Influence Archives - Page 2 of 337 - Florida Politics

Citing water losses, Florida insurer approves rate hikes

Florida’s state-created property insurer, contending that it is dealing with a flood of suspicious water-related claims and lawsuits, is asking state regulators to raise rates for thousands of homeowners next year, including those in the most heavily-populated areas.

The board that oversees Citizens Property Insurance voted unanimously Tuesday to raise homeowner rates an average 5.3 percent and commercial accounts by an 8.4 percent average.

Citizens has more than 451,000 customers, many of them living near the coast or in South Florida. The corporation was created by state legislators to act as the state’s insurer of last resort when Floridians cannot get coverage from private companies.

The proposed rate hikes vary by the type of policy purchased and location, but the rate hikes will fall hardest of homeowners in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties who will pay as much as 10 percent more a year. Residents in other coastal counties such as Collier, Santa Rosa and Pinellas, however, will see their rates go down.

Citizens officials assert they have to raise the rates to cover rising costs associated with water damage claims that are not connected to weather events such as hurricanes or tropical storms. Florida has avoided major damage from hurricanes for more than a decade.

Citizens is also putting in place other programs, including putting a limit on how many water damage claims homeowners can file over a three year period and a $10,000 cap on how much the company it will reimburse homeowners for water-damage repairs. A homeowner, however, can avoid the cap if they agree to participate in a new Citizens-run program that links them to specific contractors.

“These proposed rate increases and product changes are critical for Citizens’ efforts to bring some relief to a market that is being made increasingly expensive by unnecessary litigation and out-of-control water loss claims,” said Chris Gardner, chairman of the Citizens board. “Unfortunately, we are making it more expensive for many of our customers to own a home.”

Citizens and others in the insurance industry have pushed for legislators to change state law regarding the ability of homeowners to sign over insurance benefits to contractors who do home repairs. They say this practice results in lawsuits and that the work is sometimes done before adjusters can inspect the damage.

While some in Florida’s business community have suggested these rising claims are fraudulent, Citizens officials and top regulators have stopped short of backing up those accusations.

The Florida Legislature wrapped up its session this year without passing the bill to deal with these “assignment of benefits” that was being pushed by the insurance industry. Some senators including Sen. Gary Farmer, an attorney from Fort Lauderdale, have said the water-damage related lawsuits have been driven by Citizens practice of refusing to pay legitimate claims quickly.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Florida Chamber endorses Jose Felix Diaz in SD 40 race

The Florida Chamber of Commerce is throwing its support behind Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in the special election to replace Sen. Frank Artiles in Senate District 40.

In a statement Tuesday, Marian Johnson, the Chamber’s senior vice president of political strategy, said the Miami Republican has put Florida families and businesses first.

“Representative Jose Felix Diaz continues to put Florida families and businesses first, and has remained an advocate for free enterprise and job creation,” she said.” The Florida Chamber is proud to endorse Representative Jose Felix Diaz for the Florida Senate.”

Diaz faces former Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Lorenzo Palomares in the July special primary to replace Artiles, who resigned earlier this year amid scandal.

The race for the GOP nomination is expected to be a bitter and expensive battle, with outside groups pouring thousands upon thousands of dollars into the race.

A government law attorney at Akerman, Diaz was first elected to the Florida House in 2010. He is currently the chairman of the House Commerce Committee, and has been the chamber’s point person on gambling legislation in recent years.

Diaz most recently earned the Chamber’s backing in 2016, when he ran for re-election in House District 116. The 37-year-old Miami-Dade Republican has resigned his House seat, effective Sept. 26, to run in the special election.

“If you ask the residents of District 40 what their biggest issues are – the answer is clear – jobs and the economy. The Florida Chamber of Commerce represents the biggest job creators in Florida, and I am honored to have their support for my State Senate race,” said Diaz in a statement. “I am proud of my record in support of low taxes and a responsible regulatory environment that both promotes sustained economic growth and protects consumers.”

The special primary election is July 25, with the special general election scheduled for Sept. 26.

Health Department getting started on medical marijuana rulemaking

In the wake of the Special Session’s implementing bill, the Florida Department of Health is gearing up to make rules governing the use of medical marijuana.

The department published a “notice of proposed regulation” in the Florida Administrative Register last Friday.

But the state still could face a lawsuit from personal-injury attorney John Morgan, who backed the constitutional amendment on medical marijuana that passed in 2016 with 71 percent of the vote. He has said he will sue because lawmakers would not allow medical marijuana to be smoked.

The implementing bill (SB 8-A) is pending Gov. Rick Scott‘s review, though he said he will sign it.

Among other provisions, the bill grandfathers in seven existing providers, renames them “medical marijuana treatment centers” (MMTCs) and requires the Department to license 10 new providers by October. The bill also allows four new MMTCs for every increase of 100,000 patients prescribed marijuana.

It also limits the number of retail locations each MMTC can open to 25 across the state, and divides that cap by region. As the patient count goes up, five more locations can be opened per provider for every new 100,000 patients in the state’s Medical Marijuana Use Registry. The limits expire in 2020.

The department is working under an expedited rulemaking process to conform with deadlines in the amendment. Lawmakers failed to come to agreement on a bill during this year’s Regular Session. 

Before the amendment, the state in 2014 legalized low-THC, or “non-euphoric,” marijuana to help children with severe seizures and muscle spasms. THC is the chemical that causes the high from pot.

The state later expanded the use of medicinal marijuana through another measure, the “Right to Try Act,” that includes patients suffering intractable pain and loss of appetite from terminal illnesses.


Rick Scott signs nursing home reimbursement changes into law

Changes to how the state’s nursing that accept Medicaid are paid are coming down the pike.

Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a wide-sweeping health care bill (SB 2514) last week that, among other things, moves the payment system to a cost-based system to a prospective payment system. The law delays the move from cost-based system to a prospective payment system by a year, giving health care officials and providers additional time to study and prepare for the shift.

“LeadingAge Florida and our high-quality, mission-driven members appreciate that the Legislature delayed implementation of the prospective payment system for a year,” said Steve Bahmer, the president and CEO of LeadingAge Florida.

The shift to a prospective payment plan, which reimburses nursing homes using a per diem rate calculated on several different components, was one of several behind-the-scenes food fights this year.

Officials with LeadingAge, which represents about 400 senior communities through the state, expressed concern that the initial proposal would shift money from high-quality nursing homes, threatening the quality of care offered in facilities across the state. But Bahmer said the group “never opposed the shift to a PPS approach.”

“However, we have consistently opposed ill-conceived plans that would damage Florida’s highest-quality nursing care providers,” said Bahmer. “The Legislature wisely delayed the implementation of the PPS to allow the further study of this important issue. Looking forward to 2018, we will work with AHCA, the Legislature, and other stakeholders to ensure that the payment system truly rewards high-quality providers.”

The Florida Health Care Association, which represents about 82 percent of the state’s nursing centers, was generally supportive of the recommendations proposed during the 2017 Legislative Session, but did seek to make some changes.

Emmett Reed, the executive director of the Florida Health Care Association, said he appreciated the organization appreciated Scott for “recognizing that a stronger reimbursement system is best for everyone involved.”

“The prospective payment system will put the focus on quality care and quality of life for Florida’s nursing center residents, and for the first time in Florida’s Medicaid history, will link nursing center reimbursement to quality outcomes,” said Reed. “On behalf of the thousands of long term caregivers working in our member centers, we commend Governor Scott for supporting PPS so they can achieve their goals of providing exceptional care and services to our state’s seniors and people with disabilities.”

Fact check: Donald Trump keeps much of Barack Obama’s Cuba policy

President Donald Trump’s announcement that he’s “cancelling” his predecessor’s policy toward Cuba is a good deal less than meets the ear.

Trump’s move, announced Friday in Miami, actually leaves in place most of the important elements of President Barack Obama’s moves to open relations with the island.

And while his policy has the stated aim of helping the country’s nascent private sector, it contains a measure that could damage thousands of small-business people who host, feed and transport independent American travelers to Cuba.

Trump’s policy keeps a U.S. Embassy open in Havana and allows U.S. airlines and cruise ships to continue service to Cuba. Cuban-Americans can still send money to relatives and travel to the island without restriction. U.S. farmers can continue selling their crops to the Cuban government.

The new policy aims to starve military-linked businesses of cash by banning any U.S. payments to them. It pledges to help the entrepreneurial class that has grown since President Raul Castro enacted changes after taking office a decade ago.

“Effective immediately, I am canceling the previous administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba,” Trump said. “We will very strongly restrict American dollars flowing to the military, security and intelligence services that are the core of the Castro regime.” He promised, “concrete steps to ensure that investments flow directly to the people so they can open private businesses and begin to build their country’s great, great future.”

The policy will undoubtedly reduce the flow of cash to GAESA, the military-linked conglomerate that operates dozens of hotels and other tourism-related businesses. But those businesses host hundreds of thousands of Canadian, European and Latin American tourists a year, and do unfettered business with corporations from around the world, reducing the impact of any U.S. cutoff.

Weakening the impact further, Trump’s policy carves out exceptions in the military ban for airlines, cruise ships, agricultural sales and remittances.

The policy also allows Americans to continue patronizing state-run hotels and other businesses that are not directly linked with Cuba’s military and state security services. And, of course, nothing prevents the Cuban government from simply moving revenue over to the military or state security, a vulnerability in the policy that the White House has not addressed.

The policy risks harming independent business people by restoring a requirement for most American travelers to visit Cuba as part of tightly regulated tour groups. The Cuban government has traditionally steered those tour groups to state-run business, meaning the majority of American travelers to Cuba will probably no longer be able to patronize private restaurants, bed-and-breakfasts and taxi drivers.

Private entrepreneurs say Americans represent a disproportionate share of their revenue because they spend more than other travelers for high-end services that badly run state-operated business typically cannot provide.

Trump also demanded the return of U.S. fugitives including Joanne Chesimard, a black militant convicted in 1977 of the murder of a New Jersey state trooper.

“The harboring of criminals and fugitives will end,” Trump said. “You have no choice. It will end.”

Many of the high-profile fugitives in Cuba are black or Puerto Rican militants who were offered political asylum by Fidel Castro during the 1970s and 1980s.

Cuba has repeatedly said it will not renege on the promise of the former president, who died in November.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.


Paul Renner on cusp of winning 2022-24 House Speaker’s race

Jacksonville Republican Paul Renner could be on the cusp of winning an intra-party contest to determine who will serve as House Speaker beginning in 2022.

The first-term state Representative currently commands a majority of his 26 colleague’s votes, after Melbourne’s Randy Fine put aside his own bid to be Speaker on Friday and decided to take on the role of kingmaker.

“If the race is over, we should wrap it up for the betterment and unity of our class,” Fine told

Fine is now likely to support Renner when the House GOP freshman caucus convenes June 30 to select a leader.

To reach the conclusion about the state of the race, interviewed no less than 18 members of the freshman class, as well as reviewed a cache of member-to-member emails and text messages provided to the media organization by several different members.

Supporters of Jamie Grant, Renner’s chief rival for the Speaker’s post, dispute this count and contend that neither candidate has the support of a majority of the class. They add that Grant actually has more definitive votes in his pocket than Renner.

FP readily admits that this is but a snapshot of the current state of the race. Members have nearly two weeks to change their minds. And current House leadership, said to be partial to Grant, could intervene in an attempt to persuade members to back the Tampa Republican.

The GOP has a commanding majority in the Florida House, so whoever among the freshman class emerges as its leader is likely to become Speaker, beginning in 2022.

Whether the race is definitely decided or still up in the air, it is a remarkable turnaround for Renner who, only six weeks ago, was “on the ropes,” according to a report by POLITICO Florida.

In April, Renner called a meeting that was attended by about 15 members of the 27-member freshman GOP class. During the meeting, Renner reportedly addressed his colleagues about his interest in the Speaker’s race, which had lost some momentum since some of his backers lost their primaries in August.

But since then, Renner has rallied and Grant’s efforts have stalled, despite the fact that one of Grant’s chief competitors for what is described as the “anti-Renner” bloc, Frank White, declared he was not interested in becoming Speaker.

Byron Donalds and Erin Grall have also declared they are running for the position, but neither is expected to garner enough support to make it past the early rounds of balloting scheduled to occur when the class is scheduled to meet in Central Florida.

Based on’s own whip count, Renner has the definitive support of Chuck Clemons, Joe Gruters, Don Hahnfeldt, Sam Killebrew, Tom Leek, Stan McClain, Bobby Payne, himself, Rick Roth, and Clay Yarborough (10 votes).

Grant can count on Cord Byrd, himself, Michael Grant, Amber Mariano, Ralph Massullo, Alex Miller, Jackie Toledo, Frank White, and Jayer Williamson (9 votes).

Fine’s support gives Renner 11 votes.

Jason Fischer says he will back Renner, making it 12.

Both sides also concede Bob Rommel is in Renner’s column. That’s 13 very likely votes for Renner.

In addition to his solid 9, Grant is counting on the support of Grall once she is eliminated on the first or second ballot.

This leaves Thad Altman, Donalds (after he is eliminated on the first or second ballot), Mel Ponder, and Cyndi Stevenson.

According to sources close to Altman and Fine, Altman will support Renner now that Fine is with the Jacksonville Republican.

Donalds is a complete unknown; one source says Donalds is ideologically aligned with Grant (they also point out that Grant’s patron, Speaker Richard Corcoran, recently appointed Donalds’ wife, Erika, to the Constitution Revision Commission), while another says there is no way that Donalds can vote for Grant after “Text-gate.”

In April, state Rep. Alex Miller sent a text to Gruters that essentially said the race was narrowing to a choice between Massullo and Grant.

Gruters alerted Renner to the text, which ultimately led to that April meeting to discuss his candidacy. Supporters of Renner believed her text might have violated new GOP rules, which prohibit soliciting support for a leadership contender. At the time, she said what she wrote did not violate the rules.

Ponder is thought to be with Grant because the three members from Northwest Florida —Ponder, White and Williamson — are thought to be moving together (Williamson even said as much) but the District 4 representative has told both Grant and Renner that has not reached a final decision. Neither camp is counting on his vote because they do not want to spook him to the other side.

The final vote of the four, Stevenson, has been the most mercurial, but sources close to both Fischer and Stevenson insist they are a package deal, and Fischer is definitely for Renner. A handful of members tell that they have received calls from Stevenson that they describe as in favor of Renner.

Handicapping the race this year is slightly more complicated because new rules prohibit members from directly or indirectly soliciting or accepting any “formal or informal pledge of support” prior to June 30. The class also has agreed to vote by secret ballot, doing away with the pledge card system.

Those members who can’t attend the June 30 vote will be able to cast their vote through some type of direct communication to either Rep. Larry Metz or Republican Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues.

Rick Scott signs 13 more bills into law

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday evening announced he had signed another 13 bills from the 2017 Legislative Session into law.

Those bills include SB 118, which Scott’s office said would “prevent businesses that publish arrest photos from charging a fee to remove them if requested.”

The measure was aimed at the growing number of websites that showcase booking mugshots and charge people who ask for their photos to be taken down.

But the bill also includes a section on the “administrative sealing of criminal history records” that open government advocates fear could result in the shutting off of booking information of people whose charges are later dismissed.

The First Amendment Foundation had asked Scott to veto the bill, saying it would “create a process by which millions of criminal history records will be automatically sealed,” posing “a significant threat to the public safety.”

“A person could be charged and tried one or more times for a lewd and lascivious act on a child, for example, and if acquitted or found not guilty, that person would not show up on (a) criminal background check,” wrote Barbara Petersen, the foundation’s president. “If that person then applies for a position with a school or day care center, there would be no mention of the charges.”

Scott, however, said that part of the measure “will not take effect” because it depended on passage of a linked bill, SB 450, to become law. That bill, which died in the Rules Committee, would have exempted “personal identifying information of an adult who participates in a civil citation or prearrest diversion program … from public inspection and copying.”

Scott also approved SB 90, the implementing bill for a constitutional amendment passed by voters in August 2016 that exempts solar and renewable energy devices from property taxes.

“The bill removes burdensome taxes on solar installations by exempting 80 percent of their value from the tangible personal property tax,” according to a Friday evening press release from Floridians for Solar Choice. “It also exempts 80 percent of the value of a solar installation from the assessment of real property taxes for commercial properties.”

“Reducing taxes is smart energy policy, and I’m proud to see Gov. Scott sign this important legislation into law,” said Tory Perfetti, chair of Floridians for Solar Choice and Florida director of Conservatives for Energy Freedom.

“This effort has been supported by a historic coalition and unanimous legislative support, along with a resounding public vote,” Perfetti added. “The Sunshine State has spoken, and they said: We want the freedom to choose solar.”

The other bills are listed below, with descriptions provided by the Governor’s Office: 

SB 474 Hospice Care – This bill directs the Florida Department of Elder Affairs and the Agency for Health Care Administration to adopt national hospice outcome measures.
SB 494 Compensation of Victims of Wrongful Incarceration – This bill expands the eligibility requirements of the Victims of Wrongful Incarceration Compensation Act.
SB 724 Estates – This bill revises provisions relating to the elective share of an estate.
SB 1520 Termination of a Condominium Association – This bill revises requirements for the termination of a condominium association.
SB 1694 Support for Parental Victims of Child Domestic Violence – This bill allows the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice to coordinate with organizations to enhance resources available to parents who are victims of domestic violence.
SB 1726 Industrial Hemp Pilot Projects – This bill authorizes the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to oversee the University of Florida and the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in developing industrial hemp pilot projects.
SB 2504 Collective Bargaining – This bill resolves collective bargaining issues.
SB 2506 Clerks of the Court – This bill makes changes to the clerks of court budget process to ensure adequate funding.
SB 2508 Division of State Group Insurance – This bill allows for an audit of dependent eligibility for the state group insurance program and revises pharmacy benefits.
SB 2510 Public Records/ Dependent Eligibility Verification Services – This bill creates a public records exemption for information collected when determining a dependent’s eligibility for the state group insurance program.
SB 2514 Health Care – This bill conforms health care statutes to the funding policies used in the General Appropriations Act.  
Ryan Duffy

Personnel note: Ryan Duffy joining U.S. Sugar

Ryan Duffy, who joined Hill+Knowlton Strategies after serving as former House Speaker Will Weatherford‘s spokesman, now will be heading to U.S. Sugar as its Director of Corporate Communications, the company announced Friday.

“We are pleased to add Mr. Duffy to U.S. Sugar’s leadership team, where he will help articulate the company’s positions and share our vision of sustainable American food production with all of our stakeholders,” said Judy Sanchez, the Senior Director for Corporate Communications and Public Affairs.

“Through his corporate and political work, Duffy brings a wealth of talent and experience communicating for a variety of audiences that will be an asset to our company,” she added. His first day is Aug. 1.

He will “assist in managing the company’s media relations and public outreach efforts while providing strategic counsel on all public-facing corporate initiatives,” according to a press release.

Duffy joins Eric Edwards, the longtime Tallahassee-based legislative assistant to Republican state Sen. Don Gaetz, who is now the Clewiston-based company’s Assistant Vice President of Governmental Affairs.

“It is truly an honor to work for an agribusiness that is not only steeped in history, but is also setting the standard in innovation among America’s sugarcane farming businesses,” Duffy said in a statement. “I look forward to joining a team of professionals that have helped to make U.S. Sugar as successful as it is today.”

He is currently a Vice President at Hill+Knowlton Strategies in Tallahassee and has been a speechwriter to former U.S. Sens. George LeMieux and Mel Martinez and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Duffy has a graduate degree in Political Management from George Washington University and an undergraduate degree from Florida State University.

Duffy, once named a Florida Politics “30 Under 30” rising star in Florida politics, and wife Danielle have two children, 4-year-old Cormac and 2-year -old Donovan.

U.S. Sugar, with over $1 billion in annual revenue, stokes envy among other agribusinesses and roils controversy among the state’s environmentalists.

It got its start in the early part of the 20th century, when businessman Charles Stewart Mott “invested millions of dollars of his own funds in a sugar cane farming operation and convinced others that the dream of growing in the rich muck soils around Lake Okeechobee was not only possible, but it could be profitable,” the company’s website says.

It now farms nearly 190,000 acres in Hendry, Glades and Palm Beach counties, creating jobs and contributing to America’s table. But it’s regularly been criticized, usually unfairly, for agricultural practices that cause runoff into the state’s “River of Grass.”

In 2013, the conglomerate got a measure passed by lawmakers and approved by Gov. Rick Scott that saved the industry millions of dollars on Everglades pollution cleanup.

U.S. Sugar’s political contributions average approximately $1.5 million per year. When you subtract dollars spent in years involving a constitutional amendment related to their industry, that average is significantly lower.

Rules changes sparked Byron Donalds to seek Speakership

Byron Donalds started thinking about running for Speaker early on in his legislative career.

He knew he could be a voice for change and offer a different perspective than some of his classmates, but also knew the traditional method for electing a leader meant the Speakership was unlikely for a lesser known freshman. Then the rules changed; and in some ways, so did the state of the race.

When members voted to change the rules to prohibit speaker candidates from campaigning or accepting pledges before June 30, Donalds said he decided “it was something to take on.”

As the Speaker’s race speeds toward a June 30 vote, the 38-year-old Naples resident is one of five freshmen —including Randy Fine, Erin Grall, Jamie Grant and Paul Renner — trying to make the case for why he is the best the person for the job.

“No. 1, I think I’m willing to take on major issues, like education and tort reform, things that are critical to the future of the state,” said Donalds in an interview. “Secondly, I think I resonate well with the people in general.”

As a freshman lawmaker, Donalds has made a name for himself as someone who is willing to take on tough, even unpopular issues, from proposing changes to the state’s Sunshine Law to supporting sweeping changes to education policy.

His commitment to education policy and school choice is no secret. He mulled a run for Collier County school board in 2012, but opted instead to run for Congress when a seat opened up. His wife, Erika, ended up winning a school board seat and is now a member of the Constitution Revision Commission. Together they played an active role in getting Mason Classical Academy, a Collier County charter school, off the ground. Donalds served on its board until he went to Tallahassee.

And Donalds isn’t a stranger to tough campaigns, either. He was one of six Republicans who ran in Florida’s 19th Congressional District in 2012. A relative unknown back then, he won Collier County and made a good showing, capturing 14 percent of the total vote. By comparison, Trey Radel, the Fort Myers Republican who would go on to win the general election, won the primary with just 30 percent of the vote.

He easily won his House District 80 race, despite another tough primary. But unlike those races, Donalds said it’s tough to gauge where he stands in the race for Speaker.

That’s because under new Republican conference rules, candidates may not directly or indirectly solicit or accept any “formal or informal pledge of support” prior to June 30. And Donald said acting within the rules means he’s not asking for votes, like he would if he were if he were a candidate for any other type of office.

Still, Donalds said he thinks he’s been received warmly and plans to “just keep talking to people” as the vote approaches. And Donalds sees the push for a secret ballot, instead of accepting pledge cards, to “transformational in and of itself.”

“I think you show who you are by your work, and talk to members about what you’re trying to accomplish,” said Donalds. “In our political world, the messenger matters, it just does. I’m a little different. I’m not the prototypical Republican. It shows the depth of our party and it shows the depth of our Legislature.”


Capitol Reax: Rick Scott signs HB 7069

Gov. Rick Scott signed a sweeping education bill (HB 7069) that, among other things, sends more public money to privately-run charter schools. The legislation, a top priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, also requires recess in elementary schools, makes changes to the state’s standardized testing system, and includes millions of dollars for teacher bonuses.

The governor’s decision to sign the bill sparked a reaction from both sides of the issue.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran

“Today is a great day for Florida’s students, parents, and teachers. This bill is the most transformative pro-parent, pro-student, pro-teacher, and pro-public education bill in the history of the state of Florida. It ends failure factories. It rewards the best and brightest teachers and principals. It gives bonuses to every highly effective and effective teacher. It puts a focus back on civics education and teaching our students about what made our country great. It provides scholarships to students with disabilities. It mandates recess for our students. It reduces testing. And last, but not least, it forces more money into the classroom by making the money follow the students. In other words, it gives children hope and dignity. It says all children deserve a world-class education.

“Today is a great day for Florida’s students, parents, and teachers. This bill is the most transformative pro-parent, pro-student, pro-teacher, and pro-public education bill in the history of the state of Florida. It ends failure factories. It rewards the best and brightest teachers and principals. It gives bonuses to every highly effective and effective teacher. It puts a focus back on civics education and teaching our students about what made our country great. It provides scholarships to students with disabilities. It mandates recess for our students. It reduces testing. And last, but not least, it forces more money into the classroom by making the money follow the students. In other words, it gives children hope and dignity. It says all children deserve a world-class education.

I want to thank Governor Rick Scott for his courage and commitment to education options for our poorest kids. The Governor has taken on the status quo his entire career and the people of Florida are better off for it. I believe one of the great legacies of this session will be saving school childrens’ futures.”

Sen. Linda Stewart 

“I would like to thank the Governor for visiting Senate District 13, but I’m very disappointed that he used the signing of HB 7069 as the reason to stop by.

 “This bill is an unwise experiment in education policy opposed by our state’s teachers, parents, professional administrators and superintendents. That’s why I urged him to veto it. Many of those that have opposed HB7069 have dedicated their lives to educating the students in Florida’s schools. HB7069 was secretly produced and passed as a 278-page bitter pill that flew in the face of every tradition of transparency and openness required by our state’s laws and constitution.

 “Let’s be clear about what HB7069 actually does: it enriches the for-profit education industry at the expense of Florida’s traditional public schools. The same schools that educated the vast majority of Floridians for generations despite daunting odds and an indifferent legislature for the past two decades.

 “The legislation you signed today gives to the charter school industry a free hand and promises them a bountiful reward. It allows corporations with no track record of success, no obligation to struggling students, and no mandated standards of accountability to flourish, with the sole obligation to their shareholders. Not the public. Not to well-intentioned parents desperate to see their children succeed – but to a group of investors who have made a business decision to add these companies to their portfolios because they are interested in making money.

 “I would remind those who stand to profit personally from this legislation, some of whom hold high office, that an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

Sen. Gary Farmer

“Today I am saddened by the Governor’s action in signing HB 7069. This devious bill, hatched in secret, and strong-armed through the Legislature will deal a significant blow to our State’s public education system. For the first time, private charter school operators will now have access to local school district tax revenue. This will undoubtedly lead to less money for our already starved-traditional public schools. I fear that a lack of accountability in these charters will result in wasted dollars for untested and redundant facilities, all to prop up private entities that are closing down nearly as fast as they are opening up. I join the thousands of parents, schoolteachers, and education advocates around Florida in bowing my head in shame. Our government can do better.”

Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon 

“To no one’s surprise, but to many Floridians’ disappointment, Governor Rick Scott approved HB 7069 today, firmly cementing his legacy of putting campaign politics above sound public policy.

Equally troubling, he signed off on a bill hatched in secrecy which he had openly criticized, but now suddenly agrees that it’s ok to circumvent transparency, it’s ok to negotiate in secret, it’s ok to pull a fast one.

HB 7069 aims an arrow straight at the heart of public education in Florida, a system that is struggling to stay alive despite repeated overhauls, starvation, and mandates under the latest standardized tests-du-jour.

And it sets up a guarantee for the profitability of the charter school industry in this state by delivering public schools we’ve purposely ignored to corporate managers we’ve deliberately positioned for success.

All of these perks we give to this industry under this bill — unregulated expansion, temporary teacher employment, financial self-rewards through cherry picking by principals — none of this is found in traditional public schools. Nor is the amount of state aid we owe to build or maintain the public schools long relegated to second-class status.

 “For all of these reasons, it’s a bill that should have been vetoed, as countless Floridians continuously urged. And it’s a bill that we will not soon forget.”

Rep. Jason Fischer, a Jacksonville Republican

“I want to thank Governor Scott for signing HB 7069 into law. The Governor’s signature marks the start of a bold and innovative plan to reform and strengthen Florida’s K-12 education system. Today is a momentous occasion for Florida’s students and hardworking teachers and I’m excited about what the future holds with this legislation in place. I would also like to thank Speaker Corcoran, Representative (

“I want to thank Governor Scott for signing HB 7069 into law. The Governor’s signature marks the start of a bold and innovative plan to reform and strengthen Florida’s K-12 education system. Today is a momentous occasion for Florida’s students and hardworking teachers and I’m excited about what the future holds with this legislation in place. I would also like to thank Speaker Corcoran, Representative (Michael) Bileca, and Representative (Manny) Diaz for their leadership and for their dedication to helping students and teachers.”

House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz

“Not since the creation of the unconstitutional voucher system has there been an assault on our public schools as flagrant and hurtful as what’s contained in HB 7069.

Rather than providing additional resources for public schools, Republicans have instead chosen to divert $140 million into a slush fund for private charter school corporations. Rather than providing our school districts the resources they need for maintenance and upkeep, Republicans have instead chosen to divert local capital funding districts rely on into buildings the state does not own. And rather than giving our overworked and underpaid teachers the raise they deserve, Republicans have instead chosen to continue to fund an arbitrary bonus system based on test scores from when they were in high school.

“Most disappointingly, Republican leadership, and now Governor Scott, have chosen to ignore the voices of thousands of frustrated parents, teachers, and public school administrators and associations in favor of the AstroTurf efforts of private foundations awash in your tax dollars. It is my hope that next session we can look for ways to repair this misguided legislation in a bipartisan manner. Our parents and teachers deserve to have their voices heard.”

Rep. Shevrin Jones, the ranking Democratic member on the House Education Committee

“HB 7069 exemplifies confronting critical problems in our public education system with unreasonable and impractical solutions. This law will significantly hurt our public education system, rather than providing our teachers and students with the resources they need to succeed. On both sides of the aisle, we have kept education at the forefront of our priorities and though we claim to have a common goal, the outcome of signing this legislation is a step in the wrong direction.

“We cannot continue to place politics over people. It is unbelievable that Governor Scott has ignored the frustration and concerns that were made through phone calls, letters, and emails from parents, teachers, students, and superintendents.

“As a former educator and a believer in our process, this is the one time I can say, the process was violated and the people were ignored. It is my hope that every school district will look at this law and challenge the constitutionality of how it degrades our public school system. I am not against creating new standards for our lowest performing schools, but I am against violating the process of legislating that our constituents sent us to Tallahassee to uphold.”

Rep. Michael Bileca, chairman of the House Education Committee 

“I commend Governor Scott for signing HB 7069 into law. This legislation has the power to transform the lives and futures of poor children across the state of Florida. It puts their future before the agenda of bureaucrats and institutions that have deprived them of the quality education they deserve. This legislation is a direct and targeted approach that will break the cycle of poverty by enabling world class schools to flourish in high poverty areas. I would also like to thank my fellow lawmakers who have worked alongside one another to fight against a system resistant to change, and afford our children the best education we can provide.”

Rep. Manny Diaz, chairman of the House PreK-12 Education Appropriations Committee  “I want to commend the Governor for his continued support of the best educational options for all students in our great state regardless of what ZIP code they reside in. Today marks another transformational step for Florida as a nationwide leader in education reform. I want to thank Speaker Corcoran for his leadership and steadfast support for All kids in our state, it is truly an honor to work side by side with him and Chair Bileca to fight for what is right.”

“I want to commend the Governor for his continued support of the best educational options for all students in our great state regardless of what ZIP code they reside in. Today marks another transformational step for Florida as a nationwide leader in education reform. I want to thank Speaker Corcoran for his leadership and steadfast support for All kids in our state, it is truly an honor to work side by side with him and Chair Bileca to fight for what is right.”

Andrew Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee and a Democratic gubernatorial candidate

Public education has made all the difference in my life and so many others. Were it not for the guidance and work poured into me by public school teachers like Linda Awbrey, there would be no Mayor Gillum, and I would never have dreamed I could succeed at a run for Governor. The signing of H.B. 7069 is another deeply painful decision by our state’s leaders giving tax dollars away to for-profit charter school executives — instead of to our students. It’s a stark reminder that we must take back this state in 2018 from the well-heeled special interests, and when I’m Governor, revitalizing public education will be at the top of my list.:’”

Gwen Graham, a former Democratic congresswoman from Tallahassee and a 2018 candidate for governor

“This bill is another massive step toward turning Florida’s public school system into a public school industry designed to benefit corporations and powerful interests at the expense of our kids and schools. Teachers and parents called, wrote and even protested Governor Scott, imploring him not to sign this bill — but yet again, he’s abandoning his responsibility to our children and instead siding with special interests.”

As Governor, I will veto any budget or policy that shortchanges our schools in favor of the education industry. I’ll work with the legislature at every step of the process to build an education policy that puts our public schools and students first. We will end teaching to the test, end the lottery shell game and pay teachers what they deserve.

As a mother, former PTA president, and school district official, nothing is more important to me than our students and public schools. I’ve worked alongside the teachers who will be hurt by this legislation. I’m running for governor to be their advocate.”

— David Bergstein, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

 “Scott is proving once again that he is a typical Tallahassee politician who is only ever looking out for himself — his pathetic and transparent efforts to advance his own political interests at the expense of hardworking Floridians is the kind of toxic baggage that will follow him into any political campaign he mounts. Wherever he goes, Scott will have to explain why he’s draining resources from schools in order to spend tax dollars on a slush fund for his campaign contributors and political cronies. For voters, this bill is just another demonstration that Scott is only ever looking out for one person: himself.”

Johanna Cervone, communications director for the Florida Democratic Party

“There are no words. By signing HB7069, Rick Scott and Tallahassee Republicans have declared war on our public schools. This bill is a national disgrace and was universally regarded by school boards and superintendents to be a death knell for public education. Scott and Corcoran are caricatures of themselves — crooked Tallahassee politicians cutting backroom deals and pilfering dollars from our children to ensure their corporate benefactors get funded. Scott got his slush fund, and Corcoran got millions of dollars for for-profit charter schools, but Florida’s families are left with next to nothing. Voters will remember who was responsible for this legislation — including those who were complicit in its signing, like noteworthy political coward, Adam Putnam, who tiptoes around every issue.”

Mark Ferrulo, executive director of Progress Florida 

“Today, Gov. Rick Scott ignored thousands of parents, teachers and community leaders who have spoken out against this travesty of a bill and embraced a secret and unaccountable process to deal an underhanded sucker punch to public education in our state. Our students — the next generation of Floridians — are the ones who will pay the price.

 “Floridians deserve a strong and well-funded public school system so that a child’s opportunity to learn isn’t dependent on where they live or whether they win a school lottery. We shouldn’t waste precious resources on a parallel system of for-profit private voucher and charter schools that is less accountable to citizens and has produced mixed results at best.”

— Joshua Karp, spokesman for American Bridge

 “Since his first year in office, Rick Scott has fought against public schools on behalf of wealthy corporate special interests. Today’s anti-education bill was crafted in secret by lobbyists and Tallahassee insiders to funnel millions of dollars to corporations that seek to profit off children’s education while diverting precious funding from Florida’s public schools where every dollar is precious. Yet again, Floridians will be worse off because Rick Scott and his friends care more about making money.”

Charly Norton, executive director of FloridaStrong

“For the second time in two days, the Governor has made clear he serves only his own agenda — not the people he was elected to represent. The fact that Scott ignored thousands of veto calls over this past month from parents, school boards, educators and other public school advocates demonstrates his shameful disservice to the state of Florida. Speaker Corcoran and the lawmakers who pushed this ‘scam‘ of a bill are actively dismantling Florida schools and undermining our kids’ chance at success as a result. They can claim they care about the future of this state until they are blue in the face, but their actions prove otherwise.

William Mattox, director of JMI’s Marshall Center for Educational Options

“Education choice is an idea that ought to unite liberals and conservatives because it acknowledges that students are diverse and that they are often ill-served by one-size-fits-all schooling policies that fail to account for each child’s unique learning needs. We commend the legislators in both parties who voted to expand student options in 2017, and we hope legislators will work together in 2018 to move us even closer to the goal of universal education choice for all Florida students.”

J. Robert McClure, president and CEO of The James Madison Institute For 30 years, The James Madison Institute has been on the front lines of the battle of ideas and principles in Florida. We thank Governor Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran for their support of this legislation. They have been steadfast in their efforts to match students with educational opportunities that provide the greatest chance for success in life, and this commitment is reflected in legislation that expands school choice for economically-disadvantaged students and those with unique abilities, while providing more digital education access and allowing successful charter schools to open new schools in areas with chronically failing public schools.”

For 30 years, The James Madison Institute has been on the front lines of the battle of ideas and principles in Florida. We thank Governor Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran for their support of this legislation. They have been steadfast in their efforts to match students with educational opportunities that provide the greatest chance for success in life, and this commitment is reflected in legislation that expands school choice for economically-disadvantaged students and those with unique abilities, while providing more digital education access and allowing successful charter schools to open new schools in areas with chronically failing public schools.”

Blake Williams, communications director for For Florida’s Future

“Last week Rick Scott convinced Tallahassee Republicans to replenish his Enterprise Florida slush fund with taxpayer dollars to pay off his political donors, and in return, he’s giving Republicans millions in taxpayer dollars for a slush fund of their own. HB 7069 is corporate welfare plain and simple, and the opposition to it has been broad and bipartisan. Florida’s largest school districts have publicly opposed it, teachers and parents have opposed it, and nearly every editorial board in the state of Florida has urged a veto. The job of Florida leaders should be to ensure equal access to properly funded education. Rick Scott failed that test miserably today.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permissions.

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