Jack Latvala Archives - Florida Politics

Bring on the orange juice: Denise Grimsley schedules breakfast fundraiser for March 7

It’s never too early in the day to start fundraising.

Sen. Denise Grimsley is scheduled to hold a fundraising reception for her 2018 bid for Agriculture Commissioner at 7:30 a.m. on March 7 at Florida Finance Strategies, 111-B East College Avenue in Tallahassee.

The reception, according to a copy of the invitation, is hosted by Sens. Aaron Bean, Dennis Baxley, Rob Bradley, Anitere Flores, George Gainer, Bill Galvano, Rene Garcia, Jack Latvala, Tom Lee, Debbie Mayfield, David Simmons, Wilton Simpson, Kelli Stargel, and Greg Steube.

The breakfast fundraiser comes just hours before the start of the 2017 Legislative Session.

A Sebring Republican, Grimsley was first elected to the House in 2004, before heading to the Senate in 2012.

She is currently a hospital administrator for Florida Hospital Wauchula and Lake Placid, and has served as vice president and chief operating officer of her family business, Grimsley Oil Company, as well as being involved in the citrus and ranching industry. She’s a member of the Peace River Valley and Highlands County Citrus Growers Association, and the Florida Cattlemen’s Association.

Grimsley filed to for the statewide office earlier this month, and has already lined up the backing of former state Sen. JD Alexander. And several Central Florida agriculture industry leaders appear to be lining up behind her, with many listed on an invitation for a fundraiser at Florida’s Natural Grove House in Lake Wales next week.

She isn’t the only member of the Legislature eyeing the agriculture post. Last week, Rep. Matt Caldwell told FloridaPolitics.com he intends to file to run for the seat later this summer.

Senate Appropriations votes 14-2 to OK gambling bill, now cleared for Senate floor

A wide-sweeping gambling bill is now ready to be heard by the full Senate when the 2017 Legislative Session kicks off next month, after it cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee this morning.

The bill (SB 8), sponsored by Sen. Bill Galvano, ratifies the 2015 Seminole Compact, subject to the approval of amendments to conform the agreement to provisions outlined in the bill and other actions to be taken by the Seminole Tribe and the state of Florida, and would expand the number of facilities where slot machines can be operated.

“Florida is a diverse state and our constituents have many different opinions, beliefs and convictions regarding gaming. This legislation does not attempt to make value judgments about the private activities of free, taxpaying Floridians, instead it presents a comprehensive approach to regulating a voter-approved industry that has contributed billions of dollars to our economy for education, health care and infrastructure, while providing hundreds of thousands of jobs to Floridians over the course of nearly 100 years,” said Galvano in a statement after the vote.

The bill passed 14-2, with Sens. Aaron Bean and Kelli Stargel voting against it.

“I don’t feel like we need to go down this path,” said Bean, who commended Galvano for his effort. “I see us going on the continued road of a slippery slope.”

The measure was amended Thursday to add a bingo provision for charitable organizations. Under the new section, veterans’ organizations may conduct instant bingo using electronic tickets instead of paper tickets.

The amended bill also appears to outlaw advance deposit wagering, a form of gambling in which the bettor must fund his account being allowed to place betters. The amendment makes it a third degree felony to accept those wagers on horse races, but not on dog races.

It also toughens standards for race animal doping; changes the name of the Office of Amusements, which would regulate fantasy sports, to the Office of Contest Amusements; and gives regulators no more than 45 days to approve “rules for a new authorized game submitted by a licensed cardroom or provide the cardroom with a list of deficiencies as to those rules.”

Several members expressed hesitation about what the bill could mean for the state’s future, before voting for it. Sens. Anitere Flores and Rob Bradley were among those who said they faced a difficult decision, but felt inaction was no longer an option.

“This is a difficult issue for me,” said Bradley. “If I could do one thing to wave a magic wand in our state government, I would get rid of the lottery and move on in a different direction on gaming, because I think Florida is about something different. We’re about beaches and sunshine. Not gaming. But ladies and gentlemen, I don’t have a magic wand, none of us do.”

Sen. Jack Latvala, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, called the measure a jobs bill and said he hoped it will be “one more place where the Senate comes down strong for jobs.”

The House Tourism & Gaming Control Subcommittee OK’d its own gambling bill Thursday.

Impressive roster of GOP leaders line up for Ed Hooper fundraiser

Clearwater Republican Ed Hooper is assembling an impressive number of high-profile state lawmakers for a Tallahassee reception next month. Hooper, a former state representative, is seeking the open Senate District 16 seat currently held by Jack Latvala.

Hooper’s campaign fundraiser will be Monday, March 6, from 2:30 p.m. – 4 p.m. at the Governors Club, 202 South Adams Street.

The host committee reads like a Who’s Who of GOP state leaders, including Senate President Joe Negron and nearly all the Pinellas County/Hillsborough delegation: Sens. Latvala, Bill GalvanoWilton SimpsonDana Young and Jeff Brandes.

Republican senators from beyond the Tampa Bay area will be there, too: Lizbeth BenacquistoGeorge GainerDenise GrimsleyFrank ArtilesDennis BaxleyAaron BeanTravis HutsonDebbie MayfieldKathleen PassidomoKeith PerryRobert BradleyDoug BroxsonDavid SimmonsKelli Stargel and Greg Steube.

The House will also be well represented, with Larry AhernBen AlbrittonChris Latvala and Kathleen Peters.

A former Clearwater firefighter who served four terms in the House before term limits forced him out, Hooper ran for Pinellas County Commission in 2014, losing to Democrat Pat Gerard after a contentious campaign.

At Tampa rally for Enterprise Florida funding, Rick Scott repeatedly calls out Shawn Harrison

Saying that he is “shocked” that a committee in the Florida House voted to kill funding for Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida last week, Governor Rick Scott came to Tampa on Monday to urge the public to urge their state legislators to maintain the funding for those two besieged  agencies.

“This is an important issue to me personally,” Scott said in his comments to reporters after concluding the second of three scheduled appearances around the state in what his staff is calling a “Fighting for Florida Jobs Roundtable.”

Now in his sixth year as chief executive, the “jobs governor” has taken it as a personal rebuke that lawmakers aren’t on the same page with him when it comes to fully funding the public-private agencies. His arguments for maintaining the funding are wide and varied, including his statement on Monday that a flourishing economy could enable the state to put more money into education and the developmentally disabled, but only if the Legislature comes through to support the agencies.

“Our economy is on a roll. This is crazy to stop this!” he said after hosting the roundtable at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in North Tampa.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Visit Hillsborough CEO Santiago Corrada, Port Tampa Bay CEO Paul Anderson, Plant City Mayor Rick Lott and dozens of other members from the business community sat in chairs three rows deep in a semi-circle in what was a virtual half-hour informercial for the two programs, under fire in the House as being an example of “corporate welfare” in a campaign led by Speaker Richard Corcoran.

“I am shocked that members of the Florida House of Representatives, politicians in Tallahassee, are turning their back on job creation,” Scott said, specifically calling out New Tampa House District 63 Republican Shawn Harrison for his vote in the House Career and Competition Subcommittee last week that would eliminate the Enterprise Florida economic development organization, and VISIT Florida, the tourism marketing agency, as well as a host of economic incentive programs.

Harrison narrowly won re-election last November over Democrat Lisa Montelione in HD 63, considered one of the most extreme “swing” districts in the state. The former Tampa City Council initially won the seat in 2010 but lost it in 2012 before returning back to the House in 2014.

“I’m still shocked that Shawn Harrison voted the way he did,” Scott repeated several times during the half-hour roundtable, and later when speaking with reporters afterwards. He repeatedly issued out positive statistics about the state’s economy, saying Florida’s job growth was double the national average, and that there was $771 million that came from tourists last year. Time and again, he went after the critics of the two agencies.

“What Shawn Harrison and other House members are saying – ‘oh we’re not worried about jobs anymore’ – that’s wrong!” he exclaimed. “That’s somebody’s life!”

During his presentation, he mocked anybody who voted against the programs. “How could anybody? I can’t imagine anybody who runs for office saying, ‘I’m for getting rid of jobs.’ Absolutely not.”

Scott’s pleas to maintain full funding for EF and VF sometimes reached new lengths.

“I’ve watched my mom cry because she couldn’t pay for health care. I don’t want that ever to happen to a family in our state,” he said. The sentiment might surprise the majority of Floridians who are still upset about the fact that Scott rejected expanding Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act four years ago, denying health coverage to an estimated 850,000 people.

Scott did repeatedly shower his affection for Jack Latvala and Dana Young, two GOP state Senators from the Tampa Bay area who support continued funding of the agencies.

Buckhorn, a Democrat who has on occasion blasted Scott, emphasized the bipartisan nature of support for funding EF and VF. And he oozed contempt for lawmakers who want to kill the agencies. “What is happening in Tallahassee is ideology is getting in the way of the practical application of what these incentives are all about,” he said, denying that it’s a “giveaway program.”

“This would be patently absurd to cut off our nose, to spite our face, just because somebody is reading off a playbook provided to them by the Koch Brothers,” Buckhorn said.

Americans for Prosperity Florida, which receives funding from the Koch Family Foundation, is a leading state agency fighting against what they describe as corporate welfare run amok. The organization tweeted out on Monday, “Rep Harrison voted against rigged system! Why should taxpayers pay to pad special interest pockets.”

Craig Richard, the new CEO of the TampaHillsborough Economic Development Corporation, has worked in economic development for the past 20 years in six different states. “I’ve never heard anyone interested in doing away with the goose laying the golden egg,” he said.

“It’s kind of silly that we’re having this type of conversation,” Bobby Harris ,the founder and CEO of freight and logistics provider Blue Grace Logistics. He said that the incentives that helped him hire more than 100 employees in his Tampa offices would have gone to Chicago instead.  He said the House vote is “not a good vote of confidence for business leaders.”

Harrison did not return a call for comment.

Jack Latvala says evidence doesn’t support House on job incentives

The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee defended state spending on economic incentives Thursday by pointing to evidence the effort produces solid returns on investment.

Visit Florida, for example, returns $3.20 cents for every dollar spent on advertising, according to figures (here; scroll down) from Amy Baker, state government’s top economist.

Enterprise Florida’s international offices program, meanwhile, returns $4. And its export assistance program returns $1.90. That’s as measured in tax revenue.

Not counting spending on beaches, transportation, and aviation, five of the top programs in return on investment involve the sort of incentives that would be outlawed under a bill approved Wednesday by the House Careers & Competition Subcommittee.

“They all produce a net increase in tax revenue, over and above what we invest in them. And all five of them are included in the bill the House passed out of committee yesterday to abolish,” chairman Jack Latvala said during a meeting of his committee.

Other than Baker, Latvala called Cissy Proctor, executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity before the committee to defend Visit Florida, Enterprise Florida Inc., and other economic incentives.

Also on hand was Stan Conley, president and CEO of Gulf Power and vice chairman of the Enterprise Florida Board; Eric Silagy, his counterpart at Florida Power & Light Co. and a member of EFI’s board; and local economic development officials from Broward, Gadsden, Palm Beach, and Volusia Counties.

Frank Walker, vice president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, endorsed incentives. So did Robert Weissert of Florida TaxWatch, who said Baker’s analyst might have understated their value by not accounting benefits other than tax returns — jobs, for example.

Latvala agreed with the thrust of Gov. Rick Scott‘s criticism of House Speaker Richard Corcoran and other House leaders who oppose economic incentives spending as corporate welfare. Scott suggested political ambition motivated them.

“People say things this time of year, and everybody forgets about it,” Latvala said.

But he added: “I have to agree with sort of the intent of the governor’s statement. I think it was trying to relate some of their policy initiatives more to politics than our economy in Florida — whether it’s politics for somebody’s personal gain or ambition, or whether it’s politics for some particular group that’s organized by out-of-state folds to advocate for a certain point. I think politics have been in play, as opposed to what’s good for Florida’s economy.”

Latvala doesn’t understand the House leadership’s logic.

“If we’re making a profit in tax funds on some of these programs, why in the world would we get rid of them?” he said.

“Because then, we just have to make up that tax revenue somewhere else. It’s going to have to come out of some retired person’s pocket, Latvala continued.

“It’s not just me. It’s not just the governor. The governor’s got a lot of support in this.”

whiskey Wheaties

“Whiskey and Wheaties” bill now cleared for Senate floor

A Senate bill to remove the “wall of separation” between hard liquor and other retail goods won approval from a second committee, clearing it to be considered by the full Senate.

The bill sparked an unexpected objection from National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer after an amendment came up banning liquor from being sold in the same store as guns and ammo.

The Rules Committee on Thursday OK’d the legislation (SB 106) by a 6-4 vote, with Democrats and prominent Republicans in opposition.

“I just don’t see the fervor,” said Sen. Jack Latvala, the Clearwater Republican who also chairs the Appropriations Committee. “This is not a problem I have heard anyone urge me to fix.” He also was concerned the bill would allow workers under 18 to be around liquor. 

Trilby Republican Wilton Simpson, expected to be Senate President in 2020-22, also voted no. 

A version of the bill has been filed for four years running, aiming to repeal the Prohibition-era state law requiring businesses, such as grocery chains and big-box retailers, to have separate stores to sell liquor. Beer and wine already are sold in grocery aisles in Florida.

Senate President Pro Tempore Anitere Flores, the Miami Republican carrying the bill this year, admitted it was “not a top 10 or even top 100 issue, but we deal with these things all the time.”

The bill was amended Thursday mainly to allow for the “phasing in” of retail goods-liquor integration over four years, starting in 2018.

Pure-play alcoholic beverage retailers, such as ABC Fine Wines & Spirits and independent operators, have complained the bill is being pushed by big retailers looking to expand their market reach.

But Wal-mart, Target and others say tearing down the wall of separation between liquor and other goods is simply a “pro-consumer” move toward added convenience.

Latvala unsuccessfully tried to modify the bill to grant local control, allowing retailers to sell spirits in the same space as other items if the area in which they’re located OKs it “by a municipal or county ordinance.”

Flores argued against the change, saying that “to take this down to 67 counties means we fail as state lawmakers … this is an issue we should be deciding statewide.”

Simpson, citing crime concerns, offered his own amendment that would have barred retailers who sell firearms from also selling hard liquor.

That caused Hammer, who was in the committee for an unrelated Stand Your Ground-related measure, to stand up and object. She had concerns that some big-box stores in rural areas might give up guns to sell hard booze instead.

“I’m afraid that will be to the detriment of the constitutional right to bear arms,” she told the committee. “These stores will opt for the profit margin.” Simpson then withdrew the amendment. 

House, Senate trying to avoid budget showdown over rules

The Florida Senate and House have agreed to work together on a joint rule to avoid a “who blinks first” approach to this year’s budget negotiations. 

Sen. Jack Latvala, the Clearwater Republican who heads the Appropriations Committee, Thursday told the Rules Committee he was “pleased to report” House leaders had agreed to consider what’s known as a “joint rule” to streamline the process.

The Naples Daily News reported Wednesday the Legislature could be headed to “a partial state government shutdown” over a disagreement on how requests to fund hometown projects get into the state budget.

The House now requires each request to be filed separately; those were due Tuesday. But the House’s method also required any senator’s project request to have its companion filed in the House or that chamber would not consider it.

Latvala called that an “unprecedented situation” at the Rules Committee meeting Thursday.

He said he consulted with Senate President Joe Negron, who agreed the Senate “could either pass a budget and see who blinked first, or be proactive and try to resolve the situation.”

The compromise offered to the House would allow, among other things, “funding of projects (to) be included in a conference committee report if the information … is provided to the public at the time the funding is proposed … and the conference committee has provided time for public testimony.”

The rationale behind the House’s system stems from House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s desire for greater transparency in the budget process, particularly on local project funding.

At deadline, 381 House project bills had been filed, worth over $796 million.

“I think this approach will bear fruit,” Latvala told the panel. 

Corcoran previously told the Daily News that the House’s “concerns in regard to member project openness, project accountability and other central issues still remain, (but) we are always willing to work with our Senate counterparts, and we hope we can have a constructive dialogue.”

An existing Senate rule, however, limits what the Senate can consider in conference, when members of both chambers get together to hammer out a final state budget to present to the governor.

“A conference committee, other than a conference committee on a general or special appropriations bill and its related legislation, shall consider and report only on the differences existing between the Senate and the House, and no substance foreign to the bills before the conferees shall be included in the report or considered by the Senate.”

 

Francis Rooney says he’s not considering 2018 gubernatorial bid

Rep. Francis Rooney dismissed rumors he is considering gubernatorial bid, saying he is focused on “being the best congressman” he can be for Southwest Florida.

Rooney, a freshman congressman and the former ambassador to the Holy See, said he was not considering a run for governor in 2018.

“I am considering one thing — being the best congressman I can be for Southwest Florida,” he said. “I’m thankful to have the opportunity to represent Southwest Florida, and I’m not intending to do anything else other than do the best possible job I can.”

Rooney replaced Rep. Curt Clawson in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. The Naples Republican was backed by Gov. Rick Scott, who endorsed Rooney during the primary.

Scott has made no secret that he’d like to see another businessman in the Governor’s Mansion, and is believed to have approached Rooney about throwing his hat in the race. The two men are friends, and live just a few minutes away from each other in the same Naples community.

“The example of Gov. Scott and another businessperson in politics, Vern Buchanan, is part of what inspired me to run for this,” said Rooney. “I think we need business people in the government. I think if you look at the good they’ve been able to do with their experience and their track record with their decisions and things, it’s been very positive.”

But Rooney says he’s not interested in running for governor, saying he’s has “said it a lot, no way.”

“I’m sure there’s a lot of good business people that would make excellent governors in Florida, and congressmen and senators as well,” he said. “I just want to be the best congressman I can be.”

The race to replace Scott, who can’t run for re-election because of term limits, is expected to be a crowded one. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is widely expected to run, while House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Sen. Jack Latvala are believed to be considering their options.

 

whiskey Wheaties

Amendment would slow down effect of ‘whiskey and Wheaties’ bill

State Sen. Bill Galvano Wednesday filed an amendment to this year’s “whiskey and Wheaties” legislation to “slow its implementation so it doesn’t come into the marketplace all at once.”

The bill (SB 106), filed for four years running, would repeal the Prohibition-era state law requiring businesses, such as grocery chains and big-box retailers, to have separate stores to sell liquor.

Beer and wine already are sold in grocery aisles in Florida.

Galvano, a Bradenton Republican expected to be Senate President in 2018-20, first filed a version of the bill in 2014. His amendment would phase in the integration of booze into general retail space over a couple of years after the bill’s passage.

“It also puts smaller spirits bottles (i.e., ‘miniatures’) behind a counter, and addresses the size of the store,” he said in an interview, so it would not apply to “7-Elevens and things of that nature.”

Critics raised concerns that the bill as filed would allow hard liquor sales at gas station convenience stores, for example.

Pure-play liquor retailers, such as ABC Fine Wines & Spirits and independent operators, have said the bill is being pushed by big retailers looking to expand their market reach.

Wal-mart, Target and others say tearing down the wall of separation between liquor and other goods is simply a “pro-consumer” move toward added convenience.

The measure, carried this year by Senate President Pro Tempore Anitere Flores, cleared its first committee and is next set to be heard by the Rules Committee this Thursday.

If it clears there, it will be ready to be debated on the floor after the Legislature convenes March 7. A House companion has not yet had a hearing.

If passed, Florida would be the 30th state to allows the sale of hard liquor in general retail space, advocates say.

8:30 p.m. update: Two more amendments were filed later Wednesday by state Sens. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, and Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican.

The Latvala strike-all chiefly would grant local control over tearing down the liquor wall of separation, allowing retailers to sell spirits in the same space as other items if the area in which they’re located OKs it “by a municipal or county ordinance.”

The Simpson proposal, also a strike-all, also has a local control provision and adds that a “vendor licensed pursuant to 27 CFR 478.41(b) may not sell liquor on its premises.” That’s the federal rule governing firearms dealers.

Jack Latvala, Jason Brodeur aim to protect franchisees

Legislation that would protect small business owners who enter into franchise agreements was filed Tuesday in the Florida Legislature.

State Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur announced their support of the “Protect Florida Small Business Act” (SB 750).

The bill’s intent “is to promote fair business relations between franchisees and franchisors and to protect franchisees against unfair treatment by franchisors,” it says.

“Therefore, it is necessary to regulate the conduct of franchisors and their representatives in order to prevent fraud, unfair business practices, unfair methods of competition … and other abuses upon franchisees in this state.”

A summary provided three highlights. The legislation would:

“Create more financial certainty by protecting small business franchise owners from unjust terminations. Currently, national corporate brands can terminate franchises without cause or warning.”

“Add protections for local franchise owners from unfair restrictions on sales and transfers, therefore giving these small business owners the opportunity to seek a fair return for their business success.”

“Provide needed safeguards for unsubstantiated non-renewal of franchise agreements. Local business owners often invest their savings and years of hard work building up their franchise business, yet the corporations can decide not to renew an agreement even if the business owner has fully complied with its terms.”

“As a chamber of commerce president, I’m particularly sensitive to the threats against small business owners from out-of-state companies,” said Brodeur, a Sanford Republican and chair of the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.

“I want to be sure that there is a level playing field for all business owners in Florida, whether they are a small independent shop or a franchisee,” he added.

Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who chairs the Senate’s Appropriations Committee and owns his own printing business, said franchise-based businesses employ more than 400,000 Floridians.

But he was surprised to learn that only car dealers and farm equipment sales franchisees are currently protected under Florida law. Latvala also told of his experience looking into buying a Dairy Queen franchise.

“One of the impediments of entering into the contract … was that I would have had very little control over my future,” he said. “There wouldn’t be any big impediment (for them) to pull my franchise” even after investing significant sums of money.

The International Franchise Association, which represents franchisors and franchisees, issued a statement calling the bill “unnecessary government overreach and intrusion into private contract negotiations.”

If it becomes law, the proposal would not be retroactive; that is, it would affect only future franchise agreements.

“Typically, these bills are promoted by a single franchise owner or a handful of franchise owners seeking to generate leverage or extract concessions from a brand company in ongoing contract negotiations,” said IFE President & CEO Robert Cresanti.

Two 7-Eleven convenience store franchisees appeared with Latvala and Brodeur at the press conference but did not speak.

“Like similar bills rejected in numerous states, this bill appears to be a solution in search of a problem that does not exist,” Cresanti added.

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