Thursday, August 30, 2018

Recap and reflections on the August primaries

The August elections are behind us, and I assume you've seen the results. In this post, I’ll just recap the races and issues that were on Collier voters’ ballots and link to related news articles for color and background. Then I’ll share my thoughts about voter participation and look ahead to the November elections.

The results: Statewide races
  • U.S. Senate, Republican primary: Rick Scott. The increasingly bitter — and expensive — showdown with Bill Nelson could play a decisive role in which party controls the Senate. Herald-Tribune, 8/28/18
  • U.S. House, District 19, Democratic primary: David Holden. He has the “unenviable task” of trying to unseat Francis Rooney. Naples Daily News via News-Press, 8/28/18
  • Governor, Republican primary: Ron DeSantis. A presidential endorsement propelled him to victory, drawing to a close a contest that pitted the Trump-backed candidate against a longtime Florida politician who made his Sunshine State credentials the central part of his campaign. Sun Sentinel, 8/28/18
  • Governor, Democrat primary: Andrew Gillum. He shocked Florida’s political class and became the first black nominee for governor in the nation’s largest swing state, fueled by grassroots energy and big donor dollars. Politico Florida, 8/28/18
  • Attorney General, Republican primary: Ashley Moody. The election was filled with drama and nastiness on both sides. Naples Daily News via News-Press, 8/28/18
  • Attorney General, Democratic primary: Sean Shaw. He captured the Democratic nomination for state Attorney General in a historic fashion — by having his only same-party opponent knocked off the primary ballot. Florida Politics, 8/28/18
  • Commissioner of Agriculture, Republican primary: Matt Caldwell. He has no intention of moderating his conservative, pro-gun, pro-Trump campaign in the race to the November general election. Naples Daily News via News-Press, 8/28/18
  • Commissioner of Agriculture, Democrat primary: Nikki Fried. “Extreme conservatism … is not what the rest of the state of Florida is looking for," Fried said. Naples Daily News via News-Press, 8/28/18
  • State Attorney, 20th Judicial Circuit, Republican primary: Amira Fox. The victory all but assures her of becoming the third state attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit; she faces a write-in candidate in November. News-Press via Naples Daily News, 8/29/18
  • Florida House, District 105, Democratic primary: Javier Estevez. In a District that includes parts of Miami-Dade, Broward and Collier counties, Estevez, with 51.64 percent of the vote, defeated primary opponent Ross Hancock. Florida Politics, 8/29/18
  • Circuit Judge, 20th Judicial Circuit, Group 8, Nonpartisan: John Owen McGowan. He won the open judge seat, beating James Chandler by 15.6 percentage points. Charlotte Sun, 8/29/18
For an insider recap from Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon at Politico Florida, click here — it’s worth the read!

The results: Local races
  • Collier County Commission, District 2, Universal primary: Andy Solis (R). With no opponent, Solis won a four-year term by defeating primary challenger Brad Schiffer. Naples Daily News, 8/28/18
  • Collier County Commission, District 4, Republican primary: Penny Taylor. Incumbent Taylor, seeking a second term, will face Democrat Gary Petit-Dor in November. Naples Daily News, 8/28/18
  • Collier County Clerk of Courts, Universal primary: Crystal K. Kinzel (R). She “easily defeated” challenger Don Berry to retain the Clerk of Court’s post she was appointed to two months ago. Naples Daily News, 8/28/18
  • Collier County School Board, District 3, Nonpartisan: Jen Mitchell. One of her biggest priorities will be to figure out a better way to attract and retain good teachers. Naples Daily News, 8/28/18
  • Collier County School Board, District 5, Nonpartisan: Roy M. Terry. He hopes to expand the district’s trade and vocational training programs and increase the school from seven to eight period blocks to allow students to take more elective classes. Naples Daily News, 8/28/18
  • Circuit Judge, 20th Judicial Circuit, Group 8, Nonpartisan: John Owen McGowan. The Naples-based defense attorney who focuses primarily on criminal and civil litigation held endorsements from State Attorney Stephen Russell and the sheriffs of Lee, Hendry and Glades counties. Charlotte Sun, 8/29/18
  • Collier County Judge, Group 2, Nonpartisan: Blake Adams and James Moon. The top-two vote-getters face a runoff election in November.

The results: Referenda
  • North Collier Fire Fee: No. Residents of Bentley Village, who rallied against the fee, celebrated a hard-fought victory. Naples Daily News, 8/28/18
  • Immokalee Fire Fee: No. Firefighters, the Fire Chief said, are questioning how they can serve a community that doesn't appear to want them anymore. He warns that layoffs and cuts in services won't be far off. Naples Daily News, 8/28/18
  • Marco Island EMS: No. Added taxation and uncertainty over the city government’s ability to take on additional responsibility seemed to doom the measure, which proponents said was necessary to ensure a second ambulance stationed on Marco Island at all times. Naples Daily News, 8/28/18

My thoughts about voter participation
For purposes of Sparker's Soapbox, I’m more interested in voter turnout than I am in who wins. And before I dug into the numbers, I was feeling pretty good about the results. The Naples Daily News reported “voters exceed primary turnout predictions,” and statewide turnout was the “highest for a midterm primary since 2002.” (Voter turnout is defined as ballots cast divided by eligible voters as of the bookclosing date.)

But here are the unofficial voter turnout figures as of today: Collier County: 33.6 percent; Florida: 27.4 percent. They may be near-records, and it’s certainly better than 2014, but it’s still pathetic.

In addition to voter turnout, I look at “voter participation,” which I define as ballots cast divided by eligible voters on a race-by-race basis. For example, in a closed Republican primary, I look at the bookclosing number of registered Republicans in the district. Just as I found in 2014 (see Reflections on Tuesday's Elections), voter participation is even more disappointing than voter turnout, because of under-voting.


Under-votes reflect the fact that not everyone who casts a ballot votes in every race on her/his ballot. Reasons might include not wanting to make an uneducated choice, not liking any of the choices, or simply “ballot fatigue” resulting from a lengthy ballot.

As in 2014, Republican turnout is better than that of Democrats, and participation of those who are neither is lower than both, bringing down countywide results. Participation in school board and judge races is among the lowest in the primaries. 

While I am dismayed by these results, it makes me more determined than ever to keep doing what I’m doing in Sparker's Soapbox. I just wish more voters were regular readers.

In the coming days, there will be more analyses of the results of these races, and predictions for November. I’ll share the particularly interesting ones in upcoming Month-in-Review posts.

Looking ahead to November
I wrote previously that, while I understood Vote By Mail voters’ reasons for wanting to mail their ballots as soon as they received them, I cautioned against it. I said there were often last minute developments that might affect how one might vote, and I urged waiting as long as possible.

These were some late-breaking developments that might have affected voters’ decisions in these primary elections:
  • School Board candidate Mary Ellen Cash was fired from Collier district in 2012; job performance, behavior cited. Naples Daily News, 7/25/18
  • State Attorney candidate Chris Crowley turns himself in, accused of violating campaign laws. Naples Daily News, 8/6/18
  • Palm Beach billionaire’s past legal fights haunt bid for governor. Politico Florida, 8/17/18
  • Florida judge orders Democrat Ryan Torrens, candidate for Attorney General, to be removed from ballot. Orlando Sentinel, 8/27/18
On November 6, we'll have the opportunity to vote for a U.S. Senator and Congressmen, Governor and Cabinet, State Senators and State Representatives, State Attorney, Public Defender, County Commissioner, members of Fire District Boards and other local bodies, and judges. We'll also vote on a number of proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution and a County sales surtax. 

Many of the races will be very expensive and in some cases nasty, and a lot of dirt is likely to be dished. As I did this time, I’ll likely hold off on mailing my ballot until the last minute.

Between now and then, I’ll research the races that will be on our ballot. I will again ask: Who are the candidates? What are their educational background, work experience, history of community service, and sources of campaign funds? Most importantly, why are they running, can they win, and what will they do if elected? I'll also research the proposed amendments and sales tax. And I’ll share what I learn on Sparker's Soapbox

Stay tuned -- and help spread the word.



Saturday, August 18, 2018

A few last words before voting

August 28, 2018
Primary Elections in Florida
I published my tentative voting decisions a few weeks ago, but have been monitoring the news daily. So far, I’m still comfortable with all but one of them: the Democrat I would vote for for Governor, which I’ll discuss below.

In this post, I’ll share links to the Naples Daily News’ endorsements, which I always consider before voting in local elections because (1) I respect the Editorial Board’s apparent open-mindedness in considering all the candidates; (2) they hold one-on-one interviews with each of the candidates; and (3) at least two members (Allen Bartlett and Brent Batten) have the historical knowledge and perspective needed to evaluate and place campaign trail claims and accusations in context. I am pleased that in these elections, there is not a single case in which their endorsements differ from my tentative choices.

Next, I’ll share some recent articles you might want to consider before casting your vote. Since I have not written about the local referenda (Marco Island Ambulance, North Naples Fire Fee, and Immokalee Fire Fee), I’ve included articles and pro/con commentaries about each.

Finally, I’ll share my current thinking about the Democratic gubernatorial race.

The Naples Daily News endorsements
  • For State Attorney: Amira Fox — “It should speak volumes to voters that [retiring incumbent Steve] Russell, a virtually unchallenged fixture as state attorney for 15 years, chose Fox in 2014 as chief assistant.“
  • For County Commissioner District 2: Andy Solis — “For heightening Collier’s efforts to locally address mental health-related issues that the state has shortchanged, Solis earns the nod over Brad Schiffer, a candidate who is laser-focused on growth-related and quality of life issues.”
  • For County Commissioner District 4: Penny Taylor — “Taylor has a superior grasp of issues and potential solutions facing both her district and Collier County as a whole, making her the clear choice for Republican voters in District 4.”
  • For Clerk of Courts: Crystal Kinzel —  "As chief deputy clerk since 2016 and the office’s finance director before that, no one is more qualified to step in now than Kinzel.”
  • For School Board District 3: Jen Mitchell — “Mitchell comes well-prepared to step into the role of a board member and is so well-versed in issues facing the district that it’s almost as if she is an incumbent facing re-election.”
  • The institutional knowledge Roy Terry brings to the Collier County School Board makes him an exceptional choice for re-election.... Terry has demonstrated a steady hand as board chairman the past two years and importantly can ensure there’s stability on the board after four years of recurring divisiveness.
  • On Marco Island Ambulance Referendum: Vote NO — “The unknown city manager and November election should give Marco voters pause. We … urge city leaders to then immediately resume negotiations with Collier officials to direct additional tax dollars toward an enhanced EMS presence on Marco Island.”
  • On North Collier Fire Fee Referendum: Vote NO — “We recommend rejecting the referendum based on its rushed timing, insufficient dialogue, regressive nature of the proposed fee and a failure so far to convince citizens that the agency has a financial fire to extinguish.”
  • On Immokalee Fire Fee Referendum: Vote NO — “Before enacting a new fee, today’s chiefs and elected Immokalee fire board must show they are better stewards of taxpayer dollars than was demonstrated through bad purchases in the past.”

Note: The Daily News does not endorse in judicial races because candidates can’t discuss issues, only their backgrounds. It also is not endorsing in this year’s party primaries but will evaluate the winners prior to the general election. Read about their endorsement process here.

News articles of interest
  • Governor race
    • An anomaly or a tide turning? Conventional wisdom shifting as primary election nears. New public opinion polls released this week showed Putnam just two points behind DeSantis, within the margin of error. Florida Phoenix, 8/16/18
    • An overview of Florida's GOP gubernatorial race between Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis. "Trump tweeted his support of an undistinguished Congressman ... and the Republican faithful salivated on cue." Naples Daily News, 8/17/18
    • Palm Beach billionaire’s past legal fights haunt bid for governor. Liked by some and loathed by others, Jeff Greene is invariably described as a headstrong micromanager, a self-assured self-made man who doesn’t hesitate to use the courts and his $3.3 billion net worth to get his way. Politico Florida, 8/17/18
  • Attorney General race
    • Look how negative the GOP race for Florida attorney general has become. In the increasingly bitter primary, Ashley Moody and Frank White have both put out new attack ads against each other – Moody using Florida sheriffs to question White's qualifications, and White continuing his attacks on Moody for having sued Donald Trump over a Tampa real estate deal. Tampa Bay Times, 8/8/18
    • Dems vow to ‘fight’ if elected attorney general. Shaw and Torrens have taken different approaches to the campaign, while sharing stances on issues ranging from opioid manufacturers to their opposition to the state’s “stand your ground” self-defense law. Gainesville Sun, 8/14/18
  • State Attorney race
    • Emails outline concerns about state attorney candidate Chris Crowley's past job performance. Crowley was fired in 2014 as an assistant state attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit. Naples Daily News, 8/2/18
    • State Attorney candidate Chris Crowley turns himself in, accused of violating campaign laws. He faces third-degree felony charges. Naples Daily News, 8/6/18
  • BCC District 2 race
  • BCC District 4 race
  • Clerk of Courts race
    • Two GOP candidates square off to replace Dwight Brock as Collier clerk, comptroller. Naples Daily News, 8/5/18
  • School Board District 5 race
    • School Board candidate Mary Ellen Cash was fired from Collier district in 2012; job performance, behavior cited. Cash said she was not fired and had left the district in 2013. Naples Daily News, 7/25/18
  • Marco Island Ambulance referendum (website)
    • Commentary: One of the most consequential decisions in our city’s history. There are five reasons to vote “yes,” and five reasons to vote “no.” You decide. By Larry Honig, Marco Island City Council member, via Naples Daily News, 7/14/18
    • Editorial: The known and unknown questions on Marco referendum. Voters won’t know before election day if they will get a reduction in county property taxes if they agree to pay higher city taxes to launch their own ambulance service. Naples Daily News, 7/24/18
    • Commentary: Marco Island’s quest for ambulance transport. It is imperative that Marco Island residents understand the full concept of our quest to have our own license to transport patients. By Bob Brown, Marco Island Councilman, via Naples Daily News, 8/15/18
    • Commentary: Tober cites reasons Collier EMS serves Marco well. It doesn’t appear to be motivated by sound medical practices, and may be unsafe. By Robert B. Tober, M.D., Medical director, Collier County Emergency Medical Services, via Naples Daily News, 8/16/18
  • North Naples Fire Fee referendum (website)
    • Brent Batten: Retirees rise up against fire fee. The proposal would lower the property tax and in its place institute a fire assessment fee, resulting in a lower bill for some but a higher bill for others. Naples Daily News, 7/14/17
    • Commentary: Learning more about North Collier fire fee referendum. During the last 10 years, demand for services has increased by more than 62 percent. However, the district’s taxable revenue is nearly the same as it was in 2007. By Norman Feder, Vice Chairman, North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District Board of Commissioners, via Naples Daily News, 7/22/18
    • Commentary: Much more to learn about North Collier fire fee referendum. “Unfair, regressive, arbitrary and subjective” perfectly describes the proposed new “assessment.” Stephen Demidovich, Chairman, No Blank Check PAC, via Naples Daily News, 7/29/18
    • Commentary: Commitment to public safety behind fire fee proposal. If there isn’t additional funding through the non-ad valorem assessment fee, the level of fire and rescue services will be negatively impacted. By James M. Cunningham, Fire chief, North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District, via Naples Daily News, 8/17/18
  • Immokalee Fire Fee referendum (website)
    • Brent Batten: Immokalee fire fee faces foes in churches, businesses. Unlike the proposed change in the North Naples Fire fee, the Immokalee proposal would make no exemptions. Naples Daily News, 7/26/18
    • Brent Batten: Governments walk a fine line between advocacy and information. The Immokalee fire district’s website paints a bleak picture of the future if the addition of a fire service fee does not pass, including laying off firefighters and closing a station. Naples Daily News, 7/28/18

My thinking about the Democratic candidates for governor

I had tentatively decided to support Jeff Greene, writing that “I like his rags-to-riches story as well as his positions on the issues I care about. But it’s his personal wealth that gets him my vote. The Florida governor’s race is going to be one of the most expensive in the country, and as much as I wish it weren’t necessary, Greene is willing and able to spend what it takes to win, and to help other Democrats up and down the ticket.”

But a recent Politico Florida article — Palm Beach billionaire’s past legal fights haunt bid for governor) — has me questioning Greene’s character. If I were to change my mind, I would likely vote for Philip Levine. (See In Florida governor’s race, are Jeff Greene and Phil Levine one in the same?, Tampa Bay Times, 7/30/18.) But for now, the jury's still out.

* * * * * * *

If you have any questions about when, where or what to bring with you to vote, don’t hesitate to call the Collier Supervisor of Elections Office at 239-252-VOTE, or visit their website at www.colliervotes.com. Similarly, if you are a Vote-By-Mail voter, be sure to confirm that your ballot was/is received and counted by calling the Supervisor of Elections or checking the website.

___________________________

Help me reach more Collier County voters by sharing this post with your friends. You and they can read Sparker’s Soapbox online at www.sparkers-soapbox.com or subscribe to posts by email at tinyurl.com/subscribe2soapbox.

News happens daily! Stay current with Sparker’s Soapbox on Facebook at fb.me/sparkers.soapbox or follow me on Twitter @SparkersSoapbox

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Local News in Review - July 2018

Here’s my latest review of news about our local elected officials, governing bodies and upcoming elections.

Top stories


  • School Board candidate Mary Ellen Cash was fired from Collier district in 2012; job performance, behavior cited. Cash is running against Darlene Alvarez and board incumbent Roy Terry in District 5. Naples Daily News, 7/25/18
  • Editorial: Newspaper endorsements waning, Daily News continues. Our editorial board has decided to stick with tradition, but on a more limited basis than previously. Naples Daily News, 7/21/18
  • Commissioners vote to keep property tax rate unchanged as values rise 5.6 percent. The levy won't be officially set until the county holds two public hearings in September. Naples Daily News, 7/10/18

Growth and development


  • Editorial: Midyear report: How are we doing on managing growth? If “growth” makes your blood pressure rise, there’s still time to get involved and have your say. Naples Daily News, 7/3/18
  • Editorial: Midyear report: Catching up on infrastructure and community priorities. A Nov. 6 vote on a list of infrastructure and community projects that would be paid for with a one percent local sales tax is tentatively set. Naples Daily News, 7/11/18; collieronecenttax.com
    • Related: Commentary: Why not use road impact fees, gas taxes instead of extra sales tax? By Thaddeus Cohen, Collier County Growth Management Department, via Naples Daily News, 6/30/18
  • Commentary: New roads, MPO and Rural Lands West. With Ave Maria only one-third built out, what's the hurry for a new town next door? By Bonnie Michaels, League of Women Voters, Collier County, via Naples Daily News, 7/3/18
  • Commentary: Are we planning for the right future in Collier County? Citizens over 65 are the largest voting bloc in the county, but their needs apparently aren’t being considered in proportion to their numbers. By Doug Hartman, Chairman, Collier senior advisory committee, via Naples Daily News, 7/16/18
  • Brent Batten: Don't make Bonita's flooding Collier's problem, commissioner warns. District 2 Commissioner Andy Solis wants the Board to oppose diversion of water from Bonita Springs “until a cooperative and coordinated review is completed with Collier County.” Naples Daily News, 7/7/18

Environmental protection


  • Editorial: Midyear report: Slow path on environmental protection. We’re encouraged by some movement, yet the lingering question is whether it’s fast enough. Naples Daily News, 7/4/18
  • Collier County land preservation program moving too slowly for some conservationists. The expiration of the tax to pay for Conservation Collier purchases has complicated new acquisitions. Naples Daily News, 7/10/18
    • Related: Editorial: Commissioners right to continue Conservation Collier acquisitions. Naples Daily News, 7/19/18

Housing


  • Editorial: Midyear report: How are we doing on attainable housing? The framework of a community housing plan is in place, but providing enough safe, decent places to live within a price range that’s affordable to the workforce and seniors in Collier County remains a work in progress. Naples Daily News, 7/7/18
  • Commentary: Shift affordable housing focus to economic diversity. County leaders should focus on housing, but focus it where the jobs are, where people can have shorter commutes and not clog up arterial roads. By Jacob Winge, Director, East Naples Civic Association, via Naples Daily News, 7/21/18
  • Editorial: Avoid East Naples for housing? The next time you hear someone say there already is too much housing for the workforce, families and seniors in East Naples, ask, “Do you mean the part of East Naples where you live?” Naples Daily News, 7/28/18

Fees and taxes


  • Commentary: Learning more about North Collier fire fee referendum. By Norman Feder, Vice chairman, North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District board of commissioners, via Naples Daily News, 7/22/18
  • Brent Batten: Retirees rise up against fire fee. North Collier Fire District proposal on the August ballot would result in a lower bill for some but a higher bill for others. Naples Daily News, 7/14/17
  • Brent Batten: Immokalee fire fee faces foes in churches, businesses. Unlike the proposed change in the North Naples Fire fee, the Immokalee proposal would make no exemptions. Naples Daily News, 7/26/18

Other County news


  • Collier County reinvests in business accelerators after disputes, changes. But some question whether taxpayers' money should be used to support them. Naples Daily News, 7/7/18
  • Innovation Zone OK'd by Collier Commission to spur economic development in East Naples. The county hopes to create higher-paying jobs outside its three primary industries: agriculture, hospitality and construction/real estate. Naples Daily News, 7/10/18
  • Collier on the brink of learning how much is here in the arts and what it can do. County commissioners offered matching funds up to $50,000 for a consultant to help it develop an arts and culture strategic plan. Naples Daily News, 7/7/18
  • Brent Batten: Collier hires firm to sell naming rights, starting with amateur sports complex. Commissioners approved a contract for $150,000 — an amount that could grow significantly over five years — to market naming rights for county facilities. Naples Daily News, 7/12/18
  • Editorial kudo to Commissioner Bill McDaniel. He urged the Commission to do away with its 60-day summer break, noting that important business takes place during that time and that commissioners represent a permanent population of 360,000 people. Naples Daily News, 7/13/18
  • Editorial kudo to Collier Board of County Commissioners. Their decision in early July to accept and distribute more than $3 million of federal grants will benefit projects by Habitat for Humanity, Youth Haven and the Shelter for Abused Women and Children. Naples Daily News, 7/27/18

City of Naples


  • City Council accuses Ethics Naples executive director of violating city's code of ethics. The allegations are the latest in a series of battles between the city and the Ethics Naples PAC. Judge Hayes is scheduled to hear the case Aug. 21. Naples Daily News, 7/25/18
    • Related : Editorial kick to Naples mayor and city attorney. Naples Daily News, 7/27/18

City of Marco Island


  • FDOT has schedule for repairing Jolley Bridge streetlights. State official credits Commissioner Donna Fiala’s advocacy for keeping the issue top-of-mind. Marco Eagle, 7/24/18
  • Editorial: The known and unknown questions on Marco referendum. Voters won’t know before election day if they will get a reduction in county property taxes if they agree to pay higher city taxes to launch their own ambulance service. Naples Daily News, 7/24/18
  • Commentary: One of the most consequential decisions in our city’s history. By Larry Honig, Marco Island City Council member, via Naples Daily News, 7/14/18
  • Commentary: Local control – the choice is yours. By Jared Grifoni, Chairman, Marco Island City Council, via Marco Eagle, 7/27/18

City of Everglades City


  • Former Everglades City Mayor Hamilton accused of grand theft, official misconduct. FDLE found Hamilton had used his position to steal almost $48,000 in taxpayers' money and authorized and issued 16 fraudulent checks under the guise of official business. Naples Daily News, 7/17/18

Collier County Public Schools


  • Conservatives back away from Collier School Board race, shift focus to state. Members of the far right said they have given up on the Collier County School Board and instead are focusing on implementing changes at the state level. Naples Daily News, 7/27/18
  • CCPS receives $3 million for workforce training. The Florida Job Growth Fund grant was awarded to develop the Southwest Florida Manufacturing Excellence Center at Immokalee Technical College. Naples Daily News, 7/5/18; Gov. Scott News Release, 7/2/18

Local elections


  • Record number of vote-by-mail ballots for primary sent to uniformed, overseas voters. A higher number were sent this year than in 2016, when the ballot included presidential candidates. Naples Daily News, 7/17/18
  • Collier commissioners, challengers discuss mental health, growth, sales tax at forum. The four candidates laid out their spending priorities, should they be elected or re-elected. Naples Daily News, 7/9/18
  • Safety, teacher retention and charter schools among topics of Collier school board forum. Candidates discussed their priorities and the issues currently facing the school district. Marco Eagle, 7/12/18
  • School Board candidates discuss bullying, reading scores, term limits at conservative group forum. Naples Daily News, 7/16/18

That’s it for July’s local news. Stay tuned in the coming days for how I will vote on my August ballot!



Thursday, August 2, 2018

State News in Review - July 2018

There's little to feel good about in July’s news about our state government. It's another reminder that it's important to stay informed so we can hold elected officials accountable at the ballot box.

Top stories


  • Gov. Scott declares state of emergency over algae bloom. The order allows the Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District to waive restrictions in order to help alleviate the water discharges that are causing the blooms. Sun-Sentinel, 7/9/18; News Release, 7/9/18
    • Related: How Florida's algae crisis is affecting tourism and other businesses. Naples Daily News, 7/14/18
  • Editorial kick: a disgraceful disenfranchising of the majority of Southwest Florida voters. Attorney Joseph P. Hoffman’s filing as a write-in candidate for State Attorney, 20th Circuit, prevents at least 438,500 registered voters from having a say in the Fox-Crowley primary. Naples Daily News, 7/20/18
    • Related: Editorial: Disenfranchising state attorney voters is shameful. Blame members of the  Florida Constitution Revision Commission, every member of the Lee and Collier legislative delegations, and just about all members of the Florida Legislature for that matter. Naples Daily News, 5/12/18

The “good news”


  • Florida lawmakers OK use of $19M federal grant for election security after hack attempts, a week after a federal indictment alleged Russian hackers targeted county offices before the 2016 presidential election. Associated Press via Naples Daily News, 7/20/18
  • Judge strikes down Florida's campus ban on early voting. In a scathing ruling, he called the ban put in place by Secretary of State Ken Detzner unconstitutional, saying it appeared to be done to stop younger voters from casting ballots. Tallahassee Democrat via Naples Daily News, 7/25/18
  • State fixes voter registration problem with simple updates. A problem that had activists worried about voter suppression was solved by informing users they had to enter personal information “EXACTLY” as it appears on their driver license. Politico Florida, 7/23/18
  • Army Corps pledges $500 million to fix Lake O's aging dike. State leaders have pressured the federal agency to fix the dike since a 2006 engineering report pronounced the massive earthen ring around Florida's largest lake "a grave and imminent danger to the people and environment of South Florida." Miami-Herald, 7/6/18
  • Army Corps approves reservoir to cut Lake Okeechobee discharges. The plan to build a reservoir south of Lake O can now be included in the federal Water Resources and Development Act, the list of water projects throughout the country to be done by the Corps. The federal government is to pay half the project’s $1.6 billion cost. News-Press, 7/11/18

Gun permit saga continues


  • Problems with concealed weapons permits in Putnam’s office were first discovered in 2012. Forty-eight Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services employees made mistakes while issuing concealed weapon permits and armed security guard or similar licenses. In all, two concealed weapons permits and one armed security guard license were revoked. Associated Press via Tampa Bay Times, 7/3/18
  • Ex-supervisor in Adam Putnam’s gun-license unit warned of ‘gross misconduct,’ sued and got $30,000 settlement. In a whistle-blower lawsuit, the former chief of the Bureau of License Issuance said she was threatened with retaliation for saying workers were deficient in processing licensing applications, and that her bosses told her she "worked for the NRA." Tampa Bay Times via Naples Daily News, 7/16/18
  • Auditors reviewing Putnam’s office over concealed carry background checks. It’s not clear when the audit will be finished, but the review was underway before news stories revealed problems in the office. Herald Tribune, 7/24/18

Education


  • Florida Board of Education adopts rules on scholarships for bullied students. After questioning by Board member Tom Grady of Naples, the Board was satisfied there are safeguards in place to prevent fraud. Tampa Bay Times, 7/18/18
    • Related: Commentary: Florida’s new school-voucher plan for bullying is a farce. Orlando Sentinel, 11/24/17
  • Rush job on school safety law causes mental-health conundrum for families, no help from state. A little-noticed provision requires that students – at the time of initial school registration — disclose if they’ve been referred for mental health services. Florida Phoenix, 7/20/18
  • Sides battle over 'high quality' schools requirement. The Florida Supreme Court agreed to hear a long-running case about whether the state has met its constitutional requirement to provide a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality” system of public schools. News Service of Florida, 7/23/18
  • Florida risks losing $1.1 billion in federal funds over ESSA spat. Since the law was passed in 2015, Florida has resisted complying with several of its new accountability requirements. Education Week, 7/23/18

Other state government news


  • Troubled SunPass vendor linked to Gov. Rick Scott. The company won the lucrative, seven-year contract with the help of one of Scott’s top supporters, despite allegations of favoritism and the company’s history of problems, records show. News-Press, 7/25/18
    • Related: Florida halts payments to company with $287 million contract to upgrade SunPass. Sun-Sentinel, 7/16/18
  • Florida Legislature keeps stomping on local laws. Twenty Florida mayors challenged a state law making local gun laws illegal. The state and several others – including AG Pam Bondi, Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam and CFO Jimmy Patronis – filed a motion to get the suit dismissed. Florida Phoenix, 7/17/18
  • Backing beachgoers: Gov. Rick Scott signs executive order to protect public's access. State Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, sponsored the Senate version of the bill that caused widespread confusion about what is and isn't a public beach and left local governments scrambling. Naples Daily News, 7/13/18
    • Related: Commentary: Customary use beach bill widely misunderstood. By State Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, via Naples Daily News, 4/9/18
  • Florida’s embattled director of medical marijuana steps down. He had been appointed in 2015 to lead what was then known as the Office of Compassionate Use, though his job application documented only 15 months of experience consulting on medical marijuana issues and his job was not publicly advertised. Miami-Herald, 7/27/18
    • Related: Legalized smokable medical pot won’t happen anytime soon in Florida, court rules. An appellate court refuses to allow smokable medical marijuana while a legal fight continues to play out. News Service of Florida via Tampa Bay Times, 7/5/18
  • State Supreme Court blocks Gov. Scott’s judicial appointment. At issue is whether Scott or the voters should fill a vacancy that occurred before the start of an election-qualifying period. News Service of Florida via TheLedger.com, 7/12/18

The governor’s race


  • DeSantis, Graham lead primaries for Florida governor in new Mason-Dixon poll. For Republicans: DeSantis - 41%, Putnam - 29%, undecided - 28%. For Democrats: Graham - 27%, Levine- 18%, Greene - 12%, Gillum -10%, King - 7%, undecided - 25%. Florida Today, 7/27/18
    • Related: RealClearPolitics - Florida governor raceshere.
  • Democrat Jeff Greene discloses finances as part of governor run. Greene, who has promised to spend “whatever it takes” to become Florida’s next governor, is worth about $3.3 billion. His fortune eclipses that of Gov. Rick Scott, worth $232 million, and President Donald Trump, worth $3.1 billion according to Forbes. Palm Beach Post, 7/3/18
  • Who does the Florida House Speaker support for governor? Depends which one you ask. Current Speaker Richard Corcoran endorsed Putnam. Incoming Speaker Jose Oliva, a close ally of Corcoran's in the House on nearly every policy issue, endorsed DeSantis. Tampa Bay Times. 7/2/18

By this time next month, we’ll have the outcome of the August primaries. Stay tuned.

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