Jack Latvala Archives - Page 7 of 41 - Florida Politics

Jack Latvala says he’ll support legislation banning fracking again in 2017 Session

State Sen. Jack Latvala opposed a bill to regulate the use of fracking in the 2016 Session, and in the upcoming Session, he’ll support legislation that would do so again.

“I’m where I was last year,” he said when asked about the controversial practice to extract natural gas and oil out of the ground.

“I helped beat it last year, so … I’m in the same place, and I’ll support a bill to ban it,” the Clearwater Republican said while exiting Sunlake High School in Land O’Lakes after a long afternoon hearing from the public at the Pasco County Legislative Delegation meeting.

Last year, Naples Republican Garett Richter‘s bill died in the Senate Appropriations Committee. It would have directed the Department of Environmental Protection to set up a regulatory scheme for onshore oil and gas drilling, provide $1 million to study the impact of fracking on Florida’s aquifer and unique limestone bedrock, as well as pre-empt local government ordinances seeking to ban the practice.

“We saw the issue of banning fracking come up in many races in the past election,” said Michelle Allen, the Florida organizer with Food and Water Watch. “And we believe it’s going to continue to come up until we pass a statewide ban on it.”

Allen addressed the issue Wednesday before the six-person body.

The issue was certainly hot last fall in the three-way Senate District 18 race in Hillsborough County between Republican Dana Young, Democrat Bob Buesing and independent Joe Redner.

Young was dogged by environmental groups (as well as her two opponents) of being pro-fracking by supporting the Richter bill; she insisted it was, in fact, a vote to ban the practice.

Immediately after winning the race, Young announced she would be proposing a bill in the 2017 Session to ban fracking.

The number of local governments in Florida that passed resolutions or ordinances denouncing fracking in Florida is now up to 89, Allen said.

“Floridians do not want fracking,” said Jennifer Rubiello, state director with Environment Florida. “Over 75 percent of Floridians live in a city or county that has passed a resolution or an ordinance opposing fracking. That includes Dade City and Zephyrhills here in Pasco County, and Tampa, St. Pete and Pinellas County as a whole.”

Rubiello added that the Legislature shouldn’t vote for more studies. They were “a waste of time, money and energy, even when they’re attached to a true ban,” she said.

In a report released last month, the federal Environmental Protection Agency concluded that, in some circumstances, hydraulic fracturing has contaminated drinking water.

The report came just as President-elect Donald Trump vowed to expand fracking and roll back existing regulations on the process.

(An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated that Latvala was chair of the Appropriations Committee last year. He did not take over those duties until this fall.)

 

Tom Lee wants to eliminate program designed to use taxpayers funds on sports facilities

Less than three years after Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation providing for state revenues to go toward constructing or improving professional sports franchise facilities, state Sen. Tom Lee wants to eliminate the program created to distribute those funds.

“The Sports Development Program was ill-conceived and based on the false premise that these capital improvements are a boon for economic development,” the Brandon Republican said Tuesday. “Professional teams are vying for taxpayer funds to pay for largely superficial facility upgrades, many of which are already in progress or completed. History has shown that team owners will make these investments without hardworking families having to foot the bill.”

Under the Sports Development Program created by the Legislature in 2014, sporting projects and complexes seeking Florida tax revenue must submit proposals to be evaluated by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Then the disbursement of funds must pass approval by the Florida Legislative Budget Commission. The state can award up to $13 million annually for all certified applicants. The maximum annual distribution for a single sports franchise facility is for only $3 million, and distributions can be made for up to 30 years.

In spending $100 million to upgrade Raymond James Stadium over the past year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had hoped to procure $3 million in Sports Development Program funds to help pay for that upgrade. However, their application was rejected because it wasn’t completed on time. The NFL franchise reapplied to the program last month, requesting $1 million a year for at least 10 years.

Scott hailed the legislation when he signed it into law in June of 2014, saying that the program would add more jobs to the state, as well as increase tourism.

“I am proud to support this legislation, and this Sports Development Program will allow franchises to expand in Florida, and create more jobs and opportunities for Florida families,” Scott said at the time.

The legislation was also supported by Clearwater Sen. Jack Latvala, now serving as Senate Appropriations Chairman. But it will undoubtedly be backed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who has historically opposed giving sales-tax dollars to professional sports facilities.

The anti “corporate welfare” attitude espoused by Corcoran prevailed last year in Session, when three different sports facilities — EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Sun Life Stadium in Miami-Dade County and Daytona International Speedway — received no funding from the Legislature, despite the Department of Economic Opportunity finding they qualified for the state sales-tax money.

Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Stuebe has filed legislation (SB 122) that would prohibit a sports franchise from constructing, reconstructing, renovating, or improving a facility on leased public land. Hialeah Republican Rep. Bryan Avila has filed a companion bill in the House.

auger boggio

We told you so: Audit blasts Florida Housing Finance Corp.

Tip o’ the hat to the Times’ Susan Taylor Martin for covering a blistering audit of the Florida Housing Finance Corp. (FHFC), which is supposed to be the steward of both state and federal affordable housing money.

But let’s also give some credit where it’s due: In a series of three articles called “Who watches the low-income housing watchmen?” over September and October – which are here, here and here – I kind of saw this train wreck coming.

In glorious detail, Martin reviews the 80’s-style “Masters of The Universe” excesses that Steve Auger, the agency’s executive director, lavished on lenders and board members.

How about “a $52,000 dinner (for lenders) that featured filet mignon, broiled lobster tails and a bar stocked with deluxe brand liquors”?

Or, at a board reception, shelling out “$300 for a bartender, $425 for a pork carving station and $420 for a Spanish charcuterie station”?

The mouth waters—and the fists should clench over the waste of taxpayers’ dollars.

But wait, there’s more.

At a time “when thousands of Floridians were waiting for help in saving their homes,” Martin writes, “the agency (also) awarded a total of nearly $443,000 in bonuses to its employees.” Nice work if you can get it.

And that’s just in the first three paragraphs. Auger, to no surprise, offered a meek defense to the costs, calling them “ordinary and necessary expense(s).”

But readers should recall I was ringing the bell about this fiasco in the making.

Let’s not forget, as a federal criminal plea deal put an end to a $36 million housing fraud, I asked, “What will legislators do now to make sure it doesn’t happen again?”

Federal prosecutors had alleged 70-year-old developer Lloyd Boggio of Carlisle Development Group and others defrauded the government out of millions. They did so by padding South Florida affordable-housing projects to get federal tax credits and grants, then keeping the excess.

What happened? Yep, Auger and his FHFC watchdogs fell down on the job, or as I said back then: “A heist on Uncle Sam and the poorest among us.”

“How does something like this happen without (Auger & Co.) knowing — or at least having a suspicion? Were these transactions not being audited? How did they not know this was going on for five years? If they didn’t know, should they have known?” I said in that first post.

“Let’s put it even more pointedly: Did Auger or others at FHFC know about it and whiff — or were they all asleep at the wheel? Now that the criminal side of this fiasco is coming to a close, the legislative side needs to ramp up by asking: Who is responsible?”

The audit, among other things, notes the agency “did not require sufficient documentation from underwriting agencies to support their denial of mortgage assistance to some applicants” and “did not take adequate steps to ensure that electronic fund transfers were going to authorized recipients,” according to Martin.

So, with the 2017 Legislative Session a couple months away, let me repeat some more questions to Jack Latvala, the Senate Appropriations chair, whose feud with Auger a few years ago nearly cost him his job, and to other lawmakers.

They referred to the fraud at the time, but with a little rewording could just as well apply to the recent extravagances.

“What (is) it about the culture at FHFC?” I asked in October. ” … Has Auger taken any steps to assume responsibility for this? What safeguards could be put in place at FHFC?”

Because with the state’s budget looking iffy at best, and many thousands of Floridians deserving an honest broker when it comes to their homes, we can’t afford any more Spanish charcuterie stations.

Rick Scott wants it both ways: cut taxes, fund services. Can it be done?

Last April, in a news release by his office after signing HB-7099, Gov. Rick Scott bragged, “Over the past two years, Florida has cut more than $1 billion in taxes.”

What a happy day that must have been for the governor.

He has never met a tax he wouldn’t cut or gut, and that bill was a continuation of the theme. It included the permanent elimination of the sales tax on manufacturing machinery and a three-day sales tax holiday for back-to-school stuff.

Scott wants to keep cutting taxes, too.

It stands to reason, though, when there is less money coming in something has to lose. We got a hint of that right here in a story last week on FloridaPolitics.com. It included a quote from state budget chair Jack Latvala about what could be a hotly contested fight for dollars when the Legislature gets together next year.

“To do any increases, we’re going to have to find areas to cut. That’s a certainty,” Latvala said. “Just my luck to be chairman in a year like that.”

But where can the hunt to “find areas to cut” lead when the governor and House Speaker Richard Corcoran want to keep chopping taxes, while Senate President Joe Negron wants to increase funding for higher education?

The Florida Policy Institute reported that more about 70 percent of Florida’s $82.2 billion budget for 2016-17 was allocated to education (29 percent) and “human services” (41 percent). Nearly 18 percent went to natural resources, growth management and transportation.

FPI also noted that despite spending increases in that budget for service areas, “they fail to fund state services at a level that keeps pace with population growth and inflation, and do not improve Florida’s national standing in the provision of these services.”

More ominously, projections are for the state to face a $1.3 billion deficit a year from now, ballooning to $1.9 billion the year after that. Since Republicans control the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the Legislature, they can’t blame Democrats for fiscal irresponsibility. That leaves them with two choices: spend less, or bring in more.

It’s the acid test of the Republican (and Libertarian) ideal that growth comes through lower taxes. It’s the mantra they’ve preached for decades. We see it playing out now in Washington with the corporate tax cuts president-elect Donald Trump has planned.

Lower corporate taxes, they argue, will lead to job creation and expansion. Workers with a healthy regular paycheck will buy more things and that will sustain the government.

Well, that might be sort of true – provided government goes on a diet. That sounds fine in theory. In application, though, it gets trickier.

You also have to look at the complete picture. To coax businesses from other states to move here, Scott has touted Florida’s reputation as a low-tax state. Florida is one of just seven states without a state income tax, for instance.

Wallethub.com also sized up the bevy of state and local taxes and concluded Florida’s bite on median-income residents this year will be $4,868 – 10th lowest in the nation. That’s nearly 16 percent under the national average.

Scott probably wouldn’t be satisfied until Florida is No. 1. He seems driven to prove this state really can have it both ways – cutting taxes, cutting spending while keeping services and education adequately funded for a rapidly growing state.

Logic says that can’t be done. Latvala’s challenge is to prove it can be.

Bill Nelson gives shoutout to Jack Latvala for stance on BP oil spill money

Among this current climate of hyper-partisanship, it is increasingly rare to find members of one party saying kind words about someone on the other.

But that was the case this week when Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson gave a “shoutout” to Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala for his efforts in making sure 2010 BP oil spill settlement money intended for the Florida Panhandle actually makes it there.

Earlier this year, Florida received its first payment of $400 million – with $300 million of that amount slated for eight counties in the Panhandle most affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The settlement totals $2 billion through 2032.

Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reports that the Legislature’s Long-Range Financial Outlook applies that initial payment to the state’s general budget for the next three years. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has launched the House Select Committee on Triumph Gulf Coast which is tasked with supervising the state’s nonprofit corporation that will assign settlement money to counties.

However, Latvala, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, says that several lawmakers believe that the final decision on how to allocate the money should be in the hands of elected officials. The Clearwater Republican said he was not interested in using BP settlement money toward Florida’s general budget. The effort to move that money into the state’s general fund was a “glitch” in the system.

“We made the commitment,” Latvala said. “And I believe in keeping my commitments.”

Nelson, who helped write federal law mandating portions of the settlement money must go to affected counties, not the state.

“A shoutout to Jack in making sure that money goes to the counties where they have suffered economic damages,” Nelson said during a news conference in Tallahassee.

Dana Young, Randy Fine, others file to run for re-election in 2018

Count them in for 2018.

Dozens of state lawmakers have already filed to run for the state House and Senate in 2018. For some, their decision comes before their first bills get a hearing. Others have their eye on the higher office as they embark on their final term in the House.

State elections records show more than 50 members of the House and Senate have filed to run in two years. While many of those are incumbents who faced little-to-no opposition in 2016, many just came off hard-fought battles to secure their spot in the Florida Legislature.

Sen. Dana Young is one of those. Young, a Tampa Republican, filed to run for re-election in Senate District 18 on Dec. 2. While the former House Majority Leader easily won her seat over Democrat Bob Buesing, it was far from an easy campaign. Buesing and Joe Redner, an independent candidate, attacked Young over her voting record.

Senate President Joe Negron announced last week that Young will serve as the chairwoman of the Senate’s Health Care Policy committee during the 2016-18 Legislative Session. She’ll also serve as the vice chairwoman of the Higher Education Appropriations subcommittee.

Records show Sen. Debbie Mayfield, a Vero Beach Republican, filed to run for re-election in Senate District 17 on Dec. 1. Mayfield defeated former Rep. Ritch Workman, a Melbourne Republican and the former chairman of the House Rules committee, in one of the nastiest primary elections of the cycle.

Mayfield will serve as the vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee during the 2016-18 Legislative Session. She’s also scored a spot on the general government appropriations subcommittee, and the environmental and natural resources appropriations subcommittee.

Sen. Keith Perry, a Gainesville Republican, also filed to run for re-election in Senate District 8 on Dec. 1. Perry defeated Democrat Rod Smith in the November general election. He’ll serve as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

And while Rep. Manny Diaz still has two years left in his House career, he’s already eyeing his next step. The Hialeah Republican filed to run in Senate District 36 on Nov. 21. He’s hoping to replace Sen. Rene Garcia, a Hialeah Republican, who can’t run again in 2018 because of term limits.

In the Florida House, Reps. Randy Fine, Emily Slosberg, Tom Leek, Amber Mariano, Carlos Guillermo Smith, Chris Latvala, and Kathleen Peters are among those who have filed for re-election.

Fine, a Brevard County Republican, is one of at least three House members believed to be in the running for House Speaker in 2022-24, after winning his House District 53 seat earlier in November.

Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat and daughter of former Rep. Irv Slosberg, filed to run for re-election in House District 91; while Leek, an Ormond Beach Republican, filed to run again in House District 25. Both are freshmen lawmakers, as are Mariano, a Hudson Republican and the youngest member of the Florida House, and Smith, an Orlando Democrat.

Mariano will run for re-election in House District 36, while Smith will run for re-election in House District 49.

Latvala, a Clearwater Republican and son of Sen. Jack Latvala, will seek a third term representing House District 67. First elected in 2012, Peters, a Treasure Island Republican, has filed to run for her final term representing House District 69.

Rick Scott declines to comment on proposal to repeal immigration bill he signed in 2014

Rick Scott is declining to comment on a proposal filed for the 2017 Florida Legislative Session that would repeal a major immigration policy change that he signed into law two years ago.

Last week, Sarasota state Senator Greg Steube filed a bill (SB 82) that would repeal legislation approved by the GOP-led Legislature in 2014 that offers lower in-state tuition rates at Florida state colleges and universities for undocumented immigrants.

Passage of that bill was uncertain until the end of that year’s Session, but was strongly supported by then-House Speaker Will Weatherford and Clearwater state Senator Jack Latvala.

“I haven’t seen it,” Scott told this reporter about the bill as he took questions after hosting a news conference at the Florida Highway Patrol offices in Tampa Monday.

“I think there are about 2,000 bills that are being proposed during the session, so as I go through the process if they get to my desk, I’ll review,” he added. “I need to look at the bill.”

The legislation is a political power keg, as are most items concerning immigration. Scott campaigned as tough on immigration in 2010 when first running for governor, getting behind what was then known as an “Arizona-style” immigration proposal that asked suspects stopped by the authorities for proof of their citizenship, similar in nature to the conversion SB 1070 immigration law passed earlier that year in Arizona.

“We need to come up with an immigration policy that works for the country,’’ Scott said in late 2010. “If you’re stopped in our state — no different than if you’re asked for your ID — you should be able to be asked if you’re legal or not,” he told the Miami Herald.

But the Legislature failed to pass that proposal, along with other major immigration bills in the spring of 2011, including a much-discussed E-Verify bill killed by Lake Wales Republican J.D. Alexander.

In addition to giving the undocumented a break on their college tuition payments, the Legislature in 2014 also passed a bill that would allow some undocumented immigrants to obtain law licenses from the Florida Bar.

There has been no companion bill filed in the House, but there is plenty of time for that to happen, with the 2017 Legislative session not commencing until next March. House District 60 Republican Jackie Toledo campaigned during her primary race on a platform to repeal both measures but has not publicly commented on Steube’s bill.

Pinellas Legislative Delegation to consider changes to construction licensing board

Responding to a request from Charlie Justice, the Pinellas Legislative Delegation will consider changing the way members of the Construction Licensing Board are chosen.

State Sen. Jack Latvala, the delegation chair, called on state Rep. Larry Ahern to come up with a plan by the delegation’s Jan. 31 meeting. State Sen. Jeff Brandes said he wanted Ahern to consider dissolving the board so it would come under control of the Pinellas County Commission.

The licensing board, created in 1973, regulates some construction and home improvement contractors practicing in Pinellas County. It also provides countywide certification and registration of contractors.

It has come under fire in recent weeks because of the way the board members are chosen. Certain organizations and others, named in the statute, suggest members and the chair — currently Justice — of the Pinellas County Commission is responsible for appointing them.

Justice explained the problems in a Nov. 16 letter to Latvala and the delegation:

“When the request to appoint various positions of the PCCLB came before me this fall, I noticed some discrepancies as to the number of appointees provided by the various appointing organizations … In addition, some of the appointing organizations no longer exist or have been adopted under the umbrella of another, similar organization.”

Justice concluded, “I would ask that the Pinellas Legislative Delegation review the laws that pertain to the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and consider amending them to reflect the makeup of the appointing organizations as well as the process by which the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners chair would go about appointing/reappointing board members to the PCCLB.”

Mitch Perry Report for 12.1.16 — What does Rick Scott and rest of Legislature do with bill repealing in-state tuition rates for the undocumented?

Florida lawmakers have been filing bills this week for the 2017 Legislative Session, and one of the most provocative ones so far is an immigration-related issue from Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube.

As initially reported by the Tampa Bay Times Claire McNeill, Steube would repeal the Jack Latvala-sponsored bill that waives out-of-state fees for undocumented Florida high school students.

“It is certainly a big issue in my district among my constituents, who were frustrated and upset that the state would allow undocumented illegal immigrants to receive taxpayer-supported, in-state tuition,” Steube told the Times. “So I think it’s important to file the bill and have a discussion on it.”

During the House District 60 GOP primary in Hillsborough County, Republican Jackie Toledo also campaigned on repealing the law, as well as repealing the measure that would allow some illegal immigrants to obtain law licenses from the Florida Bar. Toledo did not respond to FloridaPolitics’ request for comment on Steube’s bill, including whether she would sponsor a House version of it.

There’s no doubt many Republicans in the Legislature will gladly sign on to the bill. If Donald Trump‘s success in the Republican primaries was about anything regarding public policy, it was about being tough on immigration.

But will Rick Scott back repealing a bill he happily supported two years ago? Cynics would say he got behind it because he didn’t want to alienate Latinos as he ran for re-election in 2014. Well, everyone in the world believes he’ll be challenging Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate in 2018, and Florida is only becoming browner. Such a bill would seem punitive, a reversal of the progress made among those who really, through no fault of their own, are considered to be out of compliance (“illegal” if you prefer) with U.S. law.

In other news …

Tampa City Council District 7 candidates Jim Davison and Luis Viera debated for the first time in a one-on-one matchup on Tuesday night (They also debated last night. You can read a complete report on that coming up shortly).

During that debate, former City Councilman Joe Caetano questioned Viera’s endorsement from current Council Chairman Mike Suarez, a longtime friend.

Lakeland GOP Rep. Dennis Ross is now a member of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team.

And instead of moping around after last month’s election debacle, former Florida Democratic Senate candidate Pam Keith is going to Louisiana next week with some fellow D’s to campaign for Senate candidate Foster Campbell.

Jack Latvala, Jeff Brandes will help control the purse strings in Tallahassee next year

When the dust cleared in Tallahassee on Tuesday, one thing was clear: Pinellas was on top when it comes to the state’s funds.

Republican Sens. Jack Latvala and Jeff Brandes, who represent parts of Pinellas, landed some plum appointments. Latvala will be the chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and alt. chair of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission. Brandes will have a seat on the Appropriations Committee and be the chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development.

The news was welcomed by local elected officials who expect to ask Tallahassee for money in 2017.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s office issued a statement, saying, “Their appointments are great news for the city of St. Petersburg, and the Tampa Bay Region.”

Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long, who will chair the commission in 2017, agreed, saying, “I’d like to think it would be very good for Pinellas County.”

Long said the county has just begun work on its legislative package for the coming year.

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority has also begun work on its legislative package. St. Petersburg council member Darden Rice, the PSTA chair, said two projects high on the agenda are rapid transit from the Tampa airport to Clearwater and Clearwater Beach and a bus lane on the Clearwater causeway.

Both Latvala and Brandes are aware of the need for the projects, she said. And Brandes, in particular, has already been supportive of innovative PSTA programs that involve partnerships with companies like Uber and Lyft.

The PSTA, Rice said, “is very fortunate to have two such strong senators. I think this will be very helpful.”

That help, she said, can extend to other issues. One such is the sewer and infrastructure problems facing Pinellas. Although St. Petersburg has taken the brunt of criticism after dumping thousands of gallons of raw and partially treated sewage in the bay during two storms this year, the problem with infrastructure is countywide. Latvala has called two delegation meetings for fact finding.

“I think they had a very clear picture of St. Petersburg’s struggles,” Rice said. “We need help from the state to fix our fragile infrastructure.”

Rice said she’s not talking only about St. Petersburg’s infrastructure. It’s the entire county, she said. That’s another place that the senator’s appreciation for regional solutions will be helpful.

Rice noted that Latvala is known for fighting for what he believes in. That’s good for the county.

“He’s a bruiser,” Rice said. “He’s not afraid to go in and fight for what’s right.”

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons