Richard Corcoran Archives - Page 5 of 38 - Florida Politics

Rick Scott says fellow Republicans — he’s looking at you, Mr. Speaker — are spreading fake news

Gov. Rick Scott is now saying that his fellow Republicans in the Florida House are using “fake news” to justify their plan to scrap the state’s economic development agency.

Scott used his campaign Twitter account on Wednesday to distribute a video critical of House Speaker Richard Corcoran and House Republicans. The video labels Corcoran a “career politician” who wasted money by having the House produce a video that trashed programs championed by Scott.

The House video released last week blasted Visit Florida, the agency that promotes tourism, and Enterprise Florida, the organization that uses taxpayer money to lure companies to the state. The House is considering a bill that would eliminate Enterprise Florida.

Scott’s video points out that the House criticized incentives handed out before Scott was governor.

Judicial ethics watchdog could suffer in fight for independent Florida courts

Is Florida’s judicial ethics commission about to become collateral damage in a battle over the independence of the courts?

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, the Land O’Lakes Republican, appears to have targeted the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) along with the courts themselves in his campaign to curb the independence of the judiciary.

The JQC and the Supreme Court had not concluded an ethics case against Circuit Judge Mark Hulsey III of Jacksonville when Corcoran scheduled an impeachment hearing a month ago. The judge resigned.

Such intervention in an ongoing JQC matter was an event with scant precedent. Since the agency was established in 1966, there have been only three instances among more than 200 known cases, and none was exactly comparable.

— In 1975, the House held impeachment hearings on three justices after the Supreme Court had rejected the JQC’s recommendation to remove two of them for ethical violations. Two of the three, Hal P. Dekle and David L. McCain, resigned.

— In 1978, the House impeached and the Senate removed Circuit Judge Samuel S. Smith of Lake City despite his attempt to resign after his federal conviction for conspiracy to sell 1,500 pounds of seized marijuana. Gov. Reubin Askew called for the impeachment to make sure that Smith could never hold office again or collect a pension.

— In 2003, legislators dissatisfied with the Supreme Court’s reprimand of a Pinellas-Pasco circuit judge, as recommended by the JQC, threatened to impeach him and he resigned. The judge, Charles W. Cope, was accused of conduct unbecoming a judge for drunken behavior at an out-of-state conference.

The case against Hulsey, who was accused of racist and sexist comments from the bench, had not progressed nearly as far.

Asked for comment on that point, Corcoran’s spokesman, Fred Piccolo, said in an email:

“In this case, the JQC had all the information we had and still delayed. The Speaker believed taxpayers should not be paying a judge like Mr. Hulsey at all, let alone to not hear cases. The Speaker had every confidence that the Judge’s conduct warranted impeachment

” I can say with confidence that this Speaker will not hesitate to use impeachment to remove officers of the government who abuse their office.”

At that point, however, the JQC’s formal case against Hulsey was only five months old. According to the Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA), the average JQC proceeding takes 13 months from the receipt of a complaint to the filing of a disciplinary recommendation with the Supreme Court.

Last week, one of Corcoran’s House committees took on the court itself with criticism for a JQC case that has been awaiting the court’s decision for more than a year, an uncommonly long time. It consists primarily of alleged ethical violations as a lawyer and judicial candidate on the part of Circuit Judge Andrew Decker of Live Oak.

The Public Integrity and Ethics Committee gave no warning to Decker or his attorney, who knew nothing about the meeting until it had been held. The agenda noted only that there would be a report on an unspecified JQC case.

That was a far cry from fair. The chairman, Yahala Republican Larry Metz, was quoted as saying the judge wasn’t invited because “we’re not voting on anything.”

The JQC was created in 1966 to provide a more efficient alternative to impeachment for judges accused of misconduct. Two legislative impeachment efforts had failed.

Though the agency got off to a slow start, it turned aggressive under the chairmanship of Richard T. Earle Jr., a St. Petersburg attorney, who fearlessly pursued corruption on the Supreme Court itself.

Since inception, the JQC has now filed formal charges against more than 200 judges.

When it gets to that point, it rarely ends well for the judge. Of the 206 known cases, by my count, 77 — more than a third — ended with the judge off the bench: 19 removed for violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct, 25 resignations, 4 election defeats, 4 forsaken re-election campaigns, 21 enforced retirements for various disabilities, and 4 under threatened or actual impeachment.

Most of the rest were publicly reprimanded by the court, some also with fines and suspensions. The reprimands, almost always administered in person in public sessions of the court, are meant to be humbling, even humiliating, and the cases become everlasting records. Only seven cases have ever been formally dismissed. Four, including Decker’s, are pending.

So, from what we know, the JQC has been doing a good job — to hear some judges, too good a job.

It’s what we don’t know that may be a problem. The Constitution makes all JQC proceedings confidential until the agency files formal charges. That means no acknowledgment, much less an explanation, for any of the many complaints it dismisses.

According to its most recent report, the JQC received nearly 800 complaints in fiscal 2015 and summarily dismissed about 570 of them. Only 10 proceeded to formal charges.

“A great majority of complaints,” the report said, are about nothing more than dissatisfaction with the outcomes of cases and “that is the province of the appellate courts.” The JQC’s constitutional jurisdiction is limited to conduct that “demonstrates a present unfitness to hold office.”

But as OPPAGA remarked in a January 2015 report, the confidentiality rule left it unable “to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of Commission processes, as well as the consistency of its decisions and actions.

“The Commission documents we were unable to review included complaints screened out by staff, cases dismissed by the commission either summarily or after investigation, and letters of private admonishment. In addition … we were not permitted to attend investigative panel meetings,” the report said.

The case for confidentiality is this: Judges don’t deserve to be embarrassed by publicity about unfounded complaints.

But I don’t buy that. The facts should be allowed to speak for themselves. Judges should accept that as a consequence of public office.

When the Constitution Revision Commission meets, it should provide for eventual disclosure of every complaint to the JQC — not necessarily at the outset, but once it has been either dismissed or moved further along. That’s something that Corcoran’s nine appointees could insist upon without harming the courts.

The public’s trust is something to be earned, not assumed.

___

Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the Tampa Bay Times. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

Florida House, Rick Scott again at loggerheads over VISIT FLORIDA

House Speaker Richard Corcoran offered a compromise Monday in his plan to kill the public-private VISIT FLORIDA tourism marketing agency, but Gov. Rick Scott rejected it as a “massive cut.”

One day before a bill (HB 7005) aimed at eliminating the organization gets its second and final committee review, an amendment to be offered by GOP state Rep. Paul Renner would save the agency, but slash its budget to $25 million. Its latest budget is nearly $80 million.

The amendment also would require the agency submit to a list of demands, including making it “submit a detailed operating budget each year,” having its CEO be confirmed by the Senate, and “remov(ing) the public records exemption for marketing projects and research.”

Moreover, the bill would still get rid of the public-private Enterprise Florida economic development organization.

“The Florida House is proposing a 67 percent cut to tourism marketing,” Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said in a statement. “More than a million Florida families rely on jobs in our tourism industry and are threatened with this massive cut.

“Unfortunately, some politicians in the Florida House think fighting for jobs is simply hysteria and don’t understand that jobs are not expendable to families who have to put food on the table,” she said.

Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, is out to kill VISIT FLORIDA, Enterprise Florida, and most of state government’s business incentive programs – what he calls “corporate welfare.” Scott, a Naples Republican, says they all help create jobs.

Earlier Monday, Corcoran called defenders of VISIT FLORIDA “increasingly hysterical, complete with their ‘Chicken Little’ predictions of economic collapse, state income taxes, and tens of thousands out of work.”

The agency faced criticism for keeping secret a promotional contract it negotiated with South Florida rapper Pitbull. Corcoran sued to get the contract released to the public, but Pitbull himself published a copy of the contract via Twitter, revealing he was promised a maximum of $1 million.

“The burden is now on the defenders of VISIT FLORIDA to decide if they are willing to accept accountability and transparency or if they are looking only to return to the good old days of operating in the shadows,” Corcoran said in a statement. “… Rest assured, the House will not spend another penny on VISIT FLORIDA should accountability and transparency measures be rejected.”

Schutz responded, “Gov. Scott believes in transparency and accountability for any taxpayer dollars used and that is why he has demanded changes and brought in new leadership at VISIT FLORIDA.”

CEO Will Seccombe stepped down after Scott called for his resignation, and Ken Lawson moved from being secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to now head the tourism agency.

Meantime, GOP state Rep. Joe Gruters of Sarasota, a Scott ally, has filed legislation to overhaul the agencies, not abolish them.

The bill will next be heard 1 p.m. Tuesday by the House Appropriations Committee.

Lottery says it’s generated $1 billion for education this year

The Florida Lottery, now being sued by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Monday said it had reached “another record – $1 billion in contributions to education for the 15th consecutive year.”

On Friday, Corcoran – a Land O’ Lakes Republican – filed suit against the state agency for “wasteful and improper spending” for signing a multiyear, $700 million deal for new equipment.

The Lottery reports to Gov. Rick Scott.

In a press release, it said it had “reached the $1 billion mark for this fiscal year earlier than any other year in Florida Lottery history. This brings the Lottery’s life-to-date education contributions to more than $31 billion.”

The state’s fiscal year runs July 1-June 30. Lottery proceeds go into the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, which helps pay for public education.

“This milestone would not have been possible without the support of our loyal players, dedicated retailers and hardworking Lottery staff,” Lottery Secretary Tom Delacenserie said in a statement.

“The Lottery will continue working hard every day to advance our mission of maximizing contributions to education in a manner that is consistent with the dignity and integrity of the state.”

The release added: “Florida Lottery contributions represent approximately six percent of the state’s total education budget. Lottery funds are appropriated by the Florida Legislature and are administered by the Florida Department of Education.”

Corcoran sued the Lottery “for signing a contract that spends beyond existing budget limitations.” The deal, with International Game Technology (IGT), will provide the Lottery with new retailer terminals, in-store signage, self-service lottery vending machines, self-service ticket checkers and an upgraded communications network.

In a press release last September, the company said the contract is for an initial 10-year period, and the Florida Lottery “simultaneously exercised the first of its three available three-year renewal options.”

But Corcoran’s suit asserts “there is insufficient budget authority for the contract to be paid under the current appropriation assuming current conference estimates of ticket sales,” according to a press release from his office.

 

 

WTSP exposé examines Florida’s ‘weakest in nation’ texting, driving laws

Florida lawmakers will probably not make texting while driving a primary traffic offense in 2017, although it is the law in 41 other states.

Right now, Florida doesn’t allow officers to pull over drivers for texting and driving unless they notice another potentially dangerous or deadly offense at the same time.

In an interview with Noah Pransky of WTSP, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran suggested that legislators may need more information before they decide to change the law, perhaps by seeing what such a change had accomplished in other states.

“You need to have evidence,” Corcoran said in a brief clip posted on Facebook. “Let’s look at what those other 41 states are doing … the number of incidents they have related to texting and driving and what it has done [for] their safety … comparisons based on population, based on demographics, based on cities.”

Corcoran added that by studying the data, the Legislature could come to an “objective decision” whether to make texting while driving a primary offense.

In another Facebook video, Pransky says gives three reasons legislators are in no rush to change “some of the country’s weakest distracted driving laws.” They claim texting isn’t dropping in the states where texting while driving laws are in place; banning such activities could represent a potential threat to civil liberties and police could abuse those rules to pull anyone over, for practically any reason.

Pransky calls those ideas simply “excuses” for lawmakers dragging their feet.

St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway tells WTSP that his department needs a driving while texting law to crack down on this dangerous behavior effectively.

“We need that tool in our toolbox so we can educate our people,” Holloway said.

Pransky will have a two-part report on Florida’s texting while driving and distracted driving laws Monday and Tuesday night at 11 p.m. on WTSP.

Carol Dover still fighting for tourism marketing money

When it comes to supporting the state’s hospitality industry, Carol Dover won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

Despite the Florida House’s opposition to spending money on tourism marketing in the state budget, her Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association is seeking $1 million to do just that.

And the funding request is being sponsored by GOP state Rep. Jay Trumbull of Panama City, who already voted for a bill to kill VISIT FLORIDA, the public-private tourism marketing agency.

On Feb. 7, Dover – the association’s president & CEO since 1995 – asked for the money for an “In-State Marketing Program to Promote Florida Tourism.” Trumbull, first elected in 2014, is listed as the House sponsor.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran requires requests for project money in the budget to be filed separately and publicly; the submission is on the House’s website. He is also crusading against incentives as “corporate welfare” that should be stopped.

“Funds are transferred from the Hotels and Restaurants Trust Fund to contract with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Inc., to develop a coordinated marketing, media and events program to promote Florida tourism to residents of the state,” the request explains.

“This campaign requires a private matching program and is conducted throughout the state, as approved by and monitored by (the Department of Business and Professional Regulation) and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Inc., for the purpose of promoting tourism.”

One day later, the House Careers & Competition Subcommittee, of which Trumbull is vice-chair, cleared a measure to eliminate VISIT FLORIDA, as well as the Enterprise Florida economic development organization, and a bevy of business incentive programs.

Dover – who had broken her leg the weekend before – attended the hearing on crutches to oppose the bill, saying it would “destroy our tourism industry.”

She’s known as a tenacious fighter; Dover is a breast cancer survivor who first learned of her diagnosis on the opening day of the 2003 Legislative Session.

By Feb. 14, Gov. Rick Scott‘s statewide tour to promote his proposed 2017-18 budget made a stop in Trumbull’s district. According to MyPanhandle.com, Scott “wasted no time criticizing those who voted … to defund the agencies.”

“In Tallahassee, there (are) some politicians that don’t understand the importance of a job,” Scott said. “I am shocked that Rep. Jay Trumbull voted to abolish Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.”

Trumbull later “said his vote was not an attempt to limit jobs, but to start a conversation about transparency and accountability within the agencies,” the site reported.

The next day, Trumbull filed the 1-page bill (HB 3343) that goes along with Dover’s tourism funding request.

Trumbull could not be reached by mobile phone: His voicemail was full and he did not respond to a text message.

Dover was unavailable Monday and a request for comment is pending with the association’s communications director.

On Friday, Fred Piccolo, Corcoran’s spokesman, said the speaker was unaware of the FRLA’s request and had no comment.

The bill to kill the agencies and incentive plans has a second stop in the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday.

In op-ed, Rick Scott still swinging against GOP opposition to incentives

Gov. Rick Scott has released an opinion column on the “Florida House playing politics with Florida jobs” one day before a House panel discusses killing Enterprise Florida, VISIT FLORIDA and many business incentive programs.

Scott’s office emailed the op-ed to news media Monday afternoon. The House Appropriations Committee meets Tuesday to consider  a bill that would eliminate the agencies.

The email calls out by name Republican House members “who just last year supported Gov. Scott’s efforts to increase funding at Enterprise Florida,” including Jason Brodeur, Travis Cummings, Bill Hager, Larry Metz, Holly Raschein, and Charlie Stone.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has called such use of public money “corporate welfare.”

The op-ed as released is below:


The Florida House of Representatives has decided to push legislation to undo economic development funding in Florida and defund our state’s tourism agency.  A House panel voted for this job killing legislation two weeks ago and the House Appropriations Committee will be voting on it tomorrow.

That’s correct, many of your elected members of the Florida House have decided their top priority this year is to eliminate funding for Florida’s economy.  They want to eliminate Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida.

They say that they don’t want government intrusion in the free market. Of course, there is government financing in the areas of healthcare, transportation, education, housing, and social services. But, they have decided to try to totally eliminate funding for the one area where we can easily show a major return on the investment of your tax dollars – jobs are being created by more companies moving to our state and our tourism industry has recruited a record-breaking number of visitors over the last few years.

Even more absurd, the politicians in the Florida House who already voted for this bill say they don’t necessarily want to abolish these programs but instead want to advance a “conversation” …meaning they voted for something they don’t support. This is hypocrisy at its best and these are the kind of games I came to Tallahassee to change.

I ran for Governor to fight this sort of politics and bring common sense from the business world to our government.  The plan has worked, as Florida has added more than 1.26 million new jobs.

Many politicians spend a lifetime in government and they simply don’t have any understanding of how business actually works. These are the facts that confirm the negligence of eliminating our jobs and tourism agencies generating jobs:

  • Before I came into office, state incentives were often awarded before goals, like job creation, were met.
  • But, today Florida companies only receive economic incentives after an independent third-party audit proves stringent requirements are met, including proven job growth and wage requirements to ensure a great return on investment for Florida families.
  • This means NO MONEY is given as “corporate welfare” because no money can be awarded until contract requirements like jobs are created.
  • Because of our economic development programs, several companies like Hertz, Northrup Grumman, and Blue Origin – to name a few – have located or expanded in our state to create thousands of jobs.

The Florida House likes to rely on inaccurate information to push their narrative of “corporate welfare,” by highlighting the failed deal of Digital Domain.

Let’s look at the facts: EFI recommended that the state not fund Digital Domain.  Ironically, politicians in the Florida Legislature chose to ignore EFI’s recommendation and circumvented EFI’s strict process in 2009 by funding the failed project FROM THE LEGISLATURE.

Both Visit Florida and EFI have made mistakes over the years.  In both cases, we have made changes to ensure transparency of taxpayer dollars and brought in new leadership.  That is what you do in business; you make changes and get it right.   But what you do not do is close up shop.

If the House were to succeed with ending economic development and tourism programs in Florida, the small and rural communities in our state would be hurt the most. Cancelling our statewide program would hurt those areas in Florida that would truly be revitalized by a new job creator in their community.

Just last week I travelled the state and met with business owners who are devastated that there is even talk of abolishing these programs.  Many job creators rely on EFI and Visit Florida and said they would not be able to keep their doors open if it weren’t for their help.  No job is expendable to the families they employ.

Coming into this job after a lifetime in business, I knew I would have to learn to tolerate some aspects of politics, and I would have to endure lectures from people who do not know the first thing about creating jobs. But, I cannot allow thousands of Floridians to be denied jobs and opportunities in our state just so a few in elected office can get headlines for their campaign for higher office.

Our economy is booming. Our economic development and tourism programs are some of the best in the nation when it comes to getting a positive return on investment. I will continue to set the record straight on the politics the Florida House is playing and fight for the Florida families who expect their government officials to bring them more opportunity, not less.

This is no time to stand still.  In business you are either moving forward or you are moving backward.  The Florida House is currently planning to take our state backward.  I will fight to stop them, and so should you.

Busy week for fundraising ahead of 2017 Legislative Session

There’s one committee week left until the start of the 2017 Legislative Session, and you can bet lawmakers will be doing more than just debating the merits of their bills during their time in the capital city this week.

House Majority, the campaign arm of the Florida GOP, will host fundraisers for several House Republicans, all of which are running for re-election, this week.

On Feb. 21, there is a fundraiser for Reps. Chuck Clemons and Bobby Payne at noon at The Governor’s Inn, 209 S. Adams Street in Tallahassee.

That same day, there is a fundraiser for Reps. Danny BurgessBob Rommel, and Erin Grall at 5 p.m. at The Edison, 470 Suwannee Street in Tallahassee. Across town, there will be a fundraiser for Rep. MaryLynn Magar at 5:30 p.m. at The Florida Realtors, 200 S. Monroe Street.

On Feb. 22, there is a fundraising reception for Reps. Alex MillerGrallCyndi StevensonAmber Mariano, and Jackie Toledo. The event is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. at the Governors Club, 202 S. Adams Street in Tallahassee.

Miller and Toledo will be back at the Governors Club for a 5 p.m. fundraiser on Feb. 22. A few blocks away, there is a fundraiser for Rep. Jay Fant at The Florida Realtors starting at 5:30 p.m. It is also scheduled to host an event for Rep. Jay Trumbull at The Governor’s Inn at the same time.

House Majority is scheduled to hold a fundraiser for Burgess and Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen at 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 23 at Clyde’s and Costello’s, 210 South Adams St. in Tallahassee.

All of the events are hosted by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Rep. Jose Oliva, and Rep. Chris Sprowls.

Democrats are also getting in on the fundraising action, Sen. Vic Torres and Reps Richard Stark, Joe Geller and Amy Mercado hosting a fundraiser at 5:30 p.m. at the Florida Realtors Association on Feb. 22.

House members aren’t the only ones raising cash before the 2017 Legislative Session kicks off next month. Sen. Greg Steube will hold a fundraiser, hosted by Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, at 6 p.m. on Feb. 21 at the Governor’s Inn Boardroom. Sen. Debbie Mayfield is scheduled to hold a fundraiser for her Senate District 17 re-election campaign at 5 p.m. on Feb. 23 at the Governors Club Boardroom, 202 ½ S. Adams Street in Tallahassee.

And Rep. Manny Diaz will hold a fundraiser for his upcoming state Senate campaign at 6 p.m. at the Governor’s Inn Boardroom on Feb. 22. The fundraiser is hosted by Simpson, and Sens. Bill Galvano, Dennis Baxley, Anitere Flores, Doug Broxson, and Rene Garcia.

 

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Richard Corcoran sues Florida Lottery over ‘improper spending’

In what one lobbyist privately compared to “the bombing of Pearl Harbor,” House Speaker Richard Corcoran Friday dropped a blockbuster lawsuit on the Florida Lottery, which reports to Gov. Rick Scott, saying it was guilty of “wasteful and improper spending” for signing a $700 million deal for new equipment. 

The legal action caps off weeks of tension and sniping between the Republican governor and Corcoran’s GOP House majority after the speaker said he was out to kill state government’s business incentives programs, what he calls “corporate welfare.” Scott says they help create jobs.

Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, also seeks to eliminate the dispensers of the largesse, the public-private organizations Enterprise Florida, which does economic development, and VISIT FLORIDA, which handles the state’s tourism marketing.

In retaliation, Scott has been going to the home districts of Republican House members to publicly shame them for supporting an anti-incentives bill. He’s been doing so under the guise of promoting his proposed 2017-18 “Fighting for Florida’s Future” budget.

Later Friday, Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz shot back in an email, saying “Florida Lottery’s record sales have led to historic contributions to our state’s education system and the House sues?” Lottery proceeds go into the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, which helps pay for public education.

Schutz then used a term considered anathema by conservatives: “Not shocking to have another lawsuit from a trial lawyer.” Corcoran is a commercial litigation attorney.

The suit had been known to be in the works and was disclosed earlier this week by POLITICO Florida. The 12-page suit, plus exhibits, was filed in Leon County Circuit Civil court at 4:54 p.m. Friday.

As previously reported, it is what’s known as a “quo warranto” writ, filed against government officials to demand they prove their authority to perform a certain action.

At 5 p.m. Friday, Corcoran’s office said he was suing the Lottery “for signing a contract that spends beyond existing budget limitations.”

The deal, with International Game Technology (IGT), will provide the Lottery with new retailer terminals, in-store signage, self-service lottery vending machines, self-service ticket checkers and an upgraded communications network.

In a press release last September, the company said the contract is for an initial 10-year period, and the Florida Lottery “simultaneously exercised the first of its three available three-year renewal options.”

But Corcoran’s suit asserts “there is insufficient budget authority for the contract to be paid under the current appropriation assuming current conference estimates of ticket sales,” according to the press release.

The complaint says the Lottery “cannot enter into a contract that obligates the agency to pay more in subsequent fiscal years than its current budget authority allows, and it certainly cannot use that contract to support a request for an increase or realignment in its appropriations. In fact, Florida law governing the budgeting process expressly prohibits” it.

State law “protects against executive agencies trying to force the Legislature’s hand in the budgeting process,” the complaint adds. “It also protects against agencies unleashing the lobbyists of private vendors to interfere with that process. This in turn ensures budgeting transparency and predictability.”

In a statement, the speaker said the contract was “yet another example of a government entity thinking it is more important than the people who pay for it.”

“The Lottery, and any other agency for that matter, does not have the right to obligate the taxpayers of Florida by even a penny beyond what the people’s elected Representatives say they can,” Corcoran said.

“This lawsuit filed today is about the rule of law and the protection of taxpayers,” he added. “In addition, I hope our actions today serve as a warning to any agency playing fast and loose with the rules that the people have had enough.”

One prominent lobbyist, who asked not to be named, said he won’t be surprised if Corcoran – rumored to be weighing a run for governor in 2018 – has similar lawsuits lined up against other agencies under Scott.

“This is just one more bomb in a greater war,” the lobbyist said. The House “will keep firing bullets at this governor … Richard wants to change the paradigm of how government does business, and his members are with him. You have to give him credit: He created an army of believers.”

Jacksonville correspondent A.G. Gancarski contributed to this report. 

Subliminal message no help in Enterprise Florida fight

I was watching the fascinating video from the Florida House of Representatives in its escalating war with Gov. Rick Scott over state subsidies for private businesses and tourism when an image caught my eye as it streaked by quickly.

It was the logo for Enterprise Florida, the public-private partnership that is supposed to create jobs. Scott loves the concept so much he included $85 million in his budget request for the endeavor. Therein lies the battle line with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who says it’s a waste of taxpayer money.

The House video makes that case emphatically.

Anyway, I rolled the video back to the logo and thought, hey, wait a minute. It looked familiar. One quick Google search later confirmed that EP’s logo looks suspiciously similar to Enron’s, and, well, need I say more?

That’s not a subliminal message an endeavor fighting for its life (and funding) wants to send.

Enron, as we remember, set the gold standard (so to speak) for getting into taxpayers’ wallets in the name of “job creation” and other such gibberish. The Libertarian-leaning Cato Institute in 2012 called Enron “a poster child for the harm of business subsidies,” reporting the company received $3.7 billion through various means through federal government agencies before it collapsed in December 2001.

No one is trying to place Enterprise Florida on the same level as Enron, but the principle Corcoran and his GOP-controlled House members believe is where the connection is valid. Corcoran strongly argues that government (meaning taxpayers) shouldn’t decide business winners and loser by funneling public money to private interests.

And EP certainly has received more than a little bit of public dough since it was founded in 2005. As the Orlando Sentinel reported in December, “A prime example of Florida’s political favoritism is Enterprise Florida, a public-private partnership that promised to create 200,000 jobs by 2005. After $1.7 billion in incentives, it had reached only half its goal. And while the program was intended to be funded equally between public and private funds, an estimated 90 percent of its funding came from the taxpayers.”

Scott is on a public relations offensive to keep the public tap open for Enterprise Florida, since job creation seems to be the sole focus of his administration. He was just in Palm Beach, warning that cutbacks to EP and Visit Florida, the tourism arm that also receives generous taxpayer money, could result in job losses.

WPTV in West Palm Beach reported that Discover the Palm Beaches President and CEO Jorge Pesquera said that eliminating Visit Florida could result in the loss of 3 million tourists to his area. He said that could cause 10 hotels to close with a loss of 31,000 jobs.

Well …

All that taxpayer money didn’t save Enron jobs, did it?

To be fair, it makes sense for the state to market tourism, given its obvious huge impact. But Enterprise Florida is another matter, and the showdown between a governor hungry to create jobs and a House Speaker equally determined to protect the public purse is in full swing.

While that plays out, the folks at Enterprise Florida might want to commission someone to create a new logo. It’s just a thought.

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