House Speaker Richard Corcoran released his committee assignments for the 2018 Legislative Session Thursday with just a few changes from 2017, notably some freshmen getting vice chairmanships and new chairs for the Ways and Means and Commerce Committees.
Corcoran’s changes in committees look more like mid-term adjustments for the two-year term, rather than the wholesale reshuffling that Senate President Joe Negron announced earlier this week for that chamber’s committees.
“Your preference requests were accommodated to the extent possible, including the recommendations of (Democratic) Leader (Janet) Cruz,” the Land O’ Lakes Republican wrote in a memo to members.
“One notable change addresses the status of the Public Integrity & Ethics Committee, which because of workload and the nature of the work, will be treated as a procedural committee, much like Rules & Policy,” he added. “In order to ensure all members have at least one substantive committee, we increased the size of the Education, Judiciary, Health & Human Services, and Ways & Means committees to accommodate freshmen members from Public Integrity & Ethics.”
With the departure of former Commerce Committee chairman Jose Felix Diaz, who is running in a special election for the Senate, state Rep. Jim Boyd of Bradenton will slide over from chairing the House Ways and Means Committee to chair Commerce, with Paul Renner of Palm Coast taking the chair of Ways and Means.
Otherwise, the committee assignments reward a handful of freshmen with new vice chairmanships of committees and subcommittees, and give Rep. James Grant of Tampa with a chairmanship, that of the Health Quality Subcommittee of the House Health & Human Services Committee.
Among freshmen getting vice chairs:
Randy Fine of Brevard County, Careers & Competition Subcommittee of the Commerce Committee.
Jason Fischer of Jacksonville, PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee of the Education Committee.
Erin Grall of Vero Beach, Civil Justice & Claims Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee.
Michael Grant of Port Charlotte, Transportation and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee.
Twenty-one of the 27 freshmen lawmakers now have vice chairs.
Corcoran also opened bill filing for House members: “The bill request submission deadline for all bills (substantive and Appropriations Project bills) is now on the same day, Nov. 14. The filing deadline for your first two bills is Nov. 21.
“The filing deadline for remaining bills is the first day of Session, Jan. 9,” he said.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran says he supports Gov. Rick Scott‘s call for a “constitutional amendment requiring super majorities to pass any future tax increases.”
“For almost seven years we’ve worked alongside our Governor to bring common sense back to governing. We cut taxes. We cut regulations. We cut fees. Now we need to make sure the taxpayers’ pocketbooks are protected,” the Land O’ Lakes Republican said in a Monday statement.
“Requiring in the Constitution a super majority to raise any tax or fee will do this,” he added. “It’s pro-family, pro-future, pro-worker, and pro-taxpayer. It’s anti-government waste, anti-politician, and anti-pork barrel spending. I’m proud to offer my support to Gov. Scott on this bold initiative and will do all I can to see that it is successful.”
Scott, a Naples Republican considered to be planning a run for the U.S. Senate next year, has not yet exactly outlined what would be covered by the proposal or how large a supermajority would be needed. He wants the measure to go before voters on the 2018 statewide ballot.
If the amendment is passed by 60 percent, state legislators could not pass any future taxes or fees without a supermajority legislative vote. Several other states, including California, have similar restrictions.
Scott wants the Florida Legislature to place the amendment on the ballot. But the governor said he may also ask the Constitution Revision Commission to consider the proposal.
House Ways and Means Committee chair Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican slated to take over the Speakership in 2022-24, also supports the plan.
“I look forward to working with the Speaker and my colleagues to provide Floridians the opportunity to vote on this much-needed amendment,” he said. “Florida is a place of prosperity and opportunity because we have put our trust in free people and free markets … This amendment, along with our requirement to balance the budget, will help protect Florida’s long-term economic future.”
(The Associated Press contributed to this post, reprinted with permission.)
July was the first month of fundraising for future State House Speaker Paul Renner‘s political committees since he won the honor in late June.
Some observers may have anticipated an avalanche of activity, but in reality the committees had modest contributions and spends.
“Florida Foundation for Liberty,” Renner’s primary committee, brought in just $25,500 in July (spending $20,383 of that), pushing the committee just over $240,000 on hand.
Donations came in from political committees, including the Realtors, Surgi-PAC, and the Florida Credit Union’s political action committee.
The biggest donation: $10,000 from MHK of Volusia County.
Of the over $20,000 spend, $4,000 went to Ballard Consulting, $2,685 went to Renner’s campaign account for reimbursements, $10,000 went to another Renner committee, “Conservatives for Principled Leadership.”
Meanwhile, there were just two external donations, and both were in the Jacksonville metro area.
The committee gave $1,000 to Clay Yarborough‘s campaign, and $2,500 to “A Safe Jacksonville,” the political committee of Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams.
The aforementioned “Conservatives for Principled Leadership,” meanwhile, has just under $18,000 on hand after a $12,500 July.
Beyond the $10,000 from Renner’s other committee, the other $2,500 came from the interesting “Florida Prosperity Fund” committee.
If this week’s issue of Bold has a unifying theme, it’s “institutional knowledge.”
What that phrase means, in a political sense: knowing your milieu, learning what you can and can’t do in office. “Passing the torch,” so to speak.
For our area’s congressmen, you will see below how the power of knowing one’s way around Capitol Hill translates into a smoother path to re-election than to the first election.
For Jacksonville’s mayor, it means knowing that whatever blowback might be received in the press for an early-week junket with the city’s leading businessman may be worth the benefit.
And for the folks on Jacksonville’s City Council, the phrase is a double-edged sword.
There are some who believe institutional knowledge is conferred via osmosis … or title. Not the case.
The phrase comes down to being able to manipulate the levers of power — whether one has the title or not.
Institutions, by necessity, function best with stable, merit-based hierarchy. When that hierarchy is subverted, things get interesting.
Al Lawson, John Rutherford pack war chests
First-year Jacksonville-area Congressmen Rutherford and Lawson may have different party labels.
But they both have strong fundraisingin the latest campaign finance report, suggesting that either will be tough outs in primaries.
Rutherford hauled in over $155,000 off 69 total contributions from January to June 2017; Lawson brought in over $158,000 off 118 total contributions, doing even better than Rutherford.
Rutherford’s committee has over $132,000 on hand, a number offset by nearly $96,000 in debts.
Lawson, still without that Jacksonville challenger, has over $148,000 on hand — a number offset by nearly $79,000 in debts and loans.
Most compelling donor? The political committee of House Speaker Paul Ryan, giving to Rutherford.
Lawson talks ‘blue collar’ outreach
The Tallahassee Democrat was on hand for Lawson’s recent comments at the North Florida Democratic Club’s summer picnic.
Lawson, a Democrat representing Congressional District 5, worries that the party has forgotten its core message.
“Fourteen percent of African-American men voted for Donald Trump. Fifty-three percent of white women voted for Donald Trump,” Lawson said.
“This, we can’t let happen anymore in America. We are the ones who have fought for Social Security, fought for equal pay for women, fought for Medicaid. They are the ones who want to cut,” Lawson added.
Lawson cited the party’s enthusiasm gap with the “blue collar worker,” urging those on hand to reach out to groups that help to consolidate the base.
Mike Williams, Melissa Nelson show up for Ashley Moody
Tuesday was not a great day for the campaign of Rep. Jay Fant for Attorney General — as his GOP primary opponent, Ashley Moody, held a fundraiser in his backyard.
Among the significant attendees are two of the biggest names in #jaxpol: Sheriff Williams, who helmed the host committee; and 4th Circuit State Attorney Nelson — who is not endorsing in this one, but is pictured with the candidate below.
On the host committee: Gary Chartrand, the charter school impresario, and Nelson supporter; Hank Coxe, one of the leading defense attorneys in the state, and Nelson supporter; Buddy Schulz, another key Nelson ally.
We weren’t on hand, alas … but we did have eyes in the room, and here’s what those eyes saw.
Attendees comprised a “who’s who of Ortega and Avondale” — the heart of Fant’s House district, and a short walk from where he kicked off his own AG money campaign.
Worth watching: how much money Moody harvests from Jacksonville donors, as reflected on her next campaign finance report.
Already, the money race is uglier than 5 p.m. on the Fuller-Warren bridge.
Lenny Curry flies the friendly skies, Shad Khan style
An early-week trip by Jacksonville Mayor Curry and Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa caught the eye of the Florida Times-UnionTuesday … as it was on Jags’ owner Khan’s corporate jet.
Described as “a two-day trip to St. Louis and Baltimore to take care of official and political work,” T-U scribe Nate Monroe asserted multiple purposes for the trip, including a discussion of “downtown development.”
“What compelled Curry to take the trip, or who he is meeting with to discuss downtown development ideas or his political career, is not clear,” Monroe writes.
Whether clear or not, Curry and Mousa — in an email exchange — extolled the virtues of the trip so far.
Curry to Mousa: “Let’s debrief quickly after today’s St. Louis trip and tomorrow’s Baltimore on downtown development. We need to discuss design, finance, infrastructure.”
“Yes, sir. Interesting and creative matters we learned today.”
Likewise opaque: who is paying for the trip.
As it could be another in a series of Khan-tributions to Curry’s “Build Something That Lasts” political committee, the finance report for the committee will be worth watching to see precise valuations and itemizations of Curry’s junket.
Paul Renner to take over Ways and Means
To the victor goes the spoils. Rep. Rennerof Palm Coast — fresh off winning the Speaker’s race for 2022 — will get some gavel practice by helming the Florida House Ways and Means Committee.
This role will give Renner some practice with the purse strings, and said practice will be during an interesting year — a watershed election on the state level, with all constitutional offices in play.
Renner, though representing Palm Coast, is very much a Jacksonville guy — a local lawyer who came within two votes of representing Jacksonville itself in the Florida House in 2014.
Jason Fischer: Audit the School Board!
On Monday, State Rep. Fischer proposed a state financial audit of the Duval County School Board on which he served until last year.
Fischer’s take: the district is more concerned about potentially suing over the controversial “Schools of Hope” bill he advocated than it is with getting its “financial house in order,” after recent revelations of spending $21M beyond its budget.
Fischer has a backup on the board: fellow Republican Scott Shine, who already has amassed $30,000 for his own re-election bid to the body, “welcomes” such an audit.
In an open letter released Tuesday, Shine wrote that he is “not concerned with the possibility of a Legislative Audit.”
“As I suggested to the board [July 18, we need to institute additional peer review and a Legislative audit can be a part of that review process,” Shine wrote.
Shine also noted that the CFO responsible for the budget imbalance was “removed,” in light of the “considerable mistake” made by the budget office.
Garrett Dennis: More cops, please!
Jacksonville progressives are pushing back against Mayor Curry’s proposal to hire more cops. But City Council Finance Chair Dennis is riding with the Mayor on this one.
Dennis, who attends roughly a dozen community meetings a month, has “yet to hear that we have too many police officers.”
“I understand their concerns,” Dennis said regarding the JPC position, “but I have yet to hear that at any neighborhood association meeting.”
Many in Dennis’ District 9 experience a certain type of more aggressive policing than do those in neighboring District 14.
“Look at the crime stats, and see what crimes are committed” in each district.
Dennis notes that the crimes that predominate in District 9 are of a certain type: “aggravated assault, drugs, violent crime.”
In District 14, meanwhile, the crimes are of a different type, such as “break-ins and auto thefts.”
“The tactics are going to be different based on the crime,” Dennis said.
Term limits bill on ice
When in doubt, defer.
That was the conclusion drawn by the Jacksonville City Council, which opted to defer action on a controversial bill that, if passed, would allow an almost-certain-to-fail referendum to extend term limits for Jacksonville elected officials, allowing three consecutive terms for all offices but the Mayor.
The bill sailed through committees but stalled out in the full Council — with marginalized Council vets John Crescimbeni, Bill Gulliford, andTommy Hazouri (all of whom got shafted in committee assignments, and missed out on the debate) cooling enthusiasm among many colleagues.
While bill sponsor Matt Schellenberg got help from Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, Tuesday’s exercise was a reminder of political reality.
While it may be possible to shunt Gulliford, Hazouri, and Crescimbeni to the side, if the three of them are aligned, they make a formidable dissident bloc … one that could make budget deliberations in August and September really interesting for a Council President who got installed via a loose coalition that may have only been viable for the leadership vote.
Jags reach out to region
The Jacksonville Jaguars are redoubling (or re-tripling at this point?) its efforts to build a regional fan base, the Florida Times-Union reports.
The problem, as it’s been historically: the bulk of tickets are sold in Duval, Clay and St. Johns counties. Baker and Nassau: negligible factors. And beyond that? Gets perilously close to Bucs/Falcons/Dolphins country.
But they’ve got to keep choppin’ wood, with Gainesville, Tallahassee, Brunswick and even Orlando suburbs in the mix.
People travel to Jacksonville for single games, but as anyone who has been to a Jags game knows, they are often there to cheer the road team on.
The Jags’ goal: to become the Green Bay Packers of the South. Easier to do that with more 11-5 years than 5-11 letdowns.
Northwest Florida continues to attempt a response to the opioid crisis crushing the nation.
Action News Jaxreports that Baker County Commissioner Cathy Rhoden has a daughter addicted to heroin, and Rhoden hopes to parlay that personal experience into community education.
Rhoden’s goal: to start a task force, similar to that already in the county for meth.
Meanwhile, Jacksonville saw a conference of people on the front lines of the battle in the region, and First Coast News was on hand.
Clearly dominating the Canadian market, it would appear Trafalgar wants to move south of the border.
Verklempt over Volstead
There’s a tear in A.G. Gancarski’s absinthe cocktail, as his favorite bar — the Volstead — is set to close next month, reports the Florida Times-Union.
The bar has a “farewell affair to remember” Aug. 18, with the final night of operations Aug. 21.
It’s difficult to overstate what Volstead meant downtown. The speak-easy embodied a prohibition era aesthetic, with great drinks and plenty of space to mill.
However, the real utility of Volstead was its proximity to City Hall, as it became the go-to spot for off-the-record conversations between pols and savvy reporters, where the secrets spilled were every bit as delicious as the liquor swilled.
What Aaron Bean is up to in August
On Wednesday, Aug. 2, the Fernandina Beach Republican will speak to the Rotary Club of West Jacksonville for an overview of the 2017 Legislative Session. Event begins 12:30 p.m. at the Florida Yacht Club, 5210 Yacht Club Road in Jacksonville. Then, on Tuesday, Aug. 15, Sen. Bean will also offer another overview for the Rotary Club of San Jose’s meeting, beginning 6 p.m. at the San Jose Country Club, 7529 San Jose Boulevard in Jacksonville.
Save the date: Flagler County GOP election kickoff barbecue
Flagler County’s Republican Club kicks off the 2018 election season with an afternoon of fun, food and fellowship at the Princess place preserve Aug. 19. Special guest is Republican Party of Florida Chair Blaise Ingoglia, who will cut the ribbon on the season at 2 p.m. State Sen. Travis Hutson and Speaker-to-be Renner will be honored for sponsoring the Republican Club Youth Scholarships for 2017-18. Emceeing the event is retired Flagler County Clerk Gail Wadsworth. To order tickets, click here.
Adam Putnam, Renner featured at Florida Chamber veteran summit
Leaders from Florida’s military and defense industry, economic development experts, policymakers and the business community will be at the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Military, Defense & Veterans Opportunities Summit Aug. 8 at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld, 6677 Sea Harbor Dr. in Orlando.
The event’s theme is examining challenges facing Florida veterans throughout the next 15-plus years and identify solutions.
Among the featured guests are state Rep. Renner, Agriculture Commissioner Putnam (as keynote) and retired Brig. Gen. Michael Fleming, who serves as Jacksonville University’s senior vice president of University Relations and Development. Fleming and Renner will also host a panel entitled “Making Connections: Eliminating Obstacles for Veteran Entrepreneurs.”
Intuition Ale Works sponsoring cart service for events
Jacksonville Business Journalreports that Intuition Ale Works is one of the sponsors of the passenger cart service EZEventRide, which transports physically impaired people and others who need the service to and from events at Veterans Memorial Arena and EverBank Field.
Founder Bill Guerrant launched EZEventRide in 2014 after noticing an elderly couple struggling to walk nearly a mile from there parking spots to the stadium. Guerrant began in June 2014 after acquiring some golf carts. The company’s 10 carts – which offer free rides – can take people from parking locations throughout the Jacksonville entertainment district, in between the stadium and places like the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Waterfront, the Omni Jacksonville Hotel, Intuition and Manifest Distillery and others.
JTA CEO honored with leadership award
Nathaniel Ford Sr., CEO of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) was honored with the Thomas G. Neusom “Founders Award from the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO). This award is the highest honor bestowed by COMTO.
Ford accepted the award July 18 at the 46th National Meeting and Training Conference in Detroit, Michigan.
The Founders Award honors public and private transportation executives and policymakers responsible for the direction and operation of their agency and who, through their affiliation with COMTO, have made outstanding contributions toward the growth and development of people of color within the transportation industry and have given continued and outstanding service and leadership to the COMTO organization.
“I am honored and grateful to be recognized by COMTO with this prestigious award,” said Ford. “JTA is committed to workplace diversity and it is evident throughout our operation.”
Frontier Airlines adds flights from Jax to Denver, Cincinnati
Flights from Jacksonville International Airport are expanding as Denver-based Frontier Airlines, a low-cost carrier start nonstop flights from Jacksonville to Denver and Cincinnati starting spring 2018, reports First Coast News. Flights will be on Airbus A320 aircraft.
“We are proud to announce the nationwide expansion of our unique brand of Low Fares Done Right which will empower millions more people to afford to fly,” Barry Biffle, president and CEO for Frontier Airlines, said in a statement.
In a Tuesday memo, House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced his leadership for the 2018 Legislative Session, including the committee weeks that lead up to the annual session.
Current Majority Whip Dane Eagle keeps that post, but now will be a member of the Republican leadership team.
Rep. Jim Boyd will chair the Commerce Committee, taking over from Jose Felix Diaz, who is running for state Senate.
Replacing Boyd at the helm of the Ways & Means Committee is Paul Renner, recently picked to become Speaker in 2022-24.
Other top positions remain the same, according to the memo. For instance, Jeanette Nuñez and Ray Rodrigues remain Speaker Pro Tempore and Majority Leader, respectively.
Speaker-designate Jose Oliva will continue as head of the Rules & Policy Committee, and Carlos Trujillo will again chair Appropriations for the chamber.
“Updated committee assignments will be made within the next few weeks,” Corcoran wrote. “If you are interested in serving as a subcommittee chair or on a particular committee, I strongly encourage you to speak with the chair of the full committee with jurisdiction over the subcommittee.
“As we did last year, subcommittee chair appointments will be made in collaboration with the full committee chairs,” he added. “I look forward to seeing all of you soon.”
Fifty legislators received top marks from Americans for Prosperity-Florida, the largest number of A+ legislators since the organization began issuing its annual legislative scorecard.
The organization released its 2017 Economic Freedom Scorecard, which graded 5,500 votes on 96 issues, on Tuesday. The scorecard showed 50 legislators — 11 senators and 39 representatives — received an A+. That means legislators scoring an A+ voted with AFP-FL received a score of 100 percent or higher.
“I am thrilled to see that this year, 50 legislators earned an A+ on our Economic Freedom Scorecard,” said Chris Hudson, the state director for AFP-FL, in a statement. “That’s the most A+’s the Florida legislature has earned since we began publishing our annual report. Our activist base is growing, our network is expanding and always finding ways to maximize our impact, but we are far from done. I believe the best days are ahead of us, and we are committed to deliver even more victories in 2018.”
Sen. Greg Steube scored the highest in the Senate, with a score of 140 percent, followed by Sen. Tom Lee at 114.29 percent; Sen. Jeff Brandes with a score of 113.33 percent; Sen. Denise Grimsley with a score of 110.53 percent; and Sen. Dennis Baxley with a score of 106.67 percent.
Over in the House, Rep. Bryan Avila received the highest score with 108.1 percent, followed by Rep. Paul Renner at 106.1 percent; Rep. Jason Fischer at 105.7 percent; Rep. James Grant at 105.4 percent; and Rep. Chris Sprowls at 105.4 percent.
Both Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran received scores of 100 percent, according to the scorecard.
The organizations factors in committee and floor votes, with each vote carrying the same weight regardless of the issue, to calculate the score. This year, the group looked at how lawmakers voted on 96 key bills, including $600 million in tax cuts, school choice, and economic incentives.
“The state of Florida is embracing economic freedom, and our families and businesses will be better off because of it,” said Hudson.
In 2014, Jay Fant beat Paul Renner in a special election in Florida House District 15.
Improbably given the pitched nature of that campaign, Fant and Renner became friends thereafter — a friendship consolidated as Renner moved downstate from Jacksonville to Palm Coast, where he got elected to the House from there.
Fait and Renner had different fortunes last session in the Florida House. Renner, a key lieutenant for Speaker Richard Corcoran during the pitched debate on incentive programs, saw his star rise. He was recently elected to be leader of his class, a prerequisite to being House Speaker in 2022-24.
Fant, meanwhile, was on the other side of the incentive debate, and had a session somewhat less noteworthy … as he planned his run for Attorney General in 2018.
Despite their diverging fortunes in the Legislature, Renner offered an endorsement to Fant Thursday, per a press release from Fant’s political shop, which co-branded the Renner endorsement with that of fellow Jacksonville Republican Rep. Clay Yarborough.
“I’m honored to have the support of strong conservatives like Paul Renner and Clay Yarborough,” said Fant. “Their effective leadership in Tallahassee serves their constituents and our entire state well. I look forward to continuing to work with them to limit government and increase opportunity for hardworking Floridians.”
Fant has secured endorsements from roughly a dozen House colleagues thus far.
These endorsements are necessary for Fant, who is trailing in the money race to Ashley Moody, a former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge who raised $600,000 in June between her campaign account and her political committee.
A key difference thus far in the backing Moody enjoys versus that Fant has: support from the respective legal communities in their city.
Tampa-area barristers are backing Moody; Jacksonville lawyers, meanwhile, are more derisive of Fant’s bid.
Could the endorsement of future Speaker Renner — a partner in a Jacksonville law firm — bring local lawyers into the Fant camp?
Jacksonville state Rep. Jason Fischer had one of the stronger Junes of any Northeast Florida incumbent in terms of fundraising.
Between Fischer’s campaign account and the account for his political committee, “Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville,” Fischer brought in almost $55,000 for his 2018 re-election effort.
Of that new money, a full $32,700 went into Fischer’s campaign account — pushing it over $51,000 on hand.
Among the donors to the campaign account: some familiar campaign committees, including Sen. Travis Hutson‘s “Sunshine State Conservatives,” Rep. Travis Cummings’ “First Coast Conservatives” and Rep. Paul Renner‘s “Florida Foundation for Liberty.” As well, the “JAXBIZ” committee of the Jax Chamber ponied up.
Also on board: Peter Rummell and Michael Munz, via “RummellMunz Partners.” And the Gary Chartrand Trust.
All of the above gave $1,000 to Fischer’s campaign.
Fischer’s committee, after $22,700 of new money in June, now has just over $29,000 on hand.
The June donors: a lot of familiar names.
Florida Blue, Florida East Coast Industries, and the Jacksonville Kennel Club, along with John Baker and Ty Petway, all cut checks for Fischer’s committee in June, as did Renner’s Florida Foundation for Liberty.
May saw blockbuster fundraising for “Florida Foundation for Liberty,” the political committee of future House Speaker Paul Renner.
The total May haul: $266,000.
With June obviously being where the rubber met the road in the leadership race, worth watching was how much of that May money was deployed, and to where it went.
It turned out that just over $38,000 went out the door in June (against $6,500 brought in during the same period).
Out of that money, two donations went to campaign accounts of Renner’s colleagues who were linked to the leadership race: Randy Fine, a serious candidate for most of the stretch; and Byron Donalds, who came up short in the June 30 ballot.
Each of them got $1,000 from the Renner committee, as did the campaign accounts of Bob Rommel of Naples, and Mel Ponder of Destin; Ponder’s money was for consulting, according to the report.
Jacksonville Rep. Jason Fischer‘s campaign account also got $1,000, and Fischer’s “Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville” committee got $5,000.
Other committees scoring $5,000 donations: “Florida Opinion Leaders” and current House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s “Watchdog PAC,” in yet another indicator of the burgeoning alliance between the current Speaker and the future one.
Renner’s committee has roughly $240,000 on hand, and his campaign account has just over $30,000 in total, as he prepares for a 2018 rematch with St. Augustine Democrat Adam Morley.
For Paul Renner, the path to winning Friday’s 2022 Florida House Speaker election in Orlando — with 16 votes in the first round — was not a sure thing.
First of all, he lost his first election for the House — a three-vote defeat to Rep. Jay Fant, a current Attorney General candidate, in House District 15 on Jacksonville’s Westside.
Renner was undeterred; he moved to Palm Coast, took a safe seat there, and then figured out the House very quickly.
Renner was a chief lieutenant of Speaker Richard Corcoran this last term, burnishing his conservative credentials and policy chops, and as time progressed, the Speaker’s race gradually went his way.
And despite the slight re-location, Renner is still a Jacksonville fixture, an attorney with deep roots in the community — and it was the Jacksonville and Northeast Florida establishment that went his way and made a key difference down the stretch.
A major fundraiser earlier this spring saw Renner bring in over $250,000 from everyone who mattered in the Northeast Florida donor class.
That liquidity — whether people want to believe it or not — was also intended as a signal to those voting in the race, including a lot of local freshman legislators: there is a regional priority in this leadership race, a chance to get something that has eluded Jacksonville since John Thrasher in 1999. Before that, in 1969, Democrat Frederick Schultz held the gavel. The city had four speakers between 1913 and 1937.
Local and regional power players see it as Northeast Florida’s time. As Renner’s time.
And Friday’s election ensured that the man who lost a squeaker to Jay Fant will be in a unique position to respond and push forward the region’s priorities.
Smart local politicians were ready to reach out to Renner to offer congratulations; a rising tide lifts all boats.
And by 2022, Jacksonville will have a lot of boats to lift: a dredging project that likely will be midstream; a septic tank phase out, for which state money proved elusive in the just completed session; a desired renovation of the Hart Bridge offramps to route traffic onto Bay Street, by new capital investments such as the amphitheater and whatever Shad Khan has planned otherwise.
Local politicians and “stakeholders” have long agonized about Jacksonville’s identity crisis, and a big part of that crisis in recent years has been the city being relatively ill-positioned to score big wins.
This, to be clear, was a big one.
“It’s been a long time,” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry told us Friday afternoon regarding the Renner victory and its significance for the city and the region.
Efforts in the past were not successful: this one was, Curry said, as the business community was all in for Renner, as well as many of Curry’s key supporters — especially Tom Petway and John Rood, who we are told particularly engaged in driving the effort.
“I engaged,” Curry said, “and my full political operation engaged.”
Central to that engagement: Tim Baker and Brian Hughes, the visionary architects of triumph after triumph in recent years. They parlayed relationships throughout the state to help broaden Renner’s draw.
There was some resistance to coalescence among certain voting members of the Duval Delegation. That was not an option for Curry.
“We expect our team to be aligned — Team Northeast Florida,” Curry said.
Rep. Clay Yarborough, the former Jacksonville City Council President who was one of those 16 Renner votes, noted that the outcome lined up with his count.
Yarborough saw “tremendous positives” for the region and the city both — positives that will be seen before 2022, as in the years leading up to Renner’s Speakership, he will be in “conversations with leadership,” and his “place at the table” will help him advocate for regional priorities.
The region, Yarborough said, can be “lining stuff up” that takes years to make happen — a generational opportunity for Northeast Florida.
Duval Delegation Republicans Yarborough, Cord Byrd, and Jason Fischer are all Renner’s contemporaries; meanwhile, there could be a new person in Rep. Fant’s seat soon also. This means, realistically, that long-range planning is uniquely possible for the GOP delegation locally and regionally.
Yarborough respects Renner’s “steady hand,” how he “weathered the storms of challenging issues during the Legislative Session.”
“Some thought he’d crash and burn,” Yarborough noted. However, Renner responded to the challenges, getting support “well beyond Duval County” and Northeast Florida.
Rep. Fischer was likewise optimistic about the “tremendous opportunity for Northeast Florida … the beginning of great things to come.”
Fischer also noted the importance went beyond the region: “We united as a class,” Fischer said, saying that today’s result is “great for the state.”
Indeed, Renner talked about the state to media Friday.
“I think one of the things I spoke about is that every member of the team is critical. That is something I learned in the military, from the first day of boot camp. You learn that you succeed or fail as a team,” Renner told FloridaPolitics.com’s Scott Powers.
“The focus I would like to have is we have a great class, we can do great things together, and I want to be the facilitator,” Renner said.
Indeed, the class is uniting: Rep. Jamie Grant and Renner were seen joking ahead of the conclave, and the appropriate statements of congratulations are coming from those who didn’t win this one.
“I want to congratulate my friend and colleague Paul Renner on his election as our 2016 Republican class leader. I am confident he will do an outstanding job in the role, and I look forward to working with him. I was honored to be a candidate, and I also congratulate Jamie Grant and Erin Grall on the fine races they ran. Now that this election is behind us, let’s look forward to working together to put conservative policies in place that will create jobs and a brighter future for all Floridians,” Rep. Byron Donalds asserted.
Former State Rep. Lake Ray, a veteran of eight years in the State House, described how that work — and Renner’s influence — would build over time.
Renner’s pull will really be significant when he is Speaker-Designate and going forward, Ray said.
As Speaker, Renner will have a number of prerogatives, Ray noted.
One key one: a direct impact on appropriations, especially regarding unencumbered money, which he and the Senate President will figure out how to allocate. Ultimately, Ray said, up to 30 percent of what could be anywhere from $250-$450M could find its way to regional projects.
Renner’s leadership team is also worth watching, in terms of commitments made down the stretch — and especially key, timely commitments. The posts to watch specifically: the chairs of Appropriations and Rules, which can serve a gatekeeper role in terms of killing any bills that may need to die for whatever reason.
An unsung hero of the effort outside of this class and Duval County: Rep. Travis Cummings.
As an extremely reliable source put it, Cummings was instrumental in the push for Renner, helping to steady some members who were prone to wobbling.