Andy Gardiner Archives - Page 6 of 35 - Florida Politics

With downtown campus funding in budget, UCF hopes it has satisfied Rick Scott

The University of Central Florida has walked a careful path to line up support for what had been a controversial plan for a downtown Orlando campus, and now the university has everything but the governor’s signature.

No one is taking that for granted, though.

Over the weekend, with pushes from Senate President Andy Gardiner of Orlando and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli of Merritt Island, the Florida Legislature’s budget conference included the $20 million UCF needs.

That came a few days after the Florida Board of Governors signed off, even as key members of that board stated flatly they would not have done so based on how the plan had first been presented.

Last month the city of Orlando pushed all its chips onto the table, signing a memorandum of understanding that it would provide $68 million worth of land, buildings and infrastructure.

Civic leaders and organizations in Orlando also have chipped in on their own, raising $16 million in private donations over the past four months toward a promised goal of $20 million.

It all hinges, though, on a critical set of promises and concessions that the university agreed to in January after UCF officials and officials of Gov. Rick Scott met in December to sort out what the university could do to change his mind.

Scott vetoed money last summer for the campus. He still has not made any statements about whether he’ll change his mind this time. That’s where the UCF memorandum of understanding, approved by the UCF Board of Trustees in January, becomes critical.

UCF Senior Vice President for University Relations Dan Holsenbeck called the budget appropriation a “huge relief,” but not the final relief.

“Honestly, it would not be possible without, first and foremost, the real support and tenacity of the Speaker and the President,” Holsenbeck said.

“But we also have to recognize that we worked with the Governor and his staff over the holidays and addressed most of his issues,” he said. “I’m not speculating that he is going to sign it or not veto it, But we worked out the issues of concern to him.”

Those issues included UCF promises:

  • to focus the academic offerings on majors that would address downtown workforce needs;
  • to review progress and weed out programs that have low student demand;
  • to pursue the goal of 100 percent job placement in the two most popular degree programs within a year of graduation;
  • to set up an instructional model that would involve about 46 percent of instruction coming from traditional classroom lectures, 38 percent from hybrid methods, and 16 percent as on-line studies;
  • to not build its own student dormitories downtown, but to allow private developers to offer private student housing; and
  • to not seek any more state money until after the campus opens for the 2018-19 year.

The downtown campus was not the only major UCF project to get funding in the conference budget.

UCF also is getting $14 million for continued development of a joint-use set of facilities for military research in the university’s research park. It also got more than $3 million to finish renovations of a UCF engineering building, and more than $4 million for a multidisciplinary lab building on campus.

Next up for UCF, and for the University of South Florida: anticipation that they could get money and recognition as universities of “emerging preeminence.”

Both universities are hoping the new category is created as a notch below the current universities of preeminence category that brings the University of Florida and Florida State University additional funding.

Bills are alive in both legislative chambers to create the new category, and the universities are hoping the money will appear in the budget. They expect $20 million to be set aside for UF and FSU to split, and an amount equal to half of what the preeminent universities get — $10 million this year — for UCF and USF to split.

House lays Seminole Compact failure at feet of Senate

It’s the Florida Senate’s fault that the Seminole Compact wasn’t passed this session, two House leaders said Friday afternoon.

They rejected claims there weren’t enough votes in the House, saying instead there was no point in moving a bill that wasn’t going to be considered across the Capitol Rotunda. (For Friday’s background, click here.)

The Senate gave up on it earlier this week, with President Andy Gardiner saying the compact “will be for another day, and for somebody else to handle.” This is his final  year in office.

“We wanted to keep hope alive, but obviously nothing panned out,” said House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican. “We figured there was no life in it … as for 2016, it won’t have an opportunity to come back up.”

“It just couldn’t get done in the Senate,” he said. “There wasn’t a compromise opportunity to get it done.”

Gardiner and other Senate leaders weren’t available Friday afternoon because that chamber was still meeting.

State Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Fort Walton Beach Republican who chairs the Finance and Tax Committee, said he believed there were “no fewer than” 80 votes in the 120-member House to pass the re-negotiated agreement. A majority in the House, enough to pass legislation, is 61.

He also feared that now the courts will essentially make gambling policy for the state since several related suits are pending.

The Florida Supreme Court is set to consider a challenge by a Creek Indian-operated racetrack in Gretna that it and pari-mutuels in five other counties can offer slots because voters approved the machines in local referendums.

Competing lawsuits are also before two federal judges.

In one, the Seminoles say the state violated a previous promise of blackjack exclusivity by allowing card games known as player-designated games, similar to some versions of player-banked poker.

The tribe offers blackjack at seven casinos, including the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa.

In another suit, the state alleges that the tribe’s current offering of blackjack is technically unauthorized because one part of the previous agreement expired and Seminole blackjack going on now is illegal gambling.

“If we don’t take action, we will surrender the state’s involvement in this critical decision-making,” Gaetz said. “If there is judicial action that deems the state in violation of the Compact, we’ll have the deprivation of revenue, a loss of control on the expansion of gaming … and we look dysfunctional.”

The previous blackjack deal was worth at least $1 billion over five years to the state treasury, though payments usually exceeded $200 million per year. Revenue from the tribe stops without a new deal.

It wasn’t clear whether the new Compact would still go to the U.S. Department of Interior, which oversees Indian gambling, for review and separate approval.

Seminole Compact dies (again) in Legislature

The Florida House of Representatives “temporarily postponed” consideration of this year’s troubled gambling legislation, suggesting last-minute whip counts showed a lack of votes to pass the bills.

Friday’s move signals that any possibility of legislative approval of the state’s new gambling agreement, or Compact, with the Seminole Tribe of Florida is dead for the session, which ends next Friday.

The Senate had already given up on it: The Compact “will be for another day, and for somebody else to handle,” President Andy Gardiner said earlier this week. This is his final year in office.

“Gaming bills tend to die of their own weight,” he said.

It’s now up to the tribe whether it triggers its “nuclear option,” making good on a promise by Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen that the tribe would lay off thousands of casino workers across the state if the deal died this year.

Gov. Rick Scott this Wednesday repeated the threat before reporters: “According to the Seminoles, if the Compact is not passed, 3,700 people are going to lose their jobs.”

Gary Bitner, the Seminoles’ spokesman, “respectfully declined comment” Friday night.

The new Seminole Compact was worth $3 billion over seven years in revenue share to the state, but also contained key provisions that critics said expand gambling in Florida, such as allowing the Tribe to offer craps and roulette.

Moreover, lawmakers trying to appease pari-mutuel interests, such as horse and dog tracks, added on even more measures to expand gambling, including slot machines and card games. But that move ensured its demise among legislators shy of seeming too cozy with gambling interests.

We’ll add more comment to this story as we get it.


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

Tug of war over tax package kills bills

A squabble over tourist taxes, a last-minute amendment to the Senate’s tax cut package, sucked up about half of the 2016 Legislative Session’s last Senate Appropriations meeting, killing bills left hanging on the agenda.

The panel OK’d the House plan (HB 7099) after amending it with the Senate’s own tax package. The legislation promises about $129 million in tax relief, far less than the $1 billion asked for by Gov. Rick Scott.

For instance, it scales back Florida’s back to school sales-tax holiday from 10 days to three days in August. Legislative budget writers disagree with Scott about the amount of projected revenue the state has to spend next fiscal year.

The amendment in question was eventually approved 11-8, and the tax relief package itself later cleared the committee, though not before budget chief Tom Lee let off a little steam.

Because of the tourist tax fight, the Brandon Republican warned the panel “legislation is already dead on this agenda.”

The infighting highlighted the breakdowns that start piling up in the waning days of a legislative session.

State Sen. Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican, had introduced the change for Bay, Okaloosa and Walton counties, allowing the possibility of redirecting local tourist development taxes to subsidize items such as emergency services at beaches.

But Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, objected to the amendment being filed nine minutes before the 8 a.m. start of the appropriations meeting, which ended promptly at 10 a.m. Still others questioned whether the move should have come up through the local bill process.

Sen. Dorothy Hukill, the Port Orange Republican who shepherded tax cuts through her chamber this year, also objected.

“This is a local issue … they know what’s important to them,” she said. “We know where this is going: This is ‘creeping’ and I’m not in favor of it.”

Senate President Andy Gardiner later released a statement, explaining that lawmakers were “reducing local (property tax) rates and using only state tax dollars to pay for a $478 million increase in education funding.”

“This is a win-win scenario for our state,” he said. “K-12 per student funding is at an all-time high, but state taxes dollars, rather than the property taxes of local homeowners and businesses, will cover the cost of that increase.”

Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) also commented on the plan, lauding a provision that permanently gets rid of the sales tax on manufacturing machinery and equipment.

“As the tax package heads to the Senate floor, AIF encourages the full Senate to advance this pro-business tax cut that will reinvigorate manufacturing and accelerate job growth in the Sunshine State,” it said.


Editor’s Note: This version corrects the amount of tax cuts referred to in an earlier post.

Mitch Perry Report for 3.3.16 — Mittens returns

Mitt Romney returns full circle to the political circus today with a speech he’s going to give in Salt Lake City at 11:30 a.m. Eastern.

Politico has some excerpts from the text. Here’s the killer sound bite.”

“Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat. … His domestic policies would lead to recession. His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president. And his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill.”

Since nothing to date has affected Teflon Don, can this make a difference to anyone, specifically Florida registered Republicans who are currently voting and will be up to March 15?

Meanwhile, Trump’s upcoming speech this Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is being protested by groups who simply don’t think that the man is a conservative, and thus shouldn’t be allowed to speak.

Boy, the GOP is in serious crisis mode. Or do you disagree?

What’s led to this debacle? Former Florida Democratic House Minority Leader Dan Gelber writes in his blog that the Republicans need to stare at themselves in the mirror.

“When preserving power by any means becomes the singular goal of your party, virtue is bound to be replaced with bombast, and thoughtful policies supplanted by callow rhetoric,” Gelber writes. “And don’t get me wrong, Trump will be formidable because appealing to the worst instincts in people can sometimes be effective. But at least, this election will present clear choices.So don’t blame Donald Trump because more than half your party adores the fear, anger, misogyny, racism and xenophobia he spouts. Don’t blame Donald Trump because his adolescent pronouncements and charlatan promises have become your organizing principles.”

In other news …

Club for Growth Action, a super PAC designed to stop Donald Trump, has had some success in running ads against the Manhattan mogul in Iowa and Oklahoma, where he lost out to Ted Cruz both times. The group is now doing a $1.5 million ad by targeting Trump in Florida.

With Florida being ground zero for new HIV infections, the Florida Legislature has finally passed a needle-exchange pilot bill for Miami-Dade County. 

David Jolly is sponsoring a bill that will look at the link of prescription drugs prescribed to veterans who have killed themselves after serving overseas.

Eric Lynn has been endorsed by the National Organization for Women PAC in his race against fellow Democrat Charlie Crist in Pinellas County. The former Obama administration official told a crowd of Pinellas Democrats about the news while Crist sat in the audience.

Frustrated by what appears to be yet another Florida Legislative session that will fail to address ride-sharing, Uber is going nuclear against the man they perceive to be the holdup, Senate President Andy Gardiner.

Meanwhile, the Florida Taxi Association is firing back at Uber (and Lyft) regarding TNC legislation.

Congressman Vern Buchanan is calling the Pentagon to reinstate a decorated war hero who was punished for standing up to a child rapist in Afghanistan.

Uber targets Andy Gardiner to back House bill on TNC’s

With the Legislature prepared to close out its 2016 Regular Legislative Session next week, Uber is pulling out all the stops to get Senate support for a bill it supports that has passed the House.

Uber officials says Andy Gardiner is the reason the Senate won’t support the Matt Gaetz-sponsored bill on Transportation Network Companies (TNC), and they’re targeting the Senate president in several ways.

The group has sent e-mails to its supporters in Orlando that says, “Senate President Andy Gardiner and the special interests he represents are blocking comprehensive legislation to regulate Uber across the state from even reaching a vote on the Senate floor. Ask Senator Gardiner to allow his colleagues in the Senate to vote on the House ridesharing bill.”

It has also produced digital ads up on Google and Facebook, pushed out text messages to Orlando residents, and released this video.

On Tuesday, an Uber spokesman blasted Gardiner, telling him to set his “personal self-interest” and “special interest politics aside.” Uber alleges that Gardiner’s relationship with Mears Transportation has affected his objectivity regarding the legislation.

The Gaetz bill includes insurance requirements of $50,000 in coverage for death and bodily injury per person, $100,000 in coverage for death and bodily injury per incident, and $25,000 in coverage for property damage while logged on to the network. It would also set requirements for driver background checks and would block local governments from establishing rules for rideshare programs.

A measure in the Senate sponsored by Altamonte Springs Republican Dave Simmons and supported by Gardiner has yet to come to the Senate floor for a vote. Its insurance requirements for Uber and Lyft are more expensive than the House version.

It would also require ride-sharing companies to have $125,000 in coverage for death and bodily injury per person, $250,000 in coverage for death and bodily injury per incident, and $50,000 in coverage for property damage when logged on to the network or engaged in a prearranged ride. When the driver was not logged into the system, drivers would have to maintain $25,000 in coverage for death and bodily injury per person, $50,000 in coverage for death and bodily injury per incident and $10,000 in coverage for property damage, all levels that are higher than the state’s personal injury protection insurance requirements.

Unlike the House bill, the Senate bill does not  address the issue of blocking local governments (like the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission) from establishing rules for rideshare programs.

That prompted Katie Betts, a spokeswoman for Gardiner, to tell FloridaPolitics.com that “no senator filed a companion to the House bill requiring state preemption.”

Mitch Perry Report for 3.2.16 — How safe will it be for Republicans to endorse Donald Trump?

We were prepared not to weigh in on the results from last night’s Super Tuesday results, but watching the evisceration of Chris Christie on Twitter last prompted a closer look at what Florida GOP strategist Rick Wilson writes about in today’s Daily Beast.

“Far from having the same kind of Kevlar media armor Trump enjoys, if you think you inherit his invulnerability, you’re deeply, sadly mistaken,” Wilson writes, referring to Republicans like Christie, who have come out and endorsed the GOP front-runner, or are thinking about it. “You’re about to become a bullet magnet for every controversial statement Trump has made … and if you try to out-Trump Trump, you’ll be laughed off the stage.”

Perhaps that’s what David Jolly was thinking when he released a statement last night saying that he wouldn’t endorse in the Florida presidential primary on March 15.

Folks, short of a miracle, Trump will be giving his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July. Will the party rally around him?

Nothing sticks to him, as we’ve seen about two dozen times over the past year. Nothing. Is that going to work for a Republican in a contested primary? Good luck with that.

Obviously, Rick Scott doesn’t really care about that. Though the Florida Governor didn’t endorse last night, there’s no question that the two businessmen turned Republican candidates/lawmakers are simpatico. Then again, Scott’s lack of popularity has never seemed to hurt him too much to date. If he runs for Senate in 2018, well, that’s light years away.

But for those who are on the ballot this November? Let’s go back to quoting Wilson:

“I’ve knocked out any number of Democrats using ads associating them with the brand toxicity of Reid, Pelosi, and Obama, and before that Ted Kennedy, Barney Frank, and others. All the Democrats have to do is what I did, in reverse. If Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is being sworn in come 2017, this family of ads will be the thing that put him there.”

In other news …

It’s interesting to note that when some lawmakers run for president, their popularity increases, and some, like Chris Christie in New Jersey, see their numbers tank. Add Marco Rubio to the latter, as the GOP presidential candidate actually trails Rick Scott in popularity now.

Some folks won’t let Marco’s “conversion” on undocumented immigration slide. A group representing the families of victims who were met with violence by the undocumented penned a harsh letter about Rubio on Monday, warning Super Tuesday voters not to be fooled by the Florida Senator.

As another legislative session appears to be winding down without any regulation of ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft, Uber takes it out on Senate President Andy Gardiner.

A Public Policy Polling survey shows that, as in other recent polls, while most Floridians aren’t sure at all about who’s running for U.S. Senate, among those who do, David Jolly and Alan Grayson are the early leaders.

While Bernie Sanders‘ dream of capturing the Democratic presidential nomination may be on the ropes, the dreams of the U.S. looking more like Scandinavian isn’t, or so say a local think tank official.

Rick Scott’s proposal to fund Enterprise Florida to the tune of $250 million may be on the legislative rocks, but Tampa Bay Partnership head Rick Homans wants to make sure that House and Senate Budget appropriations chairs Richard Corcoran and Tom Lee realize how much it means to the economic development of the Tampa Bay area.

Uber blasts Andy Gardiner as being impediment in getting ride-sharing bill passed

Will 2016 finally be the year the Florida Legislature implements rules of the road for ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft?

In late January, the Florida House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill (HB 509) addressing Transportation Network Companies (TNC), but its fate in the state Senate is unknown, and officials with Uber on Tuesday blamed President Andy Gardiner’s intransigence for that holdup.

“We are calling on Senator Gardiner to set his personal self-interest aside, set special interest politics aside, and follow through on his word,” said Colin Tooze, Director, Public Affairs with Uber, in a conference call.

The “personal self-interest” is a reference to Gardiner’s relationship with Roger Chapin, the vice president with Mears Transportation in Orlando and board member with Florida Taxicab Association. That group has been pushing the Legislature to enact tough regulations on Uber and Lyft.

The key difference between the Senate and House bills has to do with the Senate’s insistence requiring that the ride-sharing driver to have insurance coverage even when he or she is not logged into the Uber or Lyft app.

The House legislation, sponsored by Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz, includes insurance requirements of $50,000 in coverage for death and bodily injury per person, $100,000 in coverage for death and bodily injury per incident and $25,000 in coverage for property damage while logged on to the network. It would also set requirements for driver background checks and would block local governments from establishing rules for rideshare programs. That provision has drawn opposition from the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties.

A measure in the Senate sponsored by Altamonte Springs Republican Dave Simmons and supported by Gardiner has yet to come to the Senate floor for a vote. Its insurance requirements for Uber and Lyft are more expensive than the House version.

It would require ride-sharing companies to have $125,000 in coverage for death and bodily injury per person, $250,000 in coverage for death and bodily injury per incident and $50,000 in coverage for property damage when logged on to the network or engaged in a prearranged ride. And when the driver was not logged into the system, drivers would have to maintain $25,000 in coverage for death and bodily injury per person, $50,000 in coverage for death and bodily injury per incident and $10,000 in coverage for property damage, all levels that are higher than the state’s personal injury protection insurance requirements.

Uber’s Tooze called those “unprecedented concessions” and said he thought he thought that the company had a deal with the Legislature, but said that, “Unfortunately, Mears and their powerful benefactor in the Senate changed their minds and have walked away from a deal that would have ensured access to safe transportation options and flexible work for all Floridians. It’s apparent now that they were never serious about it in the first place,” adding that “something’s not on the level.”

“The pound of flesh they demanded was more expensive insurance policies than anywhere else in the country, making it more expensive for Uber to operate in Florida,” Tooze added, disdain dripping from his voice.

Chapin said he didn’t know what Uber was talking about. He said he’s met with officials from the company a few times this year, but said, “I don’t think we have ever come away from the table with a deal, so I’m not sure where that’s coming from.”

He said that he’s never gone over ride-sharing legislation with Gardiner, but has with Senate bill sponsor Dave Simmons. “I think they’re just rolling into an example of where they haven’t gotten their way like they have in other places, and it’s kind of pissed them off,” he said of the Uber official spokesman comments.

Katie Betta, a spokesperson for Senator Gardiner, said the issue is that there is not a true companion bill in the Senate to Gaetz’ bill in the House.

“During the 2016 Legislative Session, no Senator filed a companion to the House bill requiring state pre-emption,” she wrote to FloridaPolitics.com in an email. “Pulling a House bill with no Senate sponsor that has never been heard in a single Senate Committee from its committees of reference and taking it up on the Senate floor requires the unanimous consent of the Senate. Any Senator can make such a motion.”

Before the conference call took place, the Florida Taxicab Association issued a statement referencing how Uber’s website states that drivers need not bother with alerting their personal insurance carriers when signing up to drive for the company, stating that, during the time that a ride-sharing partner is available but between trips, most personal auto insurance will provide coverage.”

The post went on to quote Josh Mohrer, an Uber general manager, who recently acknowledged that drivers’ personal auto insurers do deny claims for accidents that occur during the gap between the driver logging onto the app and when he or she accepts a ride.

The Taxicab Association said such a statement called into question whether insurance covering the cost of an accident “most of the time” is a sound policy.

An Uber official emailed a response to FloridaPolitics.com upon seeing those comments:”Uber has insurance in place at all times when a driver is logged into the app, both in the period before a driver accepts a trip and during the trip. While on a trip, there is $1 million in coverage in place, more than 4 times what taxi is required to have under Florida law.”

Budget conference to begin this weekend

Legislative leaders issued a joint statement on the 2016-17 state budget Thursday night:

Members,

We are pleased with the progress President (Tom) Lee and Chair (Richard) Corcoran (the Senate and House budget chiefs) have made and are optimistic we will be ready to begin the budget conference this weekend.

We will update you as early as possible tomorrow, so you can make the appropriate travel arrangements.

Thank you for your patience as we work through this important process. We look forward to providing you with more information as soon as possible.

President Gardiner and Speaker Crisafulli

Stay tuned for an update Friday morning …

Developmental disabilities screening program passes Senate

The Senate Wednesday passed a bill aiming to improve the Florida Early Steps program, a priority of Republican Senate President Andy Gardiner.

SB 7058 brings eligibility guidelines for the Early Steps program in line with federal requirements and defines the program’s goals, which include providing timely screenings of infants and toddlers for developmental disabilities.

The bill also requires the Florida Department of Health to set up performance guidelines for the program and evaluate Early Steps offices and report their findings to the governor and Legislature annually.

“We need to make certain that children with unique abilities are identified as early as possible so they can begin receiving services needed to enhance their educational opportunities and improve their quality of life,” Gardiner said. “Last year, the Legislature appropriated a significant funding increase to ensure Florida’s Early Steps program has the resources needed to provide early intervention services to children with unique abilities. This legislation builds on our commitment to these children through key policy enhancements that will ensure effective services are reaching children in need at a time in their development that will have the most impact.”

The Early Steps program covers children from birth to 3 years of age who are at risk of developmental delays or disabilities. The program stems from Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, passed by Congress in 1975 to ensure that children with developmental disabilities have the opportunity to receive a free appropriate public education, just like other children. All children are eligible for Early Steps benefits, regardless of family income.

The Senate inserted the language from SB 7058 into the House version of the bill, HB 7053, which passed that chamber on Feb. 11 with a 114-0 vote. The bill now heads back to the House for another floor vote. If successful, the bill will head to Gov. Rick Scott for a signature.

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