Paul Renner Archives - Florida Politics

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.

Paul Renner: ‘5 or 10 percent’ of Tallahassee pols have ‘personal conduct’ issues

In a gaggle after an event in Jacksonville Wednesday, Rep. Paul Renner addressed comments made by House colleague Jay Fant — who Renner endorsed for Attorney General — on Twitter.

Fant depicted a Tallahassee culture in which sexual harassment is pervasive, enabled by a culture of entitlement among politicians in The Process.

“What we have in the Florida leg are a lot of tired politicians who’ve been elected for decades and think they own everyone in Florida including the women they harass. These politicians disgust me. I’m horrified for the young women who have to work with them each day,” Fant asserted.

In addressing Fant’s comments, Renner discussed issues in Tallahassee with personal comportment, including but not limited to sexually inappropriate conduct; the Palm Coast Republican painted those issues as linked to the entitlement issues created by power itself.

With Renner tracking toward being House Speaker, Florida Politics asked if he agreed with Fant’s blanket condemnation of the Legislature.

“Two points: one is that human beings being are who they are, in any organization you’re going to have five to ten percent who can’t help themselves in their personal conduct. We need to identify that and ask them to return home because they’ve lost the trust of the people who elected them,” Renner said.

Renner’s second point: term limits.

“You see some of these problems. You look at John Conyers in Congress: he’s 88 years old and has had some serious allegations against him,” Renner added. “Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, there’s a period of time after which people become co-opted, happier to be there than to do what the people sent them there to do.

“They’d rather spend time drinking scotch at the club or doing things that they don’t have any business doing than to do the people’s business,” Renner added. “Do I think that’s widespread among elected members? I do not. But it is an issue, it is a problem, and it’s something we have to take seriously. And as these things arise, it’s something we have to address.”

Renner also addressed the case of Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate whose candidacy has been dogged by allegations of his serial ephebophilia.

“I’ve seen what you’ve seen in the news … if those allegations are true, they’re very, very serious,” Renner said.

Renner would not say Moore should get out of the race, however, saying that there should have been a “more thorough vetting during the primary stage so people could make decisions,” instead of having to decide on “allegations issued on the eve of an election.”

Paul Renner to speak in Jacksonville Wednesday

Rep. Paul Renner, a Republican representing Palm Coast, will speak in Jacksonville Wednesday afternoon at the Southside Business Men’s Club.

Renner, a Jacksonville lawyer, is in line to become House Speaker in 2022 — a long-awaited return to power in Tallahassee for the Jacksonville political class, which still yearns for the days of Jim King and John Thrasher.

Renner, a close ally of current House Speaker Richard Corcoran and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is starting to demonstrate big-league fundraising ability.

October saw $108,000 course into Renner’s political committees, “Florida Foundation for Liberty” and “Conservatives for Principled Leadership.” Defending a safe seat in a deep red district, that money isn’t needed for Renner’s own re-election; he can dole it out to allies and causes with which he accords.

Some of those causes may conflict with those of Jacksonville.

Flagler Live reported last month about a “startling avowal” from Renner, in favor of pre-emption of local ordinances over “home rule” — a concept cherished by local legislators, such as those on the Jacksonville City Council.

“Part of this, to be real blunt about it,” Renner said, “what you’re seeing and this is part of a larger conversation could have is the concentration of support for a more center-left or left-wing viewpoint, and this is again not Flagler County, but our major cities, San Francisco, New York. The Democrat Party has really become a party of dense urban areas and the rest of the country tends to be more conservative, more Republican.

“So part of the fight, part of the sub-context of this whole discussion, is the reason we think they’re going rogue is because it’s Bernie Sanders in charge of your local city government or county government in some cases, and doing things that really are sharp departures from the way the country has become so prosperous, so strong and so free, and so states are stepping in to say, look, we’re not going to let you destroy all the good work that we’re doing and all the economic growth we’re creating in the state for people by trying to ban or shut down particular industries that you don’t like,” Renner added.

Some have interpreted Renner’s rhetorical broadside against “rogue” cities as a potential assault on ordinances such as Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance, recently expanded to protect the rights of LGBT people to employment, housing, and public accommodations.

There has also been narrative divergence about how timely the support of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry was for Renner as the jockeying for leadership progressed in the spring and early summer.

Curry was instrumental in a fundraiser that raised $250,000 for Renner’s committees.

“I engaged,” Curry said, “and my political operation engaged.”

Others have groused, quietly but persistently, that ‘Team Curry’ didn’t engage quickly enough.

Expect audience questions at the Southside Business Men’s Club Wednesday on these and related topics.

The meeting is members-only and takes place starting with lunch service at 11:30 a.m. at the San Jose Country Club.

Terry Power

Terry Power will challenge Jamie Grant in HD 64 primary

Terrance “Terry” Power, a 59-year-old Oldsmar-based certified financial planner, is launching a 2018 primary challenge against House District 64 incumbent Jamie Grant.

“I’m running for the Florida House because I am the best candidate in the race to serve the residents of our District,” the Republican said in a statement released Sunday.

“I’ll let the voters decide how corrupt, unethical, and ineffective my primary opponent is as a legislator and whether he needs to be find another line of work outside of Tallahassee. I’ve made up my mind. That’s why I’m in.”

Grant was cleared in 2014 of ethics violations regarding his involvement in a project to bring high-tech jobs to a rural Florida county. 

Power announced on his Facebook page that if elected, he would donate 100 percent of his salary to charities located in the district. State lawmakers earn $29,697 annually.

District 64 encompasses northwest Tampa, including Westchase, Northdale, and Carrollwood and northeast Pinellas County including Oldsmar, Safety Harbor, and eastern Palm Harbor (East Lake area).

The 35-year-old Grant was first elected in 2010, and was easily re-elected in 2012 and 2014. However, a dispute over the voting process led to a rejection of the 2014 result, leaving the seat vacant until Grant won a special election in early 2015.

Under the state Constitution, a candidate is eligible to run for a legislative seat until he has held that office for “eight consecutive years.” Because of that break between the November 2014 election and the special election, Grant’s win in 2016 ‘reset the clock’ for his time in office, giving him the potential to serve eight more years in the House.

Grant had aspirations of becoming House Speaker, but his bid for that position in 2022 fell short to Palm Coast Republican Paul Renner.


Focus areas doled out for hurricane committee

A select group of lawmakers will be focused on specific, hurricane-related policy recommendations over the next two weeks.

Each member of the House Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness on Friday was assigned a specific area of focus. Chair Jeanette Nuñez, a Miami Republican, grouped the issues into categories following the five educational meetings held by the committee.

“To ensure that we cover all the issue areas, I am asking that you work with staff over the next two weeks to develop possible recommendations for the specific issue categories indicated below,” Nuñez wrote in an email to committee members.

Here are the assignments:

Evacuation: Reps. Robert Asencio, Michael Grant, and Holly Raschein. 

Energy: Reps. Tracie DavisDane Eagle, and Jay Trumbull

Shelters and Vulnerable Populations: Reps. Danny Burgess, Cord Byrd, and Sean Shaw

Health Care Facilities and Medical Care: Vice Chair Ray Rodrigues and Reps. Chris Sprowls and Richard Stark

Agriculture: Reps. Ben Albritton, Kristin Jacobs, and Elizabeth Porter

Future Hurricane Expenditures and Tax Relief: Reps. Grant, Jared Moskowitz, and Paul Renner

Housing: Reps. Bob Cortes, Davis, and Raschein

Beaches, Sanitary Sewers, Stormwater, Flooding, and Debris Removal: Reps. Eagle, Jacobs, and Cyndi Stevenson

Education: Reps. Asencio , Cortes, and Porter

The committee next convenes on Monday, Dec. 4.

NE Florida fundraising round-up: Paul Renner shines; HD 15 is competitive

October brought big scores to some Northeast Florida campaigns and committees. Here’s the seat-by-seat rundown.

State Senate

Senate District 4’s Republican incumbent Aaron Bean brought home the bucks.

October saw $36,000 come into Bean’s coffers: $24,000 to his campaign account, and another $12,000 to his committee, “Florida Conservative Alliance.”

All told, Bean has roughly $78,000 of hard money, and $102,000 in committee coffers: a total of $180,000 in deployable resources.


SD 5 incumbent Audrey Gibson — the next leader of the Senate Democrats — brought in $10,000 in October, which was her third straight month in five figures. More than half of that money came in from Big Pharma.

Gibson has roughly $88,000 cash on hand


Fleming Island Sen. Rob Bradley is not up for re-election, but his fundraising was notable also.

“Working for Florida’s Families,” Bradley’s political committee, reached a milestone with a $40,000 October, clearing $500,000 cash on hand.


House candidates and committees

HD 11 Republican incumbent Rep. Cord Byrd raised $2,000 in October, spent $2,500, and has $15,392 on hand.


Southside Jacksonville’s HD 12 is seeing a competitive race, with Republican incumbent Clay Yarborough winning the money race handily against Democrat Tim Yost.

Yarborough brought in $21,750 in October, giving him roughly $73,000 on hand. Yost finished October with roughly $2,300 on hand, with $1,208 brought in from individual contributors.


HD 13 incumbent Democrat Tracie Davis brought in $7,500 of new money in October, giving her $28,190 raised and on hand. Davis thus far faces no opposition in her safe Democratic seat.


Incumbent HD 14 Democrat Kim Daniels raised nothing and spent $1,500 on a “media consultant” based in South Florida. She has almost $600 cash on hand, but faces no ballot opposition.


HD 15 Republican Wyman Duggan had a strong month:  $20,500 in October, bringing him to $84,600 raised, with nearly $77,000 on hand. Democrat Tracye Polson kept pace. 

She brought in $14,090 off of 64 contributions in October, bringing her total raised to $65,189, with over $64,000 of that on hand. Her committee has another $12,000 banked, giving her $76,000 raised.

Notable: the majority of Polson’s contributions are from outside HD 15, with many of them in the Washington D.C. area. And much of what she has amassed is self-financed.


In HD 16, incumbent Republican Jason Fischer continues to rake in the bucks.

Fischer cleared over $17,000 in October, between his campaign account and that of his political committee, “Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville.”

Fischer has almost $62,000 cash on hand, with over $28,000 in the committee coffers, giving him roughly $90,000 to deploy.


Down in St. Johns County’s HD 17, Cyndi Stevenson added just over $9,000 to her coffers, giving her $51,000 on hand, for a campaign in which she will run unopposed.


HD 18’s incumbent Republican, Travis Cummings, had another strong month. Cummings brought in $10,000, and ended October with over $58,000 on hand; he has no ballot competition yet.


October was a good month also for incumbent House District 19 Rep. Bobby Payne.

His primary opponent withdrew, a Libertarian opponent’s questionable past surfaced, and he almost doubled his cash on hand.

Payne raised $25,300 total; all told, he has raised $55,346 this cycle, and has almost $52,000 cash on hand.


But we saved the best — in terms of monthly haul — for last.

Palm Coast Rep. Paul Renner in HD 24 is on the track to the House Speaker post. And Northeast Florida’s brightest hope in the House is also favored by donors outside the region.

Proof positive: the impressive October hauls of Renner’s two political committees, “Florida Foundation for Liberty” and “Conservatives for Principled Leadership.”

The former brought in $70,500; the latter, $37,500 … adding up to a tidy sum of $108,000 — much more than an incumbent running in a deep-red seat against an underfunded Democrat needs for re-election.

$108K October take for Paul Renner political committees

Palm Coast Rep. Paul Renner is on the track to the House Speaker post. And Northeast Florida’s brightest hope in the House is also favored by donors outside the region.

Proof positive: the impressive October hauls of Renner’s two political committees, “Florida Foundation for Liberty” and “Conservatives for Principled Leadership.”

The former brought in $70,500; the latter, $37,500 … adding up to a tidy sum of $108,000 — much more than an incumbent running in a deep-red seat against an underfunded Democrat needs for re-election.

FFL has roughly $285,000 on hand as of the end of October, while CPL has $64,000 — pushing the aggregate cash on hand close to $350,000.

At least in October, there wasn’t much donor overlap between the two committees.

Florida Blue, Pfizer, and Surterra (the medical cannabis company) were interested in Liberty, while prison-industry stalwart Geo Group and Comcast were among those entities interested in Principled Leadership.

Expenditures of note from Florida Foundation for Liberty included $1,000 donations to local candidates, including Justin Bean in St. Petersburg, LeAnna Cumber in Jacksonville, and Jeb Smith in St. Johns County.

Conservatives for Principled Leadership, meanwhile, anted up for Republican House incumbents, donating to the campaign accounts of Jayer WilliamsonCord ByrdBobby Payne, and Chuck Clemons.

October numbers were not available for Renner’s campaign account when this piece was written, but as of the end of September, his campaign account had just $34,000 in it.

The campaign account of his Democratic opponent Adam Morley, meanwhile, had reported October fundraising.

Morley brought in $363 of new money last month, pushing his cash on hand to $760.

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