Thursday, January 3, 2019

Local News in Review - December 2018

In December, Collier County began planning to implement the one percent sales surtax voters approved in November, both the County Commission and Naples City Council weighed in on the community’s challenge to NCH’s new admissions policy, and the Collier School District’s high school graduation rate rose to 92 percent, ranking it eighth in the state. For these and other top stories in December about our elected local officials and governing bodies, read on! 

Following the news summaries are links to information about upcoming meetings of our elected boards and how you can register for a presentation titled What Does the Clerk Do for You? by Clerk of Courts Crystal Kinzel.

Board of County Commissioners (colliercountyfl.gov)

Next election: August 2020 Primary
On the ballot/incumbent: District 1/Donna Fiala, 3/Burt Saunders, 5/Bill McDaniel
Find your commissioner HERE

Growth, development, redevelopment
  • Golden Gate Estates could get a bus barn, or more shopping. Commissioners voted 4-1 to continue exploring a land swap with the Collier school system. Commissioner McDanial dissented, citing the possibility of selling the parcel to provide something better for residents. Naples Daily News, 12/13/18
  • Collier County will continue its multi-agency approach to economic development — for now. After hearing a report on current programs, how they operate and the return on investment, commissioners decided to stay the course, but indicated they could revisit funding for some programs during the next budget cycle. GNCC Advocacy Watch, 12/15/18
  • Editorial: Planning for future made strides in 2018. A review of significant long-term planning highlights of 2018. Naples Daily News, 12/25/18
  • County adopts policy to constrain Orange Blossom Drive. The stretch of neighborhood road from west of Airport Road to Goodlette Frank Road will remain two lanes and will not be widened. Commissioner Andy Solis, District 2 Newsletter, 12/31/18
  • County will take steps to clear gateway to Vanderbilt Lagoon. Commissioners agreed to front funds to start dredging Water Turkey Bay Channel and form MSTU to fund repayment and future routine channel maintenance. Commissioner Andy Solis, District 2 Newsletter, 12/31/18

Housing
  • U.S. home affordability drops to more than 10-year low in Q4 2018. A family needs annual income of $97,021 (57 percent of median Collier wages) to afford a median-priced home in Collier County, making it among the least affordable places in the country to buy. ATTOM Data Solutions via Naples Daily News editorial, 12/23/18
  • Related: Collier Community Assessment Issue Paper on Housing, Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, 9/18, here
  • Editorial: Kudos and kicks in addressing the burden of housing costs. As 2018 ends, there’s still a chronic need to deliver housing that’s affordable to the workforce, including teachers, first responders and professionals starting their careers, as well as seniors who can’t afford pricey assisted living. Naples Daily News, 12/28/18

Sales tax surcharge
  • Report suggests Collier sales tax could sunset ahead of schedule. Current estimates show the tax will bring in more than $81.5 million in its first nine months, up from initial estimates of $70 million a year. Naples Daily News, 12/11/18
  • Dozens of applicants vie for seat on Collier sales tax oversight committee. They include lawyers, teachers and former Fortune 500 executives. Naples Daily News, 12/15/18
  • Related: Who is applying to sit on Collier's sales tax citizen oversight committee? Naples Daily News, 12/15/18
  • David Lawrence Center lawsuit scheduled for initial court action in January. At issue is a 5-acre parcel of land for a proposed $26 million mental health complex to be paid for with some of the proceeds of the one percent sales surtax. Naples Daily News, 12/22/18
  • Collier County tax increase to go into effect in 2019. Collier County residents and visitors will see the impacts nearly everywhere, including retail stores and restaurants. Groceries, medicines, and gas are all exempt. NBC2 News, 12/26/18
  • Deputy County Manager Casalinguida briefs BCC on sales tax rollout. Sales tax revenues and expenditures will be tracked, monitored by a citizen oversight committee. and regularly reported on to the Commission. Commissioner Andy Solis, District 2 Newsletter, 12/31/18

The environment
  • Commentary: Let’s be honest about plan to protect eastern Collier County. We recognize the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) is not perfect, but it is the only viable plan that delivers protection for over 100,000 acres of well-connected panther habitat and wetlands in private ownership. By Mimi Wolok - Audubon of the Western Everglades, Meredith Budd - Florida Wildlife Federation, and Brad Cornell - Audubon Florida, via Naples Daily News, 12/2/18
  • Commentary: 2019 outlook on our water, land, wildlife and future. We and Collier voters have the opportunity to influence anti-fracking legislation at the state level and plans for the development of eastern Collier County at the local level. By Rob Moher, President and CEO, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, via Naples Daily News, 12/22/18
  • Editorial: Steps forward, backward in environmental protection. A review of positive actions taken in 2018 and concerns for 2019. Worth the read. Naples Daily News, 12/26/18
Other
  • BCC to send letter to NCH about hospital admissions. Commissioner Taylor said the admissions policy change is creating chaos in the community, and Chairman Solis said it didn’t sit well that NCH did not send a representative to the meeting. Naples Daily News, 12/11/18
  • Medical marijuana dispensaries rejected again in Collier. For the second time in the past two months, Commissioners voted down a proposal allowing medicinal marijuana dispensaries in the county. Approval would have required a supermajority vote, and Commissioners Donna Fiala and Penny Taylor voted against the measure. FOX4, 12/12/18
  • BCC creates new mental illness and addiction advisory committee. Its purpose is to help ensure all possible services, treatment, and public and private assistance are provided for county residents struggling with mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders. Press Release, Collier County government, 12/13/18
  • Editorial: On right road to better hurricane preparation. While there were notable accomplishments in 2018, progress is needed in the areas of gasoline availability, generators in nursing homes, and timeliness of federal reimbursement. Naples Daily News, 12/23/18
  • Fuel pump security ordinance requiring safeguards against gas pump skimmers takes effect Jan. 1 Commissioner Burt Saunders proposed the ordinance in response to a growing problem in southwest Florida. Naples Daily News, 12/25/18
  • Search for gravesite spurs 6-year cleanup of county-owned cemetery in Immokalee. After years of efforts by VFW volunteers, the graves of 94 veterans were identified and marked. Naples Daily News, 12/25/18


Naples City Council (naplesgov.com)

Next elections: February 2020
On the ballot/incumbents: Mayor/Bill Barnett; 3 Councilors/Reg Buxton, Michelle McLeod, Ellen Seigel

  • First portion of Baker Park set to open in March. The project, which began with City Council’s approval of the land purchase in 2013, will ultimately cost more than $23 million and be the most expensive public project in Naples history. Naples Daily News, 12/3/18
  • Naples Council to send letter to NCH about hospital admissions. At urging of residents, they will ask NCH leaders to delay the admissions change to allow physicians and the community to weigh in. Naples Daily News, 12/5/18
  • Naples City Council rejects ordinance that would have created ethics commission. The vote was 4-3, with council members Michelle McLeod, Terry Hutchison, Linda Penniman and Gary Price dissenting. Naples Daily News, 12/5/18
  • Naples Council wants to prevent electric, dockless scooters from coming to town. It plans to solidify state law into local law and grandfather it in case state law changes, which might happen if the scooter companies decide to lobby the state Legislature. Naples Daily News, 12/5/18
  • Design Review Board approves $35 million upgrade and expansion of NHC emergency room. The second-floor addition exceeds the height limit in the current medical district and will go to City Council for a final decision. Naples Daily News, 12/7/18
  • Old Naples redevelopment project stalls, drawing complaints. The mixed-use residential and retail project next to the Cove Inn has been untouched since late October when the city's building department issued a stop-work order for improper demolition at the site. Naples Daily News, 12/21/18
  • Naples City Council approves removal of stormwater beach pipes. Portions of Gulf Shore Boulevard will have to be torn up, which could allow for other improvements. Naples Daily News, 12/17/18

Marco Island City Council (cityofmarcoisland.com)

Next elections: November 2020
On the ballot/incumbents: 4 Councilors/Jared Grifoni, Larry Honig, Howard Reed, Charlette Roman

  • Marco police cleared by Collier Sheriff’s office after sexual assault allegations. The accuser had made previous false accusations and has a long history of code violations. Marco Eagle, 12/18/18
  • Marco City Council selects former Delray Beach manager for interim role. Councilor Howard Reed cast the lone dissenting vote, citing multiple reasons for his decision. Marco Eagle, 12/13/18
  • Ex-Marco Island manager censured, barred from professional organization. The decision came after The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) committee on professional conduct engaged a fact-finding committee that was appointed by the Florida City and County Management Association. Marco Eagle, 12/20/18

Collier County School Board (collierschools.com; School Board)

Next elections: August 2020
On the ballot/incumbents: District 2/Stephanie Lucarelli, 4/Erick Carter

  • Collier County Public Schools achieves record 91.9 percent graduation rate. The District ranks eighth of 67 districts in 2018, up from 33rd in 2011. News from CCPS, 12/20/18
  • After more allegations lodged against school, Mason Classical Academy mulling legal action. Five months after submitting a complaint to the Florida Department of Education, the former treasurer of MCA continues to allege nefarious conduct by the public charter school. Marco Eagle via Naples Daily News, 12/3/18
  • District receives clean opinion from Florida Auditor General on fiscal 2018 financial statements. Agenda Item C170, 12/10/18
  • School Board to be briefed on new high school planned to relieve overcrowding at Gulf Coast High at January 8 meeting. Agenda Item C1
  • School Board will be asked to increase funding for appeal of Schools of Hope provisions of HB 7069 at January 8 meeting. Agenda Item D1



Upcoming Events / Meetings of Local Boards

Consider attending (or at least watching live or on-demand) an upcoming meeting of one of our local elected boards. Click the board name for details:

Naples City Council - January 16

What Does the Clerk Do for You? The Clerk of Court & Comptroller has over 1000 designated duties. Join the Clerk along with her directors for Finance, Courts, Recording, MIS, and BMR/VAB departments to learn more about the Office. January 10, 2 - 4 PM (registration required)



Tuesday, January 1, 2019

State News in Review - December 2018

News in the weeks since the November elections has been filled with stories related to the transition. While Collier’s legislative delegation is largely unchanged, the new Governor, Cabinet members, and House and Senate leaders have new priorities. The news highlighted in this post provides a good indication of what to expect in the Legislative Session ahead. Following the review of state news are links to December news by or about Collier’s representatives in Congress.

Public Education
  • More challenges for Florida’s science curricula? Two members of Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis’ transition team for education are linked to efforts to weaken the teaching of evolution and climate change. Education Week, 12/7/18
  • Florida taps Republican politician for top education post. The Board of Education unanimously chose former House Speaker Richard Corcorcan despite being urged to first conduct a national search. APNews via Naples Daily News, 12/18/18
  • DeSantis pledges more voucher funding. Among those in his inner circle, Florida Trend magazine names former House speaker Richard Corcoran and state Rep. Byron Donalds. Tampa Bay Times, 12/22/18

Financing and Delivery of Healthcare
  • Passidomo: Florida's mental health system needs total revamp. Collier's Sen. Kathleen Passidomo helped pass a law in 2016 to provide better mental and behavioral services across the state, but it was never funded. WPTV.com, 12/11/18

Election Law
  • House Democrats weigh election reforms. Proposals include adjusting voting and registration deadlines, eliminating prohibitions on counting early votes and requiring signature-matching training for supervisors and canvassing boards. Miami-Herald, 12/12/18

Gun Safety
  • School massacre panel recommends arming teachers. The group convened to investigate the Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School shootings voted 13-1 to allow the arming of teachers who volunteer and undergo extensive background checks and training. APNews, 12/11/18
  • Gun permit process needs stronger oversight, audit finds. Commissioner of Agriculture-elect Nikki Fried wants a review of the entire process. Orlando Sentinel, 12/6/18
  • Related: Problems with concealed weapons program are worse than first reported. Tampa Bay Times, 12/6/18

Environmental Protection and Pollution Control
  • Where’s Florida? Nine Attorneys General sue to stop massive harming of marine life in Atlantic. Florida AG Pam Bondi is notably absent from the legal action. Florida Phoenix, 12/20/18
  • Water woes await DeSantis; transition team wants to do more now. His 40-member panel will frame issues and identify steps to improve water quality. Tallahassee Democrat via Naples Daily News, 12/10/18
  • Related: Transition panel wants state input in Army Corps’ Lake O releases. Florida Watchdog, 12/12/18
  • SFWMD board to pay $7.2 million for test wells to cut Lake O discharges. District officials say 30 to 60 “deep injection wells” could dramatically reduce the need for discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. Treasure Coast Newspapers, 12/13/18
  • SFWMD drops option to buy U.S. Sugar land. The deal negotiated by then-Gov. Crist called for the state to buy 187,000 acres to re-create the flow-way to the Everglades. But Gov. Scott dramatically cut the district's revenue from property taxes, citing the recession. Treasure Coast Newspapers via Naples Daily News, 12/13/18
  • Cabinet approves land deal. The state will purchase a conservation easement for $6.4 million on nearly 20,000 acres of timberland near the Suwannee River and Gulf of Mexico. Southeast AgNet Radio, 12/5/18

The economy
  • Florida businesses to see 13.8 percent decrease in workers’ comp insurance rates. “This amounts to almost a half billion dollars in savings for Florida’s business community,” Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis said. Press Release, Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, 11/9/18
  • S&P raises credit rating on Florida’s $24 billion Treasury Investment Pool to AA- from A+. S&P cited the “quality of investment, comparison with other funds with similar composition, and sound management by CFO Patronis’ Division of Treasury” as reasons they raised the rate. Florida Daily, 12/12/18
  • Florida unemployment rate drops to 3.3 percent, lowest in 12 years. Florida’s annual job growth rate has outpaced the nation for 79 of the past 80 months. Press Release, Office of Gov. Rick Scott, via Naples Daily News, 12/21/18
  • Florida’s low reemployment tax rate earned it national recognition. Since 2012, Florida has reduced its reemployment (i.e. unemployment insurance) tax rate by more than 94 percent. Sunshine State News, 12/14/18
  • Florida’s tax revenues boom as budget runs $365 million ahead of projections. DeSantis and lawmakers are looking at the biggest state two-year increase since the pre-recession peak of 2006. Tampa Bay Times, 12/19/18
  • Related: Projected surge in 2019 revenues may trigger 2020 tax refunds for Florida businesses. Watchdog.org, 12/22/18

Other matters of public policy
  • DeSantis names Seminole County elections supervisor to be Florida’s next secretary of state. Michael Ertel will replace Ken Detzner, who was appointed to the position in 2012 by Gov. Scott. Miami-Herald, 12/28/18
  • More than 20 DeSantis campaign donors advise him on important policy decisions. They may have “an outsized role” in charting a course for the administration, says Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida. Miami-Herald, 12/16/18
    • Related: DeSantis advisors reject criminal justice reforms, urge strict prison sentences. Miami-Herald, 12/21/18
  • 2019 E-Verify bills likely to revive bitter feud among Republicans. They could pit immigration reform proponents against the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the state’s agricultural industry. Florida Watchdog, 12/19/18
  • Florida's growing population to impact post-Census redistricting. The Legislature draws congressional and state legislative district lines, and is already gearing up for what could be a contentious battle. Florida Watchdog, 12/31/18
  • Who pays for Alligator Alley’s lonely fire station? Sen. Passidomo has filed SB 72 to ensure that tolls charged on the Alley cover the budget for emergency responders at the station. Florida Politics, 11/26/18
Florida Legislature - Collier Delegation Committee Assignments
  • Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (District 28) will serve as Senate Majority Leader, and as a member of the Appropriations Committee; Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services; Ethics and Elections Committee; Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee; and Rules Committee.
  • Rep. Bob Rommel (District 106) will chair the Civil Justice Subcommittee and will serve as Vice Chair of the Judiciary Committee and of the Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, and as a member of the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, Health Market Reform Subcommittee, and Joint Legislative Auditing Committee.
  • Rep. Byron Donalds (District 80) will chair the PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee and will serve on the Business & Professions Subcommittee, Criminal Justice Subcommittee, Education Committee, PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee, and Ways & Means Committee.
  • Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez (District 105) will serve as a member of the Business & Professions Subcommittee, Civil Justice Subcommittee, Health Quality Subcommittee, Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, and Public Integrity & Ethics Committee.
The Florida courts
  • Court battle over felons' rights could end. The passage of Amendment 4 may make moot a suit over the constitutionality of the state’s Clemency Board process. News Service of Florida via WUSF Public Media, 12/21/18
  • Democratic legislators call for a change in how state Supreme Court judges are nominated. Proposed SB 138 and HB 93 would curb the governor's influence on the process. Tallahassee Democrat, 12/12/18
  • Medical-marijuana ruling put on hold by Florida appeals court. The case could open the door to more firms doing business in the fast-growing medical marijuana market. News Service of Florida via Sun Sentinel, 12/19/18
  • Florida Supreme Court to take up ‘Assignment of Benefits’ insurance fight. AOB has been one of the most controversial insurance issues in recent years and is expected to spur a fight during the 2019 legislative session. News Service of Florida via Palm Beach Post, 12/29/18
  • State appealing ‘liquor wall’ decision. The ruling could allow retailers to sell hard liquor in their main stores, instead of in separate stores as they do now. Florida Politics, 12/29/18
Florida Cabinet
  • Almost 70 years later, Florida prepares apology to families of the Groveland Four. The young black men were falsely accused of rape, tortured and killed or imprisoned. Incoming Clemency Board members DeSantis, Fried, Moody, and Patronis have each said they support or will consider a pardon. Tampa Bay Times, 4/19/17; Tampa Bay Times, 12/19/18; APNews, 12/19/18; Miami-Herald, 12/20/18
  • Moody to crack down on Chinese fentanyl. Fentanyl abuse was a central part of her campaign for Attorney General. She called the synthetic “much more dangerous and deadly” than heroin. Florida Politics, 12/3/18
  • Citizens Insurance board approves 8.2 percent hike in property insurance rates. The recommendation by the state’s “insurer of last resort” must be approved by the state Office of Insurance Regulation, which is administratively housed within CFO Patronis’ Dept. of Financial Services. Sun Sentinel, 12/12/18

Congress — Collier Delegation
  • Rubio sees opportunities to deal with migration from Central and South America. Miami-Herald, 12/14/18
  • Rubio introduces bill to help hospitals providing care to low-income patients. Press Release, Office of Sen. Rubio, 12/18/18
  • Rubio one of 12 senators to vote no on Trump-backed criminal justice overhaul. Politico, 12/18/18 and FOX News Radio
  • Rubio, Diaz-Balart, and Scott urge Trump to nix proposed 30-year Cuban baseball deal. Florida Politics, 12/27/18
  • Rubio releases “Fighting for Florida” report detailing his 2018 legislative accomplishments. Press Release, Office of Sen. Rubio, 12/28/18
  • Rooney's carbon tax a bipartisan effort despite conservative opposition. Naples Daily News, 12/9/18
  • Rooney: Federal Farm Bill a “waste of money”, has “bloated subsidies” for sugar companies. Rooney and Rubio voted no; Diaz-Balart and Nelson voted for the bill. Sunshine State News, 12/14/18; WINK News, 12/19/18
  • Rooney, Diaz-Balart among 60 members of Congress to urge Trump admin to fund programs related to toxic algae crisis. Florida Daily, 12/20/18
  • Rooney: Protect eastern Gulf of Mexico from offshore drilling. Cape Coral Daily Breeze, 12/28/18