Richard Corcoran Archives - Page 4 of 34 - Florida Politics

Jorge Labarga answers critics about James E.C. Perry’s ‘senior’ service

Florida’s chief justice Friday publicly defended his decision to allow Justice James E.C. Perry to continue working on cases after his retirement.

On Dec. 1, Jorge Labarga assigned Perry “senior” status for a period after his mandatory Dec. 30 retirement.

News since surfaced that the Florida House of Representatives, led by Republican Speaker Richard Corcoran, was preparing a legal challenge to Perry’s continued work saying, among other things, Perry was an unconstitutional “eighth” justice on the seven-member court.

“It’s in the constitution,” Labarga told reporters, speaking in advance of a meeting of the state’s Commission on Access to Civil Justice in Tallahassee. “The constitution permits the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court to appoint senior justice and senior judges.”

The state’s governing document says the chief justice “shall have the power to assign justices or judges, including consenting retired justices or judges, to temporary duty in any court for which the judge is qualified.”

“When I signed the original order, way back in December,” Labarga said, “the names (of nominees to replace Perry) had just been sent to the governor, and I had no way of knowing how long the governor was going to take to make the appointment within the period in which he’s allowed to make it.”

Gov. Rick Scott Dec. 16 announced then-5th District Court of Appeal Chief Judge C. Alan Lawson, a conservative jurist, to replace Perry, who often voted with the court’s liberal contingent.

“Once the governor appointed Justice Lawson, then I amended the order,” Labarga said. That amended order, relieving Perry of his extended service as of Jan. 31, was signed Jan. 11 and released to the media Monday.

Labarga said the court’s practice, “as long as I can remember,” has been to grant retired justices senior status to finish work they started; that is, to work on opinions in cases in which they participated in oral argument.

According to court records, the last justice afforded such status was Charles T. Wells, the man Perry replaced on the court in 2009. Before that, Labarga said then-Justice Raoul Cantero, a conservative, also had gone on senior status. Cantero left the court for private practice in 2008.

Critics privately have referred to a section of state law providing that “upon the resignation, death or impeachment of any judge, all matters pending before that judge shall be heard and determined by the judge’s successor.” That law does not use the word “justice,” others say.

“Appellate work is not like trial work,” Labarga said. “If I leave the bench today and a new judge comes in, that judge can’t just start that morning. The records are huge. It takes time to read” all the material.

“This way, when you’re almost out of the woods, almost done with an opinion, you can get it done.”

The chief justice also noted Perry was not paid as a senior justice, that he worked as a “volunteer:” “He served a long and distinguished career and was ready to move on with his life.”

Labarga also said, when he amended his order to end Perry’s senior status, he did not know the House was preparing to challenge Perry’s still being at the court.

“Absolutely not. I learned about that in a newspaper article,” Labarga said. Court spokesman Craig Waters “came to me and said, ‘They’re making this allegation.’ My reaction was, ‘What?’ “

Labarga later declined comment on bills now filed in the Legislature to place term limits on appellate judges and allow legislative overrides on court decisions.

Moreover, another reporter pointed out the governor’s proposed budget does not fund the state court system’s request for new judges or improved technology.

When asked if he felt “like the judiciary has a bull’s-eye on its back,” Labarga said, “We’re prepared to answer any questions they have about how we use the taxpayers’ money … But I’m not going to comment on motivations.”

 

Dana Young decries the ‘shrill tone’ coming out of Tallahassee

The clash between Rick Scott and the leaders of the Florida House and Senate have dominated the front pages of several Florida newspapers this week, and Dana Young doesn’t like it one bit.

“There is this angry, shrill tone coming out of Tallahassee, and I truly don’t understand why,” the GOP District 18 state Senator told a crowd of over 50 people at the Oxford Exchange in Tampa on Friday morning.

“I kind of feel that we’re on the same team and we should be working together to get a budget passed,  but this shrill screaming is discouraging,” she continued. “So it could take awhile.”

The biggest public clash has been the different budget proposals unveiled from the governor and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. The House plan would eliminate the state’s economic development agency Enterprise Florida and the state’s tourism marketing arm Visit Florida, angering Scott.

The House would also eliminate any public subsidizes for film incentives and sports stadiums. When asked where she came down regarding the issue of giving incentives to recruit businesses to Florida, Young said she saw validity to both arguments, but said she didn’t believe it is necessary to get rid of state agencies.

“It’s an interesting argument,” she said, adding that there was no right answer about whether economic incentives are good or bad. But she did come out strongly in support of Visit Florida, saying their advertising efforts have been the fuel that has led to record tourism numbers in the state the past couple of years.”Why completely do away with an agency that by all appearances is doing a decent job of bringing people here?”

Young represented South Tampa and western Hillsborough County in the Florida House for the past six years before graduating to the Senate representing roughly the same geography last fall. That’s when she defeated Democrat Bob Buesing and independent candidates Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove  in a bruising campaign that led to bitter feelings on all sides.

Third party environmental groups also ganged up on trying to bring Young down, attacking her specifically for her vote in the House on a controversial bill regarding fracking. Young denied the claims that her support for the bill in the 2016 legislative session was a vote of support for fracking, and she’s delighted many of those same groups by introducing a bill (SB 442) that would eliminate fracking in Florida with bipartisan support.

She isn’t ready to say that it will get clear sailing this year, contending that there will be ferocious opposition to the bill, and asked that her constituents have her back when the bill gets debated this spring in Tallahassee.

Young did support Amendment 2, the medical marijuana constitutional amendment that was overwhelmingly supported by the public last fall. However, she’s urging a cautious approach to implementing it, co-sponsoring a bill with Orange Park Republican Rob Bradley (SB 406) that limits the number of marijuana producers to seven, though it could expand to as many as 20 or more medical marijuana producers once the number of patients registered for that treatment reaches 500,000.  A competing bill by St. Petersburg’s Jeff Brandes (SB 614) eliminates the cap on how many marijuana producers there can be in the state and sets up four new types of licenses so companies can be licensed to grow, process, transport or dispense.

Bradley and Young’s proposed legislation would also eliminate the current requirement that doctors treat patients for at least 90 days before being allowed to order marijuana for them. It also would expand to 90 days from 45 days, the amount of marijuana supplies patients can purchase.

Young says she prefers to maintain the concept of vertical integration, which keeps the same company that grows the plant also processes it and dispenses it.

The Senator also discussed her just introduced bill that would allow small craft breweries the opportunity to self-distribute their product to other establishments, saying it demonstrated her support for “the little guy.”

A member in the audience questioned her on why she didn’t embrace that same concept when it came to medical marijuana?

“If we let this genie out of the bottle, there is no putting it back in,” Young responded, acknowledging that there was an inconsistency in her philosophy regarding the two issues.

Like several of her GOP colleagues in the Tampa Bay Area, Young has been a big supporter of ridesharing companies, and a huge critic of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, which the local delegation has already voted to eliminate later this year. But Young did take up for the taxicab industry on Friday, saying it is unfair that they have to pay a premium fee to be legally allowed to pick up fares at Tampa International Airport, while Uber and Lyft are doing so without paying anything.

Regarding the upcoming gun debate in the Legislature, Young declined to speak specifically about pending legislation, and instead posited the question as being simply whether more guns or less guns make the public safer. Referring to the fall of 2015 mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, she decried the fact that school was a gun-free zone.

“How would you feel if you were that chancellor and you opted not to allow students who were adults with guns, to carry guns on campus when that shooter came in, and they could have killed him,” she said. “But there was nobody there to respond.”

The event was for the “Cafe Con Tampa” lecture series. Co-organizer Del Acosta said the crowd in attendance was the largest in the group’s history.

 

House to consider proposed committee bill to eliminate Enterprise Florida

The Florida House has fired back, filing a proposed committee bill this week completely eliminate Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private jobs agency.

The proposed committee bill (PCB CCS 17-01) would, among other things, abolish Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, two organizations which have drawn the ire of House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

The bill, which is expected to be discussed during Wednesday’s House Careers & Competition Subcommittee meeting, comes as Gov. Rick Scott makes some of his strongest criticisms to date about the House’s position on incentives and Visit Florida.

“If you don’t support Enterprise Florida, if you don’t support Visit Florida, then you don’t care about jobs,” said Scott after Thursday’s Enterprise Florida Board of Directors meeting. “When somebody gets a job, who gets helped the most? The most disadvantaged in our state gets helped the most. So who ever doesn’t support Enterprise Florida, doesn’t support Visit Florida, doesn’t understand how business works and is not focused on how families in every part of the state get a job.”

Corcoran played a key role in blocking Scott’s proposal for $250 million for Enterprise Florida in 2016, and he’s poised to do the same in 2017. He remains staunchly opposed to incentives, taking the position they are little more than “corporate welfare.”

And on Tuesday, Corcoran said there would be “no (economic) incentives” in his chamber’s proposed 2017-18 budget.

That position could be costing the state jobs in the long run. A few years ago, Scott said the state was in the middle of conversations with GE when the state Legislature decided to cut funding for incentives. Those conversations, Scott said, ended soon after.

“We’re not going to get the leads. You’re not going to do business with someone with no money,” he said. “If the legislature says they don’t want to do deals, then if you’re a site selector you don’t want to waste your time. We’re not the only state out there trying to get them.”

Scott said he is going to “work tirelessly” to get more jobs, and said he believes the Legislature will “fully fund” Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. He would not say whether he would veto the bill if it makes it his desk.

Rick Scott stresses need for economic incentive dollars during Enterprise Florida meeting

Gov. Rick Scott continued to make the pitch for economic incentives, telling Florida business leaders to call their House members to encourage them to support his request for millions of dollars for Enterprise Florida.

“Here’s my ask: This, in my opinion, is the most important thing we can do for the state,” he said. “Talk to all of your employees. Let them know the importance of these things. Talk to your House members. Session starts in just a month. Let them know (you support this).”

The Naples Republican made his appeal during the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors meeting Thursday morning. The meeting comes just days after Scott officially unveiled his fiscal 2017-18 budget, which included $85 million for economic incentives.

“The way I think about it is if you care about the most disadvantaged family in the state, then fully fund EFI,” said Scott. “People forget, six years ago all across our state homes were being foreclosed on, cars were being repossessed, people were moving out of our state because they couldn’t get a jobs. Now we have thousands of people moving here a year. We are the best melting pot in the world. And I’m going to fight every day to make sure when I finish, this is the No. 1 place for jobs.”

But to say Scott faces a tough sell in the Florida House, might be an understatement. House Speaker Richard Corcoran is staunchly opposed to incentives, taking the position they are little more than “corporate welfare.”

And the Land O’Lakes Republican isn’t budging from that position, saying Tuesday there would be “no (economic) incentives” in his chamber’s proposed 2017-18 budget.

That position, Scott told Enterprise Board members Thursday, sends a message to businesses and site selectors looking to relocate corporate or regional headquarters. A few years ago, Scott said the state was in the middle of conversations with GE when the state Legislature decided to cut funding for incentives. Those conversations, Scott said, ended shortly thereafter.

“We’re not going to get the leads. You’re not going to do business with someone with no money,” said Scott. “If the legislature says they don’t want to do deals, then if you’re a site selector you don’t want to waste your time. We’re not the only state out there trying to get them.”

Enterprise Florida board members expressed frustration with Corcoran’s position Thursday, calling him the “elephant in the room.

It’s unlikely this is the only time business leaders will hear Scott’s appeal for help this week. The board meeting came just hours before the start of Scott’s 2017 “Jobs Summit.”

The two-day event is expected to be similar to Scott’s successful 2016 Degrees to Jobs Summit. While that focused largely on preparing Florida’s students for the workforce, the 2017 event appears to focus on economic development development.

Rick Scott, Legislature set for an old-fashioned ‘T’ word throwdown

If there was any uncertainty what the main event will be in the 2017 Florida Legislature, that has been answered.

It’s the throw down over the “T” word.

In one corner, Gov. Rick Scott is seeking an $815 million increase in public school funding. To help pay for that, the governor wants to use the ongoing spike in property values that is expected to bring in an additional $558 million.

In the other corner, House Speaker Richard Corcoran said no way, no how. Even though the actual tax rate isn’t going up, that doesn’t seem to matter. Corcoran sees using the extra money as a de facto tax increase. And you know he feels about that.

“I’ve said it a thousand times: The House will not raise taxes,” Corcoran told reporters at a gaggle on Tuesday.

It was widely reported that he gave special emphasis to the last six words, probably channeling his inner George H.W. Bush when the former president famously stated, “Read my lips … no new taxes.”

Bush later changed his mind about that but I can’t see Corcoran giving an inch — even if it means going head-to-head with his fellow Republican who sits in the governor’s mansion.

I think Corcoran would relish that battle anyway. He has already clashed with the governor over Scott’s penchant for offering business incentives. He is at it again. His proposed $83.5 billion budget includes $618 million in tax cuts that largely benefit businesses.

Scott calls it “job creation.”

Corcoran calls it “corporate welfare.”

Public schools aren’t corporate welfare, though. Without excellence in education, the whole state suffers.

To be fair, I don’t know if Scott’s education pitch was a grandstand play, aimed at a potential 2018 run for the U.S. Senate. He had to know how Corcoran and House members would react. It’s worth noting that he put way more into the budget than education officials requested.

Even so, Scott zeroed in on a couple of things related to education that need to be addressed, no matter how the main event turns out.

He has proposed ending the ridiculous Best and Brightest bonus program that awkwardly required all teachers, even those with 30 years of experience, to submit their high school SAT or ACT test scores to be considered.

Really stupid. Really, really, really, really stupid. Insulting, too. The governor gets an extra cookie for recognizing this.

He also wants to eliminate some the fees teachers pay to be certified. That can amount to more than $500 per teacher at the start, along with regular renewals that cost $75. Teacher retention is a major systemwide problem and nuisance fees like those make it worse.

I hope Corcoran is at least sympathetic to that. Florida seems determined to push ahead with as many for-profit charter schools as possible, but public schools remain the backbone of the state’s education system.

They won’t get all the money the governor has requested. That doesn’t mean they should get shut out.

After years of piling on standardized testing that has put teachers’ jobs in jeopardy, cutting education funding, and generally devaluing the incredible work being in public schools, the Legislature needs to cut teachers a break.

Rick Scott spending plan sets DEO budget at nearly $1.3B

Gov. Rick Scott is recommending a $163 million increase in funding for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity in his proposed 2017-18 budget.

LobbyTools reports that the boost will bring the DEO budget to nearly $1.27 billion. Scott announced his budget proposal Tuesday morning at a Tallahassee news conference.

Scott’s ask includes $85 million in economic incentives – a contentious issue with some lawmakers.

Last year, Scott made a similar request, asking for $250 million for the “Florida Enterprise Fund;” which lawmakers rejected for 2016-17.

Florida’s public-private partnership programs would get about the same amount as it did in previous years; Scott wants $76 million for Visit Florida. $23.5 million for Enterprise Florida and $19.5 million for Space Florida.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a longtime critic of incentive funding – which he calls “corporate welfare” – has suggested his chamber will consider all the governor’s requests.

Scott’s budget will also give DEO $300 million from settlement money for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. LobbyTools notes that the House has so far resisted using BP Oil Spill money for economic development.

Richard Corcoran: ‘No incentives’ in House budget

Saying he believes in compromise but not in “compromising your principles,” House Speaker Richard Corcoran Tuesday said again there would be “no (economic) incentives” in his chamber’s proposed 2017-18 state budget.

Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, spoke at the annual Associated Press Legislative Session planning session at the Capitol, then took questions from reporters afterward.

Corcoran hasn’t backed down from his stance that incentives, favored by Gov. Rick Scott, are little more than “corporate welfare” that he won’t allow in the state’s yearly blueprint for spending.

He added there is “no chance” VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s public-private tourism organization, will be funded at previous levels. It got $76 million for the current budget year, and is asking for the same amount for 2017-18.

The speaker also opined on an array of other issues Tuesday:

— President Donald Trump’s administration: “If you would have told me two years ago that these are Donald Trump’s appointments, his first swath of executive orders … I could not be more pleased. His selections have been terrific. I think they’re true conservatives … And my hunch is, I’m going to be ecstatic with his first Supreme Court nominee. I would give him an A-plus.”

— Medical cannabis regulations: “The people have spoken, we will honor their will and we’re going to do it in a manner that protects the state of Florida.”

— Press-driven narratives: “There are always ‘collision courses’ between the two chambers in the Legislature and the Governor … In 71 days, we have written the most transformative, aggressive rules in the history of 50 states and 200-plus years. That was Republicans and Democrats coming together.

“…Every year, you ask, ‘how are you guys going to get it done this session?’ ‘Does it zero?’ ‘What about the governor and the Senate?’ Did it all work out? I’ve told you a thousand times, there is good compromise and bad compromise. I’m all for good compromise. I despise bad compromise.”

— Keeping his job as an attorney at a law firm that lobbies the Legislature: “There’s nothing wrong with my job at Broad & Cassel. I thought (Senate President) Joe (Negron) did a great job of addressing his issue that he had. [Negron resigned from his law firm this week.] There is no bill that I have filed that gives a specific appropriation to a client.”

Janet Cruz ready to support Richard Corcoran on Enterprise Florida

After laying out Democrats’ priorities for the House this session, Florida House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz said she would support Republican Speaker Richard Corcoran’s attacks on Enterprise Florida and VISIT Florida.

Speaking before journalists gathered for the Florida Legislative Planning Session, Cruz, of Tampa, pledged that Democrats would continue to fight for increasing funding for public education, particularly for teachers, health care coverage for low-income Floridians and support for public hospitals.

Afterward, pressed for where that money might come from, she offered to do away with corporate development incentives provided by Enterprise Florida, incentives that were vigorously defended by Gov. Rick Scott, but targeted by Speaker Corcoran for major reform, at the same conference.

“I understand the importance of attracting business, but in a good economy, do we really need to spend that money to attract businesses? Won’t they come to Florida?” Cruz challenged. “I think in a good economy these corporations find their way to Tampa without incentives.”

Cruz offered that she sees both sides on corporate incentives, but added, “we still have teachers that are some of the lowest paid in the country. We have school funding that is 50th. You know, that’s why I say we have misplaced priorities.

“Maybe we make cuts on some of the Enterprise money; maybe we start there,” Cruz said.

The priorities that she laid out are not new to Democrats. Cruz said the party and leadership have to do a better job of making a case for how the priorities would help Floridians.

“I don’t think as Democrats we’ve done a good enough job of articulating our core values have a direct impact on ensuring Florida’s families can continue to climb the economic ladder to success,” she said. “It comes down to the simple idea that we need to get more money into Floridian’s pockets.”

Those priorities include that:

— Every child deserves a quality public education. That includes re-expansion of the Bright Futures scholarship program.

— Every Floridian should have access to quality, affordable health care.

— Florida protects and preserve the environment for future generations.

— Florida creates “safe communities” where families can live without the threat of violence.

— Floridians all deserve the same equal a uniform treatment under the law.

— And “everyone deserves a fair shot to achieve their version of the American Dream.”

In question and answer, Cruz took to defending hospitals for criticism and state subsidy cuts, saying they had become like public schools and teachers, vilified by some Republicans for opposing Republican initiatives, and then cut.

“Years ago this started where we villainized teachers, and we villainized the unions that support them. Now I think that all has changed in the direction of public hospitals. Hospitals are not accustomed to being villains, but they are being villainized. You hear, ‘Oh, the hospitals are too large. They need to be privatized.’ All of this is an attempt to privatize. So we Democrats are standing up for our safety-net hospitals.”

 

Land purchase south of Lake O remains top priority for Joe Negron

Securing funding to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee remains a top priority for Senate President Joe Negron.

But Negron could face a tough road ahead. Gov. Rick Scott did not include money for a proposed Everglades reservoir in his 2017-18 budget, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran has dismissed the idea of bonding to pay for Negron’s project.

The Stuart Republican appears unfazed, saying it is his obligation to convince people the project is appropriate.

“I’m going to use the time I’m here to say enough is enough. We’ve been talking about southern storage for 20 years,” he said during the annual legislative planning session hosted by the Associated Press in Tallahassee on Tuesday. “It’s not a new idea. It’s not a radical idea. The time for talking is over. The time for action is now.”

In August, Negron announced he would push for funding to add 120 billion gallons of new water storage south of Lake Okeechobee during the 2017 legislative session. The estimated the cost of adding the reservoirs on 60,000 acres of land would cost about $2.4 billion.

At the time, Negron proposed bonding using $100 million a year from Amendment 1 dollars over 20 years to finance the project. And last week, the Senate took the first step in making good on that proposal.

Sen. Rob Bradley on Thursday filed legislation that gives the South Florida Water Management District until Dec. 18 to buy farm land for a water-storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. The funding for the purchase would come from bonding $100 million of Amendment 1 dollars.

During a news conference later that day, Corcoran said he did not support a plan to finance the project. When asked about bonding, the Land O’Lakes Republican said the “House is not prepared to bond at all.”

Funding for the project was notably missing from Scott’s nearly $83.5 billion budget.

The proposed $60 million for the “Indian River Lagoon Caloosahatchee Cleanup Initiative,” which is meant to be a long-term solution for improving water in the area. The initiative would include $40 million in new funding for a 50-50 state matching grant program to help residents impacted by algae blooms move to sewer systems and $20 million in new funding for muck dredging and other capital projects to improve water quality and reduce sources of pollution.

His budget also includes $225 million for Everglades restoration projects; $20 million for the C-51 reservoir, which will provide more than 24 billion gallons of water storage and a water supply source for South Florida; and $4 million for targeted land acquisition.

“We’re doing projects to make the system better,” said Negron. “I appreciate the governor’s incredible track record on environmental issues.”

Dana Young files fantasy sports bill

State Sen. Dana Young on Monday filed her own version of a bill that would legalize and regulate fantasy sports play.

The Tampa Republican’s “Fantasy Contest Amusement Act” (SB 592) declares such games to “involve the skill of contest participants and do not constitute gambling, gaming, or games of chance.”

And it would prohibit the playing of fantasy sports on any “live pari-mutuel event” that could include dog and horse racing or on any amateur sports, such as college athletics.

“Today, more than 3 million Floridians participate in fantasy sports,” Young said in an email. “This bill ensures the games they love will continue to be legal in the State of Florida, while adding several consumer protection measures.

“The relevant laws on the books were written a long, long time ago in a different era, and they need to be updated to reflect current technology and to ensure that our friends and neighbors who enjoy fantasy sports can do so without any legal ambiguity.”

Young’s bill also comes after the filing of the Senate’s omnibus gambling overhaul for 2017 that already includes a provision to legalize and regulate fantasy sports through an “Office of Amusements.”

That legislation (SB 8), carried by state Sen. Bill Galvano, was cleared unanimously last week by its first review panel, the Regulated Industries committee.

But signs of future trouble in the House began when Speaker Richard Corcoran derided the 112-page measure. It would expand lottery ticket sales at gas pumps, authorize more slot machines, and approve the long-delayed gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

“I’ve seen the bill, and look, it’s not where we’re at,” Corcoran said last week. “(I)t has to be a contraction (of gambling).”

A similar fantasy sports bill (HB 149) has already been filed in the House by state Rep. Jason Brodeur, a Sanford Republican.

It would exempt “fantasy contests” from regulation by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), which oversees gambling in the state.

Young’s bill, like Galvano’s, creates a separate “Office of Amusements” within DBPR. It requires an “initial license application fee (of) $500,000, and (an) annual license renewal fee (of) $100,000” and makes applicants submit fingerprints for vetting.

The bill requires fantasy sports operators to “yerify that contest participants are 18 years of age or older,” submit to independent audits and maintain records of daily operations for at least three years.

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