Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Local News in Review - May 2019


In May, there was news of interest on several fronts. Top stories include: developments in two proposed projects about which residents had expressed concerns; the City of Naples tightened its fertilizer ordinance; the City of Marco Island is close to on-boarding a new City Manager and Police Chief; and the Collier County School District was designated “high-performing” by the State Board of Education. For these stories and more local government news, read on.

But first, as I’ve written before, our local newspapers are under ongoing pressure, and it’s important that we continue to support them. To supplement their reporting, I increasingly turn to the websites and newsletters of our county and municipal government agencies and elected officials. This month, I found news in the Collier County Growth Management Department’s first quarterly newsletter and the Clerk of Courts & Comptroller’s June newsletter. Scroll to the end of this post to learn about my other sources.

Board of County Commissioners

Reporting by Alexi C. Cardona, Lisa Conley, Laura Layden, and Patrick Riley - Naples Daily News; Patricia Borns - Fort Myers News-Press

Growth, development, redevelopment

via naplesnews.com
  • Collier Planning Commission okays zoning for 400-unit mixed-use development that had drawn criticism. The proposed development would be located on close to 56 acres south of Immokalee Road and east of Collier Boulevard. More 
  • Golden Gate Estates residents hear plans from groups interested in buying county land. More.
    • Collier sets new deadline for proposals for Randall curve land. More

Environment

via naplesnews.com
  • Collier's watershed restoration project meets with questions, concerns by residents. The biggest changes will be felt by 12 properties partly or entirely within the core rehydration area. More
    • Watershed restoration project seeks to reverse decades of damage. More
Local option sales tax
  • Citizen sales tax oversight committee recommends $33 million for new Sheriff's Office evidence building. More 
  • Collier Clerk: Cost estimates increasing for one-cent sales surtax projects. More

Other County news
via naplesnews.com
  • Commissioner wants to take issue of backyard gun ranges to state's attorney general. The County once had local ordinances to keep recreational shooting in neighborhoods in check, but a 2011 law backed by the National Rifle Association forced their repeal. More 
  • Commissioners may consider future regulations of short-term vacation rentals. More
  • Commissioners pull the plug on PACE financing program for energy efficiency and storm-hardening upgrades, at least for now. More
  • Immokalee master plan moves forward with unanimous Commission vote. More
    • Editorial: Immokalee Master Plan only a beginning, and one that's been a long time coming. More
  • Collier water/sewer district bond ratings raised to AAA; capital needs largely supported by recurring revenues. More
  • Commissioners approve state grants totaling >$550,000 for Immokalee Regional Airport upgrades. More 
  • Non-profit Immokalee Fair Housing Alliance joins effort to provide affordable housing. More
  • Naples Park community garden reaches resolution after code violations  More
  • Pickleball tournament a win for Collier County. More

Naples City Council
Reporting by Lisa Conley - Naples Daily News; News Service of Florida
via naplesgov.com
  • City Council unanimously votes to tighten fertilizer rules, add blackout period and phosphorus regulations. More 
  • City Council gives final approval to Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club redevelopment. More
  • City Council considers new parking garage partnership with Gulfshore Playhouse. More
  • City Council unanimously approves luxury movie theater at Coastland Center. More
  • Naples' new $9.5M fire station opens next to City Hall. More
  • City to spend $523K on security camera system despite low crime rate. More
  • Naples, the Florida League of Cities, others sue the State, contending a wireless technology law unconstitutionally infringes on home-rule powers. More

Marco Island City Council
Reporting by Devan Patel - Naples Daily News / Marco Eagle
via marconews.com
  • Marco Council unanimously approves contract for new city manager Mike McNees. The road to finding a permanent manager and providing stability to the government has been long and winding for the past few years. More 
  • Marco city manager names Capt. Dave Baer as interim police chief; to announce new chief the week of June 10. More

Collier County School Board/District
Reporting by Rachel Fradette - Naples Daily News
via collierschools.com
  • Collier designated an “academically high-performing school district” by State Board of Education. The district is one of just nine of the state’s 67 districts to meet the stringent criteria. More 
  • District, teachers union kick off contract negotiations; retention rate is 89 percent for the 2017-18 school year. More
  • School Board accepts changes to student code of conduct; defers to state statute to govern zero-tolerance offenses. More

Clerk of Circuit Court & Comptroller
via collierclerk.com
  • Florida Department of Law Enforcement triennial audit finds Clerk’s Office in full compliance with security, training, policies, and practices for handling criminal history information. More 


Supervisor of Elections
Reporting by Patrick Riley - Naples Daily News; Florida Phoenix
via colliervotes.com
  • Collier not among Florida counties affected by Russian hacking, county officials say. Gov. DeSantis signed an agreement with the FBI not to disclose which counties were hacked, but said elections officials in those counties are aware of the intrusions. More 
  • Collier SOE did state-required voter roll maintenance. Now, voter protection attorney flags ‘disproportionate’ removal of Democrats. More

Fire Districts
Reporting by Jake Allen - Naples Daily News
  • North Collier fire district continues with plans to move a fire station and sell property bought to build a new station on. More

That's it for May's local government news. Have a great June!

Sunday, June 2, 2019

State News in Review - May 2019

As I wrote in my May 12 post, Florida’s 60-day annual Legislative Session ended on May 4. Since then, much of the news about state government were stories explaining or editorializing about the Legislature’s actions. This Month-in-Review post includes some of those, as well as more business-as-usual topics.

Some of the top stories: Will Florida be ready for the 2020 census? ... Sixty-five of the state's highest-rated nursing homes are expected to take a financial hit under a new state funding plan.... Forty-four groups and former Gov. Bob Graham are asking Gov. DeSantis to veto a community development and housing bill over last minute changes.... The Collier County Teachers’ Union disagrees with State Sen. Kathleen Passidomo on the Legislature’s education accomplishments, and ... The governor held a controversial “ceremonial” cabinet meeting in Israel. For these and more state news in review, read on!

But first: did you know the state’s hurricane season sales tax holiday is on now through Thursday? Stock up on flashlights, gas/diesel containers, batteries, radios, tarps and portable generators under $750. More ...

And here’s something new: it’s become necessary for me to ask you to Support Sparker's Soapbox. To understand why, please scroll to the end of this post.

THE FLORIDA LEGISLATURE

Voting & Elections
  • Will Florida be ready for 2020 Census? A bill aiming to organize committees around the census failed in the legislative session recently ended. In March, Florida AG Moody joined 15 other AGs in an amicus brief in favor of the citizenship question. More ...
  • Months after Floridians voted to restore voting rights to former felons, the Legislature limits who is eligible to vote. More ...
    • Related: 2,000 Florida ex-felons registered to vote in first 3 months of Amendment 4, study finds. More ...
  • Despite state elections officials’ protests, District Court will hear League of Women Voters’s campus early voting case. More ...
  • Florida won’t pledge to look for voters registered in multiple states. More ...
  • DeSantis orders statewide elections security review. More ...
  • Election supervisors, petition sponsors brace for major changes to ballot initiative law. More ...

Health Care & Social Services
  • Many of Florida’s best nursing homes lose under new funding plan. Changing how the state distributes Medicaid payments was a victory for the biggest players in Florida’s nursing home lobby. More ...
  • Florida’s health care and hospital industries preparing for effects of deregulation. More ...
  • Florida Legislature budgets money to help families with insurance costs for children. More ...

The Environment
  • Citing threat to Everglades, 44 groups and former governor ask DeSantis to veto bill. They say several provisions could negatively impact the full restoration of the ecosystem, the worst of which were quietly amended onto the bill in the final hours of the session. More ...
  • SFWMD board OKs new mission statement emphasizing environmental protection, transparency. More ...
  • SFWMD board asks Congress to adequately fund Everglades restoration efforts. More ...
  • Customers will pay for new buried power lines around the state under legislation now headed to governor. More ...

Public Education
  • Passidomo: Legislature working to uplift education in Florida. “It’s a disservice to our students and our teachers to misrepresent how far we’ve come as a state and the investments we’ve made in our future,” she wrote. More ...
    • Related: CCEA/Collier County Teachers’ Union: Let’s look at what Sen. Passidomo DOESN’T say. More …
  • Legislature sets aside $15 million to settle Florida Education Association’s 2-year-old Best and Brightest bonus class-action lawsuit. More ...
  • DeSantis: Too many Florida kids not ready for kindergarten. More ...
  • Lawmakers changed Florida’s graduation requirements in math – for better or worse. More ...
  • Florida teacher’s union says public schools will lose $1 billion over five years under new school voucher program. More ...
  • Education commissioner Richard Corcoran gives his department an A for its legislative successes. More ...
  • U.S. News & World Report: ’Performance-based’ metrics make Florida higher-ed the nation’s most accessible, affordable. More ...
  • DeSantis presses ahead with workforce education changes. More ...

Business

THE GOVERNOR AND CABINET

Cabinet meeting in Israel
  • DeSantis leads historic ceremonial meeting with Florida Cabinet members at U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. More ...
  • Editorial: DeSantis fumbles Cabinet meeting in Israel, ignores lesson in open government. More ...
  • DeSantis weighs in on international politics and the ‘denialism’ of an Israeli state. More ...
  • Arab-American, civil rights groups challenge cabinet meeting in Israel. More ...
  • Some in FL take offense to Gov. DeSantis cheerleading for Israel. More ...
  • Airbnb changed its position on West Bank rentals, so Florida is ending its ban on Airbnb. More ...
  • DeSantis meets with embattled Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu, concludes 4-day trade mission. More ...

Governor Ron DeSantis
  • DeSantis vetoes bill that would halt plastic straw bans. The bans hadn’t frustrated state policy or harmed state interests, the State encourages residents to reduce plastic straw use, and residents who oppose the local bans should elect new city commissioners, he said. More ...
    • Related: Editorial: DeSantis veto pen supports home rule.” More ...
  • ”I want to stand for freedom, but some of that stuff can be touchy,” DeSantis says of U.S. and Venezuela. More ...
    • Related: Venezuelans becoming a growing political and cultural force in South Florida. More ...

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried
  • Fried warns about gas pump skimmers — and tries to quiet a storm about her picture. The minor kerfuffle arose as she took advantage of the ability to place a state sticker on every gasoline pump in the state. More ...
  • Fried names Florida’s new water czar. More ...
  • Fried gets head start in Israel. More ...
  • Fried to Trump: Trade war hurts Florida timber. More ...

Attorney General Ashley Moody
  • Moody files major antitrust action against generic drug companies. She and 43 other state AGs filed suit against 20 generic drug manufacturers for allegedly engaging in a broad conspiracy to reduce competition and restrain trade. More ...
  • AG announces mental health criminal justice round table summer series. More ...
  • Moody urges FCC to take action against robocalls, caller ID spoofing. More ...
  • 33 state attorneys general urging Congress to solve marijuana banking mess – but not Moody. More ...

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis
  • Patronis touts legislative wins as Session draws to close. Cites cancer benefits, Assignment of Benefit reform among his top accomplishments. More ...
  • Florida’s chief financial officer demands that state’s top banking regulator resign over accusations of harassment and inappropriate behavior. More ...

FLORIDA’S COURTS SYSTEM
  • Newly conservative Florida Supreme Court may discontinue death-penalty reviews. It is reconsidering a 2016 ruling that allowed nearly half of the state’s Death Row prisoners to have their death sentences revisited. More ...
  • Small claims just got bigger: DeSantis approves bill raising county court limit to $30K. More ...

COLLIER’S REPRESENTATIVES IN CONGRESS

U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott
  • Rubio introduces bill to eliminate interest for federal student loans. More ...
  • Rubio’s office named ‘one of the best in Congress’ for constituent service. More ...; Report
  • Scott calls for presidential line item veto, congressional term limits, super majority to raise taxes. More ...
  • Scott brings out Prescription Drug Price Reporting Act. More ...
  • Pushing to deploy U.S. military, Scott helps shape Trump’s Venezuela policy. More ...
  • Scott gains unlikely allies Ted Cruz, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in bill to ban former members of Congress from lobbying. More ...

Congressmen Mario Diaz-Balart and Francis Rooney
  • Rooney gathers high-powered panel for second roundtable on toxic algae, but this time, it was open to all. More ...
    • Related: Rooney: Making progress on harmful algal blooms around Florida. More ...
    • Related: The Rooney roundtable — a view from the outside by Howard L. Simon, John Cassani and Linda Penniman. More ...
  • Rooney visits Keewaydin Island where sea level is on the rise. More ...
  • Diaz-Balart among eight Republicans who voted for the Equality Act. More ...
  • Diaz-Balart commends Committee action on Venezuela TPS Act. More ...

SUPPORT SPARKER’S SOAPBOX

Sandy Parker
More and more of the digital sources I rely on in order to write Sparker's Soapbox require me to take a digital subscription in order to access more than a few articles a month. I now subscribe to:
Fort Myers News-Press; Miami-Herald; Naples Daily News; News Service of Florida; Orlando Sentinel; South Florida Sun-Sentinel; Space Coast Daily; Tallahassee Democrat; Tampa Bay Times
These are the digital sources I use to which I have not (so far) had to subscribe, either because they are funded in other ways or because my frequency of access hasn’t yet reached the limit:
Brennan Center for Justice; CQ Roll Call; Florida Daily; Florida Phoenix; Florida Politics; Ocala Star Banner; Palm Beach Post; Politico | Florida; The Center Square | Florida; Sanibel-Captiva Islander; Sayfie Review; Sunshine State News; TCPalm/Treasure Coast Newspapers; The Ledger (Lakeland, FL)
If you are able to make a small contribution to help defray these and other costs of Sparker's Soapbox, I would greatly appreciate it. Contribute here.

Thank you,
Sandy Parker
Publisher - Sparker's Soapbox

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Recapping Florida's 2019 Legislative Session

Legislators fulfilled their sole constitutional responsibility — passing a balanced budget — last Saturday, May 4, one day later than scheduled. It came in at $91.1 billion, up 2 percent from last year’s $89.3 billion, and set another Florida record. Assuming few line-item vetoes by the Governor, 2019-20 will be the eighth year in a row of budget increases; the 2011-12 budget was $69.1 billion. In addition to passing the budget, legislators passed 197 bills and $121.5 million in tax cuts.

Obviously, bills passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor make public policy. That’s why elections matter. In this post, I highlight some of the bills passed this session that significantly affect areas of interest to Collier voters. In addition to links to related news articles, I included links to the related Florida Senate webpages, where you’ll find bill texts, Staff Analyses that provide background to make the case for the bills' necessity, legislator vote history, and more.

Like beauty, whether it was a “good session” or a “bad session” is in the eye of the beholder. For overviews from each perspective, I highly recommend:
  • Statement from Majority Leader Passidomo on the successes of the 2019 legislative session, by Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, representing Collier, Hendry, and part of Lee counties, Majority Office Press Release, 5/4/19, and
  • Florida legislators failed to make the state better, by Paula Dockery, who served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Republican from Lakeland and is now a registered NPA, Tampa Bay Times, 5/10/19.

With that, here are what I consider some of the most significant policy-making and spending decisions made by the Florida Legislature this session.

The environment
  • DeSantis announces more than $680 million in environmental funding. The budget includes $367.2 million for the Everglades and $100 million for Florida's springs ($50 million of which is unspent from last year.) “This governor has delivered greater advances in Everglades restoration and clean water than we have seen in at least a decade,” said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation. WSVN.com, 5/7/19
  • Florida Forever land acquisition falls short in this year’s budget. Legislators appropriated $33 million from the Florida Forever Trust Fund, a far cry from the Governor’s requested $100 million, and $31 million for parks, compared to his proposed $54 million. Tampa Bay Times, 4/26/19; Florida Today, 5/3/19; WSVN.com, 5/7/19
  • Politicians’ pledges to tackle red tide eco-disaster end at the Legislature with… wait for it… another task force. Florida Phoenix, 4/30/19

Voting and Elections
  • Legislature passes several “fixes” to election laws. Florida Phoenix, 5/6/19; SB 7066
    • Moves the deadline for voters to request vote-by-mail ballots from six days before an election to 10 days before.
    • Prohibits county Supervisors of Elections from mailing out ballots less than eight days before the election instead of the current four days.
    • Requires the Secretary of State to provide signature matching training to elections workers and county canvassing board members.
    • Increases the time when voters can remedy a ballot that’s been questioned because the signature on the ballot doesn’t match the one on file at the Supervisor of Elections office.
    • Requires a Supervisor of Elections to send a first-class letter to voters if the signature on a vote-by-mail ballot is questioned; notification by email or text message is also allowed.
    • Moves up by one week the date of the August primary election, adding an extra week to the general election campaign.
    • Revises requirements for vote-by-mail ballot instructions.
  • Lawmakers tighten ballot measure rules ahead of 2020 election. Anyone gathering voter signatures would be required to register with the state, and groups that hire people to gather signatures could not pay them based on the number of signatures obtained. Also, any referendum to adopt or amend a local option sales surtax must be held at a general election. Politico Florida, 5/3/19; HB 5
  • Felon voting bill passed amid outcry; DeSantis says he’ll sign. The legislation is aimed at carrying out a constitutional amendment approved in November by over 64 percent of voters. The amendment granted restoration of voting rights to felons “who have completed all terms of their sentence, including parole or probation.” AP News, 5/3/19; Tampa Bay Times, 5/8/19; SB 7066
    • Related: League of Women Voters’ statement re: the Amendment 4 law. “Not only is it morally wrong, but it is an affront to the 5.2 million Floridians who voted for Amendment 4 and a direct attack on the Florida Constitution...” LWVFL.org, 5/2/19

K-12 Education
  • Budget hurdles cleared; major education bill restructures teacher bonuses. Legislators agreed to spend $12.4 billion on the Florida Education Finance Program, the major part of the budget for public schools. That includes a $248 per student increase and $233 million for the controversial Best and Brightest teacher-bonus program. Tampa Bay Times, 4/30/19; News Service of Florida via Daytona Beach News-Journal, 4/28/19; SB 7070
  • New Family Empowerment Scholarship Program allows more students to use taxpayer-funded vouchers to pay for private school; court challenge expected. In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the state Constitution bars Florida from using taxpayer money to finance a private alternative to the public system. WLRN.com, 5/5/19; SB 7070
  • Governor signs bill to arm teachers. The bill adopts the recommendations of a commission formed in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Massacre that claimed 17 lives. Tallahassee Democrat via Naples Daily News, 5/2/19; Sun Sentinel, 5/1/19; SB 7030
    • Related: Sen. Passidomo supports school safety bill for its provisions for the mental health assistance allocation.”I support this bill and any bill that we can put together that will help our students overcome the difficulties that they bring to school,” she said in her weekly Legislative Update email. SB 7030
  • Legislature raises SAT score levels for Bright Futures scholarships. For students who would receive the “Academic” scholarship, which covers full tuition and fees at state universities and colleges, the required SAT score will rise from 1290 to around 1330. Miami-Herald, 5/4/19; SB 190
  • Lawmakers approve anti-Semitism bill. Religious discrimination would be added to actions based on race, gender, disability, marital status or national origin, which are already banned in Florida schools. Gainesville Sun, 4/29/19; HB 741
    • Related: Anti-Semitism bill to be signed in Israel, DeSantis says. Tampa Bay Times, 5/10/19

Taxation

The tax bill passed this year requires school districts and charter schools to share revenues raised by future tax measures approved by voters. “It’s another attack on local control,” Collier County School Board Chairman Roy Terry said. Naples Daily News, 4/26/19; HB 7123
  • Related: Florida tax package draws fire over charter schools. News Service of Florida via dailycommercial.com, 4/26/19
The $121.5 million tax cut package amounts to $87 million in state revenue losses in the first year (of which one-time cuts total $48.5 million) and $73 million of revenue losses on a recurring basis. The cuts include:
  • A reduction in the business rent tax from 5.7 percent to 5.5 percent. Estimated revenue loss: first year $30.8 million, $64.5 million per year thereafter.
  • Back-to-School sales tax holiday - August 2-6, 2019. Estimated one-time revenue loss: $41.7 million.
  • Hurricane sales tax holiday - May 31 - June 6, 2019. Estimated one-time revenue loss: $5.5 million.
  • Sales tax donations to 501(c)(3). Estimated recurring revenue loss: $4.9 million per year.
  • Insurance Premium tax credit flexibility. Estimated recurring revenue loss: $1.1 million per year.

The estimates of fiscal impact are from page 20 of the HB 7123 Final Bill Analysis. For more on the tax law changes, see the Florida TaxWatch 2019 Session Wrap-Up and Session Spotlight.

Health Care
  • Certificates of Need (CON) about to become history. After many years of debate, the CON process was repealed for hospitals, but will remain for long-term care and hospice facilities. News Service of Florida via Sunshine State News, 4/27/19; HB 21
  • Legislature approves Canadian drug import bill, other health reforms. The program, a top priority for Gov. DeSantis, would have to be approved by the federal government. Orlando Sentinel, 4/29/19; HB 19
    • Related: Trump directs Feds to ‘explore’ authorizing Florida drug-import plan, but stiff DC opposition awaits. Florida Watchdog, 5/8/19
  • Florida legislature passes new telehealth law. It provides a framework for telehealth in Florida, establishes new telehealth practice standards, creates a registration process for out-of-state health care professionals to use telehealth to deliver health care services to Florida patients, and introduces commercial reimbursement provisions. Health Care Law Today, 5/7/19; HB 23

Other
  • 'Sanctuary cities' ban passed by Florida lawmakers. The governor’s desire to force local and state officials to fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities exposed a sharp partisan divide in the Legislature on how the state, which has about 800,000 undocumented immigrants, should enforce immigration laws. Pensacola News Journal via Naples Daily News, 5/4/19; Florida Phoenix, 5/2/19; SB 168
  • Last-minute legislative amendment penalizes anyone who challenges Florida development. While governments are still allowed to require new developments to include some affordable housing, they have to repay the developer for any financial losses that result. Florida Phoenix, 5/7/19; HB 7103
    • Related: Editorial: After a decade on life support, Florida just killed growth management. Orlando Sentinel, 5/8/19; HB 7103
  • Florida will spend about $200 million on affordable housing next year, most of it in the Panhandle areas devastated by Hurricane Michael. The total is double what the state spent last year on affordable housing, but it falls far short of what the Governor wanted. Tampa Bay Times, 4/27/19
    • Related: Editorial: DeSantis must confront lawmakers over immoral grab of affordable housing money. Orlando Sentinel, 5/6/19
  • Legislature sends criminal justice reform to DeSantis, but advocates see mixed victory. Tampa Bay Times, 5/3/19; Sun Sentinel, 4/29/19; HB 7125
  • Legislature approves ban on texting while driving. It makes texting while driving a primary offense instead of a secondary offense and requires drivers to go totally hands-free when operating wireless communications devices in school zones and in construction zones when workers are present. Palm Beach Post, 4/29/19; HB 107
  • Alligator Alley fire station be partially funded by state, Collier residents. Sen. Passidomo pushed for approval of the legislation and said around 10 percent of incidents that occur on Alligator Alley involve Collier County residents. Naples Daily News, 5/10/19
  • Finally, Assignment of Benefits reform bill heads to an eager DeSantis. Passage of the bill was a major victory for insurers and business groups. News Service of Florida via Sunshine State News, 4/24/19; HB 7065
______________

Articles from these Florida news publications are among the sources I used in writing this post: 
Daily Commercial, Daytona Beach News-Journal, Florida Today, Florida Phoenix, Florida Watchdog, Gainesville Sun, Miami-Herald, Naples Daily News, Orlando Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Pensacola News Journal, Politico Florida, Sun Sentinel, Sunshine State News, Tampa Bay Times.
________________

Funding for Projects Benefiting our Region


“Of the budget projects I sponsored this year, Collier, Hendry, and Lee County received about $8.6 million in funding in this year's budget,” wrote Sen. Passidomo in her May 6 Legislative Update email. They are:
  • $2 million for the City of Clewiston C-21 Bridge Canal Crossing
  • $1.2 million for Naples Bay Red Tide/Septic Tank Mitigation
  • $1 million to connect Airglades Airport to the City of Clewiston Wastewater Treatment Plant
  • $650,000 for Auditory Oral Intervention for Children with Hearing Loss
  • $500,000 for the Marco Island South Barfield Drive Drainage Project
  • $500,000 for Marco Island-Barrier Island Emergency Fire Services
  • $500,000 for Destination Graduation
  • $381,000 for City of Clewiston Storm Spill Prevention
  • $312,500 for Plantation Island Hurricane Irma Waterway Recovery
  • $279,000 for the David Lawrence Center Wraparound Collier Program
  • $250,000 for Florida Network: Stop Now and Plan for Children
  • $250,000 for Learning for Life (Boy Scouts Program)
  • $110,000 for City of LaBelle Emergency Generators
  • $100,000 for Caloosahatchee River Aqua Vegetation
  • $87,000 for Lehigh Acres Caloosahatchee River & Estuary Storage & Treatment
  • $85,000 for Lighthouse for the Blind - Collier County
  • $75,000 for Jewish Family and Community Services of SWFL - Dementia Respite & Support

Thursday, May 2, 2019

State News in Review - April 2019

The Florida Legislature is expected to wrap up its 2019 session this weekend, so I’ll save those highlights for next week. In this Month in Review, I’ll focus on where our elected Governor, Cabinet, and congressional representatives have been focusing their attention. It's a good opportunity to see if their priorities and values align with our own.

Governor Ron DeSantis

  • DeSantis taps new Florida surgeon general, brings back drug office to fight opioid epidemic. Tampa Bay Times, 4/1/19
  • DeSantis announces task force on opioid crisis. Associated Press via Naples Daily News, 4/1/19
  • DeSantis names Florida's first chief science officer. Treasure Coast Newspapers via Naples Daily News, 4/1/19
  • DeSantis: Collier County will receive $40.9 million for Irma recovery reimbursement. Naples Daily News, 4/9/19
  • DeSantis appoints “Alligator Ron” Bergeron to SFWMD board after ethics panel gives OK. Treasure Coast Newspapers, 4/12/19
  • DeSantis agrees to make Spanish-language ballots available statewide. Florida Phoenix, 4/12/19
  • DeSantis seeks free speech resolution allowing controversial speakers at Florida universities. Tampa Bay Times, 4/16/19
  • DeSantis to hold Cabinet meeting in Israel May 25-31. News Service of Florida, 4/10/19
  • DeSantis picks panel to tackle ‘massive’ blue-green algae problem. Miami-Herald, 4/29/19
  • Senate confirms DeSantis’ embattled pick to run Florida’s $29 billion Medicaid agency. Florida Phoenix, 5/1/19
  • "I want to stand for freedom, but some of that stuff can be touchy," DeSantis says of U.S. and Venezuela. Florida Phoenix, 5/1/19

Attorney General Ashley Moody

  • Moody issues consumer alert for tax, identity scams. Press Release, 3/26/19
  • AG rejects county E-Verify proposal; says Legislature has ‘exclusive prerogative’. News Service of Florida via News4Jax.com, 4/1/19

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis

  • Patronis: Weigh the risks before you merge health records with Alexa. Press Release, Florida Daily, 4/15/19
  • Patronis announces Scam Tracker partnership to help inform Floridians of growing trends and emerging scams in their area. Press Release, News4Jax, 4/22/19

Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried

  • Processing time for gun permits one-third faster under Fried. The Capitolist 3/30/19
  • Fried highlights Fresh From Florida partnership with Subway. Press Release, 4/4/19
  • Fried: Don’t mess with medical marijuana potency. Florida Phoenix, 4/8/19
  • Fried seeks money for more gun license processing. Orlando Sentinel, 4/17/19
  • Fried: 'Sanctuary cities' bill threatens Florida's entire agriculture industry. Tallahassee Democrat, 4/17/19
  • Fried: Health insurers should cover medical marijuana. Tallahassee Democrat via Naples Daily News, 4/18/19

Senator Rick Scott

  • Scott backs effort to expand suicide-prevention, mental health services for law enforcement. Florida Daily, 4/5/19
  • Scott co-sponsors legislation to protect individuals with pre-existing conditions. Press Release, 4/10/19
  • Scott wants U.S. military to deliver aid in Venezuela. Miami-Herald, 4/11/19
    • Related: What’s next for US-Venezuela policy? A conversation with Sen. Rick Scott. American Enterprise Institute, 4/11/19
    • Related: Scott says Venezuela could become ‘Syria’ if Maduro not ousted. Miami Herald, 4/25/19
    • Related: Pushing to deploy the U.S. military, Rick Scott helps to shape Trump’s Venezuela policy. Washington Post, 5/1/19
    • Related: Venezuela crisis resonates loudly in battleground Florida, PBS.org, 2/3/19
  • Scott asks FBI for details on reported Russian meddling in Florida’s elections. TheHill.com, 4/19/19; Press Release, 4/19/19
    • Related: FBI to discuss Florida election hacking with Scott, DeSantis. Politico Florida, 4/25/19

Senator Marco Rubio

  • Rubio reintroduces bipartisan bill to help law enforcement investigate fentanyl, protect officers. Press Release, 3/27/19
  • Rubio proposes ‘opportunity zones’ offering tax breaks for disaster area investment. Florida Politics, 4/3/19
  • Rubio wants answers from Energy Secretary Perry on DOE helping Saudi Arabia’s nuclear ambitions. Florida Daily, 4/3/19
  • Rubio wants stiff sanctions to deter Russia election meddling. Reuters.com, 4/3/19; Press Release, 4/3/19
  • Rubio urges full accountability for Khashoggi's assassination, determination about responsibility of Saudi Crown Prince. Press Release, 4/9/19
  • Rubio votes to confirm new Interior Secretary; is confident ban on drilling off of Florida’s coasts will remain in place. Press Release, 4/10/19
  • Rubio concerned with Russians in Mueller report. Florida Politics, 4/19/19
  • Rubio conducts Senate Intelligence oversight trip in support of counterterrorism operations in East Africa. Press Release, 4/19/19
  • Rubio urges revolution as Guaidó declares start of 'final phase’. Newsweek, 4/30/19

Congressman Francis Rooney

  • Rooney wants to cut off funds to sanctuary cities despite voting against Trump on immigration. Florida Daily, 3/31/19; Press Release, 3/26/19
  • Rooney leads bipartisan Florida delegation urging Appropriations Committee to fully fund Everglades Restoration. Press Release, 4/3/19
  • Rooney wants to end chain migration, fund border security “at the level requested by President Trump.” Florida Daily, 4/14/19; Press Release, 4/10/19
  • Rooney calls on Army Corps of Engineers to monitor toxic algae. Florida Daily, 4/15/19
  • Rooney calls on EPA not to change mercury and air toxics standards. Sunshine State News, 4/23/19
  • Rooney brings together federal, state and local officials for harmful algal bloom event; CDC, EPA, NOAA to attend. Press Release, 4/23/19
    • Related: Public, media excluded from upcoming Rooney roundtable. News-Press via Naples Daily News, 4/30/19
  • Rooney requests hearing to consider effects of damaging chemicals on coral reefs. Press Release, 4/29/19; HR 1834

Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart

  • Diaz-Balart joins Democrats in vote to expand domestic violence law, defying NRA. Politico.com, 4/4/19
  • Diaz-Balart backs instant background checks and “Safe to Tell” school security bills. Sunshine State News, 4/17/19; Press Release, 4/4/19
  • Diaz-Balart, Shalala introduce Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Nicaraguans. Press Release, 5/1/19

Monday, April 29, 2019

Local news In Review - April 2019

April's news includes several examples of community members affecting elected officials' decision-making, which reminded me: those officials and our governing bodies publish newsletters, alerts and press releases to let us know what’s happening before decisions are made so that we, too, can weigh in. At the end of this post, I list some you might want to signup for. 

Top stories: community members turned out to oppose several projects being considered by the County Commission or Planning Board; after months of discussion and community input, the Naples City Council approved the Naples Beach Hotel redevelopment plan; the Marco Island City Council approved an ordinance requiring a supermajority vote for major capital expenses; and the North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District Commissioners named a new fire chief. For these and other stories about our local government, read on.

Board of County Commissioners

Reporting and insight by Brent Batten, Laura Layden and Patrick Riley - Naples Daily News
Next elections: August 2020 Primary. Find your commission district HERE.

Growth, development, and redevelopment

  • Collier commissioners approve Whippoorwill Lane extension. In response to resident concerns about traffic, noise and safety, the project will include a new traffic signal at Livingston Road and Marbella Lakes Drive, roundabouts, raised medians, and narrower lanes to help slow traffic along the roads. Naples Daily News, 04/09/19
  • Related: Editorial: Collier road network needs long-planned Whippoorwill-Marbella link. Naples Daily News, 4/11/19
  • Brent Batten: Too much success on Bayshore? Commissioner Donna Fiala was taken aback when fellow commissioner Burt Saunders suggested that the county put an early expiration date on the Bayshore Gateway Triangle Community Redevelopment Agency. Naples Daily News, 4/13/19
  • Planning Commission delays vote on proposed mixed-use project. Community members filled commission chambers to express concerns about the project at Immokalee Road and Collier Boulevard. Naples Daily News, 4/18/19
  • Proposed garage at Clam Pass Park raises concerns. County staff plans to meet with nearby neighborhoods and communities before returning to the County Commission for direction. Naples Daily News, 4/21/19
  • Commissioners delay decision on offers for 47-acre Golden Gate Estates property. County staff had recommended they accept the offer of the highest bidder to create "a quality, vibrant mixed-use development to serve the needs of the rapidly growing eastern Collier County population.” Naples Daily News, 4/23/19
  • Commissioners want new leadership for Collier County's business accelerators. Economic Incubators Inc., the nonprofit tasked with operating the Naples and Immokalee accelerators, will lose control of the county accelerator program following longstanding questions about how the organization has spent its money, managed the program and delivered results. Naples Daily News, 4/29/19

Other County news

  • Commissioners signal desire to reconsider short-term vacation rentals vote. After pushback from the industry, they voted 3-2 to bring the matter back at their next meeting. Naples Daily News, 04/09/19
  • County may buy North Naples fire station to keep EMS there. Commissioner Saunders said he considers EMS one of the most important services the county provides and isn't "particularly concerned about the capital cost." Naples Daily News, 4/11/19
  • Commissioners try to lure mystery company, 80 new jobs. The company, identified as “Project Peak,” could receive up to $320,000 from the state and $80,000 from the county for an “expansion of the corporate headquarters and medical device manufacturing project.” Naples Daily News, 4/24/19

Naples City Council

Reporting and insight by Brent Batten and Lisa Conley - Naples Daily News
Next elections: February 2020; City boundary map here.
  • Planning board approves new luxury movie theater at Coastland Center. If City Council approves it at its May 1 meeting, demolition is to begin by the end of May with a tentative opening of late 2020. Naples Daily News, 4/10/19
  • Residents say Naples' septic tank replacement project has been poorly managed, extremely disruptive. The project is a joint venture with the city in charge of the utilities portion and the county responsible for the stormwater portion of the project. Naples Daily News, 4/14/19
  • Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club redevelopment plan approved by City Council. The vote was unanimous, although councilors Ray Christman and Terry Hutchison separately opposed the exclusion of a third party from the “negative easement” that will protect the golf course as green space. Naples Daily News, 4/17/19
  • Bill Barnett seeks fifth term as Naples mayor. Barnett, 78, has served as either a council member or mayor on and off since 1984 when he was first elected to the City Council. Naples Daily News, 4/18/19

Marco Island City Council

Reporting by Devan Patel - Naples Daily News / Marco Eagle
Next elections: November 2020
  • Marco council approves ordinance requiring supermajority vote for major capital expenses. By a 4-3 vote, approval will be more difficult for capital purchases that are greater than 10 percent of the average of the last four years of general fund revenues. Marco Eagle, 4/23/19
  • City council sets meeting to interview Marco Island city manager candidates. They will host the five finalists from May 5-7 and hold a special meeting on the final day for a public interview session. Marco Eagle, 4/23/19
Meanwhile, turmoil continued as interim City Manager David Harden dealt with the departure of Police Chief Al Schettino:
  • MIPD, police supporters organize to keep chief. Emails from police personnel and comments from supporters of the department show events at the City Council meeting, which included armed officers in uniform entering council chambers to support the chief, were orchestrated to undermine the authority of the city manager. Marco Eagle, 4/4/19
  • EEOC complaint details Marco police discrimination, information leaks, potential perjury. The complaint not only alleges gender discrimination but states that Chief Schettino leaked information about a battery investigation into the former city manager and along with a former councilman, sought his ouster. Marco Eagle, 4/12/19
  • Marco city manager says police chief decision stands. Harden’s decision to seek new leadership for the department appears unwavering despite overwhelming support for the embattled chief. Marco Eagle via Naples Daily News, 4/16/19

Collier County School Board

Reporting by Rachel Fradette - Naples Daily News; Heather Doane - Leadership Collier Foundation
Next elections: August 2020
  • Superintendent Kamela Patton honored as 2019 Leadership alumna. “In light of Dr. Patton’s game-changing leadership in public education and CCPS’s annual participation in our Leadership Collier Foundation programs, we felt she was most deserving of this recognition,” said Michael Dalby, CEO - Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce. Naples Daily News, 4/12/19
  • Collier School Board proposes changes to student code of conduct. It considers expanding its zero tolerance policy relating to weapons on campus to include “simulation” of gun use. The annual review of policies will continue at the board’s next meeting. Naples Daily News, 4/17/19
  • Collier, Lee educators join statewide 'walk-in' for more state funding. Collier School Board member Stephanie Lucarelli, who joined walk-in at the Barron Collier High School, said her participation shows that the district and School Board support more state funding. All Collier School Board members were expected to participate in a walk-in, according to the union. Naples Daily News, 4/17/19

Fire Districts

Reporting by Jake Allen - Naples Daily News
Next elections: August 2020. Find your fire district HERE.
  • North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District approves contract for new chief. Deputy Chief Eloy Ricardo, a 19-year veteran of the district and Florida’s 2018 Professional Firefighter of the Year, will replace retiring Chief James Cunningham. Naples Daily News, 4/11/19
  • Opinion: Moving technology forward to better the community. Automating the 9-1-1 countywide dispatch system and removing 1960s-era VHF audio tones from dispatch broadcasts are helping fire agencies move toward goal of a 240-second arrival 90 percent of the time. By J. Christopher Lombardo, Chairman - North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District via Naples Daily News, 4/23/19

That’s it for April’s local news. Next up: State News in Review!