July 2017 Month in Review – State News

With Florida’s 2017 legislative session fading into the distance and the 2018 election season getting underway, July’s top state government stories touch on the past, present and future, and include several pending lawsuits of interest.

Top stories

  • Florida mandate that school districts share capital revenues with charter schools is “credit negative,” says ratings agency Moody’s. The mandate marks the third effective reduction in the capital millage rate since 2008 and continued charter growth under the new formula will increasingly pressure traditional schools’ capital budgets. Read more from Moody’s Investors Service via miamiherald.com.
    • Related: Schools of Hope will hurt classrooms. School superintendents from across the state railed against Florida’s new ‘Schools of Hope’ charter school program during a state Board of Education meeting. Read more at baynews9.com.
    • Related: Lee Schools join HB 7069 lawsuit; no decision from Collier. School boards of Bay and Volusia Counties also voted in favor of legal action. Collier board chair Roy Terry said the issue deserves further board discussion before a decision is made. Read more from naplesherald.com.
    • Related: Will Florida lawmakers punish school board members for challenging HB 7069? No one has issued any threat. But “if history serves as a guide, that direction is not out of the question.” Read more at tampabay.com.
  • Appeals court hears arguments in lawsuit over Florida’s public education system. The Florida Constitution requires the state to provide “a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high-quality system of free public schools” — but is that general standard something that can be measured? Read more at miamiherald.com.
  • Gov. Rick Scott’s ability to reshape Florida’s Supreme Court could depend on Monday or Tuesday. Three justices – who are scheduled to retire because they have reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 – face six-year terms that expire “at the end of the first Monday in January,” the governor argues. Read more at tampabay.com.
    • Related: Florida Gov. asks court to throw out lawsuit over justices filed last month by the League of Women Voters’ Florida branch and government watchdog Common Cause. Read more at apnews.com. See also my July 26 Sparker’s Soapbox post.
  • State gets 60 more days to prove need for 24-hour abortion waiting period. The law, enacted in 2015, has been blocked so far in a two-year legal battle. In granting the extra time, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis “voiced skepticism” and indicated he might ultimately rule in favor of a request to declare outright that the mandatory waiting period is unconstitutional. Read more at miamiherald.com.
    • Related: Florida’s cost for losing lawsuits keeps growing. Between 2011 and early 2017, Florida spent more than $237 million on outside lawyers hired to defend the state. Gov. Scott recently agreed to pay $1.1 million to cover the legal bills of physicians and medical organizations who successfully challenged a law that restricted doctors’ ability to talk to patients about guns. Read more at sun-sentinel.com.
  • Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner handed over voter roll data to President Donald Trump’s election integrity commission after a federal judge in Washington, D.C., rejected a request to block data collection around the country. The commission had asked for additional information, but Detzner only provided what was allowed under state public records and voting laws. Read more at naplesnews.com.
  • Constitutional review panel announces committee assignments. The commission is empaneled every 20 years to go over the state constitution and suggest amendments that go directly on a statewide ballot. Collier school board vice chair Erika Donalds was named to chair the panel’s Local Government Committee and to serve on its Declaration of Rights, Education, and Rules and Administration Committees. Read more at saintpetersblog.com. See the Florida Constitution Revision Commission website here.
    • Related: Rick Scott names Tom Grady to constitutional review panel. In picking Grady, a Naples attorney and friend of Scott’s, the governor passed over the three alternates he previously selected to fill an empty seat on the commission. Read more at floridapolitics.com.  
  • A reliable Rick Scott ally, Pete Antonacci, named CEO of Enterprise Florida after less than two “turbulent years” as executive director of the South Florida Water Management District. Read more at naplesnews.com. See the Enterprise Florida website here.
    • State law requires detailed financial disclosures from people holding offices specified in the state Constitution, including state lawmakers, county commissioners and independently elected heads of county agencies. View 2016 disclosure forms at the Florida Department of Ethics website here.
    • Push to restore Florida felon voting rights gains steam, but obstacles remain. About 700,000 more signatures are needed by Feb. 1 to get the amendment on the ballot next year – and even then, it still needs more than 60 percent of the vote to become law. Florida is one of just four states to permanently bar felons from voting, even after they’ve served their sentences and probation. Read more at sun-sentinel.com. See the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition website here.

    Top editorials

    • Tallahassee overreach on district capital tax dollars for charter schools. In a hurricane-susceptible state — and in a county like Collier where schools are the primary choice for evacuation shelters — “we consider it a miss” that omnibus education HB 7069 didn’t include any structural requirements for spending of those taxpayer capital dollars. Read more at naplesnews.com.
    • Florida’s micromanaging of public schools. “One of the most deceptive” bills signed by the Governor, dubbed a religious liberties bill by its supporters, will “muddy the waters in Florida schools and inevitably face constitutional challenges.” Read more at tampabaytimes.com.
    • Public safety: progress but more to do. Crime is down; emergency response capabilities increased. But “more should be done” by our elected officials to address mental health and substance abuse challenges and reduce highway fatalities. Read more at naplesnews.com.
    • Sunshine scorecard a dark report for state, local lawmakers. Two Naples legislators, Reps. Byron Donalds and Bob Rommel, each had an “embarrassing” F-. Donalds lost points because he sponsored two potentially disastrous bills on open government. Both bills failed. Read more at naplesnews.com. View Sunshine Scorecard here.

    Election news

    2018 Race for Governor – Republican Primary

    • Leading GOP contender Adam Putnam supports allowing guns on college campuses and letting residents carry guns out in the open. Current Agriculture Commissioner Putnam, who oversees the office that processes concealed weapons permits, said there should be fewer “gun free zones” in the state. He would not say if he would repeal the ban on guns in stadiums. Read more at naplesnews.com.
    • Ron DeSantis and Richard Corcoran on collision course, “trying to get to frontrunner Putnam’s ideological right.”  Even though Jack Latvala‘s rumored entry into the race could complicate things, the electorate may not be big enough for both of them to slug it out and still succeed against Putnam. Read more at thecapitolist.com.
    • Here’s the path to a Gov. Latvala. In a four-person race, it takes only 30 percent to win the nomination. When three of the four are likely to be fighting it out over “who is the purest hard-right conservative,” and the fourth is “a political giant in the biggest battleground region” of Florida, the Clearwater Republican no longer looks like a long shot. Read more at tampabay.com.
    • June had three $2 million men. But it was Putnam whose fundraising “left no doubt” that he is the candidate of the Tallahassee establishment. Read more at tampabay.com.

    2018 Race for Governor – Democratic Primary

    • The daughter of former Florida Sen. Bob Graham is now the clear frontrunner for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum “badly damaged” by an FBI investigation at his city hall. Read more at tampabay.com.
      • Related: Gwen Graham now taking on Adam Putnam over drilling, calling out the Republican candidate for not opposing President Donald Trump‘s efforts “to expand drilling off Florida’s beaches.” Read more at floridapolitics.com.
    • Philip Levine’s political committee raises $4 million for gubernatorial bid. Sending a message that he could be the Democratic gubernatorial candidate “best-equipped to compete financially” with the GOP nominee, Levine says he has considerably more than already-announced candidates. Read more at tampabay.com.
    • Florida Democratic party raised more money than GOP. In the three months ending June 30, the Florida Democratic Party raised $1.67 million, and the Republican Party of Florida raised $339,000. “That’s what happens when Gov. Rick Scott and the leading GOP candidate for governor in 2018, Adam Putnam, are busy filling their own campaign accounts instead of the party’s.” Read more at tampabay.com.

    2018 Race for Congress representing Collier County  

    • Money pouring in for Florida’s Congress members in tough districts. Republican Francis Rooney of Naples, in the 19th, raised $89,981, spent $57,435, and finished with $305,685. Republican Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami, in the 25th that includes easter Collier County, raised $296,319, spent $81,541, and finished with $748,837. Read more at floridapolitics.com.
    • U.S. Rep. Rooney launches re-election campaign, answers questions about business ties. Having distanced himself from the management of his businesses, Rooney said he can focus on what’s important to the residents of congressional District 19, including “getting money for the Everglades, fighting ISIS and defending conservative principles.” Read more at naplesnews.com.
    • Naples Democrat David Holden says he’ll run for Congress next year, challenging Republican incumbent Francis Rooney. A financial adviser through Wells Fargo, Holden has a degree from Harvard and “a record of helping flip a few New York city council seats from red to blue.” Read more at naplesnews.com.

    See all candidates who have filed to-date with the State Division of Elections for state offices here. See all candidates who have filed to-date for county and local offices here.

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

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