Richard Corcoran Archives - Page 7 of 69 - Florida Politics

Tom Lee’s proposal to augment CFO duties dies in committee

A review panel has killed a proposed constitutional amendment that would have added financial oversight duties to the state’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO).

The proposal (P68), filed by Commissioner Tom Lee, died on a tie vote in the Constitution Revision Commission‘s Executive Committee on Tuesday as some panel members raised fiscal and legal questions. A parliamentary attempt by Commissioner Don Gaetz to revive the measure later failed.

But Lee, a Republican state senator from Thonotosassa, said he next plans to take his proposal to the full Commission for consideration.

He previously has said he also intends to run for CFO in 2018; former state Rep. and later Public Service Commissioner Jimmy Patronis was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to fill the rest of then-CFO Jeff Atwater‘s term after he left for a university job.

His amendment, in part a response to a recent lawsuit by House Speaker Richard Corcoran against the Florida Lottery, would have required the CFO “to review and certify contracts … if the contract requires payment of more than $10 million,” a staff analysis said.

Corcoran’s suit alleges that the Lottery went on an illegal spending spree last year when it inked a 15-year, $700 million contract with IGT (International Game Technology) for new equipment for draw and scratch-off tickets. Corcoran won at trial, and the Lottery appealed; both sides now are seeking a settlement.

Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, appointed Lee to the commission.

“You have an obvious problem in state government in that there’s a lack of accountability, checks and balances, internal controls,” Lee told Florida Politics after the committee meeting. “Government has an opportunity to run like a business … yet given an opportunity, we don’t avail ourselves of it.

“I was really disappointed that the basis for voting down the proposal … (included) matters that could have been addressed” by the time the measure reached its next committee, he added.

One problem raised by staff was an increase in costs to the CFO “due to additional staff required to perform contract review.”

Another raised a separation of powers concern. Allowing the CFO to essentially veto contracts could trigger vendor challenges in courts, which might “determine that the (language) does not provide legislative standards or thresholds specifying the CFO’s obligations.”

Attorney General Pam Bondi, also a commission member, voted for the proposal but warned Lee she had “concerns” over the “potential constitutional issues.” Other commissioners voted no, saying they agreed with Bondi.

The CFO’s office was itself created by the 1997-98 Constitution Revision Commission, which shrank the Florida Cabinet from six members to three: An Attorney General, a Chief Financial Officer, and an Agriculture Commissioner. It merged the Cabinet offices of Treasurer and Comptroller into a then-new CFO.

Member projects top $1 billion

House members are proposing to spend $1.12 billion through hundreds of projects they hope to take back home from the Legislative Session that starts Jan. 9.

Riding high atop the wish list is Rep. Bobby Payne, a Palatka Republican who offered 17 proposals on Tuesday totaling more than $105 million.

Last week, House members proposed 310 separate projects, worth more than a half-million dollars, while in Tallahassee for a pre-Session committee week.

Being away from the Capitol for the Thanksgiving holiday didn’t slow down the requests, even though most of the proposals won’t make it very far.

On Monday and Tuesday, 159 projects, collectively worth $267 million, were filed.

Payne’s proposals include what is now the single largest ask: $69.5 million (HB 3259) for drinking water infrastructure improvements in Palatka.

As of Wednesday morning, House members had created a 673-strong project list for the session. But the proposals will have to compete with diminishing revenue, rising health-care and education costs, and the need to cover Hurricane Irma repairs and an influx of Puerto Rican evacuees from Hurricane Maria.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’Lakes Republican, has made clear that the priority will be on relief related to Irma, which caused billions of dollars in damage to the state in early September.

Unlike the Senate, the House requires members to submit each spending proposal as an individual bill.

Overall, Republicans had filed 451 project bills collectively worth $819.8 million. Democrats have rolled out 221 bills worth $295.7 million. There is one bipartisan proposal (HB 2135) regarding a livestock pavilion in Marion County.

Orlando Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia had made the second-largest request. He’s seeking $34.4 million for a Lake Nona campus building for Valencia College (HB 2437).

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. of Hialeah, is asking for $52 million through 23 projects, including $28 million for a STEM Center on the north campus of Broward College (HB 2423).

Across the political aisle, Democratic Rep. Roy Hardemon of Miami is pitching for $50.9 million in 25 projects, including a $25 million intermodal logistics center at Poinciana Industrial Park in Miami-Dade County (HB 2767).

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Jay Fant says he’ll create new position to handle harassment

State Rep. Jay Fant, a Jacksonville Republican running for state Attorney General in 2018, says he will create a “Confidential Investigator and Ethics Officer” to deal with sexual harassment complaints if elected.

Fant tweeted the plan on Wednesday.

The new position would meet “confidentially” with those who claim harassment by a “public official.”

Any information developed would be referred to law enforcement or the Florida Commission on Ethics, he said.

Fant also tweeted a link to a POLITICO Florida story on House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s call for “Congress to stop doling out payments for sexual harassment settlements.”

“I ask you to please bring a swift end to this perverse hush fund — it is not only the right thing to do, but it is also a needed step toward regaining the trust of the taxpayer,” Corcoran wrote in a letter to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan.

For now, Fant will face fellow state Reps. Frank White of Pensacola and Ross Spano of Dover, and former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody in the Republican primary.

Tampa lawyer Ryan Torrens is the lone Democrat in the race.

Thanksgiving place setting

What Florida’s political elite should be thankful for

From the soup kitchens of Tallahassee to the conch houses of Key West, from the toniest mansions in Coral Gables to the double wides in Dixie County, people from all walks of life will sit down to celebrate the most American of holidays: Thanksgiving.

“Americans traditionally recognize the ‘first’ Thanksgiving as having taken place at Plymouth colony in the autumn of 1621,” according to MountVernon.org, the website of George Washington’s Virginia estate. “The 1621 thanksgiving celebration, however, did not become an annual event.”

More than a century later, “Washington issued a proclamation on Oct. 3, 1789, designating Thursday, Nov. 26 as a national day of thanks,” it says. “In his proclamation, Washington declared that the necessity for such a day sprung from the Almighty’s care of Americans.”

But “the 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation … did not establish a permanent federal holiday,” the site adds. “It was not until the Civil War of the 1860s that President (Abraham) Lincoln initiated a regular observance of Thanksgiving in the United States.”

Thus we come to the tradition of eating and giving thanks, including by the state’s elected officials (and yes, by candidates and players in The Process).

Once God, country, family, and good fortune are given their due, here’s what some of the state’s most prominent leaders should be grateful for:

Marco Rubio – For the proverbial “second chance.” He’s finally becoming the influential U.S. Senator he was supposed to be.

Bill Nelson – For the wave of opinion coming that may enable the Democrat to hold off the inevitable challenge to his seat from self-funding, always-on-message Gov. Rick Scott.

Rick Scott For Nelson, who, despite 17 years in the U.S. Senate, is not well known enough to about half of Florida’s voters, according to a recent poll. No wonder Bill keeps inundating us with press releases of all the concerned letters he writes.

Adam Putnam – For the anonymous “POLITICO 6” who have torpedoed Jack Latvala’s gubernatorial campaign, giving the Bartow Republican an even wider lane to the Governor’s Mansion in 2018.

Jimmy Patronis For Matt Gaetz muscling him out of a state Senate race a few years back. Now he’s the appointed state Chief Financial Officer, with the full faith and credit of the Rick Scott political machine behind him to get elected to a full term in 2018.

Joe Negron For having just one session left as Senate President. It was a long, bruising road to the presidency, with an extended and nasty battle with Latvala. And since he won the gavel, relations with the House have bottomed out, while several Senators have faced debilitating scandals. Has it really been worth it?

Pam Bondi – For state Sen. Tom Lee’s proposed constitutional amendment banning greyhound racing. The term-limited Attorney General regularly brings shelter dogs to Cabinet meetings to get them adopted. Will she make this issue her own as one springboard to her post-2018 ambitions?

Richard Corcoran – For the seemingly hapless Senate, which allows him to ally with Scott when needed to advance his priorities. A post-Session declaration of his own candidacy for Governor is a virtual lock. 

Jack Latvala  For all the donors who gave to his campaign for Governor before the reports of claims of sexual harassment against him came out. No matter how the case against him plays out, he’ll have millions of dollars to make others miserable once he leaves the Legislature.

Buddy Dyer For no term limits as Orlando mayor. How about just chucking the election pretense? Mayor-for-Life, anyone?

Bob Buckhorn For … , well, the Tampa mayor says he’s too busy hunting a serial killer right now to be thankful. We bet he will be thankful once that evildoer is caught.

Brian Ballard For the gift that keeps on giving: His relationship with President Donald Trump. We’d wager he’s … hold on a second, he’s signing another client, we’ll get back to you.

Vivian Myrtetus – For one million hours of volunteer service in the state after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The CEO of Volunteer Florida has good reason to be proud, and we should be proud of our fellow Floridians who helped neighbors in need.

Richard Corcoran wants Congress to end its ‘perverse hush fund’

House Speaker Richard Corcoran wants Congress to put an end to a “perverse hush fund” that has been used over the years to settle sexual harassment claims.

The Land O’Lakes Republican sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan on Monday in response to reports that the Office of Compliance has used $17 million from a fund it manages to make sexual harassment claims of more than 250 Congressional members go away.

“I ask you to please bring a swift end to this perverse hush fund — it is not only the right thing to do, but it is also a needed step toward regaining the trust of the taxpayers,” Corcoran said.

While Corcoran has not yet announced a bid for governor, it is widely speculated he will enter the race after Session, and he may be capitalizing on this request because no Florida House members have yet been accused of sexual harassment.

“Congress should follow the lead of the Florida House in making it easier for victims to be heard,” he said.

But in his letter, Corcoran said the state is not “without fault” when it comes to sexual harassment and said he has “deep gratitude and admiration” for the women who have shared the harrowing accounts.

Narrowing the scope to Florida, numerous women have come forward within the past month, accusing powerful senators and the leader of the Florida Democratic Party, Stephen Bittel, of sexual harassment. So far two have resigned, Sen. Jeff Clemens and Bittel.

Sen. Jack Latvala, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, is currently under investigation by the Senate in light of six unnamed women accusing him of sexually harassing and groping them.

The Senate sexual harassment policy is currently under review.

Ashley Moody, meet Ross Spano: Notes from Reagan Day BBQ

When the Hillsborough County Republican Party began promoting its Reagan Day BBQ weeks ago, attendees were promised appearances by Adam Putnam, Richard Corcoran and Jack Latvala.

Instead, they got Baxter Troutman and Bob White.

Many statewide and Hillsborough County-based Republicans were running in 2018 who put in some time at the cattle-call-style event on Sunday afternoon, held in the cavernous 81 Bay Brewing Company brewery on South Gandy in Tampa.

Although the event was scheduled from 1-3 p.m., the candidates weren’t allowed to speak until halftime of the Miami Dolphins-Tampa Bay Bucs game broadcast on most of the televisions at the brewery, and were only given a few minutes to introduce themselves.

Troutman is the Winter Haven-based former state representative running for the GOP nomination for Agriculture Commissioner, along with Denise Grimsley and North Fort Myers state Rep. Matt Caldwell, who also attended the event.

White, chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida, also is running for governor, with an emphasis on campaign finance and ethics reform.

“We have a swamp in Tallahassee that we have got to drain,” he said. “It is every bit as dark … as the swamp in Washington, D.C., and I’m the only candidate for governor that is committed to that issue.”

The event was noteworthy as being the first time that Ashley Moody and Ross Spano have shared the same space since Spano announced last week that he would run for attorney general, joining Moody, Jacksonville state Rep. Jay Fant and Pensacola state Rep. Frank White. Current GOP Attorney General Pam Bondi is term-limited next year.

Moody and Spano are both Hillsborough County Republicans who will be vying for the same voters over the course of the next 10 months.

Spano was up first, beginning by reciting an anecdote when he was in the 8th grade and confronted a big kid who was bullying a smaller child.

“I promptly got my tail kicked! But guess what? I never saw that bully bullying another child,” Spano shouted (the acoustics were challenging to say the least).

“I’m going to fight to make sure the innocent people are protected. That’s my passion. It’s in my gut. It’s what I do,” he continued citing his legislative work on combating human trafficking.

Noting his current position as chair of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, Spano said that he was the “only one in the race” to have criminal justice legislative experience.

“You can look at my record and know where I stand,” Spano continued, adding that he will fight for the public like no other attorney general in state history.

Moody talked up her experience in the courtroom.

“Not only will I bring our conservative principles and priorities to the office in Tallahassee, but I can start this job on day one,” she said. “I’ve been a judge. I’ve been a federal prosecutor. I’ve been a lawyer. You want to talk about true experience? I’ve been in the courts on both sides of the bench.”

Moody said the pursuit of the office was a job interview, and the voters are her boss. “Hold me accountable, because I’m accountable to you.”

Tampa House Republicans Jackie Toledo and Jamie Grant also addressed the crowd.

Toledo told the audience she was “super excited” about her legislation (HB 41) on pregnancy centers that promote childbirth, while Grant warned the crowd that “we’ve got a very difficult cycle in front of us” regarding the 2018 election season.

Last legislative committee week to start December 4

The final committee week ahead of the 2018 Legislative Session begins Dec. 4.

Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget is expected to be discussed in appropriations committees in the House and Senate. Totaling $87.4 billion, it is the largest proposed budget to come from a Florida Governor.

The House Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness will convene twice: Dec. 4 and Dec. 7. 

House Speaker Richard Corcoran created the committee in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, charging it to “gather information, solicit ideas for improvement, and make recommendations” to the Governor and Legislature.

The committee’s fifth meeting last Thursday marked its transition to the “make recommendations” portion of its responsibilities. Committee members were assigned on Friday specific hurricane-related issues to consider during the next two weeks.

Chair Jeanette Nuñez told committee members in an email that she expects to share policy recommendations at the Dec. 4 meeting and the “tentative plan” is to vote on a set of recommendations at the Dec. 7 meeting.

She also asked the lawmakers to submit their proposals to staff by Nov. 30.

The 2018 Session starts Jan. 9.

Material from The News Service of Florida was used in this article.

FRA head strikes back: ‘Redevelopment is about the people’

With the House of Representatives now trying to take out community redevelopment agencies (CRAs), the head of the Florida Redevelopment Association is fighting back.

“Community redevelopment agencies breathe new life into communities that have been neglected or forgotten, and their impact goes far beyond the buildings and roads they help develop,” said Carol Westmoreland, executive director of the association.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has made it a 2018 Legislative Session priority to rein in the state’s more than 200 community redevelopment agencies.

The chamber already is moving a bill (HB 17) requiring, among other things, more transparency and board member ethics trainings.

The legislation, ready for the House floor in January, was followed by a House Media Team video slamming CRAs as vehicles for local government to pay for their “pet projects.”

“Ever heard of Community Redevelopment Agencies?” the video begins. “Chances are you haven’t, but chances are you’re paying for one.

“Community Redevelopment Agencies, or CRAs, were meant to clean up slums and blighted neighborhoods. Instead they became another vehicle for local governments to take your money and spend it on their pet projects. That’s why your Florida House is is introducing legislation to bring accountability and transparency to CRAs in Florida.”

But the “work of our local CRAs is about the community and those living in it; redevelopment is about the people,” Westmoreland said in a statement.

“These efforts should not go unnoticed, unrecognized or misrepresented, as CRAs are dedicated to our citizens and restoring our communities to make them come alive.”

Westmoreland also provided talking points backing the associations’ benefits:

— “Florida’s community redevelopment agencies (CRAs) serve to revitalize communities through projects such as streetscapes and roadway improvements, building renovations, neighborhood parks and more.”

— “CRAs are created by local governments and funded by tax increment funding, which captures tax revenues resulting from increases in property values attributable to an agency’s investment in an area.”

— “Unfortunately, Florida’s CRAs are currently under attack by proposed legislation that will enact crippling regulations in an attempt to impede the creation of new CRAs and phase out existing programs.”

— “SB 432 and HB 17 aim to impose a laundry list of revised requirements that will have an enormous negative impact on the survival of local CRAs.”

— “Without local CRAs, the progress that has been made in redevelopment will come to a halt; property values will drop, and communities will suffer.”

Finally, she referred to a video of “how CRAs are working to improve local communities,” produced by the Southeast Overtown/Park West CRA.

Hurricane committee to start ‘policy phase’

It’s turkey time for some lawmakers, but crunch time for those charged with addressing Florida hurricanes.

The Select House Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness met for the fifth time on Thursday, marking their last ‘educational’ committee meeting. The committee’s duties were originally split into three phases: gather information, solicit ideas for improvement and make recommendations to Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature.

Now equipped with the statewide woes of the 2017 Hurricane Season, the committee transitions to the final part: policy recommendations.

“This is it for our fact-finding mission and our education phase of our work,” Chair Jeanette Nuñez said. She expects there will be two committee meetings in December, where “the rubber hopefully will meet the road.”

In the meantime, the Miami Republican wants an all-hands-on-deck effort from the lawmakers.

“I want you to start mulling over potential policy recommendations for the full House to consider,” Nuñez told the committee. She said lawmakers will be busy in the next two weeks working with House staff to bring forth policy recommendations.

Nuñez said each committee member will soon receive an assigned hurricane-related topic to consider. While she expects lawmakers to take the assignments seriously, she encouraged members not to be sheepish with other proposals.

“Don’t let (the assignments) impede your ability and your interest in other areas,” Nuñez explained. “I’m just trying to make sure we have a focused attention, at a minimum, from a handful of you on each category.”

When Speaker Richard Corcoran spawned the committee, he charged it with several responsibilities, which Nuñez recapped in closing. They include evacuation; energy; shelters and vulnerable populations; health care facilities and medical care; agriculture; future hurricane expenditures and tax relief; housing; beaches; sanitary sewers; stormwater flooding; debris removal; and education.

The meeting Thursday heard testimony regarding education, debris removal and agriculture and emergency management, along with a presentation from the Governor’s Office.

Cynthia Kelly, Gov. Rick Scott’s state budget director, highlighted the hurricane-related budget recommendations in Scott’s newly announced “Securing Florida’s Future” budget.

Apart from federal match programs for communities, Scott wants $50 million for beach recovery, $2 million for citrus research and $2.2 million for search and rescue enhancements, along with an additional $100 million request to target affordable housing needs created by Hurricane Irma.

Education issues related to the influx of Puerto Ricans were briefly discussed in the meeting. Afterward, Rep. Bob Cortes, an Altamonte Springs Republican, hinted there might be more problems ahead for Puerto Rican evacuees attending school in Florida — specifically those expecting to graduate.

“We’re seeing that juniors and seniors potentially are going to be very vulnerable,” Cortes said.

He said Puerto Rico’s graduation requirements are not aligning with Florida Standards Assessments, which are required to obtain a high school diploma in the state.

“Theoretically, these students — seniors from Puerto Rico — would not be able to graduate in Florida,” Cortes said.

But Cortes said the Florida Department of Education is working on a memorandum of understanding with Puerto Rico to authorize Florida high schools to give the students a Puerto Rican degree, rather than a Florida diploma.

What remains in uncertainty, Cortes said, is whether the Governor’s executive order mandating K-12 schools to accept Puerto Rican students will expire. If that is the case, Cortes said it will be addressed through legislation.

The committee next convenes on Monday, Dec. 4.

Chris Latvala, Kathleen Peters lack ‘integrity,’ lawyer says

State Reps. Chris Latvala and Kathleen Peters have not shown “integrity” or acted “in the public interest” in how they have publicly responded to accusations of sexual harassment against state Sen. Jack Latvala, according to a lawyer for one of his accusers.

Tallahassee attorney Tiffany R. Cruz wrote a letter to House Speaker Richard Corcoran to complain about the two Republican lawmakers.

The Latvalas are son and father; Peters is an ally of Jack Latvala, a fellow Pinellas Countian.

Cruz specifically blamed the two House members for “condemn(ing)” Latvala’s accusers on social media for the purpose of “intimidation.”

Cruz also said she did not expect the two to be punished, but told Corcoran she wanted him to be aware of their “abhorrent conduct.”

The one-page letter, dated Wednesday, is below:

We’ll provide comment from Peters when we receive it.

In an email to Florida Politics, the younger Latvala said: “I have known Tiffany for about 10 years. We were aides together. I have no idea what she is referring to. I have purposefully not engaged in social media as it relates to this matter but I believe any accuser has a right to face those who anonymously accuse them, so as to not ruin their career and life for political purposes.”

A spokesman for Corcoran on Thursday said he had no immediate comment to the letter.

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