Andy Gardiner Archives - Page 3 of 35 - Florida Politics

Plaintiffs seek summary judgment in Amendment 1 suit

Advocacy groups suing the Legislature over environmental funding now are asking a judge to hand them the win.

Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club and others filed a 57-page motion for summary judgment Wednesday. Granting such motions allows parties to win a case without a trial.

They filed suit last year over Amendment 1, the constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2014 that mandates state spending for land and water conservation.

The measure requires state officials to set aside 33 percent of the money from the real estate “documentary stamp” tax to protect Florida’s environmentally sensitive areas for 20 years. This year, that number is expected to total more than $740 million.

But the suit and Wednesday’s motion allege House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, Senate President Andy Gardiner, and other state lawmakers aren’t following through. The Legislature opposes the motion and will file a response soon.

“Plaintiffs are entitled to summary judgment because Amendment One prohibits the Legislature from appropriating land acquisition and restoration funds for any other purpose, but the Legislature appropriated most Amendment One monies to salaries and ordinary expenses of four state agencies,” the motion says.

Those agencies are the Department of Environmental Protection, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Department of State and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The standard for summary judgment is “that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”

The motion says: “That the Legislature appropriated funds for those purposes is not in dispute, and as a matter of law those appropriations are unconstitutional.”

The amendment, which needed a minimum of 60 percent to pass, got a landslide of nearly 75 percent, or more than 4.2 million “yes” votes.

“Florida voters did not vote for salaries and operating expenses … Amendment One allows only for acquisition and restoration of conservation lands,” the motion adds.

“State officials have misused these funds, plain and simple,” said David Guest, managing attorney for Earthjustice, the nonprofit environmental law firm representing the groups.

“Floridians put an amendment into the Constitution directing the state to use these tax dollars to buy and restore conservation land,” he added. “With this legal action, we are asking a judge to hold up the intent of Florida voters.”

The case is in Leon County Circuit Civil Court and assigned to Circuit Judge George Reynolds III.


Jim Rosica (jim@floridapolitics.com) covers the Florida Legislature, state agencies and courts from Tallahassee. 

At summit, Rick Scott urges on Florida colleges, universities to help students graduate sooner

Gov. Rick Scott has some suggestions to make sure college students graduate in four years.

Remove additional fees for online classes. Allow Bright Futures scholarships to be used for summer classes. Make sure students get credit for college-level courses taken in high schools.

The Naples Republican laid out his proposal at his Degrees to Jobs Summit at the Loew’s Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando. The two-day summit ­­— which was sponsored by several organizations, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, The Florida College System Foundation and Universal Orlando —  has been billed as an opportunity to connect businesses and higher education leaders.

On Wednesday, attendees heard from Cissy Proctor, head of the Department of Economic Opportunity; Senate President Andy Gardiner, and panelists who discussed a wide-range of topics, including how to keep higher education affordable.

“Help us figure out how to make (higher education) more efficient, more effective and less expensive,” said Scott.

For Scott, that means encouraging Florida students to graduate in four years. According to the governor’s office, 44 percent of undergraduate students at state universities graduate within four years; while 71 percent of students are graduating with a four-year degree in six years.

Scott said he’s hoping to see that number decrease. To do that, he said colleges and universities should remove all additional fees for online classes and tell incoming freshman how much money they’ll save if they graduate in four years.

“My goal is that this is the state people want to live because they can get a good job and can get a great education,” said Scott. “I put a challenge out … to figure out how do we get our students out with a four-year degree in four years.”

Scott said he plans to urge the Florida Legislature to expand the Bright Futures scholarship to cover summer classes. That would give students more flexibility when it comes to scheduling classes. He also said the state needs to make sure students are getting credit for college-level coursework — like Advanced Placement classes — when they go to college; and make it easier for students to get credit for internships.

“When I was in school, I went to a four-year college,” said Tom Grady, a former state representative and a State Board of Education member. “Four years was the benchmark, and I think it should be again.”

But colleges and universities also need to take steps to make higher education more affordable, said Scott and others who spoke during the event. All 28 of the state’s colleges offer a $10,000, four-year degree, and several state universities are taking steps to make sure students get the most bang for their buck.

Take, for example, Florida Gulf Coast University. The university announced in February that first-year students who declare a major and graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four years will have the chance to get repaid all out-of-pocket tuition costs from their freshman year. Dudley Goodlette, chairman of the FGCU board of trustees and a former state representative, said the money graduates receive back will be paid with no public dollars.

In a statement Wednesday, Senate President Designate Joe Negron said he looked forward to working with the governor “on policy and funding enhancements that will help achieve our common goal of making Florida’s good universities great.”

Negron, who has made improving public universities a top priority during his presidency, toured the state’s 12 public universities last month. He said one of the most common things he heard were concerns over debt after graduation.

“We want to take steps to reduce the impact these financial insecurities have on their ability to graduate in four years,” he said. “We also want to increase opportunities for students who work throughout college to gain real world experience in their field of study that will improve their job prospects following graduation.”

Scott, who is in his final term as governor, said he plans to spend the next two years working to make sure Florida’s students can get a good education, and find a good job in the Sunshine State.

“I’m excited about what’s going to happen in the next two years and seven months,” he said. “We have every opportunity to continue the progress we’ve made and even get more done.”

Andy Gardiner touts Center for Students with Unique Abilities at education summit

The push to make sure Florida graduates can enter the workforce shouldn’t stop when it comes to students with intellectual disabilities.

That was the message Senate President Andy Gardiner sent during a speech at the Degrees to Jobs Education Summit on Wednesday afternoon. Gardiner used his speech to highlight the work the Legislature has done to make sure all Floridians receive a good education.

The Orlando Republican also encouraged business and higher education officials to continue to work to make sure people with unique abilities have access to higher education opportunities and workforce training.

“As you spend your time talking about degrees and what we want to have, I hope … you won’t forget about this population,” said Gardiner. “There are families all over this state, kids who want to be part of this system.”

The state is already taking steps to make sure students who want to be part of the system can be. Lawmakers earlier this year approved legislation to create a program at the University of Central Florida to help students with intellectual disabilities get into college and other post-secondary schools.

The program, dubbed the Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities, would act as a clearinghouse to approve programs at other universities and colleges. It will also serve as a resource for students and parents to learn about programs.

Gardiner said officials from other states had already been in contact with UCF to find out more about the program.

“We’ve been a real leader in this area,” said Gardiner.

Gardiner is one of several speakers who have taken the stage during the education summit. Gov. Rick Scott kicked off the event earlier in the day, and is scheduled to speak later Wednesday. He’s widely expected to roll out higher education initiatives aimed at helping students get out of college sooner.

The two-day event has been billed as a chance for the business community and higher education officials to make connections to ensure graduates are prepared for the workforce. While Scott is hosting the event, it is being sponsored by several outside organizations, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida College Foundation, and Universal Orlando.

Rick Scott kicks off 2016 Degrees to Jobs summit

Calling it an opportunity to connect businesses and university leaders, Gov. Rick Scott kicked off his 2016 Degrees to Jobs Summit in Orlando on Wednesday morning.

The goal, Scott told a room of about 350 university, college and business leaders, is to “challenge everything we’re doing.”

“This is going to be a fun two days,” he said.

The two-day summit aims to connect Florida’s business leaders with university and college officials about how to best prepare students for the workforce. The line-up includes panel discussions on college affordability personnel management and personnel management; and presentations by Senate President Andy Gardiner, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and a panel of football coaches from across the state.

Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity, kicked off the day, laying out the state of Florida’s workforce. Proctor, who has been on the job since the beginning of the year, said the summit is an opportunity to build relationships to make sure the lessons learned at the summit will “turn into something real, into something tangible.”

“Take this as a call to action, to do something today, right here, right now,” she said. “Take an active role, take advantage of a unique opportunity.”

Since 2010, Proctor said the private sector has created more than 1.1 million jobs. The employment rate, she said, has dropped considerably and is now at an eight-year low. Those milestones mean Florida could be a hotspot for graduates to enter the workforce.

“We want Florida to be the best state in the nation for university and college graduates to get a job, because we know the first step for individuals and a family is a great education,” she said.

Proctor urged the business community to use this summit as a chance to connect with universities and colleges to create new opportunities for Florida students. She said whether it is through internships or full-time jobs, the state wants Florida companies “to hire Florida graduates.”

“Take the time to make a connection,” she said. “We want to make sure your company, and graduates, are ready for tomorrow.”

Scott spoke for about 5 minutes Wednesday morning, setting the stage for the next two days. The Naples Republican is scheduled to speak later in the afternoon. The Associated Press reported that Scott will call for several changes designed to help students get out of school sooner.

Peter Schorsch: From the ‘gambling boys’ to (un)popularity contests

As he gets ready to “go home,” as departing legislators like to say, outgoing Senate President Andy Gardiner has no regrets or hard feelings.

He did have choice words regarding lobbyists for gambling concerns, however: They “just get greedy.”

Gardiner, an opponent of gambling expansion, recently sat down with Capital Correspondent Jim Rosica for an “exit interview.” He leaves office later this year. More of the interview will appear in the summer edition of INFLUENCE magazine.

“That world, that part of it, I won’t miss,” said Gardiner, an Orlando Republican. “I won’t miss the gaming side. Not a world I’m drawn to.”

“I don’t have anything personal against them,” he added, referring to gambling lobbyists. “It’ll be fun to watch on the sidelines.”

Gardiner countered rumblings that he had blocked this year’s attempt to overhaul the state’s gambling laws.

“That’s just a complete fabrication,” he said. “Now, what I had indicated to the gaming boys was, ‘If you get a bill to my desk, I won’t block it and it will go to the floor.’ “

Gambling bills died as lawmakers rejected a new agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida to allow them continued exclusive rights to blackjack in return for a $3 billion cut over seven years.

“The reality is, they never got a bill to my desk,” Gardiner added. “They didn’t have the votes. But rarely will you find a lobbyist who will say that something is their fault. They’re not going to tell their client they dropped the ball.”

Now, on to the “Takeaway 5” – the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

(Un)popularity contest – Gov. Rick Scott has never been the most popular guy at the party, but a new Quinnipiac University survey showed Scott’s poll numbers haven’t improved with time. The Quinnipiac University poll showed 49 percent of voters disapproved of the job he was doing. The Naples Republican fared slightly better in a Morning Consult survey, which found Scott had a 49 percent approval rating; with 41 percent of Floridians saying they disapproved.

Get prepared – With the summer heat and rains upon us, Gov. Scott traveled to Washington, D.C., to urge federal lawmakers to lend a hand to fight the spread of Zika. As of Thursday, there were 112 cases of the virus in Florida. Scott called on HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell to send 5,000 Zika preparedness kits to Florida; and has repeatedly told officials they need to prepare for the virus like a hurricane. They appear to be listening; on Thursday, Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio proposed spending $1.9 billion to fight the spread.

Change is coming – A month-long review of Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private economic development agency, found that the organization could save $6 million by a series of cuts and an overhaul of the organization. Among other things, the agency has been advised to cut 27 positions and shift the VISIT Florida and the Florida Sports Foundation to the Department of Economic Opportunity. The Enterprise Florida Board of Directors also approved a severance package for outgoing CEO Bill Johnson. He’ll get $132,500 and his last day is June 24.

It’s settled – The battle over the Broward Bridge is over. The state’s Department of Corrections and Bridges of America reached a settlement, after the state announced it planned to end the transitional program in Broward County. The settlement stipulates that inmates participating in Broward Bridge will be placed in appropriate facilities elsewhere in the state. Future inmates will be at Turning Point Community Release Center in Pompano Beach. The two sides also signed a new, two-year agreement to keep Bradenton Bridge open in Manatee County.

Worth the gamble? – The Seminole Tribe of Florida went all in this week when it asked a federal court judge to block the release of any information related to the deposition of its chief executive. A copy of the deposition was turned over to POLITICO Florida through a public records request. But on Friday, after the online news organization published details of the deposition, including comments that Seminoles made $2.4 billion last year, the Tribe dropped its bid to block the release of the information.

***

Peter Schorsch is a new media publisher and political consultant based in St. Petersburg, Florida. Reporters Jim Rosica, Ryan Ray and Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster contributed to this report. Column courtesy of Context Florida.P

Central Florida Republican lawmakers endorse Dean Asher in SD 13 race

Most of Central Florida’s Republicans in the Florida House of Representatives made a joint endorsement Tuesday of Dean Asher in the Orlando-based Florida Senate District 13 race.

Asher announced the endorsements Tuesday from state Reps. Mike Miller of Winter Park, Rene Plasencia of Orlando, Eric Eisnaugle of Orlando, Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs, Jason Brodeur of Sanford, Scott Plakon of Longwood, Mike LaRosa of St. Cloud and David Santiago of Deltona.

“This is an exciting announcement for our campaign,” Asher stated in a news release. “My race is centered around bringing the community together for positive change, and this endorsement speaks to that directly.”

Asher faces no Republican primary challengers in his bid to succeed term-limited state Sen. Andy Gardiner, who is the current president of the Florida Senate. However, Gardiner’s wife, Camille Gardiner, has talked about running, a prospect which still was open earlier this month, and which has clearly delayed many GOP endorsements in the SD 13 race.

Until now.

“If the citizens of District 13 want a senator whose motivation for running is only to serve and improve the community, that’s what they’ll get in Dean Asher,” Plasencia, whose House District 49 overlaps much of SD 13, stated in a news release issued by Asher’s campaign.

“I know Dean and his family, and he’s running for all the right reasons. His plans are to serve at most two terms, then return to private life of raising a family and running his business right here in Orlando,” Cortes stated.

“I appreciate how hard Dean has been working to meet the residents of District 13 and more importantly listening to their concerns. His work ethic will serve his constituents well,” Miller stated.

While Asher’s path is currently clear toward the GOP nomination, the district will be a tough one for Republicans to hold. Because of redistricting, it now leans Democratic, and has drawn some high-profile Democrats: former state Reps. Mike Clelland and Linda Stewart, and former Orange County School Board member Rick Roach.

Andy Gardiner, Lars Houmann, call for more health care access, but not Medicaid

At an industry-sponsored summit in Orlando Tuesday, outgoing Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner and the leader of one of Florida’s biggest hospital system both called for urgent help in providing more access to health care.

But not through Medicaid.

Gardiner, an Orlando Republican, and Lars Houmann, president of the Florida Division of Adventist Health System, told the Florida Health Care Affordability Summit that the great challenge is opening up health care to uninsured and low-income residents of Florida.

“I would encourage you to also talk about access, and access for all individuals,” Gardiner told the forum, organized by the Associated Industries of Florida.

They both said Florida has another chance, and should take it, to negotiate with the federal government for a waiver from the federal Medicaid program that might allow the Sunshine State to take federal Medicaid expansion money but use it for alternative programs to Medicaid.

For the past three years, the federal government has been trying to encourage states to accept money to expand Medicaid programs to provide coverage for people too poor to buy Obamacare insurance, but who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. In Florida’s case, that’s about $50 billion over ten years. Gardiner’s Senate has twice crafted deals to negotiate waivers with the federal government for Florida-driven programs, but the Florida House has refused.

“If the desire in the state of Florida is not necessarily to look at free-market options, that is for a debate for another day, I would encourage you to talk about models like the money we put into free and charitable clinics,” Gardiner said.

Houmann also urged expansion of access to uninsured and laid out economic slides showing what they cost hospitals and Florida.

He also stressed that at Adventist Health, which runs the Florida Hospital systems in Orlando and Tampa Bay, the strategic thinking is turning toward keeping people healthy — keeping them out of hospitals.

Yet he argued that Medicaid is just a bad program for both patients, doctors and hospitals, and should not be expanded, but replaced with something that works better. Medicaid, he argued, comes with too many strings and too little money to be a good business for doctors or hospitals, and patients are punished because few doctors accept it, and their services suffer from overload.

“Yes, it is an entitlement program. Yes, it does take care of a larger part of our population,” he said. “But frankly, I could not put my heart into term ‘expand Medicaid.’

“I could put my heart into bringing the money that the Affordable Care Act made available for Florida for expanding coverage,” he added. “Frankly, this is a political lecture; we did have an opportunity to bring a deal to Washington … to restructure our program. But we couldn’t get that done.”

Mural

Senate mural will be saved, but removed from Capitol

It’s official: The nearly 40-year-old mural outside the Florida Senate chambers will be taken down.

In a letter, Senate President Andy Gardiner said the mural will be preserved, however, for viewing elsewhere. It’ll be stored till then.

The letter was sent last Tuesday to Jeff Howell, the Republican Party of Florida treasurer. Howell, a Tallahassee attorney, leads an informal volunteer campaign to save the artwork.

The 10-foot-by-16 foot “Five Flags Mural” greeted visitors to the Senate’s 5th floor viewing galleries. The mural’s removal comes as the chamber is undergoing an almost-$5 million renovation, the first since the Capitol opened in 1978.

The work also happens to depict a Confederate general and flag. The Senate previously voted to remove that symbol from its official seal and insignia.

The name of the mural refers to the five flags that have flown over the state: U.S., Confederate, Spanish, French, and British.

Gardiner told Howell the painting is “beginning to show signs of age that must be addressed if the mural is to be preserved.” Specifically, parts of the works are fading and peeling.

The current contractor will “remove the mural and wall and to relocate these pieces to the Senate archives maintained by the Historic Capitol,” Gardiner said.

“Once removed, the Senate may elect to turn over ownership of the mural to a private entity for preservation,” but that would have to be paid for with private funds, he added.

The Senate got two estimates, one at $60,000, the other for $21,000-25,000.

Howell was in a trial and unavailable for comment. A phone number for the mural’s artist, Renee Faure of Jacksonville, was disconnected as of Monday.

Faure previously said she found it “quite hard to believe that this defacement of artwork is being considered,” referring to its removal.

Her daughter, Dreanna Bane, told FloridaPolitics.com that Faure had spent months, first in preparation and then in painting, on the work: “She had to do a lot of research” on all the historical figures depicted, Bane said. “It was a labor of love.”

Renovations are planned to be done by the Reorganization Session held after every election.

The new look includes a new ceiling dome and other design elements similar to the exterior of the Old Capitol. Among those is a pediment on top of columns over the president’s rostrum with the words “In God We Trust.”

Capitol Reax: Rick Scott signs tax cut package

Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a pared down tax package Wednesday, holding a bill signing ceremony in Jacksonville.

Among other things, the bill permanently eliminates the sales tax charged on manufacturing equipment. It also creates a three-day back-to-school tax holiday. That tax holiday runs from Aug. 5 through Aug. 7.

Randy Miller, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation, said in a statement:

“By signing the tax package today, Governor Scott ensured that millions of Florida families will continue to experience needed tax relief as they purchase vital supplies for their children to prepare them for the upcoming school year. We look forward to the savings that consumers will enjoy and the increased sales for retailers during the anticipated back-to-school sales tax holiday shopping weekend.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz, chairman of the House Finance & Tax Committee, said in a statement:

“We have made the decision in Florida that we can grow our economy, meet the needs of our state and care for the vulnerable not by having more taxes, but by having more taxpayers. These tax cuts welcome new families, businesses, and visitors to our state each day.

“I was proud to spearhead the House’s efforts to cut taxes by over half a billion dollars this Session. As Finance & Tax Chairman, I have made it my mission to leave no tax safe and free as many Floridians as possible from the burden of crushing and unfair taxation. I applaud Governor Scott for signing these tax cuts into law. The adoption of this law constitutes more than $1 billion in tax cuts over the past two years. That is $1 billion less for government to squander and $1 billion more for our families, veterans, and job creators to harness to grow our economy and keep Florida on the path of prosperity.”

Senate President Andy Gardiner said a statement:

“It is an honor to support Governor Scott as he signs the final piece of legislation to fulfill his commitment to provide over $1 billion in tax relief to hard-working Floridians and business owners,” said President Gardiner. “Reducing taxes leads to private sector job creation and a flourishing economy that benefits all Floridians.”

“This tax relief package promotes economic development by permanently eliminating the sales tax on manufacturing machinery and equipment and will result in job creation and business expansion. This August, the 3-day Back-To-School Sales Tax Holiday will help Florida families manage the costs of preparing their children for the upcoming school year. Additionally, by reducing local millage rates we are ensuring that state tax dollars, rather than local property taxes, cover a larger share of the unprecedented K-12 per-student funding allocated this year in our budget.”

Sen. Dorothy Hukill, chairwoman of the Senate Finance & Tax Committee, said in a statement:

“This tax cut package will have an incredible effect on the businesses growing jobs in our state and the Floridians who work each day to provide for their loved ones. Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature have proven time and time again that we want to give more money back to those that most deserve it- Florida’s hardworking taxpayers. I applaud everyone for their hard work in support of this bill and am proud to celebrate its passage today.”

Allison Aubuchon to hang out own shingle, start new communications shop

Allison Aubuchon, communications pro for the Foundation for Excellence in Education, decided it’s time to make it on her own.

Aubuchon announced Wednesday that, after four years with the conservative education think tank founded by Jeb Bush, she will be hanging her shingle as an independent communications expert.

“I will now be working independently as a communications consultant,” Aubuchon said. “I am grateful and proud to have played a role in the Foundation’s important student-centered mission, and am thrilled it will continue on a part-time basis as I step into this new chapter.”

in a statement, the foundation said the move was amicable and mutually beneficial.

“We are thrilled she is still working with us and that the Foundation will continue to benefit from her communications skills and expertise,” said Jaryn Emhof, the Foundation’s VP of communications.

Aubuchon has built up an impressive résumé in her relatively young career around the Capitol. She served as press secretary for then-Republican Majority Leader Andy Gardiner in the Florida Senate, and in the private sector before that as PR manager for Tallahassee’s Capital City Bank and the Kidd Group.

The Gator-Seminole hybrid holds both a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Florida and a master’s from Florida State University in media and communication studies.

Her new independent PR shop is called Allison Aubuchon Communications.

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