Wednesday, July 4, 2018

State News in Review - June 2018

With the Legislature out of session and the August primaries fast approaching, June’s news included several concerning reports about failures of government, some good news (for a change) and some interesting revelations about both elected officials and candidates for office.

Top stories


  • Audit: Florida failed to complete gun background checks on more than 100,000 applicants. The matter was identified in 2017, and full background checks were completed, resulting in 291 gun permits revoked. Naples Daily News, 6/8/18
  • 'Millions of dollars of wasteful spending.' The governor’s post-Irma emergency contracts cost taxpayers an additional $28 million to $30 million, according to an analysis by CBS4 News. Miami-Herald, 6/30/18
  • Judge sides with environmental groups in dispute over use of Amendment 1 funds. Striking a blow to the Legislature, he said state lawmakers failed to comply with a voter-approved constitutional amendment to buy and preserve environmentally sensitive lands. News Service of Florida via Tallahassee Democrat, 6/15/18
  • Billionaire Democrat Jeff Greene joins mostly millionaires in Florida governor’s race. Like term-limited Gov. Rick Scott, who spent $86 million of his own money in twice winning the governor’s office, Greene plans to spend plenty of his own $3.3 billion fortune. Herald Tribune, 6/20/18

Good news (for a change)


  • Florida gets high marks for handling of state finances. Moody’s Investors Service upgraded the state’s bond rating to AAA, which means Florida will pay lower interest payments when it borrows money. It’s the first time all three major rating agencies have assigned the state their highest ratings. Associated Press, 6/23/18
  • Federal government OKs Florida’s request for $19.2 million in election security money. The request was quickly approved after Gov. Scott overruled Sec. of State Ken Detzner’s initial decision not to apply. Sun Sentinel, 6/4/18
  • U.S. Supreme Court sides with Florida in decades-long dispute. The case pits Georgia's growing thirst for water to fuel metro Atlanta's growth and the state’s multibillion-dollar agriculture industry against Florida's need for fresh water to preserve the fragile ecology of the Apalachicola Bay. USA Today, 6/27/18

Public education in Florida


  • Florida rates poorly in per-student funding in new Education Week report. The well-regarded national rating of state education systems found that only 0.1 percent of Florida students are in districts where spending reaches or exceeds the national benchmark. Tampa Bay Times and Education Week, 6/6/18
  • Florida is one of 30 states whose average teacher salary is below the living wage. Since the 2008 recession, per-pupil funding and real teacher salaries, both adjusted for inflation, have declined in most states. Education Week, 6/14/18
  • Related: Florida teachers union seeks politicians’ pledge on support for teacher pay hikes. Palm Beach Post, 6/26/18
  • Teachers, unions sue state over new “union busting” law, which requires unions to have half of all eligible participants become paying members or face loss of their collective bargaining role. Lawmakers applied the new rule only to teacher organizations, and not to any other public employee groups. Tampa Bay Times, 7/2/18
  • Commentary: Florida’s schools engaged in double standard of epic proportions. It is pushing private and charter schools as being more innovative and parent-friendly, while at the same time handcuffing traditional public schools with more and more onerous regulations. By John Romano, Columnist, Tampa Bay Times, 6/5/18

Lake Okeechobee and the health of the Everglades


  • Everglades reservoir that would help Caloosahatchee discharges may be in jeopardy. Army Corps says Lake O reservoir might not meet cleanup goals. News-Press and TCPalm, 6/6/18
  • Gov. Scott issues emergency order for Lake O releases. Water from the lake and rainfall within the Caloosahatchee watershed are causing water quality issues in the river's estuary. News-Press, 6/20/18
  • U.S. Rep Francis Rooney, Republican candidate, Florida House District 19: Update on Lake Okeechobee and Herbert Hoover Dike. Via Naples Daily News, 6/1/18
  • David Holden, Democratic candidate, Florida House District 19: Facing the future of the Everglades, together. Via Naples Daily News, 6/21/18
  • Todd James Truax, Democratic candidate, Florida House District 19: 10 steps forward on Everglades restoration. Via Naples Daily News, 6/22/18

The primary election race for governor


  • Who is writing the checks? Here are the Top 5 donors to each candidate for governor. From national advocacy groups to hedge fund managers to local real estate tycoons, lots of big donors have placed their bets in the race for Florida governor. Miami-Herald, 6/21/18

Republican candidates (Ron DeSantis, Adam Putnam)

  • Florida's GOP gubernatorial hopefuls loyal to their pro-NRA records of expanding rights. Both want to address gun violence in schools by bolstering school security and mental health services. Naples Daily News, 6/9/18
  • Trump tweets full endorsement of Ron DeSantis. Miami-Herald, 6/22/18
  • Sean Hannity endorses Ron DeSantis at Lee County event. WINK News, 7/2/18
  • DeSantis picks up key endorsement from incoming Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva. Tampa Bay Times, 6/27/18
  • The Florida Retail Federation, a lobbying group funded almost entirely by Publix, gave $100K to Adam Putnam just six days after Publix said they would suspend political donations. Orlando Weekly, 6/8/18
  • Sugar industry aims to influence Florida governor's race with donations to Adam Putnam. Treasure Coast Newspapers, 6/6/18

Democratic candidates (Andrew Gillam, Gwen Graham, Jeff Greene, Chris King, Philip Levine)

  • Democrats see gun control as a tipping point in 2018 election. All four Democrat candidates for governor (pre-Greene’s entry) agree on at least seven ideas backed by groups seeking to change gun laws. Tallahassee Democrat, 6/9/18; for Greene on gun control, see 6/25/18 WLRN.org interview here
  • Decriminalize or legalize? Gwen Graham breaks with other candidates on pot. She is the lone Democrat candidate who supports decriminalization — civil citations for personal pot use. Tallahassee Democrat, 6/1/18
  • Jeff Greene preparing to launch Governor’s race ad blitz, with education on his mind. He calls for mandatory preschool education and suggests taxing the “super rich” to fund arts, humanities, technical education and free community college. FloridaPolitics.com, 6/17/18
  • Chris King proposes bullet tax for school violence prevention program. His criminal justice reform plan would fund gun violence prevention and intervention programs, school safety measures, and other related measures. FloridaPolitics.com, 6/1/18
  • With a credible poll showing Philip Levine leading the field by 16 points, who has the resources to topple him? Tampa Bay Times, 6/8/18 (Note: apparently written before Greene entered the race.)

Other election news

  • A look at Florida’s registered voters ahead of the August primary. Both parties have more competitive primaries than usual, yet an increasingly larger share of the electorate is choosing not to register with either one of them. By Dr. Susan MacManus, USF Distinguished University Professor Emerita, via Sayfie Review, 6/11/18
  • Ag Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell has NRA's A+ rating and first 2018 endorsement. Miami-Herald, 6/26/18
  • State Rep. Jay Fant ends bid for Florida Attorney General. APnews.com, 6/19/18
  • Florida Retail Federation backs Kathleen Passidomo for re-election. Florida Politics, 6/19/18

Other state news

  • Collier Reps. Donalds, Rommel and Trujillo score A+, Sen. Passidomo scores B on Americans for Prosperity Legislative Scorecard. The conservative group examined >6,000 individual votes on 66 issues. AFP-FL and Florida Politics, 6/6/18
  • State budget glitch may doom homeless money. Already reeling from a drop in affordable housing money, activists now fear losing key funding — apparently because of a misstep by the Legislature. The Ledger, 6/16/18
  • Citizens Insurance board delays vote to raise rates. The proposed average increases of 7.9 percent on residential policies and 8.9 percent on commercial lines are due in part to the Legislature’s failure to act. Florida Politics, 6/20/18
  • Florida judges are gaming system for choosing their successors, Supreme Court petition says. The lawsuit, which seeks to stop Gov. Scott from replacing a judge who resigned, argues that judges across Florida are subverting state law. Herald-Tribune, 6/26/18
  • In the latest of a flurry of court actions, smoking medical marijuana is prohibited again, until the Appeal’s Court issues a final ruling. News Service of Florida via Miami-Herald, 6/18/18
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That does it for June. In July:
  • Be on the lookout for your Vote By Mail ballot (expected mailing around 7/24) Check the status of your ballot request at colliervotes.com.
  • July 31 is the last pre-primary day to register or make changes to your registration or party affiliation. Info at colliervotes.com
  • Take advantage of candidate forums and other opportunities to meet or hear from the candidates. Info at sparkers-soapbox.com under Dates & Events.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for my next "Get Ready for the 2018 Elections" posts. And catch up on what you missed:
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