Joe Negron Archives - Page 4 of 42 - Florida Politics

Joe Negron: Army Corps will speed up Lake O work

Senate President Joe Negron on Friday said progress on a southern reservoir outlined in legislation passed this year, addressing South Florida’s water quality, is getting a kick-start.

“…The Army Corps of Engineers intends to expedite the federal approval process … The Corps has determined the best option for achieving southern storage is not to seek new federal authority, but to use existing authority to pursue a modification to the current (project),” Negron said in a Friday statement.

Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation this year pledging $800 million in bonds toward Negron’s signature project (SB 10), a $1.5 billion plan to restore Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades by building a reservoir south of the lake. The governor called Everglades restoration “a top priority.”

“This development is entirely consistent with the options and timeline outlined in Senate Bill 10 and achieves the Legislature’s goal of moving forward on southern storage as expeditiously as possible,” added Negron, a Stuart Republican.

“I appreciate the Corps’ shared interest in promptly achieving our goal of reducing harmful discharges into our communities, and I look forward to continuing an efficient state and federal partnership on this important effort.”

The project is designed to stop discharges of toxic algae-infused overflow into streams and estuaries to the east and west by storing 78 billion gallons of water in a reservoir to the south, with treatment and ultimate discharge into the Everglades and Florida Bay.

The law forbids use of eminent domain, relying on land the state already owns or can swap with private landowners.

Florida will again consider college financial aid boost

Republicans in the Florida Senate are moving ahead again with an ambitious proposal to boost financial aid for college students.

Sen. Bill Galvano filed a bill (SB 4) Wednesday that would require the state to permanently cover 100 or 75 percent of all tuition costs for top high school students who attend a Florida university or college. If it became law it would help about 94,000 students.

Legislators scaled back the amount paid by Bright Futures scholarships during the height of the Great Recession. Senate President Joe Negron has promised to restore funding.

The Florida Legislature passed a similar bill earlier this year but Gov. Rick Scott vetoed it. Some Bright Futures recipients are getting 100 percent of their tuition paid this school year but the increase is good for just one year.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Florida Democrats in Congress call for Florida special session to replace statue

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz now has gotten the other ten Florida Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives to join her call for a one-day Florida Legislature special session to replace Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith‘s statue in the U.S. Capitol.

“We must denounce symbols of what supremacy and stand up for love and compassion – not just with words, but with our deeds,” state letters from the 11 Florida Democratic members of Congress to Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. “As the third largest state, and easily one of the most diverse in our nation, Florida has an opportunity to send a defining message.”

Wasserman Schultz first called for such a special session on her own, on Aug. 15.

The issue involves one of Florida’s two state representation statues in the U.S. Capitol. In 2016 the Florida Legislature voted to replace the Smith statute, but in 2017 was unable to agree on a replacement, so the statue remains.

The new congressional letter calls for Scott, Negron and Corcoran to act immediately, “in the shadow of Charlottesville,” to “stand at a crucial moment when leaders and institutions must confront hate and violence without ambiguity.”

A spokesman for Scott’s office expressed confidence that the legislature would take care of the matter as soon as possible. In January. When the regular 2018 Legislative Session convenes.

“In 2016, Governor Scott signed a bill that replaced this statue at the U.S. Capitol. A committee was quickly convened, public input was gathered and three names were submitted to the Legislature for consideration for a replacement. It is now up to the Legislature to decide how to resolve this issue and Governor Scott hopes they do so when they convene in January,” McKinley Lewis said in a statement.

The offices of Negron and Corcoran did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the letter.

When Wasserman Schultz first made her call two weeks ago, Corcoran responded by accusing her of being out of touch and grandstanding, noting that the Florida Legislature already had voted to replace Smith’s statue and was working on picking a replacement.

The latest letter was signed by the 11 Democrats Florida has elected to the U.S. House, Wasserman Schultz of Weston, Kathy Castor of Tampa, Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg, Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, Alcee Hastings of Miramar, Darren Soto of Orlando, Frederica Wilson Miami Gardens, Val Demings of Orlando, Al Lawson of Tallahassee, Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, and Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park.

“The legislature’s inaction leaves in place of honor, a symbol that represents a painful and horrific period in American history for so many Floridians and Americans,” the letter states.

“No family visiting our nation’s Capital should have to explain to their child that the statue representing our state honors someone who fought for a philosophy built on hatred, inequality and oppression.

“We urge you to take immediate action by calling a one-day special session during the Florida House and Senate’s upcoming interim committee meetings that already are scheduled in Tallahassee and finish this important and historic work.”

Take it to court: Florida Senate sued over doomed website

Florida taxpayers have already spent $5 million on a state budget website that never went public. Now litigation over the failed project could cost another $200,000.

The Florida Senate hired a Tallahassee-based contractor six years ago to create the website to help the public understand the state budget. Legislative officials say it didn’t work as intended and never went online.

The company, Spider Data Services, asked for its final payment of $500,000 in 2013. But the Senate refused to pay, and instead questioned the no-bid contract to build the website that had been awarded by former Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

Spider Data Services’ lawyer, Kenneth Oertel, said they hoped Senate President Joe Negron would pay the final amount after taking his post last November. But he said “nothing has been paid, so we had no recourse but to file” suit for the $500,000, plus interest.

Now, Senate documents posted online show it has agreed to pay up to $200,000 on private attorneys to fight the lawsuit.

Negron’s spokeswoman, Katie Betta, declined to comment, pointing instead to court filings by these attorneys.

In a July court filing, the Senate contends the budget website known as “Transparency 2.0” never worked as promised, and that if anything, Spider Data Services should give the money back to the state.

The Senate also says the former legislative employee who runs the company “had intimate working knowledge” of how the budget is crafted and knew the software could not be created as promised.

Oertel disputes that the website did not work as intended, saying Senate employees reviewed it and “nobody complained” while parts of the website were being put in place.

A pair of open government and ethics advocacy groups reviewed the website and asserted that it made budget and contracting information easier to obtain and understand.

The result seems to fit a pattern over the last two decades, with the state spending millions on technology projects that either failed to materialize or were deeply flawed.

Florida spent roughly $100 million on a financial reporting and accounting system before shutting down the project for good in 2007. The state’s new system for unemployment benefits also had numerous problems when it went online in late 2013.

(Reprinted with permission of The Associated Press.)

Jack Latvala: State needs to spend $20 million more on opioid crisis

Republican candidate for governor Jack Latvala, who’s been aggressive in saying that Florida needs to do more to deal with the exploding opioid epidemic, on Monday called on Gov. Rick Scott to fund another $20 million to address the problem.

Latvala, a Clearwater state senator and Appropriations Committee chair, also is calling on Scott to immediately extend the executive order he originally signed in May, declaring the opioid crisis to be a public health emergency in Florida.

That request allowed the state to immediately draw down more than $27 million in federal grant funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Opioid State Targeted Response Grant. That funding has been used to provide prevention, treatment and recovery support services, but is expected to expire within the next week.

“There have been reports that suggest 14 Floridians have died every day in the first half of this year due to opioids, which is higher than the number of Floridians we have lost per day at the height of the pill mill crisis,” Latvala wrote in his letter. “If this trend continues, by the time the Legislature passes a budget in March 2018, over 2,700 more Floridians could die. Florida’s citizens cannot wait until then for more financial resources to combat this public health crisis.”

Latvala participated in a three-hour discussion in Palm Beach County earlier this month regarding the opioid crisis, where he notes in his letter to Scott that he heard from longtime health officials that said that they have never experienced a crisis of this magnitude.

“The opioid crisis presents an existential threat to the people of our state as entire generations quickly being lost, or unable to meaningfully contribute as productive members of our society and economy,” Latvala writes.

The longtime legislator breaks down his $20 million request for funding into five different categories: He says $9 million should be allocated for residential treatment; $5 million for detox services; $3 million for outpatient treatment and recovery support; $2.4 million for prevention and $600,000 in specialized services.

“I think the sheer number of people that came to talk about this issue for a guy from Pinellas County where this is really not that big of an issue, it was stunning to me that there were that many people – the magnitude of the calls to the fire department, the involvement of the Sheriff’s department, just the whole community seems to be zeroing in on trying to solve this problem, so I think the state should do our part to try to solve it with the community,” Latvala told reporters after the hearing in Palm Beach County, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Senate President Joe Negron, GOP state Sen. Rene Garcia of Hialeah and Democratic Sen. Kevin Rader of Boca Raton joined Latvala in that listening session in Palm Beach County earlier this month.

At a press conference in Tampa last month featuring Congresswoman Kathy Castor, health officials blasted the Legislature, saying that in the face of the opioid crisis, the state actually cut funding for mental health and substance abuse.

Florida ranks virtually last in the nation in spending on mental health and substance abuse, Rutherford said those on the ground fighting the epidemic needs more help from the Legislature.

Latvala officially announced his candidacy for governor two weeks ago.

“Governor Scott has been working with legislative leaders on further ways to help families who are struggling with addiction during the upcoming legislative session,” responded Lauren Schenone, a spokesperson for Scott. “Governor Scott will be announcing his legislative package to fight this national epidemic in the coming weeks, which will include significant increases of funding. We are hopeful the Legislature will support the Governor’s proposal. The Governor has been extremely focused on this issue and declared a public health emergency in May which provided $27 million in federal funds. This public health emergency was already extended today. Governor Scott has also made it easier for law enforcement to combat this epidemic.

Governor Scott appreciates the members of the Florida House and Senate for their focus on the national opioid epidemic.”

 

 

Fundraisers set for three GOP special election candidates

Florida’s top Republican lawmakers are lending a helping hand to the GOP nominees in three special elections going down this fall, according to fundraising invitations sent out Friday.

A fundraiser benefitting Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz’s Senate bid is set for Sept. 14. Senate President Joe Negron and the two Senators in line to succeed him in that role, Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson, will host the event in Tampa at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse.

Joining them for the 6 p.m. fundraiser are Sens. Jeff Brandes, Tom Lee and Dana Young. In addition giving Diaz a boost, the fundraiser is also being put on for Senate Majority 2018.

Diaz is running to take over for disgraced former Sen. Frank Artiles in SD 40. He beat Alex Diaz de la Portilla in the special Republican Primary for the seat, and now faces Democrat Annette Taddeo, who scored her first win at the polls in five tries – once for Miami-Dade County Commission, then as Charlie Crist’s lieutenant governor pick, and twice for Congress.

The general election is set for Sept. 26.

Danny Perez, who won the GOP nomination to succeed Diaz in HD 116, and Robert “Bobby O” Olzewski, the Republican nominee to replace former Rep. Eric Eisnaugle in HD 44, have a joint fundraiser set for Sept. 13 in Tallahassee.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran is top billed on the host committee, and like Negron his successors will be in tow: Jose OlivaChris Sprowls, and Paul Renner.

The fundraiser kicks off at 5 p.m. at the Florida Realtors building on South Monroe Street.

Perez is running against Democrat Gabriela Mayudon who has less than $100 in her campaign account, while Bobby O is facing Democrat Paul Chandler, who is near open warfare with the Florida Democratic Party.

The invitations to the events are below:

 

Richard Corcoran releases new committee assignments

House Speaker Richard Corcoran released his committee assignments for the 2018 Legislative Session Thursday with just a few changes from 2017, notably some freshmen getting vice chairmanships and new chairs for the Ways and Means and Commerce Committees.

Corcoran’s changes in committees look more like mid-term adjustments for the two-year term, rather than the wholesale reshuffling that Senate President Joe Negron announced earlier this week for that chamber’s committees.

“Your preference requests were accommodated to the extent possible, including the recommendations of (Democratic) Leader (Janet) Cruz,” the Land O’ Lakes Republican wrote in a memo to members.

“One notable change addresses the status of the Public Integrity & Ethics Committee, which because of workload and the nature of the work, will be treated as a procedural committee, much like Rules & Policy,” he added. “In order to ensure all members have at least one substantive committee, we increased the size of the Education, Judiciary, Health & Human Services, and Ways & Means committees to accommodate freshmen members from Public Integrity & Ethics.”

With the departure of former Commerce Committee chairman Jose Felix Diaz, who is running in a special election for the Senate, state Rep. Jim Boyd of Bradenton will slide over from chairing the House Ways and Means Committee to chair Commerce, with Paul Renner of Palm Coast taking the chair of Ways and Means.

Otherwise, the committee assignments reward a handful of freshmen with new vice chairmanships of committees and subcommittees, and give Rep. James Grant of Tampa with a chairmanship, that of the Health Quality Subcommittee of the House Health & Human Services Committee.

Among freshmen getting vice chairs:

Randy Fine of Brevard County, Careers & Competition Subcommittee of the Commerce Committee.

Jason Fischer of Jacksonville, PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee of the Education Committee.

Erin Grall of Vero Beach, Civil Justice & Claims Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee.

Michael Grant of Port Charlotte, Transportation and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee.

Twenty-one of the 27 freshmen lawmakers now have vice chairs.

Corcoran also opened bill filing for House members: “The bill request submission deadline for all bills (substantive and Appropriations Project bills) is now on the same day, Nov. 14. The filing deadline for your first two bills is Nov. 21.

“The filing deadline for remaining bills is the first day of Session, Jan. 9,” he said.

For the full list, go here.

Top Senate Republicans holding Big Apple fundraiser Thursday

If you’ve ever dreamed of slurping spaghetti with state senators, top Florida Republicans have an offer you can’t refuse, so long as you can snag a flight to the Big Apple pronto.

Senate President Joe Negron will make a fundraising trip to New York Thursday with the two senators set to succeed him in his role, Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson. Also attending are Senate budget chief and gubernatorial candidate Jack Latvala as well as Lizbeth Benacquisto, Rob Bradley and Anitere Flores.

Don’t worry about accommodations, either – the last minute invitation to the fundraiser says the powerful cadre of politicians has organized a discounted rate at the Ritz Carlton. It’s not home, but it’ll do for a night.

Whoever manages to get to New York by 6:30 p.m. Thursday will have the opportunity to sit down with the Tallahassee elite at the city’s “Quality Italian” restaurant which, for whatever reason, is a steakhouse. Don’t worry, the menu includes a handful of classics from the old country.

Those fortunate enough to be able to spend a Friday evening in the city can also drop by a cocktail hour at the posh Ascent Lounge. A drink will set you back about $20, and you better be a fan of vodka.

To RSVP, call Kelly Schmidt at 407-415-2879. You might need to call her from the plane.

The invitation is below:

Debbie Wasserman Schultz calls for special session to replace Confederate statue

(UPDATED) South Florida Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz wants the Florida Legislature to convene for a special session to deal with a Confederate monument that represents the state in the U.S. Capitol.

A bronze statue of Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith continues to sit in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall, despite legislation passed during the 2016 Legislative Session that approved removing it.

“While the events in Charlottesville represent our nation’s original sin, we know these hateful acts do not define who we are as a country. We must denounce white supremacy and domestic terrorism and stand up for love and compassion – not just with our words, but with our deeds,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.

Momentum to remove Smith from the congressional collection began in 2015 shortly after the South Carolina Legislature voted to remove the Confederate battle flag from its statehouse grounds. That seminal event took place after Dylann Roof went on a shooting spree in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine black men and women. Roof had posed with a Confederate flag in photos.

Two competing bills regarding a statue that would have taken the place of Smith died in this year’s Legislative Session. One called for a likeness of educator and civil-rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune, while another proposed a statue of environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, author of “The Everglades: River of GrassNeither passed.

“Next year, we expect movement in the House and we’ll pass it in the Senate,” said state Sen. Perry Thurston, who sponsored the Bethune measure. “I am encouraged we will get it done next year.”

Each state has two statues on display in the Capitol. Florida’s other statue, a marble rendering of scientist-inventor Dr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola, a pivotal figure in the invention of air conditioning, is unaffected.

Wasserman Schultz says that leaving Smith’s statue in a place of honor “symbolizes a painful, disgraceful legacy.”

“It’s time to stop playing games,” she said on Tuesday. “No family visiting our nation’s Capitol should have to explain to their child that the statue representing our state honors someone who fought for a philosophy built on hatred and oppression.”

Wasserman Schultz says Governor Rick Scott and the Legislature must take immediate action by calling a one-day special session during their upcoming interim committee meetings to pass a bill with one of the three recommendations from the committee established by law: Douglas, Bethune or George Washington Jenkins, a philanthropist and the founder of Publix Super Markets.

“These three Floridians represent the best of the history of our state,” she said. “The removal of the Confederate statue must be made an urgent priority.”

“Like most politicians in Washington, the congresswoman is out of touch,” said House Speaker Richard Corcoran. “We’ve already made this decision and are now having a conversation about which great Floridian we should honor. The congresswoman should stop grandstanding and focus on balancing the Federal budget.”

Senate President Joe Negron did not respond to a request for comment.

Preparation is key as Joe Negron remains a force heading into 2018 Session

Halfway between legislative sessions, Florida Senate President Joe Negron is not standing still.

There he is joining Gov. Rick Scott at a ceremonial bill signing in the fight against opioid abuse in Palm Beach County July 11, along with Wellington Democrat Matt Willette and a group of Palm Beach County Sheriff deputies.

About a week later, both Negron and Scott turned up again at a job-growth news conference July 19 at Orangetheory Fitness, the Boca Raton-based national fitness franchise chain.

“I enjoy the opportunity to take classes at Orangetheory Fitness studios, both at home and in Tallahassee,” Negron said. Orangetheory Fitness, which was recently ranked as the No. 1 fastest growing women-owned business in the U.S., has created more than 1300 Florida jobs.

Later, the Stuart Republican was spotted smiling alongside Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala in a tweet from United Way Broward applauding the two for “leadership in finding solutions to the opioid epidemic.”

While it is nice to know the President has the energy to exercise regularly, what exactly is Joe Negron up to?

The answer is in a quote by Alexander Graham Bell: “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”

Busy meeting with various colleagues, Negron is intent on advancing their top issues, especially since his own priority – a $1.5 billion storage reservoir of 240,000-360,000 acre-feet of water south of Lake Okeechobee – successfully passed in 2017.

Negron is also mentoring the incoming leadership team, specifically Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson, the nexts-in-line for the Senate presidency. While Galvano takes the lead on the special election in Senate District 40, Negron brainstorms on planning, issues, strategy and other adjustments ahead of the quickly approaching committee schedule and the Legislative Session beginning Jan. 9.

As with most of his accomplishments, it may not have been a sure bet that Negron would succeed, at least at first. But invariably, the President has won more than he lost..

And as proved by his frequent appearances with Scott – who turned down Negron’s wide-ranging higher education bill in June, but preserved the oh-so-important Bright Futures scholarships for now – all is good post-veto.

With that, a man who needs nothing, and holds his cards close to the vest, Negron remains a force heading into the 2018 Session.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons