Thursday, April 26, 2018
Politics

Florida House leadership assignments will test bipartisanship

The bipartisan spirit is already receding from last week's swearing-in ceremony and Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford looked more like a typical conservative Republican with the unveiling of his committee assignments on Monday.

Weatherford placed a reliable social conservative, Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, in charge of the Judiciary Committee. Baxley has helped write and sponsor some of the Legislature's more notorious pieces of legislation, including 2005's "stand your ground" law and 2011's HB 1355 (which reduced the number of early voting days from 14 to eight while making it more difficult to register voters).

And Weatherford left Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka, an insurance agent, as chairman of the Insurance & Banking Subcommittee.

Meanwhile, Weatherford denied one of the banking and insurance industry's most vocal critics, Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, from serving on the Insurance & Banking Subcomittee. Fasano listed it as his top preference along with the Transportation & Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee, where he was placed.

"Having Bryan Nelson chairing Banking & Insurance is one of the worst things to happen to the consumer," Fasano said. "It's the wolf guarding the henhouse. Bryan Nelson carries the water for the insurance industry."

Rep. Richard Corcoran, the Pasco Republican who is in line to be speaker in 2016, got two significant posts: chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee and chairman of a select committee that will oversee implementation of the health care law.

Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, will oversee nearly a third of the state budget as chairman of the Education Appropriations Subcommittee, which now is in charge of K-12, community college and university spending.

The Ethics & Elections Committee, revived after six years of dormancy in the House, will be led by Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton.

In the Senate, President Don Gaetz has designated Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Wellington, as majority leader. Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, is deputy leader and whip.

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, will chair the new committee on ethics and elections.

Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, will remain chairman of the Rules Committee. Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, will become Appropriations Committee chairman.

Senators face 2014 rerun

For half of the members of the Florida Senate, it will soon be time to reload and run again. That's because 20 senators who received two-year terms in the new reapportionment plan face re-election in 2014. The two-year anomaly occurs only in a once-a-decade redistricting year, to maintain the constitutional requirement for staggered Senate terms.

Every senator in an even-numbered district received a two-year term in 2012. Those elected for the first time will be eligible to serve for 10 years, through 2022, if they subsequently win re-election to two additional four-year terms in 2014 and 2018.

The district numbers were randomly assigned to Senate districts in March. The Senate secretary drew balls from a basket in a drawing similar to a lottery.

Sixteen of the 20 senators who will face voters in 2014 are Republicans, including five from Tampa Bay: Wilton Simpson, Jeff Brandes, Bill Galvano, Lee and Latvala.

The new "dean" of the Legislature is Democratic Sen. Gwen Margolis, 78, of Coconut Grove, who served six years in the House and is starting her 21st year in the Senate, with one two-year break from 2008-2010.

Margolis was first elected to the House in 1974 — five years before Speaker Weatherford was born.

Comments
VA nominee considers withdrawing as new allegations emerge of drinking, wrecking government vehicle

VA nominee considers withdrawing as new allegations emerge of drinking, wrecking government vehicle

WASHINGTON — White House physician Ronny Jackson has grown frustrated with the nomination process to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs and has told colleagues he may remove his name from consideration, two White House officials with knowledge o...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Sessions defends Trump pardons of Joe Arpaio, Scooter Libby

Sessions defends Trump pardons of Joe Arpaio, Scooter Libby

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday defended President Donald Trump’s right to pardon former Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former Bush administration official I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Both pardons were issued by Trump and bypassed the ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Seniors support ‘grandchildren’ with gun-control rally in Sun City Center

Seniors support ‘grandchildren’ with gun-control rally in Sun City Center

SUN CITY CENTER — Millions of women marched on Washington. Thousands of teenagers rallied in Tallahassee and Tampa Bay.And in Sun City Center, nearly 150 seniors held a demonstration for gun control on April 21, offering a simple but poignant message...
Published: 04/25/18

Sean Hannity, a Trump defender, under scrutiny for real estate deals

Atlanta Journal-Constitution (TNS)ATLANTA — On his Fox News program last summer, Sean Hannity effused praise for his guest, U.S. Housing Secretary Ben Carson. "I know you have done a good job," Hannity said. "You are a good man."Carson’s presence gav...
Published: 04/23/18
Having Cuba in the name of your company can be a financial risk and there is no solution

Having Cuba in the name of your company can be a financial risk and there is no solution

With the third largest Cuban American population, Cuba’s culture is celebrated throughout the Tampa Bay area and in a diversity of ways.Flags hang in homes, fashion is worn, music performed, food served.But be wary of honoring that heritage by puttin...
Published: 04/23/18
Trump says he doesn’t think personal lawyer will ‘flip’

Trump says he doesn’t think personal lawyer will ‘flip’

WEST PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump said Saturday that he doesn’t expect Michael Cohen, his longtime personal lawyer and fixer, to "flip" as the government investigates Cohen’s business dealings. Trump, in a series of tweets fired from Florida o...
Published: 04/21/18

Vive la France: Trump hosts glitzy White House state dinner

WASHINGTON — Now it’s President Donald Trump’s turn to pull off the ultimate charm offensive. Wined and dined on multiple state visits during his tour of Asia last year, Trump is paying it forward and celebrating nearly 250 years of U.S.-French relat...
Published: 04/21/18
Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

The writer of the letter sounds hysterical. Perhaps a little desperate. And maybe that’s just who Marion Hammer is these days.Most of the world knows her as the take-no-prisoners maven of the National Rifle Association who directs Florida politicians...
Published: 04/21/18
Rick Scott’s term limits idea: Hugely popular and highly unrealistic

Rick Scott’s term limits idea: Hugely popular and highly unrealistic

WASHINGTON — Gov. Rick Scott’s first policy idea as a U.S. Senate candidate won’t happen and most of his fellow Republicans don’t support it.But it’s a surefire applause line at political rallies.Scott wants term limits for members of Congress: 12 ye...
Published: 04/23/18
Ex-FBI deputy director ‘disappointed’ in Comey comments

Ex-FBI deputy director ‘disappointed’ in Comey comments

WASHINGTON — Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director, is "very upset and disappointed" by comments made by his former boss James Comey that contradict his account of a disclosure to the news media, McCabe’s lawyer said Friday. "Andy has at all ...
Published: 04/20/18