Richard Corcoran Archives - Page 2 of 38 - Florida Politics

House looks at bill to kill Enterprise Florida

The Florida House Thursday began its consideration of a bill to obliterate the Enterprise Florida economic development organization, castigated by Speaker Richard Corcoran as a dispenser of “corporate welfare.”

The bill (HB 7005) also gets rid of a swarm of business incentive programs that sponsor Paul Renner said fail the return-on-investment test. (They are listed in the bill analysis.)

Several Democrats peppered Renner with skepticism, but the bill also was questioned by Jay Fant, a Jacksonville Republican.

“Do we have to throw away everything,” Fant asked, with Renner answering, “In fact, we do not,” explaining that some incentives will be kept.

The effort to abolish the organization, a favorite of Gov. Rick Scott, has fueled a feud between him and Corcoran. The governor says incentives ultimately help create jobs for Floridians.

Scott recently traveled to the home districts of House members supporting the bill to publicly shame them under the guise of promoting his 2017-18 budget recommendations.

Renner also was questioned over the elimination of television and film incentives that take the form of tax breaks for producers.

Because of the state’s climate and scenery, “Florida (itself) is a permanent incentive,” Renner said.

That stoked a comeback from Rep. Matt Willhite, a Wellington Democrat. He noted the “Ballers” TV series relocated to California from Florida, and the “Bloodline” series, which was shot in the Keys, ended after it was clear those shows wouldn’t get incentives.

“Is the beach and the sun really enough to bring the entertainment industry to Florida?” Willhite mused.

Rep. David Richardson, a Miami Beach Democrat, later tried to amend the bill to put those incentives back in the overhaul bill; the attempt failed on a voice vote.

“We get enormous free publicity out of the films shot in the state,” he said, mentioning “Moonlight,” which recently won the Oscar for best picture and was shot in Miami.

The movie “got no incentives, by the way,” Richardson added. Renner’s bill is now ready for debate and a final vote.

Sponsor proposes changes to VISIT FLORIDA bill

As the House gets ready to start considering a bill to overhaul VISIT FLORIDA, its sponsor filed an amendment to dilute some of its strict requirements.

The measure (HB 9) will be on the House floor today (Thursday) for questions. Rep. Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican, filed the amendment Tuesday, records show.

It would impose new reporting requirements on the state’s tourism marketing agency only when a project it funds is slated to get over 50 percent of its budget “from funds derived from a tax.” The bill now applies to deals that involve any amount of public dollars.  

But the proposal still mandates disclosures such as “specific performance standards,” “the value of any services provided,” and “salaries of all employees and board members … and (their) projected travel and entertainment expenses.”

Originally, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, aimed to abolish both Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development organization and dispenser of many of the state’s business incentives, and VISIT FLORIDA.

Both are officially public-private endeavors, but both are overwhelmingly funded through taxpayers’ dollars. House leadership later decided to split the legislation, still eliminating Enterprise Florida but saving and overhauling VISIT FLORIDA.

The speaker had threatened to sue VISIT FLORIDA after it refused to reveal a secret deal with Miami rap superstar Pitbull to promote Florida tourism, later revealed to be worth up to $1 million. The ensuing controversy cost former agency CEO Will Seccombe his job.

Report: Richard Corcoran urges Democratic support of Enterprise Florida bill

House Speaker Richard Corcoran is asking for Democrats support to legislation that would abolish Enterprise Florida, saying if Democrats join the House will be able to override Gov. Rick Scott’s expected veto of the bill.

POLITICO Florida reported that Corcoran asked Democrats for their help to “get a veto-proof majority” during a House Democrats dinner.

The dinner came on the eve of the bill (HB 7005) first hearing by the full House. The House is also expected to discuss a bill (HB 9) today that would tighten restrictions on Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing agency, when it goes into session later today.

There are 41 Democrats in the House, and 79 Republicans. In the Senate, 25 of the 40 members of Republicans. POLITICO Florida writes Corcoran told House Democrats it was time for the Senate, which has stayed out of the fight, to “pony up and say ‘are you going to clean up these agencies.’”

POLITICO also reported Corcoran told Democrats he wants “to vote their conscience.”

Scott, Corcoran, Negron play Rochambeau with picks to the Constitution Revision Commission

Rock breaks scissors, but scissors cut paper, which, of course, covers rock.

Neither Rick Scott, Richard Corcoran nor Joe Negron knew they were playing a game of Rochambeau when making their appointments to the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC).

But the way final picks played out, they may well have.

The CRC meets every 20 years to review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document. It has convened twice before, in 1977-78 and 1997-98, but this is the first to be selected by a majority of Republicans, virtually ensuring it will propose more conservative changes than previous panels.

Scott’s selections — just by the sheer fact that he had 6 more picks than either of the two legislative leaders — could trump Corcoran’s and Negron’s choices.

But if ideological allies join forces, they could overwhelm the Governor’s slate. That is unless some of Scott’s appointees create a bloc with some of Corcoran’s or Negron’s commissioners.

Rock breaks scissors. Scissors cuts paper. Paper covers rock.

Also certain to play roles are automatic appointee Pam Bondi (because she holds the office of Attorney General), and Chief Justice Jorge Labarga‘s three accomplished choices.

Of the three state leaders, it was, not surprisingly, Corcoran who made the boldest selections (although one pick is all but unjustifiable except for political reasons).

Corcoran understands the enormous potential the CRC has to shape the direction of the state for two decades, and his picks reflect that.

Of Negron’s nine picks, former Senate President Don Gaetz and former Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith are the most notable. Undoubtedly, the great orator Gaetz will be one of the most listened-to voices on the CRC.

Yet, for the most part, most of the capital crowd greeted Negron’s selections with shrugged shoulders. As the names were read, ‘Who?’ was asked more than once.

Scott, as his nature, tapped mostly loyalists for the Commission. He also made a disastrous decision by selecting Carlos Beruff as chair. Unless Scott’s not really interested in having the Commission accomplish much, that is.

So now that all 37 Commissioners have been identified, and Jeff Woodburn has been tapped as Executive Director, here are a few things I think about these selections.

— Again, Beruff chairing the Commission will likely end in disaster. Yes, he is a capable man with an extensive CV marked by selection to numerous blue ribbon panels. But all of that came before he decided to run for U.S. Senate. Now, he’s seen as the guy who was hoodwinked by political consultants into spending millions of dollars of his own money so he could finish just ahead of the margin of error. He’s also been exposed as a far-right ideologue who makes Marie Le Pen look soft on immigration. Even if he builds consensus and can get a majority of the alphas on the Commission to propose amendments to the Constitution, Beruff is one of the last people you’d want campaigning for passing initiatives. Sandy D’Alemberte or Dexter Douglass he ain’t.

— With Beruff as Chair and other Scott loyalists, including Tim Cerio and Brecht Heuchan, on board, the unnamed 38th member of the Commission is Scott’s former Chief of Staff, Melissa Sellers.

— If you are Joanne McCall, the president of the Florida Education Association, and you see this list, you should be panicking. A near supermajority of these Commissioners, from The Foundation for Excellence in Education’s Patricia Levesque to Democrat state Sen. Darryl Rouson, are school choice advocates. And they’d like nothing more than to see the repeal of the 132-year-old Blaine Amendment, which says state funds may not go to support religious institutions. Of course, an initiative to do just that was rejected by Florida voters in 2012. Still, with Marva JohnsonPam StewartErika DonaldsSherry Plymale, and so many other proponents of greater choice for students, you can expect the CRC to spend considerable time on education issues.

— In addition to education, expect the CRC to focus on overhauling the redistricting process created by the Fair Districts amendments, adding a (tiebreaking) member to the Florida Cabinet and strengthening private property rights.

— Back to the boldness of Corcoran’s selections; the ultimate power play was rewarding Tom Lee with a spot on the CRC. With that pick, he’s not playing checkers. He’s not playing chess. He’s playing three-dimensional chess. The move makes it clear that he has a powerful ally in Negron’s own house, even if he’s not in leadership. Clearly, all the Cabernet the two men enjoyed while serving as their respective chamber’s appropriations chairs led to a strong relationship.

— If there’s a downside to Lee being picked by Corcoran to sit on the CRC, it’s that he probably just took him out of the running to be appointed by Scott as chief financial officer. With tensions running as high as they are between Scott and Corcoran, there’s no way the Governor puts somebody now perceived as one of the Speaker’s allies on the Cabinet.

— Arthenia Joyner probably won’t win many important votes while serving on the CRC, but she gets a microphone and a soapbox to talk about the liberal issues she cares most about. Same goes for Sen. Smith. As for the other Democratic state Senator on the panel — Rouson — that guy is the Swiss Army Knife of appointees because he does so much: He’s African-American (check!) He’s a Democrat (check!) He’s from Tampa Bay (check!) But – and this certainly did not escape Corcoran – Rouson is an outspoken proponent of school choice and charter schools. During his Senate campaign, Rouson benefited from the support of the Florida Children’s Federation, the political arm of the Florida movement for private school tuition vouchers.

— Legislators know how to build coalitions. That’s why you should expect Jose Felix Diaz and Jeanette Nunez to star while on the CRC. For Diaz, it’s also a chance to audition before a statewide audience in the event he wants to run for Attorney General in 2018.

— It should not be overlooked that some really smart, good folks are on this Commission. Heuchan, Rich Newsome (one of the Speaker’s best friends and one of the best trial lawyers in the state), Jimmy Patronis … each have the potential to be consensus builders on this board.

— If there is one pick from any of the leaders that is meeting with derision, it’s Corcoran’s selection of John Stemberger, the self-appointed leader of Florida’s religious right. It’s not just progressives like Equality Florida and state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith who have a problem with Stemberger on the CRC, but also a rash of Republicans and conservatives who, albeit privately, think poorly of Stemberger. His selection by Corcoran is being described as a sop to the right wing of the GOP, particularly if Corcoran runs for Governor in 2018.

— Won’t it be interesting to see what Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco does on a statewide stage? I know many people who are hoping he does another news conference like this:

Proposals approved by the CRC will move forward as ballot issues in the November 2018 general election. Amendments need 60 percent of the vote to become part of the state Constitution.

In 1998, eight of the nine ballot proposals advanced by the Commission were approved by voters, although they only required a majority vote at that time.

Capitol Reax: Opening Day of the 2017 Legislative Session

The 2017 Legislative Session kicked off Tuesday with Gov. Rick Scott’s penultimate “State of the State” address, and speeches from Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

“This session represents Florida’s best chance yet for solving an ongoing environmental catastrophe that affects millions of Floridians.

For nearly 20 years, scientists have agreed that a southern reservoir will reduce harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to our coastal waterways, rehydrate America’s Everglades and Florida Bay, and help meet the growing water needs of 8 million Floridians in the years ahead.

Senate President Joe Negron, Senator Rob Bradley and Representative Thad Altman are to be congratulated for their leadership. We look forward to working with them, along with House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Governor Rick Scott. We are hopeful that this critical water infrastructure project becomes a reality.” – Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg

 “AIF congratulates Governor Rick Scott on all of his accomplishments outlined in his State of the State address today, and supports his business-friendly agenda for the coming year.

Since the day the Governor took office, he has promised Floridians that he would grow our job base, cut our taxes and create an environment where new businesses want to locate, stay and contribute to our economy.  Our Governor has done just that for our Florida families.

This legislative session, AIF and our members stand with Governor Scott in ensuring Florida job creators are excelling and Florida families are benefitting from a pro-business environment in their home state.  AIF congratulates Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature on making Florida one of the best places to do business in the United States.” — AIF President & CEO Tom Feeney

“After 20 years of Republican state government control, it’s clearer now more than ever that the status quo is not working for the people of Florida. 44 percent of households across the state struggle to make ends meet; our infrastructure is ill-equipped to meet the demands of our ever-growing population; the income gap is among the widest in the country; and the state’s pre-K program is shamefully underfunded by $400 million.

And yet in the latest display of misplaced Tallahassee priorities, Gov. Scott heralds more corporate tax breaks as the path forward at the expense of small businesses and communities across the state. Lawmakers must stop rewarding their special interest campaign contributors and instead focus on the real issues that impact everyday Floridians’ lives.

When lawmakers fund public education, our children will be better prepared to join the workforce. When we put more money in Floridians’ pockets, they will spend it at small businesses in their communities, helping boost our economy. When we maintain safe highways and roads, Florida will be that much more productive and economically competitive.

These times require smarter and wiser use of taxpayer dollars as a means to create an environment for good-paying jobs in every corner of the Sunshine State. This is not about hard choices, but a matter of priorities.”  — FloridaStrong Executive Director Charly Norton.

“We appreciate Governor Scott’s passion for job creation, common sense regulatory reform and tax cuts. There is no question that Governor Scott and the Florida legislature have helped Florida endure the recent recession, and through their effective leadership the state of our state is strong. But make no mistake, the positive strides and gains we’ve made together are not because of top down big-government programs. Because Florida entrepreneurs are the best investors of their dollars, they are thriving in the low tax, low regulatory environment which are among the most critical reasons millions of Americans from across the country have migrated to the Sunshine State.”

Americans for Prosperity-Florida and the over 180,000 individuals that have taken action with us to hold their elected official accountable call on Governor Scott and the Florida legislature to continue focusing on the key steps that make our state the best place to live, raise a family, and start a business. We’ve laid out a series of priority bills that if enacted can assist in fast-tracking the opportunity of success for all Floridians, by focusing on free-market policies that level the playing field.”

We hope the legislature forgoes the call by Governor Scott to maintain a rigged system by keeping the quasi-state agency, Enterprise Florida in existence. Lawmakers have an opportunity to cut wasteful spending and end corporate welfare by passing HB 7005.”

The other critical needs of this state must be balanced and met. We call on the legislature to focus on common sense free-market health care reforms to expand access for patients to receive the best care available. We also hope this is the year that School Choice policies receive the most favorable advancements to empower our children and their families to receive the best education.” – AFP-FL State Director Chris Hudson

“The Florida League of Cities has profound concerns about Senate Bill 569. This legislation will strip away local authority in favor of private utility companies, giving Big Telecom a massive corporate handout by granting them virtually unlimited access to use resources within public rights of way.  

“We look forward to continuing to work with Senator Hutson and other interested parties to prevent the harm this bill would inflict on the ability of local communities to shape the character of their own hometown.”Florida League of Cities President and Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie

“It’s well established that the best decisions for the future of a community are made by leaders within that community. Senate Bill 596 disregards that proven fact, ignoring the views of local decision-makers and instead handing authority to giant telecommunications corporations.

“While Florida’s mayors embrace innovation and new technological advancements, this legislation threatens our ability to help shape the look and feel of our hometown communities and gives private corporations unfettered access to public rights of way. This would be a terrible mistake, and we strongly oppose Senate Bill 596.” — Palm Shores Mayor Carol McCormack, President of the Florida League of Mayor

 

Scratched: Judge sides with Richard Corcoran, tosses out Lottery’s $700M contract

A Tallahassee judge has invalidated the Florida Lottery’s $700 million contract for new equipment, essentially agreeing with House Speaker Richard Corcoran that the agency went on an illegal spending spree when it inked the deal last year.

Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers issued her 15-page order late Tuesday afternoon. She presided over a nonjury trial in the case Monday.

The multiple-year contract involved new equipment for draw and scratch-off tickets. The Lottery is booming — it sold more than $6.2 billion in tickets last year, records show.

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

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

“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.”

Gievers agreed with House general counsel Adam Tanenbaum, who had said the deal broke state law by going “beyond (the Lottery’s) existing budget limitations.”

Because Lottery Secretary Tom Delacenserie “lacked the legal authority to enter into the IGT (International Game Technology) contract, (it) must, therefore, be found to be void and unenforceable,” Gievers wrote.

She faulted the agency for, among other things, not first seeking the Legislature’s permission to enter into a deal that committed the state to as much as two decades’ worth of funding.

A message seeking comment was left for a spokeswoman for Las Vegas-based IGT. Corcoran’s spokesman said a response was coming later Tuesday evening.

The new deal provides much more than equipment, with provisions for in-store signage, self-service ticket checkers and upgraded security in the communications network.

doughnut donut

Jose Oliva talks doughnuts and incentives after Rick Scott speech

House Republican leaders defended their assault on Gov. Rick Scott‘s economic development and incentive plans, saying success in business shouldn’t depend on a government handout.

Oliva

Speaker Richard Corcoran and state Rep. Jose Oliva, slated to be speaker in 2018-20, spoke with reporters Tuesday after Scott’s State of the State address before a joint session of the House and Senate.

Florida, like other states, incentivizes businesses to move or expand here through a variety of tax breaks and public-paid subsidies. Scott, a proponent, says spending public dollars on private companies is worth it for the jobs he says they create.

“I will admit it is probably more difficult for people who have never gone hungry, or gone through foreclosure, or seen their family car repossessed, to understand this,” Scott said in his speech.

“If you have never lived through these experiences, it may be harder to understand the urgency,” Scott added. “I am fighting for our state’s job programs because I am fighting for families just like mine growing up.”

Oliva, a cigar company executive, said Scott underestimated House members’ experience.

“Very many of us in that chamber know what it’s like to be poor,” said Oliva, who remains as CEO of Oliva Cigar Co. after selling the company last year to a European concern. “We know what it’s like to have a car repossessed, to have the power cut in your house.

“We also know what it’s like to start a business,” he added. “I don’t know that when I was building my business I would have liked some of my tax dollars to go to help a competitor.”

Scott, who didn’t mention it specifically in his Tuesday speech, often has spoken of a doughnut shop he ran in the 1970s.

“Imagine if the governor, while he had that same doughnut shop, had his tax dollars go to Dunkin’ Donuts so they could come across the street and compete against him?” Oliva said.

Corcoran suggested that Scott doesn’t get the “optimism” of his legislative program.

“We’re saying what makes our country different is when anybody can engage in spirited, civil debate,” he said. “… Yeah, there’s passion and back-and-forth and sometimes quotes you want to take back. At the end of the day, … good things happen.”

Richard Corcoran: Florida House is keeping the faith with voters

In prepared remarks for his speech Tuesday, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran again threw down the gauntlet to Senate leadership and the Governor’s office, offering an unapologetic defense of the House’s approach to state government under his watch.

That said, Corcoran asserts that the House is willing to negotiate, to “come to the table, sit down and work together to ensure real reform and genuine accountability.”

“We don’t believe the House has a monopoly on good ideas.  We’re willing to listen, we’re willing to talk, and we’re willing to enter into good compromise,” Corcoran asserted.

Corcoran said his vision for the Florida House is a pure one: “To govern as we campaigned,” despite the “outrage, vehement opposition and personal attacks” that have resulted from political rivals.

“And so be it. Because everything we have done so far — we have done to keep faith with the voters who sent us here,” Corcoran said.

Among the accomplishments, Corcoran cited: “the toughest ethics and transparency rules of any chamber of any legislature in the United States” and “an end to the shadowy pork barrel budgets that wasted millions in taxpayer money.”

In his prepared remarks, Corcoran also alluded to the House’s focus on Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, two priority incentive projects of Gov. Rick Scott.

“We questioned an agency’s spending and exposed its failures and abuses,” Corcoran said. “We forced another agency into the sunshine, sued a rapper and won, only to reveal even more wasteful spending.”

Of course, there’s more to government in Florida than suing Pitbull.

Corcoran’s remarks also focused on the House’s new insistence that universities, economic development agencies, and tourist development commissions have transparent budgeting, and that state agencies “demonstrate they are obtaining value for taxpayers.”

“We have taken on each of these fights because they were the right thing to do, and we will carry that mission forward,” Corcoran asserted.

Corcoran, over the next 60 days, vows a transformational agenda … and will brook no interference.

“And for those organizations and agencies unwilling to change; who see themselves as being special; as being exempt and above the law, then know this: we will continue to fight for the taxpayers, and we don’t care if that battle takes place in committee rooms or courtrooms,” Corcoran remarked.

“And for anyone waiting for us to slow down, to drop the big ideas, to stop trying to shake up the system, to cower in the face of attacks, or to cave to the demands of special interests; here’s our message to you:  We will not,” Corcoran added.

The Florida House, said Corcoran, “will fight to eliminate waste” from the state budget, which is proposed as the largest budget in Florida history.

The House will not only oppose another property tax increase, Corcoran said, but “will also fight for another $25,000 Homestead Exemption that will give Florida’s homeowners over $700 million in savings.”

The House also will continue its fight for 12-year term limits on appellate judges.

“I’m not saying this is easy. Debate can get intense especially if it’s about something important in people’s lives, but we can be passionate about these issues without ever becoming personal,” Corcoran said.

Indeed, Corcoran believes such robust debate is a hallmark of democracy.

“Many pundits have used the debates between the governor, judiciary, Senate and the House to portend doom.  It is actually just the opposite.  A robust civil debate is a sign that our democracy is working,” Corcoran asserted.

“When we get lazy and start rubber-stamping bills; when we never engage in spirited intellectual debate, that is when people should begin to worry.  Even a special session isn’t a disaster; it’s just a longer, more complicated conversation.  And these issues are so important that sometimes they merit more time.  It’s called the marketplace of ideas,” Corcoran added, “and it makes our country the wonder of the world.”

Corcoran believes that the “greatest accomplishments” this Legislative Session will be bipartisan. And he offered a rhetorical olive branch, of sorts, to the agencies in the crosshairs of the Florida House.

“I also want to deliver a message to all the entities with whom the House has engaged with — we extend our hand to you.  Come to the table, sit down and let’s work together to ensure real reform and genuine accountability. We don’t believe the House has a monopoly on good ideas.  We’re willing to listen, we’re willing to talk, and we’re willing to enter into good compromise,” Corcoran said.

The remarks Corcoran prepared for delivery serve myriad purposes. They establish the Florida House’s positions as rooted in principle while offering a way forward for the kind of negotiation that makes the difference between a successful session and one that fails.

 

Guns, gambling and taxes: Legislators return to work

Once the Florida Legislature kicks off its 60-day Session March 7, legislators are expected to pass, or kill, dozens of measures dealing with everything from abortion to gambling and the environment.

So far, more than 2,000 bills have been filed, but in the end, legislators usually pass fewer than 300 pieces of legislation each year.

Here’s a look at some of the top issues this Session:

DEATH PENALTY: Florida legislators are expected to quickly pass a measure that would require a unanimous jury recommendation before the death penalty can be imposed. Last year, the state Supreme Court declared a new law requiring a 10-2 jury vote to impose the death penalty unconstitutional.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Voters last November overwhelmingly approved Amendment 2, which allows higher-strength marijuana to be used for a wider list of medical ailments than had been allowed under state law. Legislators will consider bills to implement the amendment, including possibly expanding who can grow and sell medical marijuana.

GUNS: There are about two dozen gun-related bills that already have been filed and the vast majority would expand gun rights so they can be carried in places that they are now not allowed including university campuses and non-secure areas of airports. Democrats have proposed more restrictions, but they have virtually no chance of passing.

GAMBLING: Top legislative leaders say they would like to come up with a comprehensive overhaul of gambling laws. But so far, the House and Senate are divided on what should be done.

The Senate is considering a bill that would allow slot machines at dog and horse tracks in eight counties outside South Florida. The Senate gambling bill would also allow the Seminole Tribe to offer craps and roulette at its casinos.

The House version would allow the Seminoles to keep blackjack and slot machines at its casinos for 20 years. But it would not allow gambling to expand to other parts of the state.

WATER: Senate President Joe Negron wants to borrow up to $1.2 billion to acquire 60,000 acres of land and build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries that have been blamed for toxic algae blooms.

JUDICIAL TERM LIMITS: House Speaker Richard Corcoran wants to impose a 12-year term limit on Supreme Court justices and appeals court judges. The House is backing a constitutional amendment for the 2018 ballot that would ask voters to make the change. But it’s unclear if the Senate will consider the proposal.

BUDGET: Florida legislators are required to annually pass a new budget. Gov. Rick Scott has recommended an $83.5 billion budget that includes money for tax cuts, steep reductions for hospitals and uses local tax dollars to boost school spending.

House Republicans are opposed to Scott’s use of local property taxes and they are expected to call for large budget cuts while also increasing spending on education. Senate President Joe Negron wants to eliminate a tax break for the insurance industry and use the money to cut taxes charged on cellphone service and cable television. Negron also wants to boost spending on universities and colleges.

EDUCATION: Legislators are considering several bills dealing with schools, including one that would require elementary schools to set aside 20 minutes each day for “free-play recess.” Another bill would allow high school students to earn foreign language credits if they take courses in computer coding. Legislators are also considering changes to Florida’s high-stakes standardized tests, including pushing back the testing date to the end of the school year.

HIGHER EDUCATION: Negron has called for an overhaul of the state’s colleges and universities that requires the state to cover 100 percent of tuition costs for top performing high school students who attend a university or college. The Senate plan also calls for boosting efforts to recruit and retain university faculty.

ABORTION: Several abortion bills have been filed including one that would make it easier for women to sue physicians for physical or emotional injuries stemming from abortions.

ECONOMIC INCENTIVES: Corcoran wants to scuttle the state’s economic development agency and trim back spending at the state’s tourism marketing outfit. The move is strongly opposed by Gov. Scott who says they help the economy, but Corcoran has criticized the efforts as a form of “corporate welfare.”

HEALTH CARE: Legislators are considering several proposals that would eliminate limits on certain types of health care facilities. They may also overhaul the state worker health insurance program and expand the use of direct primary care agreements between physicians and patients.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Janet Cruz is ready to lead her caucus during what’s expected to be a raucous Session

Speaking to an audience in her home district of Tampa last month, House Minority Leader Janet Cruz feels Florida doesn’t have a spending or revenue problem.

Tallahassee has a “priority problem,” the House District 62 representative said.

She maintains that attitude going into the 2017 regular Legislative Session, which officially kicks off  Tuesday.

“The Republicans have continued to focus on massive handouts for the ultrawealthy and the large corporations at the expense of our public education, at the expense of our hospitals, at the expense of our environment, and at the expense of small businesses, which in my opinion is the backbone of this country,” Cruz told FloridaPolitics.com in a phone interview last week.

“All of these issues are about creating good paying jobs that provide economic security for working Floridians and essentially these people are just looking for some economic security, higher wages, better-paying jobs.”

While acknowledging that the Rick Scott versus Richard Corcoran contretemps will entertain Capitol observers this spring, she supports Corcoran’s attempts to kill Enterprise Florida, the public-private agency that entices companies to add jobs in the state.

“I have a hard time stroking million dollars checks for millionaires. I just don’t see it,” she says, referring to the median income in her district being only $39,000.

Cruz is pleased that the bills to defund Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida were decoupled in the past few weeks, because she sees the value of Visit Florida to the Sunshine State, but only if greater oversight is imposed on its management.

“Salaries as a state employee are typically lower than in corporate America, yet for some reason Visit Florida doesn’t quite subscribe to that salary range as a state employee,” she says, referring to the fact that former Visit Florida CEO Will Seccombe made an annual salary of $293,000.

Cruz is one of the leaders of the Tampa Bay area legislative delegation, where transportation remains a central problem plaguing the region. Last month, the entire delegation convened in Clearwater, with much of the discussion on creating a regional transit authority (Clearwater Senator Jack Latvala has just filed a bill in the Senate to do that).

Nevertheless, she remains optimistic about the possibility of establishing such an entity.

For the first time, Cruz agrees with her GOP colleagues in Hillsborough about eliminating the controversial Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, and supports a bill sponsored by Tampa Bay-area Republicans Chris Sprowls and Jamie Grant that would finally enact statewide regulations on transportation network companies.

“It’s finally going to happen, and I think that there were some legislators, including myself, that were resistant,” Cruz says. “Not because I don’t love Lyft or Uber, because I love both of them. Because I didn’t feel that it was fair and the playing field wasn’t level for the taxi companies to follow so many different rules and so many regulations.”

“Then I felt like Uber kind of came in as a bully and said, ‘we’re going to do it our way, and we really care what you have to say, and we’re your local rules and regs are, we’re going to do it our way.’”

Cruz believes it’s still important that Uber drivers have an “advanced level” of background security checks. Uber and Lyft are the future, she says, “so we just have to work on regulating it so that Floridians are safe. That’s my biggest concern.”

(Under the Sprowls-Grant bill, TNC drivers will not be required to have a Level II background check. In a committee hearing last month, Sprowls downplayed the notion that a Level II check is more rigorous than what is in his bill. “The FBI database has 95 million records. These multistage databases that we specifically outline in the bill, have 500 million records,” he said).

Senate President Joe Negron was one of a handful of Florida Republicans who traveled to Washington last week to discuss potential health care changes with their congressional counterparts. He supports a plan being floated that would have the federal government giving a form of a block grant to the state for Medicaid coverage.

Like virtually every Democrat, Cruz would prefer that the Affordable Care Act stay in place, but she’ll reserve judgment if a new GOP plan ends up covering at least as many if not more of her constituents.

That remains extremely dubious, though.

While the Florida Senate overwhelmingly supported a hybrid version of Medicaid expansion a couple of years ago, Cruz’ GOP colleagues in the House overwhelmingly rejected such an idea, which rankles the Tampa Democrat.

“I hear them get so snarky sometimes in the Legislature about folks without health care coverage and it slays me, honestly, because these folks who don’t have coverage end up in the emergency room because that’s their only option, that cost is passed on to us … so it’s like really?” she says. “You’re pushing so hard not to have coverage for working families, yet, believe it or not, you’re paying for it at the end.”

There will be plenty of bills, resolutions and resolution-like memorials in the 2017 session — 39 in all.

Cruz says that the National Rifle Association’s influence on GOP legislators is preventing the Legislature from moving forward on “common sense gun safety reforms.” She’s cognizant of the vast cultural differences that representatives from more rural areas of the state feel about guns as opposed to those from urban regions like Tampa.

“I understand that people have very different perspectives, but nobody is trying to take anyone’s gun away from them,” she insists. “We just want to make sure that campuses and airports are safe.”

Cruz did offer her prediction for the coming session.

“I’m looking forward to working with Speaker Corcoran, watching the sparks fly between the Speaker and the Governor, hoping that session will end on time and we won’t waste taxpayer’s dollars. But we’ll see.”

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons