Jack Latvala Archives - Page 2 of 44 - Florida Politics

Rick Scott says lawmakers inability to finish budget on time ‘doesn’t make any sense’

Gov. Rick Scott chastised state lawmakers for being unable to complete the 2017-18 budget on time, but once again stopped short of saying whether he would veto the entire spending plan once it reaches his desk.

“You would expect that when people have a job to do they’d get it done. I’ve been in business all my life, and that’s what you expect if you have a deadline,” said Scott following a stop in Naples on Thursday morning. “It doesn’t make any sense to me.’”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron announced Wednesday they had reached an agreement on a final 2017-18 state budget. Both legislative leaders told their chambers the plan was to reconvene in Tallahassee at 1 p.m. Monday to consider the budget and budget bills.

“It would be my goal that we would conclude our session at a reasonable time on Monday evening, to allow members to travel home if they chose to, or stay until Tuesday and go back then,” Negron told members Wednesday.

The budget needs to be finalized 72-hours before the final vote. While Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Carlos Trujillo met Wednesday to publicly finalize several parts of the budget, there are still a few pots of money that need to be publicly closed out.

Much of the $83 billion budget was crafted in secret, something that Scott has pounced on in recent days. The Naples Republican — who launched a three-day, 10-city tour to make a last minute push for his priorities Wednesday — chided lawmakers for working on the budget behind closed doors during his stop at Best Home Services in Naples.

Scott encouraged Floridians to call their legislators and ask them what was in the budget and why there wasn’t more of an opportunity for public input. He also said voters should ask lawmakers “why can’t you get it done on time?”

“They’re supposed to vote on this budget on Monday, and I have no earthly idea what’s in this budget,” said Scott. “Remember what Nancy Pelosi said about … Obamacare a few years ago: ‘You won’t know until you vote for it.’ It’s similar to this. I don’t know anyone is going to know (what’s in it).”

“On an annual basis, there’s 4,000 lines in the budget. It takes us a long time to review them,” he continued. “How is someone going to vote on Monday on a budget, 4,000 lines in a budget, that they haven’t seen?”

Scott is scheduled to hit five cities Thursday, where he’ll urge Floridians to call their lawmakers to ask them to support his top priorities — $100 million Visit Florida and $200 million to fix the dike around Lake Okeechobee. The governor also wants money for Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development agency, to help lure businesses to the Sunshine State.

It’s unlikely he’s going to get much of his requests. Legislators have agreed to set aside $25 million for tourism marketing, and don’t have money for the Herbert Hoover Dike in the budget.

Although Scott declined to say whether he would veto the entire budget when it gets to his desk, he did note it was an option.

“When I get the budget — when I finally get to see it, because I haven’t see the budget — then I’ll make the decision whether I veto the entire budget or look at any lines and see if they are a good use of your money,” he said. “Because remember, it’s not the Legislature’s money. It’s not the state’s money. It’s your money.”

_The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permissions.

Budget deal includes no money for Florida Forever

The Senate accepted the House offer on the agriculture and natural resources portion of the budget, agreeing not to set aside any money for Florida Forever in 2017-18.

The $3.6 billion plan zeros out funding for land acquisition. Sen. Rob Bradley said the budget includes $13.3 million — $5 million of which is recurring dollars — for the St. Johns River and Keystone Heights Lake. Bradley called it a “huge win for the region and particularly the Keystone Heights lake,” saying with the recurring dollars there “is money to finance the project.”

The offer also included $13.3 million for beach recovery and $39.9 million for beach projects, on top of the $10 million base budget.

But the offer zeroed out funding for land acquisition.

“In 2014, Floridians made one simple demand of the Legislature: protect our remaining natural areas from bulldozers and build more neighborhood parks for our families. By zeroing out Florida Forever and Florida Communities Trust, this is now the third year in a row that politicians in Tallahassee have thumbed their noses at voters,” said Aliki Moncrief, the executive director of Florida Conservation Voters, in a statement. “To say that we are disappointed would be a gross understatement. And to the millions of Florida’s conservation voters I say: set up appointments to welcome your legislators back home next week and give them an earful.”

Sen. Jack Latvala said the funding was sacrificed to the House demand for a larger rainy day fund, now at $1.2 billion.

“As the father of Florida Forever, as the person who passed that bill, I’m obviously disappointed to have a year when I’m Appropriations chairman and not be able to fund it,” he said. “But it you look at the totality of our budget, and look at what we’re doing for Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades, springs, Lake Apopka, the St. Johns River, beaches … I believe you’re going to probably find there’s more money in this budget for the environment than we’ve had in a long time.

This story has been updated to reflect corrected funding amounts for St. Johns River and Keystone Lakes.

TBARTA bill passes unanimously — now goes to Rick Scott for signature

By a vote of 117-0, the Florida House passed a bill to revamp the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA).

With the Senate approving the bill last week, it now goes to Gov. Rick Scott‘s desk.

Although Plant City Republican Dan Raulerson sponsored it in the House, that chamber actually substituted his bill with the Senate version, sponsored by Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala (SB 1672).

The legislation would downsize TBARTA from seven counties to five (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Manatee and Hernando), and it would change TBARTA’s focus to transit (and not merely transportation).

“It is the beginning of a long journey,” Raulerson said, acknowledging that by itself, the bill does not change the lack of transit options in the region. “But hopefully it will be a fruitful journey, and one that will improve the transportation process in Tampa Bay.”

“I look forward to a new and improved transportation system in Tampa Bay,” enthused Tampa Republican Shawn Harrison, who made suggestions to Raulerson for improving the bill.

“We have quite a challenge in Tampa Bay in getting our transportation problems fixed,” said St. Petersburg Democrat Ben Diamond. “I think this bill is an important first step to do that in creating a regional authority.”

Two weeks ago, an amendment filed by Tampa Bay area Republicans Tom Lee and Jeff Brandes made it harder for the region to push for light-rail, but Latvala was able to make changes to that amendment last week, which appeared to have satisfied supporters of the bill.

However, the measure still requires that if the TBARTA board opts to pursue state funding for commuter, heavy rail or light rail transit projects, they will first need a majority vote of each Metropolitan Planning Organization where such investment would be made, in addition to approval by the Legislature.

Under the new reorganization, the TBARTA board will be made up of 13 members, which includes a county commissioner from each of the five counties making up the new agency. Two members shall be the mayors from Tampa and St. Petersburg. PSTA and HART will also select a single member. The governor will name the remaining four members.

The bill was a huge priority for the Tampa Bay area business community.

“For years, the members of our legislative delegation have asked the community to provide a unified voice on the issues that matter most to our region,” said Rick Homans, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership. “This session, our regional business leaders did exactly that, stepping up in a big way to champion this bill, and the result is a huge win for Tampa Bay.

“This legislation will transform TBARTA into a streamlined and effective regional transit authority, which is a critical first step toward the development of a regional transit system in Tampa Bay; one that connects our residents to new job opportunities and our businesses to prospective employees.”

Capitol Reax: Lake Okeechobee water storage reservoir

The Florida Legislature voted to send a trimmed-down version of a bill (SB 10) to build a water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. A top priority for Senate President Joe Negron, the bill aims to divert toxic algae discharges from coastal communities. The measure prohibits the state from taking private property to build the reservoir.

“Today is a momentous event. The many voices that came to the table this session – anglers, realtors, business and community leaders, and people who want the best for their state – were heard with the final bipartisan passage of SB 10, a positive and science-based step toward the restoration of America’s Everglades.

We thank the Senate and House for working together to create a solution that all parties could unite behind, and we applaud them for backing this good bill and its ultimate passage. Expediting the planning and implementation of the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir will significantly reduce the amount of harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee and provide us with the opportunity to store, clean and send large amounts of water into the Everglades and Florida Bay, where it is needed.

We recognize Senate President Joe Negron, who made this his priority from Day One, realizing the immediate need to pursue a solution to the damaging discharges, and never wavered. It is because of his unremitting advocacy and leadership that we’re seeing this legislation head to the Governor. This is a legacy that will be remembered long after his presidency ends.

Recognition is also due to House Speaker Richard Corcoran for his hard work in the House. Without his diligence and resolve, this momentous day would not have been realized.

We encourage Governor Rick Scott to join the Senate and House in embracing this long-awaited action by signing SB 10 into law.” – Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg

“Today, the Florida House stood up for Florida’s farming communities by approving legislation that does not take farmland out of production. While not perfect, Senate Bill 10 will ensure the planned EAA reservoir is eventually completed on existing state-owned land. Having turned the page on buying additional land south of Lake Okeechobee, the Florida Legislature in a future session can focus on plans that will address the excess water and nutrients originating north of the lake, which science shows can reduce the frequency of discharges by more than 60 percent.” – Ryan Duffy, spokesman for Florida Sugarcane Farmers

“Senate Bill 10 has been greatly improved, takes essentially no privately owned farmland, and even removes the threat of eminent domain.   The House deserves credit for quickly passing legislation that can provide some protection for our water resources while also protecting our farming communities and vital food production.

 U.S. Sugar always supports solutions that are based on science, which, in this case shows the source of the water significantly impacting the coastal estuaries flows from north of Lake Okeechobee, not the south.  Obviously, you’re going to have to build some solutions north of the lake to finally fix the discharge problem.  We look forward to working with legislators in the future to get that done.” – Judy Sanchez, senior director for corporate communications and public affairs for U.S. Sugar.

“We are grateful for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Rep. Matt Caldwell, Rep. Holly Raschein, Senate President Joe Negron, Sen. Rob Bradley, Sen. Jack Latvala and the entire Florida Legislature for their support of Everglades restoration projects and funding. This much-needed focus on our state’s natural resources will provide for the implementation of comprehensive solutions that will have the greatest and most immediate impact on the Everglades, Florida Bay and our south Florida estuaries.” – Kellie Ralston, Florida Fishery Policy Director of the American Sportfishing Association.

 

TBARTA revamp one step closer to Rick Scott’s desk

Legislation to revamp the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) by reducing its footprint passed Tuesday a second reading on the Florida House floor.

One more vote in the House, and the bill goes to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk.

Sponsored in the House by Plant City Republican Dan RaulersonHB 1243 would downsize TBARTA from seven counties to five (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Manatee and Hernando), and change the TBARTA’s focus to transit (and not simply transportation).

Two weeks ago, an amendment filed by Tampa Bay area Republicans Tom Lee and Jeff Brandes made it much harder for the region to push for light-rail, but Senate sponsor Jack Latvala of Clearwater was able to make changes to that amendment last week, which appeared to have satisfied supporters of the bill.

There was little discussion about the bill Tuesday on the House floor.

St. Petersburg Democrat Wengay Newton asked Raulerson what were the differences between his bill and Latvala’s bill in the Senate? Raulerson said the main difference was that the governor would have four picks to put on the TBARTA board, whereas the House bill limits his power to two choices.

The bill now goes to the full House Wednesday for a third and final reading. The Senate bill passed last week.

Ed Hooper to host major Tarpon Springs fundraiser Wednesday

Ed Hooper, the former Republican State Representative and Clearwater City Commissioner, will be featured at a high-profile fundraiser Wednesday in his bid for Florida Senate.

Hooper is seeking to succeed term-limited Jack Latvala in Senate District 16, which covers much of north Pinellas County.

A reception will begin 5 PM at Mugs ‘N Jugs, 40737 U.S. Highway 19 N. in Tarpon Springs.

Hosts of the event, which currently number about 70 influential Tampa Bay-area political leaders, include Brian Aungst Jr., Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco, former Pinellas County Commissioner Neil Brickfield and Mari Riba of Safety Harbor, among others.

A former firefighter who served four terms in the House before being term-limited, Hooper lost a combative race in 2014 for the Pinellas County Commission to Democrat Pat Gerard, and has since maintained a public profile in local GOP circles.

Just over a year ago, Hooper filed for the District 16 seat, when redistricting resulted in an opening after Pasco County’s former state Sen. John Legg choosing not to run against Latvala, who is a popular figure in Pinellas County politics.

During his time in Tallahassee, FloridaPolitics.com reported Hooper received several “A” ratings from the Florida Chamber of Commerce Honor Roll, Florida Education Association, and the Florida Home Builders Association.

RSVPs are with ehooper1@aol.com or (727) 458-4751.

 

It’s official: Adam Putnam running for Florida governor

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is no longer just a likely gubernatorial candidate.

The Bartow Republican filed his paperwork Monday for a 2018 run to replace Gov. Rick Scott. He plans to make a formal announcement on the old county courthouse steps in Bartow at 11 a.m. on May 10, according to the Tampa Bay Times, which first reported Putnam’s annoouncement.

“I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world because I get to call Florida home,” he said in a statement. “It’s our responsibility as Floridians to keep our economy at work, to increase access to high quality education, to fiercely protect our personal freedoms, to keep our state safe, and to welcome our veterans home with open arms.”

Putnam was first elected in 2010 after serving five terms in Congress, where he was one of the highest ranking Republican members of the U.S. House. He was first elected to the Legislature when he was 22.

The 42-year-old is a fifth generation Floridian from a family of ranchers and citrus growers. He becomes the first major Republican to enter the race.

His entry into the race has long been expected. His political committee, Florida Grown, has raised $10.5 million since since February 2015. The committee ended March with more than $7.7 million cash on hand.

The committee had some of its best fundraising periods to-date in recent months. The committee raised more than $2.2 million in February and nearly $1.1 million in March.

Both Sen. Jack Latvala and Speaker Richard Corcoran are believed to be considering their options.

Latvala’s political committee, Florida Leadership Committee, has raised $8.2 million since 2013. The committee had one of its best fundraising periods to date in February, raising nearly $1.1 million.

Democrats Andrew Gillum and Chris King have already filed to run, while former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham is widely expected to announce her 2018 bid on Tuesday.

Scott can’t run again because of term limits.

The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permissions.

Lawmakers consider one more public budget meeting

Florida legislators are considering another public meeting on the state’s budget language before finalizing the agreement Tuesday.

Lobby Tools is reporting Monday that Senate budget chief Jack Latvala and Carlos Trujillo, his House counterpart, said that the joint appropriations committee would not meet again, so it’s not clear who will be involved in the meeting, or when it will take place.

“The full approps committee is not meeting again,” Trujillo told reporters. “So, the issues that bump go to the presiding officers and they’ll decide the remaining issues.”

According to LobbyTools, the House speaker and Senate president do not traditionally hold public meetings.

Greyhound steroid ban dies in Senate

A bipartisan bill banning the use of steroids on greyhound racing dogs is likely dead for the 2017 Legislative Session.

The last committee of reference for the Senate bill (SB 512) had been Appropriations, which did not hear it Monday at its last meeting. The House version (HB 743) passed earlier this month on an 84-32 vote.

“We had the votes to pass it,” said Senate bill sponsor Dana Young, a Tampa Republican. The Senate bill cleared two previous committees on 8-2 and 9-2 margins. “Unfortunately, we were not able to get it on the last agenda.”

Senate Appropriations chair Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, was not immediately available for comment. He did not mention the bill during a post-meeting interview with reporters Monday.

“It’s very sad,” Young added. “I’ve been working on humane issues like this for seven years.”

The House sponsor, Orlando Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith, did not immediately respond to a text message.

The measure had been vehemently opposed by racetrack and racing dog associations. There are 19 race-dog tracks remaining in the United States, 12 of them in Florida.

Smith had argued in committee that trainers use steroids on female greyhounds to keep them from going into heat and losing racing days. He called the use of steroids on dogs equivalent to “doping.”

“Anabolic steroids can have harmful long-term side effects, in addition to serving as a performance enhancer on female dogs,” Smith had said in a news release. “As long as greyhound racing continues in Florida, we have a moral obligation to ensure these dogs are treated as fairly and humanely as possible.”

Hospitality marketing money still in play, lawmakers say

Money to help smaller communities market themselves during the off-season could still be in play as legislative leaders continue to negotiate the 2017-18 budget.

The Senate has proposed language to move a state-funded marketing program run by the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation from Visit Florida.

The House did not include the language in its proposal.

The state’s tourism marketing has annually contracted with the FRLA to “develop a coordinated marketing, media, and events program to promote the Florida hospitality industry by residents of the state.” The events are typically smaller ones, and the Great Florida Events Program aims to promote in-state tourism.

The marketing campaign could receive $1 million under the Senate proposal, less than the $2 million it has previously received.

During a budget meeting Sunday, House and Senate negotiators briefly discussed the General Government Operations and Technology budget language. But negotiators did not appear to come to an agreement, with both Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala and House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo saying there were still some differences needed to be worked out.

“We’re very close on the general government,” said Latvala during the meeting. “I think there’s just two issues that we’re going to have to work on.”

Trujillo echoed those sentiments during a post-meeting press conference, telling reporters that “government ops is right there, it’s just small clean-up language.”

According to Rep. Blaise Inoglia, the pot of money for the FRLA was one of the issues Latvala was referencing when he there were sill issues to be resolved.

Issues not resolved during Sunday’s budget meeting were “bumped” to presiding officers hammer out the differences. Those budget conference meetings could take place today.

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