Richard Corcoran Archives - Page 2 of 42 - Florida Politics

Rick Scott pushes ahead for VISIT FLORIDA funding

Gov. Rick Scott went once more unto the breach Tuesday, pressing his case for full funding of the state’s VISIT FLORIDA tourism marketing agency.

The Republican governor—surrounded by VISIT FLORIDA’s CEO Ken Lawson, board chairman William Talbert, and others—spoke with reporters outside his Capitol office.

The GOP-majority House of Representatives, which at first wanted to eliminate the agency, instead reduced its budget to $25 million for next year.

Scott wants $100 million to market the state to visitors, saying every dollar spent brings back $3.20 in tourism-related revenue, including from gasoline and sales taxes.

Scott mentioned that Florida is getting shellacked by ads—”…and they’re nice,” he said—from Utah, Michigan, California, Texas, and Georgia trying to divert tourists.

With Florida getting roughly 113 million tourists last year, “if we want even more tourists, we’re going to have to spend more money,” Scott said. “We have plenty of money in the budget … but the House has really limited our ability to market the state.”

The Senate supported the work of VISIT FLORIDA with about $76 million in its budget. Senators soon will go into conference with the House to work out a compromise budget for 2017-18.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has criticized both VISIT FLORIDA and economic development organization Enterprise Florida as needless dispensers of “corporate welfare.” Though both are public-private partnerships, both take in far more public money than private.

But Scott says they help create jobs, adding that 1.4 million jobs are tied to tourism alone.

Scott has gone around the state, including the home districts of Republican House members who voted against VISIT FLORIDA, to host “roundtables.” There, he has pointedly criticized lawmakers who went against him.

The people have his back, Scott added: They are “just shocked that the House would even think” about cutting money to promote tourism. “…I don’t want to lose any jobs.”

And he has enlisted them to the cause.

“I tell people, ‘look, this is your Legislature,’ ” Scott said. ” ‘You need to reach out to them.’ “

House Speaker: Push for tougher ethics laws dead

State House Speaker Richard Corcoran says a push to give Florida some of the toughest ethics laws in the nation is dead for this year’s session, and he’s blaming Senate Republicans for showing “zero interest.”

The Land O’Lakes Republican pushed to enact several far-reaching proposals, including one that would ban legislators and elected officials from lobbying state government for six years after leaving office. The House overwhelmingly passed them, but the legislation has not moved in the state Senate. The annual session ends in less than three weeks.

“The Senate has shown us they have expressed zero interest in holding elected officials accountable and draining the swamp,” said Corcoran, echoing a line used by President Donald Trump on the campaign trail last year.

Corcoran said this week he’s not giving up and will seek other ways to place his proposals into law, including asking the state Constitution Revision Commission to put them before voters in 2018 or launching a petition drive to get them on the ballot. The commission is formed once every 20 years to propose additions, deletions or revisions in the state’s constitution.

When he came into his leadership post, Corcoran vowed to aggressively change what he called a broken system that let special interests and lobbyists wield too much influence. The House adopted rules limiting contacts between lobbyists and legislators and Corcoran pushed to shed more light on projects added to the annual budget.

Currently, legislators and statewide elected officials are subjected to a two-year lobbying ban after leaving office. The House proposed a constitutional amendment and a new state law to extend that ban to six years. The measure would also expand lobbying restrictions so that a legislator or statewide elected official could not lobby any state agency during that period.

The House has also passed a bill that would require city officials to file more detailed financial disclosure forms. The House is also scheduled this week to consider another measure that would clamp down on public officials using their posts to seek jobs or going into business with lobbyists.

When asked earlier this month Senate President Joe Negron said he was “open for ways to make the process more transparent, more accountable.” But he also said he was “content” with the current ethics laws in place including the two-year ban on lobbying.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

House backs Governor in battle with Orlando prosecutor Aramis Ayala

Florida’s House is backing Gov. Rick Scott in his legal battle against an Orlando prosecutor who refuses to seek the death penalty in cases handled by her office.

The state Supreme Court said Monday it would allow attorneys working for House Speaker Richard Corcoran to file legal briefs in the case between the governor and State Attorney Aramis Ayala.

Ayala is challenging Scott’s authority to transfer murder cases from her office to another prosecutor.

The Republican-controlled House in a legal filing with the high court said it wants to address “the ill effects that flow from” Ayala’s opposition to seeking the death penalty. The House may also argue whether Scott has the authority to suspend Ayala.

Ayala is a Democrat and Florida’s first African-American state attorney.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Joe Henderson: Richard Corcoran’s invite to Bill Nelson a stick in Rick Scott’s eye, maybe more

There were all kinds of messages being sent to Gov. Rick Scott late last week at the Florida House of Representatives.

The one from Democrat Bill Nelson, a three-term U.S. senator, can be summed up in two words: game on.

Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran had his own two-word message for the governor. I think I’ll leave it at that. Is loathing too strong a word for how those two feel about each other?

Whatever the interpretation of the message, the invitation to Nelson from Corcoran to address the House was intriguing, given that Nelson could face Scott in a bare-knuckle brawl for the 2018 senate race.

It gave Nelson some free airtime on a no-lose issue at a time when Scott’s poll numbers are surging.

His effusive praise of Corcoran for the courageous stand he’s taken with all of those children who are all buriedat the infamous Dozier School for Boys in north Florida” allowed Nelson to look like someone willing to work with everybody for the greater good.

Corcoran came across that way as well, just in case he decides to run for governor in 2018.

Unless …

Corcoran decides to go after Scott for the GOP nomination.

Say what?

That speculation is gaining traction, given the Republican field for governor likely can be winnowed down to “Adam” and “Putnam.”

As a senate candidate though, Corcoran could be the darling of cost-cutters everywhere. He has stood in the legislative doorway to block Scott’s favored programs for business and tourism incentives.

Republicans consider Nelson vulnerable and will pour every nickel they can into the effort to unseat him. And Corcoran is amassing quite a reputation for changing the way business is done in Tallahassee.

It won’t be easy.

Even though a lot has changed since Nelson swamped Connie Mack IV by 13 percentage points in 2012 and much of it hasn’t been good for Democrats, he has made sure to shore up the home front while in office.

He frequently returns to the state to touch base with voters and was a vocal advocate for congressional funding to combat the Zika virus and to address the environmental mess known last summer as the algae bloom.

Just as Republicans will roll out the war chest to unseat Nelson, so Democrats likely will spend what it takes to keep an important seat from going into GOP hands.

That brings us back to Corcoran’s invitation to Nelson. It was a sharp stick in the eye of the governor, one possibly designed to fuel the kind of speculation we have in this column.

Corcoran, a crafty chap, undoubtedly knew that.

He got his wish.

But if his aim is to run against Nelson eventually, why give his rival the chance for free feel-good publicity?

Because he could.

In new ads, teachers union calls for proper funding for public schools

The Florida Education Association is taking to the airwaves to call on lawmakers to better fund public schools.

The statewide education association released two advertisements Thursday in response to several measures being advanced by the Legislature. The proposals, education officials said, would underfund public schools and harm public school students.

“Students are at the center of everything we do. That’s why we are fighting for students and for better public schools,” said Joanne McCall, the president of the Florida Education Association. “We’re fighting against too many tests that do nothing to help our children and working to ensure that schools and students have the resources they need for success.”

The House on Thursday voted 70-44 to approve a $200 million plan to shift students from chronically failing schools to charter schools run by private organizations. The bill, a priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, would offer up money to build what are being called “Schools of Hope” in neighborhoods across the state, many in urban and poor areas.

GOP lawmakers have framed the legislation as an effort to help children in some of the state’s persistent failing schools, but Democrats questioned whether it was designed to help the for-profit management companies that are often hired by the non-profit groups that run charter schools.

According to the FEA, the ads will go out digitally to the FEA’s 140,000 members and will run extensively in Tallahassee through the end of session.

“We will stand up for Florida’s public schools, for every student in every classroom,” said McCall.

__The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

In Sarasota, Adam Putnam warns GOP of complacency in 2018

Electorally speaking, for two decades now, it’s been a good time to be a Republican in Florida.

But after last fall’s victory by Donald Trump, the Chicken Chard and salmon dill seemed to go down even smoother Thursday night at the Sarasota County Reagan Patriot Day Dinner in Venice.

“Gosh, isn’t it great to be a Republican? Even greater that The Donald is our President,” said longtime Sarasota Republican Cynthia Crowe kicking off the festivities at the Jacaranda West Country Club.

“And isn’t it refreshing that we have a politician who keeps his word?”

“He’s not a politician!” a voice shouted from the back of the room.

Nobody will ever accuse Adam Putnam of not being a politician.

The state’s Agriculture Commissioner has served in public office for nearly half of his 42 years on the planet, and is running hard to succeed Rick Scott as the next Governor of Florida, even though he hasn’t actually declared his candidacy yet.

The keynote speaker for the evening, Putnam has often described his native Florida as a “reward for a life well lived,” which is great if you’re gunning for the over 60-crowd.

However, it isn’t dynamic enough for a general election campaign, something he’s obviously aware of. That’s because he now pivots off that signature phrase to say that the Sunshine State can now be a “launchpad for the American dream.”

“We’re already the envy of the nation,” Putnam says. “Now we can be the envy of the world.”

If Marco Rubio was a champion of American exceptionalism during his ill-fated run for president a year ago, Putnam is running as a champion of Florida exceptionalism.

The state’s Agriculture Commissioner talks about the look in the eyes of out-of-state families when they arrive at a Florida airport for a vacation, and when they depart.

“They have made memories of a lifetime,” he says with the reverence of a child coming back from a week of enjoying theme parks, before stating with pride that “something like two-thirds of all Make a Wish Foundation requests are to come to Florida. That’s our state.” The crowd cheers.

(He asked not to be ‘PolitiFacted’ on that quote.)

Putnam is clearly on Rick Scott’s side in the debate with House Speaker Richard Corcoran over the merits of retaining Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.

“Coke doesn’t stop advertising. Budweiser doesn’t stop advertising,” he said, adding that the state needs to “invest in telling Florida’s story,” especially if it wants to diversify its economy.

While Florida is a classic Purple State in presidential elections, it’s otherwise awash in red, which is why Republicans have to revert to what it was like in the 1990s when talking about Democratic rule in Tallahassee (Putnam boasted about how crime rates have gone down 45 percent in Florida in the two decades since Republicans began ruling the roost, even though that has been a national trend).

Perhaps that’s why Putnam took aim at New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio instead, saying his policies are making people flee New York for Florida and calling him the best economic developer Florida’s ever had.

“We’re going to make him the honorary chairman of Enterprise Florida. How about that?”

And while Putnam praised the conservative government rule the state has been under for the past two decades, saying that’s why it’s done better economically than states like New York, California and Ohio, his policy prescriptions have tremendous room for growth.

“My strategy for infrastructure is to put up a picture of Atlanta,” Putnam said, decrying traffic conditions in the Georgia capital. But with Florida’s population growing again, traffic concerns are felt in the state’s biggest metropolis like never before.

Putnam ended his half-hour address with a stark reminder of how important it was for Republicans not to be complacent going into next year’s election cycle.

Referring to how the party out of power traditionally does well in off-year congressional elections, (not mentioning the intense grassroots Democratic opposition that manifested itself at town halls this winter and spring), Putnam said the GOP needs to reverse that narrative in 2018.

“We cannot rest on our laurels,” he stressed. “We have to be driven and focused and never take our foot off the gas. We can’t let up,” adding that “Florida has come too far, and America has come too far for us to sit back and become complacent and let the Democrats strip away all the gains we have made.”

So far, Putnam has already raised more than $9 million for the race, even though he’s still not officially a candidate for governor.

Nevertheless, the Democrats are indeed treating him as one, with the Democratic Governors Association requesting a full investigation into Florida Grown PC, a political committee associated with Putnam.

The DGA says that a Miami Herald report and public records show the committee has repeatedly circumvented requirements to reveal the ultimate purpose of a majority of its spending.

House passes ‘Schools of Hope’ charter school plan

Despite bitter opposition from Democrats, the Republican-controlled House Thursday passed its proposal to create privately-run “Schools of Hope” to combat failing public schools in the state. 

The measure (HB 5105) was approved by a vote of 77-40 after more than three hours of debate. It now heads to the Senate, where leaders have said they’re open to any idea that seeks to help students at low-performing schools.

By mid-afternoon, House members had yet to debate the 2017-18 budget, the one measure they are constitutionally required to pass each year.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran proposed $200 million in financial help for nonprofit companies to open charter schools in the Sunshine State.

The idea was to provide alternatives to chronically failing schools, often in poor areas, though it’s been reported that many of the charter-school concerns the bill to tailored to aren’t interested in coming.

The schools would be within five miles of, or in the zones of, existing traditional public schools that have repeatedly earned low grades under the state’s school grading system. More than 100 schools statewide have been consistently ranked as low performing for more than three years.

A line of Democrats inveighed against the proposal, including Port St. Lucie’s state Rep. Larry Lee, who gave a long and personal speech in which he said he had asked God whether he was “doing any good” in Tallahassee.  

“I played football … it’s a team sport” like legislating, he said in debate. “Bipartisanship is not ‘I wrote it and you vote for it’ … we’re not here to rubber-stamp.” He later added that lawmakers “never give any spotlight to the public schools that are doing (it) right.”

Charter schools are considered public, but they are run by private organizations that sometimes pay other privately run companies to manage them.

“This bill is not about education—it’s about a cash cow for somebody else,” said Rep. Roy Hardemon, a Miami-Dade Democrat.

The “Schools of Hope” proposal is coming at the same time that the Legislature is considering a contentious idea to force school districts to share part of their local property taxes with charter school operators.

Patrick Henry, a Daytona Beach Democrat, brought up the specter of racial discrimination, asking whether Florida was “returning to the days of separate and not equal.”

“Do schools of hope have some secret formula?” he asked. “We can’t test our way out of (educational problems), we have to teach our way out of it.”

But Jason Fischer, a Jacksonville Republican, said students in persistently failing schools “need hope and we need to stand by them … This bill helps kids who are trapped in ‘failure factories.’ “

The House proposal would create both a grant program that would pay for expenses such as teacher training and other startup costs, and a loan program that would pay up to 25 percent of any school construction costs.

It would also extend the money only to school operators that are already either nationally recognized or have a record of successfully serving students with a high percentage of students from low-income families.

Background material from The Associated Press, reprinted with permission. 

Andrew Gillum, Shevrin Jones lambaste charter school funding plan

Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum on Wednesday called proposed House funding for charter schools “a giveaway to (House Republicans’) friends and family.”

But Gillum at first wouldn’t answer whether he would veto such funding if he were governor, saying instead he would put a “premium” on fully funding the state’s public school system.

A spokesman later said he would veto that kind of funding if elected, explaining Gillum “fundamentally believes the bill’s approach is wrong.”

The mayor appeared with Democratic state Rep. Shevrin Jones of West Park at a news conference in the Capitol.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has proposed a “Schools of Hope” program, starting with $200 million in financial help for nonprofit companies to open charter schools in the Sunshine State. But it’s been reported that those concerns aren’t interested in coming.

Nonetheless, Gillum bemoaned the proposal, which he said would put millions of dollars “in the hands of friends (of Republicans) who are well-heeled and well-connected.”

He also criticized the state’s “sharp turn toward a culture of testing that doesn’t tell (parents and teachers) what they need to know about a child.”

Democrats “need to speak truth to power and call it what it is—a giveaway to friends and family” of the House Republican leadership, Gillum said.

Jones went a step further, saying earmarking money for charter schools means “we’re creating a segregated system … that will not fix the issues.”

He added that though he believes in school choice, “if they close a (charter) school down” because it reaches capacity, “where do the kids go? I still haven’t gotten an answer.” The implicit answer was students go back to the same D- and F-rated schools they tried to escape.

The news conference can be viewed in a Periscope video below:

Rick Scott brings Visit Florida, Enterprise Florida pitch to Lake Nona

Surrounded by what’s billed as the world’s new center for tennis but yet also almost in the shadow of a failed medical research center, Gov. Rick Scott brought his plea for salvation for Enterprise Florida and VISIT Florida to Orlando’s Lake Nona community Wednesday – urging pressure on the mostly-Republican group of lawmakers set to bring them down.

“When we think about what the state’s doing now with regard to Enterprise Florida and VISIT Florida, we’re missing opportunities, if we’re not in the right place at the right time to make things happen,” Scott said.

Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, Scott’s prize economic development and marketing organizations, are the targets of fellow-Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran and others in the Florida Legislature who are convinced the organizations have grown fat and sloppy for years dolling out tax and other financial incentives and marketing efforts without sufficient accountability. Corcoran and other House Republicans are on a path to defund Enterprise Florida and severely restrict VISIT Florida.

So Scott and his economic team including Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Cissy Proctor and VISIT Florida President Ken Lawson are on and extended tour of Florida preaching for the organizations’ salvations. They’re meeting with largely bipartisan gatherings of local political and business supporters who also want to keep the state business incentive, recruitment and marketing efforts available, extolling the successes, warning of dire drop-offs in business opportunities without them, and seeking to rally broader support.

This pitch came at the new $70 million USTA National Campus at Lake Nona, home to the United States Tennis Association headquarters and more than 100 pristine courts. The freshly-opened complex has become an Orlando poster child for the kinds of state and local efforts, including financial incentives and marketing and promotion that Enterprise Florida and Visit Orlando use.

The complex, said USTA Executive Director Gordon Smith, was “courted all over the country. The team that came together here including [Orange County] Mayor [Teresa] Jacobs, [Orlando] Mayor [Buddy] Dyer, the city, Visit Orlando, Visit Florida, the governor, worked together in a way that was unique.

“So, we’re bringing tens of thousands of visitors here every year,” Smith added.

For Scott, the facility is a perfect location to warn of the risks of not having an Enterprise Florida or VISIT Florida.

“USTA, they’re a class act. And it’s a significant deal to get USTA here. Let’s all think about this for a second. They’re not going to make a decision like this five times. They’re going to make a decision once,” Scott said. “So we had one opportunity to put our best foot forward… This is not the only place they could go.”

Scott’s latest pitch, however, also came less than two miles directly up Lake Nona Boulevard from the former Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute, which has become a poster child for the occasional failure and overblown promises of public and private financial incentives. Sanford Burnham pulled out last year despite receiving about $350 million in incentives, and never achieved the levels of job generation, economic development, and technology prestige promised when Florida won a bidding war for it in 2006.

Scott’s voting rallies also include targeting a bipartisan collection of area House members who are voting with Corcoran.

“Here’s who I would like you to reach out to: Bruce Antone, Bob Cortes, Jennifer Sullivan, voted to eliminate Enterprise Florida, eliminate the Florida Defense Alliance, and on top of that to severely restrict the ability for Visit Florida to market our state,” he said. “Jason Brodeur did the same thing. Now, who voted the right way? Kamia Brown, Eric Eisnaugle, Amy Mercado, and Rene Plasencia. Now Mike Miller voted to keep Enterprise Florida but he didn’t vote to support Visit Florida. Carlos Guillermo Smith voted against Enterprise Florida and for Visit Florida.”

Antone, Brown, Mercado and Smith are Democrats; Cortes, Sullivan, Eisnaugle, Plasencia and Miller, Republicans.

Richard Corcoran among top donors to RPOF during first quarter

The Republican Party of Florida showed nearly $2.5 million in contributions during their first quarter report, including $100,000 from a committee controlled by House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

RPOF’s report included a slew of high-dollar donors, including $$167,000 from Universal City Development Partners, $125,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee and $100,000 from Fontainebleau Hilton Resort.

Count political committee Florida Roundtable, chaired by Corcoran, among the six-figure donors this time around.

His committee gave nearly all of the $120,500 it raised in March, mainly from the Associated Industries of Florida, over to RPOF, leaving it with about $205,000 in the bank. All of that money came in in the days leading up to the start of the 2017 Legislative Session.

Before becoming House Speaker, Corcoran headed up RPOF’s house campaign efforts, a responsibility that now belongs to Miami Rep. Jose Oliva, the House Speaker in waiting

The party also took in big checks from major businesses operating in the Sunshine State, including $75,000 from AT&T, and $50,000 a piece from Duke Energy, Wal-Mart and the U.S. Sugar Corporation.

Expenditures came in at about $1.2 million for the quarter, with more than a third of that money heading to the groups federal allocation account. RPOF ended the quarter with nearly $16 million in the bank.

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