Jim Rosica, Author at Florida Politics - Page 4 of 162

Jim Rosica

Jim Rosica covers state government from Tallahassee for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

Personnel note: Stephen Lawson moves to VISIT FLORIDA

Stephen Lawson has left the post of communications director for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to become Vice President of Government Relations for VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism marketing agency.

Lawson

He announced the job change in an email Wednesday.

Lawson has been making the rounds of Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, previously serving as communications director for Enterprise Florida, the public-private economic development organization.

Before that, he was director of research and writing in the Executive Office of the Governor and “rapid response director” for Scott’s 2014 campaign.

Lawson got his undergraduate degree from the University of Florida, where he was a Florida Blue Key member, and received a graduate degree from Florida State University’s Master’s in Applied American Politics and Policy program.

Some lawmakers bowing out of Special Session

(Originally published Tuesday, June 6, 2017)

At least eight House members and one senator won’t be attending some or all of this week’s Special Session, set for Wednesday-Friday. 

The June meeting is conflicting with some lawmakers’ plans, including one whose brother is getting married out of state.

Below is a list, as of Tuesday afternoon, of lawmakers asking for and receiving excused absences for part or all of the three-day session, with reasons given:

— Rep. Bruce Antone, an Orlando Democrat, excused Wednesday for a “previously scheduled commitment.”

— Rep. Larry Lee Jr., a Port St. Lucie Democrat, excused Friday to host an annual “Restoring the Village” community event “that was planned a year in advance.” (As of Wednesday evening, Lee told FloridaPolitics.com he had later decided to pass on attending the event during the Special Session, and instead planned on being in Tallahassee all three days.) 

— Rep. Alex Miller, a Sarasota Republican, excused all three days as she recovers from surgery.

— Rep. Mike Miller, a Winter Park Republican, excused Wednesday and Thursday because he’s “out of the country.”

— Rep. Cary Pigman, an Avon Park Republican, excused Friday morning for a “prior engagement.”

— Rep. Scott Plakon, a Longwood Republican, excused Friday because of “previous commitments.”

— Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat, excused Wednesday and Thursday because he’ll be in Washington, D.C. with a Pulse nightclub shooting survivor speaking to members of Congress, and then attending the unveiling of a mural at the University of Central Florida commemorating Pulse victims, survivors and first responders.

— Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, a Mount Dora Republican, excused all three days because her “brother is getting married in Arkansas.”

— Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Port Orange Republican, excused all three days as she continues to recover from cancer treatment and surgery.

We’ll add any more names as we receive them.

Updated Wednesday: 

— Rep. Joe AbruzzoBoynton Beach Democrat, excused Wednesday because of a “previously scheduled conflict in my district.”

Jack Latvala: ‘Cooling-off’ period applies to Special Session bills

Sen. Jack Latvala is telling fellow senators that funding bills planned for this week’s Special Session will be subject to the state’s constitutionally-mandated “cooling off” period.

That potentially means, if the bills are changed, that lawmakers could be stuck in Tallahassee past Friday, when the session is scheduled to end.

The Clearwater Republican, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a Tuesday memo that he and Senate President Joe Negron, an attorney, had “reviewed relevant legal precedent and accepted the advice of our professional staff regarding the application of the 72-hour cooling off period.”

A House spokesman wasn’t immediately available for comment.

The Florida Constitution requires that “all general appropriation bills shall be furnished to each member of the legislature, each member of the cabinet, the governor, and the chief justice of the supreme court at least seventy-two hours before final passage by either house of the legislature of the bill in the form that will be presented to the governor.”

“Out of an abundance of caution,” the Senate will allow its bills funding public education, tourism marketing agency and economic development “to rest in final form for 72 hours prior to a vote,” Latvala wrote.

“For this reason, the Secretary (of the Senate) has distributed the filed versions to each member of the Legislature, the Governor, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and each member of the Cabinet,” he said.

More significantly, he said that “if amendments are adopted in Committee or on the Floor, the Secretary will issue a new distribution indicating the start of a new 72-hour cooling off period.”

“Thank you for your time and consideration of these important matters,” Latvala added.

The full memo is below:

Joe Negron: Senate will consider veto overrides

Senate President Joe Negron, in advance of the Legislature’s 3-day Special Session this week, told members in a Tuesday memo he expects “a proposal to override the veto of some university and higher education funding.”

The Stuart Republican also left the door open for medical marijuana implementation to be added to the call, saying he had made no deal “limit(ing) the subject matter to the issues listed in the Governor’s proclamation.” They are education, tourism marketing and economic development funding.

Legislative negotiators are reportedly close to striking a deal regarding marijuana dispensary caps, limiting the number of retail locations, that hamstrung lawmakers during this year’s regular session that ended in May. Introducing marijuana legislation would require a two-thirds vote.

The state’s medical cannabis amendment was passed in 2016 by just over 71 percent of statewide voters. An implementing bill gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.

In the memo, Negron tells senators the House “has indicated a willingness to move toward the Senate position on a number of issues, including the level of public school per-student funding and the amount of state investment in tourism marketing and economic development” and added he “made no agreement that would dictate an outcome for this Special Session.”

The “additional spending of approximately $350 million for K-12 funding, Visit Florida, and EFI (Enterprise Florida) would largely originate from the funds made available from vetoed projects originally funded with non-recurring general revenue,” Negron said.

“This use of non-recurring revenue to fund next year’s recurring needs negatively impacts our budget, and potentially our bond rating, in future years,” he added. “Here are some early ideas that have emerged in the Senate:

“Our Appropriations Chair, Sen. (Jack) Latvala, will file legislation this afternoon that will provide an additional $215 million to the (state’s) student funding formula. This funding will originate from $72 million in state funds ($66 million recurring; $6 million non-recurring) and $143 million (required local effort) increase (new construction only).

“Chair Latvala will also file legislation to address policy changes with regard to Visit Florida and EFI. This legislation will include a requirement that (the Department of Economic Opportunity) return to the state funds (approximately $107 million) held in escrow outside the state treasury to the SEED Trust Fund, which has been a bipartisan priority of the Senate for many years.

“In addition, Sen. (Anitere) Flores will file a bill today that will reduce the general revenue cut to Florida’s hospitals by $100 million, down from the $200 million cut passed in the 2017-18 (budget). This $100 million will come from reserves.

“This is consistent with the Senate’s earlier action during 2017 Regular Session to reduce the anticipated $250 million general revenue cut to $200 million. Once approved, our Working Capital Reserve Account would remain over $1.2 billion and our total reserves would exceed $3.2 billion.

“I also expect that the Senate will consider a proposal to override the veto of some university and higher education funding that represent major priorities of senators.”

Mike Dew named secretary of Florida Department of Transportation

As expected, Gov. Rick Scott on Monday named Mike Dew, the Florida Department of Transportation‘s chief of staff, as its next Secretary, effective immediately.

“For six years, Mike has been an integral part of my administration in the Executive Office of the Governor, Florida Department of Corrections and most recently the Florida Department of Transportation,” Scott said in a statement.

“Mike’s hard work and leadership over these years is a testament to his commitment to improve the lives of Florida families,” he added. “During his time as Chief of Staff of the FDOT, we’ve made great strides thanks to a commitment to excellence in infrastructure and historic transportation funding.

“Florida’s world-class transportation system is an engine for economic growth and job creation and I know Mike is absolutely committed to continuing our great work.”

FloridaPolitics.com first told readers that Dew had received a call from the Governor’s Office telling him the job was his.

Dew, who put in for the top spot the morning of the deadline to apply, was Scott‘s external affairs director in 2011-12. He bested the other finalists: Florida Transportation Commissioner Ron Howse and former FDOT assistant secretary Richard Biter.

The open position was created when former Secretary Jim Boxold resigned in January to join Tallahassee’s Capital City Consulting firm.

Dew also worked on John McCain‘s 2008 presidential campaign and President George W. Bush‘s 2004 re-election.

“It is an honor to be appointed,” Dew said. “Florida is the fastest growing state in the nation and Gov. Scott’s continued focus on our transportation infrastructure is vital not only to our growing population, but to Florida’s booming economy. I look forward to continuing the great work of FDOT and cementing our state as a leader in transportation.”

‘Progress’ on getting marijuana in Special Session but ‘no deal’ yet

Legislative leaders working behind the scenes are getting closer to putting medical cannabis implementation into the call of this week’s Special Session.

For instance, one senator, speaking on condition of anonymity, said “some progress” had been made but there was “no deal” as of Monday afternoon.

When this week’s Wednesday-Friday Special Session was announced last Friday, it only included plans to fund education, tourism marketing and economic development.

That’s despite dozens of lawmakers, including House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who have said the Legislature needs to pass implementing legislation this year for the state’s constitutional amendment on medical marijuana.

Lawmakers came to impasse on a bill during the regular session that ended in May. The biggest sticking point was a cap on the number of retail locations licensed growers could have in the state.

In a memo to House members Friday, Corcoran said the House has “communicated to the … Senate that this is an issue we believe must be addressed and that we are prepared to expand the call.” Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, posted on Facebook he has filed the substance for a “comprehensive medical marijuana bill to the legislature’s drafting office … out of an abundance of caution.”

“I remain steadfastly committed to adopting a patient-focused medical marijuana law,” he wrote.

Florida for Care, the group advocating for implementing legislation, sent an email to supporters urging them to contact their legislators to “demand medical marijuana be added to the call for next week’s special session.”

On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott said he would be “supportive” of the Legislature adding it to the call of the Special Session. Agriculture Commissioner and Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam also has come out in support of addressing marijuana in a Special Session.

The amendment was passed in 2016 by just over 71 percent of statewide voters. An implementing bill gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.

No Casinos responds to criticism it’s ‘misinformed’ about casino gambling

The state’s anti-gambling expansion group is pushing back against comments that it’s “misinformed” about casino gambling not being a “meaningful attraction for Florida tourism.”

Steven Norton, a longtime gambling executive and consultant, linked to Nick Sortal‘s Friday column for the Miami Herald in Norton’s Monday email roundup of the gambling scene in the South.

“As I survey the scene nationwide, I think it’s fair to ask the question: Do we have enough casinos already? And, a related question: Do we have enough gambling already?” Sortal wrote.

Sortal later quotes No Casinos president John Sowinski: ““Most people live near a casino. So casinos are no longer a draw to attract tourists.”

In his own commentary, Norton points to Las Vegas: “It’s not just the gaming, but the entire experience… and when people vacation, they have more time to enjoy their favorite pastimes, than when at home. Plus you will find many potential visitors who will not vacation at a resort unless casino gaming is available.

“I understand Disney’s opposition to gaming, not wanting visitors to spend their money away from Disney World or Epcot, but their visitors also have gaming available, being close to America’s top grossing casino resort, the Seminole Hard Rock, down I-4, in Tampa,” Norton adds.

“The Orlando family resorts have to realize that many of their mid-week customers in the fall, winter and spring are in Orlando attending conventions and trade shows, and do not have their children in tow, so casino gaming is an important added attraction.”

Sowinski wasn’t available Monday, but Paul Seago, No Casinos’ executive director, pointed to a report commissioned by the Legislature in 2013—the same one Sowinski mentions in the Herald column—concluding that “even if destination casinos were built, 95 percent of the revenue would be derived from locals.”

Seago also points to a University of Nevada, Las Vegas study that he says “reviews how the attempt to re-brand Las Vegas as ‘family-friendly’ did not end well.”

“Even more than twenty years after the fact, the notion of ‘family Vegas’ stirs up a host of reactions,” the study says. “Some challenge the idea that such an era ever existed.”

The study goes on to quote a 2012 “Vegas Seven” article: “We proudly inform out-of-towners that we’ve been theme-park free for a decade, and that we’re back to the wholesome pursuits—booze, breasts, and blackjack—that we built our name on.”

New deal? Gretna asks court to reconsider slots ruling

Lawyers for a North Florida racetrack have asked the state’s Supreme Court to rehear argument in a case over whether pari-mutuels can add slot machines in counties that passed referendums allowing them.

Gretna Racing‘s motion for rehearing was filed late Friday, court dockets show. The horse track, also known as Creek Entertainment/Gretna, is managed and operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

Last month, the court unanimously ruled against the track, meaning that gambling facilities in Gadsden County’s Gretna and in seven other counties that passed referendums allowing slots will not be able to offer them.

The court upheld a decision by the 1st District Court of Appeal that agreed with state gambling regulators who denied the track a slots permit.

The ruling was a blow for the state’s pari-mutuels and a win for gambling expansion opponents—if it had gone the other way, the decision might have led to the single biggest gambling expansion in the state.

The opinion, authored by Justice Charles Canady, found that “nothing in (state gambling law) grants any authority to regulate slot machine gaming to any county.”

The track’s 12-page motion counters, in part, that the justices “misapprehended” case law on counties’ home rule authority.

Track lawyer Marc Dunbar, also a part owner, told justices in oral argument last June that the Legislature intended to allow for an expansion of slot machines in the state, saying counties were empowered under state law to decide whether to allow slots.

Lawmakers, many of whom have bitterly complained of judicial overreach into policy, failed to agree on a comprehensive overhaul of the state’s gambling laws this Legislative Session.

As of Monday morning, the court had not responded to the motion. Voters in Brevard, Duval, Gadsden, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Washington counties have approved slots.

Rick Scott talks budget, jobs—but not medical marijuana

Gov. Rick Scott talked about education and tourism funding and job training in the upcoming Special Session but did not mention medical marijuana.

Scott spoke briefly with reporters outside an Enterprise Florida meeting in Tallahassee Friday, a few hours after he appeared with legislative leaders in Miami to announce a Special Session next Wednesday-Friday.

“I’ve been talking about this for about seven years now,” he said. “I kept talking about it, and we figured out a way to make sure it’s a win for Florida families … I think everybody wins here: The students win, everybody who wants a better paying job wins.”

Scott said he will veto later Friday the annual education funding bill with the expectation of lawmakers approving a $100-per-student increase in funding across the state.

He expects increased money for his favored agencies, Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA, which handle economic development and tourism marketing, respectively.

The governor did not mention the need to pass an implementing bill for the state’s constitutional amendment on medical marijuana, despite dozens of lawmakers who have said such guidance still needs to be done this year.

Earlier in the day, he did say he would be “supportive” of the Legislature adding it to the “call” of the Special Session.

It includes creation of a Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to provide $85 million for “public infrastructure and workforce training.”

“It’ll be for rural areas, urban areas,” Scott said. “It’ll (also) be for job training and that money will be spent at our state colleges, so it helps our state colleges.”

Scott also was asked about a contentious education bill (HB 7069) that he said he was still “reviewing” though he has not yet been formally sent the measure by the Legislature. The Florida Education Association has called it a “massive giveaway to charter schools” crafted largely behind closed doors.

He was asked about reports that his expected approval of the bill was part of the deal for next week’s Special Session.

“Well, the only person who would know would be me, right?” Scott said. “… I think it’s important we focus on the education system for all students in our state.”

Adam Putnam fundraising shows ‘grassroots support,’ campaign says

Republican candidate for governor Adam Putnam, who is sitting on $10 million in cash-on-hand from contributions, has released fundraising numbers showing what his campaign calls his “wide range of grassroots support.”

The numbers came in a Thursday email from Amanda Bevis, Putnam’s campaign spokeswoman. He’s now finishing his second term as Florida’s elected agriculture commissioner; he is term-limited in that post in 2018.

He “collected more than $2.1 million in the first month (May) since he filed to run for Governor of Florida, with more than $1.1 million in hard dollar contributions to the Adam Putnam for Governor campaign,” she wrote.

Putnam also has Florida Grown, a separate political committee that can raise funds on its own. He formally kicked off his campaign on May 10, followed by a 10-day, 2,161-mile statewide bus tour.

“The contributions to the campaign came from 2,203 supporters representing all 67 counties in Florida,” Bevis said. “More than 1,714 supporters contributed under $500,” or nearly 78 percent.

Bevis’ email says the campaign and committee combined took in $13.4 million, and have $10 million in cash-on-hand as of May 31.

“Not only is the campaign off to a strong financial start, but it has also seen impressive grassroots support in the first month since Putnam announced his run for governor,” Bevis said.

She cites 2,063 supporters in Bartow on May 10, 190 supporters at each bus tour stop on average, 632 supporters at Suwannee Valley BBQ in O’Brien on May 20, and 1,024 volunteers signed up.

“These numbers are as of 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 31,” Bevis added in a footnote. “Contributions are still being processed.”

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