Paul Renner – Florida Politics

Honor roll: State legislators receive high marks from Florida Chamber

The grades are in, and from the perspective of those pushing for a more fertile business climate in the Sunshine State, the Legislature is getting better — but there’s still work to be done.

Each year the Florida Chamber grades state legislators after tabulating votes on measures backed by the pro-business group. The 2018 Legislative Report Card, released Thursday, showed significant improvement from the 2017 Session.

Forty-seven percent of legislators earned an A — that’s up from a mere 9 percent in 2017. The average GPA for both chambers came in at 78 percent, up from last year’s 73 percent.

The House performed better than the Senate; 64 representatives earned an A and the chamber’s GPA came to 79 percent, compared to eight A-earning senators and an average GPA of 74 percent for the upper chamber. House Speaker Richard Corcoran earned an A. Senate President Joe Negron earned a C.

A news release from the Chamber attributed the higher overall scores to “cutting red tape, chipping away at Florida-only taxes, funding for economic development, tourism marketing and infrastructure investments, and targeted education reforms.”

Unresolved matters, the Chamber contends, include reforming assignment of benefits and lawsuit abuses, stabilizing workers’ compensation and increasing investments in Florida’s workforce colleges.

“While there is always room for improvement and more work to be done, this legislative session’s grades showed many legislators took steps in the right direction on several policy fronts and voted to prevent harmful ideas from becoming law. We look forward to a session when every legislator earns an ‘A’ and Florida’s competitiveness outranks every other state,” said David Hart, executive vice president of the Chamber. 

The grades shouldn’t come as a surprise to lawmakers. The Chamber released its legislative priorities ahead of the 2018 Session and hand-delivered its agenda to every legislator. The group alerted lawmakers prior to each time it intended to factor a vote into its report card. In total, the Chamber scored 2,900 votes.

Along with the report card, the chamber announced its Distinguished Advocate award winners. The recognition is reserved for a handful of legislators who fought tirelessly for the passage of pro-business legislation – no matter how difficult – and furthered the Florida Chamber’s goals of securing Florida’s future through job creation and economic development,” according to the Chamber. 

Fifteen lawmakers received the distinction this year. Most were recognized for their pro-business efforts. St. Petersburg Rep. Ben Diamond, the lone Democrat on the list, was honored for championing a lawsuit-limiting amendment. Incoming chamber leaders, Republicans Rep. Jose Oliva and Sen. Bill Galvanowere recognized for their roles in championing school safety measures in the wake of the Parkland tragedy.

“We’re pleased to recognize members of the Florida Legislature with Distinguished Advocate awards who had the courage to put free enterprise principles for job creation above special interest,” said Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson.

Other honorees include:

– Rep. Manny Diaz

– Rep. Joe Gruters

– Rep. Clay Ingram

– Rep. Mike La Rosa

– Rep. Scott Plakon

– Rep. Holly Raschein

– Rep. Paul Renner

– Rep. Jay Trumbull

– Sen. Dennis Baxley

– Sen. David Simmons

– Sen. Wilton Simpson

– Sen. Kelli Stargel

Chris Sprowls, Paul Renner to headline Bobby Olszewski fundraiser

Two Florida House speaker designates, state Reps. Chris Sprowls and Paul Renner, are the headliners at an upcoming campaign fundraiser for Republican state Rep. Bobby Olszewski‘s House District 44 re-election campaign.

Sprowls, the Palm Coast Republican who chairs the House Judicial Committee and is in line to become speaker in 2021, and Renner, the Palm Harbor Republican who chairs the Ways and Means Committee and is in line to become speaker in 2023, will lead Olszewski’s fundraising effort at an April 23 evening gathering at the law offices of Shutts & Bowen in Orlando.

Olszewski, of Winter Garden, is a self-described red-shirt freshman in the Florida House, having won a special election in October, only to campaign now for his first full term. This fundraiser is being described as his kick-off fundraiser.

Olszewski has several Democratic challengers, notably former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, businessman Eddy Dominguez, and urban planner Matthew Matin. The district covers much of southwest Orange County, from the theme parks to parts of Winter Garden, Ocoee and Oakland.

“As a red-shirt freshman I was really excited with the results from this past session. Getting three of my six bills passed off the House floor was very satisfying, especially getting child sex trafficking victims more treatment at hospitals and residential treatment centers, which was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott,” Olszewski said in a statement about his upcoming fundraiser. “I was also able to get nearly $3 million of appropriations back to our local community, including to Health Central Hospital of Orlando Health, the town of Oakland for their water treatment to help restore Apopka, and Lake Sumter State College, where many District 44 residents attend their Clermont campus.”

Duval House members had their reasons for opposing gun, school safety bill

Wednesday saw HB 7026 pass the Florida House by a 67-50 margin.

The $400 million gun and school safety proposal will fund demolition of a building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 14 students and three teachers were gunned down on Valentine’s Day. It also includes gun-control provisions banning the sale of bump stocks and raising the legal age to buy an assault rifle from 18 to 21.

The bill passed in spite of a lack of support from the Duval delegation; in fact, only Rep. Kim Daniels, a Democrat, voted for the measure.

Meanwhile, Democrat Tracie Davis opposed the bill, as did Republicans Cord ByrdClay YarboroughJay Fant, and Jason Fischer.

Davis opposed the bill for different reasons than the Republicans.

“Each and every day, black and brown boys and girls face the threat of gun violence whenever they leave their homes,” Davis said.

“This issue affects our communities in a way that some in this chamber will never understand,” she added, “while we are having this debate, I ask that we keep their lives in mind, their futures in mind, their dreams in mind, because too often, this Legislature has not.”

The Republican opposition to the bill was rooted in what legislators saw as abrogations of constitutional rights.

Byrd, an attorney with a deep interest in gun issues, asserted that he “could not vote for legislation that has serious constitutional infirmities infringing upon the Second, Fourth and Fifth Amendments.”

“The gun control measures in SB 7026 would not have prevented the Parkland tragedy. The desire to ‘do something’ cannot serve as the rationale to infringe upon the rights of law-abiding 18-20-year-olds,” Byrd asserted, adding that he backs the extra funding “to improve our mental health system, harden our schools and increase the presence of school resource officers.”

Yarborough “could not support it because concerns in the legislation outweigh what is good about it,” he said, though like Byrd he will be “voting in favor of our budget as it will contain funding for school security measures as well as mental health provisions that I hope will stop the next person who wants to terrorize our schools.”

Fant, running as the most Second Amendment-friendly candidate in the Attorney General race, likewise was a hard no: “We can protect our students without taking away the rights of law-abiding citizens. ‬When I’m AG, I won’t make ‘judgement calls’ on your Constitutional rights – I’ll defend and protect them in every scenario.”‬

Meanwhile, Rep. Paul Renner of Palm Coast — a legislator with deep Duval ties, who lost a primary to Fant by just two votes in 2014 — went with Speaker Richard Corcoran and voted for the bill.

“This bill represents a bipartisan effort that focuses on bolstering school safety, increasing funding for mental health, and denying dangerous individuals the means to harm others. Public safety is government’s first priority. The Florida Legislature delivered on thoughtful and responsible reforms to promote public safety and ensure that the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will never happen again,” Renner asserted.

Material from Florida Politics’ James Rosica was used in this post.

Stage set for reaching deal on tax cuts

Florida lawmakers prepared Friday to hammer out a tax-cut plan, with the Senate introducing a $148 million package and the House scrapping a controversial tax-related proposal that local governments argued could prevent them from banning unwanted businesses such as “puppy mills.”

For most Floridians, the highlights of a final package could be sales-tax “holidays” for back-to-school shoppers and hurricane-season preparations, though the details of House and Senate proposals differ and will have to be negotiated.

House and Senate leaders said earlier this week that they expect a final tax-cut package of about $80 million. Both proposals are larger than that benchmark, but legislative leaders have said they will need to scale back tax cuts to help pay for a $400 million school-safety plan after the mass shooting last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

House Ways & Means Chairman Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican whose committee crafted a nearly $400 tax-cut package, acknowledged Friday that changes will be needed.

“Given the recent events, there will be some changes before we get to the final tax bill,” Renner said.

The House on Friday took up its package (HB 7087) and positioned it for a vote as soon as Monday.

The House package includes a 10-day tax holiday for back-to-school shoppers, which would allow people to avoid paying sales taxes on clothes costing $60 or less and school supplies costing $15 or less and on the first $1,000 of the cost of personal computers and accessories. The House plan also includes three seven-day holidays on the purchases of hurricane supplies.

Also, the House package includes a controversial plan to expand by $154 million a year sales-tax credits that businesses could receive to fund voucher-like scholarships in the Gardiner Scholarship Program and the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program.

The Senate package (SB 620) approved Friday by the Appropriations Committee does not include the tax-credit proposal.

Renner called the school tax credits a “very, very important” part of the House plan. But Renner moved Friday to remove two controversial proposals that had only been in the House package.

The first was language that would have prohibited local governments from banning sales of goods that are subject to sales taxes. Local government officials argued the policy change could have lifted restrictions now in place against “puppy mills” and adult entertainment establishments.

The second issue removed Friday would have further lowered a tax on aviation fuel, a proposal that had been opposed by airport officials across Florida.

Proponents of the aviation fuel tax reduction — the rate is already set to drop from 6.9 cents to 4.27 cents a gallon next year — argued a further decrease would help draw more air traffic. Airport officials countered that the reduction wouldn’t result in more flights to Florida, and their facilities rely on the fuel tax to obtain matching federal dollars to pay for upgrades.

Renner said “our priorities have changed” after the Parkland school shooting and that the move wasn’t tied to a Delta Air Lines decision to drops a discount program for National Rifle Association members — an issue that has drawn heavy attention in Georgia’s legislature.

“This is a first step in looking at how we make additional revenues available,” Renner said of removing the proposed $14.1 million aviation fuel-tax reduction from the bill. “We’re going to spend upwards of $400 million in school hardening, in school security and mental health, and these other areas, and that money has to come from somewhere.”

Senate Finance and Tax Appropriations Chairwoman Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican, said the Senate measure, which includes components of other bills, should address the needs of many Floridians, especially “people who suffered from Hurricane Irma.”

The Senate is offering a reduction in a commercial lease tax from 5.8 percent to 5.7 percent.  The House has proposed dropping the tax rate to 5.5 percent starting Jan. 1.

The Senate package includes a seven-day tax holiday on hurricane-preparation items such as batteries, portable self-powered radios and generators.

The Senate’s back-to-school holiday would run three-days in early August. Unlike the House’s 10-day proposal, the Senate would not lift sales taxes on the first $1,000 of the price of a personal laptop computers and accessories.

Both the House and Senate would provide tax breaks on fencing materials purchased for repairs after Hurricane Irma. Also, proposals call for providing tax breaks for citrus packing houses that have had their businesses interrupted by Hurricane Irma or the disease citrus greening and for fuel used to transport agricultural products after the storm.

Tax plan stirs controversy over schools, airports

Over objections that more money would flow away from public schools and that airport projects could be grounded, the House Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday approved a nearly $350 million tax package that would help farmers impacted by Hurricane Irma and lower a lease tax on businesses.

In a 14-6 vote along party lines, the Republican-dominated committee approved the package (PCB WMC 18-03), which also includes a series of sales tax “holidays’ on back-to-school items and hurricane supplies and offers an 18 percent reduction in penalties for non-criminal traffic infractions — such as speeding within 30 mph over the posted limit — if motorists attend driver-improvement school.

The Senate is working on a package that is expected to include portions of the House measure.

The House vote came after the committee added a provision, opposed by airport officials throughout the state, that would reduce the aviation fuel tax next year to 2.85 cents a gallon. The rate is currently scheduled to go down from 6.9 cents to 4.27 cents a gallon next year.

The committee, meanwhile, rejected an attempt by Democrats to separate part of the package that calls for $154 million in sales-tax credits that businesses could take to fund voucher-like scholarships in the Gardiner Scholarship Program and the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program.

“This is going to explode, sending our traditional public-school students into private institutions,” said Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, a Boynton Beach Democrat who also objected to part of the package that would require the Department of Revenue to disclose to scholarship-funding organizations a list of the 200 taxpayers with the greatest corporate income-tax liability during the previous calendar year.

“Why attach such a divisive measure to such good policy?” Abruzzo asked.

Rep. Loranne Ausley, a Tallahassee Democrat, warned the expansion of the tax credits would “cripple” public schools, while Rep. Joe Geller, an Aventura Democrat, called the proposal a “giveaway.”

“To me this is the Titanic approach to funding education,” Geller said. “It has a few people that may get to be put into a lifeboat, but at the expense of all of our students who rely upon public education dollars. And there will never be enough lifeboats.”

Committee Chairman Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican, defended the tax-credit program and the list as ways to open the funding to more companies and to help the scholarship-funding organizations, or SFOs, which play a key role in administering scholarships.

“We have thousands and thousands of companies that are subject to the tax that do not pay the tax, and many others who have no liability under the tax,” Renner said. “So, while the SFOs can reach that tax to pay for these scholarships, it is not a case that they are able to find those companies that are able to participate.”

Renner said the list would be alphabetical, would not disclose the amount of taxes owed by the companies and could only be used to notify taxpayers of the opportunity to make contributions to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program.

The House package also includes a $6.7 million cut that would provide a sales-tax exemption for generator purchases by nursing homes and assisted living facilities. It also includes tax refunds on building materials, fencing and gas for farmers hit by Irma.

Another $34.1 million next year in the House package would come from reducing the commercial lease tax from 5.8 percent to 5.5 percent starting Jan. 1. That reduction would affect half of the state’s 2018-2019 fiscal year, and the savings to businesses would grow to $81.1 million when implemented for a full fiscal year.

Meanwhile, airport officials from throughout the state objected to a measure added to the package Wednesday by Rep. Lawrence McClure, a Dover Republican, to further cut the aviation fuel tax.

McClure said the change is intended to make Florida more competitive against states like North Carolina and Texas, which don’t charge the tax.

The change is expected to reduce about $8 million in revenue that goes into a transportation trust fund, which receives about $11 billion a year.

Airport officials said the change won’t result in more flights to Florida, and their facilities rely on the fuel tax to obtain matching federal dollars to pay for upgrades, while the trust fund dollars are spread among roads, seaports, spaceports, airports and rail services.

“The demand to grow Florida’s airports are here today,” said Gary Duncan, chairman of the Florida Aviation Council and deputy executive director at the Lee County Port Authority. “Airlines fly to where the demand is. They take a lot into account to figure where they’re going to put their asset, their aircraft, and they go to where the demand is, where they can make a high yield. If they could make more money flying from Chicago to L.A., versus Chicago to New York, they’re going to go Chicago to L.A. And the cost of fuel is not factored in.”

Duncan said Florida airports, from the large commercial facilities to general aviation fields, need about $7 billion in upgrades and an increase in landing fees — which could cost commercial airlines more than the fuel tax — could be a way to make up the lost money.

Fred Baggett, a lobbyist for Airlines for America, which includes major airlines, argued that a lower fuel tax would bring more air traffic and called the remarks from airport officials “a fear rather than facts.”

House readies ‘across the board’ tax package

Farmers, nursing homes and property owners impacted by Hurricane Irma could receive tax relief as part of a $332.7 million package that will be introduced Wednesday in the Florida House.

The package (PCB WMC 18-03), which will be rolled out in the House Ways & Means Committee, will be built on education-related tax credits, a reduction in a commercial-lease tax and sales tax “holidays’ on back-to-school items and hurricane supplies.

Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican, said Tuesday the goal is to offer “across the board” savings, without hurting the budget.

“There are many people that are interested in tax cuts, tax credits, but we tried to look at what is the most effective way from a public policy standpoint to benefit Floridians,” Renner said.

A Senate tax-cut proposal is still in the works.

Senate Finance and Tax Appropriations Chairwoman Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican, said the Senate has not set a “bottom-line number” for its package.

Stargel said the package might include a number of the House proposals, from hurricane relief for agriculture to the sales tax holidays. But she said the numbers might not exactly align.

“There are several things that they’ve included that I think that we can agree on, that we like that they’re doing,” Stargel said. “There’s a couple of things we’re not really sure. It’s ambiguous. We’re having to look into a little more detail as to how it’s supposed to work out.”

Stargel said she’d like to support a further reduction in the commercial-lease tax, while she needs more information about the educational tax credits.

With a hit to local government revenue accounting for $37.6 million of the House package, the overall proposal tops the $180 million in cuts approved last year and a $180 million request by Gov. Rick Scott for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Scott’s proposal includes shopping tax “holidays” and a request to cut fees on driver’s licenses.

But the House package differs, proposing an 18 percent reduction on civil penalties for non-criminal traffic infractions — such as speeding within 30 mph over the posted limit — if motorists attend driver-improvement school.

The House package also includes a $6.7 million cut by providing a sales-tax exemption for generator purchases by nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Scott’s administration has pushed for nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have generators after the deaths of residents of a Broward County nursing home that lost its air-conditioning system in Hurricane Irma.

The largest part of the House package, an estimated $154 million a year reduction in state revenue, would come through sales-tax credits that businesses could take to fund voucher-like scholarships in the Gardiner Scholarship Program and the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program.

Stargel said her committee may workshop the proposal.

“It’s something different that we’ve not ever seen,” Stargel said. “The proposal has not run through any of our discussions.”

Another $34.1 million next year in the House package would come from reducing the commercial lease tax from 5.8 percent to 5.5 percent starting Jan. 1. That reduction would affect half of the state’s 2018-2019 fiscal year, and the savings to businesses would grow to $81.1 million when implemented for a full fiscal year.

Long a target for elimination by business-lobbying groups, lawmakers dropped the lease tax from 6 percent to 5.8 percent a year ago.

The House would offer a 10-day back-to-school tax holiday in August that would allow families to avoid paying sales taxes on school supplies, clothes costing $60 or less and personal computers and accessories up to $1,000. The package also would offer three separate seven-day periods in May, June and July when Floridians could buy hurricane supplies without paying sales taxes. The holidays are collectively projected to total $74.5 million.

The package also would offer post-Irma tax refunds on agricultural building materials, which would be a projected $8.8 million savings for farmers; on agricultural fencing, $2.7 million; and fuel used to transport agricultural products, $3.7 million.

Another $13.1 million would be available to cover losses when citrus processing equipment went idle because of Irma or because of the industry’s decade-long battle against citrus greening disease.

The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has estimated farmers and ranchers incurred $2.5 billion in losses from Hurricane Irma.

Most of the losses are expected to be covered through a federal spending plan signed by President Donald Trump that included $2.36 billion for agricultural impacts from Irma and hurricanes Harvey in Texas and Maria in Puerto Rico.

Among other proposals, the package also would provide a property-tax abatement for homeowners forced out of their residences for at least 30 days due to damages from hurricanes Hermine, Matthew and Irma in 2016 and 2017.

House eyes potential tax cuts

A further reduction in a business-lease taxes, lifting sales taxes on diapers and aircraft and holding sales-tax “holidays” were among proposals that a key House committee heard Monday as lawmakers start to put together a tax-cut package for the coming year.

The measures presented to the House Ways & Means Committee had already been submitted as individual bills and, if all were approved, would well exceed the $180 million in tax and fee cuts requested by Gov. Rick Scott.

Ways & Means Chairman Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican, was quick to say not all of the proposals would advance. He also said other measures — such as Scott’s proposal to decrease fees on motorists — may not need much vetting.

“It’s pretty straightforward,” Renner said about Scott’s request to reduce driver’s license fees. “It has a fiscal (impact).”

By dropping renewal fees for regular driver’s licenses from $48 to $20 and the cost of first-time licenses from $48 to $27, the governor’s office estimates motorists would save $91 million during the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Renner added he’s not been given a tax-cut target by House Speaker Richard Corcoran or started talks with his Senate counterpart Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican who is chairwoman of Senate Finance and Tax Appropriations Subcommittee.

“We’ll certainly try to work with the governor on some of his ideas, and those include a back-to-school tax holiday, includes a disaster-preparedness tax holiday, which we discussed today,” Renner said.

In addition to proposing lower motorist fees, Scott has also proposed a 10-day back-to-school sales tax “holiday” on clothes and school supplies and three week-long disaster preparedness tax “holidays” in May, June and July.

Scott’s proposed tax and fee cuts are the smallest package he has proposed as governor. The state was expected to have a modest budget surplus during the upcoming fiscal year, but costs related to Hurricane Irma have made the budget even tighter.

Under the package released by Scott, the proposed sales tax “holidays” would account for $88 million of the tax savings.

The Ways & Means Committee heard another proposed (HB 519) sales tax “holiday” on Monday. That proposal would allow small businesses to avoid collecting sales taxes on items costing up to $1,000 on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The small-business holiday would counter the big-box store dominated “Black Friday” shopping that traditionally marks the start of the year-end shopping season.

The committee on Monday also heard a couple of measures to lower a tax on commercial leases that has been a target for elimination by lawmakers and business groups for years.

One proposal (HB 939) would further lower the business rent tax, which went from 6 percent to 5.8 percent as part of a tax package last year.

Under a proposal by Rep. Jackie Toledo, a Tampa Republican, the rate would drop to 5 percent, which could save $218 million for businesses.

“Of course, I would love to eliminate it, but this would be more amenable to the budget because we do have a budget deficit,” Toledo said.

Last year’s cut to the lease tax was projected as providing annual savings of $61 million. It was part of a $180 million tax-cut package advanced by lawmakers. Scott did not include reducing the lease tax in his proposed package for the upcoming year.

Meanwhile, Rep. Larry Ahern, a Seminole Republican, wants the House committee to consider a separate measure (HB 409) that would phase out the rent tax over the next decade.

Under a proposal (HB 6045) before the committee by Rep. Mike Miller, a Winter Park Republican, aircraft sales and leases would be exempt from sales taxes. Miller said the proposal would help protect the aircraft industry in Florida.

“I’m not necessarily looking for the high-end user,” Miller said. “I’m fighting for the men or women who are actually working behind the scenes to keep it operable and keep it safe.”

Rep. Mike Grant, a Port Charlotte Republican, said the state is losing jobs as aircraft built in Florida are moved to other states to be sold.

The committee also looked at proposals to provide sales-tax exemptions for baby diapers, adult diapers and baby wipes (HB 163) and bed handles, hospital beds, lifts, handrails, toilet seat risers (HB 1123).

Florida TaxWatch turns focus to taxpayers with annual Session event

Tradition abounds in Tallahassee as Florida lawmakers return to begin the people’s business for 2018.

The annual 60-day Legislative Session began Tuesday with Rick Scott’s State of the State address — his last as Governor — followed by the custom of opening statements from each chamber’s leader charting past accomplishments and future goals.

But among the pomp and circumstance in the state Capitol, Florida TaxWatch believes one group is noticeably absent — Florida taxpayers.

That’s why the conservative fiscal watchdog group offers up its own Tallahassee tradition: The “State of the Taxpayer Dinner.”

Florida TaxWatch bills the dinner, scheduled for tonight, as “the premier event for Florida’s elected leaders to discuss the issues that will impact taxpayers over the next year.” The popular affair sold out in both 2016 and 2017.

In 2018, former Gov. Bob Martinez chairs the host committee. Martinez is the onetime mayor of Tampa who served as Florida’s chief executive from 1987 to 1981. Former state Sen. Pat Neal serves as vice chair.

Scheduled speakers will include Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, House Ways & Means Committee Chair Paul Renner, and Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Denise Grimsley. Putnam, a Republican, is currently campaigning for Governor in 2018, while Grimsley is seeking to replace him as Agriculture Commissioner.

“State of the Taxpayer Dinner” begins 6 p.m. at the Hotel Duval Horizon Ballroom, 415 N. Monroe St. in Tallahassee.

For information and tickets, visit

Paul Renner’s November fundraising pushes him over $500K on hand

Palm Coast Republican state Rep. Paul Renner had a $100,000 haul in November between his two political committees, while adding another $39,000 to his campaign account.

All told, between affiliated committees and his campaign account, the future House Speaker has over half a million dollars cash-on-hand.

Florida Foundation for Liberty raised $96,251 and spent $7,114; that committee has $371,000 cash on hand.

November was the strongest month that committee had since Renner won his leadership race earlier this year.

The leading donor: Florida Blue, with $20,000 total. Meanwhile, the tobacco sector was delivering Renner more than smoke; Dosal and Altria both ponied up $10,000 each.

Among the $5,000 committees: Florida Retail Federation, U.S. Sugar, PHRMA, and TECO Energy.

Conservatives for Principled Leadership, a second Renner-affiliated committee, brought in an additional $4,000.

That committee has just over $67,000 on hand.

Beyond the roughly $434,000 Renner has on hand in committees, his campaign brought in $39,200 – his best month since filing for re-election — giving him an additional $74,000.

Among those who maxed out with $1,000 donations: TECO, the Florida Retail Federation political committee, the Florida Retail Federation Pharmacy Council political committee, the Florida Medical Association political committee, the Florida Bankers Association, CARPAC, Dosal, the Mayernick Group, and its affiliated committee, the Alliance for Honest Government.

Renner is likely to face general election competition in 2018 in House District 24 — and it will be the same person he faced in 2016: Democrat Adam Morley.

Morley raised $185.18 in November, and he has roughly $995 on hand.

Paul Renner previews 2018 Legislative Session in Jacksonville

Palm Coast Republican Paul Renner has quickly become one of the most powerful members of the Florida House.

He chairs Ways and Means, and he is on the track to be Speaker in 2022.

Although he represents Palm Coast, Renner practices law in — and has roots in — Jacksonville, where he found himself speaking Wednesday to a crowd at the Southside Business Men’s Club.

The remarks Wednesday offered optimism tempered by a sense of Florida’s challenges, both in this Legislative Session and in the years ahead.

While Florida has “the right policies,” is headed in “the right direction” and has a “bright future,” the state nonetheless faces challenges.

Among those challenges: population growth, including a near-term influx from storm-ravaged Puerto Rico and long term expectations that Florida could add six to eight million people in the coming years. And roads and other infrastructural issues.

Despite Florida being “the #1 state for fiscal health,” Renner contends that the state’s budget looks to be a “break even proposition,” with a meager $50 million surplus — even before Irma happened.

“I don’t know where we are,” Renner said, regarding the budget situation.

Another pressure Renner cited: the state’s health care budget, with Medicaid comprising almost a third of budget, with growth in costs outpacing revenues.

Federal financial help in absorbing the influx of people from Puerto Rico, Renner said, is “something we’d like to see.” But he didn’t sound optimistic that’s in the cards.

Renner also discussed the ongoing imbroglio about medical marijuana; though he didn’t support Amendment 2, he respects the mandate of the voters, noting that “70 percent plus” voted in favor of the ballot measure.

Renner does not believe the amendment covers smokeable cannabis, presenting a familiar argument that without dosage controls and with toxins emitted from burning the herb, “it’s not medicine” and it’s hard to regulate “specific potency” in the way one can with pills, lotions, and vaping.

Regarding implementation delays of the program, Renner says it’s “taken too long,” and fault lies with the Department of Health in “getting the process up and running” for “individuals who are entitled to” medical cannabis.

Renner moved on to discuss economic incentives; he doesn’t expect any change in the House policy there.

Meanwhile, when asked about Amazon’s new headquarters — one that many Florida cities have extended bids for, amidst a sea of cities elsewhere in the country offering unprecedented tax breaks to draw in the company — Renner seemed to think that “Florida is a permanent incentive” and that, as such, more tangible incentives aren’t necessary.

“Government picking winners and losers is something I can’t get my arms around,” Renner said, occasioning applause from the crowd.

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