Florida House

Grieving fathers to House: “Come together as the families have done”

IMG_2951(1)As some House Democrats argued against a school safety proposal they maintain contains a “poison pill” that would allow school personnel — including some teachers — to carry guns to school, the parents of two slain students pleaded with the Legislature to pass the bill.

Andy Pollack’s 18-year-old daughter Meadow died in the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and Ryan Petty’s 14-year-old daughter Alaina was also among the 14 students and three faculty members killed in the nation’s second-worst school shooting at the Parkland school.

The grieving fathers spoke to reporters Wednesday as the House debated the school safety measure (SB 7026), and even as a handful of Democrats spoke against it.

“There’s so much good in this bill that it needs to pass,” Pollack said. Last night, the families of the 17 students and teachers sent a letter to House members, urging them to pass the bill.

“If anyone’s voting against it in their, they have a different agenda than what their community has, which is protecting our kids and making them safe,” Pollack, who was one of the parents who met with President Donald Trump at the White House, has  appeared on national television speaking out in favor of school safety. “Whoever’s voting no, doesn’t have the interests of the kids in the community as their best interest.”

Petty said that the families had different opinions and come from different backgrounds.

“We came together. We’re united behind this legislation. And our ask is that the Florida House come together as the families have done and pass this bill,” he said.

Pollack said he can’t understand why any lawmaker would oppose the bill, a $400 million package that includes money for early mental health screening and school hardening.

“Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, there’s everything that’s good in this bill that’s good for the community. Sure, there’s a couple of things … Nothing in life’s ever perfect. But a majority of this bill is going to help the communities,” he said.

Petty agreed, brushing off questions about the lack of an assault weapons ban sought by many of the Douglas High students who lobbied lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott on the bill.

“We’re not focused on the individual provisions of this. There’s enough good in the middle of this bill that everybody can agree on and that’s what we’d ask the Legislature to do. Focus on the things you agree on, not the things you disagree with,” said Petty, who, accompanied by Scott, made direct appeals to the House and Senate during floor sessions last week. As Andy said, this is about keeping our kids safe in their schools. It’s not about political agendas. Set them aside. Vote to pass this legislation and let’s protect our kids. We can lead in Florida,” he said.

 

Baez bids adieu

9a32ac_0dde67415b964a95b833eba04b0ef84b~mv2_d_5000_4167_s_4_2Democrat Daisy Baez thanked her supporters a day after exiting the House as part of a plea agreement regarding perjury in an investigation about her legal residency.

“As I return to my life as a private citizen, I pledge to continue fighting for universal healthcare, empowering our teachers, and improving the equality of life for the youngest, and the most vulnerable Floridians,” Baez wrote — in both English and Spanish — in an email Thursday.

In Baez’s plea agreement, which required her to resign, she agreed to a single count of perjury, a first-degree misdemeanor. She will be sentenced to one year of probation, pay a $1,000 fine, and take an ethics course with the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust.

She is also prohibited from running for public office while on probation, which will keep her off the 2018 ballot.

The decision by Baez, a health-care consultant and U.S. Army veteran, eliminated the need for the House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee to hold a hearing, scheduled for Dec. 4, to determine if she violated residency requirements when elected last year.

Baez’s exit is obviously a loss for Democrats, who flipped the GOP-held seat in a hotly-contested race last fall.

Here’s Baez’s full farewell message:

On November 1, 2017, I tendered my resignation as a Member of the Florida House of Representatives. I have been honored to serve the residents of Florida, Miami-Dade County, and District 114. Thank you for giving me that opportunity.

When I began my service as a Representative last year, I vowed to serve the public interest to the best of my abilities. I am confident that I have done so. As I return to my life as a private citizen, I pledge to continue fighting for universal healthcare, empowering our teachers, and improving the equality of life for the youngest, and the most vulnerable Floridians.

I will never forget all the individuals who have supported me, and have shared their dreams and hopes for a better future. Your commitment to achieve a better life for your families, for Florida, and for our great country, is what has inspired me every day. Your words of support are engraved in my heart. I thank you infinitely for your friendship and for the opportunity you have given me to become the first Dominican American member of the Florida Legislature.

If you have not heard from me before, it is because I’m recovering from the passing of my mother last week. I take this opportunity to ask that you to give me time to finalize the funeral arrangements and eventual burial in her beloved birthplace of Salcedo in the Dominican Republic.

I want to reiterate that I will continue in my role of community activist, and will keep fighting with you for the issues that are important to our community and the state of Florida.

Baez: “You’re my army!”

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State Rep. Daisy Baez, under investigation by a House committee, is using her military experience to raise money for a re-election campaign.

The picture above accompanied a fundraising email sent out by the campaign of Baez, a Miami Democrat.

As a soldier I wore this nation’s uniform to give my life for the cause of freedom, justice, and democracy. Soldiers never give up, and I will never waver on my commitment to continue fighting for you.

You’re my army, and I need you to join this battle today with your support and contributions. Will you contribute $50, $25, or any other amount today?

A state House committee Tuesday found “probable cause” to proceed with an investigation of whether Baez violated residency requirements when she was elected to her Miami-Dade County seat in 2016.

After hearing an investigative report that alleged Baez used residences outside House District 114 for a homestead exemption, a driver’s license and voter registration, the Select Committee on Member Conduct voted to move the investigation forward to the House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee, which will likely conduct a broader inquiry into the allegations.

Baez, a Democrat in her first term, attended the meeting but did not testify, although she said she has not violated the requirement that she live in District 114 at the time of her election and subsequently as she represents the area.

“I just want to reiterate that I believe I am a resident and I have evidence to support that I am a resident of District 114,” she said, adding she would cooperate with the investigation so it can be resolved “in an expedient way.”

GOP lawmakers headed to homeland

hp-capitol-flagRepublican state Reps. Rene Plasencia, Bob Cortes and David Santiago are headed to Puerto Rico tomorrow to meet with government officials, according to a press release issued by Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs.

The three-day trip will include visits with the Puerto Rican House speaker, the governor’s chief of staff, and port officials, according to the release.

The three-day trip is “a continuation of the dialogue initiated earlier this year” by Plasencia’s office and will focus on healthcare, trade and the economy, the release said.

“With the population of Puerto Ricans in Florida exceeding 1 million, it is imperative that our two governments have a dialogue on how to address not only the impact that is being felt across all Florida communities, but also on the island of Puerto Rico,” Plasencia, R-Orlando, said.

The Puerto Rican trip comes after officials from the island visited Central Florida earlier this year.

Mallea snags Jeb! en español

Miami brewmeister Jose Mallea, Miami Republican with close ties to the Bush dynasty, released a Spanish-language radio ad Monday featuring former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Mallea, who’s facing off against lawyer Daniel Perez in a heated GOP special primary election to replace state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, worked as a campaign aide for Bush and for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, another Hispanic South Florida home boy whose connection Mallea has tried to capitalize on.

In a press release from his campaign Monday, Mallea touted his support from former governor, who backed Mallea early on in the battle for District 116.

“Governor Bush is one of Florida’s greatest leaders, and I am honored to have him behind our campaign,” said Mallea. “I plan to keep working hard in the home stretch of this primary to make sure District 116 has a representative in Tallahassee who will work hard for conservative policies that will improve education and increase opportunity for everyone.” 

Here’s the translation of the ad:

 

“This is Jose Mallea asking for your support for the special election on July 25th.

I am asking that you don’t believe the lies from the low campaign my opponent is running.

Our district deserves better! Less taxes and more opportunity.

This is why former Governor Jeb Bush is supporting me in my campaign for State Representative.

“Hello, this is Jeb Bush. Jose Mallea is a trusted friend that’s going to defend us. Jose will use his Republican values to work for you in the Florida Legislature.

That’s why I am asking you to vote for Jose on July 25th.

Buckle up: ‘Historic’ holiday ahead

imagesWe’ll probably stay home to avoid the crush, but that’s not what more than 2 million other Floridians will likely do.

That’s how many Sunshine Staters are expected to hit the road for the looooong 4th of July weekend — which apparently kicks off today and runs through Tuesday — according to AAA.

The auto club is predicting that more than 2.3 million Floridians will travel this weekend, and nearly all of them will be getting behind the wheel before (we hope) getting their party on.

Vicky Evans, Assistant Vice President, Travel Sales Development, AAA – The Auto Club Group, predicted “historic” travel numbers throughout the country, and in Florida, over the next few days:

“Travel bookings at The Auto Club Group are up more than 15 percent in Florida, compared to this time last year. The biggest factors driving growth are low gas prices, strong employment, rising incomes, and higher consumer confidence; but overall Americans just love to travel, and want to do something fun for this mid-summer tradition.”

According to AAA, Orlando is the top destination for travelers this summer.

GOP Florida House members are giving the Orlando numbers a boost: Freshmen Republicans will huddle there today to decide who will take over as speaker in 2022. State Reps. Paul Renner of Jacksonville and Jamie Grant of Tampa are purportedly in the lead in the four-person race. Erin Grall of Naples and Vero Beach’s Byron Donalds are also duking it out for the chamber’s top spot.

Maybe they’ll want to get a lift from Uber, which finally sealed a deal with the ORL airport regarding rates.

A new law establishing statewide regulations for app-based rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft goes into effect tomorrow, prompting a blast email from Uber’s Florida General Manager Kasra Moshkani who had this to say:

“Whether you’re headed to Key West for the weekend or you need to get from Tampa to Palm Beach, we’ve got you covered. Now you can count on us for a safe, reliable ride anywhere in the state, at any time. Drivers, will also be able to accept trips and earn anywhere in the state, thanks to your support.

This is just the beginning. We’re committed to the state of Florida and its riders and driver-partners, and want to prove it in a real way. Stay tuned for exciting announcements!”

Dorothy Hukill: “Very difficult” watching special session “fall apart”

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Sen. Dorothy Hukill wasn’t physically inside the Capitol during this year’s two legislative sessions.

But the Port Orange Republican was paying close attention to the hijinks in Tallahassee from afar, thanks to the Florida Channel.

Hukill will share her insights about the 2017 session with the Southeast Volusia Chamber of Commerce Thursday at noon at the Smyrna Yacht Club in New Smyra Beach.

Hukill said given the legislative recap to the group annually since she joined the Legislature more than a decade ago.

“I’m very excited because I love to talk,” Hukill said.

In a wide-ranging interview yesterday, Hukill offered some of her thoughts about the brutal legislative tug-of-war between (depending on what day it was) Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron.

Hukill, a veteran lawmaker who served in the House for eight years before being elected to the Senate in 2012, was unable to travel to Tallahassee this year because she was recovering from cancer.

Hukill, who said she’s received hundreds of cards from well-wishers, said it was hard to watch the sessions from afar, “even though it was probably more work for me this session because I was trying to watch very committee,” she said.

“But watching the special session fall apart and change at the very end — that was very difficult,” she said.

Hukill said she’s “going to try to be positive” about GOP legislative leaders’ ability to just get along in the future.

“People will be able to put those feelings aside,” she predicted. “The bigger picture is we have a job to do. … It was very disappointing.”

A major disappointment for Hukill, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, came when the House refused to sign off on a proposal that would require future high-school students to earn a half-credit in financial literacy before graduation.

The Senate unanimously passed the measure, pursued by Hukill for years, and honored her by naming the bill the “Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Education Act.” The House never took up the bill for a final vote.

But she’s not giving up.

“I’m filing it next year. It’s already in drafting. It’s something I feel very strongly about. I have supported this idea of financial literacy for students for years,” Hukill said.