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Takeaways From Tallahassee – Book Closing Means Business

Get registered!

It’s Primary season in Florida, and that means it’s time to register to vote or update your party affiliation.

Monday marks book closing, the 29-day deadline to register in advance of an election. In this case, the upcoming vote is Florida’s Primary Election on Aug. 23, a day when races from Governor to City Commissioner will be on the ballot.

“I encourage all Floridians who are eligible to register to vote at RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov,” Secretary of State Cord Byrd said in a statement. “Additionally, all registered Florida voters should check their voter registration status and ensure they are registered and that their information and signature are both up to date.”

Faith Based Events
Cord Byrd is leaving a reminder for eligible Florida voters.

Because it’s a Primary Election, races with no Primary contest won’t be on the ballot. And because Florida is a closed Primary state, only members of the party can vote in a party’s Primary. But that isn’t a reason not to register.

If all candidates in a race belong to the same party, all voters can weigh in on that race, regardless of party affiliation. Plus, nonpartisan races such as judicial, school board, special district and other local offices, as well as referendum questions, will be open to all registered voters.

Elections officials aren’t the only ones blasting reminders to eligible voters.

“The upcoming Aug. 23 Primary is a critical opportunity for Florida voters from all backgrounds, ZIP codes and income levels to have a say in the future of our local communities, state and country,” said Amy Keith, program director for Common Cause Florida. “Please double check your voter registration, and make sure those you care about are registered to vote. Our democracy needs all of us participating in this election, so that our government truly will be of, by, and for the people.”

For the first time in state history, Republicans overtook Democrats in overall voter registrations late last year, which GOP officials — both statewide and nationally — hailed as a milestone achievement. Since then, Republicans have only grown their advantage.

Florida has 14.3 million active registered voters as of the end of last month, down a few thousand compared to 2021. The Florida Democratic Party singlehandedly accounted for the shrinkage. The Republican Party of Florida, minor parties and the pool of unaffiliated voters all grew in the last six months.

At the end of last year, Republicans and Democrats were roughly tied with around 5.1 million active registered voters, with Republicans leading with a slight advantage. Since then, the number of GOP voters has grown to 5.2 million while the number of Democratic voters fell below 5 million.

The party balance isn’t significant for the Primary, but it potentially illustrates the momentum in Florida with the Midterms less than four months away.

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Coming up, the usual assortment of news, intel and observations from the week that was in Florida’s capital city by Peter SchorschDrew Wilson, Renzo DowneyAimee SachsChristine Jordan Sexton and the staff of Florida Politics.

But first …

Take 5

The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Charlie Crist, Nikki Fried spar in debate — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried exchanged barbs in a pre-recorded gubernatorial debate Thursday in their one chance to weigh-in for Florida’s Democratic electorate. Florida’s 15-week abortion ban loomed over the debate. “When women die here in the state of Florida, that is on you, and you will have to live with that every single day,” Fried said, linking the fragility of the state right to abortion to judges appointed by Crist. Crist later pledged that he would endorse Fried if she won the Democratic Primary. Fried did not have an immediate opportunity to respond to Crist’s pledge but did not circle back to make the same pledge, an omission Crist’s camp later latched on to. Post-debate, Fried also retweeted comments accusing Crist of sexism and racism in his debate remarks.

Court won’t fast track abortion case — A Florida appeals court, in a split 2-1 split decision, is rejecting attempts to block the state’s new ban on abortions after 15 weeks and also refusing to speed the case up to the state Supreme court. The Thursday night decision by the First District Court of Appeal means it could be weeks, if not months, before the legal battle over whether the new law violates Florida’s Constitution is finally resolved, meaning it may not be decided before this year’s elections.

Forward Florida funds Andrew Gillum defense — Gillum faces criminal charges alleging he siphoned money from a political committee to his pocketbook. But now that same committee appears to be funding his defense in court. Forward Florida in its June financial reports lists a $414,181 payment to Markus/Moss Criminal Trial and Appellate Lawyers. The timing of the payment coincides with the day Miami lawyers David Markus and Todd Yoder notified federal courts they would represent Gillum in the fraud case against Gillum. Financing a criminal defense seems to reach outside the normal scope of campaign spending.

Ratings agency to downgrade 17 Florida insurers — Demotech is set to downgrade 17 Florida property insurers, a move that could deliver another blow to an already fragile market. It also spurred a swift response from Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and the Office of Insurance Regulation, which blasted the decisions. Patronis called Demotech a “rogue ratings agency” that is playing “havoc with the financial lives of millions of Floridians,” in a letter to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac leaders. Demotech is the only agency that rates domestic Florida insurers, so Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which require mortgages to have minimum property insurance coverage, would not back up those mortgages.

Ethics panel rejects Jack Latvala settlement — Three alleged ethics violations committed by former Sen. Latvala will head to an administrative law judge after the Commission on Ethics rejected a settlement between the Clearwater Republican and the panel’s advocate. The panel found probable cause exists to uphold the allegations. Latvala testified in person, saying it was the first chance he’s had to refute the allegations that he groped and made sexually insensitive comments to a Senate staffer and engaged in a consensual affair with a lobbyist. In the settlement, he admitted “poor judgment” but insisted he never traded his actions as a lawmaker for any sexual favors. “If you’re going to start making that the basis for complaints — having sex with lobbyists — you’re going to be a very busy Commission,” Latvala said.

Keep on Trucking

Manatee Technical College received a $430,000 grant that allows it to offer a Diesel Systems Technology course aimed at growing the workforce for in-demand occupations in the transportation, distribution, and logistics industries.

The money comes from the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) which administers what is known as the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, an economic development program designed to promote public infrastructure and workforce training across the state. Proposals are reviewed by DEO and Enterprise Florida (EFI) and are chosen by the Governor.

DEO and EFI are currently accepting proposals until all funding has been awarded. More information is available online.

Ron DeSantis and Dane Eagle are out touring the Job Growth Grant Fund. Image via Facebook Live.

“Advancing Florida’s workforce continues to be a top priority for my administration and this program will further expand opportunities for Floridians to gain skills as diesel technicians — one of the state’s most in demand industries,” DeSantis said in a prepared statement. “Congratulations to Manatee Technical College and the students who will be able to use this program to enter high-paying careers.”

DEO Secretary Dane Eagle said the grant underscores the Governor’s “promise to invest in the lives of Floridians and our workforce.”

“We will continue to use every available resource to help meet the evolving needs of the region and offer new career opportunities for Florida communities,” Eagle said.

Henry Mack, Senior Chancellor at the Florida Department of Education, said the money will be an opportunity for students to earn technical skills that enable them to earn salaries that rival what college graduates earn.

“The idea that every student needs a university degree to be successful is mistaken,” Mack said. “This is an exciting step for the region in promoting the value of a career and technical education.”

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