Richard Corcoran Archives - Page 3 of 42 - Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: Democrats may finally get the message that they need, well, a message

Florida Democrats have become such a non-factor in state politics that the real drama frequently becomes which faction of the Republican party will prevail on a given issue.

Think about it.

We have had knockdown, drag-outs between the GOP-controlled House and Senate. This year the main event has been the ongoing feud between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

It’s almost like Democrats don’t exist.

Republicans have long had a consistent message of tough on crime, lower taxes and regulations, gun expansion and job creation. Democrats, on the other hand, basically have campaigned on the “Vote For Me Because I’m Not Him (or Her)” but, guess what? They may finally be getting the message that they need, well, a message.

“What we have to do is convince them that voting for us will make a difference in our lives,” Tallahassee mayor and declared Democratic candidate for Governor Andrew Gillum told the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida in Tampa recently.

And in one of the best lines of the still-young campaign so far, Gillum told that crowd Democrats wouldn’t win 2018 by being “Republican-lite.”

Businessman Chris King, the latest declared Democratic candidate for 2018, kicked off his campaign by telling the Orlando Sentinel, “The challenge for the Democrats, I think, is to offer something different, something authentic.

Authentic, eh?

What would that look like?

How about explaining why Medicaid expansion is important because it could actually lower health care costs in the long run. Or maybe, uh … it’s just the right thing to do?

Explain what happens if we don’t take care of the environment. Under Scott, the GOP has gutted many environmental protections and the Legislature often mocks any attempt to protect the land we inhabit. Don’t just say “GOP, BAD!” though. Democrats need to explain why their way is better.

Oh, and there is transportation. Democrats have really dropped the ball there. So explain that the GOP vision, as put into practice by the Florida Department of Transportation, calls for a steady increase in the number of toll roads while rejecting any attempt at effective mass transit. You think people really want that?

Show the growth numbers expected in Florida over the next 20 years and present a vision of what the state will look like if the only transit option is to build more roads. That approach worked extremely well for Democrat Pat Kemp in last November’s election for the Hillsborough County Commission, by the way.

See how easy this is?

Guns? Democrats have ceded that and related issues like Stand Your Ground to Republicans, mostly because (I believe) they cower in fear at that the National Rifle Association will come after them hard for saying we need to bring common sense to the Gunshine State.

Psssst. The NRA will come after you anyway, quivering Democrat. So, take on that fight, loudly. Go after Stand Your Ground and the GOP’s latest pitiful move to force prosecutors to prove a shooter didn’t feel threatened when pulling the trigger.

Democrats are going to have to shout such things from the rooftop, with clarity and determination. It won’t be easy. Republicans have controlled the microphone for a long time now while Democrats have curled up in the corner with nothing to say.

Are they up for this?

Time will tell, I guess.

St. Petersburg officials make the case for Enterprise Florida

With less than a month to go for the Florida Legislature Regular Session, several major issues remain unresolved.

No issue is more entertaining — on a purely political basis — than the debate among Republicans on the viability of Enterprise Florida.

That’s the public-private partnership between Florida’s business and government leaders where recent records show has spent a lot more public than private money. And that’s a major reason Enterprise Florida has spent an entire year in the crosshairs of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, whose intense campaign has resulted in the Florida House voting to defund the organization.

But that’s not the case in the Senate.

The upper chamber’s current budget funds the organization to the tune of $85 million, with Gov. Rick Scott taking weekly road trips up and down the state for the past few months calling out House Republicans who voted against the measure. Much of the road trips include cheerleading sessions with both political and business elite in those communities.

J.P. DuBuque, the president of the Greater St. Petersburg Economic Development Corporation, admits that economic growth in the state won’t die out if Enterprise Florida isn’t retained. But he also believes taking away the business community’s biggest (and best) marketing arm and “unilaterally disarming” regarding tax incentives will negatively impact growth trajectory and the success overall of Florida communities.

“We’re competing against other locations. They may have deals where they might be considering locations in Cleveland or Dallas or Nashville or Atlanta. All of those states have lucrative incentive programs, and if we do not have something of our own to help close the deal, the total cost element which every business is going to look at, that pendulum moves away from Florida, and we don’t get the jobs,” he says.

In a conference call with FloridaPolitics.com Friday, DuBuque joined Bram Hechtkopf, CEO of St. Petersburg-based Kobie Marketing, a firm working with some of the biggest companies in the United States to build brand loyalty.

Working through the State’s Qualified Target Industry (QTI) program last year, Kobie qualified for 255 new hires, with an average salary of $80,000.

Under the QTI program, administered through the Department of Economic Opportunity and Enterprise Florida, companies can receive a $3,000 tax refund per new job created — if the salary is more than 115 percent of the county’s average annual wage.

After the House Rules and Policy Committee had passed a bill last month to kill Enterprise Florida, the libertarian-based Americans for Prosperity-Florida celebrated.

“Florida is the best state to raise a family and start a business, because of our outstanding recourses and infrastructure, not because of taxpayer handouts,” AFP-Florida representatives said in a statement. “The time to end these unfair handouts is now.”

AFP-Florida has been the most vocal group to call out all forms of what they dub “corporate welfare.” In so, they found an ideological partner in Corcoran, who at one point wanted the same fate for Visit Florida, the state’s tourist development arm.

Corcoran has since backed off that stance while continuing to push for a severe reduction in its budget.

DuBuque, as head of the EDC, bristles at the suggestion that EF simply gives out tax incentives willy-nilly.

“The incentives don’t make the deal,” he maintains. “The decision to consider a location for growth or relocation is driven first in most cases by availability and cost of labor, then you  have real estate considerations, you have quality-of-life considerations, so you have all of these considerations that your business are going to take.”

Hechtkopf emphasizes that Enterprise Florida has been a good corporate partner, helping attract and maintain talent in the Tampa Bay area. Although he was unable to confirm the nature of how the tax incentive program would work for Kobie Marketing, an official working with the firm later contacted FloridaPolitics to say that Kobie “has the potential of $1.7 million dollars in tax refunds from calendar years 2017 through 2023 as long as the 255 net-new employee are retained through the year 2023.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran: The press corps’ enabler

At halftime in this year’s Legislative Session, House Speaker Richard Corcoran sounds like he’s getting a bit fatigued with questions about “transparency.”

At a media availability on Thursday, the Land O’ Lakes Republican pushed back against a reporter’s question about special interests who draft bills, and whether leadership pressures committee chairs to hear those bills.

“All I hear from you guys is ‘OK, you guys have done more than any other Legislature in the history of mankind (on) transparency and openness … but you forgot this one,’ ” Corcoran said.

“Really, what you ought to say is thank you. We’ve made your lives a heck of a lot easier. You guys have not even had access to all of the documents and all of the information if it wasn’t for us filing lawsuits and dragging people who take taxpayer money up here before committees and browbeating them (about) what they’re spending money on. And the only thing you guys come and tell us is, ‘you forgot this group.’

“You know, you guys have to (get over) your level of cynicism … How many times are bills given to Democrats, to Republicans, that are written by the special interests? Way too many. (But) I will (say) this year of legislators and legislation that is homegrown, owned by the members, is better than any.

“I’ll give you another example,” Corcoran went on. “Take the budget, and the pushback by the special interests. You just went through a whole budget week, and (here in the House), you had seven amendments. A budget that cuts $2.1 billion of pork, one Democrat votes against it and there’s only seven amendments, all of them completely transparent.”

(Actually, it was two Democrats: House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa and Rep. Lori Berman of Lantana.)

“Go across the hall (to the Senate), and what do you see?” Corcoran said. “How many amendments were offered to the Senate budget bill? Over 100.

“… We have a $100 million plus in (member-requested) projects. The Senate? Sitting at $700 million. So you want me to tell you where we can bridge differences? $700 million is too many projects. That is a lot of pork.”

The chamber’s respective budgets should be voted off the floor next week, then move into conference the week after that. The Senate’s more than $85 billion, or about $4 billion over the House’s bottom line. The current state budget is close to $82.3 billion.

Jack Latvala raises more than $244K on eve of 2017 Legislative Session

Jack Latvala raised more than $250,000 in the first week of March, much of which was raised in a single day.

Florida Leadership Committee, the Clearwater Republican’s political committee, raised at least $252,160 between March 1 and March 6, according to contribution data posted to the committee’s website. The committee received about $244,600 of that sum on March 6, the day before the 2017 Legislative Session kicked off.

Top contributors during the brief fundraising period, according to data posted on the website, including Associated Industries of Florida, Comcast Corp., Amscot Corp., Friends of Mount Sinai Medical Center, Minto Communities, Auto Tag of America, and the Florida Manufactured Housing Association PAC.

Latvala, the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, is believed to be considering a 2018 gubernatorial bid and appears to be boosting his coffers ahead of an eventual decision. State records show Latvala raised nearly $1.1 million in February, marking one of the committee’s largest fundraising hauls to date.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and House Speaker Richard Corcoran are also often mentioned as possible 2018 contenders

On the Democratic side, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Chris King have already announced their 2018 run, and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham are expected to formally jump into the race soon.

Adam Putnam political committee brings in big bucks in March

Adam Putnam is poised to have another record fundraising month, laying the groundwork for his likely 2018 gubernatorial run.

Florida Grown, the political committee that will fuel Putnam’s likely 2018 run, raised at least $872,841 in March, according to contribution data posted on the committee’s website. That sum is expected to rise to nearly $1.1 million once final numbers are reported to the state Division of Elections in the coming days.

“As we travel the state, we’ve seen overwhelming support for Adam and his vision,” wrote Justin Hollis, the chairman of Florida Grown, in an email to supporters. “And that support is evident is contributions to the Florida Grown PC. To date, Florida Grown PC has received more than $10.5 million in contributions with $1,077,000 coming in March, and more than 1,700 supporters to date.”

That anticipated one-month haul would make March the second biggest fundraising month for the political committee to date. In February, the committee raised $2.5 million, it’s largest one-month fundraising haul since it opened in 2015

While Putnam hasn’t officially thrown his hat in the race, he’s acting the part of a candidate. In his email to supporters, Hollis said Putnam and Florida Grown have been “very busy crisscrossing the state meeting with supporters, including parents, teachers, small business owners, nurses, truck drivers and everything in between.”

“With every discussion, he learns more about the people of our state and what they want to see in future leadership. And Adam shares his vision for our state. He believes Florida is more than just the prize for a life well-lived somewhere else,” wrote Hollis. “He wants to attract folks to Florida decades sooner, so they can start their lives, build their businesses and grow their families right here in the Sunshine State. He believes Florida is not just a prize at the end of a career, but it can be the jumping off point for the American Dream.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala are also believed to be considering a 2018 gubernatorial run.

On the Democratic side, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Chris King have already announced their 2018 run, and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham are expected to formally jump into the race soon.

Poll shows Floridians undecided on 2018 gubernatorial options

If the results of a new poll are any indication, Floridians just aren’t that interested the 2018 gubernatorial election.

The survey — conducted March 28 through March 29 by Gravis Marketing for The Orlando Political Observer — found 36 percent of Democratic voters and 63 percent of Republicans said they were uncertain who they would vote for in their respective primaries. The survey also showed many voters were still “uncertain” in several hypothetical head-to-head general election showdowns.

The poll of 1,453 registered voters, which was conducted using automated phone calls and web responses of cell phone users, has a margin of error of 2.6 percent.

The poll found 24 percent of Democrats said they would pick former Rep. Patrick Murphy in the Democratic primary; while 23 percent said they would choose Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. Orlando attorney John Morgan received 9 percent support, followed by former Rep. Gwen Graham with 8 percent support, and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine with 1 percent.

On the Republican side, 21 percent of GOP voters said they would pick Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, while 5 percent support went to former Rep. David Jolly and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. Sen. Jack Latvala received 4 percent, followed by former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker with 2 percent.

In a head-to-head match-up between Putnam and Gillum, Putnam would receive 32 percent of the vote to Gillum’s 31 percent. The poll found 37 percent were uncertain.

Morgan would best Putnam, 34 percent to 33 percent; however, 32 percent of voters said they were uncertain. Graham would defeat Putnam 34 percent to 32 percent; but in that instance, 35 percent said they were uncertain.

Gillum has a clear lead over Corcoran, 33 percent to 26 percent. But again, the poll found a significant number of voters — in this case 42 percent — said they were uncertain who they would vote for.

In a match-up between Morgan and Corcoran, Morgan would receive 39 percent of the vote to the Land O’Lakes Republican’s 27 percent. The poll found 34 percent were undecided. Graham, the poll found, would best Corcoran 34 percent to 29 percent; but 38 percent were undecided.

 

Janet Cruz’s ‘tough haul,’ frustrations of the Democratic House caucus

In Tampa, Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel waxed optimistically last month about the Democrats’ chance of winning back the state Senate in 2020.

Notably, he didn’t say anything about the House, where Republicans outnumber Democrats, 79-41.

Tampa Rep. Janet Cruz, serving the first year of a two-year stint as Minority Leader and four weeks into the 2017 Session, admits it’s been a tough haul.

“I feel like we’re spending so much time on bills that in caucus meetings, we’ve grown to call them ‘dead bills walking,'” she says of how Session is going so far.

“These are bills that are simply shots across the bow,” she says, specifically referring to Speaker Richard Corcoran and his campaign to kill Enterprise Florida.

The Speaker’s effort comes much to the consternation of Gov. Rick Scott, who continues to travel the state to call out individual Republicans who have voted in support of the proposal to date.

“They’re one executive branch taking shots at the other executive branch,” Cruz says. “And in my opinion, it’s all posturing to run for higher office.”

While both Corcoran and the governor are considered to have ambitious to run for higher office next year, their battle regarding tax incentives to recruit businesses to Florida has become visceral. Meanwhile, the passage this past week of Longwood Republican Scott Plakon‘s bill that would require unions to disclose information on it’s membership or be forced to re-certify appeared to devastate Democrats.

What both bills have in common — neither has a Senate companion.

“We are hearing bills that don’t have a chance of going anywhere,” Cruz laments.

“These are just bills that they want to send a message with more union busting. Further intimidation,” she says, adding, “Thank God for the Senate.”

There has also been legislation preemption local governments, such as St. Cloud Republican Mike LaRosa‘s proposal to bar cities from regulating vacation rentals of private homes, angering many mayors.

Cruz mused that the plan seemed something scripted from ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council known to offer model legislation to Republicans.

“They realize that most cities and led by Democrats and those from the urban core,” she notes. “This is just an overreach of local control, and it’s wrong.”

Divided over dollars: Florida legislators split on spending

With about a month left in the regular session, Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature is on a major collision course over spending.

This past week the House and Senate released rival budgets for the coming year that reveal a wide divide between the two chambers on everything from taxes to schools to state worker pay raises.

The two sides don’t even have the same bottom line: The Senate’s overall budget is more than $85 billion, or roughly $4 billion more than the House proposed. The current state budget is nearly $82.3 billion.

Part of the reason for the disparity is that House Republicans sought aggressive budget cuts, aimed largely at hospitals and state universities. But the House budget also sets aside money for roughly $300 million in tax cuts, including a reduction in the tax charged on rent paid by businesses.

House leaders say they pushed ahead with deep spending cuts to help the state avoid possible shortfalls that are projected over the next two to three years by state economists. In describing the need for cuts, House Republicans have referred to a budget “deficit” even though state tax collections are actually growing.

“We have to make informed decisions, and we have to make tough decisions,” said Rep. Carlos Trujillo, a Miami Republican and the House budget chairman. “We can’t be all things to all people.”

A big sticking point between the House and Senate will be over money for public schools.

The Senate is recommending a nearly $800 million increase for day-to-day operations that would boost the amount spent on each student by close to 3 percent. That contrasts with the House’s proposal that would increase the per-student amount by 1.25 percent.

“The budget meets the needs of our growing state in a manner that reflects the priorities of the constituents who elected us,” said Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican.

But a large portion of the Senate plan relies on an increase in local property taxes triggered by rising property values. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has vowed to block any proposal that relies on higher taxes.

Corcoran and other House Republicans have proposed steering large amounts of money into contentious programs, including an ambitious $200 million “Schools of Hope” plan that would offer money to charter school operators that set up schools near failing public schools.

Another wide area of disagreement: Money for economic development programs and tourism promotion that has already pitted House leaders against Gov. Rick Scott. The Senate has kept intact the state’s economic development agency known as Enterprise Florida and agreed to keep spending on tourism marketing close to current levels. The House is proposing to shutter Enterprise Florida, while slashing the state’s tourism ad budget by roughly $50 million.

“Over and over again, politicians in the House have failed to understand that Florida is competing for job creation projects against other states and countries across the globe,” Scott said this week about the House proposal.

The House and Senate also differ on the need for across-the-board raises for state workers. The Senate is offering a raise of $1,400 to all employees making $40,000 or less, and $1,000 to those who earn more than $40,000. The House is recommending targeted pay raises to corrections officers and state law-enforcement agents.

The Senate is also proposing 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. House leaders have said they are opposed to borrowing money this year but have not rejected the Senate plan.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Black clouds loom over this year’s gambling bills

Ed. Note: A version of this story ran previously in Saturday’s “Takeaways from Tallahassee” email.


It’s long been a Capitol cliché, but there are few pronouncements on a piece of legislation as inauspicious as calling something “a heavy lift.”

Saying a bill is “a heavy, heavy lift” sounds even more portending of defeat.

Yet that’s how House Speaker Richard Corcoran referred to the omnibus gambling bills now on their way to conference. They include a new agreement for continued exclusive rights for the Seminole Tribe of Florida to offer blackjack in return for $3 billion over seven years.

“It’s got a long way to go,” the Land O’ Lakes Republican said in a press conference after Thursday’s floor session.

Generally, the House holds the line on gambling expansion; the Senate is open to some expansion, including allowing slot machines at pari-mutuels in counties that approved a slots referendum.

Having blackjack money for the upcoming $80 billion-plus state budget could mean an extra $340 million-$350 million.

“It’s a heavy lift. There’s a reason it hasn’t been passed in decades,” Corcoran said. “But this is the first time, probably that anyone can recall, where you have two bills moving … That puts them in a posture to see where a negotiation goes.

“But I would still say it’s a heavy, heavy lift … We’ll see how it unfolds.”

Another sign: Neither chamber factored gambling revenue share from the Seminole Tribe to the state into their respective budgets, he said.

“I think it’s generally considered an irresponsible budgeting practice to budget money” that you don’t know you have, Corcoran said.

Sen. Bill Galvano, the Bradenton Republican who’s the Senate’s point man on gambling, said any gambling revenue—assuming a deal is struck—”would come in at the back end.”

The Senate passed its gambling package (SB 8) Thursday; the House Commerce Committee cleared its bill (HB 7037) later that day. It’s set to be discussed next Tuesday on the House floor.

Galvano, speaking to reporters after the Senate’s floor session, said getting both sides to ‘yes’ won’t be easy.

“I told the members here today that I couldn’t guarantee we’ll ultimately have a final resolution,” he said. The House is “interested in seeing something move …  My conversations with the Seminole Tribe have been positive.”

The Tribe had sent a letter to Corcoran, Gov. Rick Scott and Senate President Joe Negron saying “neither (bill) would satisfy the requirements of federal law nor satisfy fundamental tribal concerns” and called them “not acceptable.”

The Tribe’s concern was that it would be financially squeezed by the Legislature’s current proposals without getting enough in return. It offers blackjack at five of its seven casinos, including the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tampa.

When told his warning to his colleagues “sounded ominous,” Galvano said, “I have to manage expectations,” adding the chambers were still “light years ahead of where we’ve ended in the past.”

That is, nowhere. And still in wait is a state Supreme Court decision on whether Florida dog and horse tracks outside South Florida can have slot machines. That could add additional revenue to state coffers, but would cross the Seminoles, who have slots exclusively outside South Florida.

Moreover, a Leon County circuit judge recently ruled that slot-machine looking games known as “pre-reveal” (one example is here) can’t be legally defined as slots.

The Tribe has disagreed, saying such games also violate the existing agreement, the Seminole Compact, between the Seminole and the state. That would entitle them not to pay any more slots money. Galvano said he doesn’t believe the games violate the Compact.

Still, “if we can’t get to where we have the votes in each chamber to pass, then we have to walk away,” he said.

House speaker’s ‘corporate welfare’ crackdown runs into Senate roadblock

Enterprise Florida Inc. could survive 2017 after all.

Established in 1996, the taxpayer-funded organization has awarded nearly $2 billion in economic incentives to private businesses to create jobs and boost the state economy.

Its record is mixed, and its reputation has been scarred by exorbitant executive pay, high-profile taxpayer losses and a failure to match private funding with public appropriations — a statutory requirement.

As a result, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, is spearheading an effort to put the controversial business recruitment agency out of business permanently.

Earlier this month, the House passed a bill that would eliminate Enterprise Florida and nearly two dozen tax incentive programs. The House passed an additional “corporate welfare” bill that would subject Visit Florida, the state’s taxpayer-funded tourism marketing corporation, to the same accountability standards as state government agencies while cutting its annual funding from $76 million to $25 million.

The Senate apparently didn’t get the memo.

Both reforms ran into a roadblock this week when the Senate unveiled its 2017-18 budget proposal. It includes more than $80 million for Enterprise Florida programs and $76 million for Visit Florida. The funding totals align with what Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, has requested.

Scott, an unabashed proponent of incentives, issued a statement Wednesday endorsing the Senate proposal.

“I want to thank the Florida Senate for listening to our families and job creators by proposing to fully fund Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida,” said Scott, who serves as chairman of Enterprise Florida’s board of directors.

“Unfortunately, at this time the Florida House has chosen to continue ignoring the Floridians they serve. The House’s decision to severely cut the budget of Visit Florida is especially shocking when we look at how disastrous this has been in other states,” Scott said.

Corcoran has yet to release a statement, but has continued to make his case publicly since both House reform bills passed during the first week of the annual legislative session.

“Instead of picking winners and losers in the marketplace, which does more on its own to lift people out of poverty, they ought to be using that money for education, for infrastructure, for giving back taxes to the people or broad-based, fair tax cuts in the business marketplace, which is why people move here more than any other reason,” Corcoran told the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club.

Amy Baker, the Legislature’s top economist, told lawmakers in January that 70 percent of the state’s incentive programs fail to deliver a positive return on investment.

Scott and other incentive advocates contend that taxpayer resources are necessary to entice businesses from going to other states.

“Over and over again, politicians in the House have failed to understand that Florida is competing for job creation projects against other states and countries across the globe. Eliminating Enterprise Florida means we will not be able to effectively compete for new opportunities,” Scott said Wednesday.

The Legislature is constitutionally required to pass an annual budget. Corcoran said in his Tiger Bay remarks that he’s ready for a special session beyond the May 5 regular session deadline if the Senate is unwilling to abolish Enterprise Florida, which he referred to as an “absolute cesspool.”

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