Thursday, August 31, 2017

August 2017 Month In Review - State News

State news this month was dominated by fallout from some of the Legislature’s past actions, while 2018 election campaigns got underway for a few key statewide races. The 2018 Legislative session begins on January 9; committee meetings are to begin in mid-September.

Top stories

  • Florida Legislature, agency let $20 million in federal aid for mental health care expire without replacing it. Now, in the midst of an opioid crisis, Naples could lose substance abuse services for 219 people. Naples Daily News
    • Related: Sen. Jack Latvala urges Gov. Rick Scott to fill funding gap by executive order. The Florida Senate budget chief and 2018 gubernatorial candidate’s letter to Scott was also signed by Senate President Joe Negron and Senate President Pro Tempore Anitere Flores. Naples Daily News
  • After ‘hard and messy’ battle, Visit Florida faces new problems. Weeks after Gov. Scott struck a compromise with House Speaker Richard Corcoran allowing new regulations on the governor’s pet tourism agency in return for its $76 million budget, the marketing of one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations is in “serious disarray.” Tampa Bay Times
  • Power companies pumped $166,400 to Florida lawmakers who control their watchdog group. As state lawmakers work to fill three Florida Public Service Commission vacancies, it’s abundantly clear why the watchdog board has no teeth: Every single politician deciding who gets to sit on the board has taken thousands of dollars in campaign donations from power and fossil-fuel companies. Miami New Times
    • Related: Editorial: Florida’s broken system for selecting utility watchdogs. Utility companies contribute heavily to the campaigns of state lawmakers who serve on the PSC nominating council or appoint those who do. History shows these lawmakers favor applicants friendly to the utilities they are supposed to watchdog. It’s time to revisit how PSC members are selected. Sun-Sentinel
  • South Florida Water Management District emails show U.S. Sugar Corp. lobbyist’s influence. The District changed course immediately after a Dec. 2014 meeting with the lobbyist, halting planned rules meant to protect Florida waterways from pollutants in favor of a plan that “takes polluters at their word and holds no one accountable” if water quality suffers. TCPalm
  • Army Corps not ready to help South Florida Water Management District on Lake Okeechobee reservoir, asking for another month to make sure the Corps’ participation was “legally sufficient, policy compliant and implementable.” The SFWMD and Corps are supposed to have a basic design for the reservoir when the Legislature begins its 2018 session in January. TCPalm
    • Related: State may pay more on reservoir because its request will require the Corps to repurpose a project Congress already authorized. How much the federal government is willing to cover might have to be reconsidered. TCPalm
  • Florida’s Stand Your Ground change unconstitutional, second Miami judge rules. The ruling adds to an ongoing legal fight over whether lawmakers overstepped their authority when they revised the law to shift the burden to prosecutors, who are now forced to disprove a defendant’s claim of self-defense. Miami Herald
  • Florida Supreme Court strikes blow to death row inmates. The issue was whether all death row inmates should benefit from rulings by the U.S. and Florida Supreme Courts that struck down the state’s death penalty as unconstitutional because it didn’t require a unanimous jury vote. Palm Beach Post
  • Legal challenge to charter-friendly education law grows to 10 districts. The 274-page HB 7069 covers a wide range of provisions, some easing the ways in which charter schools can open and secure tax dollars.  News-Journal
    • Related: Editorial: Suing state over HB 7069 is understandable move for school boards. Lee County School Board members made the right decision to go to court against the state over approval of House Bill 7069. Naples Daily News
    • Related: Editorial “Kick”: School Board members Kelly Lichter and Erika Donalds opposed putting a review of HB 7069 by the district’s attorney on the board’s next agenda because it would be “divisive.” "We’d think members of any elected board would welcome a legal presentation on a 'divisive' issue. The ensuing discussion is only as “divisive” as the rhetoric the elected leaders then use when debating it." Naples Daily News
  • Sen. Passidomo of Naples to lead education budget committee. She replaces Sen. David Simmons, who voted against the highly contested HB 7069. The Senate PreK–12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee is responsible for cobbling together the Senate’s education budget. Naples Daily News
    • Related: Senator Simmons replaced  by a “first term senator from Naples who just moved up from the House” and who supported HB 7069, the religious expression bill and the textbook review bill. Florida League of Women Voters
    • Related: Text messages reveal behind-the-scenes battle over charter school bill. Politico
  • Sen. Passidomo sets Collier’s 2018 Legislative Delegation meeting for October 19. Local government entities, businesses, organizations, and citizens are encouraged to “use this opportunity to share with the delegation” local bills and local budget requests in advance of the 2018 Legislative Session as well as issues they would like to see addressed by state government. Immokalee Bulletin
  • Florida textbook law: America’s fight over facts continues. The law, the first of its kind in the nation, allows any state resident to formally challenge instructional materials. A Collier County resident claims that "any textbook including climate change information should leave open the possibility that humans are not at fault….” Time
  • Florida will pay $82,000 after losing vote-by-mail lawsuit. The Florida Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee sued last year because state law did not require voters to be notified if their signatures on their ballot and voter registration forms don’t match. The Florida Legislature changed the law this spring. Tampa Bay Online
  • Trump nominates State Rep. Carlos Trujillo (R-Miami) to UN post, making the “powerful” Florida House budget chief one of UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s four deputies. The district stretches from western Miami-Dade County into Collier County. Miami Herald
    • Related: Trujillo won’t resign from Florida Legislature for Trump administration post. Trujillo said he confirmed that the position would not require him to abandon his elected office, thereby avoiding a special election to replace him in House District 105, a Republican-leaning seat. Miami Herald

Top editorials and commentaries

  • Editorial: Voters may get chance to close loophole in law. Florida’s write-in provision has undermined hundreds of elections over the past 17 years. This could change in November 2018 if the state’s Constitution Revision Commission approves a proposed constitutional amendment offered by Dave Aronberg, state attorney for Palm Beach County. Treasure Coast Newspapers via Naples Daily News
  • Editorial: Whatever happened to home rule in Florida? Legislators chafe at federal regulations that come from Washington. Then they turn around and hand down their own edicts, handcuffing local officials who want to do what’s best for their constituents, but find they can’t because of the heavy-handedness from Tallahassee. Treasure Coast Newspapers via Naples Daily News
  • Commentary: Money is following for-profit schools, not students. Proposed constitutional amendments likely in 2018 will be designed to “give Republicans a free hand to privatize our public schools, increase public school tax funds going to for-profit charter corporations, legalize vouchers, and continue to siphon funds out of public school districts coffers.” Mark J. Castellano, President - Teachers Association of Lee County, News-Press

Election news

2018 Race for Governor 

  • Nine Republicans, 5 Democrats, 2 NPA, 1 LPF and 1 CPF have filed to run for governor in 2018. Florida Dept of State
  • Contributions totaling $6 million have been reported to date. Topping the list are Republicans Adam Putnam ($2.3 million) and Democrats Chris King ($1.7 million) and Gwen Graham ($1.1 million). Florida Dept of State
  • Florida Insider Poll: Who is the true conservative in the mix for governor? The “clear winner,” with 41 percent, was U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, followed by Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, with 29 percent, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam with 24 percent and state Sen. Jack Latvala with 6 percent. Tampa Bay Times

2018 Race for Agriculture Commissioner

  •  Four Republicans and 2 Democrats have filed to run for agriculture commissioner in 2018. Florida Dept of State
  • Contributions totaling $4 million have been reported so far by the six candidates. Republican former state Rep. Baxter Griffin Troutman reported a personal contribution $2.5 million, far surpassing all others. Florida Dept of State
  • Matt Caldwell, Denise Grimsley square off for Florida’s agriculture commissioner. Both top Republicans with Lee County ties, they are among those running in what “promises to be the first competitive GOP primary in 25 years” for Florida’s agriculture commissioner. And there is already a flood of contributions from special interests. Naples Daily News

Stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll report on August’s top local government and school district news.

Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can read Sparker’s Soapbox online at or subscribe to posts by email at

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

July 2017 Month in Review - Local News

Last month, Collier County Commissioners and staff continued to discuss how to address competing needs to pay for new growth as well as improvements to existing aging infrastructure. The Naples City Council also considered growth-related issues in July. The Collier County School Board approved the District’s tentative FY 2018 budget and adopted 2018 legislative priorities, and the District introduced new and exciting opportunities for students.

Top stories: Collier County

  • Collier ponders how to tax for roads, affordable housing, land conservation to wipe out a backlog of almost $50 million. Read more at
    • Related: Sales tax hike considered in Collier County. A one percent tax would generate about $70 million a year, according to Commissioner Burt Saunders. Read more at
  • Collier backs down on tax increase to conserve land after “strong opposition” from local real estate agents, Republican committee members and state representatives.  It will instead ask voters in a 2018 referendum whether they want to bring back a special tax to fund Conservation Collier to buy and convert preserve land. Read more at
  • Changes coming to Immokalee impact fees. Collier Commissioners approved a measure that will allow developers and future property owners in Immokalee to pay impact fees over 10, 20, or even 30 years rather than upfront. Read more at
  • Four sites owned by Collier County could be used for affordable housing. A decision on which, if any, of the lots to offer to developers will be made in September. Map here. Read more at
  • Collier looks to density to encourage more self-contained villages in the 77,000 acres immediately east of Collier Boulevard and north and south of Golden Gate Estates where planners expect a large part of the county’s projected population boom. Read more at
  • Collier approves closer-together high-rises near North Naples beach despite outcry from neighbors. Commissioners decided developers were following the code as it was written. Read more at
  • Estero the latest to bail on SWFL Regional Planning Council.. First Sarasota County, then Lee and Charlotte Counties left. And with Collier “on the brink of an exit,” the body is now starting to lose municipal members as well. Read more at
    • Related: Collier weighs halt in funding of Regional Planning Council; Immokalee’s “Promise Zone” funding might be at risk. Read more at
  • Collier County bans medical marijuana dispensaries, for now. Commissioners voted 4–1 to keep the dispensaries from opening until at least Dec. 31 so they can lobby state lawmakers for more control over the number of dispensaries that could open. Read more at
  • Work begins to keep Clam Pass in North Naples clear of sand for the third time in four years, just a year after a major dredging project. Read more at
  • Clam Bay manatee speed zone challenge set for September hearing in Tallahassee. The matter is the latest in a “long-standing feud” between Pelican Bay and the Seagate community over boating in Clam Bay. Read more at

Top editorials and commentaries: Collier County

  • Editorial: local sales tax - worth examining pluses, drawbacks.The County has much catching up to do on recession-delayed roads, bridges, parks and other infrastructure to manage both current and future growth. The question is how to pay for them. Read more at
    • Related Commentary: Sales tax possible way to pay for Collier projects. “We applaud” commissioners’ decision to determine where the “unmet critical capital needs” are, prioritize, and consider how to best fund them. By Michael Dalby, President and CEO - Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, at
    • Related Commentary: Tax increase discussions - enough already? People prioritize their needs and live within a budget. Counties should, too. By Janet Vasey, at
  • Commentary: Eye-popping number of high-end homes anchor Collier’s tax base, meaning the well-off pay a larger share of the cost of running county government and schools. By Brent Batten, at
  • Commentary: Ready, willing to remit bed taxes to Collier County. But “turning over personal identifiable information — including names and addresses — of our local hosts” to the County is “something we cannot do.” By Tom Martinelli, Policy Director, Airbnb Florida, at
    • Related Commentary: Home rentals a money vs. neighborhood issue. Very short-term, even daily, rentals in our residential neighborhoods “don’t belong” in our community. Read more from Bill Barnett, Mayor - Naples at
  • Commentary: North Collier, Immokalee fire discuss expanding “already successful” interlocal agreements to bolster efficiency. By Norman Feder, Chairman - North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District board of commissioners at
  • Commentary: How will ocean rise affect Collier County? There will be some inland flooding by 2050, and by 2100 many cities could be swamped. The timing is uncertain, but the end result is not. Read more from Linda Penniman, Vice Mayor - Naples, and Dave Trecker, vice chairman - Collier Citizens Council, at

Top stories: City of Naples

  • Plans show massive condo complex at former Naples Daily News site on Central Avenue. The project benefits from density bonuses approved by the Naples City Council. Read more at
  • Lawsuit charges Naples ignored precedent in denying redevelopment request. Developer wants to tear down and rebuild a single-family house at his property in Old Naples. Read more at
  • Naples officials considering no-boating zone near Lowdermilk Park. The proposal would exclude boating and personal watercraft within 500 feet of Lowdermilk’s coast at the beach end of Banyan Boulevard. Read more at

Top stories and editorials: Collier County Public Schools

  • School Board approves tentative $1 billion budget and a property tax millage rate of $5.1220 per $1,000, down from $5.234 per $1,000 this year. With increased property values, the lower millage rate will result in a 2 percent increase in dollars collected. The vote was 4–1. The board will vote again in September on a final budget, but the property tax rate is final. Read more at
  • Collier School Board adopts 2018 state legislative priorities. They include more time to implement new mandates, funding for major changes, and reduced testing. The 2018 legislative session begins in January. Read more at
  • Collier district expands Cambridge Programs to gifted and high-achieving elementary students. The district now offers the “rigorous curriculum aimed at developing critical thinking and skills fostering collaboration” in grades three through high school. It plans to expand it to kindergarten, first and second grades next year. Read more at
  • 14 Collier high school students attend National Flight Academy in Pensacola through a student enrichment program of the NAACP of Collier County in collaboration with School District. Read more at
  • Editorial: Collaboration makes Collier ready for children’s future. Behind-the-scenes over the past two years, a “blossoming network” called Future Ready Collier has drawn together about 40 organizations and public agencies to address two goals: to ensure all children are ready for kindergarten, and to make sure those finishing school will graduate on track to earn a degree or credential for employment. Read more at
  • Editorial: Local success a plus, state a minus for education in ’17. Kudos have come nonstop for Collier County Public Schools. Read more at

Election news

  • Roy Terry seeks re-election to Collier School Board District 5. Read more at
  • Also filed to run for election in 2018, according to the Collier Supervisor of Elections website:
    • Kathy Ryan - for School Board District 3
    • Andy Solis (REP) - for reelection to Board of County Commissioners District 2
    • Cecil G. Jorgensen (REP) - for Board of County Commissioners District 4
    • Candidates for County Judge Groups 1, 2 and 6
    • Candidates for Greater Naples Fire District Seats 3 and 4
  • 2018 Naples City Council candidates, according to Naples City Clerk website:
    • James Moon
    • Mitchell Norgart
    • Wynn Phillips

News happens daily! Stay current with Sparker’s Soapbox on Facebook at

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