Paul Renner Archives - Florida Politics

Is U.S. Term Limits coordinating a grassroots campaign against Jamie Grant?

Several state lawmakers — including Reps. Scott Plakon, Neil Combee, and Randy Fine — have received messages from their constituents asking them to block Grant from running for re-election and running for Speaker during the 2022-24 term, saying the Tampa Republican has already served eight years in office and any more would be in violation of the state Constitution.

The push comes just days after Nick Tomboulides, the executive director of U.S. Term Limits, wrote a post on the group’s website urging Floridians to contact their legislator to stop “Grant from cheating term limits.”

“He has not only filed to run for a fifth consecutive term in 2018, but Grant says he wants to stay in the House to become Speaker in 2024! That would make 14 consecutive years in office, almost double the legal limit,” wrote Tomboulides in a June 21 post on U.S. Term Limits’ website.

“Grant must believe he is above the law. He is attempting to justify his actions by pointing to a brief pause in his service from 2014-2015, when Grant’s friends in the Legislature vacated his seat. He was back in his job just 155 days later, mostly missing time when the House wasn’t in session,” he continued. “According to Grant, this meaningless gap started his term limit clock all over again, giving him a fresh eight years-plus.”

Tomboulides wrote a similar op-ed also ran on Sunshine State News website on June 16. Established in the early 1990s, U.S. Term Limits, a Washington, D.C.-based group, advocates for term limits at all levels of government.

First elected to the Florida House in 2010, Grant’s 2014 re-election campaign was embroiled in controversy. In the months leading up to the election, Tampa attorney Michael Steinberg filed suit over write-in candidate Daniel Matthews.

Steinberg, who was married to Grant’s GOP opponent Miriam Steinberg, said the write-in candidate should be disqualified because he didn’t live in the district. At the time, the Tampa Tribune reported that Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey agreed, and disqualified him. However, Matthews appealed, and panel of judges with the 1st District Court of Appeal sided with him.

While the legal battle was continued, the election played. Grant would eventually win the election; however, the House threw out those election results and vacated the seat. According to a Tampa Tribune report at the time, the House cited the months-long and unresolved litigation over the write-in candidacy.

Gov. Rick Scott ordered a special election, which Grant handily won. And since the seat was vacant when Grant won the special election, he won a new term — not a re-election.

That has left some Floridians irked, and they’re sounding off to their state representatives. In an email to Plakon, Casselberry resident Janet Leonard said she was “very disheartened to learn that Rep. Grant is evading the eight-year term limit set in place by 77 percent of Florida voters in 1992.”

“Why does one man believe he is above the law and not subject to these limits,” she wrote Plakon, according to an email provided to FloridaPolitics.com. “A 155-day hiatus doesn’t change the fact that he’s been in office for each of eight consecutive years. As my state representative, you should stop grant from cheating term limits and becoming a future Speaker.”

In another email, Longwood resident Albert Simpson tells Plakon that “term limits are an essential part of Florida government that stop elected officials from abusing their power.” He goes on to ask Plakon to tell Grant to step down from office instead of violating term limits.

Grant is one of four candidates in the running to be the Speaker of the House beginning in 2022, if Republicans keep their majority. Grant and Rep. Paul Renner, who was elected in a special election in April 2015, are considered to be the leading contenders for the post.

The freshman GOP caucus is expected to vote for its leader, and eventual Speaker, during a meeting in Central Florida on June 30.

Final rules set for House Speaker’s race voting

With just one week until freshman House Republicans are scheduled to vote for their leader, it appears lawmakers have agreed upon rules governing the election.

According to a copy of the rules obtained by FloridaPolitics.com, members will not be allowed to abstain from the vote; discussion between members between the announcement of the eliminated candidate and the next vote will be prohibited; and “the vote count will not be disclosed under any circumstances prior to the final vote.”

The 27-member freshman Republican caucus is scheduled to hold a meeting on June 30 in Orlando to vote for the class leader, and likely House Speaker beginning in 2022. Four candidates — Byron Donalds, Erin Grall, Jamie Grant and Paul Renner — have announced their candidacy, with Grant and Renner believed to be the leading contenders.

Unlike traditional Speaker’s races, the class has agreed to hold a vote by secret ballot. The election is being coordinated by Rep. Larry Metz, the chairman of the House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee, and House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues.

Establishing the rules for the election has not been an easy process.

“I can’t believe we’re still going through this kind of stuff,” Rep. Sam Killebrew wrote this week in an email to his colleagues.”

According to the rules, all 27 members of the class shall participate in selecting the class leader and “shall vote in each round of the process.” The rules note that “abstentions are not permitted,” however they do not say what, if any, penalties there are for abstaining.

A majority of the class, or 14 members, is needed in order for any member to be selected as leader. Under the rules agreed to by the candidates, “should any member be absent and unable to call in his/her vote due to an emergency in which communication with the member is impossible, the candidates will agree to the terms of extending the time frame of the race prior to leaving the meeting and each candidate will commit to compliance with said terms.”

In order to preserve the procedures for a secret ballot, the candidates have agreed not to solicit or accept pledge cards prior to the secret ballot and, according to the rules, will discourage members from making “election day declarations through print, social media or at any time during the secret ballot process.”

“Failure to adhere to the prohibition on collecting pledge cards prior to the secret ballot vote,” according to the rules, “will result in the disqualification of the candidate for whom the pledge cards were collected.”

Under the rules, members who can’t attend the meeting should deliver their votes to Metz or Rodrigues between “8 a.m. and noon” on June 30. The rules encourage them to call Rodrigues or Metz directly and allow either to record their “preference for Speaker in ranked order.”

Members who can attend the meeting will be asked to turn off any electronic devices and deposit them in a “box to be secured” by Rodrigues or Metz. No outside communication is allowed during the entirety of the meeting.

The meeting is set to begin at noon, with 10 minute speeches from each candidate. Members will then have time for questions and answers, before candidates are given 5 minutes for closing statements. After closing statements, voting is set to begin.

The rules spell out a protocol that eliminates the lowest vote-getter until one candidate receives a majority of the votes.

According to the protocol, Rodrigues and Metz will collect all of the ballots. The vote count, according to the rules, “will not be disclosed under any circumstances prior to the final vote.” The rules also state that “there will be no discussion between members between the announcement of the eliminated candidate and the next vote and members will be asked to remain in his/her seat during this time between voting rounds.”

Under the rules, if any candidate receives a majority of votes at any time, “no further ballots will be required.” Once that occurs, everyone in the room will be informed that a candidate appears to have a majority of the votes. The remaining candidates, according to the rules, “will verify the results of the count under the supervision of the Majority Leader and the Public Ethics and Integrity Chair.” Once the vote count is verified by the presiding officers and candidates, the rules state “the winner will be declared.”

 

Paul Renner headlining major fundraiser for Jason Fischer

As we continue to read the tea leaves in the current Florida House Speaker’s race, we see evidence of how Northeast Florida is folding in behind Paul Renner.

The latest example: an email sent out by Renner on behalf of Rep. Jason Fischer, pitching a big-dollar fundraiser with a deep host committee and an even more interesting roster of special guests: including Rep. Cord Byrd, a figure of interest to those counting votes regionally and beyond. [Jason Fischer Fundraiser Invitation]

If Byrd is still undecided in the Speaker’s race, chances are he may encounter some compelling arguments at the Jun. 26 event, to be held at 6 p.m. at the Acosta Corporate HQ.

“Please join me in supporting Rep. Jason Fischer for his kickoff fundraiser on June 26, 2017.  Jason has quickly established himself as a rising star in the Florida House.  Having served with him this session,” Renner writes, “I can tell you that Jason has the big ideas Florida needs as we plan for the future.”

“He has an amazing work ethic and has provided immediate expertise and leadership to the Florida House in the areas of education reform, appropriations, transportation and technology,” Renner adds.

“This first re-election campaign for him will be the most important, so your support is critical.  Jason’s June 26, 2017 fundraiser is our next opportunity to show the strength of our delegation and the community for those who are fighting for us in Tallahassee.  Without question,” Renner concludes, “Jason deserves our support and I am proud to be on his host committee.  Please do whatever you can to make this event a great success for Jason.  Thank you!”

Renner is one of five co-chairs: the other four are Jim HorneJohn RoodGary Chartrand, and John Baker, the latter three with some of the deepest pockets in the Northeast Florida donor class.

Beyond Byrd, special guests include a phalanx of Northeast Florida politicians: Sens. Aaron BeanRob Bradley, and Travis Hutson, along with Reps. Travis CummingsJay FantBobby PayneCyndi Stevenson, and Clay Yarborough.

Getting top billing on that special guest list: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.

The host committee includes Curry’s strategists, Tim Baker and Brian Hughes, along with key Northeast Florida donors, such as Ed BurrMori HosseiniMichael MunzPeter Rummelland Jamie Shelton.

Lobbyists are also well-represented: Marty Fiorentino and Deno Hicks.

And once-and-maybe-future politicians feature also: Lake Ray and John Delaney offer fine examples of that category.

 

 

Epilogue: Randy Fine explains to colleagues why he dropped out of Speaker’s race

Rep. Randy Fine has officially dropped out of the Speaker’s race, telling his colleagues he would rather be a “member of a unified team than the leader of a fractured one.”

In a lengthy email to his classmates Friday night, the Brevard County Republican explained why initially got into the Speaker’s race and why — with just two weeks until the June 30 vote — he was dropping that bid.

“A large part of the reason I decided to run is that in my 20+ year business career, I’ve always operated inclusive, collaborative, empowered teams, and it was something I wanted to see in the Florida House. I didn’t want to be the ruler, and I didn’t want to be ruled. I spent a lot of time running under the old rules, and in fact, spent significant amounts of my own money helping many of you, and raised $100,000 of additional money that went to your campaigns directly. Make no mistake – I wanted to be Speaker, but even more importantly, if I was going to spend the next eight years doing this, I wanted to be part of a great team,” he wrote in email, obtained by FloridaPolitics.com.

“But my thought process started to change a few months ago, and in fact, I know the actual date – April 12th. On that day, just halfway into our first session, I saw what I thought was great camaraderie and class spirit rent by an effort that ended up dividing the class in two. Our group has not been the same since, and we all know it. We can’t even seem to keep our emails to ourselves.”

The race, which had been largely been happening behind the scenes, shot into the limelight in April, after state Rep. Alex Miller sent a text message to Rep. Joe Gruters that essential said the race was narrowing to a choice between Rep. Ralph Massullo and Rep. James Grant.

Gruters altered Rep. Paul Renner, who then then called a meeting, which was attended by about 15 members of the 27-member freshman GOP class, to address his colleagues about his interest in the Speaker’s race. Supporters of Renner believed Miller’s text might have violated new GOP rules, which prohibit soliciting support for a leadership contender.

Grant and Renner are considered the leading contenders for the Speaker’s race. Reps. Byron Donalds and Erin Grall have also announced their candidacy.

Fine said as the June 30 vote approaches, he became “increasingly concerned that the absence of clear rules to establish a winner that all of us could buy into — which I would note that we still do not have — we would become a fractured class, with a protracted Speaker’s Race, where no one, at least for some time, could get a majority.”

“I’m not interested in being part of that,” he wrote. “I’d rather be a member of a unified team than the leader of a fractured one.”

Fine said there were personal considerations to his decision as well. He said he misses his family, and the time away has “taken a real toll on our family.”

“My oldest is nine, but will be 16 at the end of our eight years. How much of those precious years do I want to miss? Those of you who know me know that my life revolves around the twin suns (or sons) of Jacob and David,” he wrote. “And I’m definitely not interested in spending time away from them to participate in a class fratricide.”

Fine also wrote that the family’s home was destroyed in October by Hurricane Matthew and the ensuing weather. While they had hoped it could be repaired quickly, Fine said it appears the house will need to be torn down, redesigned and entirely rebuilt.

“I believe God has a plan for each of us, and to a large degree, I believe His decision to put us through this dislocation was a message,” he wrote. “So I have decided to step away from it. I’m not going to call for us not to have a secret ballot, or attempt to call the question, or anything of the kind. I also believe that if it is over – if we want any shot of returning to an April 11th world – we should pull together. We should put Team over self.”

Fine did not disclose in his email who he planned to support in the Speaker’s race, saying he didn’t “want there to be any hint that I’m trying to influence anyone else to do anything they think is best.” On Friday, FloridaPolitics.com reported Fine is likely to support Renner for Speaker.

“I know there is a lot to process, but as we look to get together in a few weeks, I hope it can be in the spirit of unification,” wrote Fine.

Rules changes sparked Byron Donalds to seek Speakership

Byron Donalds started thinking about running for Speaker early on in his legislative career.

He knew he could be a voice for change and offer a different perspective than some of his classmates, but also knew the traditional method for electing a leader meant the Speakership was unlikely for a lesser known freshman. Then the rules changed; and in some ways, so did the state of the race.

When members voted to change the rules to prohibit speaker candidates from campaigning or accepting pledges before June 30, Donalds said he decided “it was something to take on.”

As the Speaker’s race speeds toward a June 30 vote, the 38-year-old Naples resident is one of five freshmen —including Randy Fine, Erin Grall, Jamie Grant and Paul Renner — trying to make the case for why he is the best the person for the job.

“No. 1, I think I’m willing to take on major issues, like education and tort reform, things that are critical to the future of the state,” said Donalds in an interview. “Secondly, I think I resonate well with the people in general.”

As a freshman lawmaker, Donalds has made a name for himself as someone who is willing to take on tough, even unpopular issues, from proposing changes to the state’s Sunshine Law to supporting sweeping changes to education policy.

His commitment to education policy and school choice is no secret. He mulled a run for Collier County school board in 2012, but opted instead to run for Congress when a seat opened up. His wife, Erika, ended up winning a school board seat and is now a member of the Constitution Revision Commission. Together they played an active role in getting Mason Classical Academy, a Collier County charter school, off the ground. Donalds served on its board until he went to Tallahassee.

And Donalds isn’t a stranger to tough campaigns, either. He was one of six Republicans who ran in Florida’s 19th Congressional District in 2012. A relative unknown back then, he won Collier County and made a good showing, capturing 14 percent of the total vote. By comparison, Trey Radel, the Fort Myers Republican who would go on to win the general election, won the primary with just 30 percent of the vote.

He easily won his House District 80 race, despite another tough primary. But unlike those races, Donalds said it’s tough to gauge where he stands in the race for Speaker.

That’s because under new Republican conference rules, candidates may not directly or indirectly solicit or accept any “formal or informal pledge of support” prior to June 30. And Donald said acting within the rules means he’s not asking for votes, like he would if he were if he were a candidate for any other type of office.

Still, Donalds said he thinks he’s been received warmly and plans to “just keep talking to people” as the vote approaches. And Donalds sees the push for a secret ballot, instead of accepting pledge cards, to “transformational in and of itself.”

“I think you show who you are by your work, and talk to members about what you’re trying to accomplish,” said Donalds. “In our political world, the messenger matters, it just does. I’m a little different. I’m not the prototypical Republican. It shows the depth of our party and it shows the depth of our Legislature.”

 

Could Erin Grall become ‘Madam Speaker?’

Erin Grall first thought about making a run for legislative leadership during the 2016 election cycle.

At the time, she said it didn’t seem like there would be a chance for her to run for Speaker. But then Republican members voted to change the rules governing the election of their leader. Now every freshman had a full session to make an impression before the real campaigning was supposed to start.

“When the rules changed, I saw it as an opportunity to work really hard … and get to know my classmates and let them get to know me,” she said in an interview Wednesday.  “I feel like that’s the best approach to servant leadership.”

As the Speaker’s race speeds toward a June 30 vote, the 39-year-old Vero Beach attorney is one of five members of the Republican freshman caucus running for Speaker. If elected, Grall will be the first female to serve in the position.

Grall said that isn’t the only reason why she’s running, but acknowledged that she would offer a “new and different perspective.”

“I very much believe that role models are important. To the extent that I could get other women involved in the process, I think it’s important (they are involved,)” she said. “Our perspective is a little different. I think that it is lost in the process. It is important. I believe I was successful, but I think some women don’t feel there is going to be support.”

Grall was elected in 2016 after a tough primary election in House District 54. Four Republicans, including Grall, were vying to replace Debbie Mayfield, who was term-limited and running for the Florida Senate.

The House District 54 race marked the second time Grall has run for office. She ran in House District 29 in 2010, losing the race to Rep. Tom Goodson by just 1 percentage point. It was that race, though, that made Grall realize she wanted to be in public service.

Tough races, both in 2010 and again in 2016, have helped shape Grall. She said it’s shown constituents, as well as her colleagues in the Legislature and others in The Process, that she has a strong center and is a “voice for advocacy.”

Grall said she has started to have discussions with her colleagues about her candidacy in a more open way. She said she thought having discussions about it “during session could have provided a distraction,” and has recently started talking to members about her vision for the future.

“My conversation is about how do we bring new members to a collective vision of a 20-year plan, and not a 2-year election cycle,” she said.

That means building on the ideas put forward by current leadership and making sure future classes understand that vision; looking at ways to make sure “each and every member’s talents are being utilized” to their best potential; and offer training and mentoring to people who want it.

With about two weeks until the vote, Grall said she was “not certain” about her chances. Under new Republican conference rules, candidates for the office of Republican Leader-designate may not directly or indirectly solicit or accept any “formal or informal pledge of support” prior to June 30.

While Grall might not be willing to handicap her chances, a push for a secret ballot come election day might be to her benefit. Grall said that method will “allow people to vote for the best people to serve the class and Florida.”

Three candidates — Randy Fine, Jamie Grant and Paul Renner — have been in the race for a significant period of time, while Byron Donalds, like Grall, is a relatively recent entrant into the race.

Grall said there has been value in the conversations she has been having, and it is clear her colleagues “have a great deal of respect” for her. She said she’s hopeful that will translate to success come June 30.

“I know I will be able to work with all of them in success for Florida,” she said.

 

Northeast Florida fundraising roundup: Paul Renner’s committee leads field

Though Rep. Paul Renner’s political committee was the clubhouse leader in Northeast Florida fundraising in May with $261,500, donors didn’t shy away from other committees and candidates.

Below are those who have reported thus far with May numbers.

Among committees of note: Lenny Curry’s “Build Something That Lasts” brought in $27,000. Sen. Rob Bradley‘s “Working for Florida’s Families” brought in $20,000 (keeping it over $400,000 on hand). And “Pledge This Day,” Rep. Jay Fant‘s committee devoted now to his run for Attorney General, brought in just $9,000 in May.

On the hard money front, Fant did better, with $79,575 of new money; of that sum, $8,000 came from Fant, and $3,000 came from his political committee, “Pledge This Day“.

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Leading local Senators by default, Sen. Aaron Bean brought in $3,500 of new money, bringing him to just over $20,000 on hand. Sen. Audrey Gibson took a W.

Lots of W’s in the House: Rep. Cord Byrd, of deep-red, Beaches-and-Nassau House District 11, took one. As did Rep. Tracie Davis and Rep. Kim Daniels, Democrats from HD 13 and 14. And Rep. Jason Fischer of Southside Jacksonville’s HD 16. And Putnam County Rep. Bobby Payne in HD 19.

Rep. Clay Yarborough‘s $6,100 of May money gives him over $14,000 on hand to defend a safe Republican seat in House District 12. on Jacksonville’s Southside.

In HD 17, St. Johns’ Rep. Cyndi Stevenson saw $750 of new money. In HD 24, Rep. Renner saw $2,500 in hard money, with all the action on the committee level.

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In Duval local elections, a few numbers worthy of reporting.

School Board incumbent Scott Shine is up to $13,000 banked in his 2018 re-election bid.

Running to replace termed out John Crescimbeni in At Large District 2, GOP insider Ron Salem is now over $90,000 on hand after a $13,475 May.

Other candidates in local races thus far have not demonstrated fundraising traction.

Northeast Florida delivers $260K in May to Paul Renner committee

Back in May, we reported on Northeast Florida powerbrokers going “all in” for Rep. Paul Renner as the region’s best hope for Florida House Speaker.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, essentially the model Republican of his generation in this part of the state, delivered an altar call at a Duval fundraiser. And the donor class delivered something better than Hosannas: $261,500 for Renner’s political committee, Florida Foundation for Liberty.

The Speaker’s race is, by design, difficult to handicap. Yet what’s clear here is the financial commitment from donors, which span most of the meaningful names in the donor class in the region. And what’s between the lines: it is unwise for any House members to think beyond regional priorities in the Speaker’s race.

Pacing the field: local gambling concern Best Bet, at $25,000.

Coming in with $10,000, political committees associated with Senators Rob Bradley (“Working for Florida’s Families) and Travis Hutson (“Sunshine State Conservatives”).

Meanwhile, there’s more starpower in the non-elected donors than on the starting roster of the 1927 Yankees.

All the important local corporate donors: Summit Contracting, Vestcor, Florida Blue, Rayonier, Gate Petroleum, Florida East Coast Industries, Rayonier, and so on.

And all the big names: from Mike Hightower to Michael Munz, from Husein Cumber to John Rood, from John Baker to Steve Halverson.

The lobbyists, including Southern Strategy Group’s Deno Hicks and Marty Fiorentino, still experiencing momentum from the sea change in the White House and his work of late in D.C.

And the Jax Chamber, via “JAX BIZ”, is also on board.

The road to the Speakership runs through Northeast Florida, and Paul Renner is the best shot the region has had in 20 years.

An amazing journey for a candidate who lost by three votes less than three years ago to Rep. Jay Fant, then relocated to Palm Coast for his second run.

Northeast Florida consultants and politicos are looking for coalescence; it is said that if the region unites behind Renner, it’s game over.

We understand that there is one holdout: Rep. Cord Byrd, a regional anomaly in his support for Jamie Grant.

One assumes the donor class is watching which way Byrd goes on this one. Even though he’s in the deepest of deep red seats, only one man is going to win what looks like a binary Speaker’s race.

And for Northeast Florida, there is but one choice.

The economic incentives bill clears the House by a lopsided vote

The House passed the economic incentives package Friday over complaints it would hand Gov. Rick Scott a “slush fund” and make a mockery of the leadership’s professed opposition to picking winners and losers in the economy.

The vote was 111-4. The “no” votes were John Cortes, Evan Jenne, McGhee, and Emily Slosberg — all Democrats.

The bill represents “a fundamental change in direction” for the state’s economic development programs — away from subsidizing individual companies, said Paul Renner, carrying the measure.

“The old way of doing economic development asked from the many to give to the few — asked from all the taxpayers to give to a handful of privileged companies that can navigate the system here in Tallahassee to receive these incentives,” he said.

“We are taking a departure from that, because it violated that basic fundamental principle, that compact between the government and the taxpayers.”

Democrats, however, complained the bill would give governors too much discretion to spend money without oversight — creating an “$85 million slush fund where we’re giving the governor a little bucket of money … and he’s going to get to pick winners and losers,” David Richardson argued.

He voted for it anyway.

“We don’t want to support this slush fund but, if we don’t vote for it, we can’t get the money for Visit Florida. And that’s all part of the design,” he said. “Members, welcome to sausage-making.”

The bill, HB 1-A, envisions an $85 million Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to support infrastructure and job training programs. It would not allow grants to individual businesses. There’d be another $76 million for Visit Florida tourism marketing.

The Senate version, SB 2-A, provides for tighter oversight. For example, projects more than $750,000 would need approval by a special legislative committee. Those worth more than $500,000 would need to be posted on the organization’s website for 14 days before they take effect.

The House pushed to end both programs during the regular session; the Senate sided with Scott in favor. House leaders relented following the session after Scott agreed to limit grants to broad infrastructure and training investments.

Republican Randy Fine said he was prepared to trust that Scott — a wealthy businessman who doesn’t draw his salary — “will spend this money in the best way possible.”

Furthermore, the bill could “serve as a model to the country for how economic development should work. Maybe we can lead the country away from this notion from handing money out to companies,” and toward investments in infrastructure and job training.

“This is a great compromise,” Fine said.

Democrat Kionne McGhee didn’t buy it.

“What we are doing today is creating a political action committee for the governor,” he said. “This is not a slush fund or trust fund — this is a state-sponsored PAC.”

Jim Boyd, a Republican who sits on Enterprise Florida’s board, insisted the bill represents a fair compromise. “We don’t always end up where we started out, and that’s a good thing,” he said.

House panel clears Special Session infrastructure, job training bill

The House’s main budgeting panel on Wednesday cleared one of the bills planned for the Special Session dealing with tourism promotion, job training and public infrastructure.

The Appropriations Committee, on a unanimous vote, OK’d the measure (HB 1A).

Among other things, it creates the $85 million Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, and awards $76 million to and imposes accountability and transparency measures on VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism marketing agency.

The bill—carried by House Republican Paul Renner—was supported by a range of tourism interests, including VISIT FLORIDA CEO Ken Lawson, the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, and more than a dozen independent hotel owners from throughout the state.

Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat, tried to amend the bill, however.

He wanted to shut down the ability of a project getting funded the same year it was vetoed: “I don’t want this to become a back door,” he said.

Moskowitz withdrew his amendment after Renner said there could be “changes in circumstance” that would merit later funding of a vetoed project.

Several Democrats complained about the bill before voting for it.

Rep. Roy Hardemon, a Miami Democrat, said he had no compassion for people “crying on his shoulder” about not getting funding when tourists already don’t visit inner city areas, including Liberty City, that he represents. 

Rep. David Richardson, a Miami Beach Democrat, had reservations about giving Scott and future governors a “big bucket of money with no oversight,” referring to the Job Growth Grant Fund.

Also, “it seems to me there’s going to be no transparency at all … when that money goes to local governments” to be spent, he said. 

And House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa used the example of a man who has expensive golfing equipment but can’t play.

The growth fund “is all bag, no golf … it’s a slush fund, money you worked hard for and send to us, now we’re going to say, ‘here you go, Guv, spend this on who you want to,’ ” she said. 

But Republicans countered that the bill was “exactly what we hoped for … and it feels great,” as Rep. Jason Brodeur put it. 

House Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues added: “We will have greater control … We have taken a program that was problematic and made it much, much stronger.”

The committee also approved a bill (HB 3A) for education funding that “appropriates $11.7 billion in total state funds” and “provides $7,296.23 in total funds per student, a $100 increase over total funds per student provided in Fiscal Year 2016-2017.”

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