Andy Gardiner Archives - Page 4 of 36 - Florida Politics

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.”

Andy Gardiner expects Democrats to make some gains in 2016 state elections

Outgoing Senate President Andy Gardiner conceded Thursday that the presidential election, the possible “Trump effect,” and other issues likely will lead to Democrats making gains in the Florida Legislature elections this fall.

Gardiner, an Orlando Republican, told the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida that he is confident the GOP will retain its majority in the Senate but that this year voters appear to be looking at experience as a liability.

“I certainly don’t see the Florida Senate flipping Democratic, but I do think there are some seats they are going to pick up here in Central Florida, potentially, and some seats they will pick up,” Gardiner said. “What that number is, I don’t know.”

Gardiner, Orlando Democratic state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, Orlando Republican state Rep. Mike Miller, and Orlando Democratic state Rep. Randolph Bracy all gave their views Thursday on what they all agreed was a far more productive and far less combative Florida Legislative session in 2016 than the one last year.

But Gardiner and Thompson, who are leaving the Senate, also looked ahead.

The two were responding to a question about whether the “Trump effect” – a wave of anti-establishment voters following Donald Trump – would affect the Florida elections. Gardiner said he expects experience to potentially be a liability for candidates this year, but also said any presidential year could be tough, though he noted plenty of Republicans won in districts carried by President Barack Obama in 2012.

“I think it’s not just the ‘Trump effect,” said Thompson, who is running for Congress rather than for re-election. ” I think it’s also Fair Districts, and the redistricting now that makes competitive seats out of what had for a long time not been competitive. There are projections in the Florida Senate the Democrats could pick up four additional seats.”

She cautioned that money will favor Republicans and could play a big role.

But she added, “I think there are possibilities, and I think Fair Districts is the reason for that.”

The comments came in a wide-ranging discussion that and the quartet express mostly satisfaction for results of the past session, and assessments of what passed, what died, and what likely would come back next year.

Gardiner predicted that the Seminole Tribe’s gambling compact blackjack provision would be back next year. He expressed frustration that this year the deal Gov. Rick Scott‘s administration had negotiated with the Seminoles got weighed down with issues of tax reductions for parimutuel outfits, notably race tracks.

He thought there might be a good chance that Florida could take up Medicaid expansion again next year, seeking a federal block grant to fund a plan similar to the one he championed in the Florida Senate in 2016.

He said he expected the guns on campus and open-carry proposals to return, though he didn’t sound disappointed that they died this year when Republican Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla decided he would not hear them in the Senate Judiciary Committee he chaired.

“What I tried to do with my chairs is, I empowered them to make decisions. And when it came to guns on campus and open carry, my chairman, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla out of Miami, had a different view on it,” Gardiner said. “I wouldn’t have been criticized if I said, ‘Miguel you have to hear that bill.’ But that’s not how ran the Senate.”

He was less enthusiastic about the prospects of a bill to incentivize the movie industry to film in Florida, an initiative that Miller championed. He and Miller both agreed that financial incentives are out of favor in the Florida House.

“I do give Rep. Miller a lot of credit on that. He fought the good fight, and unfortunately we’re just heading in a different direction right now,” Gardiner said.

Mural

Still no decision on Florida Senate’s “Five Flags Mural”

With work well underway on renovations of the Florida Senate chamber, there’s still no word on the fate of the decades-old mural that greets visitors to the chamber’s fifth floor public gallery.

Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta said Tuesday no final decision has been made about the artwork’s future. This past October, Betta said the mural will be taken down because it’s showing signs of age, including fading and peeling.

The “Five Flags Mural” also happens to depict a Confederate flag, which the Senate previously voted to remove from its official seal and insignia. Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner of Tampa had explained that the flag is a “painful symbol of oppression.”

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

The flag is over the shoulder of Gen. Joseph Finnegan, commander of the Confederate forces at the February 1864 Battle of Olustee in north Florida, the largest Civil War battle fought in the state.

It’s not yet clear whether the 10-foot-by-16 foot painting can be relocated, though Senate President Andy Gardiner is committed to preserving it, Betta said.

“Our construction managers have been seeking input from art preservation specialists to determine the best way of removing the mural,” she said. It’s been in place since the Capitol opened its doors in 1978.

It’s still “unclear if we will be able to remove the mural from the wall, or if the wall will need to be removed in pieces with the mural still attached,” Betta added.

Tallahassee attorney Jeff Howell, who led an informal drive to save the mural, had written to Gardiner last year that the work should be “preserved and moved to a place where it can continue to be viewed by Floridians.”

On Tuesday, Howell said he never received a response. “When we have more information regarding (the mural) component of the project, the Senate will reach out to those who have expressed interest” in it, Betta said.

Senate President Pro Tem Garrett Richter, the Naples Republican who leads the Senate’s Chamber Renovations Working Group, couldn’t be immediately reached by telephone.

The mural’s artist, Renee Faure, also could not be reached Tuesday morning. She previously told FloridaPolitics.com she found it “quite hard to believe that this defacement of artwork is being considered,” referring to its removal.

The Senate now is redoing its chamber, which has not been renovated since the building’s construction in the 1970s.

The nearly $5 million renovation, expected to be complete before the end of the year, includes a new ceiling dome and other design elements similar to the exterior of the Old Capitol, such as a pediment on top of columns over the president’s rostrum with the words “In God We Trust.”

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