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State Reps. Gottlieb, Morales File 2022 Bill Raising Property Exemption for Widowed, Disabled

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Florida State Reps. Michael Gottlieb (D-Broward) and Daisy Morales (D-Orlando) have filed a bill increasing property tax exemptions for the widowed and disabled Monday, July 19, 2021. Photos: Rep. Gottlieb via Florida Politics; Rep. Morales: Florida House of Representatives.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (FNN) – State Representatives Michael Gottlieb (D-Broward) and Daisy Morales (D-Orlando) filed a 2022 bill increasing the homestead exemption for the widowed and disabled Monday.

HB 13 increases property tax exemption for residents who are widows, widowers, blind persons, or persons totally and permanently disabled.

The bill proposes to 10x the current exemption from $500 to $5,000 for eligible individuals and would apply to tax years beginning on or after January 2023.

Before the Legislative Session begins on Jan. 11, 2022 the Florida House and Senate will hold six weeks of committee meetings beginning in September. That period gives lawmakers the chance to start early on priority legislation.

The original bill can be found here.

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Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | mellissa.thomas@floridanationalnews.com

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State & Local Politics

Daisy Morales Files for 2024; Slams Harris, Hispanic Elected Leaders

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State Representative Daisy Morales submits her campaign documents to the Florida Division of Elections in Tallahassee Thursday, September 1, 2022. Photo: Daisy Morales campaign.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (FNN) — The Daisy Morales campaign announced Friday that the State Representative has filed first for Florida House District 44 in the 2024 election, hand delivering her campaign documents to the Florida Division of Elections in Tallahassee Thursday.

 

State Rep. Daisy Morales signs the candidate oath form to file for Florida House District 44 in the 2024 election. Photo: Daisy Morales campaign.

State Rep. Daisy Morales signs the candidate oath form to file for Florida House District 44 in the 2024 election. Photo: Daisy Morales campaign.

 

The Democrat freshman lawmaker joins fifteen others who have also filed early to run in 2024, including fellow Democrat State Reps. Allison Tant, Christine Hunschofsky, and Felicia Robinson, according to the Florida Division of Elections website.

 

Morales Makes the Case for HD 44

Simply put, Rep. Morales laid out a long case in the campaign press release for why she’s choosing to run for HD 44 again.

According to the release, she’s running at the urging of supporters, donors and voters from left, right and center (ideologically) who “expressed their outrage to her at the seat being given to someone with no legislative experience.”

Morales doubled down on the need for Hispanic and Puerto Rican voices in the Florida House while firing a shot at Jennifer “Rita” Harris, who won the August 23rd primary. District 44 and the Florida House deserve a Hispanic voice that represents the people. Experience and diversity matter,” she said in the press release. “House District 44 will need more than just an activist and noisemaker like Rita Harris in Tallahassee.

“This district is an economic engine that requires an effective lawmaker that has a history of getting results in the form of bills being signed into law benefiting Floridians and funding coming back to the district. Rita Harris has none.”

Morales also reiterated her shots against Harris from the primary campaign.

“District 44 needs a representative that is not bogged down in massive IRS debt, is open about their employment history, and can speak to both the English and Hispanic communities.”

 

Reiterating the Track Record

In the campaign press release, Morales decided to say her track record again a little louder for the people in the back, highlighting a few laws:

  • Property Tax Exemptions For Widows, Widowers, Blind Persons, or Persons Totally and Permanently Disabled (CS/HB 13) (sponsor, 2022) was included in this year’s history-making Taxation Bill (HB 7071, co-sponsored) and provides a tenfold tax exemption increase from $500 to $5,000 for widows, widowers, the blind and the permanently disabled. That’s $5,000 in tax savings in their pockets.

  • Educational Opportunities for Disabled Veterans (CS/HB 45) (sponsor, 2022) – this bill, now signed into law, releases funding to cover any remaining out of pocket costs disabled veterans may have in their pursuit of education after all other funding options have been applied.

    This law is on track to become a national model. Louisiana State Representative Lou Beaullieu wants to model the law in his state, which creates an opportunity for every single state government across the country to adopt it for the veterans in their states as well.

  • Specialty License Plates (CS/HB 213) (sponsor, 2022) – this bill was included in the now signed Specialty License Plates law (CS/CS/SB 364), which allows the State of Florida to sell Down Syndrome awareness license plates (a first for the state) and uses the proceeds to help fund housing and education opportunities as well as employment assistance for Floridians in the Down Syndrome community.
  • Autonomous Vehicles (CS/CS/HB 1289) (co-sponsor, 2021) – This law made it possible for BEEP’s fleet of autonomous shuttle buses to serve the Lake Nona community.

  • $50 million in funding for Visit Florida (HB 489, SB 434) (co-sponsor, 2022) – this law allocates $50 million in funding to keep Visit Florida, the marketing arm for Florida’s tourism industry, running until 2028.

  • $3 million in funding for Farm Share (HB 2189) (co-sponsor, 2022) – In partnership with Farm Share, Rep. Morales helped feed thousands of families during the COVID-19 pandemic, and co-sponsored this bill, which was signed into to law, to continue the organization’s invaluable service to Florida families.

  • $4 million in funding for UCF’s Nursing School building in Lake Nona (HB 3841) (co-sponsor, 2022) – this funding will help UCF build its Nursing School building in Lake Nona’s Medical City.

 

Central Florida Hispanic Leaders Abandon Hispanic Political Voices?

Rep. Morales alleges that Central Florida’s Hispanic leaders sold out or abandoned the Hispanic and Puerto Rican community in the rush to support Rita Harris for the seat.

In the below video from Johanna Lopez‘s campaign, Lopez, who has a November election, was helping Rita Harris campaign on primary election day on August 23, along with Samuel Vilchez Santiago, Morales’s former opponent from the 2020 Democratic primary for Florida House District 48 (for which Lopez was the campaign manager), and others.

 

 

Rep. Morales is currently the highest elected Puerto Rican woman in the Florida House, and if Johanna Lopez is elected in November, that mantle would go to her, but the number is still just one. State Senator Victor Torres is the only Puerto Rican represented in the Florida Senate, so the total is two at the state level. By comparison, there is greater representation among African Americans in the Florida House and in Congress, yet the African American community is still fighting for more and greater representation–which spurred State Reps. Travaris McCurdy and Angie Nixon’s sit-in on the Florida House floor in protest to Governor Ron DeSantis’s Congressional maps, which phased out two black Congressional districts altogether.

While Puerto Ricans make up a large part of Florida’s Hispanic population, which is the second highest in the state compared to the African Americans’ third place, African Americans appear to be more protective of their representation by comparison.

Rep. Morales wants to see more of this among Puerto Ricans at the state level.

The primary election is over,” said Rep. Morales in the release, “But our work is far from over. I was the target of Hispanic leaders who chose to turn their back on their own community in an effort to forfeit this seat to pretty much anyone else—because that’s the message they sent on August 23rd. What has long been a Puerto Rican seat is pretty much anyone’s seat now.

I won’t stand for that. Our community deserves to be represented in District 44, and one thing about us as Hispanics, especially Puerto Ricans, is that we will be heard, no matter what, and we know the power of our vote, especially in Central Florida.”

 

Name Dropping

The Morales campaign even dropped in a word from Republican former State Rep. Rene Plascencia, the only other Puerto Rican representation in the Florida House (he’s half-Puerto Rican) prior to resigning his seat for a private sector job.

“Other lawmakers had the opportunity to notice the dirty tricks used against Rep. Morales’s campaign,” reads the press release. “Some did nothing, some chose to join in on the foolishness, and others spoke out. Former State Representative Rene Plascencia, who is also half-Puerto Rican, had this to say on his personal Facebook page:

In my two years of serving with Daisy Morales I have nothing but positive things to say about her. She worked hard for her constituents, always trying to find common ground to build relationships off of while never compromising her principles. It’s unfortunate that the Orlando Sentinel tries to influence elections by twisting the truth and facts. They are attempting to do it for the second time against Rep Morales. If you find her on your ballot, please consider voting for her.’”

Former State Representative Rene Plascencia took to his personal Facebook account on on August 12, 2022 to defend State Rep. Daisy Morales and speak out against the Orlando Sentinel's article attacking her back in August. Image: Rene Plascencia (Facebook).

Former State Representative Rene Plascencia took to his personal Facebook account on August 12, 2022 to defend State Rep. Daisy Morales and speak out against the Orlando Sentinel’s article attacking her. Image: Rene Plascencia (Facebook).

 

Morales Reiterates Voting Record

Rep. Morales beat the drum on her voting record as well. “Also, for some reason, there’s this narrative that I didn’t vote with my party, yet Progress Florida and Florida Watch, two independent progressive organizations, gave me an A+ (97%) on my voting record for their Florida’s People First Report Card. That’s higher than many of our other Democratic Orange County State Legislative Delegation colleagues, including State Senators Victor Torres (94%), Randolph Bracy (83%), and Linda Stewart (81%); and State Representative Kamia Brown (88%). Out of 160 lawmakers, I’m in the top ten. I tied for second place with State Reps. Geraldine Thompson, Travaris McCurdy and Joy Goff-Marcil.”

 

Morales’s Reason for Repetition

There was a massive misinformation campaign against me in the last election, and it’s not going to happen this time,” Morales said in the press release. “Voters deserve to know the truth. Our new campaign team is ready to take on the establishment’s deceptive attacks in order to keep the voters informed heading into the 2024 election.”

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2022 Midterm Election

Peter Vivaldi Launches Campaign to Unseat Victor Torres in Senate District 25 Race

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Supporters join Republican State Senate candidate Peter Vivaldi (right) at Matador Restaurant in Downtown Kissimmee for his campaign kickoff to defeat Democratic State Senator Victor Torres. Photo: Peter Vivaldi campaign.

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (FNN) – On Wednesday evening, Republican state Senate candidate Peter Vivaldi announced his repeat attempt to unseat Democratic state Senator Victor Torres in the November general election. Vivaldi believes Torres’s lack of vision to lead, failure to pass legislation, failure to deliver state funding for the district and turning his back on the community makes Vivaldi a better choice.

Nearly 250 community citizens, leaders and other political candidates
congregated at the Matador in downtown Kissimmee to join Peter Vivaldi in his
kickoff for State Senate in the newly drawn District 25.

 

 

“I think this is a new time for our community,” Vivaldi said in a press statement. “For over a decade, the community has been asking and longing for new and positive change.” Throughout the campaign, Vivaldi will be out in the community talking to voters and listening to their concerns to make a difference for them in Tallahassee.

“When I go to Tallahassee, the bills I propose will be about benefiting and
enhancing the quality of life for our constituents and their families,” the press release stated. “Now is the time to have a representative that has the community’s priorities in mind, and who can build the argument to have those needs and priorities written into law.”

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2022 Midterm Election

Voters Question Unemployed Rita Harris’s $10,000 Campaign Loan

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Jennifer Rita Harris speaks during the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida's candidate forum. Image: WESH 2 News (screen capture).

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – Jennifer “Rita” Harris nabbed the victory in Tuesday’s primary, defeating incumbent State Rep. Daisy Morales by eight percentage points (just over 1,000 votes).

Despite that, heated conversations have continued on social media even in the aftermath of the election, and some concerned voters pointed out Rita Harris’s $10,000 campaign loan in the final two weeks of the election. According to Harris’s campaign financial reports with the Florida Division of Elections, she (under the misspelled Jennifer Harris with the typo “Jennider”) loaned her campaign $10,000 on August 12, 2022, despite having what the Orlando Sentinel reported as a $78,000 IRS tax debt.

Some comments also rehashed the contribution by Harris’s adult daughter, who is listed as unemployed on the report and as a dependent in Harris’s tax forms (included in Harris’s financial disclosure), but donated $1,000 to Harris’s campaign.

As an aside, other campaign donations include her husband’s $1,000 donation as well as $1,000 from Valeo Cloud Consulting, a company for which her husband is a partner.

Jennifer Rita Harris (right), her husband John and daughter Anissa. Photo: Facebook (Jennifer "Rita" Harris for FL HD 44).

Jennifer Rita Harris (right), her husband John and daughter Anissa. Photo: Facebook (Jennifer “Rita” Harris for FL HD 44).

More concerningly, Harris has loaned her campaign money several times, but for whatever reason alternated between listing herself as Rita Harris and Jennifer Harris and bounced between using her campaign PO Box and her personal address for each. She didn’t assign the PO Box address for one name and the home for the other, she mixed the addresses between both names. Additionally, while most of the donations have her listed as “Not Employed” or “Candidate,” there’s one $50 loan on April 5, 2022, in she’s described as “Writer.” This is a contrast to her touting herself as a housewife and, as she explained to the Orlando Sentinel in a recent article, doesn’t receive a paycheck from her husband’s company, Harris Cloud Consulting, for which she named herself as CEO on her LinkedIn profile.

Source: Florida Division of Elections.

Source: Florida Division of Elections.

Source: Florida Division of Elections.

Source: Florida Division of Elections.

 

Campaign’s Quiet Corrections

Florida National News reached out to the Rita Harris campaign via email at 4:04pm Thursday for clarification, but received no response. (The screenshot above were taken earlier in the day.) Interestingly enough, after revisiting the Florida Division of Elections site to review Harris’s reports again at 6:30pm, Florida National News discovered that the names were corrected to Jennifer Rita Harris (except the June 15, 2022 donation for $275 which is listed as Jennifer Harris), the occupation for all five donations are now listed as “Candidate” and all of the donations have been corrected to reflect that they’re loans instead of just checks.

This still begs the question: Where did Harris get the $10,000 from? All eyes and negative comments flew at State Rep. Morales after she announced her $50,000 campaign loan. Scrutiny is no respecter of persons–at least it shouldn’t be, and has been over the course of the HD 44 race.

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