Richard Corcoran Archives - Page 4 of 28 - Florida Politics

John Morgan torn on possible governor run, and in no hurry

John Morgan has powerful split emotions about the prospect of running for governor in 2018 as a Democrat, and figures he has at least a year to decide.

Morgan, the 60-year-old Orlando trial attorney who championed Florida’s Amendment 2 medical marijuana initiative this year, said others – not he – are pushing for him to run for governor. And while flattered, he insisted it’s not his idea, and he’s not giving it any serious thought yet.

“I don’t think I have to do anything this year, 2017,” Morgan said in an interview with

But that doesn’t mean he’s not thinking about it now, if only when he’s driving around, kicking it around in his head.

“The advantage I have, for better worse, is they [any other candidates for governor in 2018] are going to have to spend $25 million at a bare-bones minimum to have any name ID. To me that’s a starting number,” he continued. “And so for better or worse, except for Miami and Fort Lauderdale, I[his Morgan & Morgan law firm featuring him in TV and billboard advertising] am in all those markets, and have been for 30 years or so. I also have the advantage of four years of [campaigning statewide for medical] marijuana, and a very big following. When people come up to me, they thank me for marijuana.”

A group of south Florida politicos, led by Democratic operative Ben Pollara, have put together “For The Governor,” a campaign pushing a petition drive to draft John Morgan for governor, through social media and other communications. Pollara was Morgan’s former campaign manager for United For Care, which ran the successful Amendment 2 campaign this year.

Pollara said he’s in the process of formally incorporating a For The Governor Political Committee and expects to begin raising money.

He and Morgan both stated that they had not discussed the initiative with each other, though Morgan hasn’t dismissed it.

“You’ve got to be careful because our egos can really get us into trouble,” Morgan said. “Everybody says, ‘I like you. I like you. I like you. I want you to do it.’ All of the sudden you like what you are hearing, and all of the sudden you go off on a venture you shouldn’t go off on, for a lot of reasons.

“I’ve got a great life.”

In the interview, Morgan quickly explored several reasons why he wouldn’t dream of running for governor.

* He professes no clear Florida governing platform at this point, other than a strong conviction that something must be done about low wages in Florida. And he’s not convinced that his being governor would be the most effective way for him to address that; he’s exploring another constitutional amendment initiative to do so.

“I would only want to do it [run for governor] if there was something that I thought that I could make a difference in. And what I worry about is, even if I defy all odds, and win, could I even get anything done with a Republican senate and house?” he said.

* He’s very close to U.S. Rep. Gwen Grahamthe most likely Democratic candidate for governor so far, and particularly close with her father, former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham. And he expressed admiration for other potential Democratic candidates, including Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn,  and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

* He even likes some potential Republican gubernatorial candidates, citing Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran and former Speaker of the House Will Weatherford, among others.

“If I find someone who inspired me, then I would go, ‘You now what? the state would be in good hands with this person.’ It doesn’t matter if they’re a Republican or Democrat,” Morgan said.

* His business interests are complex on a level approaching Donald Trump’s, and he’s not sure he wants to unwind, disengage or liquify anything. Besides his law firm, which is in 18 Florida cities and eight other states, his business interests including hotels, real estate, shopping centers, and attractions.

* Finally, he’s not crazy about enduring personal attacks and knows his profession and lifestyle leave him and his family wide open to ugly anti-Morgan campaign smears.

“I’ve been on TV for 30 years, so I’ve had people writing mean things to me, calling me with mean things, discussing my fat face, my, you know, whatever, so I’m used to mean things. But with this [draft John Morgan campaign] out there, the meanness out there ramps up a little. So I’m like, ‘Who wants this?'” Morgan said. “I’m used to the one-offs. I’m used to people writing me: ‘You’re an ambulance chaser.’ But I’m not used to this where everybody can weigh in. That’s been kind of unnerving.

“It seems like in politics people believe they have a special license to be meaner than usual. That’s what I’ve found these last few weeks,” he said, adding it bothers him, “Because I like to be liked.”

But Morgan does see reasons to run.

He’s not convinced Graham or the other Democrats can actually win. He’s at a point in his life when he’s contemplating the difference between being “successful” and being “significant.” He takes his victory with the medical marijuana initiative to heart on a humanitarian level. He likes that feeling. And he thinks more must and can be done.

“You know, there are things I believe very fervently. I believe that the real issue out there in America is people are not paid fair wages for a fair day’s work,” he said. “Now I don’t know what the number is. I don’t know what the number is. But I believe peoples’ frustration is, they go out, they do everything right, they put on a uniform, and at the end of the day they’re further behind than they were before.”

Perhaps the answer is another constitutional amendment initiative, one aimed at creating a living wage in Florida, Morgan said.

“I’ve already started researching what that language would look like. It may be that my best bet to do what I want to do would be to have a constitutional amendment. I now know how to navigate that world, after making lots of mistakes the first time around,” Morgan said. “But is $15 too much? Would that pass? What’s the magic number? I don’t know.”

The lessons Morgan draws from 2016 political victors is that voters are rejecting career politicians and the status quo, whether it’s Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica of Winter Park. Morgan is certain he fits the outsider identity. If he ran and won, he said he’d pledge a one-term tenure and donate the governor’s salary to charity.

He believes voters want someone who’s less partisan and more practical. Morgan has backed Republicans in the past and said he certainly would in the future. He even praised Gov. Rick Scott for being single-minded on jobs, and for delivering on that.

But mostly, Morgan said, voters deserve someone with compassion for them, and that’s a mark he believes he has.

“What I think is missing in politics today is compassion. I think it’s too much not about what’s for us but what’s for them,” Morgan said. “I don’t believe somebody should be a non-violent felon, go to jail, and not have their civil rights restored. That’s a crime. I don’t believe drug addiction is a crime. The leader I’m looking for is someone who is compassionate and thinks about people first. And I think that includes the minimum wage.”

Pollara and others pushing the draft-Morgan campaign have many of the same concerns about a Morgan run that Morgan himself expressed. Yet they also have his same concerns about the Democrats’ prospects without Morgan. The next governor will oversee another redistricting, which could lock a party’s power in Florida for another decade, Pollara cautioned.

The draft Morgan effort, he said, is “a product of anxiety we Democrats feel about this upcoming governor’s race. Now we’re looking at 2020 redistricting,” which could lead to a “generation of irrelevance” for Democrats.

Morgan also expressed a clear, proud sense of accomplishment, having pushed medical marijuana into Florida’s constitution.

“I got beat with the marijuana the first go around [in a failed 2014 campaign.] I learned my lessons,” Morgan said. “And I think the people who are supporting e the fact I didn’t quit, and I won, and I didn’t just win, I won in a big way.

“And what I did in four years was more than any legislator has done in the last 40 years.”

Sanford Burnham doubles down against state efforts to recoup incentive money

Ten years to create 303 jobs.

That straight-forward commitment was a core aspect of an agreement that allowed a California-based biotech nonprofit to secure $350 million in state and Orlando-area taxpayer support.

It didn’t happen.

Penned in 2006, time has now run out on Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute’s deal with the state. It’s 66 jobs short, according to state records.

But rather than pay back some of the money, the research institute is doubling down on its refusal to comply with the state’s accountability efforts – even goading state officials “to help preserve and create more jobs.”

In a letter to the Department of Economic Opportunity dated Nov. 23, the day before Thanksgiving, Sanford Burnham’s senior legal counsel said he was “surprised” that the state had sent the organization a notice of default requesting returned incentive funds.

“Sanford Burnham is not in material default of any obligation in the agreement,” he said. “Please regard this letter as Sanford Burnham’s rejection of all the allegations, claims, and demands contained in your Oct. 28 (Notice of Default) letter.”

It was the second such correspondence in a month.

In addition to the lack of jobs created, DEO officials contend that representatives of the organization verbally indicated to the department that it intends to cease its Florida operations in the coming months and leave the state so it can consolidate operations at its California campus.

Since the incentive deal spans 20 years, DEO is seeking 50 percent of the $155 million contribution state taxpayers afforded the Orlando venture, as well as the return of equipment purchased with state funds.

Sanford Burnham’s Nov. 23 letter denied it would cease operations, calling DEO’s assertion an “erroneous belief.”

But Sanford Burnham management tried for months to hand over its troubled East Coast spin-off to the University of Florida, a taxpayer-funded public institution.

After a period of negotiations that initially left Gov. Rick Scott out of the loop, the university backed-out on Oct. 25. Three days later, Sanford Burnham received the notice of default.

Last week’s letter disputed that the institute’s commitment to create 303 jobs constituted a legal obligation, and added that the incentive contract only allows the state to withhold additional funding and recover unspent or unused funds, minus wind-down costs.

According to a DEO project summary, 99 percent of the $155 million has been paid out. Sanford Burnham says it spent the money “many years ago.”

“There is no additional remedy or obligation to refund monies that have already been spent in accordance with the terms of the agreement,” the letter stated.

If true, state taxpayers could take a total loss.

The institute blames its financial woes on a lack of federal research funding and philanthropic donations, and the Great Recession.

Records show about 240 jobs were created with the funding. The rate of return for the project was supposed to yield $1.63 for every $1 the state committed. The actual rate of return is left blank on the project summary.

The controversy couldn’t come at a worse time for Scott, who is engaged in an intra-party battle to replenish funding for Enterprise Florida, the state’s chief taxpayer-funded incentive organization.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, led a successful effort to block a $250 million Enterprise Florida appropriation last year, and stands opposed to Scott’s $85 million funding request for 2017.

Sanford Burnham says it is committed to remaining in Florida for the next year, assuming its current circumstances remain unchanged. It’s also exploring other long-term sustainability plans, according to its recent letter.

A spokesperson for the Department of Economic Opportunity told Watchdog in an email that DEO “remains committed to holding Sanford Burnham accountable for all taxpayer monies received and will continue to investigate our options for any repayment necessary of incentive funds that were provided to Sanford Burnham.”


Chris Hart IV selected as Enterprise Florida CEO

A former state lawmaker has been selected to lead Enterprise Florida, a decision that comes as proponents gear up for what could be another difficult year for the public-private economic development agency.

The Enterprise Florida Board of Directors on Wednesday voted unanimously to hire Chris Hart IV as the CEO of Enterprise Florida. Hart, the president and CEO of CareerSource Florida, will start on Jan. 3, and will be paid between $175,000 and $200,000 a year.

“Thank you for your trust. I’ve had the opportunity over the last several weeks to speak to many of you, and it’s been evident the quality of individual we have on the Enterprise Florida board,” said Hart, a former state representative. “I’ve found people are deeply committed to the state of Florida and deeply committed to the prosperity of Floridians.”

In March, Gov. Rick Scott announced then-CEO Bill Johnson was leaving the organization. Johnson was appointed to head the organization in May 2015, after spending 35 years with Miami-Dade County government.

More than 100 people applied for the job. The board narrowed the list to two finalists — Richard Biter, the former assistant secretary of the Department of Transportation, and Mike Finney, the former president of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. — and were poised to appoint a new CEO during the September meeting. But the board suspended the search when Scott postponed individual meetings with candidates because he needed to monitor Hurricane Matthew.

Hart was a late applicant, applying for the job earlier this month. He emerged as the top contender after Finney withdrew from the search, choosing instead to seek a teaching job at the University of Michigan.

“Chris understands the incredible impact a job can have on a family and the need for EFI to make job creation the number one priority,” said Scott in a statement Wednesday. “Every decision EFI makes has to focus on making Florida more competitive so we can continue to create new opportunities in our state. As President and CEO, I know Chris will immediately get to work to return EFI back to its core mission of creating jobs for our families.”

Enterprise Florida has been under a microscope in recent years. A push to set aside $250 million to create the Enterprise Florida trust fund failed during the 2016 legislative session.

In September, Scott announced he would include $85 million in his 2016-17 budget for Enterprise Florida for economic incentives. He also said he plans to push for legislation to restructure the public-private jobs organization.

The decision to once again pursue money for economic incentives puts him at odds with House leadership, which blocked his 2016 attempt to set aside millions for incentives. In June, House Speaker Richard Corcoran said he would lead the charge to end taxpayer funding to the state organization.

Scott noted Hart’s time in the Legislature could be beneficial in the months to come. The governor said Hart has “the knowledge, understanding and relationships with the Florida Legislature- an important partner to growing Florida jobs.”

Mitch Perry Report for 11.29.16 — Will President Trump ‘terminate’ Obama deal with Cuba?

The first regularly scheduled flight in more than 50 years flew from Miami to Havana yesterday morning, just in time to begin the formal mourning for Fidel Castro, which leads to the question du jour — What will Donald Trump do with the Cuba-U.S. relations?

The President-elect tweeted that “If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal.”

To date, Cuba hasn’t appeared to reciprocate very much in terms of the U.S.’s lifting of travel, banking, and commercial sanctions. The White House pushes back on that, but that is very much the perception, and that’s why Trump is saying Raul Castro needs to do something to ensure the new policy stays in place.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest also said with so many American companies now doing business in Cuba, it won’t be so easy to roll back the Obama policies. That includes 110 flights daily from the U.S. to Cuba from various American cities, including Tampa, that will soon commence.

You could argue that when Trump gets his national security team in place, Cuba will rank far below other hot spots they will be concerned about, with Syria, Afghanistan, the Middle East, China, and Russia taking the lead.

Yet Fidel’s death puts this situation in his face — and ours.

Like so much else with the PEOTUS, what will his foreign policy be, especially from such a business-oriented individual? It sounds lame, but nobody really has the answer now. Or do you?

In other news …

Luis Viera and Jim Davison will debate tonight in New Tampa. Viera has now raised more than five times as much money than Davison in the race, for whatever that’s worth in this small local election.

Jack Latvala is still upset that a handful of NFL players are choosing to sit down during the playing of the national anthem.

Although there are through analyses that debunk the theory that President Obama’s diplomatic moves towards Cuba alienated the Cuban-American community in this month’s presidential election, strident  Castro critic Ralph Fernandez thinks otherwise.

And House Minority Leader Janet Cruz says she’s good with the new rules voted on last week by the entire House that came from Speaker Richard Corcoran — except for that thing about allowing members to bring guns onto the floor.

Richard Corcoran: In the House, “We are very, very conservative”

The Capitol Press Corps got its first scolding, albeit a gentle one, from Richard Corcoran last week.

The new House Speaker was repeatedly asked during a news conference about how Senate President Joe Negron‘s priorities during the coming legislative session might conflict with his own.

“You people are so conditioned and trained. But so are we — I don’t fault you,” he said after the House’s Organization Session.

“There are 160 legislators. We’ve got to move past, ‘this is a speaker’s priority; this is a Senate president’s priority.’ They ought to be corporate priorities of both chambers.”

The old way of doing things — powerful legislative leaders imposing their will on the Senate and House — is over as far as Corcoran is concerned.

And everybody — his members, the Senate, lobbyists, the press — is going to have to learn that.

When asked whether he could support Negron’s goal of boosting higher education funding, Corcoran objected: “We are trying to transform and move away from a top-down system in the House.”

Corcoran appointed committee chairs, but wants to let them chose committee members and subcommittee chairs, and let all of them decide upon priorities together.

Does even he know what this system will produce?

“You never do,” Corcoran replied. “There’s not a single person in the history of the Legislature who can predict what it’s going to look like come May, whatever it is, at this point in time.

“I’m encouraged, though. I think there is a vast difference between the House and the Senate. We are very, very conservative. You can see that just in the rules, and how it’s going to play out over the next two years.”

He did allow that “Sen. Negron … has always behaved, in my opinion, as a great statesman. He’s a great communicator. That’s why he’s Senate president.”

To Corcoran, there are “good” compromises, in which parties accept less than they’d hoped for in the normal run of governing.

“Bad compromise is when you’re violating your principles that you know — you know — will lead to a worse environment, a worse Legislature, a worse outcome in education, a worse outcome in health care,” he said.

“If you’re just going to capitulate to the special interests and the mainstream media and all the powers that be because you’re afraid or somehow it’s not worth the fight, there’s nothing honorable about that. And there’s nothing dogmatic about that.”

Corcoran intends his ethics reforms as a cudgel to enforce good behavior. He hopes they will provide data points with which to embarrass wayward lobbyists and public officials.

“Hopefully, coming soon is the Top 10 list of everything you can imagine,” he said. “Top 10 biggest spenders. Top 10 lobbyists who got taxpayer money. Top 10 county commissioners who let lobbyists do their jobs because they stink. All of that’s coming soon.”

Consider what he said about the Florida Education Association over its legal challenge to the state’s tax-credit scholarships, which steer poor kids into private schools: “evil,” “disgusting,” “repugnant,” and yes, even “crazy-ass.”

The teachers union later tweeted from its official account “we invite @richardcorcoran to have a serious & civil discussion about all of our students’ needs.” FEA president Joanne McCall also personally tweeted, “Slamming us in a speech is one thing, solving problems is another.”

“Feel free to call me,” she added, even listing her phone number.

At the press conference, Corcoran said that “any way we can force more innovating, more risk taking, more competition in our education environment, all the studies suggest that’s what gives you a better outcome with students.”

He added: “If you guys have studies that suggest that kind of competition produces worse results, then we’ll certainly evaluate those studies. But they don’t exist.”

Yet he insisted his “rhetoric is not against anybody.”

“My rhetoric is not against lobbyists; my rhetoric is not against members; my rhetoric is not against the union,” he said. “My rhetoric is for the truth. And that’s a knowable thing. That’s an objective thing. And then you fight for the truth.

“If you don’t, why are you even in the process?”

For Richard Corcoran, a Sisyphean task

“We have a spending problem in this state,” says House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-Land ‘O Lakes), and nobody in their right mind could argue with him.

Florida spends more stupid money than a drunken sailor on shore leave. Any state worker can — if they trust you — rattle off a Top Twenty list of publicly funded member projects, unnecessary junkets, sacred cows, and six figure people who just graduated college with a degree in kissing the right rear ends. They cost a bundle, and taxpayers would not miss them if they were gone.

Pork ‘n nonsense has been bloating the budget since Corcoran was in knee pants. An expanding economy and bipartisan support for bonding and other forms of kicking cans down the road has, for decades, kept The Piper at bay.

Lately, there are signs that The Piper is losing patience.

In Palm Beach County, the bills are coming due at the medical examiner’s office. Thanks to the heroin epidemic, business is booming at the morgue, with bodies piling up at a pace that threatens the office’s good standing in the National Association of Medical Examiners. We don’t think about the Office of Autopsy unless we’re watching CSI or grieving a loved one lost in circumstances that are unexpected, unattended or otherwise unexplained. Then, we can think of nothing else, and we darn well expect our government to provide timely and accurate answers.

On the ground in Alachua County and from the skies above the Treasure Coast, the goop and gunk that threaten our water supply and our very way of life are the subject of endless, expensive talk and turf wars. Lawsuits funded on several sides by taxpayers are easy, and profitable for many of the players. Problem-solving is harder, and lacking in a critical mass of constituents.

For anyone, anywhere, who has been rescued, comforted or inspired by a firefighter, the suicide of Indian River County Fire Rescue Battalion Chief David Dangerfield comes as a gut-punch.  After a lifetime of performing heroic acts and making it look easy, he left us with a five-alarm reminder that “post-traumatic stress syndrome for firefighters is real,” and the limited supports we grudgingly provide them pales in comparison to the need.

It takes money to maintain a credible medical examiner’s office, clean water, and appropriate care for the people who care for us, so it’s encouraging to hear Corcoran take note of the difference between “pork belly fat and things that make the trains run on time.”

Environmental scientists, medical examiners and mental health professionals to minister to the very real needs of public servants in traumatic lines of work are the difference between trains that run on time, and train wrecks. Here’s hoping Corcoran will be bringing a sharp butcher knife to the pork roast.

Janet Cruz OK with new House rules, but shot down one proposal

Democratic Leader Janet Cruz is generally supportive of the ambitious new rules proposed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran that were unanimously approved by the entire Florida House last week. The changes are largely aimed at creating additional budget transparency and reducing the influence that lobbyists have on the political process in Tallahassee.

But she and other Democrats did draw the line on a provision that would have allowed members to bring guns to committee hearings and on the House floor.

“We fought against that, and a few other pieces of the legislation, ” Cruz said on Saturday.

That measure was not part of the basket of new rules approved last week. Corcoran worked with Lantana Democrat Lori Berman on the rule changes. office did not respond immediately for a request for comment.

During the 2016 regular session, bills that would allow the open carrying of firearms as well as the carrying of firearms on college campuses were approved by the House but shut down in a Senate committee. The sponsors say they bring them back for votes in the 2017 session.

The Tampa Democrat said she was initially “taken aback” by the volume of proposals presented by Corcoran, but admiringly calls the Land O’ Lakes Republican “a real scientist who plays it three dimensional” in terms of his deep thoughts on how to reform how Tallahassee operates.

Cruz says that the ban on lobbyists texting legislators at first seem to be a retro move, considering how modern technology currently work. But she said she was convinced it a sound policy when Corcoran described to her a situation where he was sitting next to a member in a committee meeting who was reading a question directly from the text message.

“His point is we have to return to the Legislature, to know the bills, and there’s a need for members to read the bills, and be educated on the bills,” Cruz said.

Oscar Braynon, Cruz’s colleague who leads the Senate Democrats, was outspoken last week in criticizing Corcoran’s proposals, saying that real reform would include a way to include more “working people” to serve in the “Citizen Legislature.”

“I don’t disagree,” Cruz says. “This is really not a part time job. It doesn’t work that way.” Cruz says that she’s able to spend the considerable time year round on her job because of her husband works full-time, adding that when she a single mom, the idea of serving in the Legislature was “completely out of the realm.”

Rick Scott may serve as model, and warning, for Donald Trump

He was opposed by the Republican establishment. During a contentious campaign, he spoke forcefully about the need to crack down on immigration. And he used millions of his own money to bolster his political career.

President-elect Donald Trump? No, Rick Scott, the current governor of Florida.

While they are oceans apart in temperament and public demeanor, Scott and Trump were both political neophytes who came from a business background and won elections despite being viewed as longshots unable to convince voters to look past their controversial histories. Scott and Trump, who is vacationing this week at his home in Palm Beach, are also long-time friends.

“One of the reasons I always believed he would win Florida … is that Florida had already elected someone similar to him,” Scott said when discussing Trump’s nearly 113,000-vote victory in the Sunshine State, which helped propel him to victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

And as the country gets ready for a Trump administration his friend and political ally Scott may prove a valuable example of the challenges that lie ahead.

After being in office for five years Scott has been forced to drop campaign promises, alter his stance on key issues and deal with an ongoing divide with members of his own party.

But Scott has also shown that it can be wrong to underestimate him.

When he first ran for office in 2010, Scott, a multi-millionaire, used his experience as a former health care executive and outsider as a tonic for Florida’s double-digit unemployment rate and struggling economy. His bid for governor was staunchly opposed by GOP leaders who were backing then-Attorney General Bill McCollum.

With a campaign aided by one of the same pollsters who helped Trump, Scott poured tens of millions of his own money to pay for television ads that hammered McCollum over immigration. In the ads, Scott promised to push a law styled on one in Arizona that would allow police to check someone’s immigration status.

Scott’s first-ever foray into campaigning was characterized by his steadfast refusal to meet with editorial boards or seek newspaper endorsements. When he defeated McCollum, he vowed to crack down on the special interests and lobbyists who he contended were “crying in their cocktails” due to his primary victory.

Yet Scott was still considered an underdog against Democrat Alex Sink because back in 1997 he had been forced out of his job as the head of Columbia/HCA amid a federal investigation into fraud. Although Scott was never charged with any wrongdoing the company paid a then-record $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud. Sink hit at Scott, saying Floridians couldn’t trust him. Scott fired back with his own ads that questioned Sink’s dealings while serving as Florida’s elected chief financial officer. He also accused her of cheating during a televised debate because she read a message from a campaign adviser during a commercial break.

After spending more than $70 million of his own money, Scott edged Sink by more than 61,000 votes.

There are key differences between Scott and Trump, points out Brian Burgess, who started working for Scott when he created a group to oppose President Barack Obama‘s health care overhaul and would later serve as Scott’s first communications director. Burgess calls Scott reserved and extremely disciplined, while Trump is more a showman who speaks off the cuff.

“They are totally different personalities, but both are good guys and both of them are misread by the public more so than any other politicians I know,” said Brian Ballard, a top Republican fundraiser in Florida who has worked for Trump as a lobbyist the past several years.

But Scott’s two victories have not ensured him success and he has discovered that being governor is not the same as being a CEO.

When he first started, Scott barred lobbyists from entering his office. He brought in other outsiders as his top staff and initially talked about aggressively pushing his agenda through the Legislature. That changed, however, after legislators scaled back, or rejected many of his ideas, including his push for massive tax cuts. Scott then turned to Tallahassee insiders to help him negotiate with the Legislature.

After the Legislature deadlocked on toughening immigration laws, Scott abandoned the idea. Ahead of his 2014 campaign, Scott even signed into law measures that guaranteed in-state tuition rates to the children of immigrants who entered without legal permission. Scott came into office railing against Obama’s health care overhaul but has changed his position twice on whether to expand Medicaid as allowed under the overhaul.

The governor now finds himself at odds with members of his own party, especially new House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who helped scuttle Scott’s push this year to increase state spending on incentives to lure new businesses to the state. Due to the rifts, Scott has stopped raising money for the Republican Party of Florida.

Another clear parallel between Scott and Trump is that both men are entering office with enormous wealth.

Scott has foregone his $130,000 a year salary, but not his state-subsidized health insurance, and he sold off the state plane and instead uses his own private jet for travel. He placed his assets in a blind trust controlled by a long-time business partner, although that has not shielded him completely from questions of conflicts.

Scott said that Trump would be better off if he followed the Florida governor’s lead on assets. Trump has said he will use a blind trust, but he has said he will place his children in charge of his business empire.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Florida school choice advocates praise selection of Betsy DeVos as education secretary

Florida leaders praised Donald Trump’s choice of education secretary, calling Betsy DeVos an excellent pick.

The president-elect announced Wednesday he tapped DeVos, 58, to lead the federal agency. The choice reinforces his pledge to make school choice an education priority. In September, he pledged to funnel $20 billion in existing federal dollars into scholarships for low-income students, an idea that would require congressional approval.

“Students, parents, and education reformers across the United States should be thrilled by the selection of Betsy DeVos to serve as Secretary of Education.  Betsy is a tireless, fearless, and intelligent national leader in high quality education,” said House Speaker Richard Corcoran in a statement. “I can think of no one better to break down bureaucratic barriers, eliminate the institutional intransigence on school choice, and reduce federal costs and interference in the state and local decision-making process.”

A supporter of school choice, Corcoran railed against the state’s largest teacher’s union in his fist remarks as Florida House Speaker. The Land O’Lakes Republican said the Florida Education was “fixated on halting innovation and competition,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Corcoran pointed to the ongoing fight over the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program as an example. The program helps low-income children attend private schools. The teacher’s union has been fighting the program in the courts for years, saying it diverts money from traditional public education.

The Associated Press reported that DeVos’ support of school choice goes back more than 20 years. She was politically involved in the passage of Michigan’s charter school bill in 1993 and worked on an unsuccessful effort to change Michigan’s state constitution to allow tax-credit scholarships or vouchers. She has described that loss as her biggest setback.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush also praised Trump’s decision, saying she “is an outstanding pick for Secretary of Education.”

“She has a long and distinguished history championing the right of all parents to choose schools that best ensure their children’s success. Her allegiance is to families, particularly those struggling at the bottom of the economic ladder, not to an outdated public education model that has failed them from one generation to the next,” he said in a Facebook post on Wednesday. “I cannot think of more effective and passionate change agent to press for a new education vision, one in which students, rather than adults and bureaucracies, become the priority in our nation’s classrooms.”

 DeVos’ appointment is subject to confirmation by the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate. According to the Associated Press, Sen. Lamar Alexander said the Senate’s education committee would move swiftly on the nomination in January.

The new education secretary will oversee implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal law passed last year to replace No Child Left Behind. The Higher Education Act is up for reauthorization.

The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

Mitch Perry Report for 11.23.16 – Real reform in Tallahassee

Florida’s new legislative class of 2017 is presumably back home for the holidays today after spending the first part of this week in Tallahassee.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron welcomed their troops by discussing their respective goals for the 2017 session. In the case of Corcoran, his proposals for lobbying reform have been well publicized in the past week. He also said repeated his pledge yesterday not to accept any spending projects that are not filed as House bills on the very first day of the session. Negron said he won’t be following suit.

“We have tens of thousands of our constituents who come to Tallahassee during session to bring us all kinds of ideas, some which relate to the budget,” Negron said. “And I think it’s perfectly appropriate for the Senate during the legislative session to make decisions on items that will be included in the budget and, by the way, things that will be stricken from the budget.”

The Democratic Senate Leader, Miami Gardens’ Oscar Braynon, had some very interesting things to say about Corcoran’s lobbying proposals.

“To me, that’s not a real change. Most of that is illegal or is not allowed anyway and if it is it’s disclosed,” Braynon told the Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas. “Real change is changing the dynamic where bills are not heard, where ideas are stifled, where people are forced to vote against their conscience. If they change that, then he’s doing a real change. the rest of this is — since Trump got elected I guess I can say this — it’s bulls*it.”

Braynon also referred to an underlying issue that can only be changed by the public – the fact that the s0-called “part-time” Legislature with a part-time salary is the single biggest reason why only the wealthy and/or privileged can actually serve in our “citizens legislature.”

“What do we really want our Legislature to look like?,” Braynon asked. “Do we want it to be wealthy, older guys who are so far along in their professions that they can take six months out of a year to come to Tallahassee for $29,000. What is wrong with a teacher being able to come here? What is wrong with somebody who spent most of his career as a bus drivers coming up here?

Several years ago while he was serving in the House,  Rick Kriseman told me that he was in the middle of switching to work at another law firm. Why? Because the firm he had been working at simply couldn’t abide by his unpredictable schedule.

The News Service of Florida reported in the summer that nearly a third of the Legislature were millionaires. Think about that for a moment. While Republicans like to decry Democrats nationally as being full of coastal elites out of touch with the working class, what about Tallahassee?

So many House Republicans in particular like to comment on how terrible Medicaid is, and that’s why they would never support expanding it to allow hundreds of thousands of Floridians to get health care coverage. Pretty easy to dictate such a philosophy when you’re already covered at reduced prices, isn’t it?

So to summarize: Corcoran’s proposals do present some serious reform, but longterm, there’s a lot more that needs to be done here to make it fairer and more representative for all.

In other news…

While Corcoran’s new rules may be getting mixed reviews in some quarters, Americans for Prosperity’s Florida Chapter is enthusiastic about them.

Since the election, the Hillsborough County Democratic Party has received a surge of requests to join their party.

Stacy White is the new chairman of the Hillsborough County Commission.

Pat Kemp is now officially a BOCC member.

Jim Davison leads Luis Viera 42%-35% in the Tampa City Council District 7 race.

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