Aug 28 2015

Scott Storms to Tampa

After declaring a state of emergency Friday morning and getting briefed in Miami, Gov. Rick Scott is headed to Tampa to talk about Tropical Storm Erika.

Scott’s office says he will hold a news conference at 5 p.m. today at the Hillsborough County Emergency Operations Center, 2711 East Hanna Ave. in Tampa.


The News Service of Florida

Aug 28 2015

On Tap Update: Scott Gets Ready for Storm

The governor’s office released a daily schedule after the News Service’s On Tap feature landed in subscribers’ inboxes Friday morning. So here is an update.

Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Friday morning as Tropical Storm Erika threatens to pummel Florida. Scott was then slated to travel to Miami and hold an 11 a.m. media briefing about the storm at the local emergency operations center.

Later, Scott is scheduled to have a 1:30 p.m. briefing with agency heads about the storm and follow that with staff and call time.

The schedule indicates he will return to Tallahassee for a 5:15 p.m. briefing at the state Emergency Operations Center.

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera is expected to take part in the late-morning briefing in Miami.



The News Service of Florida

Aug 27 2015

Wasserman Schultz Looks to Biden to Answer Iran Questions

As she weighs whether to support President Barack Obama’s proposed nuclear deal with Iran, Democratic Congressman Debbie Wasserman Schultz says she is looking forward to a visit to South Florida next week by Vice President Joe Biden.

In a statement released Thursday, Wasserman Schultz — who doubles as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee — pointed to questions that she and her constituents have about the deal. She also indicated Biden is well-qualified to address the questions, citing his “extensive experience in the foreign policy arena and his intimate knowledge of the negotiations.”

“Throughout my process of reviewing the agreement and speaking with nuclear experts, economists, and administration officials, my goal has been and remains seeking as much information as possible to make an informed decision on this issue of great national and international security,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Ultimately, I will make this most consequential of decisions based on what I believe is the best way to prevent Iran from achieving their nuclear ambitions.”

The News Service of Florida

Aug 27 2015

On Tap Update: Scott Talks About Erika

Gov. Rick Scott will hold an 11:15 a.m. news conference Thursday to discuss Tropical Storm Erika and its potential impact on Florida. The news conference will be held at the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee.

Florida remains in the National Hurricane Center’s “cone” of potential landing spots for the storm. But an updated forecast indicates the storm could stay more to the east than earlier expected. If so, Erika might skirt Florida’s coast.


The News Service of Florida

Aug 26 2015

Sorry, Charlie — Lynn Not Going Away

Former Gov. Charlie Crist made a splash when he said he likely will run next year in Congressional District 13 in Pinellas County.

But if Crist takes the plunge, it looks like he will face a primary challenge from fellow Democrat Eric Lynn.

Lynn on Wednesday launched what his campaign described as a “video series” about policy positions. The first video, in part, backs abortion rights.

“I’ll always support access to quality affordable health care including protecting Planned Parenthood from reckless Republican attempts to defund it,” Lynn said in the video, according to a release from the campaign. “I’ll always protect a woman’s right to choose, and her rights to affordable contraception and paid maternity leave. I’ll fight for equal pay for women. And I’ll make sure a woman and her doctor are the only ones who make her personal health care decisions — not some Congressman in Washington.”

The News Service of Florida

Aug 26 2015

On Tap Update: Scott Watching Tropical Storm

The governor’s office sent out a daily schedule after the News Service’s On Tap feature landed in subscribers’ inboxes Wednesday morning. So here’s an update.

Gov. Rick Scott has been on a family vacation in Colorado, but he is keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Erika. He has scheduled calls for 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. with Bryan Koon, director of the state Division of Emergency Management, to get updates on the storm, which could threaten Florida.

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, meanwhile, does not have any scheduled events Wednesday.



The News Service of Florida

Aug 26 2015

‘Smart Solar’ Jumps On ‘Solar Choice’ Poll Numbers

In the growing battle over solar-energy ballot initiatives, Consumers for Smart Solar appears to be gloating over a new poll — which was released by the rival group Floridians for Solar Choice.

Floridians for Solar Choice, which is offering a proposal for the 2016 ballot that would allow consumers to operate their own small solar grids, announced Monday that its polling found 47 percent support from active voters.  The number is far short of the 60 percent mark needed for a constitutional amendment to pass in Florida.

Consumers for Smart Solar — which is backing a counter solar ballot initiative and is financially supported by Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy, Gulf Power and Tampa Electric Co. — jumped on the 47 percent number in a release late Tuesday.

“Floridians for Solar Choice released a poll yesterday showcasing that their Shady Solar Amendment, if voted on today by Florida voters, would garner only 47 percent support — well below the 60 percent required to pass,” Consumers for Smart Solar said in a release. “Their tacit concession clearly shows that their flawed amendment is not supported by Florida voters and would ultimately fail on Election Day. Bottom line — Florida voters are already seeing through the smokescreen that Floridians for Solar Choice has created with its intentionally confusing and convoluted ballot language.”

For the record,  Floridians for Solar Choice said its  support  jumped to 68 percent when those polled were given pro and con outlines on the ballot language, which will go before the Florida Supreme Court next week for review.  Supporters of the Floridians for Solar Choice initiative argue that the Consumers for Smart Solar proposal is aimed at confusing voters.




The News Service of Florida

Aug 25 2015

On Tap Update: Scott Checking In With Tallahassee

The governor’s office sent out a daily schedule after the News Service’s On Tap feature hit subscribers’ inboxes Tuesday. So here’s an update.

The Times/Herald blog reported Monday that Gov. Rick Scott is in Colorado this week for a family vacation (after also taking a recent vacation to France).

Scott apparently plans to take a break from the cool mountain air Tuesday, as he has scheduled staff and call time — via phone — from 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera doesn’t have any scheduled events.


The News Service of Florida

Aug 25 2015

While candidates talk immigration at border, impact of issue is in Florida

When American politicians discuss immigration policy, they often do it – as Jeb Bush did Monday and Donald Trump did earlier this summer in the American Southwest, at the Mexican border.

But immigration is an issue ultimately across America, in the places where immigrants come to live.

And immigration from Mexico and Central America could just as easily be discussed in the farm towns of South-Central Florida, places where many of those immigrants come to work. Towns like Immokalee, LaBelle, Sebring, Fort Pierce and Okeechobee are outposts now for the migrants who come from that part of the world seeking work and better lives – and it’s there, at least as much as at the actual border, that the immigration debate has its consequences.

Immigrants from Mexico and Central America – in the United States legally and illegally – pick citrus, tomatoes, mushrooms, and potatoes all over Florida. They work in the sugar cane industry, and in addition to working harvest and planting seasons, they also have found work in the state’s off-again-on-again construction booms.

And in a state with so many tourists, they also work in the accompanying service industry, from cleaning motel rooms to cooking in restaurants.

This influx of non-Cuban Hispanics, which has mostly occurred in the last 25 years or so, has had a huge impact on Florida politics in areas where the immigration has matured, that is, in areas where Hispanic immigrants have been living for nearly a generation. Some of the immigrants have achieved citizenship and are voting – and in many cases they’ve raised children who are now of or approaching voting age.

The battle for that huge, and still growing, class of voters has been going on between the two parties in Florida for about a decade, and continues to heavily influence elections.

Let’s look at the section of the Political Almanac of Florida on Immokalee, in Collier County.

In the west-central part of the district is Immokalee, its largest town with about 24,000 residents, more than 18,000 of them, or 75 percent, Hispanic. The town, known as the “tomato capital of the world,” could almost be in southern Mexico or Guatemala. Businesses along the two main roads in the city include the Tienda de Guatemala, the Tienda el Quetzal and the Azteca Super Centro, a food store that’s part of a local chain with a couple other area locations. The local party supply store is called Mimi’s Piñatas. … The two Immokalee precincts gave President Obama about 70 percent of their votes….

And from a section on the stretch of Palm Beach County from  West Palm to Lake Worth:

The county as a whole has seen a huge increase in Hispanic population, growing by 78 percent between 2000 and 2010. And this central part of the county is where most of that growth has concentrated. …. The influx of Hispanic voters, in particular, but also the increased voting clout of black voters compared to whites, has pushed this district even more solidly into the Democratic column. While Barack Obama won this district by about 30 percentage points in 2008, by 2012 he had gained votes, and defeated Mitt Romney by more than 37 percentage points in the district…..

Hundreds of thousands of words have been written about the increased political clout of Hispanic voters in the last decade. And in places like Florida, where those votes are being cast, is where the immigration story is really playing out, more than at the actual border.




The News Service of Florida

Aug 25 2015

Solar Initiative in Shadow of 60 Percent

A group seeking to expand solar energy in Florida — through one of two competing ballot initiatives — landed support from 47 percent of 803 “active” voters who were read the proposed ballot language, according to numbers released this week by the group, Floridians for Solar Choice.

The showing is better than the 30 percent support that the Floridians for Solar Choice initiative received in a Mason-Dixon Polling & Research poll last month.

But both results are far short of the 60 percent needed in Florida for a constitutional amendment to pass.

But leaders of Floridians for Solar Choice, whose proposed ballot language will be reviewed next Tuesday by  the Florida Supreme Court,  expressed optimism.

The North Star Opinion Research and Harstad Strategic Research polling found 23 percent undecided. Proponents contend that, if those undecided voters split, the overall support would move closer to 60 percent.

The supporters also said that once the pros and cons of the proposal were offered to people  getting surveyed,  support for the ballot initiative — backers admit the ballot language is “very technical” — grew to 68 percent.

“We have made this language very precise to get through the Florida Supreme Court,” said Tory Perfetti, chairman of Floridians for Solar Choice. “We’ve made it self-executing so that the Legislature cannot hijack the will of the voters once we win.  And we made it very strongly insulated so that it can withstand attack by the utilities.”

The amendment, in part, would allow businesses to generate and sell up to two megawatts of power to customers on the same or neighboring properties. Two megawatts have been estimated as providing the daily needs of a typical Wal-Mart or residential communities between 225 and 714 homes. If supporters get Supreme Court approval and collect enough petition signatures, the measure would go on the November 2016 ballot.

The ballot summary states the intent of the amendment: “Limits or prevents government and electric utility imposed barriers to supplying local solar electricity. Local solar electricity supply is the non-utility supply of solar generated electricity from a facility rated up to 2 megawatts to customers at the same or contiguous property as the facility. Barriers include government regulation of local solar electricity suppliers’ rates, service and territory, and unfavorable electric utility rates, charges, or terms of service imposed on local solar electricity customers.”

The state’s largest electric utilities, Attorney General Pam Bondi and a number of influential business groups want the Florida Supreme Court to block the initiative.

Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy, Tampa Electric Co. and Gulf Power have filed a joint brief arguing the proposed ballot language is “misleading.”

Bondi also filed a brief seeking to keep the initiative off the 2016 ballot and said the measure, “as written, will leave voters uninformed and consumers vulnerable.”

Democrats made up 42 percent of the polled “active” voters, while Republicans made up 37 percent.

A counter ballot measure has also been proposed by a group known as “Consumers for Smart Solar,” which has received financial backing from the electric utilities.


The News Service of Florida