The Florida Legislature convened its 2018 session on January 9th, and much of this month’s state news concerned proposed bills and budget priorities. Since most proposals won’t make it to the finish line and the budget won’t be finalized until March, this month’s post focuses on non-legislative news Collier voters should be aware of.
But first, an update on the state of play regarding the candidates running for the offices that will be on our ballots this year! Primary elections will be on August 28; the General Election will be on November 6.
As a reminder, Florida is a closed primary state where only registered members of a party may vote in that party’s primary. I have been writing since 2011 about my “unorthodox suggestion” when it comes to party affiliation. See my posts here, here and, most recently, here. I continue to feel as I did then, and I hope you will consider it. Check and/or change your party affiliation with the Supervisor of Elections here.
Democrat Bill Nelson is seeking re-election to his fourth term as one of our U.S. senators. Gov. Rick Scott is widely expected to challenge him and if he does, the race is expected to be close. But “the increasingly grim outlook facing Republicans in the midterms has raised new questions about his political future,” as Scott faces GOP headwinds ahead of a potential Senate bid. The Hill
Collier County voters live in Congressional District 19 or 25. Find your District here.
In District 19, which includes western Collier County, Republican Francis Rooney is seeking a second term, and he is currently unchallenged. There won’t be a Republican primary unless another Republican files to run in the coming months. Democrats David Holden and Todd James Truax will face off in August.
In District 25, Republican Mario Diaz-Balart is seeking a ninth term. To-date, he has just one challenger, Democrat Alina Valdes. Unless that changes, there will be no primaries and the two will face off in a general election in November.
Rick Scott is term-limited so the governor’s race is wide-open.
The leading Republican candidate is Florida’s current, term-limited Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, but Congressman Ron DeSantis is rising in the polls since receiving endorsements from Donald Trump and Sean Hannity. Fifty percent of likely voters are undecided, according to a recent Florida Chamber poll.
Democratic frontrunners are former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. Sixty-four percent are undecided. Florida Chamber
- Betty Castor endorses Gwen Graham, takes shot at rival Philip Levine’s comments on work. Tampa Bay Times
August primary elections will decide the Republican and Democrat who will face off in November.
Unlike the federal government, where the President appoints his Cabinet, Florida’s three Cabinet members — Attorney General, Commissioner of Agriculture and Chief Financial Officer — are independently elected. In recent news:
- With Pam Bondi term-limited, the race for Attorney General heats up. Republican Ashley Moody is the frontrunner, with endorsements from a host of elected officials and political organizations, including the incumbent. Orlando Political Observer
- For Ag Commissioner, Republican Rep. Matt Caldwell has the top money spot among the three Republicans and one Democrat gunning to replace Putnam. Florida Politics
- In the CFO race, Tom Lee continues planning challenge to Jimmy Patronis. Lee, a sitting state senator, is prohibited from raising money during the Legislative Session, but has a campaign team in place for a bid. Florida Politics
Incumbent Republican Sen. Kathleen Passidomo is so far without a challenger to represent District 28, which includes all of Collier County. In 2016, Passidomo beat Matt Hudson in a Republican primary that was closed by the “write-in loophole.” There were no Democrat challengers.
- Related: Phantom write-in candidates bar more than a million voters from Florida elections. Tampa Bay Times
Collier County voters live in Florida House District 80, 106 or 105. Find your District here.
In District 80, Republican Byron Donalds is running for a second term. To-date, he has one challenger running with no party affiliation (NPA).
In District 106, Republican Bob Rommel is also running for a second term. To-date, he is challenged by Democrat Sara McFadden and an NPA.
In District 105, Carlos Trujillo is term-limited, so that seat is wide-open. To-date, Democrat Javier Estevez and Republicans David Rivera (who is being sued by the FEC) and Ana Maria Rodriguez have filed to run for the seat.
And now, some state news of note:
The 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission
This month, CRC committees have been meeting to determine which proposed constitutional amendments to the Florida Constitution to put forward to the full Commission for a vote. The CRC’s work must be completed by May 10, after which I’ll share which amendments they have placed on our November ballot. My November and December 2017 posts explained the role of this important and powerful group that only meets every twenty years.
Collier School Board and CRC member Erika Donalds was mentioned several times in a Politico Florida article this month titled Secret talks among CRC members ‘just part of the process,’ says Commissioner. The article described the CRC Education Committee’s failure to follow open meetings requirements that almost every commission in the state must meet. According to Donalds, “It’s just like the Legislature; we’re operating in a very similar manner.” But “It’s stunning they’re doing it … without even answering questions or providing any basis in law for (it),” said the First Amendment Foundation’s Barbara Petersen.
- What percentage of education funding should Florida’s state government provide? Florida lawmakers returned to Tallahassee with one key education funding issue yet unresolved — whether to let school boards keep their local property tax rates steady. Tampa Bay Times
- Florida earned a C on Education Week state report card; ranks 30th in the nation in latest ranking. Florida earned a C in the Chance-for-Success category (ranking 36th), a D-plus in School Finance (ranking 39th), and a C in K-12 Achievement (ranking 11th). Education Week
- The GOP tax plan will impact Collier public and private schools. Public schools could be hurt; wealthier families who send children to private schools see benefit immediately. Naples Daily News
- Campaign donations weigh on legislation ahead of session despite reforms. Groups supporting and groups opposing school choice policies gave big bucks, as lawmakers take up proposals to give voucher scholarships to students bullied in public schools to attend private schools. Orlando Sentinel
- Florida could spend $1 billion on Everglades reservoir project, but will it work? Skeptics are wondering whether it’s really possible to dig a reservoir deeper than Lake Okeechobee in the middle of farm fields and not wind up with even more polluted water fouling the state. Naples Daily News
- Everglades reservoir drawing criticism from Florida environmentalists, and silence from feds. Florida environmentalists urged Gov. Rick Scott to step in and fix a design they say does too little to store and clean polluted water needed to repair the suffering Everglades. Miami Herald
In the courts
- Judge rejects Palm Beach County school board request to halt payments to charters required by last year’s HB 7069. As a result, the board will have to distribute an extra $9 million by February 1, even as lawsuits over the law’s constitutionality play out. Palm Beach Post
- Florida Supreme Court asked to review education ‘adequacy’ ruling. Education advocates upset that lower courts have denied their efforts to force Florida to enhance school funding asked the Florida Supreme Court to take up their 9-year-old case. Orlando Sentinel
- Florida abortion waiting period law struck down by judge. Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled that the 2015 law was an “impermissible intrusion” of privacy rights that are contained in Florida’s constitution. U.S.News & World Report
Other state news
- Floridians’ broad support for second chances sends voting amendment to 2018 ballot. Hundreds of thousands of grassroots activists submitted more than 1.1 million petitions in order to place the Second Chances Voting Restoration amendment on the ballot. League of Women Voters of Florida
- House select committee on hurricanes approves final report, 78 recommendations. The 110-page report presents the 2018 Legislative Session with a comprehensive blueprint intended to show what went right, what went wrong, and what fixes need to be considered immediately, generally, or long term. Florida Politics
- As influx of Puerto Ricans continues, Koch-backed group seeks them out in Florida. The influx has the potential to transform the political dynamic ahead of November’s midterms, especially in down-ballot races, in which even a few hundred new voters could make a difference. Naples Daily News
In my next post, I’ll report on January’s top stories in local government.