Richard Corcoran Archives - Page 5 of 46 - Florida Politics

Florida Forever bill could affect Everglades reservoir plan

A bill that looks to “un-muddy” the mission of Florida’s main environmental land acquisition program could potentially affect the plan for an Everglades reservoir.

A House bill brought forth Monday by Rep. Matt Caldwell, a Republican with close ties to House leadership, was passed unanimously by a House panel. Caldwell wants to alter what projects are eligible for money under the Florida Forever Program and put more money into land conservation. But the measure would also remove funding allocations for acquisitions on water management districts’ priority lists.

Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, said this could potentially make it more difficult for water management districts to fund projects through bonding.

“I’m just pointing out that by taking water management districts out, it takes away an important part of the Florida Forever program that has been used to fund both land acquisition and construction of projects,” Draper said.

This could hinder Senate President Joe Negron‘s plan to build a $1.2 billion reservoir system south of Lake Okeechobee to curb toxic algal bloom from coastal communities. Senate Bill 10 would direct the South Florida Management District to find land for the reservoir system.

Negron’s plan to have the state borrow money to pay for the project has not been welcomed by House leadership, which has yet to hear the proposal. Caldwell’s bill could prevent the South Florida Management District from using bonding for the reservoir project. House Speaker Richard Corcoran supports the Florida Forever bill.

Caldwell does not believe his bill takes aim at Negron’s project because the focus of his bill pertains to land acquisition for conservation purposes, not capital projects.

Environmental groups were split on whether removing water management districts would affect the project. But they said they were hopeful Caldwell’s bill could lead to more money in the state budget for the Florida Forever program.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Legislature at stalemate over new state budget

With time running out in this year’s regular session, Florida’s legislative leaders are at a stalemate over a new state budget and are starting to lash out at one another over the breakdown.

The first but crucial round of negotiations between the House and Senate fell apart on Sunday. The session is scheduled to end on May 5, but state law requires that all work on the budget be finished 72 hours ahead of a final vote.

The lack of a budget deal can also derail other crucial legislation since many times stand-alone bills get tied to the spending plan or are used as leverage in negotiations.

The growing divide prompted Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran to lash out at fellow Republicans in the Senate, comparing them to national Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders.

“There are no limits to their liberalism,” Corcoran said.

Sen. Jack Latvala, the Senate budget chief, said that Corcoran was acting as if “everyone was a liberal but him.”

“I just think it’s very unfortunate for the process, where we start calling names and broadly classify people instead of trying to constructively work out solutions,” Latvala said.

The House and Senate are working on a new budget to cover state spending from July 1 of this year to June 30, 2018. The two chambers started their budget negotiations with a roughly $4 billion difference in their rival spending plans.

For more than a week, the two sides privately traded broad offers that outlined how much money would be spent in key areas such as education, health care, the environment and economic development.

Gov. Rick Scott has been highly critical of a House plan to shutter the state’s economic development agency and to sharply cut money to Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing corporation. Scott has urged Senate Republicans to stand firm against House Republicans.

Part of this broad framework also included how much money the state should set aside in reserves.

Corcoran said one stumbling block was that the House wanted to place more money in reserves because of projections that show a possible budget deficit in the next two to three years if spending continues to increase.

“We refuse to let the state go bankrupt,” said Corcoran, who also said such a strategy could force Florida to raise taxes.

Unable to reach a deal, the House over the weekend offered a “continuation” budget that would have kept intact state funding at current levels in many places. That would have allowed legislators to end the session on time and avoid the need for a costly special session. But it would have meant that there would be no money for any new projects.

The Senate, however, rejected this idea. Senate President Joe Negron, in a memo sent out to senators Monday morning, called it a “Washington creation where Congress is habitually unable to pass a budget.”

Reprinted with permission of The Associated Press.

Oscar Braynon, four other Democrats, set to file in support of Aramis Ayala

Five Democratic lawmakers led by Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon are preparing to file a brief with the Florida Supreme Court in support of Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala in her effort to challenge Gov. Rick Scott‘s power to take cases away from her.

Braynon, state Sens. Jeff Clemens, Perry Thurston, and Gary Farmer, and state Rep. Sean Shaw all filed a request Thursday with the Supreme Court to enter an amicus brief supporting Ayala and opposing Scott. The court quickly approved it.

Braynon is from Miami Gardens; Clemens, Lake Worth; Thurston and Farmer from Fort Lauderdale and Shaw from Tampa.

They explicitly stated in their friend-of-the-court brief would “provide an alternative perspective to that of amici Florida House of Representatives.” The Florida House, under the leadership of Speaker Richard Corcoran, also has sought and received court permission to enter an amicus brief, theirs on the side of Scott. That brief has not yet been filed.

The matter involves Ayala’s announcement that she would not pursue death penalty prosecutions, and Scott’s response of signing executive orders to reassign 23 first-degree murder cases from her in the 9th Judicial Circuit to State Attorney Brad King in the 5th Judicial Circuit. Ayala filed a complaint with the Supreme Court last week seeking writ of warrento, seeking to force Scott to prove he has the authority to do so.

The Democratic lawmakers alternative brief, according to the request filed Thursday,  “would address whether Governor Scott acted within the authority provided under Article IV, Section 1, Florida Constitution, and Section 27.14, Florida Statutes, when he issued executive orders that assigned another State Attorney to discharge the duties of the Petitioner Ayala with respect to a specific case or class of cases is whether there is ‘any good and sufficient reason the Governor thinks that the ends of justice would best be served.’ Austin v. State, 310 So. 2d 289, 292 (Fla. 1975).”

The Democrats expect to have their brief filed by Friday.

 

 

Sabato’s Crystal Ball calls Florida’s 2018 gubernatorial race a ‘toss-up’ in initial ratings

With so much uncertainty about who is in or out of the 2018 Florida gubernatorial race, it’s not surprising that at least one political seer has deemed Florida too-close-to-call.

Initial 2018 gubernatorial ratings released Thursday by Sabato’s Crystal Ball ranked Florida as one of 10 states considered a “toss-up” going into the 2018 election cycle. The ratings found more than half of the 38 gubernatorial races on the ballot next year either start in “competitive toss-up or leans Republican/Democratic categories.”

The report noted Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has been “gearing up for a gubernatorial run for years” and is seen as the favorite on the Republican side to succeed Gov. Rick Scott. But with several other Republicans considering a run, authors Geoffrey Skelley and Kyle Kondik report it is “hard to say just how clear his path to the nomination will be.”

Putnam has been touring the state meeting with local Republican and business group to talk about his vision for the future, and has been building up his campaign coffers in advance of his expected bid. State records show Florida Grown, the political committee expected to fuel his gubernatorial bid, has raised more than $10.5 million since 2015, and had more than $7.7 million cash on hand at the end of March.

The Bartow Republican is scheduled to have a barbecue in his hometown on May 10, just five days after the expected end of the annual 2017 Legislative Session. The event, according to the Tampa Bay Times, will be held at the Old Polk County Courthouse.

But Putnam could face competition from Sen. Jack Latvala and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, both of whom are believed to be considering a 2018 bid.

Latvala, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, raised more than $246,000 for his political committee, the Florida Leadership Committee, in the days leading up to the start of the 2017 Legislative Session. That one-week fundraising haul in March came after one of his best fundraising months to date, when his committee raised nearly $1.1 million in February.

The Democratic side isn’t any easier to predict, according to the team at Sabato’s. While the authors write it might “come down to Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and ex-Rep. Gwen Graham, both of who could be considered rising stars in the party,” the team does note there are “some wealthy wild cards who could self-fund, such as 2010 Senate candidate Jeff Greene, businessman Chris King, and well-known attorney John Morgan.”

Gillum and King are the only Democrats who have filed to run, but Graham is widely expected to jump in the race soon, as is Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who could fall into the self-fund category.

State records show Levine pumped $2 million of his own money into his political committee, All About Florida, in March. Levine has spent the last few weeks touring the state meeting with community members.

Both Gillum and King have been staffing up. Gillum announced this week that Scott Arceneaux, the former head of the Florida Democratic Party, would be joining his campaign as chief strategist; while King unveiled a host of key hires, including Raymond Paultre as his director of strategic engagement and Stephanie McClung as his finance director.

Gillum announced earlier this month he had raised $765,000 — spread between his official campaign and his political committee Forward Florida — since the start of 2017, most of which was raised since March 1. Meanwhile, state records show King brought in nearly $1.2 million for his official campaign in March. That sum included a $1 million contribution King made to his own campaign.

But a crowded field could be an issue for Democrats hoping to turn Florida blue, according to Sabato’s Crystal Ball. The rankings noted that although Democrats came close to winning in 2010 and 2014, they “haven’t won a gubernatorial race in Florida since 1994 … so an extremely crowded field in an expensive state with a late primary could be problematic for them.”

Richard Corcoran thanks FSU for returning controversial appropriation

House Speaker Richard Corcoran thanked Florida State President John Thrasher for returning money from a now controversial appropriation.

The university got part of an appropriation for Florida Psychological Associates, a firm operated by friends of Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican.

“I recognize that the lack of direction … placed FSU in a situation it did not seek,” Corcoran wrote in a letter dated Tuesday, saying Thrasher’s willingness to return the money was “commendable.” The letter was released Wednesday.

While saying he still had “concerns regarding expenditures that fail to return sufficient value to taxpayers,” the Speaker recognized the school “attempted to develop good measures” for the Mental Health Early Screening program.

The Naples Daily News has reported that Bean helped his friends secure state money for their business and claimed it was “hidden” in the state budget. Corcoran said the company “fell short of expectations.”

“I want to thank Speaker Corcoran for his letter of support and his acknowledgement that Florida State neither requested this appropriation nor received any direction regarding it,” Thrasher said in a statement.

“I appreciate that he recognizes from the extensive documentation we provided that FSU did its best to develop and administer the program and his praise for our willingness to return to the state the money allocated for indirect costs. We look forward to continuing to work with the Speaker and the Legislature to ensure accountability and transparency in the appropriations process.”

Corcoran’s letter is reprinted below:

 

Danny Burgess: It’s vital Florida workers get care they need

A lot of people talk about jobs. How to create them, how to save them, or how to move them.

No matter what side of the “jobs argument” you are on, one thing is certain. There can be no job without a worker to perform that job. That worker is – normally – a human being subject to the vicissitudes of life.

That’s why there’s workers’ compensation insurance – which is coverage purchased by an employer to provide benefits for job-related employee injuries. In Florida, virtually all businesses are required to carry it.

I’m sure you’ve heard in the news the dire situation our workers’ compensation insurance the State of Florida is in. Let me give you a little history on how we got here.

In 2003, Florida’s workers’ compensation insurance rates were the highest in the nation. The Florida legislature tackled the crisis and, since 2003, workers’ compensation insurance rates have fallen 61 percent for Florida’s job creators. This was all done without restricting access to courts as the percentage of workers’ compensation cases in which an injured worker was represented by an attorney remained largely the same before and after the reforms. In addition, these reforms ultimately saved Florida business owners over $3 billion in insurance premiums.

Enter the Florida Supreme Court. Last year the court invalidated a portion of the earlier reforms that kept costs under control.

Even the most ardent detractors of the 2003 reforms will admit that the elimination of those reforms will increase insurance premium costs to small business. We’ve already seen a 14.5 percent increase in workers’ compensation insurance premium rates effective Dec. 1, 2016. That increase would eat away at $435 million of the $3 billion saved by the reforms.

To absorb that cost, employers may choose to shed jobs. Even assuming that each of these jobs pays the average salaried wage in Florida of $46,000, it would, currently, take nearly 65,000 jobs lost to absorb the cost of a $3 billion rate increase.

To put it in perspective, in the last year over 240,000 new jobs were created in Florida. Without fixing the workers’ compensation system a quarter of those jobs could be in jeopardy.

I’ve been fortunate, thanks to Speaker Richard Corcoran and Chairman José Felix Diaz, to lead an effort to prevent that job loss and fix the system. We’ve proposed, and this week will pass, the largest and most comprehensive set of reforms to Florida’s workers’ compensation system in 15 years.

It was vital to me that injured workers get the care they need, while protecting the jobs of the very workers who have been injured.

When we set out to reform Florida’s workers’ compensation system, there were three objectives I sought to achieve. First, the reform had to be constitutional; it would do us no good to pass a bill, and then have the Florida Supreme Court strike it down as unconstitutional. That would put us right back where we are today, with every business in Florida facing an unsustainable 14.5 percent rate hike. Our bill effectively addresses recent case law by not infringing on the injured worker’s access to courts while simultaneously combating the system’s biggest cost drivers, including excessive attorney involvement and fees. This will bring stability to the system and lead to more affordable and significantly lower rates for Florida’s business owners.

Secondly, I believe that we must strike a fair balance between workers and employers. The goal of most injured workers is to get back to work. We should have a system that encourages and medically targets that goal.

Thirdly, I want to ensure that the “Grand Bargain” is kept in place. Without the buy-in of the workforce and the business community — both at the heart of the Grand Bargain — I fear we’ll be right back in the same place next year — a very uncertain place.

This might not be the most exciting issue. The TV cameras won’t be beating down my door. But I’ll rest well at night knowing that real jobs of real families in real need were saved because of what we did. And it doesn’t get much better than that.

___

Danny Burgess represents District 38 in the Florida House of Representatives.

House PR machine turns to its version of state budget

The House of Representatives has released a new “explainer” video to explain its proposed 2017-18 state budget.

And—fun!—it’s a cartoon.

“Don’t have time to read hundreds of pages?” it starts. “That’s OK, because we’ve got the Florida House budget in under a few minutes.”

The nearly three-minute video explains that the House, led by Speaker Richard Corcoran, proposes no new taxes and adds another $25,000 on top of the state’s homestead exemption for property tax.

The House also “cuts pork barrel spending,” it says.

The House and Senate, having passed their respective spending plans, soon will go into conference to work out a compromise budget for 2017-18.

There are even suggested messages for members to tweet and create Facebook posts to promote the video.

“While cutting waste, the Florida House budget funds: kid care, schools of hope, Everglades cleanup and more,” reads one sample tweet.

And a suggested Facebook post says, “The Florida House budget slashes earmarks and member projects by hundreds of millions of dollars; all while spending LESS than we did last year. I believe cutting government waste and abuse is essential, and I’m proud to have voted for it. Learn more about how we’re eliminating waste and funding Florida’s priorities by watching this quick video.”

The House also will release a series of graphics that feature “nearly every aspect of the budget,” according to an email.

“The graphics are intended for you to use on social media to highlight whatever aspect of the budget is most important to your constituents.”

—–

Rick Scott pushes ahead for VISIT FLORIDA funding

Gov. Rick Scott went once more unto the breach Tuesday, pressing his case for full funding of the state’s VISIT FLORIDA tourism marketing agency.

The Republican governor—surrounded by VISIT FLORIDA’s CEO Ken Lawson, board chairman William Talbert, and others—spoke with reporters outside his Capitol office.

The GOP-majority House of Representatives, which at first wanted to eliminate the agency, instead reduced its budget to $25 million for next year.

Scott wants $100 million to market the state to visitors, saying every dollar spent brings back $3.20 in tourism-related revenue, including from gasoline and sales taxes.

Scott mentioned that Florida is getting shellacked by ads—”…and they’re nice,” he said—from Utah, Michigan, California, Texas, and Georgia trying to divert tourists.

With Florida getting roughly 113 million tourists last year, “if we want even more tourists, we’re going to have to spend more money,” Scott said. “We have plenty of money in the budget … but the House has really limited our ability to market the state.”

The Senate supported the work of VISIT FLORIDA with about $76 million in its budget. Senators soon will go into conference with the House to work out a compromise budget for 2017-18.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has criticized both VISIT FLORIDA and economic development organization Enterprise Florida as needless dispensers of “corporate welfare.” Though both are public-private partnerships, both take in far more public money than private.

But Scott says they help create jobs, adding that 1.4 million jobs are tied to tourism alone.

Scott has gone around the state, including the home districts of Republican House members who voted against VISIT FLORIDA, to host “roundtables.” There, he has pointedly criticized lawmakers who went against him.

The people have his back, Scott added: They are “just shocked that the House would even think” about cutting money to promote tourism. “…I don’t want to lose any jobs.”

And he has enlisted them to the cause.

“I tell people, ‘look, this is your Legislature,’ ” Scott said. ” ‘You need to reach out to them.’ “

House Speaker: Push for tougher ethics laws dead

State House Speaker Richard Corcoran says a push to give Florida some of the toughest ethics laws in the nation is dead for this year’s session, and he’s blaming Senate Republicans for showing “zero interest.”

The Land O’Lakes Republican pushed to enact several far-reaching proposals, including one that would ban legislators and elected officials from lobbying state government for six years after leaving office. The House overwhelmingly passed them, but the legislation has not moved in the state Senate. The annual session ends in less than three weeks.

“The Senate has shown us they have expressed zero interest in holding elected officials accountable and draining the swamp,” said Corcoran, echoing a line used by President Donald Trump on the campaign trail last year.

Corcoran said this week he’s not giving up and will seek other ways to place his proposals into law, including asking the state Constitution Revision Commission to put them before voters in 2018 or launching a petition drive to get them on the ballot. The commission is formed once every 20 years to propose additions, deletions or revisions in the state’s constitution.

When he came into his leadership post, Corcoran vowed to aggressively change what he called a broken system that let special interests and lobbyists wield too much influence. The House adopted rules limiting contacts between lobbyists and legislators and Corcoran pushed to shed more light on projects added to the annual budget.

Currently, legislators and statewide elected officials are subjected to a two-year lobbying ban after leaving office. The House proposed a constitutional amendment and a new state law to extend that ban to six years. The measure would also expand lobbying restrictions so that a legislator or statewide elected official could not lobby any state agency during that period.

The House has also passed a bill that would require city officials to file more detailed financial disclosure forms. The House is also scheduled this week to consider another measure that would clamp down on public officials using their posts to seek jobs or going into business with lobbyists.

When asked earlier this month Senate President Joe Negron said he was “open for ways to make the process more transparent, more accountable.” But he also said he was “content” with the current ethics laws in place including the two-year ban on lobbying.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

House backs Governor in battle with Orlando prosecutor Aramis Ayala

Florida’s House is backing Gov. Rick Scott in his legal battle against an Orlando prosecutor who refuses to seek the death penalty in cases handled by her office.

The state Supreme Court said Monday it would allow attorneys working for House Speaker Richard Corcoran to file legal briefs in the case between the governor and State Attorney Aramis Ayala.

Ayala is challenging Scott’s authority to transfer murder cases from her office to another prosecutor.

The Republican-controlled House in a legal filing with the high court said it wants to address “the ill effects that flow from” Ayala’s opposition to seeking the death penalty. The House may also argue whether Scott has the authority to suspend Ayala.

Ayala is a Democrat and Florida’s first African-American state attorney.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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