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Syria

VISIT FLORIDA cops to ‘clerical error’ on Syria advertising

VISIT FLORIDA is saying ‘oops’ over what it calls a “clerical error” showing it made advertising buys in several Middle Eastern countries, including Syria, listed by the feds as a “state sponsor of terrorism.”

The state’s embattled tourism marketing arm “was recently alerted to a clerical error in a short-term contract with the international advertising agency AVIAREPS,” said John Tupps, vice president of government relations for the agency, in an email.

“In two places, the contract inaccurately listed several Middle East countries as areas of marketing focus. We immediately updated the contract to reflect the correct countries,” he said.

“ZERO taxpayer dollars and ZERO private dollars were spent advertising to the inaccurate countries,” Tupps added. “VISIT FLORIDA does not spend any marketing dollars in Bahrain, Oman, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Egypt.”

House lawmakers, led by Speaker Richard Corcoran, have in recent months lambasted the public-private agency that is funded largely with taxpayers’ money. It was stripped down to $25 million — down from around $75 million — in recurring operating funds next budget year.

Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, has gone after the agency for what he calls wasteful spending, even threatening to sue after it refused to reveal a secret deal with Miami rap superstar Pitbull to promote Florida tourism. The rapper later disclosed on social media he had been set to be paid up to $1 million.

“All of the deliverables listed in this contract are exclusively tied to bringing more tourists and direct flights from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates,” Tupps said. “Tourists from this region are second only to Scandinavia on the amount of money they spend while traveling.

The contract with the error is here, and the “corrected” contract is here.

“We regret this error,” Tupps said.

Joe Negron seeks guidance on medical marijuana

Without using the words “Special Session,” Senate President Joe Negron is seeking “ideas” from fellow senators after the 2017 Legislative Session ended without a bill to implement the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment.

Negron sent a memo Thursday, released by his office, saying he “believe(s) we should consider the best way to meet our constitutional obligation to implement Amendment 2.”

Lawmakers failed to come to agreement on a bill that would implement the medical cannabis constitutional amendment passed in 2016. Just over 71 percent of statewide voters approved the measure.

An implementing bill gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.

“It was our mutual obligation to work together in good faith to find a principled middle ground on this important issue,” Negron wrote. “…Please feel free to contact me with your ideas on how to achieve this objective.”

The memo came a day after House Speaker Richard Corcoran called for a special legislative session during WFLA-FM radio’s “The Morning Show with Preston Scott.”

“I do believe and support the notion that we should come back and address and finalize dealing with medical marijuana,” Corcoran told Scott. “Does that mean a special session?” Scott asked. “It would, absolutely,” Corcoran said.

Earlier Thursday, state Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, urged for a Special Session on medicinal cannabis implementation and insurance issues during an appearance at the Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce.

The full text of Negron’s memo follows:


As the Senate evaluates the best path forward on legislative implementation of Amendment 2 (Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions), I wanted to provide you with the context of actions and opportunities to date.

Under the leadership of Senator Bradley, the Senate passed an implementation bill that reflected three guiding principles shared by a strong majority of our membership. This Senate consensus can be described as follows.

First, the Legislature has a solemn duty to fully and fairly implement Amendment 2, which was passed with the support of over 71 percent of the voters in 2016.

Second, we should ensure medical marijuana is readily accessible to any Floridian who suffers from an enumerated debilitating condition, as determined by a licensed Florida physician. At the same time, the Senate did not support an unwarranted expansion of treatment centers until patient demand has been established.

Third, in order to foster a free market and affordable medicine, licenses and dispensaries should be structured in a way that promotes competition and quality.

The Senate Bill (SB 406 by Senator Bradley) also included sound provisions such as requiring dispensaries to look and feel like medical offices and providing that medicine certified by a physician would be available without arbitrary and unreasonable delay.

Of course, our colleagues in the House had their version of how an appropriate implementation bill would look. It was our mutual obligation to work together in good faith to find a principled middle ground on this important issue. I believe both the House and Senate did their best to accomplish this goal; however, we were unsuccessful in reaching agreement during the 2017 Regular Session.

Consistent with the wishes of most Senators, the final Senate position was to provide for immediate issuance of 10 new licenses, which we believe is fair to the seven incumbent providers (who are already authorized to cultivate, process, and dispense) and reflects the Senate commitment to marketplace competition.

In addition, to move in the direction of the House position, during informal negotiations the Senate offered to raise the dispensary cap to 15, which was five times the original cap of three in an earlier version of the Senate bill.

On the final day of Session, the House responded by setting its dispensary cap at 100 and providing a deadline for issuing new licenses of more than a year from now. Obviously, the Senate was not in a position to accept this House proposal. The medical cannabis bill then died in the House without being transmitted to the Senate for further consideration prior to Sine Die.

As I said on Monday evening, I believe we should consider the best way to meet our constitutional obligation to implement Amendment 2. Please feel free to contact me with your ideas on how to achieve this objective.

Gwen Graham talks about making a difference in first campaign video

Gwen Graham is out with her first campaign video, highlighting recent Workdays and her 2018 gubernatorial launch.

“My love for Florida runs deep, but my patience, my patience for inaction in the state I love has run out,” Graham says in the video over scenes of her announcement speech and Workdays across Florida teaching, installing solar panels and restoring wetlands.

Graham, the former congresswoman from Tallahassee, formally announced her 2018 run on May 2. Since then, she’s been traveling the state participating in Workdays and meeting with Floridians.

“I really could care less about the title of governor. I would prefer always to be just Gwen,” she says in the video. “But what I do care about is being in a position where I can make a difference for Floridians and the state that I love so much. But I still just want everyone to call me Gwen.”

Graham, who is the daughter of former senator and Gov. Bob Graham, faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Chris King in the Democratic primary. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando attorney John Morgan are both believed to be considering a run.

On the Republican side, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam officially launched his campaign Wednesday. Sen. Jack Latvala and House Speaker Richard Corcoran are also believed to be considering a run.

Adam Putnam touts Florida exceptionalism as he starts his campaign for governor

With a setting out of a Norman Rockwell painting, Florida Agriculture Commissioner and fifth generation Floridian Adam Putnam formally announced his candidacy for governor on Wednesday morning before hundreds of adoring friends and supporters in his home town of Bartow in Polk County.

Harkening back to an earlier era, Putnam said “some people say that this doesn’t happen anymore – flags flying, high school bands playing, prayer on the court house steps, World War II veterans and children shoulder to shoulder, generations coming together in common cause, people from all backgrounds in every corner of this place, united behind this movement.”

“The American Dream is alive and well and happening right here this morning,” he exclaimed. “I can’t imagine a better place to announce that I am running for governor of the state of Florida!”

Based on his extensive public service in Tallahassee and Washington D.C. at the still young age of 42, Putnam has been considered by the Florida Political Establishment for years as the likely next man to succeed Rick Scott in the governor’s mansion.

“He certainly is the front runner, and part of the reason is that he is  very well known in the local areas and by local county party people,” says USF political science professor Susan McManus. “One thing we’ve learned from the last couple of elections is that support from the grassroots party organizations can be critical to winning a primary, and he’s well known in those circles.”

After serving for a decade in the House of Representative representing Polk County, Putnam quit Washington D.C. (even while he had moved up in party leadership) in 2010 and returned back home to run and ultimately win the Agriculture Commissioner’s race at the age of 36. Immediately afterwards, he was immediately placed on the short list of viable 2018 gubernatorial nominees, and so far everything is playing to script in a so-called “Purple State” that hasn’t elected a Democrat governor in more than two decades.

For years, Putnam has described his home state as a “reward for a life well lived,” a reference to the number of seniors and others from the Northeast, Midwest and other places around the country who end up making Florida their home.  But that phrase is far too passive for a candidate who is hoping to inspire Floridians about the future, resulting in a variant of that expression on Wednesday, where he repeatedly said that the state can be be “the launch pad for the American dream.”

“A state that is the fishing capitol of the world, can also be the state that builds the moats and trains the craftsmen, the state that has trained millions of soldiers and sailors and airmen can retrain our own citizens,with the skills they need to compete in a rapidly changing world and win,” he said. “The state that put a man on the moon can develop the next generation of tools for the next giant leap of mankind. Florida can be the launch pad for the american dream.”

Putnam invoked that signature phrase no less than five times in his sixteen minute address.

While Putnam’s speeches have always had a ring of “Florida exceptionalism,” he literally used that statement on Wednesday as well, saying it’s very real, and said it described “the grocery clerk in Lakeland who revolutionized the supermarket industry, or the cashier on I-Drive who now owns the souvenir shop… It’s the truck driver hauling fruit who saved up to buy an orange grove, and then another… It’s the hotel maid who now runs her own bed and breakfast.”

“Hard-working folks like these have been able to achieve their American Dream right here in Florida,” he said. “I want every single Floridian to be able to tell a similar story. I want people around the country to know this is where it happens.”

Having served in politics for nearly half of his still young life, some critics have said that could be a negative going into the next election cycle, but those in attendance to observe his speech dismissed such thoughts.

“Individual candidates are what makes up an election,” said Hillsborough County resident Nyla Thompson. “It’s not a trend, its whether you have experience or don’t have experience, I think it’s the individual who is the candidate, they are the ones who tell their message or don’t.”

Jim Elliott, a City Commissioner in Wildwood (based in the Villages), made the trek to Bartow to observe Putnam’s speech. He says that while the tag of “career politician” could be a drag on some candidates, he doesn’t think it will stick to Putnam.

“I think  he’s got excellent knowledge of the state of Florida and what their needs are, and I think he’s smart enough to figure out what the solution is and I know that he can work with the people necessary to get the job done,” Elliott enthused.

Sarasota County State Committeeman Christian Ziegler says it’s too early to predict who the 2018 GOP nominee will be, but says that Putnam’s announcement last year that local residents can apply for or renew state concealed weapon licenses at their local tax collector offices was a bit hit with Second Amendment enthusiasts, and will help him in a Republican primary.

“I had to drive an hour and a half south, and now it makes it a little bit more accessible,” said Ziegler.

Putnam is the first major Republican to get out of the gate and announce his candidacy. House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Clearwater state Senator Jack Latvala are also considering their own runs for office.

One Florida Republican not impressed with Putnam is Latvala’s son, Chris, a state representative in Pinellas County. After Putnam’s speech, Latvala tweeted, “The guy who wants to build the American Dream in FL is the same guy who oversaw the largest decline in agriculture in FL history.”

Putnam will immediately hit the campaign trail, with a 22-city, 10 day tour scheduled to begin on Thursday.

Photo credit Kim DeFalco.

Richard Corcoran joins calls for medical marijuana special session

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has added his voice to those calling for a special legislative session on medical marijuana.

Corcoran spoke Wednesday on “The Morning Show with Preston Scott” on WFLA-FM radio in Tallahassee.

Lawmakers failed to come to agreement this Legislative Session on a bill that would implement the medical cannabis constitutional amendment passed in 2016. Just over 71 percent of statewide voters approved the measure.

An implementing bill gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.

“It absolutely needs to be dealt with,” Corcoran told Scott. “When you have 71 percent of the voters say, ‘we want legalized medical marijuana,’ and the fact we couldn’t get (an implementing bill) done, to just leave it to bureaucrats sitting at the Department of Health would be a gross injustice.

“I do believe and support the notion that we should come back and address and finalize dealing with medical marijuana,” he added.

“Does that mean a special session?” Scott asked.

“It would, absolutely,” Corcoran said.

Senate President Joe Negron on Monday also signaled his inclination for a special session.

“I think that’s something that now that session is over and our budget passed that we’ll confer with the House and governor, and then make a decision on whether that’s something we should do,” he told reporters. “I think the Legislature does have a responsibility to be involved in that implementation, so that’s something we’ll look at.”

Others, including Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham and Orlando trial attorney John Morgan also called for a special session on medical marijuana, with Morgan doing so in a nearly nine-minute video on Twitter.

Morgan has been behind the amendment since it was first filed for 2014, when it failed to get enough votes.

Under the state constitution, a special session can be convened by proclamation of Gov. Rick Scott, or “by consent of two-thirds of the membership of each house.”

A state law also provides that the “President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, by joint proclamation duly filed with the Department of State, may convene the Legislature in special session.”

Another section of that statute allows 20 percent of state lawmakers to request a special session, after which the Florida Department of State must poll all members, who have to approve on a three-fifths vote.

Rick Scott has a friend in White House and foes back home

With a friend and a political ally in the White House, this was supposed to be a moment of triumph for Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

For years, Scott complained and criticized President Barack Obama and contended he wasn’t helping Florida. Now with Donald Trump in office, Scott has worked out a deal with federal officials to provide at least $1 billion for the state’s hospitals and he obtained a promise to move forward with repairs to a federally-operated dike that surrounds the state largest freshwater lake.

But that didn’t help him with the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Instead by the end of this year’s session, Scott’s legislative agenda was in tatters, ignored by GOP legislators he has feuded with for months and criticized during visits to the lawmakers’ hometowns.

And on Tuesday, he bashed the newly-passed $83 billion budget, giving his strongest sign that he may veto the spending plan and force the state House and Senate to reconvene in a special session. He criticized legislators for assembling most of the budget — which covers spending from July of this year to June 2018 — in secret and for refusing to set aside money for his top priorities including money for business incentives.

“I ran for governor to fight career politicians and it’s backroom deals like this that make families think politics is nothing more than a game,” Scott said in a statement. “Just like I do every year, I will make my decisions based on what’s best for our families because my job is to wake up every day and fight for Floridians.”

The Florida Legislature wrapped up its session late Monday, passing a series of budget-related bills that included a pay raise for state workers, a measure to cut funding to the state’s tourism marketing agency by two-thirds and a small boost in money for day-to-day school operations. They also passed a sweeping education bill that includes more than $400 million for teacher bonuses as well as money for charter schools that enroll students now attending failing public schools.

Scott contends the new budget could harm the state’s economy and suppress job creation.

The big question, however, is whether Scott will take the political risk of vetoing the budget since it was passed by overwhelming margins. A Florida governor hasn’t vetoed the entire budget in more than two decades.

Scott, a potential candidate for U.S. Senate next year against incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, could be embarrassed if legislators return to the Capitol and override him. It takes a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate, meaning Republicans would need Democrats to join with them.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has derided Scott’s requests for business incentives as “corporate welfare” and has ridiculed VISIT Florida for deals such as the secret one where the rapper Pitbull was paid $1 million to promote the state. The Land O’ Lakes Republican has defended his strong stance opposite Scott and criticized politicians he says have flipped positions. Scott backed strong anti-immigration moves in 2010 but then backed off later. The governor also flipped on whether to support Medicaid expansion.

“There’s a war going on for the soul of the party,” said Corcoran, who says he thinks the Legislature has enough votes to block Scott’s veto. “Are we going to be who we say we are?”

Senate Republicans say they tried to back Scott’s priorities and have urged him to sign the new budget. Sen. Bill Galvano, a top Republican from Bradenton, said Scott’s situation was a byproduct of negotiations in order to get a final budget.

“The reality is what it is,” Galvano said. “There’s got to be some give and take.”

Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon from Miami Gardens said Republicans should not assume that Democrats will join in an override, especially since there are measures, including the education bill, that were opposed by Democrats.

“You can’t predict that until we see what he vetoes,” Braynon said.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Samantha Pollara: In defense of my big brother Ben Pollara

For the last five years, my big brother, Ben Pollara, has fought to bring medical marijuana treatment to suffering citizens in the state of Florida.

He acted as campaign manager for United for Care, which was the chief facilitator of Amendment 2’s passage November, and has since worked tirelessly to craft and pass fair legislation to enact it.

His goal was a feasible plan for implementation that not only best represented the interests of sick patients, but also protected and encouraged diversity in the burgeoning medical marijuana market.

Currently, only seven companies have been licensed and approved by the Florida Department of Health to grow and dispense marijuana. In most states where medical marijuana is legal, retail dispensaries are required to be licensed individually.

However, some states, including Florida, permit multiple dispensaries to operate under a single license. Most other states impose caps on licensees, limiting the number of retail operations to either 3 or 4 on a single license, depending on the state.

My brother’s position has always been that setting caps on the number of retail operations is essential to ensuring a free and diverse market for medical marijuana in Florida.

Without these caps, the seven current licensees would be given carte blanche to overrun the market in cartel style, using massive funding capabilities to effectively shut out smaller operations at the outset. That’s basically equivalent to allowing the Wal-Marts and Targets of medical marijuana first entry into the market, without giving Mom and Pop operations a chance to gain a toehold in the industry.

Ultimately, a system of total control via these seven “cartels” would be harmful not only to the market, but to the patients as well, through artificially high prices and product homogeneity as a result of this lack of competition.

In the process of debating the bill, HB 1397, this also became the sticking point for legislators. A version of the bill passed by the Florida Senate would have allocated five dispensaries to each licensee, and allowed each one more for every additional 75,000 patients.  The bill put forth by the House of Representatives, however, contained no such restrictions. The Legislature could not come to an agreement on these terms, and the bill died in the final hours of Friday’s session.

While my brother was adamant that caps were in the best interest of both the market and the patients, he was not so uncompromising that he would have deliberately risked the passage of this bill in the Florida Legislature.

He would have done anything in his power to pass any version of it, rather than see the responsibility fall to the Department of Health, which will disproportionately favor the current licensees.

What ultimately killed the bill was discord and failure at the highest levels of legislature. It’s worth noting that the team of lobbyists working on behalf of the seven currently licensed “cartels” was headed up by Michael Corcoran, Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran’s brother. As a result of this connection, the House’s intractability on the issue of caps seems unlikely to be a coincidence.

To add insult to injury, despite having done everything he personally could to ensure the legislation’s success, my brother has faced a barrage of vicious personal attacks from his former partner and mentor, John Morgan, who places the blame entirely on Ben’s shoulders.

Mr. Morgan has repeatedly published harassing tweets directed at Ben, (one in which he even went so far as to refer to my brother as disloyal Fredo, from the Godfather, complete with the hashtag #FredoWillBeFishingSoon.) and has erroneously accused­­­ him of having an improper financial stake in attempting to pass a version of the bill that included caps.

No one has worked harder to ensure that sick patients in Florida have access to medical marijuana than my big brother, and no one knows that better than John Morgan.

Mr. Morgan ought to be ashamed of himself.

___

Samantha Pollara is a vice president of the Hillsborough Young Democrats.

Say hello to Jay Fant, first major Attorney General candidate for 2018

Jay Fant has only been in the Legislature for three years, but based on his experience as a Jacksonville attorney, he believes he’s as qualified as anyone to become Florida’s next Attorney General.

On Tuesday, the Florida House Republican from Jacksonville visited Tampa as part of a four-day statewide blitz to begin his candidacy, starting the campaign tour less than 12 hours after the Florida Legislature commenced its 2017 Regular Session.

Speaking with FloridaPolitics.com at Sheltair Aviation, just north of the International Mall, the 49-year-old attorney and father of four emphasized he’s all about fighting for the little guy against what can be an obtrusive federal government, even if it now run by Donald Trump, who Fant supports.

“Even President Trump, who I’m a supporter of, can’t control everything his agencies do, or cover every rule that they come up with,” he said about the federal government. “And when they get it wrong, I’m going to fight it. I’m going to stand up for the state of Florida and say, ‘we don’t want that. We can do that ourselves.’”

Fant says he admires how Pam Bondi went after the Obama administration, joining other Republican Attorneys General in filing lawsuits on a number of issues over the past few years. He says if the situation presents itself, he’ll do the same thing. “The federal agencies get it wrong, and when they do get it wrong, I’m going to stand up them.”

“The federal agencies get it wrong, and when they do get it wrong, I’m going to stand up them.”

After graduating from the University of Florida law school, the Jacksonville native joined his family business at First Guaranty Bank, a bank he helped run until 2012.

Fant says what small banks like his went through during the Great Recession was a searing experience, as he saw big banks whose work led to the decline of the economy get bailed out by the feds to the exclusion of small mom and pop operations like First Guaranty.

“There was no way that companies like ours could survive and we didn’t, and many companies like ours didn’t, and that had an effect on me,” he says. “I saw how big government doesn’t care about Main Street, and I said I’m not going to let this happen to anyone else, and that was one of the main reasons I ran.”

On his brief excursion in Tampa, Fant visited Port Tampa Bay. He says Florida’s ports, which drive so much into the economy, are essentially our “borders,” and thus play a critical role when it comes to contending with illegal immigration and drug interdiction.

He said he was worried about the “cultural shift” that has taken place in recent years when it comes to law enforcement. Thanks to citizen derived home videos, there has been an explosion of police violence against black men that has led to civil unrest in some quarters of the country.

“It’s hard to believe that the media portrayal of some things that occur in the course of law enforcement doesn’t affect behavior, but it could also affect rules of evidence, too,” he warns about the prevalence of video recording of law enforcement’s interactions with the public. “The public does have a right to know, but we don’t want to incite enmity against law enforcement by very conveniently clipping pieces,” he says of such video coverage.

When asked if thinks that is what has happened, he says not “in any conspiratorial way,” but believes it’s “tempting” in a news cycle to selectively edit as such.

“It inflames passions,” he says of such video. “At the end of the day when criminal activity takes place, the criminal justice needs to happen in a fair way for those who (not only) have been accused of a crime, but also those who are executing the arrest.”

As for Tallahassee’s just-concluded Regular Session, Fant has enormous respect and reverence for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, but is dead set against his calls to zero out Enterprise Florida and give VISIT Florida a significant haircut in the state budget.

“I think we’ve made a critical mistake in not fully funding up VISIT Florida because that works,” Fant says.

Regarding substantial cuts to Enterprise Florida, the public-private business incentive entity, Fant says if Florida becomes the only state that doesn’t include some component to help a company move here, “we will not get these companies.”

Following his Tampa visit, Fant was off to Orlando for a roundtable discussion with small-business owners, followed by a press availability Tuesday night near his Jacksonville home.

John Morgan posts Twitter video calling for marijuana special session

Medical marijuana champion John Morgan turned to Twitter Tuesday afternoon to push for a special session to implement the medical marijuana law and he called for the free market – not the Florida Legislature – to decide how many dispensaries there would be.

Morgan, who earlier this week had called for a special session after the House and Senate failed to work out a final implementation bill over the weekend, turned his pitch to social media, seeking to convince Gov. Rick Scott that the people of Florida will demand he call a special session to finish the legislative work to back Florida’s medical marijuana legalization.

The Orlando lawyer who chaired United For Care tactfully praised Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and Senate President Joe Negron. But he also reminded them that he spent four years pushing for medical marijuana and when he won, Amendment 2 to the Florida Constitution was approved with the largest voter margin of victory ever seen in a statewide medical marijuana initiative in America.

“Let’s get this done. Let’s come back to special session. Two or three days. Let’s do what’s right. Le’ts do the people’s work. They sent you guys there for a reason. they sent you there to do their work. They trusted you. And with 71 percent of the vote, there’s no doubt what’s the will of the people,” Morgan said in an eight-minute video. “Let freedom ring. Let capitalism prosper. Let’s put people before profit. Let’s do this for the people of Florida.”

The capitalism line was one Morgan, a Democrat and potential gubernatorial candidate, returned to several times in his speech, as if trying to offer himself as the champion of capitalism that Republicans had abused. The house and Senate versions ultimately collided, crashed and burned when the two houses could not agree on how many dispensaries would be allowed statewide, he said.

“Who cares?” Morgan,  decried. “Once upon a time there were tanning saloons all over Florida, and then there weren’t. There were laser hair removal places all over Florida. then there wasn’t, because the free market ferrets it all out. The cream rises to the top, and the weak don’t make it.”

Morgan also made an open threat to sue if the final implementation bill does not include the opportunity for patients to smoke marijuana.

“The lack of smoke. That’s ridiculous,” he said. “And if it passes without smoke, I’ll sue for that, and win, because in my amendment it said, ‘Smoking is not allowed in public places.’ So everybody understood that smoke was to be allowed. It’s just another act of the Legislature ignoring the will of the people.”

In final video from Session, Richard Corcoran says its time to say goodbye

Ricard Corcoran Photo: Phil Sears)

Time to say goodbye.

The Florida House Speaker’s Office, which has produced video after video this Legislative Session, it closed out 2017 Session with a three-minute video narrated by House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

“I’m often asked, where are the leaders worthy of the title and I tell them they’re right here, in the Florida House,” Corcoran says in the video, called “Leaders.”

In an email to members, Corcoran said while every member isn’t featured “the sentiment applies to all” of them.

Florida legislators ended Session Monday evening by approving an $83 billion by a 34-4 vote in the Senate and a House vote of 98-14. The budget now goes to the desk of Gov. Rick Scott.

The annual 60-day Session was supposed to end last week, but the two chambers didn’t reach an agreement on the budget in time for the state-mandated 72 hour waiting period before a final vote.

While session has officially ended, legislators still may have to come back. There is the possibility Scott could veto the budget. During Session, the governor criticized several legislators for severe cuts to his top priorities, such as VISIT Florida, the state’s tourism arm, and the Enterprise Florida business incentive program.

Corcoran, in a statement marking some of the successes of 2017, honored his fellow colleagues — including Democrats — and called Florida taxpayers “the real winners” in Session:

“Whether it was cutting property taxes, passing another $25,000 homestead exemption, rewarding the best teachers in the classroom, giving poor children a world-class education, cleaning up the budget process, passing the strongest ethics rules in America, or ending government picking winners and losers, hardworking people won in the Florida House.

“I’d like to thank Democratic leader Janet Cruz for her dedication to her principles and her willingness to work with us on good public policy. Whether we agreed or disagreed, I can always count on leader Cruz to keep her word and lead her caucus.

“Each and every member of the Florida House of Representatives can be proud of the work they did for every Floridian and especially for kids, for veterans, for families and for job creators. The people’s house did the people’s work and the people will benefit.”

Included in the final budget agreement are pay raises for state employees and increased funding to public schools and Florida colleges and universities.

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