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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pete Antonacci confirmed as Enterprise Fla. CEO at $165,000

Pete Antonacci

Miami Herald

Pete Antonacci

A "nationwide search for Pete Antonacci" came to a quick conclusion Monday as Enterprise Florida's board of directors voted unanimously to make him the job-recruitment agency's new president and chief executive officer.

Hired without a formal search, Antonacci arrives with the strong backing of the most important person in EFI's world, Gov. Rick Scott, who delivered a strong endorsement of his former legal adviser.

"He will clearly help get deals done," Scott told board members. EFI vice chairman Stan Connally, who recommended Antonacci's hiring, called him a "fantastic" pick, and board member Dominic Calabro of Florida TaxWatch called him "a real class act."

Antonacci has a long and diverse resume in state government. He served as Scott's general counsel, as Scott's appointee as interim state attorney in Palm Beach County and as the executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, whose members are Scott appointees. He's a former lawyer and lobbyist with the Gray Robinson law firm and spent much of his career as deputy attorney general under Bob Butterworth, a Democrat who was Florida attorney general from 1986 to 2002. …

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Absentee ballot fraud case fizzles in Palm Beach County

Palm Beach County State Attorney David Aronberg

Miami Herald

Palm Beach County State Attorney David Aronberg

We hear a lot about voter fraud, and many concerns about its threat to democracy are unwarranted.

But in Florida, at least, absentee ballots have always posed a bona fide threat.

The Palm Beach Post in March reported that there were some issues with absentee ballots for the 2016 August primary. Among the findings: at least 300 request forms for the ballots were requested without voters' knowledge; the campaigns monitored the ballots, visiting the homes when they arrived in mailboxes; and picking up the ballots and delivering them to the elections offices.

The two Democratic candidates, Palm Beach Commissioner Mark Bernard and Rep. Al Jacquet, both won, the Post said, as they took advantage of "gaping holes in Florida's vote-by-mail laws to pressure and cajole voters in their living rooms." A blind voter told the Post that Bernard filled out his ballot and signed it. Voters must sign their their own ballot.

Did the absentee ballots matter? Jacket lost at the polls to his opponent by 132 votes, but beat him in mail ballots by 1,167.

"That is highly suspect," Daniel Smith, a University of Florida professor, told the Post. …

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Charlie Crist top freshman fundraiser

Fundraising leaders

CQ Roll Call

Fundraising leaders

WASHINGTON - Florida Rep. Charlie Crist leads all freshmen in fundraising this year, according to an analysis.

CQ Roll Call found that Crist is tops with $1.9 million.

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Committee attacking Taddeo paid consultant for Rivas Logan

Ana Rivas Logan and Annette Taddeo.

Special to the Times

Ana Rivas Logan and Annette Taddeo.

State Senate candidate Ana Rivas Logan asserted earlier this month that she had no connection to a political committee attacking her Democratic opponent, Annette Taddeo.

Rivas Logan claimed she'd even try to call the managers of the Floridians for Accountability committee after they mentioned Taddeo's 11-year-old daughter in a campaign flier, but "they don't answer their phones," Rivas Logan said in a televised July 16 exchange.

But two days later, Floridians for Accountability spent $250 buying photographs from a source Rivas Logan knows well: Her campaign's political consultant, Pedro Diaz.

A campaign-finance report filed by Floridians for Accountability last Thursday lists a $250 expenditure to "Diaz Campaigns" on July 18 for "photos." The Miami P.O. Box address listed is the same Rivas Logan has listed in her own report to pay "Diaz Consulting."

Asked about the payment Monday, Diaz described the transaction as "just some photos that they wanted to us to take care of for them for another project." He declined to offer specifics, insisting the photos in question were unrelated to the campaign. …

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Rubio to headline Seminole County GOP dinner

Sen. Marco Rubio to headline dinner

Seminole County GOP

Sen. Marco Rubio to headline dinner

Sen. Marco Rubio will headline the Seminole County GOP's Lincoln Day Dinner on Aug. 22, according to a release.

Tickets start at $150.

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Five questions for the Democrat running for attorney general

Ryan Torrens

Tampa Bay Times

Ryan Torrens

From our friends at The News Service of Florida: Ryan Torrens is the first, and so far only, Democrat to take the initial step toward trying to succeed term-limited Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2018.

Torrens, a 32-year-old attorney from Hillsborough County, went to the University of Tampa and George Washington University Law School. He owns a law practice, which focuses on foreclosure-defense and consumer-protection litigation.

The News Service of Florida has five questions for Ryan Torrens:

Q: What was the spark that made you want to concentrate on consumer protection and foreclosure defense? …

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Jeb Bush: Anthony Scaramucci will help Trump

Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director

The Associated Press

Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director

WASHINGTON - Before he discovered unyielding love for Donald Trump, Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director, was a Jeb Bush man.

"Jeb has the forward-looking vision and executive experience to lead our country and ensure our economy grows at its full potential,” Scaramucci said in September 2015 after joining Bush’s national finance commiteee. He had initially been with Scott Walker.

“As governor of Florida Jeb turned words into action and brought real reform to the state, creating an environment for job growth and economic prosperity, I know he will do the same as president,” Scaramucci said in a news release from Bush’s campaign.

Bush was eager to show strength — and not scare off donors — as his poll numbers were weakening. “Anthony’s decision to join our organization is evidence of Jeb’s appeal as the executive with the most conservative, results-oriented record in this entire race,” Jack Oliver, Bush’s national finance co-chairman said. …

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Governor talks tough on Venezuela but his ability to follow through is limited

Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks to the media as he holds a Venezuelan ‘Freedom Rally’ at El Arepazo 2 restaurant on July 10, 2017 in Doral. Scott called on the Venezuelan government to free Leopoldo Lopez, a political prisoner from house arrest, as well as those that have been wrongly imprisoned by Nicolas Maduro's government. 

Joe Raedle Getty Images

Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks to the media as he holds a Venezuelan ‘Freedom Rally’ at El Arepazo 2 restaurant on July 10, 2017 in Doral. Scott called on the Venezuelan government to free Leopoldo Lopez, a political prisoner from house arrest, as well as those that have been wrongly imprisoned by Nicolas Maduro's government. 

To show his solidarity with Venezuelans, Gov. Rick Scott held a rally in South Florida and repeatedly promised to punish companies that do business with the Nicolás Maduro regime.

But Scott has offered no details as to how that will work and, although the governor and two other members of the Cabinet oversee the Florida Retirement System and its $150 billion in assets, their options are limited. Additionally, a 16-year-old U.S. Supreme Court ruling may bar him from telling state agencies to boycott companies that do business in Venezuela.

“Next month, at my next Cabinet meeting, I will be proposing a resolution that will say any organization that does business with the Maduro regime cannot do business with the State of Florida,” Scott proclaimed at a July 10 rally at the El Arepazo restaurant in Doral. The crowd cheered.

The governor, attorney general and state chief financial officer act as the State Board of Administration but, because they have a fiduciary responsibility to keep the state pension fund healthy, they may not sell off large amounts of assets if that could affect the profitability of the fund — unless they are ordered to by law. …

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Services set for former Hillsborough lawmaker John Ryals, 84

Former Rep. John Ryals (right) with Speaker Don Tucker in 1977.

floridamemory.com

Former Rep. John Ryals (right) with Speaker Don Tucker in 1977.

Services will be held Thursday for former state Rep. John Ryals of Brandon, who represented Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties in the state House for 14 years. A Democrat and a Plant City native, Ryals served from 1966 to 1980. He died July 19. A funeral service will be held at First Baptist Church of Plant City, with visitation one hour prior to the service. Interment will follow at Oaklawn Cemetery in Plant City.

A notice from the speaker's office in Tallahassee said Ryals was an early supporter of a medical school at USF, Hillsborough Community College and Tampa's Crosstown Expressway. As chairman of the House Administration Committee in the 1970s, Ryals oversaw and approved legislators' travel and office expenses and -- this was a long time ago -- access to long-distance SUNCOM phone lines back to their districts. …

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Opinions across Florida: Trump's immigration policy goes too far

Francisco Javier Gonzalez and family

change.org

Francisco Javier Gonzalez and family

DRACONIAN: President Donald Trump's immigration policy includes "draconian measures" that tear families apart, according to a Palm Beach Post editorial. Recent deportations and detentions ensnared locals like Francisco Javier Gonzalez, the manager of a pizza restaurant in Palm Beach, Victor Chavez and his wife Matias Carillo, Jupiter business owners who have a 13-year-old son, and Gloriana Gonzalez, a Riveria Beach woman who reported a theft in May, only to alert police to her boyfriend, Milton Perez Gabriel, who was detained because he was an undocumented Guatemalan laborer. Later, Gonzalez, a 43-year-old Venezuelan woman with a master's degree, was detained after a fender bender because her visa had expired. "It would be nice if local law enforcement decided their resources are best used to aid their residents rather than a harsh deportation policy," the editorial stated. "That they won't call ICE if they encounter an immigrant here illegally who seems non-threatening and doesn' have a criminal record." …

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Florida taxpayers will shoulder $1.1M in legal fees in state's defense of 'Docs vs. Glocks'

From Jim Saunders at the News Service of Florida: …

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Lacking key DOE guidance, Florida schools try to adopt statewide reforms in HB 7069

Miami Herald file photo

Every year, new state laws hit the books that have to be implemented once they take effect. But House Bill 7069 isn’t your average new law.

The sweeping, 274-page, $419 million measure that reforms Florida’s public K-12 schools spans dozens of changes in statute — some of which are complex and take effect at different times over the course of the next few years.

So, what goes into implementing something like that?

The Florida Department of Education doesn’t want to answer questions about it and hasn’t offered much detail publicly three weeks after HB 7069 became law on July 1.

Full story here.

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Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics

 Winner of the week

Peter Antonacci. Gov. Rick Scott tapped his go-to utility player to lead his Florida job recruiting agency, Enterprise Florida, having previously picked him for his general counsel, to lead the South Florida Water Management District and to serve as Palm Beach state attorney.

Loser of the week

Rick Scott. The governor who made his millions in the health care industry has yet to articulate what he wants for federal health care reform beyond more federal money for Florida and an end to Obamacare. The strong Trump ally early on claimed he was a key force in shaping the GOP’s new health care policy, which so far has been nothing but a failure.     

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Florida Insiders: We'll find out soon whether Adam Putnam has a glass jaw

Florida Insider polls are unscientific surveys of Florida political operatives, money-raisers, lobbyists, political scientists, recovering journalists, activists, and the like

Tampa Bay Tomes

Florida Insider polls are unscientific surveys of Florida political operatives, money-raisers, lobbyists, political scientists, recovering journalists, activists, and the like

This month's Florida Insider Poll questions: Who would be the strongest Democratic/Republican nominee for governor? Whom do you expect will win the Democratic/Republican gubernatorial nomination? Which party do you expect will win the Senate District 40 special election? Do you expect Rick Scott to run for president some day?

We allow anonomous opinions in this rare case to encourage honest answers from people involved in the political process. Here's are the comments we received from our Florida Insiders:

Republican: With all the discourse in DC and Tallahassee business leaders will continue to find success at the polls and that includes the only businessman in the race for Governor on the Republican side, Jack Latvala and yes Rick Scott will be POTUS after Trump. …

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Gov. Scott vetoed a higher ed bill. Now he wants universities to spend their money wisely.

Gov. Rick Scott

Matias Ocner / Miami Herald

Gov. Rick Scott

When Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a major higher education reform bill last month, it didn’t strip away millions of dollars for Florida’s public universities that was already approved separately in the state budget but linked to that proposed policy.

Because the policy didn’t become law, the universities aren’t as limited now in how they can spend the money.

Scott sent letters to each of the 12 public universities this week urging them to use the dollars — more than $120 million among the individual institutions — to “focus on graduation rates” and encourage post-graduation career opportunities.

Full details here.

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