Jim Rosica, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 146

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.
movie shoot

Film Florida gives up the fight for incentives this year

The president of Film Florida, the state’s nonprofit “entertainment production association,” says her group is taking a “step back” from fighting for film and TV show incentives this year.

“For the first time since 2004, Florida does not have a statewide program to entice film, television and digital media projects and companies to our state,” wrote Film Florida President Kelly Paige in a Tuesday email to supporters.

As part of a plan to get rid of business incentives deemed “corporate welfare” by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, legislation would “close the Florida Office of Film and Entertainment (the State Film Office)” and “also end the Entertainment Industry Sales Tax Exemption program,” Paige said.

Her group “will continue meeting with and educating legislators so they understand the importance of our industry to Florida’s jobs and tourism economies,” she added.

But “with the philosophical conflict in Tallahassee, we do not believe the time is right for Film Florida to pursue a new program.”

In 2010, lawmakers set aside nearly $300 million for incentives to bring movies and television projects to Florida. That money ran dry soon afterward.

The problem, critics said, was that money was doled out on a “first come, first served” basis. That resulted in available funds being gone within the first year of the program.

The film incentives took the form of tax credits granted a production after it wrapped in the state and underwent a thorough audit, including being able to show it provided jobs for Floridians.

When “the timing is right,” Paige said, the nonprofit has “an innovative plan that will put Floridians to work at home, generate new revenues, increase tourism, and continue the state’s investment in students that earn film or digital media degrees from Florida’s world-renowned colleges, universities and technical schools.”

Galvano

Bill Galvano tells Seminole Tribe his gambling bill “will move forward”

Bill Galvano, the Florida Senate’s point man on gambling, has told the Seminole Tribe of Florida “inaction … is not an option” this year.

Galvano, the Bradenton Republican in line to be Senate President in 2018-20, responded this week to a letter sent by Tribal Chairman Marcellus Osceola to legislative leaders and Gov. Rick Scott.

Both chambers have gambling legislation filed this year with competing priorities, but both contemplate a new agreement, or “compact,” with the Tribe offering exclusive rights to keep offering blackjack in return for $3 billion in revenue share over seven years.

“Approval of a new, revised compact must occur concurrently with, and is interdependent upon, resolution of a number of gaming issues, including matters relating to and affecting Florida’s pari-mutuel industry, cardrooms, designated player games, blackjack, and operation of slot machine facilities in the referendum counties,” Galvano wrote.

“Without a doubt, resolving these matters will require patient and thoughtful, good-faith negotiations between and among all the affected parties,” he added. “I am prepared, on behalf of the Senate, to do just that.”

At the same time, he said the Senate’s gambling bill (SB 8) “will continue to move … forward.”

But Osceola had objected to the Senate bill, saying it “would require higher payments … (and) would add numerous additional exceptions to the Tribe’s exclusivity while broadly expanding gaming in Florida.”

He also included a copy of an advisory letter from the federal government’s top Indian gambling regulator, who said the feds would be “hard-pressed” to approve the proposed new blackjack agreement as is.

The Seminoles offer blackjack at five of their casinos, including the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tampa.

Galvano closed his own letter by asking for a meeting with members of the Tribe “to discuss this matter in detail.”

Meantime, an appeal to a federal judge’s ruling allowing the Tribe to keep offering blackjack, compact or no compact, has been scheduled for an April 11 mediation, court dockets show.

Scratched: Judge sides with Richard Corcoran, tosses out Lottery’s $700M contract

A Tallahassee judge has invalidated the Florida Lottery’s $700 million contract for new equipment, essentially agreeing with House Speaker Richard Corcoran that the agency went on an illegal spending spree when it inked the deal last year.

Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers issued her 15-page order late Tuesday afternoon. She presided over a nonjury trial in the case Monday.

The multiple-year contract involved new equipment for draw and scratch-off tickets. The Lottery is booming — it sold more than $6.2 billion in tickets last year, records show.

“The Florida Lottery continues to make record contributions to our public schools and today’s ruling jeopardizes billions of dollars for Florida students,” Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement. “I strongly disagree with today’s decision and we will appeal.”

Corcoran, in a statement joined by House Rules Committee Chairman Jose Oliva and Judiciary Committee Chairman Chris Sprowls, called the decision “a victory for the taxpayer and the rule of law.”

“It reinforces the idea that respecting the separation of powers is not an arcane idea or an out-of-date philosophy,” they said. “In truth it is one of the bedrock principles of our republican government and is essential to protecting the liberties and livelihoods of Floridians.

“No branch of government is above the law and the people’s House will use every power within our means – from the committee room to the courtroom – to ensure those liberties and livelihoods are protected.”

Gievers agreed with House general counsel Adam Tanenbaum, who had said the deal broke state law by going “beyond (the Lottery’s) existing budget limitations.”

Because Lottery Secretary Tom Delacenserie “lacked the legal authority to enter into the IGT (International Game Technology) contract, (it) must, therefore, be found to be void and unenforceable,” Gievers wrote.

She faulted the agency for, among other things, not first seeking the Legislature’s permission to enter into a deal that committed the state to as much as two decades’ worth of funding.

A message seeking comment was left for a spokeswoman for Las Vegas-based IGT. Corcoran’s spokesman said a response was coming later Tuesday evening.

The new deal provides much more than equipment, with provisions for in-store signage, self-service ticket checkers and upgraded security in the communications network.

doughnut donut

Jose Oliva talks doughnuts and incentives after Rick Scott speech

House Republican leaders defended their assault on Gov. Rick Scott‘s economic development and incentive plans, saying success in business shouldn’t depend on a government handout.

Oliva

Speaker Richard Corcoran and state Rep. Jose Oliva, slated to be speaker in 2018-20, spoke with reporters Tuesday after Scott’s State of the State address before a joint session of the House and Senate.

Florida, like other states, incentivizes businesses to move or expand here through a variety of tax breaks and public-paid subsidies. Scott, a proponent, says spending public dollars on private companies is worth it for the jobs he says they create.

“I will admit it is probably more difficult for people who have never gone hungry, or gone through foreclosure, or seen their family car repossessed, to understand this,” Scott said in his speech.

“If you have never lived through these experiences, it may be harder to understand the urgency,” Scott added. “I am fighting for our state’s job programs because I am fighting for families just like mine growing up.”

Oliva, a cigar company executive, said Scott underestimated House members’ experience.

“Very many of us in that chamber know what it’s like to be poor,” said Oliva, who remains as CEO of Oliva Cigar Co. after selling the company last year to a European concern. “We know what it’s like to have a car repossessed, to have the power cut in your house.

“We also know what it’s like to start a business,” he added. “I don’t know that when I was building my business I would have liked some of my tax dollars to go to help a competitor.”

Scott, who didn’t mention it specifically in his Tuesday speech, often has spoken of a doughnut shop he ran in the 1970s.

“Imagine if the governor, while he had that same doughnut shop, had his tax dollars go to Dunkin’ Donuts so they could come across the street and compete against him?” Oliva said.

Corcoran suggested that Scott doesn’t get the “optimism” of his legislative program.

“We’re saying what makes our country different is when anybody can engage in spirited, civil debate,” he said. “… Yeah, there’s passion and back-and-forth and sometimes quotes you want to take back. At the end of the day, … good things happen.”

Joe Negron backs Gulf Coast compensation process

Senate President Joe Negron on Tuesday said he was committed to getting $300 million in settlement money from the 2010 BP oil spill to affected communities in northwest Florida.

Negron spoke to reporters on the first day of the 2017 Legislative Session.

“I don’t believe that we should set up some complicated bureaucracy,” said Negron, a Stuart Republican.

He said he’s working with Sens. Bill Montford, Doug Broxson and George Gainer, all of whom represent coastal areas in the Panhandle, to make sure constituents “get compensated for their actual economic damages.”

He toured affected areas at the time, telling a story of one hotel that couldn’t get any guests and had to lay off all its employees.

“This isn’t just a policy priority. It’s a personal priority,” Negron said.

Millions of barrels of oil surged into the Gulf in April 2010 after an oil well ruptured under BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform. Eleven rig workers died and 17 were injured.

It took until that July to cap the well; meantime, tarballs and oil washed up on 1,100 miles of coastline, keeping away the usual summer tourists and their money. Hotels, restaurants and tourism-related businesses were hit hardest.

A House measure filed recently would eliminate some oversight for the Triumph Gulf Coast board selected to allocate the settlement money, the Panama City News-Herald has reported. It also would have exempted tourism businesses from getting paid.

Negron said legislation needs to be passed soon: “We need the state of Florida to write a check,” he said.

He also opined on medical cannabis, charter school funding, Everglades restoration, and said he supported some sort of pay raise for state workers this year.

A Periscope video of his remarks can be viewed below:

Senate President Joe Negron https://t.co/ilZ2L2d4t0

Rick Scott gets personal in 2017 ‘State of The State’ address

In what was his most personally felt State of the State speech so far, Gov. Rick Scott Tuesday delivered an impassioned plea for Florida’s economic development organization and business incentives targeted for elimination by the House of Representatives.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran is seeking to abolish Enterprise Florida and other financial programs he has termed “corporate welfare.” Though the Senate is not backing the House’s moves, Scott fought back, criticizing the negative narrative.

The governor, who once ran the privately-held Columbia/HCA hospital and health care chain, told a joint session of the state’s House and Senate that he knew “what it’s like to be poor.”

“I have lived in poverty,” said Scott, repeating his rags-to-riches story. “I watched my parents struggle to put food on the table. When most kids were playing Little League or riding bikes, I had a job … I went from delivering papers, to opening a small business so my mom could have a job, to running the nation’s largest health care company.”

Tuesday’s speech opening the 2017 Legislative Session is Scott’s second-to-last State of the State address. With less than two years left in office, the governor is beginning to eye his legacy.

“It’s easy to throw out catch phrases like ‘picking winners and losers’ and ‘corporate welfare,’ ” he said. “(T)hat’s not what we are doing. We are competing with 49 other states and hundreds of countries for jobs. When we bring new jobs to Florida, there are only winners.

“… I will admit it is probably more difficult for people who have never gone hungry, or gone through foreclosure, or seen their family car repossessed, to understand this,” Scott said.

“If you have never lived through these experiences, it may be harder to understand the urgency. I will just leave it like this: I am fighting for our state’s job programs because I am fighting for families just like mine growing up.”

The governor still had time for moments of levity, however, as when he greeted the state’s Supreme Court justices: “You look great in your robes, by the way,” he said, mentioning his appointed of the court’s newest member, C. Alan Lawson.

He also said he and wife Ann were expecting twin grandchildren soon, making six since he took office, then joked that his daughter must have taken his slogan literally: “Let’s get to work.”

Scott also took a moment to thank former Senate President and current state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater for his service. Atwater is resigning at the end of the legislative session to take a similar position with Florida Atlantic University.

He took note of last year’s Pulse nightclub shooting, thanking Orlando Police Chief John Mina and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings for the law enforcement response, singling out SWAT officer Michael Napolitano, whose Kevlar helmet stopped a bullet to his head.

Napolitano and fellow officers demonstrate “the courage to serve in the face of evil,” Scott said.

mobile phone service

Business groups oppose tax break swap

A coalition of Florida business groups is giving the thumbs-down to state Sen. Anitere Flores’ proposal to pay for a cut in the state’s tax on mobile phone and satellite and cable TV service by repealing a tax break to insurers.

The legislation (SB 378) would swap the insurance break for a 2 percent reduction in the state’s communications services tax (CST). The proposal is a priority of Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican.

Negron earlier this year said he was looking to eliminate the insurance deal this year, a 15 percent tax credit on the salaries that insurers give their full-time workers here in the state.

But the coalition – including Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and the Florida Insurance Council (FIC) – on Monday suggested the move would be a net neutral.

Moreover, if the measure passes as is, Gov. Rick Scott could see himself jammed up by competing priorities: Cutting taxes for middle-class Floridians and keeping the state’s business community happy.

The state could see $300 million in communication tax savings, charged on mobile phone and satellite and cable TV service, but that would be eaten up by “a $300 million increase in insurance premiums, negatively impacting all Floridians,” according to a press release.

“These premium increases will at least be equal to the reduction in the CST, leaving consumers without any actual economic relief,” it said.

“Doing away with the tax credit will increase the tax burden on Florida insurers who employ more than 200,000 Floridians in typically high-wage paying jobs, and will endanger future job growth in the industry,” said Cecil Pearce, president of FIC. “The salary tax credit reduces the premium tax liability, which helps keep insurance premiums as low as possible.”

Flores’ bill, which does not yet have a House companion, has been referred to the Senate’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax, and the full Appropriations panel for hearings in the 2017 Legislative Session, which starts Tuesday.

 

Lottery case now in judge’s hands; agency says it did no wrong

The Florida Lottery went on an illegal spending spree when it inked a multiple-year, $700 million contract for new equipment and “blew up” the state’s budget process, a lawyer for House Speaker Richard Corcoran argued Monday. 

The Lottery’s lawyer countered that it takes money to make money, and the agency simply did what lawmakers told it to do: Follow “its singular purpose” of maximizing its revenue for education, Barry Richard said. Lottery proceeds go to the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund. 

Both sides gave closing arguments after a one-day, non-jury trial over Corcoran’s contention that the contract with International Game Technology (IGT) went “beyond existing budget limitations,” as House general counsel Adam Tanenbaum told Circuit Judge Karen Gievers.

Instead of first asking for approval from lawmakers in charge of the state’s purse, the Lottery went rogue last year by cutting a deal that costs the agency 37 percent more than a prior equipment contract, Tanenbaum suggested. 

“If you want to do more, you have to ask for permission first,” he said. 

Gievers did not rule immediately from the bench, saying she would take the matter “under advisement” and issue a decision “as quickly as I can.” The 2017 Legislative Session starts Tuesday.

Richard told Gievers the Lottery just followed its legislative mandate to act as an “entrepreneurial business enterprise” that’s allowed to do “alternative procurement” compared to other state agencies.

“The Lottery has done exactly as the Legislature has asked it to do,” he said. The agency surpassed $6.2 billion in sales during 2016, records show.

“It has been extraordinary successful, and the Legislature has never said, ‘You’re making too much money,’ ” Richard argued. 

He further argued Corcoran was overstepping his constitutional bounds: “The Legislature’s function is to appropriate funds and make law. Contracting power is a quintessential power of the executive branch,” he said, granting that legislators can, however, place limits on that power. 

Richard earlier in the day questioned Summer Sylvestri, the Lottery’s procurement director. She explained the agency negotiated a deal based on percentage of lottery ticket sales, and away from a flat rate based on the number of vending machines leased. 

IGT then agreed to come down on the percentage after the Lottery agreed to exercise the first of three available 3-year renewal options on the 10-year deal. That saved the state $18 million, she testified.

The new deal also provides much more than the previous equipment contract, including in-store signage, self-service ticket checkers and upgraded security in the communications network.

House witness calls Lottery contract ‘complete departure’ from protocol

A multiple-year, $700 million contract for new Florida Lottery equipment is “a complete departure from the way we’ve operated for many years,” a House budget analyst testified Monday.

Bruce Topp, budget chief for the Government Operation and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee, was on the stand for the non-jury trial between the Lottery and House Speaker Richard Corcoran over the contract, made final last year.

Corcoran says the Lottery can’t sign “a contract that spends beyond existing budget limitations.” The Lottery’s outside counsel counters that the Legislature cannot “micromanage individual contracts.”

Topp told House general counsel Adam Tanenbaum that when he looked over the deal after it was done, he quickly figured it would cost the agency roughly $47.5 million to fund each year.

That’s more than the Lottery’s current appropriation for $34.6 million yearly under the previous equipment contract, he added.

“The quick determination … was that they did not have enough to pay for their contract … That really caught our eye,” Topp said.

With Lottery sales continually increasing, the agency pulled out the stops on a big deal to get new retailer terminals, in-store signage, self-service lottery vending machines, self-service ticket checkers and an upgraded communications network.

For example, the new agreement jumps the number of leased “full-service vending machines” from 500 to 5,000.

Lottery proceeds benefit the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, which helps pay for public education. The Lottery surpassed $6.2 billion in sales during 2016, it said.

The contract, with International Game Technology (IGT), is for an initial 10-year period, and the Lottery already exercised the first of its three available 3-year renewal options.

In cross-examination, Lottery attorney Barry Richard suggested a fail-safe was built in, that “if the Legislature doesn’t appropriate the funds, the vendor is entitled to nothing.”

But that would lead to a situation in which the agency could be seen as breaking the contract, Topp said, and doing so is a “substantial change in policy.”

Richard also noted that the Legislature has at least five times in the past given the Lottery extra money when it needed to buy more tickets from another vendor after increased sales.

Earlier, JoAnne Leznoff, staff director of the House Appropriations Committee, testified that “multi-year contracts are the norm in state government,” but they must be “within the mission of the agency.”

Lawmakers often amend budgets mid-year for “unforeseen circumstances,” but agencies can’t cut deals by “assum(ing) an increase in their appropriation,” she said. 

Richard was expected to call his witnesses after a midday lunch break. Both sides said they expected to wrap up the case on Monday. It’s not clear whether Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers will rule from the bench by the end of the day.

 

 

Trial to begin in Richard Corcoran v. Florida Lottery

Lawyers for the Florida Lottery and House Speaker Richard Corcoran will square off today in what’s expected to be a one-day trial.

The non-jury trial, before Circuit Judge Karen Gievers in the Leon County Courthouse, is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Each side has said they will call only two witnesses.

The speaker sued the agency, which reports to Gov. Rick Scott, saying it was guilty of “wasteful and improper spending” for signing a multiple-year, $700 million contract for new equipment from International Game Technology (IGT).

Corcoran says the Lottery can’t sign “a contract that spends beyond existing budget limitations.” The deal with IGT is for an initial 10-year period, and the Lottery exercised the first of its three available three-year renewal options.

Barry Richard, the Greenberg Traurig attorney representing the Lottery, has countered that the Legislature cannot “micromanage individual contracts.”

He has said the state’s “invitation to negotiate” for the contract discloses that any deal would be contingent on “an annual appropriation” from lawmakers. Such a disclosure is required under state law.

 

 

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