09/23/17 State Roundup
After failing numerous times this summer to fulfill their nearly decade-long promise to repeal former President Barack Obama's signature health care bill, Senate Republicans pushed once more.
The proposal sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana would overhaul the current system under the Affordable Care Act by sending revenue from ACA taxes to the 50 states in block grants. The states would be allowed to apply for waivers of current ACA regulations that require all health plans to cover certain "essential health benefits" such as maternity care....
NAPLES — Residents of the Naples Estates mobile home park beamed and cheered when President Donald Trump and Gov. Rick Scott strolled amid piles of shredded aluminum three days after Hurricane Irma to buck up residents and hail the work of emergency responders. But almost nobody had anything good to say about their emergency shelter options prior to Irma's landfall.
"We had so many people turned away from shelters because they were full — which is amazing that could happen in the state of Florida," said Marla Kibbe, a seafood market employee and mobile home park resident who managed to find a condo for shelter and brought four other women with her. "One woman was 95 years old, but she got turned away from a shelter because she had a dog and they wouldn't let her in. Another lady had medical needs and they couldn't accommodate her."...
The president and vice president soared into Irma-socked southwest Florida on Thursday, offering support, prayers, ham and cheese hoagies, and a partisan punch or two.
"This is a state that I know very well and these are special, special people," President Donald Trump shouted while visiting a mobile home park badly damaged by the Category 3 storm that ripped though Naples on Sunday. "We're going to be back here many, many times. We're going to be with you 100 percent."...
ST. PETERSBURG — After Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast in 2005, Hancock Bank drew national attention for its efforts to meet the local community's needs. The day after Katrina hit and before the Gulfport, Miss.-based bank had power or access to records, it started distributing cash to clients and non-clients alike, in exchange for IOUs scribbled on scraps of paper.
"They were really involved in helping the community, not only financially but also with water supplies, gas supplies — really entrenched in the community," Lynn Stodgell, retail operations leader for Hancock Bank, recounted Monday as she and her colleagues worked to make sure Hancock was open for business in Pinellas and Manatee counties, as quickly as possible after Irma left town....
ST. PETERSBURG — As the anxious wait continued Sunday for Hurricane Irma, neighborhoods across St. Petersburg became damp, gray ghost towns with virtually nobody outside and few cars other than police vehicles moving on normally busy arteries.
Mobile home parks across the city were desolate, other than cops looking for elusive stragglers who may have ignored evacuation orders.
Even in flood-prone areas such as Shore Acres in northeast St. Petersburg, most homes were not boarded up. Among the boarded windows, some residents spray-painted messages of hope and defiance....
09/09/17 State Roundup
While many of his constituents were focused on Hurricane Irma and mandatory evacuations for parts of Pinellas, state Sen. Jack Latvala, a Republican candidate for governor, was thinking about raising campaign money.
Latvala had scheduled a campaign kickoff fundraiser weeks ago for Ruth Eckerd Hall on Thursday evening and, while grumbling about Gov. Rick Scott and Pinellas emergency management officials being too alarmist, Latvala said he saw no reason to cancel his event....
ST. PETERSBURG — Inside the lobby of the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront on Saturday, a steady stream of guests headed toward the elevators lugging massive suitcases, big-screen TVs, and the occasional yapping dog.
The high-rise hotel across from Al Lang Stadium sits in the B zone designated for mandatory evacuation, but guests and hotel employees planned to ride out Irma inside the hotel....
09/07/17 Public Safety
Pinellas County ordered its first evacuations on Thursday as Hurricane Irma continued its march to Florida.
Officials officials ordered everyone who lives in low-lying areas or mobile homes to evacuate. Access to beach communities will be restricted starting at 10 a.m. Friday. At 8 a.m. Sunday, that access will be cut off. Deputies will not allow anyone to re-enter those areas....
09/02/17 State Roundup
As so often happens in Republican primaries, the race for Florida's 2018 Republican gubernatorial nomination is shaping up as largely a question of which candidate or prospective candidate is the true conservative. But why wait 12 months to let Florida's primary voters decide when we have our trusty Florida Insider Polls?
We asked nearly 200 of Florida's best-informed political players whether the most "genuine conservative" is House Speaker Richard Corcoran, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, state Sen. Jack Latvala or Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam....
ST. PETERSBURG — Rick Baker wasn't the most lovable candidate when he was winning the mayor's race. In his first campaign speech, he sourly cast St. Petersburg as a disaster zone under Mayor Rick Kriseman, and in their only televised debate, he smugly declared, "I just don't like" Kriseman.
I shudder to think what Baker may be like now that he's losing. The former mayor's spitting-mad, election-night harangue about "an incumbent who has devastated our city in so many ways" does not bode well....
A newly created crime victim's group, Marsy’s Law for Florida, is launching a campaign to codify in the state constitution specific rights for crime victims. Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco and state Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation plan to submit language for the Florida Constitution Revision Commission to place on the 2018 ballot. ...
08/26/17 State Roundup
There is rich irony to Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran deriding "welfare for politicians" and "the insider political class" in his call to eliminate Florida's beleaguered public campaign financing system. He is, after all, the ultimate example of Tallahassee's political insider class. His lifestyle has been subsidized for most of his adult life by either taxpayers or special interest campaign donors. ...
Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran may be calling on the Constitution Revision Commission to approve a ballot initiative ending Florida's system of public campaign financing, but Corcoran has not actually declared his candidacy for governor. State Rep. Matt Caldwell, however, has formally entered the Republican primary for agriculture commissioner and is now the first statewide candidate pledging not to take matching money - and challenging others to do the same....
The Republican former U.S. House member from Pinellas County writes:
.... But a credible, competitive and constructive primary challenge to Trump would give safe harbor to millions of GOPers who still believe in the party, just perhaps not this president. It would keep the feud within the family, and it would keep the family together.
The worst thing Republicans can allow to happen as a party is to let the fractures this president has created lead to a legitimate breaking off of a center-right third party. Instead, by organizing a primary challenge to the president now, we can restore a place within the party for mainstream Republicans to call home and provide renewed leadership within the party for the Teddy Roosevelts, Dwight Eisenhowers and Abraham Lincolns among us who once made our party great. ......