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Mitch Perry Report for 10.15.15 — Notes from AP Legislative Day in Tally

Good morning once again from the Motel 6 ($50 a night) in Tallahassee, where this reporter spent his Wednesday hearing from Florida state leaders and U.S. Senate candidates (and had our slumber disturbed by a man shouting obscenities to someone on his cellphone in the motel’s parking lot at midnight!).

What we learned: Rick Scott wants a sh*tload more tax cuts — like possibly more than the $673 million he proposed last year that was whittled down to $400 million — and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli says there’s the “potential’ for that to happen.

Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner, unlike the tag teams of Haridopolous/Cannon and Weatherford/Gaetz, did not appear as a couple at the AP Legislative Session Day in Tally yesterday, but both men expressed their respect for each other, blah, blah, blah. One can only hope that the deep divisions between the two legislative bodies will act more in harmony in 2016.

Twenty-five weeks. That, according to House Minority Leader Mark Pafford, is how many weeks total the Florida Legislature will have spent in Tallahassee in 2015 after the next special session on Senate redistricting concludes early next month.

Pafford was on a veritable roll yesterday, denouncing the GOP Republicans all over the place for some of their actions, or in the case of Medicaid expansion, inaction(s). He also tore them apart for the insatiable desire for more liberalized gun use, calling the recently proposed bill allowing for “open-carry” in Florida too “wacky”and “outrageous.”

“Why even have concealed permits?” he asked with exasperation.

On public education he said, “We are seeing a catastrophe,” and decried lack of leadership in the state on such a crucial issue.

In the end, he also placed blame on Florida voters, saying that they need to do a better job of electing — or dethroning — current incumbents.

Speaking of guns, Rick Scott, Crisafulli and Gardiner couldn’t have acted more nonplussed about that pending legislation that their Republican brothers are attempting to pass in the next session. Gardiner says he leaves such matters to his committee chairmen, which is probably appropriate, but one would have liked to have known what they really thought about whether it was actually good legislation or not.

Ron DeSantis, the Ponte Vedra Beach GOP congressman who is running for the U.S. Senate, made some news when he said that it would be healthy for Republicans to get out and meet some black people. He said that the difference in getting between 5 percent of the African-American vote and 10 percent could be the difference in winning an election.

“You can get elected to Congress without ever talking to black voters at all, and I think that’s bad for the party,” he said.

All in all it was a good day, though, as Ice Cube sang a couple of decades ago.

In other news..

Well, actually it’s mostly all related to being in the state Capitol on Wednesday.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli (who we learned is a big fan of New Order), who said that there’s such a wide gap between what the members of the Florida House and Florida Senate believe in it’s amazing anything gets done, failed to mention that the leaders in both houses all belong to the Republican party.

David Jolly is running hard as an anti-Washington Republican, and certainly his lone votes on some issues give him some backup on why he votes on occasion against his party (and not because he’s not as conservative as his GOP colleagues).

In their race for the Democratic U.S. Senate campaign, it’s the usual Alan Grayson talking trash about his main opponent, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy. Not yesterday, however, when Murphy slammed Grayson as acting like a hypocrite for allegedly being a progressive hero while also maintaining hedge funds in the Cayman Islands.

And here are a few stories about local fundraising efforts in some competitive Democratic primary Hillsborough County races, for County Commissioner and Clerk of the Courts, respectively.

Jeb Bush got a nice endorsement in New Hampshire yesterday. He also said if he’s lucky enough to run against Hillary Clinton next year he won’t do a Bernie Sanders when it comes to discussing the former secretary of state’s private email server.

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Judge gives redistricting parties extra time for maps

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis has given parties in the ongoing congressional redistricting case until Monday to submit their final versions of how to draw boundary lines for those districts.

At a brief hearing on Friday, Lewis set the date for all competing maps to be submitted. A final hearing on the matter still is set for Sept. 24, court dockets show.

Time is of the essence: Candidate qualifying for congressional office is set for next June 20-24, according to the state’s elections website.

Just last week, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli has said his chamber won’t back down from its version and didn’t agree to try to work out differences with the Florida Senate.

State Sen. Bill Galvano, who heads that chamber’s redistricting panel, had last offered a map that puts the southern flank of eastern Hillsborough County back into the 16th Congressional District, now held by Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan.

Previously, the Senate backed a map by state Sen. Tom Lee that put all of eastern Hillsborough into the 15th District, now held by Republican Dennis Ross. It also drew Ross out of his district, putting Ross’ residence across the street from the new boundary line.

House leaders said that Senate map almost certainly would be ruled unconstitutional because it favors Hillsborough at the expense of portions of central Florida.

The Legislature held a special session last month but failed to agree on a new map.

The League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause sued over the current congressional lines drawn after the 2010 census.

They said the current map violates a state constitutional prohibition against gerrymandering, the manipulation of political boundaries to favor a particular incumbent or party.

The case worked its way to the Florida Supreme Court, which ruled the current map “tainted by unconstitutional intent to favor the Republican Party and incumbents.”

The court handed the case back to Lewis, giving 100 days to come up with a solution. That time runs out in mid-October.

Another special session to redraw the state Senate districts is set for Oct. 19 to Nov. 6.

Current officeholders are watching the congressional maps’ court case closely.

For example, U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham’s political future is in question because the court ordered U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown‘s district, which now runs north-south from Jacksonville to Sanford, to be redrawn “in an east-west manner.”

That stretches it into Graham’s 2nd Congressional District in the Big Bend and Panhandle.

 

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Bill Galvano calls redistricting issue ‘more difficult than anything I’ve ever experienced’

Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano calls the current redistricting situation he’s engrossed in the most challenging and difficult experience he’s ever worked on in his 13-year legislative career in Tallahassee.

The Bradenton Republican chairs the Senate Reapportionment Committee, and has been intricately involved with trying to work with House counterpart Jose Oliva in coming up with a newly redrawn map of the state’s 27 congressional districts.

After the Legislature ended their special session on redistricting without coming to an agreement on a newly drawn map last month, Galvano came up with a “compromise map” to assuage the concerns that House members had with the final Senate map. House Chairman Oliva essentially said thanks but no thanks, with the two sides still at loggerheads.

Ultimately, Circuit Judge Terry Lewis has been given the discretion by the Florida Supreme Court to review the maps that came out of both the Houses and Senate. He has scheduled a hearing for Monday, September 24.

Earlier this week House Speaker Steve Crisafulli rejected any attempt to have legislators — or at least House members — return to Tallahassee for yet another special session to work on a new map. In a letter sent to House members as reported by Florida PoliticsJames Rosica, Crisafulli wrote,” I do not believe we have fully resolved the fundamental differences that prevented the adoption of a map during Special Session.”

“It’s tough because we’re the test case for the (Fair District) Amendments 5 and 6,” Galvano says, referring to the passage of the two constitutional amendments in 2010 that required the Legislature to amend the state Constitution so that districts are compact, contiguous and rely on existing city, county and geographical boundaries.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled in July that the Legislature had violated the Constitution by gerrymandering eight of the state’s 27 congressional districts. “It’s one of the most unique circumstances I’ve ever encountered in my legislative career because everything is being done under the backdrop of the judicial system and we are operating within the confines of a judicial opinion,” Galvano said, referring to how the Supreme Court ordered the Legislature to redraw those eight districts within 100 days, which would be October 17.

Galvano said someone asked him if it now appeared that Judge Lewis was ultimately going to be the one drawing the map.

“I said, for the most part, the Supreme Court already has,” Galvano said. “That 172-page opinion was very instructive. So it’s different than anything I’ve ever experienced and, yes, it makes it more difficult.”

House leaders have said that the Senate map almost certainly would be ruled unconstitutional because it favors Hillsborough County at the expense of portions of central Florida.

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Google to sponsor Sayfie Review’s Florida Leaders Summit

Justin Sayfie, publisher of the Sayfie Review, announced Monday Internet search giant Google will help underwrite its upcoming Florida Leaders Summit confab in Orlando.

Announcing the recently reorganized Internet behemoth as a “Gulf Sponsor,” Sayfie wrote on his news aggregation site that “Google’s generous sponsorship will help provide all Summit attendees with an exceptional Summit experience.”

Sayfie billed the event, now in its third consecutive year, as an “invitation-only, nonpartisan event for Florida’s top leaders, modeled after the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.”

Sayfie recently announced a list of 11 “thought leadership partners” whose proposals and ideas will inform the conference, such as the AIF Foundation, Leroy Collins Institute, and The James Madison Institute.

Attendees of the first two Sayfie Review powwows have included former Florida Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, publisher Arianna Huffington, CNN host Fareed Zakaria, futurist Ray Kurzweil and legislative presiding officers Speaker Steve Crisafulli and President Andy Gardiner.

Sayfie’s lobbying shop represents Google in Tallahassee as a client before state officials.

The event is set for November 16-17 in Orlando. The publication says that further details regarding the setting and program of the summit will be forwarded to invitees this fall.

For more information, visit the summit’s website.

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What Pinellas Commission’s redistricting letter to Legislature really means

On the surface, Pinellas County Commission’s recent letter to the Florida Legislature seems benign enough. Follow the rules, it says in more words. Fairly redraw the state’s Congressional districts.

An appropriate piece of guidance, no doubt. The judge who gave the Senate and House until today to complete the task would surely agree.

However, like a lot of political communication, much of the message’s true meaning lies beneath the surface.

So, in the spirit of transparency, we’ve not only included the original text, but the politically unfiltered version of the original text as well. The real stuff’s in quotations. Everything in italics amounts to slightly more than a spectacular delusion.   

“As the Legislature gathers for Special Session B. to redraw Florida’s Congressional District Lines, including the Congressional Districts in Pinellas County, we urge you to take Pinellas County’s unique geography of a peninsula on a peninsula into consideration.”

Look, this is Pinellas County we’re talking about here. We’re original. Our people are tight. Not only do we live in a state that’s surrounded by water on three sides, but we live in a county that’s nearly an island too — and that kind of stuff brings people together. See? So don’t forget it when coming up with the new map.

“As stated in Section 20 of the Florida Constitution, we encourage the Legislature to utilize existing political and geographic boundaries.”

You have some pretty practical boundaries set in place already — use those for the Congressional districts. Like we mentioned, we’re a peninsula — the earth lumped us together all on its own, why disrupt nature? And county boundaries have been working well for quite a while now, use those for guidance too. And if you still need more direction, check out the Florida Constitution — see Section 20 specifically, it was put in there to address this exact type of ordeal.

“In addition, we would like the Legislature to consider the portion of Section 20 that states that ‘districts shall consist of contiguous territory’ in order to help keep Pinellas County whole during the redistricting process.”

Refer back to the part of the state Constitution that says all portions of a Congressional district should be touching. Go by that passage when redrawing the new map. Because, here in Pinellas, things aren’t touching like they should. Part of South St. Pete is in the same district as downtown Tampa. To stay within that district, while still getting from South St. Pete to downtown Tampa, you’d need a boat to cross Tampa Bay. 

“Thank you for your careful consideration of this information and please feel free to reach out to me or my fellow Commissioners with any questions.”

We’ve done our research, performed our due diligence, and made our position publicly known. Now the ball’s in your court.

End scene.

The original letter was signed by John Morroni, chairman of the Pinellas County Commission, addressed to House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner.

Last Tuesday, the House passed the base congressional map, which makes all of the Pinellas peninsula one congressional district. The Senate then amended that map, and the House, in turn, rejected it. Legislators are supposed to end their current congressional redistricting special session today, though an agreement between the House and Senate has yet to be reached.   

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Bill Day’s latest: Will Florida’s redistricting monster survive?

On Tuesday, the Republican-controlled Florida House approved a “base map” of new congressional districts by a 76-35 vote – setting the stage for yet another battle royale with the Senate.

For their part, senators can expect to vote this week on a version of the map that appears vastly different from the House proposal.

And so it goes in the Florida Legislature, as documented by political cartoonist Bill Day.

The Florida Supreme Court ordered lawmakers back to work after finding they violated the state’s constitutional ban on gerrymandered districts, giving them 100 days to go literally back to the drawing board.

The court’s decision – a critical ruling declaring the process infected by partisanship — came as little surprise to many, with perhaps the exception of Republicans themselves.

With much ballyhoo, several GOP state lawmakers vociferously objected to the ruling; with House Speaker Steve Crisafulli echoing many in Florida’s Capitol by saying he believed the court overstepped its authority.

This comes in light of voter-approved standards in 2010 that intended to prevent legislative or congressional districts drawn to benefit an incumbent or political party.

Nevertheless, Floridians (most of them, at any rate) never expected this outcome: a piecemeal mashup of two parties, using a recipe heavy on gerrymandering.

Now is the time for lawmakers to repent. Or, at the very least, redraw.

Enter Day’s Frankenstein-like political monster.

“This is our good-faith effort in doing that,” Crisafulli told The Associated Press about the House’s newly re-re-drawn maps.

But will the monster survive, Day wonders.

This most recent Special Session is set to end Friday, but not before an epic map battle (geography geeks rejoice!) with the Senate making substantial alterations to Central Florida and the Tampa Bay region.

At this point, only time will tell.

BILL DAY Legislature's new Congressional districts

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State officials say Everglades water policy, BMP regime are working

The South Florida Water Management District was joined by Republican elected officials Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and state Rep. Matt Caldwell this week in saying tighter restrictions on agriculture in the Everglades Agricultural Area are unnecessary because best management practices, or BMPs, are working.

Levels of harmful phosphorous — a product of agricultural runoff into the ecologically sensitive area — are down 79 percent according to recently released state data.

“For a milestone 20th year, water flowing from farmlands in the Everglades Agricultural Area achieved phosphorus reductions that significantly exceed those required by law,” read a Thursday release from the South Florida WMD.

“Over the program’s 20-year compliance history, the overall average annual reduction from the implementation of BMPs is 56 percent, more than twice the required amount.

“Two decades of successfully meeting and exceeding phosphorus reductions to improve Everglades water quality is a great accomplishment,” said Daniel O’Keefe, chairman of the district’s Governing Board. “South Florida’s agricultural communities are clearly demonstrating a long-term commitment to restoration efforts.”

Putnam, a key member of the state’s four-member Cabinet, said he heartily agrees.

“Farmers and ranchers throughout our state are looking toward science and data in order to protect Florida’s waterways and manage farms more efficiently, and today’s announcement shows that Best Management Practices are working,” said Putnam. “I thank the farmers and ranchers in the EAA for their continued commitment to being good stewards of the land.”

When Speaker Steve Crisafulli took the reins amid passage of Amendment 1, he declared 2015 would be a landmark year for water policy. Many considered it a failure when legislation aimed at tackling his signature issue died amid the 2015 regular session’s abrupt Sine Die adjournment. But Rep. Caldwell says the news this week is proof the Legislature’s approach is working.

“This historic level of reductions in phosphorus is proof positive that best management practices (BMPs) are working. It also highlights the need for BMPs to be part of any comprehensive water policy reform passed by the Florida Legislature,” said Caldwell via a statement. “Combined with the Second District Court of Appeal’s recent ruling that upheld BMPs, this has been a historic week for restoration efforts in the Florida Everglades. Florida’s farmers are making meaningful gains in water quality utilizing BMPs.”
“Under Speaker Crisafulli’s leadership, we will continue to make water policy reform a priority.”
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Oh, Florida House — state Rep. Ritch Workman moonlighting as Uber driver

Last session, “transportation network services” like Uber and Lyft were one of myriad issues where the House and Senate diverged — the House position was enthusiastically pro-Uber, while the Senate was more reticent.

But state Rep. Ritch Workman has taken his support for ridesharing to a whole new level.

FloridaPolitics.com has learned — and a rep for Uber has confirmed — that the House Rules Committee Chairman has taken up a side job as a “driver partner” for the ride-hailing service.

In the photo below, the Canadian-born lawmaker and mortgage broker, using the name David, can be seen on the in-app dialog screen that comes up once a fare is completed.

The ride appears to have been rendered in Tallahassee. He even got five stars!

The part-time nature of the Florida Legislature means that almost all lawmakers take up another profession in order to supplement their $29,697 annual salary and make ends meet.

But working for a ride-sharing service like Uber is not one we’ve seen before.

When appointing Workman to his current post Speaker Steve Crisafulli, who like Workman also represents Brevard County, praised the 42-year-old legislator as the right man for the job as one of the top-ranking posts in the House.

“He builds consensus, solves complex problems, and treats all members with respect. He will make an excellent Rules chair.”

Also great qualities in the driver’s seat.

“I always feel I have wasted time up here at night,” Workman told POLITICO Florida Wednesday evening. “At home, I have my wife, my kids, my ranch, my animals and my real job to occupy that free space. So when I’m not in the Capitol or my office or in the chamber or having dinner with a group, this is what I like to do.”

“For a lot of legislators, sometimes you see trouble after nightfall,” Workman said. “But I won’t be one of them. I’ll be driving an Uber car.”

After FloridaPolitics broke this story, Workman had some fun with the situation.

“I’m working now!” Workman tweeted. “Just dropped some folks at 101. Eagerly awaiting my next journey!”

workman, ritch - uber

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Americans for Prosperity names annual ‘Champions of Economic Freedom’ in 2015 session scorecard

The Florida arm of the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity has issued its annual legislative scorecard, which ranks state legislators based on their propensity to vote “pro-economic freedom.”

The group graded all 160 state lawmakers based on their votes on economic issues. Votes considered in favor of deregulation were rewarded, whereas votes that reined in industry were given negative scores.

As was the case in years past, Republicans did well and House Republicans did even better.

Forty-six members of the House, or almost 40 percent, were listed by the group as “Champions of Economic Freedom.”

Just two senators — state Sens. Jeff Brandes and Travis Hutson, who served in the House until the last two weeks of session after winning a special election in April — made the list of AFP-FL’s chosen lawmakers.

Among Democrats, Plantation state Rep. Katie Edwards was awarded the highest score with a 77, the same as GOP state Rep. Charles Van Zant.

Among the list of the House’s AFP-designated champs were Speaker Steve Crisafulli, budget chief Richard Corcoran and Majority Leader Dana Young.

See the full list of awardees below:

AFP House rankingsAFP explained its methodology as follows:

One point is awarded for each vote cast in support of a pro-economic freedom issue or against an anti-economic freedom issue. Each vote carries the same weight, regardless of the issue or whether the vote occurred in committee or on the floor. If a legislator voted on an issue twice and voted in favor of our position both times he or she received a score of 2/2.

If he or she voted against our position both times he or she received a 0/2. We also award one point for prime sponsorship of a priority bill we supported, and deduct a point for sponsorship of a bill we opposed. In the House of Representatives, supported bill sponsorships are awarded two additional points.

The additional point is a recognition of the fact that House members may only sponsor six substantial pieces of legislation each year, while their Senate counterparts have unlimited bill sponsorship. As a result, senators sponsor substantially more legislation than representatives. Since representatives have fewer opportunities to sponsor bills supportive of AFP-FL issues, they are awarded an extra sponsorship point when they do.

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Jennifer Carroll to pay fine, admit violations in ethics case

The drama over Florida’s former lieutenant governor, who was forced to resign more than two years ago, may be finally over.

The Florida Commission on Ethics on Friday unanimously approved a settlement with Jennifer Carroll where the one-time rising star in state Republican politics agreed to pay a $1,000 fine and admit she violated the state’s ethics law.

Under the settlement, Carroll acknowledged she did not disclose money paid to a company she controlled. The money came from Allied Veterans of the World, which was eventually accused of running an illegal gambling ring.

Carroll was paid the money when she was a state legislator from northeast Florida and before she ran with Gov. Rick Scott. She was forced to resign in March 2013 after investigators questioned her about the work she did. She was never charged with any wrongdoing, but the case was eventually forwarded by authorities to the ethics commission.

“I am glad to finally put this issue to rest,” said Carroll in an email.

Carroll maintains that her failure to disclose the money from Allied Veterans was an “accounting error” and inadvertent. She said she corrected it once it was discovered. She noted that other legislators have been allowed to correct their financial disclosure forms.

Because the violation occurred when Carroll was in the state House it will be up to House Speaker Steve Crisafulli to decide whether to impose the $1,000 fine.

Carroll has previously said it was wrong for Scott to force her to resign since there was not any evidence she was involved in any illegal activity with Allied Veterans.

She has demanded an apology from Scott, but the governor has not given her one.

Carroll’s forced resignation short-circuited a promising political career. Carroll, 55, was a veteran in the U.S. Navy and was appointed executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs while Jeb Bush was governor. After a bruising GOP primary, Scott turned to her to help him with the Republican establishment that backed his opponent. Her son, Nolan Carroll, is a cornerback with the Philadelphia Eagles.

During its investigation, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement discovered that Carroll’s company was paid nearly $100,000 by Allied Veterans in 2009 and 2010 for her work as a public relations consultant. Most of the money was then transferred to her personal banking account.

Carroll, who was a state legislator at the time, did not report earning that much on either mandatory financial disclosure forms she filed with the state or on her federal income tax filings. She changed them only after she was questioned by state investigators about it.

It was during the investigation that Carroll’s attorney turned over her 2010 income tax filing. Investigators noted she reported to the IRS earning $48,000, but Allied Veterans records showed they had paid Carroll’s company $72,000 that year.

While she was in the Legislature, Carroll filed a bill that could have affected Allied Veterans. She told state investigators that it was not her intent to sponsor the bill but that it was supposed to be a “placeholder.” She blamed her aide for mistakenly filing the bill and said she withdrew it.

The statewide investigation into Allied Veterans of the World resulted in the arrest of 57 people, the passage of legislation outlawing Internet cafes and the successful prosecution of Allied Veterans attorney Kelly Mathis.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press. 

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