Andy Gardiner Archives - Page 3 of 35 - Florida Politics

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.

Camille Gardiner’s potential candidacy haunts Dean Asher’s efforts to succeed Andy Gardiner in SD 13

Camille Gardiner‘s continuing but unannounced interest in running for the Florida Senate to succeed her term-limited husband, Senate President Andy Gardiner, has haunted his longtime friend Dean Asher, the only Republican in the race.

Asher, an Orlando Republican, got into the Senate District 13 race last November without Gardiner’s support, but with, Asher said, the Senate president’s tacit nod, because Camille Gardiner still was a long ways from deciding what she wanted to do.

She’s still undecided. So now Asher, a Realtor with a conservative business platform, a lifetime of political contacts in Central Florida, and an industry that is strongly fueling his campaign with donations, is pushing forward, still wondering whether he might get public support or direct opposition from one of Florida’s most powerful politicians.

Asher does so, and Camille Gardiner considers doing so, in a district that now leans Democratic since last fall’s redistricting, and which has drawn two or three strong Democrats.

“I hope that Andy and Camille do what they feel is best for their family,” Asher said. “Andy and I grew up and have lived in the same community for 40 plus years. I feel that I am the best person to represent the constituents in newly drawn District 13.”

Both Gardiners have been largely silent about her ambitions or about Asher.

On Tuesday’ Gardiner’s spokeswoman Katie Betta responded to a FlordiaPolitics.com request for an interview by passing along a statement saying the Gardiners were getting back into Orlando life, but still supporting Republican Senate races.

“He will certainly wait until Mrs. Gardiner has made a final decision before announcing any endorsements,” she stated. “The president and Mrs. Gardiner have been involved in the Legislative process for more than twenty years, so with President Gardiner’s term as Senate President and his career in the Legislature coming to an end in November, they are using this time to make a decision about what will be the best step for their family.”

Asher calls Andy Gardiner his neighbor, ally and close friend. He said Gardiner told him from the start that Camille Gardiner was considering running, but also told him to not let that prospect discourage his own ambitions. Asher said that in the five months since he filed, the senator’s awkward silence has been not just public, but personal. Last week he tried to arrange a meeting.

“I would like to sit down and talk, not about the past but the future of Central Florida and District 13,” Asher wrote in an April 5 email to Andy Gardiner.

“We have been friends for 40 years and I am a firm believer that time will heal all differences in the past. I hope you will be open to a meeting, but let’s be honest Orlando is still a small town and we need to work together on a lot of important issues that will come forward in the coming years.”

Asher said he got no response. However, Gardiner did comment indirectly on the race two days later.

In a presentation to the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida, Gardiner predicted that Republicans would lose Senate seats in Central Florida, an apparent reference to SD 13, which became the GOP’s most vulnerable seat in last fall’s redistricting. Asher said he felt the comment was aimed at him sitting in the audience.

Orange County Republican Chairman Lew Oliver said he would not dare get involved, not wanting to tell a Senate president or his wife what to do, and not wanting to tell an independent businessman “who has raised a lot of money” what to do. On the other hand, he certainly would not want to see resources spent on a primary.

“It’s a winnable district,” for Republicans, Oliver said, noting the Democrats have a six or seven point advantage in voter regisUse of the benchtration but only a two to five point lead in voting performance. “It’s not going to be easy, but it’s within range.”

The Democrats have former state Reps. Mike Clelland and Linda Stewart and former Orange County School Board member Rick Roach running in the district, which covers much of northeast and north-central Orange County. Clelland has $257,000 combined in his campaign and PAC war chests.

Asher announced a fundraising total Monday of $17,105 in March, giving him $185,000 in his campaign account and another $199,000 in his political action committee, Allegiant Friends For Florida, which is fueled entirely so far by Realtors associations.

Asher is the leader of a 62-year-old family real estate business in Orlando, Don Asher & Associates, Inc., and serves as a National Director and the 2015 Regional Vice-President for the National Association of Realtors. He also serves on the Orlando International Airport’s board of directors, and has been active in several planning and housing boards in Orlando.

“This election is about this community, and the legacy of what we can leave the community as we grow. Orlando obviously has changed. It is changing. So the things that are important to me, when you look at this you’ve got to have a business mind, that understands how to work with businesses, how to bring economic development,” he said.

Andy Gardiner endorses Carlos Lopez-Cantera for U.S. Senate

Carlos Lopez-Cantera has snagged the support Senate President Andy Gardiner.

The Orlando Republican announced Tuesday he was endorsing Lopez-Cantera in the U.S. Senate race. The endorsement comes about a week after House Speaker Steve Crisafulli threw his support behind the lieutenant governor.

“In Florida, Carlos has been a leader in limiting government’s influence into the lives of the everyday Floridians and the result has created less taxes, less regulation and more freedom for citizens to achieve economic independence,” said Gardiner in a statement Tuesday morning. “Carlos has a record of conservative leadership focused on delivering results, which contrasts with the empty Washington rhetoric we have become accustomed to.”

Lopez-Cantera is one of five Republicans vying for their party’s nomination to replace Sen. Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate. He’ll face Rep. David Jolly, Rep. Ron DesSantis, Todd Wilcox and Carlos Beruff in the Aug. 30 primary.

“I’ve worked with Andy for a number of years and his commitment to Florida’s success and economic freedom is going to be an incredible asset as he joins the team,” said Lopez-Cantera in a statement. “As Andy and I continue to work together on this campaign, I appreciate his efforts as we send the message to Washington that it is time for a Florida Republican in the U.S. Senate.

Jeff Brandes say his next focus will be on reforming Florida prison system

A mentally ill inmate who was in protective custody was found dead at the Columbia Correctional Institution on Tuesday, a day after a corrections officer was hospitalized in an attack.

It’s yet another black mark on Florida’s prison system, one that many say is overcrowded and underfunded. The Department of Corrections, though, insists those issues had nothing to do with the attack.

The Florida Legislature opted not to give the Department of Corrections the 734 additional positions that the agency said were necessary to make Florida’s prisons more secure during the just-concluded Legislative Session. The new jobs were part of an effort by the department to have corrections officers work eight-hour shifts instead of 12-hour shifts. The department has been reeling from a series of reports about issues such as contraband smuggling and abuse of inmates.

St. Petersburg state Sen. Jeff Brandes  says it’s time for a change in how the Legislature deals – or hasn’t dealt – with the issue. He vows to put his energy into taking a fresh look at the problem.

“We have a prison system with 100,000 prisoners in it,” he told the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon with the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation at Maestro’s restaurant in Tampa on Friday. “We have a prison system that, if you go in today as a guard, you are likely not be employed there within a year,” he said, referring to statistics that say that one-quarter of all prison guards in the state don’t last a year, and nearly a third leave within two years. He also mentioned how guards only start out making $30,000 annually, and often are recruited to work in local sheriff’s departments at considerably higher pay, sometimes with signing bonuses attached.

“We have a problem with our prison system in crisis. Our prisoners are in crisis,” he said solemnly, adding that it was crucial for lawmakers and citizens to think about “separating those who we’re scared of, from those we’re mad at.”

Other issues that came up during the forum was the fact that Governor Rick Scott‘s top legislative priority of the year – a proposal to have the Legislature fund $250 million in economic incentive cash – did not get passed this year.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee from Brandon said he supported the proposal, but said that too many other Republican lawmakers saw it as a form of choosing winners and losers, and could not get behind it.

Lee said that plan, as well as the governor’s call for a $1 billion tax cut, became less realistic once revenue estimates in January revealed that there was a $400 million reduction in general revenue from previous estimates. Added on was the state’s loss of funding for the Low Income Pool, or LIP, a joint state-federal program that helps some hospitals and clinics pay for treating uninsured and under-insured patients.

“Unless we come up with another way to draw down federal money, hospitals in the state of Florida are going to continue to be on their own, and we’re going to continue to have to invest GR (general revenue) money,” the Brandon Republican said. He added that another potential source of money faded with the inability to get a gaming compact signed this year.

“Frankly, we just didn’t have a billion dollars,” he said.

Tampa GOP Rep. Dana Young, who is now running for the newly created state Senate District 18 seat in Hillsborough County, once again expressed disdain at an unidentified state senator who she said singlehandedly thwarted a bill that would have provided a regulatory framework for ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft.

“It passed the House unanimously, so I just want you to know, it wasn’t ‘the Legislature,’ it wasn’t us not doing our jobs, it was a procedural issue and that is something that could have saved a lot of trouble here in Hillsborough County, a lot of drivers getting tickets, and I just wanted you to know the rest of the story.”

During the Session, Uber specifically put the onus on Senate President Andy Gardiner for the bill’s lack of progress in the Senate.

And Tampa Rep. Janet Cruz made a pitch for more funding for community colleges, generating cheers from the business community. “This is your work force,” she said, specifically alluding to Hillsborough Community College, which did receive $65 million from the Legislature. “These are the people who live in Tampa, and stay in Tampa that will go from HCC to USF and stay at home and help their families. So that’s an area where we can do better.”

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