Author: The News Service of Florida

Where Should Caldwell Work?

Agriculture Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell’s campaign is taking suggestions about where he should do work days in industries overseen by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The North Fort Myers Republican and real-estate appraiser announced Thursday he will embark on what the campaign is calling the #2LaneTravels Work Days Tour.”

The first stop will be Friday at Key Largo Fisheries, where his usual bow tie is expected to be replaced by clothes more befitting time spent processing fresh and frozen seafood and bait products.

“I am going to be highlighting the jobs across our state that may not be glamorous but are critical to moving Florida’s economy,” Caldwell said in a release. “While processing seafood isn’t easy, and you’re certainly going to get yourself dirty, our great state wouldn’t be what it is today without the hard working men and women that are responsible for the wholesome and delicious food that is served on tables across America.”

In the release, Caldwell’s campaign provided an email address — Terry@VoteCaldwell.org — for suggestions on where he should undertake additional work days.

Clemens: Be Clear ‘Why We Suck Significantly Less’

Going with his own straight-talk express, Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, launched a “Flip Florida Blue” fundraising campaign — and offered a unique argument after nearly two decades of Republican control of state government.

“There are millions of people in Florida who think both parties suck, and we have to be clearer as to why we suck significantly less, and in fact, why voting for Democrats is a choice people can actually feel good about,” Clemens said in a release Thursday. “Public education, clean water, justice, equality, and the ability to climb that ladder to a great job are the hallmarks of a Democratic government. Compelling communications, unfortunately, have not been the hallmark of every Senate Democratic campaign. We’re working to change that.”

Clemens is expected to become the Senate Democratic leader after the 2018 elections and heads the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.

He also made clear Thursday that an immediate priority is trying to win a special election for the Senate District 40 seat, which Republican Frank Artiles vacated in April after a controversy about vulgar remarks at a private Tallahassee club.

Clemens outlined that the goal of the “Flip Florida Blue” campaign is to “win enough to fight the de-funding of education, health care and environmental protections and basically, reverse the slow, painful Republican-led degradation of this nation’s largest swing state.”

Hastings Goes With Gillum

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum got a boost Wednesday in his bid for governor, winning an endorsement from longtime Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings.

With Hastings representing parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, the endorsement could help Gillum in Democrat-rich South Florida. Also, it should be noted, Hastings endorsed Gillum over a former congressional colleague running for governor, Gwen Graham.

Here is Hastings’ statement, which was released by the Gillum campaign:

“We live in historically troubling times, and last year’s election result proved that the stakes are high. I feel it necessary to make my voice heard early in this process, so that Democrats and all Floridians understand what is at stake in the 2018 election. For the last 20 years, under Republican rule in Tallahassee, communities of color across the state have suffered from a lack of job opportunities, poor access to quality public education, and access to quality and affordable healthcare. As Democrats, we need to make significant changes, and in this spirit, I believe that Mayor Andrew Gillum is the right choice to lead our state.

“Mayor Gillum is an innovative pragmatic progressive leader that Florida desperately needs to confront our biggest challenges: attacking climate change, rebuilding our economy, protecting access to healthcare, and revitalizing public education. He has shown the courage to stand up for what he believes in, and he has never hesitated to give a voice to those who need one most. Floridians can trust Andrew Gillum to rebuild our state into one that works for everyone.

“There are outstanding Democrats that have announced or are mentioned as running for governor in our state.  My support of Andrew should not be construed as being against others. I will vigorously support the Democratic nominee for governor and do all that I can to ensure that our state goes from Red to Blue in 2018.”

Hastings Backs Gillum Gubernatorial Bid

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum got a boost Wednesday in his bid for governor, winning an endorsement from longtime Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings.

With Hastings representing parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, the endorsement could help Gillum in Democrat-rich South Florida. Also, it should be noted, Hastings endorsed Gillum over a former congressional colleague running for governor, Gwen Graham.

Here is Hastings’ statement, which was released by the Gillum campaign:

“We live in historically troubling times, and last year’s election result proved that the stakes are high. I feel it necessary to make my voice heard early in this process, so that Democrats and all Floridians understand what is at stake in the 2018 election. For the last 20 years, under Republican rule in Tallahassee, communities of color across the state have suffered from a lack of job opportunities, poor access to quality public education, and access to quality and affordable healthcare. As Democrats, we need to make significant changes, and in this spirit, I believe that Mayor Andrew Gillum is the right choice to lead our state.

“Mayor Gillum is an innovative pragmatic progressive leader that Florida desperately needs to confront our biggest challenges: attacking climate change, rebuilding our economy, protecting access to healthcare, and revitalizing public education. He has shown the courage to stand up for what he believes in, and he has never hesitated to give a voice to those who need one most. Floridians can trust Andrew Gillum to rebuild our state into one that works for everyone.

“There are outstanding Democrats that have announced or are mentioned as running for governor in our state.  My support of Andrew should not be construed as being against others. I will vigorously support the Democratic nominee for governor and do all that I can to ensure that our state goes from Red to Blue in 2018.”

Corcoran Doesn’t Play Small Ball

With his new-found alliance with Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, is already envisioning another “bold, transformative” legislative agenda in 2018.

The session, which starts early in January, will be the last regular session for Corcoran and Scott, who both face term limits.

But as he joined Scott in a “victory tour” on Tuesday, touting their joint successes in the recently concluded special session, Corcoran said he already has his eye on the 2018 session.

“We have one more swing at the bat and we intend to swing for the fences and have another transformative session,” Corcoran said as he appeared with Scott in Fort Myers.

Corcoran didn’t give any specifics, but likely items on the House agenda will be a few Corcoran-backed items that came up short in the 2017 session.

Among them may be another attempt to impose term limits on appellate judges, including the members of the Florida Supreme Court, and a major ethics package that would increase the two-year lobbying ban for ex-lawmakers and other state officials to six years.

It’s a Polk Thing

Two out of Florida’s past three elected agriculture commissioners have come from Polk County.

With former state Rep. Baxter Troutman’s entry into the 2018 agriculture commissioner’s race on Monday, it could become three out of the past four, if he is successful next year. Troutman, who served four terms in the state House before he termed out in 2010, is a Winter Haven businessman and a Polk native.

He is seeking to replace Adam Putnam, another Polk native who is running for governor next year. He succeeded Charles Bronson, an Osceola County native, in the Cabinet seat.

But Bronson followed Bob Crawford, another Polk native who served 10 years as agriculture commissioner before moving to the Department of Citrus in 2001. Terrie Rhodes served briefly as an interim commissioner between Crawford’s departure and Bronson’s appointment by then-Gov. Jeb Bush.

Even if Troutman doesn’t make it next year, there still may be a new commissioner with Polk roots. State Sen. Denise Grimsley is another agriculture commissioner candidate who was born in Lakeland. Although she lives in Sebring, her multi-county Senate district includes a large portion of southern Polk County.

Sunny Days for Solar

Things are looking up for solar energy in Florida,  according to a report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Highlights of the U.S. Solar Market Insight report, out last week:

— Florida, in the first quarter of this year, added 38.6 megawatts, expanding 6 percent, making it the 12th fastest-growing state.

— Florida installed 10 times more solar in 2016 than it did in 2015 (404.7 megawatts compared to 42.5 megawatts) due to several large utility-scale projects.

— Already, Florida is projected to be the seventh fastest-growing market over the next five years, adding 2,475 megwatts (more than triple its current capacity).

The report follows an announcement in April by Florida Power & Light that it’s accelerating solar plans to add nearly 300 megawatts a year through 2023, at which time the electric company will have nearly 2,100 megawatts of solar in service, enough to power more than 420,000 homes.

The report also comes as a bill sits on Gov. Rick Scott’s desk to carry out a voter-approved constitutional amendment designed to expand the use of solar and other renewable-energy devices.

Scott has until June 20 to act on the measure (SB 90), which will extend a renewable-energy tax break to commercial and industrial properties. The tax break would be in place for 20 years and is an extension of a break already provided to residential properties. A selling point of the constitutional amendment was that it would make renewable-energy equipment exempt from state tangible personal property taxes.