If Richard Corcoran truly believes local governments using taxpayer dollars to hire lobbyists is a “disgrace,” he can do more than require those who represent public entities or tax-supported entities to disclose their contracts.
He could tell these lobbyists they’re not welcome in the Florida House if they’re there on behalf of a city or county or sheriff or college or school district or airport or seaport, etc.
Of course, he’s not ready to do that. Adams Street would fall into the Gulf of Mexico sooner than that would happen (although FloridaPolitics.com hears that a handful of veteran lobbyists, such as the venerable Guy Spearman, have told clients they will not represent them in the House.)
But Corcoran could make an example out of one or two of the local entities who truly should not be using taxpayer dollars to lobby the Legislature. In fact, he could start with giving the hand to those who represent the embattled Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission.
The commission pays $120,000 annually to Corcoran & Johnston to represent it before the Legislature. Michael Corcoran, one of the principals of the firm, is the brother of Speaker Corcoran.
Lawyers for the PTC have argued that it is not funded by taxpayer dollars, but by regulatory fees assessed for the certificates and permits paid by the taxi cab industry it regulates.
The PTC has used lobbyists since at least 2007, when Victor DiMaio was hired by then PTC Chairman Kevin White to lobby in Tallahassee. White was later indicted on federal charges that he abused his position as chairman of the county’s Public Transportation Commission, taking bribes in return for favors to a towing company.
WTVT Fox 13 reported in December that three different attorney general opinions showed that entities created by the state cannot spend money on state lobbyists without specific authorization. One of those opinions was written by Bondi to Hillsborough County Attorney Chip Fletcher in February 2014. The case was whether the Hillsborough County Civil Service Board was allowed to lobby. Bondi’s office ruled it was not.
However, Fletcher writes that such an opinion was based on the “very limited purpose” of the Civil Service Board. He contrasts that with the “much broader purpose” that the Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission has.
Still, it’s never passed the smell test that an entity created by the Legislature should use its limited funds to lobby the Legislature.
Not that the PTC will be around for much longer.
As Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal reports, even though the PTC has escaped a criminal investigation into how its executive director conspired with taxi cab companies to issue tickets Uber and Lyft drivers operating outside of PTC regulations governing for-hire transportation, the commission’s days are numbered.
The agency itself is also already in the process of taking steps anticipating dissolution. The Hillsborough County Attorney’s office is removing its services from the agency. (Executive director Kyle) Cockream has resigned and board members acknowledged finding a permanent replacement would be unlikely because it’s widely accepted that the PTC will be dissolved.”
Still, Speaker Corcoran should make an example of it.
Imagine the message it would send if the Speaker told his own brother that the PTC should not have been wasting taxpayer money on lobbyists.
Material from FloridaPolitics.com’s Mitch Perry was used in this post.