Joe Negron

Gibson, Berman demand action on gun removal bill

gun-pistolSome Florida Democrats are demanding that House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron allow the vetting of legislation that wold allow family members or law enforcement officers to obtain court orders to temporarily remove guns from the homes of individuals who have demonstrated they are a danger to themselves or could be violent.

The call for the bills come in the aftermath of Wednesday’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz gunned down 17 individuals, including 14 teenagers.

Cruz had a highly troubled past prior to unleashing a hail of bullets from a semi-automatic assault weapon after being dropped off at the high school, from which he was expelled, by an Uber driver on Valentine’s Day.

Sen. Audrey Gibson and Rep. Lori Berman are asking that the bills (SB 530, HB 231) — which mirror a proposal pushed by U.S. Rep. Val Demings, an Orlando Democrat and former police chief — get a hearing before the legislative session ends on March 9.

“Now more than ever, these bills must be heard. The most recent shooting is unacceptable and too tragic to comprehend. It is time we step up and come together to act on meaningful gun safety reform,” Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, said in a press release. “As a mother, my heart breaks for these families. There are no words to describe the horror of a child not returning home from school. Florida needs to set an example for the rest of the nation by not just demanding action but taking action.”

The legislation potentially could have prevented the Parkland tragedy had it been in place, the Democrats asserted.

“With so many mass shootings and the mantra ‘now is not the time to talk about gun control’ we will never have the discussion,” Gibson said in the release.

Pugilistic Corcoran lines up another one-on-one, this time with Negron

20180208_184947If Tuesday’s immigration debate between House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum isn’t enough to whet the appetite of capital city  political junkies, there’s another guilty-pleasure contest on the horizon.

Gillum, a Democrat who’s announced he’s running for governor, and Corcoran, a Republican who’s widely expected to enter the contest, will go mano a mano after a dust-up about sanctuary cities.

After he finishes sparring with Gillum, Corcoran will take on his upper-chamber counterpart, Senate President Joe Negron, on the basketball court.

The legislative leaders will go face off in a three-point contest at halftime of a charity basketball game set for Feb. 20 at Leon High School. The annual event gives Republicans and Democrats the opportunity to take out their hostilities on the b-ball court.

The event benefits the Children’s Home Society of Florida.

Tickets for the game — $5 — and more info are available here.

By Jim Turner and Dara Kam.

 

Glades Lives Matter: “They want our land”

Senate President Joe Negron’s suggestion that water managers expand their search for land to build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee is drawing pushback from area residents.

Janet Taylor, a former Hendry County commissioner and chairwoman of Glades Live Matter, sent out an email rebuking the call to widen the planned reservoir.

“Their argument, however thinly disguised, is not about water quality and quantity,” Taylor wrote. “The water coming off the farms in our communities is much cleaner than it was when it came onto the farms. According to the SFWMD, 98% of the pollution that comes into Lake Okeechobee that has to be discharged comes from NORTH of Lake Okeechobee not from sources here in the Glades. No, this ‘reservoir redo’ is about taking more land, destroying our communities, displacing families and ruining local economies by ending farming on the most fertile soil on the face of the earth.”

In approving money for the reservoir (SB 10) earlier this year, state lawmakers made concessions to farmers, residents and politicians south of the lake by announcing support for a number of economic development projects in the Glades region, including an expansion at the Airglades Airport in Clewiston and an inland port in western Palm Beach County.

On Thursday, Negron sent a letter to South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Ernie Marks expressing concern that plans put forward a day earlier “may be unnecessarily constrained by using a limited footprint.”

The reservoir, which has been a top priority for Negron, is part of strategy to reduce polluted discharges from the lake into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries in Southeast and Southwest Florida. Negron shepherded a bill through the Legislature this year for the reservoir project.

“What I hope to see from the district is a proposal that is workable, that we can make a reality as expeditiously as possible to decrease the need for harmful discharges to the estuaries,” Negron, R-Stuart, wrote. “If the district needs to be flexible with the footprint to put an effective reservoir plan into action, I hope it will consider using any additional land available, if necessary.”

Bullsugar Alliance, along with a number of other groups, including the Sierra Club, Florida Sportsman, the Florida Wildlife Federation, Friends of the Everglades and the Stuart Flyrodders, called the district proposals “woefully short” of meeting the goals of stopping harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges into estuaries.

Taylor’s letter:

They are coming for our Land

Former Arkansas Senator Dale Bumpers once famously said, “When they tell you it’s not about the money . . . it’s about the money.”

Well, when the coastal elites and radical environmentalist tried to tell us that building a reservoir to store water south of Lake Okeechobee was “not about taking our land” . . . we knew . . . it was about taking our land.

We here in the Glades want clean water and healthy, thriving communities. The coastal folks gave plenty of emotional play to wanting clean water but seemed to have thrown that aside in favor of the same old radical rant to take our land. Here’s the proof.

Just 7 months ago we all agreed – environmentalists, Glades residents, farmers, advocates on all sides and legislators – to build a water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. We all agreed on the amount of land to be used, the type of land (already state-owned) to be used and the exact location of the land to be used. The legislature passed the reservoir act in Senate Bill 10 with great fanfare. Everybody got a pat on the back, accolades and awards were handed out like candy. The Governor signed the bill right here in our community. Since then the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) moved heaven and earth to get community input and put together an actual plan for building this reservoir. One that will meet the terms of the law and store water to reduce coastal discharges.

Then, recently, all hell broke loose when the radical Martin County group of professional protesters and their misinformed followers known as ‘Bullsugar’ began filling up inboxes and comments sections with the message that the reservoir (the one we all agreed on in May) won’t work because they “need more land.” Their action exposed to the rest of the state what we in the Glades have known all along – they want our land, and no reservoir project will ever be good enough unless it takes more land.

Their argument, however thinly disguised, is not about water quality and quantity. The water coming off the farms in our communities is much cleaner than it was when it came onto the farms. According to the SFWMD, 98% of the pollution that comes into Lake Okeechobee that has to be discharged comes from NORTH of Lake Okeechobee not from sources here in the Glades. No, this ‘reservoir redo’ is about taking more land, destroying our communities, displacing families and ruining local economies by ending farming on the most fertile soil on the face of the earth.

The word is out. Their motives are exposed. Groups like ‘Bullsugar’ got busted, again.

So instead of going back on their word and further exposing their true agenda to the rest of the state, we ask that they join us. Join us in our call to fix the most vulnerable population protection structure in America– the Herbert Hoover Dike. It protects the Glades communities, and a stronger dike will reduce the knee-jerk need to discharge water to the coasts after heavy rainfall events. Slowing down and treating all that water North of Lake Okeechobee will benefit the

Lake’s ecosystem, even further reduce damaging coastal discharges, and benefit ALL of our communities.

Fixing the Herbert Hoover Dike will not give them their true prize — our land. But it will make all our water cleaner, our whole economy stronger and keep all our communities together and secure.

Janet Taylor is the Chairwoman of Glades Lives Matter and a former Hendry County Commissioner

By Jim Turner.

Latvala accuser’s lawyer puts Senate on notice

A lawyer representing Rachel Perrin Rogers, the high-ranking Senate aide who accused Sen. Jack Latvala of groping her on numerous occasions over the past four years, has asked Senate President Joe Negron to preserve nearly eight years of records in anticipation of a lawsuit regarding the alleged sexual harassment.

In a letter sent to Negron Wednesday, lawyer Tiffany Cruz asked that Negron preserve “documents, tangible things, and electronically stored information potentially relevant to the claims which may be brought against the Florida Senate and Senator Jack Latvala.”

“This letter comes in anticipation of litigation under related to violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Chapter 760, Florida Statutes, and other statutes related to such violations and the concomitant conduct which my firm has been retained to investigate,” Cruz wrote.

The federal Civil Rights Act protects against employment discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion and national origin. The statute referenced by Cruz in the letter deals with the Florida Commission on Human Relations. Complaints filed with the state commission and/or its federal counterpart would be the first step in pursuing a civil action against against the Senate or Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who maintains he did not touch Perrin Rogers inappropriately.

The request for records includes emails, texts, voice messages and instant messages, as well as documents, spreadsheets and images.

Cruz asked that Negron not only preserve records dating back to Jan. 1, 2010, but intervene to prevent loss due to routine operations or malfeasance and employ proper techniques and protocols to preserve” the records.

Negron, R-Stuart, has remained tight-lipped about Latvala, amid twin investigations into the sexual harassment allegations. A special master who’s conduct a probe for the Senate Rules Committee is said to have completed his interviews, and his report — and recommendations — could be released any day.

 

 

Senate president: Sexual misconduct inquiry not slowing down process

20171208_105141Senate President Joe Negron covered a vast array of topics —including nursing homes, tax breaks, gambling and the state’s $85 billion budget — during a nearly hour-long pre-session interview with The News Service of Florida this morning.

The news team was warned beforehand that questions about the investigation into allegations of sexual harassment levied against  Sen. Jack Latvala by a high-ranking aide to Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson were off limits.

We tried to tap-dance around the restriction, but Negron, a lawyer, stuck closely to comments he’s already made about the investigation and the charges, which have rocked the Capitol and caused what one Republican senator called “paralysis” in the upper chamber.

Even Gov. Rick Scott called Latvala — a Clearwater Republican who insists he is innocent and that he is a victim of a political smear campaign — a “distraction” and said that “it seems that everyone in Tallahassee is talking about this and not how to make Florida better.”

The governor’s critique came more than a week ago; since then, there’s been almost a daily development in the increasingly toxic battle.

But Negron, a Stuart Republican headed into his second and final legislative session as the man with the gavel in the Senate, disagreed that the drama has eclipsed all other business in the Senate.

“That’s not what I see. I’m visiting with senators constantly and talking about projects. There are bills being referenced,” he said. “A lot of bills have been filed. Committee meetings are moving forward. Some bills have been voted down. Some bills have been voted up. So, I think that the people’s business is being done. And we’re going to let the process that’s set forth in our rules move forward and then there will be a resolution.”

Negron relied on talking points from memos distributed in the early days of the investigation, launched after a POLITICO Florida story early last month detailed the allegations against Latvala, when asked if the revelations exposed activity in the Capitol that had been kept under wraps for years.

“In the Senate we have zero tolerance for sexual harassment. We have zero tolerance for any mistreatment of any senator, of staff, of guests and citizens who visit us in their Capitol. That has always been our policy and will continue to be our policy. I believe that the vast majority of individuals who work in the Capitol treat people fairly, treat people appropriately, and show respect to everyone in the process,” the president said.

Negron reiterated that he wants individuals who’ve been the victim of sexual harassment to come forward.

Perrin Rogers has accused Latvala and his supporters of retaliating against her and her husband, GOP political consultant Brian Hughes. The Senate aide hired an armed guard to protect her in the Capitol, and Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat, this week filed a complaint against Latvala, accusing him of “outing” Perrin Rogers.

“With regard to the specific instance where there’s been a complaint filed that’s being investigated, the process will move forward,” Negron said, referring to the sexual harassment complaint Perrin Rogers lodged against Latvala. “There will be an outcome to that. And I’m committed personally, in my own role as the Senate president, that we’re going to respect the rights of everyone in the building and that any person who feels that they’ve been a victim of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct should feel free to confidentially come forward and report that and it will be dealt with appropriately.”

When pressed about whether the Florida Legislature was caught up in the #MeToo wave that’s gripped Congress and statehouses around the country, Negron demurred.

“In the culture generally, there’s enhanced attention to this issue. That’s a good thing. In terms of what happens in the Senate and in the Capitol, I’ll stand by my assessment that the vast majority of elected officials conduct themselves appropriately and treat people in this process with respect and in a business-like manner,” he said.

 

Sexual harassment in the statehouse: Florida has plenty of bedfellows

Lawmakers “can’t police themselves.”

That’s from a headline in a recent Sacramento Bee report detailing how statehouses around the country — including Florida — are dealing with sexual harassment.

Missouri, Tennessee, New York, Kentucky, Washington, Illinois, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and California are among the states where women say a toxic environment exists in state capitols.

In Florida, veteran Sen. Jack Latvala has been stripped of his post as the powerful budget chief, at least during an investigation into allegations that he groped and verbally demeaned female lobbyists and aides. Senate President Joe Negron ordered the investigation into the allegations regarding Latvala, his onetime political foe. Latvala, a Clearwater Republican running for governor, has vehemently denied the accusations.

In California, more than 200 women involved in the political process — including lobbyists and lawmakers — signed a letter exposing what they called a “pervasive” culture of sexual harassment. The head of the California Senate has called for two independent investigations into the issue.

Here’s the top of the Sac Bee report:

A powerful Missouri lawmaker’s lust for a 19-year-old intern compelled his colleagues to ban romantic relationships between lawmakers and capitol staff.

In New York, three simultaneous sexual harassment scandals involving different state lawmakers prompted a crackdown in Albany.

And in Tennessee, persistent harassment by a state representative led his peers to expel him from the legislature last year.

Read the rest of the Sac Bee story here.

Sexual harassment allegations create “awkward” mood in Senate

Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, took over as the upper chamber’s powerful budget chief Monday after Senate President Joe Negron told Sen. Jack Latvala to step aside, at least for now.

Bradley’s no stranger to the budget process. The former prosecutor has chaired three budget subcommittees since joining the Senate five years ago.

Negron stripped Latvala of his post as Appropriations Committee chairman following allegations that the Clearwater Republican groped women and made unwelcome verbal comments about their bodies. Latvala, who is running for governor, is out of the post while an investigation, ordered by Negron, is pending, the Senate president said Monday.

Latvala has steadfastly denied the allegations, vowing to clear his name.

The investigation into the alleged misconduct by Latvala comes after a high-ranking Democrat, Jeff Clemens, resigned from his Senate seat after admitting he had an affair with a lobbyist.

Bradley said he’s “going to keep the trains moving on time” to make sure the budget process keeps on track in Latvala’s absence.

When asked about the mood of the Senate following Clemens’s exit and the accusations against Latvala, Bradley said it was “awkward.”

“It’s an awkward situation that we find ourselves in. Ever since the Harvey Weinstein story and the Roger Ailes story became national news, I think there’s been an appropriate focus on sexual mistreatment in the workplace. It’s no surprise that Tallahassee isn’t immune from those dynamics and those discussions,” Bradley said in an interview Monday afternoon. “My focus is on making sure that anyone who has been the victim of sexual misconduct while either working for the Senate or visiting the Senate feels completely comfortable coming forward and sharing their experiences.”

Bradley said he was sickened by the allegations.

“What I hear, in terms of how other people perceive they’ve been treated, how other people have been treated, and this concern about retribution going forward, all of that makes me sick to my stomach,” he said.

The spotlight on sexual harassment and sexually inappropriate behavior, as awkward and uncomfortable as it may be, could be a good thing, Bradley said.

“For too long, there was a discomfort in people sharing those experiences, and that’s wrong. I think in some ways, this is going to result in positive changes for how Tallahassee does business, just like I think there’s positive changes for how people to business in the private sector and government throughout our country,” he said.

Some female lobbyists are complaining that the scrutiny is making it harder for them to do their jobs: Some male lawmakers and aides  are refusing to meet after-hours or privately with the women.

Bradley said he treats everyone equally, and called on his colleagues and lashed out at anyone who’s excluding women.

“This concept that women feel like they’re going to be disadvantaged because men are less inclined to deal with females or work with females because they’re afraid of being misconstrued, I think that’s a bunch of hogwash,” he said. “I think it’s hogwash to say that you’re going to change your behavior and not allow women to interact with you under the same set of rules, I think that’s hogwash to make such a statement. Women and men need to be treated equally in this process. And whatever rules one has for dealing with men, they need to have the same rules for dealing with women. It should all be professional.”