Richard Corcoran Archives - Page 4 of 57 - Florida Politics

Richard Corcoran: Why community redevelopment agencies have to go

A mayor who received $84,529 from a side job paid for by taxpayers. A grand jury report stating that government officials were “spending large amounts of taxpayer dollars on what appeared to be pet projects of elected officials.” An inspector general’s report finding over $2 million in questionable expenditures and political cronyism involving a city commissioner. And finally, millions of taxpayer dollars spent and a new FBI investigation under way.

If all of this sounds like a John Grisham novel waiting to happen, you’d be right. But unfortunately all of the above is not fiction. It’s all true and sadly, I believe, just the tip of the iceberg.

Have you ever heard of Community Redevelopment Agencies, or CRAs?

Wait! Before you stop reading, hear me out.

I’ll bet you didn’t know — and why would you — that there are more than 1,600 local agencies, boards and special districts that have the power to incur debt and operate under very little scrutiny whatsoever. Of the 1,682 such groups, 224 of those are CRAs.

So first — and quickly — what exactly is a CRA?

The Community Redevelopment Act authorized counties and municipalities to create community redevelopment agencies as a means of redeveloping “slums” and “blighted areas.” By definition, these areas must have at least two factors to qualify. Some of these factors include unsanitary conditions; defective street layout, roadways or bridges; higher fire and emergency calls; and a host of other problems.

Attempting to remove blight and rescue slums are admirable goals, for sure. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And if that road to hell is within the boundaries of the CRA, chances are it wouldn’t get paved unless you happen to be friends with a board member.

Seem far-fetched? Unfortunately, it isn’t.

A Miami-Dade grand jury report in 2016 said that the CRA appears to be a fund for pet projects for elected officials and is flirting with “slush fund” status.

Head north to Brevard County where Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, and former Rep. John Tobia, R-Melbourne Beach, exposed a scandal so brazen it put to rest any lingering doubts about the wisdom of eliminating CRAs. Records indicate the mayor of Palm Shores hired herself to administer a local CRA for over 5 years — collecting $84,529. Of course, paid for by the taxpayer.

And what political scandal would be complete without a capital city connection. In Tallahassee, the CRA and local developers have come under investigation by the FBI.

What makes it all the more ridiculous is that the CRAs are usually miniature versions of county or city commissions.

As a matter of fact, 76 percent of CRAs are governed by a board that mirrors or is very similar to the local government that oversees the CRA. Shockingly, in a recent survey, 72 percent of CRAs indicated they are exclusively staffed by local elected officials and only 27 percent of CRA’s have private citizens on their board.

Like “Mini Me” from the Austin Powers movies, the offspring magnifies any tendencies of the creator. But the composition of the boards represent just one of the problems.

Statewide, in 2015 CRAs reported almost $600 million in revenue, $605 million in expenditures and $715 million in debt. Also, between 2005 and 2016, CRAs issued $1.35 billion in bonds. We literally cannot afford CRAs.

Fortunately, the Florida House attacked the problem last session with HB 13 and will take it on again this session. We sincerely hope the Florida Senate will join us this time.

The legislation is pure common sense. It requires board members to undergo ethics training, CRAs to use the same procurement and purchasing processes as the county or municipality, expansion of the annual reporting requirement to include audit information and performance data, introduction of oversight into the budget process, and finally that CRA data be included in the county and municipality annual financial report — just to name a few.

It also would have prohibited the creation of any new CRAs after October and phased out nearly all CRAs by 2037.

Many will undoubtedly say that this is just part and parcel of an attack on local government.

That’s just government blame shifting. What it is instead is part and parcel of an attack on corruption and on those who would pass the buck with one hand and pass the plate with the other.

___

Richard Corcoran is Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

Chris Latvala says the moderate in the GOP race for Florida governor is not his dad

Chris Latvala predicts that the race for governor will be a campaign unlike any ever seen before in the Sunshine State, especially within the Republican Party.

The Clearwater Republican, first elected to the state House in 2014, has a unique view of the race, considering that his father, Jack Latvala, is now seeking to occupy the Governor’s mansion

Jack Latvala officially filed to run on Friday, but he will be making three appearances around the state Wednesday to give his campaign a proper introduction to the public and the media.  A press conference is set for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium at 1 p.m.

“I think that it’s something that he has thought about for a long time,” Chris Latvala said on Tuesday, specifically saying it was sometime last summer that his father talked to him about his desire to run for governor. “I certainly was surprised, but as time has gone by, I think that there’s definitely a path for him, especially with Adam Putnam announcing and then a week or two later changing his campaign manager.”

Immediately after Putnam ended a 10-day bus tour of the state to launch his campaign in March, his campaign manager, Kristin Davison, was relieved of her duties, as was political director Jared Small.

If anyone follows Chris Latvala on Twitter, you know that he has taken several shots at the presumptive front-runner for the GOP nomination. And he’s even more relentless in picking apart the Bartow Republican in an interview.

“Adam Putnam has not exactly set the world on fire,” Latvala says, declaring the race for the GOP nomination to be “wide open.”

With his entrance into the race, Jack Latvala and Putnam are now the two biggest Republicans in the race for governor, although House Speaker Richard Corcoran is also expected to enter the race and rumors continue to circulate that Ponte Vedra Beach Representative Ron DeSantis will also enter the contest.

Considered a moderate in today’s Florida Republican Party, conventional wisdom has it that his opponents will wrap the “M” word around Jack Latvala throughout the primary campaign, but Chris says the moderate in the race is not who you think it is.

“I think that, to the contrary, he’s a conservative who has a conservative record,” Latvala says of his father. “Keeping your promises to the people doesn’t make you a moderate, being mindful of the environment doesn’t make you a moderate.”

Fueling his argument is a litany of congressional votes that he says makes Putnam vulnerable in a GOP primary, such as voting to increase the national debt, supporting the “Cash for Clunkers” program, and pushing for “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants.

“Conservatives believe in less government and, therefore, I would argue government shouldn’t be involved in your bedroom or your day to day life,” Chris says.

No one will ever call Jack Latvala “slick.” Chris Latvala says that’s part of the longtime state legislator’s appeal to voters.

“He’s not a typical politician,” he says. “He’s not going to be the skinniest and the best looking candidate, and he’s not going to sugarcoat the issues with voters. I think people respect that.”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz calls for special session to replace Confederate statue

(UPDATED) South Florida Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz wants the Florida Legislature to convene for a special session to deal with a Confederate monument that represents the state in the U.S. Capitol.

A bronze statue of Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith continues to sit in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall, despite legislation passed during the 2016 Legislative Session that approved removing it.

“While the events in Charlottesville represent our nation’s original sin, we know these hateful acts do not define who we are as a country. We must denounce white supremacy and domestic terrorism and stand up for love and compassion – not just with our words, but with our deeds,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.

Momentum to remove Smith from the congressional collection began in 2015 shortly after the South Carolina Legislature voted to remove the Confederate battle flag from its statehouse grounds. That seminal event took place after Dylann Roof went on a shooting spree in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine black men and women. Roof had posed with a Confederate flag in photos.

Two competing bills regarding a statue that would have taken the place of Smith died in this year’s Legislative Session. One called for a likeness of educator and civil-rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune, while another proposed a statue of environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, author of “The Everglades: River of GrassNeither passed.

“Next year, we expect movement in the House and we’ll pass it in the Senate,” said state Sen. Perry Thurston, who sponsored the Bethune measure. “I am encouraged we will get it done next year.”

Each state has two statues on display in the Capitol. Florida’s other statue, a marble rendering of scientist-inventor Dr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola, a pivotal figure in the invention of air conditioning, is unaffected.

Wasserman Schultz says that leaving Smith’s statue in a place of honor “symbolizes a painful, disgraceful legacy.”

“It’s time to stop playing games,” she said on Tuesday. “No family visiting our nation’s Capitol should have to explain to their child that the statue representing our state honors someone who fought for a philosophy built on hatred and oppression.”

Wasserman Schultz says Governor Rick Scott and the Legislature must take immediate action by calling a one-day special session during their upcoming interim committee meetings to pass a bill with one of the three recommendations from the committee established by law: Douglas, Bethune or George Washington Jenkins, a philanthropist and the founder of Publix Super Markets.

“These three Floridians represent the best of the history of our state,” she said. “The removal of the Confederate statue must be made an urgent priority.”

“Like most politicians in Washington, the congresswoman is out of touch,” said House Speaker Richard Corcoran. “We’ve already made this decision and are now having a conversation about which great Floridian we should honor. The congresswoman should stop grandstanding and focus on balancing the Federal budget.”

Senate President Joe Negron did not respond to a request for comment.

Chris King calls for removal of all Confederate monuments

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King called Tuesday for the removal of all Confederate memorials in Florida.

Taking to Facebook, King posted, “It’s time to remove all the Confederate monuments in Florida. These monuments should be removed because we should not celebrate literal anti-American ideology or any ideology based on the oppression of any group of people.

“And to those who say these monuments are needed to preserve our history, I say we don’t need memorials celebrating this dark time in our history. As we’ve seen in Charlottesville this weekend, we live with the legacy of this history every day,” he added.

King faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee in seeking the Democratic primary nomination to run for governor in 2018. The Republican field has Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow and state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater who’ve filed, with Latvala planning to make an official announcement Wednesday. Others, including Democratic Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran are raising money but have made no commitments.

Gillum also called for action on the monuments, but first called for conversation on them. Last week he also informed Walton County he would not be visiting their community until they took down the Confederate flag in front of the courthouse.

“Like many people, I want local governments to take action to remove these monuments. But more than just the necessary step of removing them, we need a real conversation in Florida about inclusion and building community,” Gillum said in a statement. “I created the Longest Table initiative in Tallahassee so neighbors could sit at a table together and discuss the most pressing issues facing them and their communities. Tough but honest conversations will help heal this state and country.”

King was more succinct.

“It’s time for Florida to put its fealty and energy not toward monuments to a divided past, but toward a vision of the future that provides for common growth. Florida values diversity, but simply saying so understates the case,” King continued. “Florida’s economic engine is built on diversity. We are a state of many races, faiths and languages, each making our state a great place to live in, and each underpinning our economy. But our economic engine has been held back for far too long by the ghosts of the past.”

Confederate memorials have been sources of racial tension for generations, but recently their presence has evoked public demonstrations and demands for their removal, notably in Orlando, Gainesville, Tampa, and now in Jacksonville, while supporters of the monuments contend they are part of the state’s history. Last weekend efforts seeking removal of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Va., led to a protest march of white supremacists and the killing of an opposition protester, setting the heat even higher.

On Monday Gov. Rick Scott said the time will come for conversations on Confederate monuments. King said in his Facebook post the time is now.

“Removing Confederate monuments is not just the right thing to do for Florida values and its citizens, but the smart thing to do for Florida’s economy,” King continued. “In order to unleash Florida’s economic potential, and attract the jobs and investment we need to grow into the national leader we should be, it’s time to position Florida as a state with eyes set on the future.”

Rick Scott, Richard Corcoran renew rebukes of white supremacists

While avoiding comment on what President Donald Trump had to say in the wake of the Charlottesville events, Gov. Rick Scott renewed his condemnations Monday of the KKK, white supremacist and neo-Nazis.

So did Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a potential 2018 Republican gubernatorial candidate. The two made their comments speaking with the press Monday morning in Lake Mary following their announcement of plans for a Constitutional Amendment proposal to restrict tax and fee increase.

After white supremacists’ marches in Charlottesville resulted in one of the white supremacist driving his car into a crowd of anti-protesters, killing a woman and injuring 19 other people, Trump’s response that violence came “from all sides” has drawn heavy criticism that he would not blame the white supremacists specifically

“I’m not going to parse the president’s words, but here’s what I’ll say,” Scott said. “It’s evil. It’s horrible. I don’t believe in racism. I don’t believe in bigotry. I believe the KKK, white supremacists, neo-Nazis they don’t belong in our society.”

“It’s evil. I don’t believe in it. It’s disgusting that this would ever go on in our society,” Scott added. “I don’t ever want it happening in our country. I don’t ever want it happening in our state.”

Corcoran noted the efforts by the Florida Legislature last spring to recognize and condemn the 1940s and 50s racism and murders behind the case of the “Groveland Four,” four young black men and teen boys who were falsely accused of rape and then either killed or wrongly imprisoned. The House and the Senate both unanimously passed resolutions apologizing to their families.

“Where ever evil presents itself, I don’t care if it’s neo-Naziism, I don’t care if it’s white supremacy, if it’s any of the incidents we saw, they need to be stamped out, and they have no business being in a free and open Democratic society,” Corcoran said. “We’re going to fight that wherever we can.”

However, Scott stopped short of addressing what has been at the root of the Charlottesville march and clashes elsewhere, including Orlando and Tampa Bay, between white supremacists and others: what to do with Confederate monuments.

Scott said that conversation would come, but he didn’t take sides.

“Today is a day to mourn. We lost a young lady. We lost two law enforcement officers [killed in a helicopter crash in Charlottesville,]” Scott said. “There is going to be an opportunity to have that conversation.  It’s disgusting that this happened. It’s hateful. It’s evil. But I know there will be an opportunity to have that conversation.”

Rick Scott, Richard Corcoran launch push for tax supermajority

Pledging to make it harder for future lawmakers to raise taxes, and surrounded by a bevy of Republican Florida lawmakers, Gov. Rick Scott pledged to push a Constitutional amendment to require a supermajority for such increases.

At an announcement at the Verizon Florida headquarters in Lake Mary, Scott said the amendment to require 60 percent votes on tax increases could come from either the Florida Legislature or the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, to be placed on the 2018 ballot.

He’ll likely have full support of the Florida Legislature’s Republican leadership. He was joined in his call Monday by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, House Ways and Means Committee chair Paul Renner and seven other Republican members of the Florida House, most from Central Florida.

Scott also said he called Senate President Joe Negron, but that the Palm City Republican was unable to attend his announcement.

“My goal is to make it harder for elected politicians to raise taxes on Florida families and businesses,” Scott said. “And that can be achieved with an amendment to the state constitution. This Legislature has shown they are absolutely committed to tax and fee decreases.

“I want to make sure to get this on the ballot so you’ll never see your taxes go up again without people taking the time to make sure that it’s something well thought out,” Scott added.

Corcoran expressed confidence that if the measure reaches the ballot Florida voters will approve it.

“All too often as we see it sometimes on the national level, it’s easier to raise taxes or fees than it is to make tough decisions on what is right and best for the people,” Corcoran said.

“This proposal says we’re going to make it really, really difficult to go back to the time when we had high unemployment and no jobs and people were struggling, and we’re going to recognize that what’s at stake, who’s really at the heart of this, is when you’ve got single moms out there who are working two jobs, trying to make ends meet, put food on the table for their kids, and trying to give them a world-class education, you can’t just go willy-nilly and raise those people’s taxes and not think it’s not going to have a dramatic affect on them,” Corcoran said.

Left uncertain is whether the amendment would apply only to the Florida Legislature or might apply to all Florida governments, including cities and counties. A governor’s staffer suggested it most likely would apply only to the Legislature, but others weren’t so certain.

Since the amendment is not drafted – by either the CRC or the Legislature – the prospect may remain one to be decided later.

Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes of Longwood suggested it might cover local governments. He said that likely would receive pushback from local governments that express frequent frustration at Tallahassee’s restrictions on the Home Rule paradigm but would be needed.

Richard Corcoran, Paul Renner support tax amendment

House Speaker Richard Corcoran says he supports Gov. Rick Scott‘s call for a “constitutional amendment requiring super majorities to pass any future tax increases.”

“For almost seven years we’ve worked alongside our Governor to bring common sense back to governing. We cut taxes. We cut regulations. We cut fees. Now we need to make sure the taxpayers’ pocketbooks are protected,” the Land O’ Lakes Republican said in a Monday statement.

“Requiring in the Constitution a super majority to raise any tax or fee will do this,” he added. “It’s pro-family, pro-future, pro-worker, and pro-taxpayer. It’s anti-government waste, anti-politician, and anti-pork barrel spending. I’m proud to offer my support to Gov. Scott on this bold initiative and will do all I can to see that it is successful.”

Scott, a Naples Republican considered to be planning a run for the U.S. Senate next year, has not yet exactly outlined what would be covered by the proposal or how large a supermajority would be needed. He wants the measure to go before voters on the 2018 statewide ballot.

If the amendment is passed by 60 percent, state legislators could not pass any future taxes or fees without a supermajority legislative vote. Several other states, including California, have similar restrictions.

Scott wants the Florida Legislature to place the amendment on the ballot. But the governor said he may also ask the Constitution Revision Commission to consider the proposal.

House Ways and Means Committee chair Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican slated to take over the Speakership in 2022-24, also supports the plan.

“I look forward to working with the Speaker and my colleagues to provide Floridians the opportunity to vote on this much-needed amendment,” he said. “Florida is a place of prosperity and opportunity because we have put our trust in free people and free markets … This amendment, along with our requirement to balance the budget, will help protect Florida’s long-term economic future.”

(The Associated Press contributed to this post, reprinted with permission.)

Adam Putnam: Nobody knows Florida better than I

Adam Putnam assured the 200 or so delegates to his breakfast at the Republican Party of Florida quarterly meeting in Orlando Saturday that he knows their towns, he knows their roads, he knows their barbecue places, and he knows their hopes, dreams, and struggles of living somewhere that’s not on an Interstate exit.

The Florida agriculture commissioner and former state lawmaker and former U.S. Congressman running for governor spun his theme of Florida being the greatest state, where everyone wants to visit or live, while pressing conservatism, urging that Florida must be “the launching pad of the American dream,” and warning of liberal uprisings, with “The left is coming for us!”

And, most of all, the candidate turned on his folksy side, reminded everyone he’s a fifth-generation Floridian with a ranch outside of Bartow, and strove to connect with Republicans in too-often-ignored rural areas and small towns from the Keys to the western panhandle.

Putnam, alone in the Republican race for governor until Friday, now has serious competition for the Republican primary nomination. State Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater filed to run Friday and addressed the Republican convention Friday night. Potential candidate U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach was to address the crowd Saturday afternoon. House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O’ Lakes also is a real prospect.

On Saturday morning, Putnam was positioning himself as the grassroots candidate.

He spoke of how two-thirds of Floridians don’t have college degrees so the state must put more emphasis on technical training and less on trying to get everyone to go to college. He spoke of making sure everyone has the chance to start their own businesses, and don’t dismiss someone starting out with a lawn-care business.

“I know our state,” Putnam said. “I know every corner of our state. I’ve been down every four-lane, every dirt road. I know all the barbecue restaurants. If you need a tip I can tell you where the best pulled-pork meal is, where the best brisket is, who’s got the best chicken. I know our state like the back of my hand. I am dedicated to the future of our state.”

From there, he appeared to respond to Latvala’s comments Friday night, when the House Appropriations Committee chairman lashed out at other candidates, whom he didn’t name, whom he accused of forgetting the needs of the Republican Party of Florida while they pursued their own careers, and of raising money for their own causes, without contributing to the party.

“We’re going to bring this state together. And this party is a part of that. It’s an integral part of that,” Putnam said to the party loyalists at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort. “It’s not us against them. It’s not Bradford versus Highlands. It’s not the party versus the electeds. You have seen me at your meetings and in your Lincoln Days…. I can’t succeed as a governor if we don’t succeed as a party.”

 

Gwen Graham pledges public education as her priority, blasts Richard Corcoran

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham pledged Thursday to a number of educators and parents concerned about public education that she would make public education her top priority.

While meeting with a roundtable of teachers, former teachers, public education advocates, and parents in an Orlando restaurant Thursday, Graham blasted Republican efforts to promote charter schools, which she said was at the expense of public schools, and renewed her vows to abolish testing and school grades and bring back technical education.

“I give you my commitment, as governor this is going to be my priority,” Graham said. “I’m going to work on this every day. And we’re going to start from day one.”

Graham, the former congresswoman and former schools lawyer from Tallahassee, faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park developer Chris King seeking the Democratic primary nomination to run for governor in 2018. Adam Putnam is the only major Republican running, though others, including House Speaker Richard Corcoran, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, and Senate Appropriations Committee Jack Latvala are mulling runs.

At the round table and later speaking with reporters, Graham blasted Corcoran in particular for cutting the deal that led to passage of House Bill 7069 in the Special Legislative Session this summer, a bill she characterized as a Republican attack on public education in order to promote private charter schools.

“What I believe is going on is a desire to privatize our school system, and strip resources away from schools that desperately need additional resources. They don’t need to have what 7069 has done, which is to take funding away from Title I schools, to strip away options for school districts if it gets a C or a D grade,” she said.

“And don’t even me started on the grading, because we’re going to end the grading of schools,” she added. “Everywhere I go I hear how damaging it is to the schools, the school districts, the kids themselves. There’s no point to it other than as a way to diminish and demoralize schools that are working so hard, and eventually strip the funding away from schools so we can privatize them.”

And then she turned to Corcoran personally, noting that his wife Anne founded a charter school.

“The legislators that behind this are making money,” she said. “They financially benefit from what he is doing to the detriment of nine out of ten kids in Florida who go to public schools.”

 

Florida school districts join fight against new school law

More and more Florida school districts are joining a looming legal fight over a new law that steers money to privately run charter schools.

The Miami Herald reports the Miami-Dade School Board voted unanimously Wednesday to join a proposed lawsuit to block the sweeping legislation pushed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

Miami-Dade is now one of seven districts that have voted to sue over the law, including all three districts located in heavily populated South Florida.

School officials have criticized the law because of the measure forcing school districts to share property taxes with charter schools. Charter schools are in line to get more than $96 million from this provision.

Legislators have defended the new law, saying charter schools are public schools that deserve their share of local tax dollars.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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