15May/09

Advisory from the Florida Retail Federation

Governor Charlie Crist issued Executive Order 09-114 on May 14.  This Executive Order declares a State of Emergency due to drought conditions and wildfires in Florida.  This declaration applies to the entire state and will be in effect for sixty (60) days unless extended.

State of Emergency pricing laws are in effect. Florida law states in s. 501.160: “Upon a declaration of a state of emergency by the Governor, it is unlawful and a violation of s. 501.204 for a person or her or his agent or employee to rent or sell or offer to rent or sell at an unconscionable price within the area for which the state of emergency is declared, any essential commodity including, but not limited to, supplies, services, provisions, or equipment that is necessary for consumption or use as a direct result of the emergency.”

Please be mindful of these laws as you conduct business for the duration of the declared State of Emergency.  If you have any questions, please contact Samantha Hunter Padgett at 850-222-4082.

15May/09

Rep. Seth McKeel’s Response to The Ledger’s Offshore Exploration Series

I’d like to thank the Ledger for devoting two days of editorials to the subject of energy exploration and production in Florida’s waters as well as the issue of energy independence in the United States, and what Florida’s potential role should be.

Before speaking to the subject of your editorial, it is important for readers to understand what is and is not in House Memorial 21 which I sponsored, and House Bill 1219 which seems to be the main subject of your two part series. The legislation I sponsored urges Congress to support the expiration of the moratorium on the exploration and production of oil and natural gas in federal waters surrounding Florida. House Bill 1219, sponsored by Representative Van Zant, deals with the exploration and production of these resources in state waters. Though I support both efforts, your editorial was ambiguous regarding distinction between the two.

First, House Bill 1219 would not have opened coastal waters to drilling upon passage. It simply would have directed the statewide elected members of the Florida Cabinet, sitting as the Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, to receive and consider applications for oil and natural gas exploration. Proposals would be considered by the Cabinet on a case-by-case basis, and even if an application is denied, the $1 million application fee is kept by the state. Additionally, the Cabinet would set the rules by which any exploration or production of energy is carried out. While your editorial board favored including specific equipment and methods for energy extraction in law, I believe we have wisely left the adjustments to ever-improving technological advances to the Cabinet process, which is better equipped to act and change quickly.

The Ledger’s editorial also makes note that this proposal appeared in the last ten days of session, as though the question of energy exploration in the Gulf of Mexico has been taking place under the cover of darkness, or that my colleagues and I supported this proposal out of fear of reprisal from the Speaker Designate, Dean Cannon. This particular proposal may have been heard late in the Legislative Session, but the underlying issues of energy security, environmental protection, and economic development are anything but new. In fact, I have filed legislation dealing with offshore exploration each of the three years I have served in the Legislature. And neither Dean Cannon nor I made the electricity in Lakeland or nearly half of the homes in Florida run on natural gas. Nor did we put the oil reserves our country relies on in the Middle East or at the whim of Hugo Chavez. The need for this source of energy is not a secret to homeowners and electric rate-payers, nor is that need going to decrease in the foreseeable future.

Floridians want to know what their state government is doing to promote energy independence, new jobs, and economic development. I fail to see what “distraction” the exploration for energy in our waters poses to the development of alternative sources. The legislation directed portions of any royalties derived from energy production for just that purpose, but that is not all. Money will also be set aside to help fund Florida Forever Land Acquisition, Beach Restoration and Nourishment, Environmental Science education, and even direct funds to local governments. If no energy is produced, then we have lost nothing. However, if energy is extracted from our waters, the gains to our economy and the ability to fund Florida’s budget priorities could be enormous.

Your editorial board has said, “The longer that coastal drilling is under consideration, the farther Florida will be from energy independence.” I couldn’t disagree more. The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own fact.” Saying that coastal exploration and production of energy cannot help promote independence does not make it so, and trying to eliminate one of the tools that can be used to reach that independence flies in the face of good sense. Floridians expect more than nay saying and bumper sticker campaigns – they expect solutions.

Wild swings in natural gas prices have hurt the residents of Lakeland and scores of other Floridians. And our state will soon be 50 percent dependent on natural gas for electricity – even if we ultimately get to 20% renewable energy in the future. I cannot in good conscience sit idly by while electricity ratepayers are left to the volatility of the market. Will the production of natural gas from our waters solve all of our problems? Probably not, but with energy exploration in our own waters, Floridians make the rules and receive the benefits. We can choose to play a part in controlling our own destiny. While other states like Texas and Louisiana use royalties for funding education and other programs, our prohibition prevents any financial benefit to Floridians. Why should Florida be the only Gulf Coast state not benefiting from its available energy resources?

I support the research and development of alternative energy sources, but a comprehensive energy strategy is just that – comprehensive. Ignoring sources of energy in our own backyard is short-sighted. Times and technologies have changed. Energy exploration is now safer, cheaper, and most importantly, cleaner than ever before. Waiting for unemployment to rise, the current recession to worsen, or the price of oil and natural gas to skyrocket again is not a prudent strategy for dealing with our energy and budgetary needs. Continuing the ban only serves to inhibit our ability to lessen our reliance on foreign energy sources, fund important priorities in our state’s budget, and create new well-paying jobs for Floridians.

Representative Seth McKeel

Florida House District 63


12May/09

Fox 13 | “Fox on your Block” Live From Lakeland Friday Morning

The Chamber, in cooperation with the City of Lakeland is excited that we will have Fox 13 producing a live morning show with Russell Rhodes and Charley Blecher from Lakeland’s very own Munn Park on Friday, May 15th. The crew from Fox will start setting up at 3:30 AM that day.

The morning show will feature Lakeland as their “Fox on Your Block” segment with the morning weather, and features that will be aired live on the hour starting at 5 a.m.  If you tune-in at 7 AM you will see Charley Belcher visit Explorations 5.  Anne Furr and Jerry Herring will be featured on a segment, along with downtown merchants and restaurants. Also the City’s very our own special collections librarian, Kevin Logan, pre-taped a historical segment.

We would like to give a special thanks to Director of Communications at the City, Kevin Cook, for helping coordinate this great project.

12May/09

USF Polytechnic Needs Your Help

As you may have recently read in the Ledger, USF Polytechnic is poised to receive the funding necessary to develop the programs, faculty and facilities to move the University toward its mission as Florida’s first Polytechnic University. USF Polytechnic is unquestionably one of the most important economic development projects to impact Lakeland, Polk County and the I-4 corridor in years, and will serve as a catalyst to attract high skill/high wage industry and jobs to our region. The Lakeland community is already experiencing the ripple effect associated with this project. Welldyne, a high-tech pharmaceutical company, chose to build its newest facility in Lakeland because of USF Polytechnic. They have pledged to fill 700 jobs in the next two years. As the University grows our community can expect to see various support industries moving to Lakeland.

As business leaders in the community, the Chamber is encouraging you to communicate your support of USF Polytechnic and ask Governor Crist to support the funding allocated in this year’s budget for the University. David Steele, Director of University Advancement, has provided some points and communication tips to assist in this process:

AGENDA:

Urge Gov. Charlie Crist to support the Legislature’s recommended funding levels for higher education and USF Polytechnic.

TIMING:

Make contact by letter, email, phone & fax ASAP after 05.11.09.

SPECIFICS:

The Florida Legislature has appropriated $11.4 million in construction (“PECO”) funding and $5 million in base budget for new faculty & programs.

KEY POINTS TO INCLUDE IN YOUR LETTER:

Last year Gov. Crist signed legislation that established USF Polytechnic as “the state’s first and only polytechnic”.

Last year Gov. Crist supported $15 million in initial construction funding for the new campus.

The development of USF Polytechnic has been a top priority of our entire region, including the Tampa Bay Partnership, the Central Florida partnership, the Central Florida Development Council, the Lakeland Economic Development Council, the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce, the Polk Board of County Commissioners, the Lakeland City Commission, Lakeland Vision, and numerous other public and private organizations and citizens.

It represents a stunning opportunity for economic development in one of the state’s most dynamic regions, at the heart of Florida’s High Tech Corridor. (Key sectors include information technology, manufacturing/logistics/distribution, healthcare, engineering, etc.)

The PECO (construction dollars) funding is vital as an economic stimulus initiative (construction projects have tremendous “ripple effects” on the economy)

The base budget funding for new faculty & programs is crucial as USFP develops an exciting new model of public higher education and moves toward separate accreditation.

Well over $100 million has already been invested in this project by local government and private donors. The state “needs to do its part” and leverage those investments.

This is important to you, your organization, your community/region, and the state.

This is about “finishing what we started” and positioning Florida for global competitiveness.

COMMUNICATION TIPS:

Use multiple modes of communication: email is quickest, but you can follow up with fax, phone, AND “snail mail”.

Open your communication with a clear statement of support. Don’t save that for the end. At the end you can reinforce your message.

Briefly explain your connection with the project & region (i.e. local entrepreneur, investor, donor, native, concerned citizen, etc.)

Emphasize that this is not only an important “regional priority” but also vital to the state’s future

Don’t forget to thank Gov. Crist for his prior support for USF Polytechnic.

Every “touch” on this issue matters. Please do NOT pass up a chance to weigh in!

CONTACT INFORMATION:

Governor Charlie Crist
State of Florida
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

fax: 850.487.0801

phone: 850.488.7146

email: Charlie.Crist@MyFlorida.com, Eric.Eikenberg@MyFlorida.com

/ cc: HARRISON.PATTY.S17@flsenate.gov, seth.mckeel@myfloridahouse.gov, dfsteele@poly.usf.edu

NOTE: It is very important to send the emails to all addresses noted above. That allows those other than the Governor to track support & help to leverage it.

QUESTIONS:

If you have any questions, please contact David Steele (dfsteele@poly.usf.edu or 863.944.9119). He can get you whatever information you need.