Andy Gardiner Archives - Page 7 of 36 - Florida Politics

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 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 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 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:


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.

Rick Scott calls session “successful” – but still hasn’t got what he wants

Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday suggested, with as much subtext as he could muster, that lawmakers need to come around on his two main budget goals for 2016-17: $1 billion in tax cuts and $25o million for business incentives.

After all, legislative leadership passed their priority bills early on, which Scott happily signed.

The message was clear: You got yours, I want mine.

“We’ve had a very good Session. It’s all going to be successful,” Scott told reporters after a bill signing in his office.

“We started with the water bill that the Speaker of the House wanted, we started with the Gardiner Scholarship bill for those with unique abilities (named after Senate President Andy Gardiner), those have already been signed,” he said.

“Everyone knows my priorities,” Scott added. “All of them are tied to getting more jobs in our state. The tax cut is important … along with the $250 million for (the Florida Enterprise Fund).

“I believe we’re going to have a good end to Session. And there’s plenty of money in the budget.”

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, in separate comments to reporters, basically said Scott was overspending and asking for too much.

“I’ve said it, the president has said it, even the governor has said it: There has to be compromise on all sides,” he said. “That’s the only way to bring those numbers within a threshold we can obtain.”

As of Wednesday night, House budget chief Richard Corcoran and Senate budget chairman Tom Lee had not announced agreement on allocations, the silos of money for each major part of the state budget.

“We know the governor is very focused on his message,” Crisafulli said. “He’s fighting for as much as he can get, but there’s a reality in all this … Nobody gets everything they want.”

Added Gardiner: “It’s give and take … everybody’s going to have give and take if we want to go home on time.”

The session ends March 11, but the budget has to be finished before then because of a 72-hour “cooling off” period mandated by law, giving lawmakers and the public time to inspect the details.

“He’s going to have vetoes; he’s probably going to have a lot of vetoes,” Gardiner said of Scott after a Wednesday Senate floor session. “If we all sat out and had a big group hug, he’d still have a lot of vetoes … I’m trying to put together what I think is a responsible budget.”

Jim Rosica ( covers the Florida Legislature, state agencies and courts from Tallahassee. 

No more ’70s paneling: Florida Senate readies for a refresh

Say goodbye to all those yards of fake-wood laminate: The Florida Senate will be shedding the 1970s look of its chamber with a nearly $5 million renovation this year.

Senate President Andy Gardiner, in a Jan. 6 memo to fellow senators, said the remodeling will begin this summer. A copy of the memo was provided to on Monday.

“In my view, we are guests in this building and we have an important responsibility to adequately preserve and maintain areas of the Capitol complex designated for use by the Senate and often utilized by students and other civic groups when the Senate is not in Session,” the Orlando Republican said.

The last redo of the House chamber occurred in 1999 under then-Speaker John Thrasher, now Florida State University president. He spent nearly $7 million to renovate the chamber, the speaker’s office and the House Office Building.

But Gardiner and the rest of the Senate no doubt will tread carefully with their refurb, with the 2010 “Taj Mahal” courthouse controversy still sticking in many memories.

Now-retired Tampa Bay Times reporter Lucy Morgan broke the story of the 1st District Court of Appeal’s new courthouse in Tallahassee that cost $48 million and became the poster building for pre-Great Recession excess.

In one story, it was described as “a monument to profligate spending, with no taxpayer dollar spared, a courthouse outfitted with 20 miles of African mahogany, etched glass and, for each judge, a private kitchen and bathroom.”

After Morgan started reporting, the plans changed, such as removing the individual kitchens for a central one. Other stories noted an abundance of granite countertops and large, flat-screen television screens throughout.

As Gardiner’s memo makes clear, this isn’t that kind of upgrade.

“As many Senators and visitors have mentioned to me over the last few years, our Senate Chamber has received only minimal updates since its original construction in the 1970s,” he said.

“Over the last four decades, the carpet has been replaced, the Senators’ chairs along with the gallery seating were replaced, and Senators’ desks were modified to accommodate changes in technology,” Gardiner added. “Currently, our carpet is again in serious need of replacement and the HVAC units are outdated.”

In 2003, then-Senate President Jim King proposed remodeling the Senate chamber and the Senate Office Building, south of the Capitol tower. To control costs, the chamber upgrade was put on hold.

Now, three contracts are posted on the Senate website: Allstate Construction of Tallahassee will do the building, and Hick Nation Architects will do the design. Still another firm – Spitz Inc. of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania – will design and build a new ceiling dome modeled after one in the Old Capitol.

The cost estimate for a “scope of work” summary comes in at about $4.9 million, and includes $782,000 for the new dome and surrounding ceiling.

The final look of the new and improved chamber is still a work in progress, according to Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta.

Betta sent an artist’s conception of the new chamber with the following proviso: “Please bear in mind that this is a graphic rendering only and does not reflect final decisions on some key design elements.”

The mock-up shows the proposed new ceiling dome and other design elements similar to the exterior of the Old Capitol, including a pediment on top of columns over the president’s rostrum and the words, “In God We Trust.”

Senate President pro tem Garrett Richter, a Naples Republican, is leading a “Chamber Renovation Working Group” that includes GOP Sens. Lizbeth Benacquisto, Tom Lee and Kelli Stargel with Democrats Oscar Braynon II and Bill Montford.

They will recommend “specific decisions regarding aesthetic and historical elements of the renovation,” Gardiner said.

Work begins after adjournment sine die of the 2016 Legislative Session, “and construction is scheduled to conclude prior to the 2016 Organization Session this fall,” he added.

The case for why there should be a legislative deal for Uber & Lyft

While watching the Florida Legislature debate regulation of services like Uber and Lyft statewide, I couldn’t help but think of a pair of quotes discovered as I was looking up something else.

The first quote, from Microsoft founder Bill Gates, came as the House displayed leadership and vision in approving its version of a bill that could finally end local squabbles over transportation network services.

“Never before in history has innovation offered the promise of so much to so many in so short a time,” Gates says.

To me, that’s Uber and Lyft: promise and innovation.

On the other hand, when the Senate weighed in, another, more discouraging quote came to mind – from as unlikely a source as gossip blogger Perez Hilton.

“Ignoring it won’t deny its existence,” he says. “It will just delay it!”

“But better to plan and conquer than wait and wither!” Perez warns.

Perez’s words spoke to me of the Senate’s stubborn resistance to a technological future, opting to stay stuck in the past.

It’s no secret in Tallahassee that Senate President Andy Gardiner is partial to the traditional taxi industry, particularly in his own backyard of tourist-rich Orlando. And it is the equally common knowledge that the taxi industry sees modern ridesharing services as a very real threat to its antiquated business model.

Nevertheless, with Gardiner’s Senate appearing so stubbornly opposed to a fresh new business model – one tremendously popular with the public – it seems to fly in the face of conservative Republican ideals, which place so much faith in the power of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Back in August, I wrote about this conflict:

“It’s about protecting an entrenched industry, the taxi companies, which have donated enough campaign cash to Florida politicians to delay the inevitable. But what these transportation companies don’t understand is that most ride-sharing customers don’t want the taxicabs’ product. … Lyft and Uber aren’t taking business away from the taxicabs as much as they are creating an entirely new economy.”

Six months later, it is shameful that we’re still stuck in the exact same place. And that brings up one more quote, this from the late, great Yogi Berra.

“It’s deja vu all over agin.”

The House sits squarely on the side of innovation; while the Senate, obstructing the path of change, does the bidding of old-school companies.

It is a sad situation, more than just campaign contributions and political connections. Or, at least, I’d like to think it is.

But the longer this continues, the more I am convinced that is precisely what is happening.

And you can quote me on that.

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