitive procurement process for a cost-effective, next-generation mission-critical communications system for first responders throughout the state,” said Corporate Vice President Claudia Rodriguez, For the last two years, the governor and state legislators have wisely funded efforts to ensure that a fair and open procurement process takes place this year for a standards-based statewide communications system.”

“Florida is in a position to build a new state of the art, interoperable system that will enable public safety agencies and jurisdictions throughout the state to communicate seamlessly and effectively to coordinate a joint response – whether in a hurricane or other large-scale emergencies, as well as for everyday situations.

Several independent studies have been conducted at the request of the state that confirm that a competitive procurement process will open the door for multiple vendors to provide creative solutions to address the state’s communications needs with the best and most cost-effective solutions. We are pleased that the governor and legislators have also agreed that all vendors will have equal access to the state’s existing assets.”

Harris released a statement on the topic as well, saying, “Harris applauds Governor Scott for putting the safety of first responders and Floridians first. New state-of-the-art radios that work on the current and future SLERS systems will give law enforcement advanced interoperable communication technology now, and will allow officials to retire radio models that are more than a decade old. As hurricane season approaches and as Florida hosts more than 100 million visitors annually, it is critical that first responders have the right tools. We question why anyone would want our state law enforcement to be forced to use outdated equipment or wait another five years.”

Harris also points to the following finding from the state Joint Task Force charged with implementing the state’s police radio regimes.

“Unlike cell phones or computer systems, the law enforcement radio replacement cycle is typically longer; usually eight years for mobile and six years for portables as outlined in the State’s Law Enforcement Communications Plan guidelines. The current mobile radios used in our system have been identified for end of support and will become obsolete by December 2014. This technology must be replaced with newer mainstream equipment that is capable of operating on the federally supported P-25 platform. The cost of replacing all mobiles and portables with radios for our state agencies is estimated at $85M.”

 

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Brian Hodgers widens fundraising lead in HD 52 race

Brian Hodgers increased his lead over the other three Republicans running for House District 52 with $6,750 in contributions last month.

“Our conservative message is hitting a nerve in our community, and I’m very grateful for the folks who want to be part of our campaign,” Hodgers said in a news release. “I look forward to continuing to work hard to get our message of lower taxes, fewer regulations, and more freedom out to all the voters of District 52.”

February’s numbers included just $2,000 in expenditures, leaving the Melbourne business owner with about $340,000 cash on hand, including $40,000 in loans.

His closest competitor, Monique Miller, raised just $695 last month for an on hand total of about $25,300 heading into March, while Robert VanVolkenburg was able to bring in $150, leaving him with a little over $7,000 on hand at month’s end.

Though Hodgers currently has a prohibitive lead in the money race, he is also facing Republican Sen. Thad Altman in the race, who made the rare decision to head back to the House after serving in the Senate since 2010.

Altman originally filed to run for the HD 51 seat held by House Speaker Steve Crisafulli in the 2018 cycle, when he officially terms out of the Senate but made the decision to switch to HD 52 this cycle back in December.

He’s had little time to fundraise since making the switch but was able to bring in $10,000 in contributions in the first part of January, before the 2016 Legislative Session put a freeze on fundraising for sitting lawmakers.

HD 52 is currently represented by termed-out Republican Rep. Ritch Workman, who is running for the newly redrawn District 17 seat in the Senate. HD 52 leans heavily toward GOP candidates, with 20,000 more registered Republican than Democrats.

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In Florida, most legislative documents are public records

When Florida state House Minority Leader Mark Pafford puts a 6 a.m. workout before his legislative meetings on his daily schedule, it’s a public record.

When concerned parent Kimberly Jones of Plantation emails House Speaker Steve Crisafulli saying she has two children going to Florida State University and wants him to oppose a bill allowing guns on college campuses, that’s a public record too.

Reporters and other members of the public can get copies of those and almost all other legislative documents.

As part of a nationwide look at transparency of state legislatures, The Associated Press recently requested copies of all emails and daily schedules from the top four Florida legislative leaders for Feb. 1-7. All four acknowledged they were obliged to respond to the request and produced responses within a few days.

In some states that would seem outlandish, but Florida has a tradition of unusually comprehensive and strict laws on open government and open records. Florida’s “Government in the Sunshine” law mandates public access to meetings and records at all levels of state and local government.

By law, you don’t have to say why you want the records. Requests for the records can even be made anonymously, and any charges for fulfilling the request must be reasonable.

The legislators provided relatively detailed schedules including names of those attending meetings.

Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican, and Pafford, a West Palm Beach Democrat, were swamped with hundreds of emails that week because of House consideration of contentious bills allowing open carry of firearms and carrying guns on campus. They said the request for their emails would require extensive staff time and fees; instead, AP narrowed the scope of the request instead.

“I’ve always supported Florida’s open records law and making sure the public has access to records,” Pafford said. “This is the people’s government. If somebody finds out I’m doing a workout or having a doctor’s appointment at a certain time, that’s OK. It’s on my schedule because my staff needs to know what I’m doing when.”

In practice, things aren’t always so open and transparent. Only the response from Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, for example, included substantial numbers of emails both to and from the legislator.

AP made the same request to Gov. Rick Scott, whose response consisted of references to the websites where he publishes his schedules and emails.

Scott has long published a daily schedule on the governor’s office website, and in 2012, he launched Project Sunburst, a website posting the contents of the email accounts of the governor and his top staff. However, after launching Sunburst, Scott stopped using his office email account to transact business.

In 2014, a lawsuit produced evidence that Scott and his aides had used private email accounts for government business, and a request from the AP, filled only after a three-month delay, showed Scott using his personal account for discussing state business with top aides, after having denied doing so.

While Scott publishes his schedule, meanwhile, it has occasionally omitted important meetings, and also omits some travel details for what his office calls security reasons.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Everglades Foundation commends lawmakers for final passage of “Legacy Florida” funding

The Everglades Foundation lauded lawmakers Friday for passing a bill that would fund Everglades restoration efforts with up to $200 million a year.

HB 989, put forward by incoming Senate President Joe Negron and Republican Rep. Gayle Harrell, would pull the lesser of 25 percent or $200 million from the money collected under the 2014 land conservation amendment each year.

That money would then be spread across Everglades projects at the South Florida Water Management District and the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

“The Everglades Foundation lauds Senator Negron and Representative Harrell for their tireless work to establish dedicated funding for Everglades restoration and carry out projects outlined in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan under the ‘Legacy Florida’ bill,” Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg said.

Eikenberg also thanked House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and both chambers for passing the bill, which he said, “will protect and preserve this national treasure.”

The Senate passed the bill Friday with a unanimous, and the House followed with a 113-to-1 tally shortly after.

“As this good measure heads to the Governor for his signature, we remain hopeful that he too will support this dedicated use of Amendment 1 funding that will allow the state to expedite planning and construction of critical restoration projects to significantly reduce damaging discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers,” Eikenberg said.

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