Richard Corcoran Archives - Page 4 of 42 - Florida Politics

Dana Young, environmentalists still hold hope for fracking ban in 2017

House members now say the possibility of a fracking ban is dead for the 2017 Legislative Session.

Sen. Dana Young thinks it’s premature to administer last rites, at least just yet.

“You never say never, but now we’re saying it looks like that will be next year,” Rep. Mike Miller, an Orlando Republican, told the Naples Daily News about his bill (HB 451) as the first month of Session ended this week.

The reason for the impasse is the desire by some House Republicans for a scientific study to determine the potential impacts of fracking. That echoes the 2016 legislation seeking to impose a two-year moratorium on fracking while a Florida-specific study was commissioned to assess the possible implications of the drilling technique used for extracting oil or natural gas from deep underground.

That’s a bill Young supported a year ago.

And while the Tampa Republican maintained that it was, in fact, an anti-fracking bill, environmental groups and Young’s opponents in the Senate District 18 race hit her hard on the issue in 2016, prompting her to declare that she would introduce a clean proposal banning hydraulic fracking in 2017.

It was then Young sponsored SB 442, which immediately gained support from those same environmental groups who opposed her.

And with more than 80 Florida cities and counties already adopting ordinances or resolutions in support of a ban, momentum looked strong for such a ban coming into Session.

But Miller and House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues say that a scientific study is required. Rodrigues has previously said that it would be “foolish” to ban the practice without any scientific evidence (neither Miller or Rodrigues returned calls for comment).

On Friday, Young said that she hadn’t spoken with House leadership; if they are interested in a study, she says they should still go ahead and push the legislation forward.

“What I would say is, move a bill in your chamber that has a study and a ban in it,” Young says, “and then let’s let other members in on that and see where we end up.”

Miller’s bill is co-sponsored by Tampa Democrat Janet Cruz, who said she thought with “Republican muscle” behind the bill this year, it has to pass.

“It’s absolutely incredible and amazing that the citizens of Florida, if you look at the numbers, overwhelmingly support a ban on fracking,” Cruz says. “Yet once again, we have a Legislature that continues to ignore the wills and the wants of the people to serve big business.”

With more than half the session to go, though, some environmental activists are refusing to throw in the towel on the prospect of finally getting a ban in the Sunshine State.

“The House bill that bans fracking may not survive, but the fight is long from over,” says Jonathan Webber, deputy director of Florida Conservation Voters. “Nearly half the Florida Senate – Republicans and Democrats alike – have already cosponsored Senator Dana Young’s good legislation. Now Senator Rob Bradley has the opportunity to teach the House a lesson about how to best protect our water and tourism economy by keeping the ban moving in the Senate.”

With 18 co-sponsors of her bill in the Senate, Young says she’ll have no problem getting the bill passed through the Legislature’s upper chamber. She said then it’s up to the House to respond in kind.

Other environment groups are keeping the heat on as well.

On Friday, the environmental group Food & Water Watch held a press conference in House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s district, where they called on him and Senate President Joe Negron to follow “the will of the people,” says organizer Michelle Allen.

“I think towards the middle of Session, they start to say things like that,” Allen says of Miller’s comments that the bill was dead in the House. “We’re going to keep pushing.”

Food & Water Watch will hold another media event in Key Largo Saturday, calling on to bring Republican Holly Raschein to support the House bill the Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee she chairs.

Joe Henderson: Psst … Tallahassee, you might want to actually listen to the people on this one

While the business of governing requires tough choices and choosing between priorities that can be conflicting, sometimes it’s best to do what the people want. After all, it’s their money that is being spent.

So, listen up, Tallahassee.

On the subject of state Medicaid funding, the people — your bosses — appear to have spoken loudly, clearly and with a you-better-not-mess-with-this message. They want it funded, and they’re not kidding.

According to a Public Opinion Strategies poll conducted for the Florida Hospital Association and shared with FloridaPolitics.comabout three-quarters of the 600 registered voters surveyed like their Medicare and Medicaid. They strongly reject shifting funds from those programs to other spending projects.

And this is most telling — of those voters who accept the state might have a budget crisis, 66 percent say Medicare and Medicaid shouldn’t be cut.

This comes as budget proposals in the House and Senate call for steep cuts in those programs.

Well, well, well!

Budget hawks in the Legislature have grumped for years about the expense of these programs, but they’re missing the point. As this poll appears to show, the people are telling legislators that this point is nonnegotiable.

Lawmakers can get away with a lot of things because voters are consumed by the act of living day to day. Most voters don’t tune into all the nuance and back-and-forth that goes on in the Legislative Session, but they’ll damn sure pay attention if their Medicaid is threatened.

While the moves by House Speaker Richard Corcoran to tighten lobbying rules and eliminate Gov. Rick Scott’s business incentives were politically shrewd and had the added benefit of being the right thing to do, I doubt voters in the Villages or anywhere else in the state discussed it at happy hour.

Health care coverage is so complicated, though, that can’t be solved with barroom chat or by taking a meat cleaver to vital programs. Sometimes, leaders just have to do what the people want.

This also isn’t something where politicians can reasonably expect people to do more with less. If lawmakers don’t yet know that, let ‘em whack the Medicaid budget. Watch what happens when their constituents can’t afford or, in some cases, even get services they were used to.

That’s what this survey was telling state leaders as they grapple with how to set and pass a budget. They better be listening.

Richard Corcoran and other @MyFLHouse leaders meet the press

House Speaker Richard Corcoran and members of the Florida House met with reporters Thursday to discuss this week’s floor action.

Among others, state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan took questions on a judicial term limits measure passed this week and Appropriations chair Carlos Trujillo discussed the House budget now being printed.

Corcoran himself touched off a bit of a controversy with a mention of “leadership meetings,” leading some to inquire whether decisions about pending legislation were taking place out of the sunshine.

The speaker had promised that the House under his leadership would the most “transformative and transparent” in years.

A Periscope video of the entire press conference can be viewed below:

Can Susan Glickman ever shoot straight?

The House of Representatives’ new lobbying registration regime has ensnared Susan Glickman, Florida director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran now requires lobbyists to disclose every bill, amendment, and individual appropriation they are trying to influence.

Go to the House website, and you’ll see Glickman is registered for four House bills. But not for a fifth that she also testified on recently.

That would be HB 1043, which would allow Florida Power & Light the ability to pass on the cost of energy exploration to its customers.

Whoops.

But this isn’t the first time silly Susie has blundered her way through the thicket of lobbying disclosures.

Back in 2015, Glickman appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee to discuss the importance of registering lobbyists.

But a search on the state’s registration website showed she herself had not registered, despite appearing as a lobbyist before at least three committees during Session.

Did I say “whoops” already?

So now it remains to be seen what punishment Glickman gets for not being able to follow the rules.

We’d be OK with a one-year banishment from the halls of the Capitol. Or at least on the House side.

Florida may shift students away from failing schools

Calling it an “emergency,” Florida may agree to spend up to $200 million to shift students from chronically failing schools to charter schools run by private organizations.

The idea crafted by House Speaker Richard Corcoran and other top Republicans in the Florida House is this: Offer up money to help build “Schools of Hope” in neighborhoods, many of them in urban and poor areas.

The schools would be within 5 miles of or in the zones of existing traditional public schools that have repeatedly earned low grades under the state’s school grading system.

“No longer will we rob children of dignity and hope,” Corcoran said. “Now every single child will be afforded an opportunity of a world-class education.”

Corcoran, a Republican from Land O’Lakes, has touted the idea for months of using charter schools to serve low-income students, but his ambitious proposal is sure to ignite an ongoing debate over expanding the role of charter schools. Charter schools are considered public, but they are run by private organizations that sometimes use privately run companies to manage them.

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

Rep. Shevrin Jones, the lead Democrat on the House’s main education committee, called the House plan part of a long-running movement in the state to offer assistance to charter schools at the expense of traditional public schools run by districts.

“We are creating a mess,” said Jones, who is from Broward County. “We should be taking $200 million to put the resources into those failing schools to ensure those schools are successful.”

Republicans, however, counter that many of the low-performing schools already get extra money from the state and from the federal government but have been unable to make steady improvements. They cite the recent decision of Jefferson County —a rural county in north Florida — to hand over its schools to a charter operator after years of struggle.

More than 100 schools statewide have been consistently ranked as low performing for more than three years.

Rep. Michael Bileca, a Miami Republican and chairman of the House Education Committee, said legislators met with charter school operators and asked what it would take for them to set up schools in the neighborhoods now served by traditional public schools. He said one answer was that they needed help paying for new buildings to house the school.

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.

A big question is whether or not the proposal will survive a looming fight during the next month between the House and Senate over a new state budget. Both sides have crafted vastly different spending plans.

But Sen. David Simmons, the Senate Republican in charge of the panel that oversees education spending, said he is open to any idea that seeks to help students at low-performing schools. Simmons has been championing his own proposal to offer a long school day at the same schools.

“I’m looking at anything that works,” Simmons said.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission

Progressive groups slam constitutional rewrite panel’s ‘lack of transparency’

A coalition of progressive interests, including the League of Women Voters of Florida, on Wednesday chided the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) for leaving the public in the dust—and in the dark.

A CRC spokeswoman, however, later said its “No. 1 priority is to ensure that the public is actively involved and engaged.”

Pamela Goodman, the League’s president in Florida, spoke at a news conference on the steps of the old Capitol in Tallahassee.

The commission, which meets every 20 years to review and suggest rewrites to the state’s governing document, was throwing up “roadblocks to public engagement,” Goodman said. The first public hearing is Wednesday night in Orlando.

For instance, “the rushed actions of the CRC to date cause us to question how public participation and transparency will be taken,” said Goodman, the former president and CEO of the Limited Express clothing retailer.

The commission “meets for approximately one year, traveling the State of Florida, identifying issues, performing research, and possibly recommending changes to the Constitution,” its website says.

Its first public meeting, March 20 in Tallahassee, “was planned and commissioners were notified weeks in advance, but that meeting was not announced to the public until late afternoon of the Thursday before,” Goodman said.

“How can Floridians trust the (commission’s) intentions when no respect is shown for our need and right to have full notice of and access to everything that happens in the process?” she added.

Meredith Beatrice, the commission’s spokeswoman, said Chairman Carlos Beruff‘s “top priority is ensuring the public is involved and engaged in this short process.”

Another criticism was that the panel was beginning public hearings across the state during the 2017 Legislative Session: Five commissioners are current lawmakers and need to be in Tallahassee.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who appointed all those members, said Beruff immediately “disenfranchise(d) one sixth” of his panel. “I don’t think that is a good start,” he told reporters earlier this month.

Beruff is “working to … maximize both commissioner participation and public input,” Beatrice said.

The Orlando hearing “was publicly noticed over a week ago on multiple platforms (and) Chair Beruff announced it” at the organization meeting in Tallahassee, she added. 

Notice of future meetings will be made public 1-2 weeks prior, all will be broadcast by The Florida Channel, and court reporters will transcribe each hearing, Beatrice said.

“Our top priority now is to hit the road and start talking to Floridians,” she said, adding that they soon will be able to submit their own proposals and comments through the commission’s website.

Any amendments the commission proposes would go on the 2018 general election ballot, and have to get 60 percent approval by voters to be added to the Constitution.

Other groups represented at Wednesday’s event included Common Cause and Florida Conservation Voters.

 

 

Was Jack Latvala against Enterprise Florida before he was for it?

Sen. Jack Latvala has backed Gov. Rick Scott in his defense of Enterprise Florida—but that wasn’t always the case.

The Clearwater Republican, who now chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, had some choice words for the public-private economic development organization back in 2015.

That’s when he was chair of the Senate’s Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations subcommittee.

That’s also when the agency, which the House now is trying to eliminate, was seeking more money for its business development efforts.

“They’re asking for $85 million for ‘tools,’ ” Latvala told reporters. “I helped create Enterprise Florida. My first observation is that at that time Enterprise Florida was supposed to be a public-private partnership and all of these corporations were going to contribute.

“Well, steadily, through the years, the percentage of corporate contributions has declined and state budget allocations have increased,” he said, echoing the current argument of House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

The speaker has called the group a dispenser of “corporate welfare.”

“Why do they want (more state) money when others could use it, when other communities have very worthwhile projects?” Latvala said at the time. “It’s just irresponsible.”

The entire clip is available on YouTube or watch it below:

Joe Henderson: Richard Corcoran’s moves show that real power is taken, every bit of it

On the old TV show Dallas, family patriarch Jock Ewing once memorably screamed at his son Bobby: “So I gave you power, huh? Well, let me tell you something, boy. If I did give you power, you got nothing! Nobody gives you power. Real power is something you take!”

The 2017 version of that story is playing out now in real life, with Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran in the starring role. He is taking every chance to show who has the power. It’s his way, or no way, and that’s not likely to change.

His latest joust is with the mayors and leaders of cities and counties throughout the state. He is pushing measures through the House that basically would let all those leaders know who is in charge. Hint: it ain’t them.

There was a telling quote from Corcoran in Steve Bousquet’s story on this subject in Tuesday’s Tampa Bay Times.

“Our founders got it right. When they set up a Constitution, they basically said that the federal government exists with these enumerated powers,” Corcoran told the newspaper. “What’s not enumerated, all of it, belongs to the states. Every bit of it.”

Repeat that last sentence: Every bit of it.

The contradiction, of course, is that Corcoran and fellow Republicans routinely rail against mandates coming from the federal government or court rulings. But they apparently have no problem turning Tallahassee into a Mini-Me of sorts that bosses cities and local municipalities around and doesn’t care how they feel about that.

That includes prohibiting them from raising taxes without satisfying Tallahassee’s demands. They want to restrict the right of cities to pass laws that could affect businesses. One bill would prevent cities from regulating the rentals of private homes.

That’s specifically aimed protecting companies like Airbnb in case cities decide to act on local complaints about quiet neighborhoods that can be disrupted by tourist churn. Tallahassee is in charge now. Local zoning ordinances? Ptooey!

This is the natural progression of the tone Corcoran has brought to the Speaker’s chair. His fights with Gov. Rick Scott have been in the headlines for months. He took a no-prisoners approach with lobbying and legislative reforms. He is even trying to reshape how the state Supreme Court is run.

Don’t act surprised. He has vowed to reshape Tallahassee, and that requires equal parts of determination and power. No one doubts that he has plenty of determination.

And power?

He seems to be taking it.

Every bit of it.

Charged with DUI, Cary Pigman resigns subcommittee chairmanship

State Rep. Cary Pigman, who last week was charged with drunk driving, has stepped down as chair of the House Health Quality Subcommittee.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced the move Tuesday. He appointed Jeanette Nunez, the House Speaker pro tempore, as acting chair of the the subcommittee.

Pigman, an Avon Park Republican first elected in 2012, is an emergency medicine physician and U.S. Army Reserve doctor who served in Iraq. 

“Having spent a career fighting for and defending this country, Dr. Pigman knows that it is honorable to take responsibility for one’s actions,” Corcoran said. “It is the honorable thing to do. Dr. Pigman has done both by informing me that he wishes to step down as chairman of the Health Quality Subcommittee.”

Pigman, who was traveling alone, was pulled over late last Thursday on Florida’s Turnpike after a trooper noticed his southbound Jeep “drifting” between his lane and the highway’s shoulder. (Story here.)

Pigman then failed field sobriety tests, including almost falling and not following instructions, the report said. His blood alcohol level later was measured at .14 and .15, it added. A DUI in Florida is .08 or above.

House panel approves scaled back version of school recess bill

The House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee passed its version of the public school recess bill, setting lawmakers on two very different paths when it comes to free play.

The committee approved a committee substitute for the bill (HB 67) that would allow school boards to include free-play recess for students in kindergarten through third grade as part of 150 minutes per week of physical education requirement.

The proposal, sponsored by Reps. Rene Plasencia and Bob Cortes, also requires school districts to provide 20 minutes of recess on days when physical education classes aren’t held.

That’s significantly different from the bill Plasencia and Cortes originally filed, which mandated 20 minutes of daily recess for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

A similar bill (HB 833) filed during the 2016 Legislative sailed through its committees, receiving unanimous support in each of its stops. The 2016 measure cleared the House on a 112-2 vote, with current House Speaker Richard Corcoran and current Education Committee Chairman Michael Bileca voting against the bill.

The 2016 measure died in the Senate when it failed to get a hearing in the Senate Education Committee.

This year, the Senate proposal (SB 78) — which mandates 20 minutes of daily recess for public school students in kindergarten through fifth grade — has easily cleared each of its committees, receiving unanimous support in each of its committee stops. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores, has been placed on the Senate Special Order calendar and will be taken up on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the House heard its version of the bill just under the wire; it was the last bill to be heard during the House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee of this session.

The House bill now heads to the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee.

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