Richard Corcoran Archives - Florida Politics

Florida Speaker: Suspend prosecutor who nixes death penalty

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran has called on the governor to suspend a prosecutor for pledging to not seek the death penalty in any case while she is in office.

Corcoran said Thursday that Orlando State Attorney Aramis Ayala was “violating the constitution” because she is not even considering the death penalty. Capital punishment is authorized under the Florida Constitution. Corcoran added that if Florida lawmakers had the power to impeach Ayala, they would already be doing so.

Gov. Rick Scott removed Ayala from a high-profile police murder case last week after she announced her decision against the death penalty. Ayala argues Scott has overstepped his bounds and filed a motion in response, asking a judge to let her present her argument in court.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Speaker moves Eyeball Wars closer to House floor; docs say optometrist testimony ‘patently false’

Florida’s “Eyeball Wars” between ophthalmologists and optometrists could soon be spilling onto the House floor.

On Monday, Speaker Richard Corcoran removed HB 1037 — a controversial bill to allow optometrists to perform surgery, among other things — off the agenda of the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.

A representative for Corcoran told POLITICO Florida that the measure, which seeks to expand optometry further into the practice of surgery, was one of 12 bills removed from Appropriations under Rule 7.18(c) because they had “no fiscal impact.”

The move has raised the alarm of Adam Katz, president of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology, who felt the appropriations hearing would represent his organization’s best shot at defeating the bill.

“We feel like this is being orchestrated,” Katz, a Vero Beach ophthalmologist, told Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida.

In the bill’s earlier stop — the House Health Quality Subcommittee — HB 1037 was narrowly passed by an 8-7 vote.

Sponsored by Rep. Manny Diaz, the bill is strongly opposed by both the Florida Society of Ophthalmology and the American College of Surgeons. The measure is still on the schedule for the House Health & Human Services Committee.

“We have a responsibility to make sure everyone has access,” Diaz told reporters last week.

Nevertheless, testimony at last week’s subcommittee hearing did not sit well with the American Academy of Ophthalmology, which makes Corcoran’s procedural move even more disturbing. The Florida Optometric Association have strongly pushed HB 1037, employing a team of a more than a dozen lobbyists that include Michael Corcoran, Speaker Corcoran’s brother.

In a letter to House Health Quality chair Cary Pigman, an Avon Park Republican and emergency care physician, Dr. Mark Michels, board member of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology, pointed out several misleading and inaccurate accusation made during testimony from optometrists and their representatives.

“I cannot stay silent when the process is used by others to perpetuate falsehoods, especially when those falsehoods could endanger patients,” Michels writes. “It is for that reason, and out of respect for all of you and the integrity of our legislative process, that I am writing to bring your attention to two patently incorrect statements made by the representative of the Florida Optometric Association (FOA) at the hearing. “

One of the major selling points for HB 1037 is that it would expand access to glaucoma surgery for Medicaid patients, because in some rural regions — Bradenton was the example used in testimony — ophthalmologists do not accept Medicaid.

Michels called that claim “spurious,” pointing out that “information readily accessible in the State’s database–the AHCA Provider Master List — clearly shows that there are at least 24 active individual ophthalmologists that see Medicaid patients in Bradenton.”

He also pushed back on testimony that said “there are “less than 400 ophthalmologists in the entire State that take Medicaid.” In fact, there are nearly 1,200 active, enrolled ophthalmologists in Florida that see Medicaid patients.

A second issue is a contention that the surgery optometrists are asking to perform is not “invasive” and restricted to only lasers to “stimulate tissue in the eye.”

“Those statements are fallacious and exemplify a dangerous ignorance of what laser surgery is and the complications that can arise from the use of lasers,” Michels writes.

Lasers authorized by HB 1037 are powerful enough to cut ocular tissue — in a process called photodisruption — which can lead to several complications which can be adequately understood only by a medical professional with the training and experience of ophthalmologists.

“This knowledge is obtained from years of experience and seeing thousands of patients,” Michels writes, “all while being directly supervised by a board certified ophthalmic surgeon.”

Michels then calls out the FOA representative for holding himself as a “subject matter expert,” pledging to the committee that lasers authorized in the bill “do not cut,” are “noninvasive” and are only “stimulating” lasers similar to those used in “a new product contained in a baseball hat and used to stimulate hair growth.”

This stance is both “inexcusable and dangerous,” Michels said, before calling Pigman to do his part to “stop this dangerous bill from becoming law.”

Next for HB 1037 — the latest battle in Florida’s Eyeball Wars — is the House Health and Human Services Committee, one of only two stops before heading to the House floor.

Andrew Gillum: GOP plan to raise food stamp eligibility ‘inhumane’

Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is pushing House Republicans to drop an idea that could take away food stamps for about 229,000 Floridians.

Gillum held a news conference Tuesday and then dropped off a petition at House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s office that asks lawmakers to maintain current food stamp eligibility rather than making it harder to receive assistance.

A House bill would limit food stamps to families that earn less than 130 percent of the federal poverty limit or $2,633 a month for a family of four. Families who earn twice the poverty limit are now eligible for food assistance.

Gillum told reporters it would be “inhumane” to remove the assistance. He noted that his family relied on food stamps when he grew up.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Joe Henderson: ‘Shy’ Rick Scott needs to pipe up on Medicaid expansion

Gov. Rick Scott hasn’t been shy about sharing his feelings on the Affordable Care Act. Like any good Republican, he hates it. He wants it to go away.

Now that Republicans have a legitimate proposal on the table to replace Obamacare, though, Scott has gone into stealth mode on the subject. In an Associated Press story, the governor did the Rick Scott Shuffle when asked for his reaction to the plan now being debated intensely in Washington.

Scott said he was glad there is “good conversation” happening on the subject. Not exactly a stop-the-presses comment.

He even met recently with House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is pushing a plan that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said could leave up to 24 million Americans without health insurance.

Would the governor like to let us mere mortals in on what was discussed? People in Florida will be greatly affected by whatever finally becomes law, especially if it has a significant impact on Medicaid.

Florida depends heavily on federal money for Medicaid funding, and under the plan being discussed more than 4 million residents here would see their benefits reduced. That probably suits budget hawks in the state House just fine, but wouldn’t be good for many of the state’s elderly and low-income residents.

That’s where Scott needs to pipe up on this subject. In 2014, remember, he went to war (and lost) with the House over Medicaid expansion. Scott pushed for it; now-Speaker Richard Corcoran was intractably against.

Given his background as a hospital administrator before he went into politics, there are few people in the state better versed on health insurance than Scott. He could help frame the debate if he chose.

He certainly hasn’t been shy about making his opinions known recently on other subjects. He has been outspoken about his trying to save Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. But now that the health care debate has intensified, we get crickets from the governor.

Curious.

Despite lawsuit, Florida Lottery sees record sales; tops $100M for 2nd week

For a second consecutive week, the Florida Lottery broke its own record, with total sales of more than $141 million, the game’s chief announced Tuesday.

This record for the Sunshine State’s 29-year-old lottery comes despite a nasty lawsuit that pitted Florida Gov. Rick Scott against the state’s headstrong House Speaker, Rep. Richard Corcoran.

For the second successive week, the Florida Lottery’s contributions to the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund (EETF) exceeded $19 million from scratch-off sales alone.

Total scratch-off sales for the week reached $103.23 million, with overall sales hitting $141.28 million.

Additionally, this marks the second consecutive week in Florida Lottery history that scratch-off sales exceeded $100 million in a single week.

“The consistent scratch-off sales demonstrated by the Florida Lottery over the past two weeks are integral to our mission to generate as much revenue as possible towards public education,” said Lottery Secretary Tom Delacenserie. “The lottery remains committed to providing Florida’s students with the opportunities they need to be successful in school and in life.”

Over the past 29 years, the Florida Lottery has established itself as a dependable funding source for public education.

For 15 consecutive years, the Lottery has transferred more than $1 billion to education throughout the state while remaining one of the most efficient lotteries in the nation. Additionally, the Lottery has contributed more than $5 billion to the Bright Futures Scholarship Program to send over 750,000 students to college.

Florida Lottery contributions are approximately 6 percent of the state’s total education budget. Lottery funds are appropriated by the Florida Legislature and are administered by the Florida Department of Education.

The Florida Lottery reinvests 98 percent of its revenue back into Florida’s economy through prize payouts, commissions to more than 13,000 Florida retailers and transfers to education. Since 1988, Florida Lottery games have paid more than $52.4 billion in prizes and made more than 1,900 people millionaires.

On March 7, a Leon County Judge Karen Gievers invalidated the Florida Lottery’s $700-million contract for new equipment, agreeing with Corcoran that the agency went on an unauthorized spending bonanza when it made the deal in 2016.

The multiple-year contract involved new equipment for draw and scratch-off tickets. The lottery sold more than $6.2 billion in tickets in 2016, according to records.

“The Florida Lottery continues to make record contributions to our public schools and today’s ruling jeopardizes billions of dollars for Florida students,” Gov. Scott said in a statement March 7. “I strongly disagree with today’s decision, and we will appeal.”

Corcoran, in a statement joined by House Rules Committee Chair Jose Oliva and Judiciary Committee Chair Chris Sprowls, called the decision “a victory for the taxpayer and the rule of law.”

He continued, basking in the much-publicized showdown with the governor: “It reinforces the idea that respecting the separation of powers is not an arcane idea or an out-of-date philosophy,” they said. “In truth, it is one of the bedrock principles of our Republican government and is essential to protecting the liberties and livelihoods of Floridians.

“No branch of government is above the law, and the people’s House will use every power within our means – from the committee room to the courtroom – to ensure those liberties and livelihoods are protected.”

Joe Henderson: After Enterprise Florida fight, Rick Scott has little political capital left

Rick Scott went to Tallahassee in 2011 as an outsider. He often has operated like one as well, and not always in a good way.

In a private company, stubborn employees can get fired for standing up to the boss. In politics, though, defiance can be considered a virtue. Eventually, people who vow to run government like a business learn you can’t just issue orders and expect things to get done.

Real democracy can be a free-for-all.

That brings us to the current state of affairs in the capitol city, a time that has the seen the governor behaving less like a CEO and more like a politician trying to win friends and influence people.

To save his most-favored Enterprise Florida agency, the governor put a public campaign that included visits, robo-calls, videos and a public mocking of House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

It didn’t work, at least not yet.

The House dealt the governor a stinging rebuke last week with by passing HB 7005 – or what Scott calls “job-killing legislation” – by an overwhelming 87-28 vote.

Scott responded with a statement reading in part, “Many politicians who voted for these bills say they are for jobs and tourism. But, I want to be very clear – a vote for these bills was a vote to kill tourism and jobs in Florida.”

Everyone waits now to see what happens in the Senate, where Jeff Brandes has a bill that would keep Enterprise Florida but with much greater state oversight. Scott, meanwhile, is keeping up the pressure.

His office sent out eight news releases Monday within 19 minutes touting job gains in cities around the state. He made sure to credit the embattled jobs agency.

It was easy for Scott to get his way when he arrived in Tallahassee on a populist wave, promising to produce jobs and get Florida out of the Great Recession. He certainly wasn’t the only political leader in the land who favored subsidies to jump-start the economy.

Now that those jobs have been created – Scott claims more than 1.3 million overall so far – the mood in Tallahassee has shifted away from what Corcoran calls “corporate welfare.”

That has forced the governor into a defensive posture that he clearly isn’t used to and hasn’t shown evidence yet of mastering.

Meanwhile, the Commerce and Tourism Committee is set to consider a bill from Republican Sen. Tom Lee of Thonotosassa to repeal a program designed to make it easier for pro sports franchises to get state money for stadium projects.

Scott signed that bill in 2014, although an aide was quick to correct me recently when I called it a “pet project” of the governor’s. But, the governor obviously supported the measure and in a statement at the time said, “This sports development program will allow franchises to expand in Florida, and create more jobs and opportunities for Florida families.”

Times have changed, though, so I doubt the governor will spend any political capital now to save that pot of state money for professional sports franchises.

With all his chips in the middle of the table for Enterprise Florida, he likely won’t have much of an appetite to fight for sports teams. Judging from the way things are going, lawmakers probably wouldn’t listen anyway.

House approves bill to rein in VISIT FLORIDA

VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism marketing agency, will be subject to greater oversight under a bill passed the Florida House Friday.

State representatives passed the measure (HB 9), sponsored by Paul Renner of Palm Coast, by a vote of 80-35. Its reception in the Senate will likely not be warm: That chamber has not moved a matching companion bill.

The legislation has caused a war of words between Speaker Richard Corcoran and Gov. Rick Scott, who oversees the public-private agency that is funded largely with taxpayers’ money.

The speaker, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, has been critical of the agency, even threatening to sue after it refused to reveal a secret deal with Miami rap superstar Pitbull to promote Florida tourism.

The bill requires VISIT FLORIDA contracts “to contain performance standards, operating budgets and salaries of employees of the contracting entity,” and those deals would have to be posted online. It limits employees’ travel expenses and would cap annual pay at $130,000.

Stemming from the Pitbull deal, the proposal also would delete a public records exemption for “marketing projects and research.” It would ban any promotional project from “benefit(ing) only one company.” And it would force the agency to be funded with more private dollars.

In debate, some Democrats—including Tallahassee’s Loranne Ausley—faulted the bill for hurting the “mom and pop” businesses, such as family-owned hotels, who depend on help from the state.

“We know a robust marketing budget translates to more visitors,” she said.

St. Petersburg’s Wengay Newton added, “I think this is too severe a measure to happen today.” But some Republicans, including Key Largo’s Holly Raschein, also voted against the bill.

“This bill is not about whether we should promote tourism in this state,” Renner said. “This bill is about accountability and whether VISIT FLORIDA wants to submit to accountability to move forward.”

The bill does not address next year’s funding for VISIT FLORIDA, which will be worked out as lawmakers debate the 2017-18 state budget.

Matt Caldwell raises more than $700K in anticipation of agriculture commissioner run

Matt Caldwell raised more than $700,000 ahead of the the 2017 Legislative Session, building up his coffers ahead of an anticipated 2018 run for Agriculture Commissioner.

State records show Friends of Matt Caldwell, the North Fort Myers Republican’s political committee, raised $412,075 in February. That one-month fundraising haul marked the largest fundraising raising period since August 2016, according to state campaign finance records.

The committee raised $66,000 in January. And according to contributions posted to the committee’s website, Caldwell raised another $224,980 between March 2 and March 6. All told, the committee raised about $703,000 between Jan. 1 and March 6.

“I am deeply honored by the broad support we have received,” he said in a statement. “We far exceeded our pre-session goals.”

Caldwell, the chairman of the Government Accountability Committee, told FloridaPolitics.com in February that he intended to file to run for Agriculture Commissioner in August. That decision is meant to honor a request from House Speaker Richard Corcoran that members of his leadership team hold off filing to run for higher office until after the legislative session.

Caldwell isn’t the only 2018 Agriculture Commissioner hopeful posting big numbers. Sen. Denise Grimsley, who filed to run in February for the seat being vacated by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, raised $735,000 between her Feb. 1 announcement and March 7, the first day of the 2017 Legislative Session.

The Sebring Republican brought $295,000 for her official campaign and $440,00 for her political committee, Saving Florida’s Heartland.

“Denise is so very honored by the support she received in these first 35 days, and while she is working during the Session to represent her constituents and work for a greater Florida, her campaign team will focus on the road ahead to the primary,” said David Johnson, who is serving as the general consultant to Grimsley’s campaign.

Putnam can’t run again because of term limits; however, the Bartow Republican is widely believed to be gearing up for a 2018 gubernatorial bid.

House passes 6-year lobbying ban on former lawmakers, others

The Florida House has approved extend the state’s lobbying ban on former lawmakers and statewide elected officers from two to six years.

With no debate, House members on Friday voted 110-3 for the measure (HB 7003), a priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran. The bill now heads to the Senate.

If signed into law, the measure would be the longest lobbying ban in the nation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But it has raised constitutional concerns over free speech and restraint of trade among critics.

The new ban, carried by Larry Metz, the Yalaha Republican who chairs the Public Integrity and Ethics Committee, is aimed at “the perception, if not the reality, of the ‘revolving door,’ ” he has said.

It would apply “only to those individuals who were members of the Legislature after November 8, 2016, or who were statewide elected officers after November 8, 2016.”

Metz later said he said believes the longer ban will withstand legal attack because it addresses only paid lobbying.

Rick Scott: ‘Florida Lawmakers to vote on job killing legislation tomorrow’

Florida Gov. Rick Scott sounded the alarm Thursday evening — again — on a bill that is the bane of his existence this session: HB 7005.

“Tomorrow, members of the Florida House of Representatives will vote on HB 7005, a bill which eliminates a large majority of Florida’s economic development and jobs programs. The State of Florida relies heavily on these programs to diversify and strengthen our economy by attracting targeted industries and good, high-paying jobs that improve the lives of Florida families,” read a press release from his office.

Scott’s releases itemized the long list of incentive programs on the chopping block: Enterprise Florida, Inc, the Florida Defense Alliance, the Florida Small Business Development Center Network, the Quick Response Training Program, the Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research, the Capital Investment Tax Credit, the Quick Action Closing Fund, and dozens of others.

As well, Scott provided a helpful chart indicating newly-recalcitrant members of the Florida House who had voted for incentive programs in the past.

Paul Renner, the chart noted, voted for HB 7067, an economic development bill, in 2015.

Speaker Richard Corcoran supported seven economic development bills between 2011 and 2015.

Rep. Clay Ingram, meanwhile, supported eight economic incentive bills between 2011 and 2016.

Gov. Scott may be a lame duck, and political rivals may want to get to his right.

But as this press release indicates, Gov. Scott isn’t going to let his incentive programs go without a fight.

Expect the material in this press release to be used and re-used by the governor against members of the Florida House who are taking direct aim at his legacy as the “jobs governor.”

 

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