2007 News

Rating Florida lobbyists

Florida Insider, 10/19/2007

The…Duke and Duchess

Jack and Kenya Cory….. have adapted bravely to the brave new world in Tallahassee. Class folks who know all the delegations. Very active at the local level.

Association and in-house lobbyists

Associated Industries of Florida. Hard-charging and aggressive, but with Barney Bishop now putting a needed diplomatic face on AIF as the new head dude in charge.

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Budget work to cover shortfalls begins

www.news-journalonline.com, October 4, 2007

TALLAHASSEE -- Opening a special legislative session, Florida lawmakers started patching together cuts Wednesday to close a $1 billion budget shortfall, while also taking steps toward reinstating the state's no-fault auto insurance system.

House and Senate members said they expect to cut about $138 million that had been earmarked for the day-to-day operations of public schools. But at least some education officials expressed relief that the proposed budget cuts are not worse.

"I'm not here to complain too much," Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, told members of a House budget panel.

Other groups, however, urged lawmakers to reconsider proposals that would reduce money for hospitals and for programs that are designed to boost water supplies and reduce water pollution.

Both the House and Senate want to make permanent cuts in funding for the water programs. Those programs could lose $20 million or $30 million this year, with the House and Senate proposals differing.

Business and environmental groups said they're worried about permanent cuts, even if some reductions are needed this year because of budget problems.

"If you don't have water, you don't have economic development," said Keyna Cory, Chief Lobbyist for Associated Industries of Florida.

The House and Senate are expected to approve their budget proposals Friday before starting negotiations on a final plan. The special session is scheduled to end Oct. 12.

Meanwhile, the House Insurance Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would lead to reinstating the no-fault auto insurance system. No-fault expired Monday, and the proposal to restart it has touched off a major lobbying fight.

House sponsor Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, said lawmakers today will consider a proposal to delay reinstating the system until Feb. 15. That could help deal with logistical problems that have become a key issue in the no-fault debate. Auto insurers say it would be difficult to quickly shift back to a no-fault system after some customers have already left it. Also, Bogdanoff said insurance regulators need additional time, as a shift back to no-fault would involve companies filing new rates.

Lawmakers are dealing with the budget shortfall largely because the slumping housing market has dramatically slowed the amount of tax dollars flowing into the state.

Senate President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, cautioned Wednesday that the budget problems will continue next year, as the economy continues to struggle.

"While you would love to say the sky's blue and it's sunshine out there, at the same time we have to be realists about it, and we need to face reality," Pruitt said.

Any attempts to close such a large shortfall require cutting education and health programs, which make up the biggest parts of the budget.

Among other things, the House and Senate want to raise tuition 5 percent for university and community-college students during the spring semester.

Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed tuition increases earlier this year, but Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, said he thinks the governor will eventually go along this time.

"I think the student body presidents will come and visit the governor and say, 'Governor, we need this, we're in favor of it,' " said King, whose district includes parts of Volusia and Flagler counties.

Tim Huth, deputy superintendent of Volusia County schools, said the district has frozen positions and held back money to prepare for potential budget cuts. But lawmakers have taken steps to ease cuts for Volusia and other districts, including saving $147.5 million by postponing a controversial teacher-bonus program until next year.

Hospitals also are closely watching proposals that would reduce money they receive for treating Medicaid patients. Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach could lose more than $1.1 million, said Deanna Schaeffer, the hospital's government affairs officer.

In all, Tony Carvalho, president of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, said the cuts could cost hospitals more than $70 million this year --- and double that amount next year. He said that could force local taxpayers to help pay more for treating uninsured patients.

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Heather Mikes Named Vice President of Wragg & Casas Public Relations

Veteran Public Relations Executive To Spearhead Expanded Operations
In Southwest and Central Florida

MIAMI, FL – August 16, 2007 – Heather Mobley Mikes has been named vice president of regional operations for Wragg & Casas Public Relations.

Mikes has for the past five years developed comprehensive marketing and communications strategies for a variety of clients throughout Southwest Florida, more than doubling the firm’s business in the region.  She now will take on the added responsibility to expand business operations in Central and North Florida.

She will concentrate on building the current regional offices in Naples/Ft. Myers and in Orlando. She also will develop statewide business for the firm.

Mikes will draw upon the resources of one of the largest, independent full-service public relations and public affairs firms in the state of Florida. With headquarters in Miami, the firm is widely recognized for its creation and execution of strategic public relations and communications programs that support clients’ objectives and communicate their messages effectively.

Mikes is a seven-year veteran of Wragg & Casas, beginning her tenure as an account coordinator in the Miami office.  She joined the Public Affairs Division in 2000, where she was responsible for developing communications plans that focused on government and community relations.  Her efforts on several candidate- and issue-oriented political campaigns resulted in the defeat of three ballot initiatives in the City of Naples.

Since then, Ms. Mikes has developed her expertise handling numerous accounts, including corporate, small business, associations, financial and legal services, real estate development, transportation and the environment.

She specializes in strategic planning, counseling, and producing creative concepts for clients seeking to develop and enhance their corporate image and branding. She also plans special promotions and advertising on behalf of her clients. Her team has been internationally recognized for their marketing and advertising campaigns.

Mikes’ background includes work at Public Affairs Consultants Inc., a Tallahassee-based lobbying firm where she served clients with interests in federal, state and local government.

A native of Florida, Mikes participates in community activities focused on education and mentoring future leaders. She graduated Cum Laude from the Florida State University with a bachelor of science degree in Communication with an emphasis on business.

Mikes is a graduate of Leadership Bonita and a member of the board of directors of the Agriculture Institute and is active in the Association of Florida Community Developers, as well as the Economic Development Council of Collier County.

Mikes currently serves the Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity for women, as membership district director, supervising recruitment efforts at 14 chapters throughout the Southeastern United States.

About Wragg & Casas Public Relations, Inc.
Established in 1991, Wragg & Casas is Florida’s leading independent public relations firm led by principals Otis Wragg, Ray Casas and Joanna Wragg. With offices in Miami, Orlando and Naples/Ft. Myers, we offer complete communication services to businesses including branding, graphic design and advertising services, publicity and media relations, Web site design, Internet marketing services, issues management and crisis communications. We also have in-house capabilities in English and Spanish.

The firm is a member of Pinnacle Worldwide, an international network of more than 50 expert public relations firms in key markets throughout the United States, Europe, South America and Asia.  For more information visit www.wraggcasas.com.

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Anti-gang program kicks off; participants to be chosen soon

Bradenton Herald, July 13, 2007

MANATEE - A program local officials hope curbs Manatee County's growing gang problem kicked into high gear Thursday, when Amer-I-Can officials gave community leaders less than three weeks to select the 40 children and 18 adults who will participate in it this fall.

Anti gang
TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/ ttompkins@bradenton.com

BRADENTON, 7/12/07--President of The Amer-I-Can program Dean Renfrow talks about his goals as consultant Jack Cory listens during a meeting at the Juvenile Justice Center.

Col. Dean Renfrow, president of Amer-I-Can, told a room of more than 30 school and law enforcement representatives they'll have to work quickly. Between now and the first week of August, leaders must select three local schools where the program will begin.

During the pilot year in Manatee, 40 students per semester at each school will take part in the program, which teaches self-improvement and life-skills training to boost self-esteem and character.

In addition, three adult in-school program facilitators will be hired, along with a "peace squad" leader who will oversee up to 18 peace squad community members who live in the neighborhoods of the children.

Those adults, along with active participation from parents, teachers and the community, could help reduce crime substantially, Renfrow said.

"We've come in to help you fulfill your mission," Renfrow said.

State Sens. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, and Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, championed the national program locally and helped obtain $500,000 in state funding for Manatee and Hillsborough counties. Bennett said he's confident the state will continue to fund and possibly expand Amer-I-Can here, if it's successful early on.

Renfrow said if grades, attendance and behavior incidents improve by 10 percent in the first semester, the program can be judged an early success.

"Do not label this a program for bad kids. It helps all kids meet their full potential," Renfrow said. "We want to reach as many kids on the fence line waiting to fall into the pit as we can."

Manatee County School District supervisor Fran Padgett and Sheriff Brad Steube are expected to meet Friday to discuss the three local schools that will be involved. Neither revealed the schools they have in mind, but Padgett said she'll push for two middle schools and one high school. Steube said he'd rather start the program in three middle schools, in order to reach younger children.

Once those decisions are made, principals of the chosen schools and the superintendent's office will choose the students based on attendance, behavioral and academic history.

Amer-I-Can founder and NFL Hall-of-Famer Jim Brown heralded the program's arrival in Manatee County in June, only weeks after a stray bullet from a gang skirmish killed 9-year-old Stacy Williams III.

School district spokeswoman Margi Nanney said the district's Safe and Drug-Free Schools program includes an anti-bullying message, but the district still is trying to "fine-tune" its approach against gangs.

"We realize there's a very serious issue with it in the community," Nanney said. "I'd say we're challenged by the gang issue in many of our middle and high schools and even elementary levels - not in any one particular, but we're training staff to be more aware of how to identify students who may be involved and we're working with the sheriff's department to remedy the situation."

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Football legend to speak on gangs

By Robert Napper
Bradenton Herald, June 1, 2007

A national figure known for breaking tackles is coming to Manatee County to look into what it will take to break the cycle of gang violence plaguing area neighborhoods.

Football Hall-of-Famer and activist Jim Brown is coming to Manatee County on June 11 to confer with local officials on Manatee's gang problem, and begin the steps to implementing his Amer-I-Can anti-violence program.

State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, said Thursday the former football star is scheduled to be in Palmetto for a public conference with the senator and invited school and law enforcement officials.

"We are hoping this will attract younger people to the fact that a prominent national figure and world-class athlete is interested in our problems," said Bennett.

Bennett has long been working to bring Amer-I-Can program to Manatee County, but he put in a request for Brown's personal appearance in the wake of the shooting death of 9-year-old Stacy Williams III.

Three teens believed to be affiliated with the SUR-13 street gang have been charged with murder. The state attorney's office Thursday said it will prosecute the suspects as adults, meaning they face up to life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.

Jack Cory, lobbyist for Amer-I-Can, said the program has been allotted about $1.3 million in the coming fiscal year's state budget.

He said the hope is a contract between Amer-I-Can and the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice will be reached so part of that funding will be approved for use in Palmetto.

The Amer-I-Can program is a 60-hour youth self-improvement and life skills training program implemented in schools, jails, prisons and juvenile detention centers.

After-school services for students in middle and high school are also part of the program.

Gang intervention and prevention specialists also consult with members of the community in efforts to reduce violence, Cory said.

Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube, whose agency is investigating Stacy's death, said Brown's efforts would be appreciated. Bennett's office has invited Steube to participate in Brown's visit.

"Anything we can do to keep kids from getting involved in these gangs, I am all for it," he said.

Anti-gang bill

Even though the Legislature and Gov. Charlie Crist approved funding for Amer-I-Can, lawmakers failed to pass a bill that would have toughened anti-gang laws in the state.

At a town hall meeting Tuesday, state Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said an anti-gang bill passed unanimously by the House of Representatives slipped through the cracks this past session.

The Senate did not even take up House Bill 1363, before the session ended, Galvano said.

The bill would have made it a felony to recruit young gang members and increased the penalty for crimes found to have benefitted a gang.

The bill also would have made it a crime for gang members to use DVDs, videos, Internet, e-mail or text messaging to "intimidate or harass other persons, or advertise his or her presence in the community."

Also, the bill would have established a Florida Department of Law Enforcement database of known gang members in the state of Florida, which could be accessed by law enforcement throughout the state.

FDLE would have also been commissioned by the bill to set up a program where law enforcement agencies throughout the state compete for grant funds to combat gang violence.

The bill would have also changed rehabilitation for convicted gang members. It would have mandated as a condition of probation that a person could not come in contact with any other known gang members.

Bennett said he regretted the Senate's failure to take up the bill, but said passing similar legislation is one of his top priorities in next year's regular session.

"I never saw the bill. I guess we ran out of time. We looked at thousands of bills last session. I guess we didn't get to that one," Bennett said. "I am not saying it is right. But that is what happened."

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