Joe Negron Archives - Page 3 of 30 - Florida Politics

Joe Negron backs Gulf Coast compensation process

Senate President Joe Negron on Tuesday said he was committed to getting $300 million in settlement money from the 2010 BP oil spill to affected communities in northwest Florida.

Negron spoke to reporters on the first day of the 2017 Legislative Session.

“I don’t believe that we should set up some complicated bureaucracy,” said Negron, a Stuart Republican.

He said he’s working with Sens. Bill Montford, Doug Broxson and George Gainer, all of whom represent coastal areas in the Panhandle, to make sure constituents “get compensated for their actual economic damages.”

He toured affected areas at the time, telling a story of one hotel that couldn’t get any guests and had to lay off all its employees.

“This isn’t just a policy priority. It’s a personal priority,” Negron said.

Millions of barrels of oil surged into the Gulf in April 2010 after an oil well ruptured under BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform. Eleven rig workers died and 17 were injured.

It took until that July to cap the well; meantime, tarballs and oil washed up on 1,100 miles of coastline, keeping away the usual summer tourists and their money. Hotels, restaurants and tourism-related businesses were hit hardest.

A House measure filed recently would eliminate some oversight for the Triumph Gulf Coast board selected to allocate the settlement money, the Panama City News-Herald has reported. It also would have exempted tourism businesses from getting paid.

Negron said legislation needs to be passed soon: “We need the state of Florida to write a check,” he said.

He also opined on medical cannabis, charter school funding, Everglades restoration, and said he supported some sort of pay raise for state workers this year.

A Periscope video of his remarks can be viewed below:

Senate President Joe Negron https://t.co/ilZ2L2d4t0

Dorothy Hukill, recovering from cancer, watching from home as Senate convenes

Sen. Dorthy Hukill wasn’t in Tallahassee for opening day of the 2017 Legislature, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t on the job.

Hukill, chairwoman of the Education Committee, is recovering from surgery for cervical cancer, and her doctors wouldn’t let her travel to the state capital.

Nevertheless, the Port Orange Republican has remained active in the legislative process during committee weeks, Senate President Joe Negron told the Senate.

He’d spoken to her shortly before the Senate convened, Negron said.

“I want to report to all of us who care about her and who are her friends and extended family that she is doing an amazing job overcoming this medical challenge that’s been presented to her,” Negron said.

“She has been completely active during the entire time of her recovery on behalf for her constituents. She is in charge of determining what bills get heard in the Education Committee. She’s responsible for developing policy. She’s in regular contact with us.”

Hukill is eager to return to the Capitol as soon as her doctors clear her for travel, Negron said.

“In all the conversations I’ve had with her, she talks about us, what’s happening here. And she feels badly about the effects on her constitutents and on the process rather than on herself,” he said.

“She doesn’t talk about her medical condition, or the challenges or the incredible progress she’s made in overcoming this. That says a lot about her,” he said.

“I know she’s watching this morning, and we look forward to having her back.”

Just imagine huge can of worms opened by religious liberty bill

The Hillsborough County public school district has straightforward rules in its student handbook about religion.

It says students can talk about religion, practice their religion, can be excused to observe a religious holiday, and – most important for the context of our discussion today – decide for themselves whether they want to participate in things such as student-led prayer or other practices.

The basic rule is this: If students lead the religious activity – fine. If teachers or administrators take part – not fine.

Districts in Miami-Dade and Orlando have basically the same policy.

Apparently, that’s not good enough for the state Senate Education Committee, which Monday approved SB-436. It’s a measure designed to protect religious liberty, except that such liberty already exists. The 5-2 vote was along party lines, of course; five Republicans said yea, two Democrats were naysayers.

A statement released by Senate President Joe Negron after the education committee did its work, was a clear indication of what he has in mind.

The statement said: “Freedom of Religion is a central right protected by our Constitution. This legislation makes it clear that the State of Florida stands for religious liberty and will take the steps necessary to protect the free speech rights of public school students, parents, teachers and school administrators.”

A statement released by state Sen. Dennis Baxley was even more to the point.

“We should be encouraging, rather than preventing our students from expressing their religious convictions,” Baxley said. “This legislation safeguards Freedom of Religion by protecting our students from being discriminated against based on the free expression of their religious ideals in spoken word or prayer, attire, school assignments and extracurricular activities.”

I can see worms crawling out of that just-opened can by the thousands – assuming this bill passes. Let’s play a game called “just imagine.”

Just imagine the bill passes and a teacher or administrator decides freedom of speech includes preaching the gospel in class or over the school public address system. What gospel would that be?

What happens when a Muslim student takes offense and demands classroom time to offer prayers to Allah along with equal time at the microphone?

Just imagine a Jewish kid goes, “Hey, wait a minute …”

Let’s get really absurd and just imagine a Satanist wants the same freedom. Can’t happen, you say? It already has – in 2014 at the state capitol, not far from where this current bill was being fast-tracked through committee.

Satanists demanded to erect their own holiday display to counter a Nativity scene by a Christian group.

So why do this at all? It seems like obvious pandering to me.

There is nothing already on the books that says kids and teachers can’t pray in public schools. I imagine many of them already do as the SAT tests are passed out. They can read the Bible during breaks. I have heard from parents, though, who say that even these student-led actions can put a lot of pressure on their kids to conform.

Don’t believe it? Try sitting out a “voluntary” public prayer sometime and see the looks you get. But they’re going ahead with this bill and I wouldn’t be shocked if it became law – at least until it is overturned in the courts.

This has been touted as bill that will protect Christians from alleged persecution. Baloney.

Real persecution is what Christians face in places like Cuba, China and many Middle East nations. Real persecution is being dragged from your home and flogged or executed for your belief.

The stuff these lawmakers are talking about doesn’t qualify.

Florida Senate convenes in Tallahassee, adopts compromise budget rules

The Florida Senate is in session.

Senators convened at 9:30 with a prayer and the traditional singing of the national anthem.

“They need wisdom, direction, and understanding,” Pam Olsen, president of the Florida Prayer Network said during the invocation.

“Keep their marriages strong” while the members are “here doing the people’s business,” she prayed.

“I know I’m asking for a miracle, but make this session end on time.”

There for the occasion were Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, plus members of the Florida Supreme Court.

“We understand you have a busy morning,” Senate President Joe Negron told Scott, who was due to deliver his State of the State address later than morning.

One of the first orders of business was approval of rules changes designed to prevent a meltdown over the House’s strict new rules for member projects in the state budget while respecting the Senate’s prerogatives.

In reaching the agreement with the House Friday, “potentially we dodged a bullet that could have stopped our appropriations process in about the fifth week,” budget chairman Jack Latvala said.

Negron discussed his hopes for education funding during the session, including building the state’s universities to “national elite” standard, comparable to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Virginia, and the University of Michigan.

Also, that every student in Florida, regardless of financial and family background, be able to attend the state university of his or her choice. They might have to work their way through college, he said, but he hopes “there will never be a financial impediment to a student attending a university and graduating on time.”

He touted his plan to prevent discharges of toxic algae from Lake Okeechobee — which, he said, draws unflattering national attention to the state. He wants to buy land to store overflow water south of the lake.

“In the end, we’re going to have to have a place for the water to go” to avoid damaging discharges to communities to the east and west of the lake, he said.

Negron also highlighted his proposal to create alternatives to the criminal justice system for youthful misdemeanors. “Let’s have some room for young people to make mistakes” that doesn’t jeopardize their job prospects later, he said.

Negron endorsed proposed legislation to require unanimous jury verdicts to impose the death penalty, shift the burden of proof to prosecutors in “stand your ground” cases, and protect students’ right to pray in schools without compulsion.

He praised the governor’s, House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s, and his own appointees to the Constitutional Revision Commission, saying he hopes the panel will protect individual rights.

“I really think there’s a special part of opening day — this is really when a lot of our constituents are going to get engaged” in the legislative process.

“I’m asking all of us to share in that renewed energy and commitment,” he said, “and look at today as Day One going forward.”

 

Guns, gambling and taxes: Legislators return to work

Once the Florida Legislature kicks off its 60-day Session March 7, legislators are expected to pass, or kill, dozens of measures dealing with everything from abortion to gambling and the environment.

So far, more than 2,000 bills have been filed, but in the end, legislators usually pass fewer than 300 pieces of legislation each year.

Here’s a look at some of the top issues this Session:

DEATH PENALTY: Florida legislators are expected to quickly pass a measure that would require a unanimous jury recommendation before the death penalty can be imposed. Last year, the state Supreme Court declared a new law requiring a 10-2 jury vote to impose the death penalty unconstitutional.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Voters last November overwhelmingly approved Amendment 2, which allows higher-strength marijuana to be used for a wider list of medical ailments than had been allowed under state law. Legislators will consider bills to implement the amendment, including possibly expanding who can grow and sell medical marijuana.

GUNS: There are about two dozen gun-related bills that already have been filed and the vast majority would expand gun rights so they can be carried in places that they are now not allowed including university campuses and non-secure areas of airports. Democrats have proposed more restrictions, but they have virtually no chance of passing.

GAMBLING: Top legislative leaders say they would like to come up with a comprehensive overhaul of gambling laws. But so far, the House and Senate are divided on what should be done.

The Senate is considering a bill that would allow slot machines at dog and horse tracks in eight counties outside South Florida. The Senate gambling bill would also allow the Seminole Tribe to offer craps and roulette at its casinos.

The House version would allow the Seminoles to keep blackjack and slot machines at its casinos for 20 years. But it would not allow gambling to expand to other parts of the state.

WATER: Senate President Joe Negron wants to borrow up to $1.2 billion to acquire 60,000 acres of land and build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries that have been blamed for toxic algae blooms.

JUDICIAL TERM LIMITS: House Speaker Richard Corcoran wants to impose a 12-year term limit on Supreme Court justices and appeals court judges. The House is backing a constitutional amendment for the 2018 ballot that would ask voters to make the change. But it’s unclear if the Senate will consider the proposal.

BUDGET: Florida legislators are required to annually pass a new budget. Gov. Rick Scott has recommended an $83.5 billion budget that includes money for tax cuts, steep reductions for hospitals and uses local tax dollars to boost school spending.

House Republicans are opposed to Scott’s use of local property taxes and they are expected to call for large budget cuts while also increasing spending on education. Senate President Joe Negron wants to eliminate a tax break for the insurance industry and use the money to cut taxes charged on cellphone service and cable television. Negron also wants to boost spending on universities and colleges.

EDUCATION: Legislators are considering several bills dealing with schools, including one that would require elementary schools to set aside 20 minutes each day for “free-play recess.” Another bill would allow high school students to earn foreign language credits if they take courses in computer coding. Legislators are also considering changes to Florida’s high-stakes standardized tests, including pushing back the testing date to the end of the school year.

HIGHER EDUCATION: Negron has called for an overhaul of the state’s colleges and universities that requires the state to cover 100 percent of tuition costs for top performing high school students who attend a university or college. The Senate plan also calls for boosting efforts to recruit and retain university faculty.

ABORTION: Several abortion bills have been filed including one that would make it easier for women to sue physicians for physical or emotional injuries stemming from abortions.

ECONOMIC INCENTIVES: Corcoran wants to scuttle the state’s economic development agency and trim back spending at the state’s tourism marketing outfit. The move is strongly opposed by Gov. Scott who says they help the economy, but Corcoran has criticized the efforts as a form of “corporate welfare.”

HEALTH CARE: Legislators are considering several proposals that would eliminate limits on certain types of health care facilities. They may also overhaul the state worker health insurance program and expand the use of direct primary care agreements between physicians and patients.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

mobile phone service

Business groups oppose tax break swap

A coalition of Florida business groups is giving the thumbs-down to state Sen. Anitere Flores’ proposal to pay for a cut in the state’s tax on mobile phone and satellite and cable TV service by repealing a tax break to insurers.

The legislation (SB 378) would swap the insurance break for a 2 percent reduction in the state’s communications services tax (CST). The proposal is a priority of Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican.

Negron earlier this year said he was looking to eliminate the insurance deal this year, a 15 percent tax credit on the salaries that insurers give their full-time workers here in the state.

But the coalition – including Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and the Florida Insurance Council (FIC) – on Monday suggested the move would be a net neutral.

Moreover, if the measure passes as is, Gov. Rick Scott could see himself jammed up by competing priorities: Cutting taxes for middle-class Floridians and keeping the state’s business community happy.

The state could see $300 million in communication tax savings, charged on mobile phone and satellite and cable TV service, but that would be eaten up by “a $300 million increase in insurance premiums, negatively impacting all Floridians,” according to a press release.

“These premium increases will at least be equal to the reduction in the CST, leaving consumers without any actual economic relief,” it said.

“Doing away with the tax credit will increase the tax burden on Florida insurers who employ more than 200,000 Floridians in typically high-wage paying jobs, and will endanger future job growth in the industry,” said Cecil Pearce, president of FIC. “The salary tax credit reduces the premium tax liability, which helps keep insurance premiums as low as possible.”

Flores’ bill, which does not yet have a House companion, has been referred to the Senate’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax, and the full Appropriations panel for hearings in the 2017 Legislative Session, which starts Tuesday.

 

Richard Corcoran selects Darryl Rouson, Tom Lee to constitution panel

House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced that Sen. Darryl Rouson, Rep. Chris Sprowls, and Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco will be among his nine picks for the Constitution Revision Commission.

The Land O’Lakes Republican’s selections will round out the 37-member review panel, which meets every 20 years to look over and suggest changes to the Florida Constitution. The panel must be established within 30 days before the regular 2017 Legislative Session convenes.

The annual 60-day session kicks off Tuesday.

“I’ve said it on numerous occasions, I would only appoint Commission Members who understood and respected the role of our constitution and the separation of powers. I believe all these appointees share that respect and understanding,” said Corcoran in a statement. “With that as a foundation, these appointees are diverse, principled, and won’t march in lockstep with anyone. And my only charge to each has been to do what they believe to be right. I am sure that each Member appointed today will do their part to ensure freedom and the rule of law are embodied in our final product.”

Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat, was elected to the Senate in 2016, after serving serving eight years in the Florida House. He’s a former Pinellas County prosecutor, who also served as commissioner on the Tax and Budget Reform Commission.

Sprowls is also a former prosecutor, leaving the State Attorney’s Office over the summer to join Buchanan Ingersoll and Rooney. First elected in 2014, the Palm Harbor Republican has quickly moved up the leadership ladder, and is in line to become Speaker after the 2020 elections.

Sprowls isn’t the only member of the House leadership team expected to get a spot at the table. Corcoran is also expected to name Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Speaker Pro Tempore Jeanette Nunez to panel, according to sources briefed on the Speaker’s plans.

Look for Corcoran to also select Rich Newsome, a long-time friend and attorney who has lobbied on behalf of the state’s trial lawyers; Sen. Tom Lee, a Brandon Republican and former Senate President; John Stemberger with the Florida Family Policy Council; and Erika Donalds, a member of the Collier County School Board and the wife of freshman Rep. Byron Donalds. 

 Corcoran’s announcements comes just days after Gov. Rick Scott announced his appointments, which were also heavy on supporters and political allies.

As Governor, Scott selected 15 of the 37 commissioners, as well as its chairman. The Naples Republican selected Carlos Beruff, a Manatee County homebuilder who ran for U.S. Senate in 2016, as chairman.

Senate President Joe Negron also got nine picks, while the Chief Justice is allotted three. Republican Pam Bondi is automatically a member as the state’s Attorney General.

The commission has met twice before, in 1977-78 and 1997-98, but this will be the first to be selected by a majority of Republicans. Any changes the commission proposes would be in the form of constitutional amendments, which would have to be approved by 60 percent of voters on a statewide ballot.

Florida’s legislative leaders talk issues, personalities

Florida Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran are Republican lawyers. But the similarities start to drift from there.

Negron calls himself boring and is the quiet, deliberative type. Corcoran likes listening to music at top volume, and his approach to leadership reflects that.

The Associated Press interviewed each separately about their backgrounds, personalities and priorities as they prepare for their first legislative session as their chambers’ leaders. Here’s what they had to say:

___

What motivated you to first run for office?

Corcoran said his interest in government was a lesson he learned from his parents, who lived through the Great Depression and World War II. “They always were very involved in understanding and following and trying to affect our government at all levels because they recognized and lived through the horrors of what bad government or the wrong philosophy lead to.”

Negron: “I’ve always been fascinated by how the political process works, and I have strong opinions on some core issues, like the sovereignty of the individual. In government service, you have an opportunity to advocate and promote those things you believe in and make a tangible and measurable difference.”

___

What is the one bill you are most proud of passing?

“I couldn’t tell you one,” said Corcoran, who listed several bills. The first one he mentioned was a billed passed his freshman year in 2011 that requires urgent-care centers to post the costs of their 50 most frequently provided medical services. Negron sponsored the bill in the Senate.

Negron: “We passed a bill saying that out-of-state insurance companies had to follow the same Florida consumer protection laws if they wanted to sell policies in our state.”

___

What are your 2017 priorities?

Corcoran: “Scaling back the size of government; eliminating and getting a hold on pork barrel spending and wasteful government spending and cutting that out of the budget, and creating much bigger transparency and accountability; having the toughest ethics standards of any state in the nation; holding elected officials accountable by creating finer lines on the separation of powers, and reining in a Supreme Court that’s writing law and trying to be two branches instead of one; cutting taxes; and getting government as much as we can out of the people’s pockets.”

Negron said increasing water storage capacity south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce and eliminate discharges that have cause algae blooms in rivers flowing to the coast. Also, he said increasing funding to state universities.

___

How would you describe your leadership style?

Corcoran: “The book that over the last six years that our class used a lot was ‘Good to Great’ and we talked about having a real leadership team with people having input.” The subtitle of the book is “Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t” and it’s a management book on how to improve companies.

Negron: “My colleagues supported me to be the presiding officer based on my commitment to work as a team. I try to make up with attention to detail what I lack in charisma. … I don’t need to be the center of attention.”

___

What are the similarities and differences between you and the other chamber’s leader?

Corcoran: “Both of us would like to accomplishment a tremendous amount.” On differences, he said, “He doesn’t drink; he doesn’t smoke cigars. When you get together with Joe it’s literally business for like 30 minutes.”

Negron: “His growing up was very much revolved around playing sports and being competitive with siblings. That’s very similar to how I grew up. We both have a strong work ethic and respect for our parents who worked hard for everything they got.” On differences, he said he analyzes issues apart from the issue, and Corcoran dives right in. “He’s a little bit more animated than I am.”

___

What’s your greatest nonpolitical achievement?

Corcoran: “Being a husband and a father are the things I enjoy the most.”

Negron cited a legal case in which he helped exonerate a man wrongfully convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

___

What brought your family to Florida?

Corcoran said his family was living in Toronto when his father invested in a Florida concrete plant with some friends. “It was going under and it was losing money, so they got together and they said ‘One of us needs to go down there and see what’s going on.’ So, my dad said he would. He went down and of course people were stealing and all that kind of stuff, so he came down to manage it.”

Negron: “My grandfather came from Ponce, Puerto Rico, to New York through Ellis Island and then moved to South Florida.”

___

What is your most interesting hobby or recreational activity?

Corcoran: “Pretty much anything sports. All sports.”

Negron: “Visiting courthouses. I’ve probably personally been in, of our 67 counties, at least 40, maybe as many as 50. Especially in small towns. I just like to go into courthouses and just walk around, poke my head in courtrooms and sit in the back seat for 30 minutes.”

___

Who is your favorite author?

Corcoran: “For fluff, I’ll read any of the best-sellers. I’ll read (John) Grisham, but I’ll also read where there’s a new one out like ‘The Girl on the Train.’ When I see it in the bookstore or see it The New York Times rankings 20 weeks in a row, still in the top 10, then I’ll go out and read it.”

Negron: “George Will. I’ve been reading George Will since I was in high school.”

___

Who is your favorite musician or band?

Corcoran: “U2. That’s easy. I crank U2.”

Negron: “Billy Joel. I saw him when I was in law school and then I saw him in New York last year.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Final push for fundraising before 2017 Session kicks off

Think of it as the last hurrah before the 2017 Legislative Session.

Members of the House and Senate can’t raise money while the Legislature is session, putting a 60-day pause on fundraising each year. And while that may be good news for their most loyal contributors’ pocketbooks, it does mean you can expect a mad dash for last minute fundraising before clock starts on the 2017 Session.

House Majority, the fundraising arm of House Republicans, has a bevy of fundraisers planned for Monday. All of the events are hosted by Speaker Richard Corcoran, Rep. Jose Oliva, and Rep. Chris Sprowls.

Reps. Cord Byrd, Clay Yarborough, and Jason Fischer will kick off their fundraising early in the day with a reception at the Governors Club, 202 S. Adams Street, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Yarborough will be back at the Governors Club at 5 p.m. for another fundraising reception, this time with Reps. Thomas Leek and Stan McClain.

The Southern Public House, 224 East College Ave, is the place to be Monday evening from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. That’s where you’ll find a fundraiser for Reps. James Grant, Mel Ponder, and Halsey Beshears. Rep. Brad Drake will be raising dough a few blocks away at Clyde’s and Costello’s, 210 South Adams Street. His fundraiser is also scheduled for 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

If hanging out at bars aren’t your style, then the fundraising reception for Reps. Cary Pigman, Michael Grant, Bryon Donalds, Joe Gruters, Ralph Massullo, and Julio Gonzalez might be up your alley. The event is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Governors Inn, 209 S. Adams Street.

Senators are also getting in on the action. Senate President Joe Negron, Sen. Bill Galvano, Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, and Sen. Jack Latvala will host a fundraiser for Ed Hooper, who’s hoping to replace Latvala in the Florida Senate, from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at The Governors Club.

Galvano and Simpson are also hosting a fundraiser for Sen. Frank Artiles and Rep. Manny Diaz, who is running for Senate in 2018, from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at The Maddox House, 510 North Adams Street.

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2017 Legislative Session preview: Oscar Braynon on juvenile justice, incentives and Chance the Rapper

This is the first legislative session that South Florida’s Oscar Braynon II will be the Senate’s Democratic Leader.

The 40-year-old, who succeeded term-limited former Leader Arthenia Joyner, was first elected in 2011 after serving in the House and on the Miami Gardens City Council before that.

Though he’s in the minority, Braynon has high hopes for legislative breakthroughs with the GOP majority under President Joe Negron. “We have a good personal relationship and we’ve helped each other before we were in leadership,” Braynon says.

That said, one issue he’s already behind on is “decoupling,” in which the state would no longer require dog and horse tracks to run live races if they wish to offer other gambling, such as slots or cards. The House supports it this year; the Senate does not.

Braynon’s in favor because it would allow his district’s Calder Race Track, which he said he lives “around the corner from,” to sell its racetrack land to developers for much-needed retail, restaurants and a movie theater.

The city of 112,000 has no movie theater, one sit-down restaurant and little retail shopping, Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert III recently told lawmakers.

But Braynon may have better luck on initiatives like juvenile civil citations, which gives “first-time misdemeanor offenders the opportunity to participate in intervention services at the earliest stage of delinquency,” according to the Department of Juvenile Justice. A bill now being carried by Anitere Flores, Negron’s right hand as President Pro Tempore, would expand their use.

Braynon gave a pre-session interview with FloridaPolitics.com last week. Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.  

Q: What are you hoping to get accomplished this year?

A: I’m looking to some serious reform in our civil and criminal justice system. I think both sides of the aisle have come to the conclusion that minimum mandatory (sentences), putting juveniles in jail for minor crimes, keeping people locked up for drug offenses, those things put a strain on our budget. Also it puts a strain on our communities. We should look more into treatment for drug issues, economic development for communities like mine, where people think that dealing illegal drugs is the only way out (of poverty). If they can get a real job, they can have hope. I’ll be looking at that not just this year, but my two years as leader. And I think I have a willing partner in the Senate President.

Q: On the other hand, what are you hoping the Legislature avoids acting on?

A: I hope we avoid some of the repeats of what we did or tried to do in terms of tax cuts and cutting services … I think the fewer services you provide is not investing in the biggest and best resource of the state, its people. When you don’t invest in education, health care, mental health, the aged, DCF, the weakest among us, then you starve the infrastructure that is our way to get our state considered a premier state. Our mistake was we cut government and then on the other end we cut taxes for corporations, saying this is how we’re going to ‘save’ Florida. Look at us now. We’re looking at projections where we may be in another (budget) deficit. I call it crazy, because if it doesn’t work, why do it again?

Q: Which initiative gives you the most confidence to get done this year?

A: The civil citations bill, now pushed by Sen. Flores, is something our caucus has pushed for a long time. For the president pro tem to have it, that shows us being together on that issue of creating more juvenile civil citations statewide. I believe the concern on the other side has been being seen as ‘weak on crime.’ They think you’re not allowing children to be accountable for whatever (bad) things they did. But I don’t want to give them a mark for the rest of their lives.

Q: How do you think the current conflict between Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran—who are warring over Enterprise Florida (EFI), VISIT FLORIDA and business incentives—will affect this session?

A: (Laughs.) It’s not any different from previous years. It’s the same thing. Whether you take the money from (business in the form of taxes) or you give them so money back, it’s semantics. Whether you call them tax cuts or incentives, it’s a ridiculous argument. Look, businesses are doing well in Florida. We have a business-friendly environment. But we’re ranked low in mental health, education. I’m more than happy to watch them fight it out … And they all are going to fight, not just about this, but a whole number of things. Wait till we get to the budget, and who controls the process. It should not be up to the House. Then there’s land buying, and judicial term limits. The list is long. You could solve the EFI thing tomorrow and they’ll have seven other things they’ll disagree on. I do believe VISIT FLORIDA plays a role, but they could be more lean and transparent. As to incentives, I’m still waiting for someone to fully explain to me why they are really so necessary.

Q: Have you heard from Chance the Rapper yet? (Braynon supported a bill for Florida’s smaller craft brewers because it would help start-ups, likening them to the Chicago-based artist who rose to fame after distributing his own songs without a music label.)

A: No! I did not get a follow yet (from the rapper on Twitter).

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