Governor-elect DeSantis is nearing his inauguration on January 8th, and has announced several transition appointments including the following:
State Agency Heads
- President and CEO of Enterprise Florida – Jamal Sowell. As you all are aware, Jamal currently serves as Chief of Staff at Port Tampa Bay. This appointment must be confirmed by the Senate.
- Executive Director of the Department of Economic Opportunity – Ken Lawson. Ken currently serves as the President and CEO of VISIT Florida and replaces Cissy Proctor
- Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation. The Florida Transportation Commission will be meeting on January 9th & 10th to provide recommendations to Governor DeSantis on this selection. As with recent selections, we expect the Governor’s Office to communicate his preference to the Commission prior to the meeting. This is a public meeting, and we will let you know what names have been submitted to the Governor as soon as they are announced.
- CEO, Visit Florida – Dana Young. Young is a former-Senator and House member who has been a great friend to the Ports during her years of service (Passed repeal of Florida Seaport Security regulations) and we look forward to continuing to work with her in her new role.
- Chief of Staff – Shane Strum. Strum was most recently the Senior Vice President at South Florida’s Memorial Healthcare System. Strum was also Chief of Staff for Governor Crist.
- Director of Legislative Affairs – Stephanie Kopelousos. Kopelousos was most recently the County Manager for Clay County. Kopelousos also served as the Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation from 2007 until 2011.
- Policy Director – Chris Spencer. Spencer most recently was with Gray Robinson, is currently the transition advisory committee manager for Governor DeSantis and also served as the Chief Legislative Aide to Senator Jeff Brandes.
- Director of Policy and Budget – Governor DeSantis has decided to retain the current Director, Cynthia Kelly, as his OPB Director.
As you can see, some of these individuals are very familiar to us, and most are very familiar with seaport and transportation issues. We will get a better understanding of the Governor’s vision for transportation and seaport issues after the inauguration ceremony on January 8th.
Eric Green delivered a presentation on seaports to Governor-elect DeSantis’ Transition Advisory Committee on the Economy. Green pointed out that under the leadership of Governor Scott, Florida began a focused investment in its seaports and freight mobility infrastructure. This investment included bonding authority and appropriations of more than $1.5 billion. The presentation also noted that Florida’s, neighboring (competitor) states were investing more than $200 million annually in their seaports and intermodal logistics centers. And, the federal government is now willing to partner with states on investments. If Florida wants to remain competitive, we must match our neighbors’ investments and leverage these state and local funds with federal dollars. The presentation was well received by the Committee, and we expect that continued seaport investment will be part of the final report to Governor-elect DeSantis.
As for the Legislature, Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva (R-Miami) announced his committee structure and assignments for 2018-2020 on December 14th. The committees include a substantive and appropriation committee dealing with seaport-related issues – the Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Tourism.
The Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure includes the following members: Representatives Brad Drake (Chair, R-Defuniak Springs); Colleen Burton (Vice Chair, R-Lakeland); Thad Altman (R-Indian Harbor Beach); Mike Caruso (R-Palm Beach); Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa); Dianne Hart (D-Tampa); Adam Hattersley (D-Tampa); Stan McClain (R-Ocala); Representative Toby Overdorf (R-Port St. Lucie); Bobby Payne (R-Palatka); Tina Polsky (D-Boca Raton); Mel Ponder (R-Ft. Walton Beach); Rick Roth (R-Palm Beach Gardens); Charlie Stone (R-Ocala); and Geraldine Thompson (D-Orlando).
The Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Tourism includes the following members: Representatives Jay Trumbull (Chair, R-Panama City); Brad Drake (Vice Chair, R-Defuniak Springs); Bobby DuBose (D-Ft. Lauderdale); Elizabeth Fetterhoff (R-Deland); Joe Geller (D-Dania Beach); Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill); Tom Leek (R-Daytona Beach); Amber Mariano (R-Port Richey); Anthony Rodriguez (R-Miami); David Smith (R-Oviedo); Barbara Watson (D-Miami Springs); and Matt Willhite (D-Royal Palm Beach).
The Florida Senate held some brief initial committee meetings the week of December 10th, but did not discuss any substantive issues. They have scheduled meetings for the committee weeks of January 7th and January 22nd. We will keep you informed of any discussions concerning transportation or seaport-related issues.
At the federal level, as you all are aware, the federal government is current partially closed due to the inability to pass the last few appropriation bills – including transportation, commerce and homeland security appropriations. The 116th Congress began its first session on January 3rd, and appointed Congresswoman Pelosi as Speaker. The House then passed out an omnibus appropriation bill to fund everything but homeland security issues until September 2019; the homeland security appropriations bill would be effective until February 8th. Initial response from the Senate and President Trump was that this initial bill was not acceptable.
As discussed on our teleconference calls last month, we continue to work with all ports and Senator Rubio’s office on HMT issues. We will continue to work with Florida ports, the AAPA, and other stakeholders that are interested in ensuring the proper use of HMT funds for channel projects. As you may be aware, Senator Shelby was unable to attach his HMT language to take HMT funds “off budget” in the Senate omnibus bill that did not pass in December. Senator Shelby stated that he would continue to try and push this issue, and seek legislation later on the HMT issue.
The Army Corps is seeking public input on the development of implementation guidance for various provisions contained in the Water Resources Development Act of 2018 (WRDA 2018). Interested stakeholders may submit comments for a 60-day period that closes at midnight Tuesday, February 12th. Additional information can be found in the press release issued by the Corps.
The FPC has scheduled a D.C. Fly-In with the cruise industry on February 13th & 14th to educate our Florida Congressional Delegation and others. Christine Duffy, President Carnival Cruise Lines, has already signed up to attend functions on the 13th and possibly the 14th, and we expect additional cruise industry leadership to attend. We will be working with CLIA and congressional staff to develop additional information on itinerary and meetings and will get you that information as it becomes available.