Richard Corcoran Archives - Page 7 of 62 - Florida Politics

Rick Scott non-committal on Florida House hurricane committee

On Tuesday, House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced a “Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness” to “gather information, solicit ideas for improvement, and make recommendations” regarding how the state can deal with storms going forward.

In Orange Park Tuesday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott discussed the committee, yet didn’t seem sold on it beyond just one of many sources for ideas.

“Here’s what my experience in business has been — you want nothing bad to happen ever,” Scott noted.

“Unfortunately,” Scott added, “we’re going to have hurricanes. And what you want to do, every time we want to learn.”

“So, I welcome everybody in the state to step back and say ‘OK, what did we do well? What can we do better?'”

“If people have ideas,” Scott continued, “whether it comes through the Speaker’s office or the CFO’s office or comes through a citizen saying ‘here’s an idea,’ I want all those ideas so we can get better.”

Corcoran asserted that the state spends $630 million on “pork projects,” and that money would be better used toward “hurricane hardening.”

Scott, when asked, did not address the claim that money spent on “pork projects” should be reallocated to hurricane preparation spending.

Corcoran’s committee has membership from throughout the state, though it’s uncertain how many of them have experience before their Legislative stints that would prepare them to evaluate long-term solutions with finite resources.

Meanwhile, an old source of tension between the House Speaker and the Governor resurfaced Tuesday, with Scott reaffirming his commitment to Visit Florida — with special attention toward promoting tourism in hard-hit areas.

 “As communities around Florida continue to recover from Hurricane Irma, we are doing everything possible to help families and businesses get back on their feet and get people back to work. While our top focus remains on the recovery of Florida families, especially those in the Florida Keys and Southwest Florida, we cannot forget about the many communities which rely on Florida’s incredible tourism industry and millions of visitors. With more than 1.4 million Floridians working in the tourism industry, we must aggressively fight to bring visitors back to our communities,” Scott said.

The campaigns will include a mix of old and new media, with specific targeting to be announced in the near future to drive tourist traffic to communities that were most severely impacted by the storm.

Calls for blue-ribbon hurricane panels abound in Capitol

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, and with Hurricane Maria now churning the Atlantic, Florida lawmakers are forming or calling for blue-ribbon panels to improve the state’s readiness to deal with monster storms.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Tuesday announced the creation of a “Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness” to “gather information, solicit ideas for improvement, and make recommendations.”

Separately, state Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, asked Gov. Rick Scott “to form a commission to review the disaster preparedness, response, and recovery of state and local entities involved in Hurricane Irma efforts, as well as critical infrastructure institutions such as public utilities and medical facilities.”

The calls come after Hurricane Irma ravaged the state last week, causing at least $2 billion in damage tallied so far. Evacuees were hampered by gasoline shortages, and eight South Florida nursing home residents died after their air conditioning went out.

Money will be tight this year as the Legislature’s chief economist already warned legislators that next year’s relatively tiny state budget surplus will be erased because of costs from Irma.

Corcoran

In the House, Corcoran wants members to set aside “business as usual,” suggesting that filing local spending projects will be frowned upon, at least officially, during the 2018 Legislative Session.

“We spend a significant portion of money”—more than $630 million this year—”on what are considered ‘pork’ projects,” he said at a Tuesday news conference in the Capitol. “If we took just some of those funds … you’re going to see us make tremendous (progress) toward hurricane hardening throughout our state.

“There is not one single (pork) project … that is worth the health and safety of Floridians,” he added.

But Senate President Joe Negron quickly shot down any self-imposed ban on hometown spending. He told the Tampa Bay Times that senators are “in the best position to know what projects are most important.”

“Let’s keep our constitutional roles straight,” he added. “The Legislature is the appropriating body. The Legislature should always have the prerogative and flexibility to write the budget.”

Among some of the ideas floated by Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican and possible 2018 candidate for governor: Creating a state gasoline reserve, looking at tree management policies, and better coordinating the flow of highway traffic before and after a storm. They would go into a “5- or 10-year plan.”

But when asked whether the panel would look hard at the possibility of human-caused climate change affecting hurricane severity or frequency, Corcoran punted.

“I think that what we should be doing is asking ourselves, ‘What can we do to protect the people of this state in the best way possible?’ ” he said, referring to conflicting government studies on global warming. “… The No. 1 function of government is to protect its citizens.”

Colin Hackley: TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 5/8/17-Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, responds to questions from Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, about funding for Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida executives during what is expected to be the final day of the extended 2017 legislative session Monday at the Capitol in Tallahassee.<br />
Brandes

Brandes, in a press release, thanked Gov. Scott, “emergency management officials, and our first responders,” but said “it is important that we have the appropriate oversight in place to stretch every relief dollar to the maximum benefit of Floridians.”

The commission he suggests would “review after-action reports created by state and local emergency operations centers, utilities, state agencies, medical facilities, and other critical service providers in order to evaluate and oversee recovery projects.

“The commission would ensure that state and county needs are met in a manner that best leverages disaster relief dollars. Additionally, it would make certain that the assessments of the recovery actions taken by both public and private entities become best practices to prepare for future events,” referring to similar oversight commissions for 2010’s BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina.

Later Tuesday, the House released the membership list for the special panel, which will be chaired by Miami-Dade’s Jeanette Nuñez, the House’s Speaker pro tempore. House Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues of Estero will be vice chair.

In alphabetical order: Ben Albritton, a Wauchula Republican; Robert Asencio, a Miami Democrat; Danny Burgess, a Zephyrhills Republican; Cord Byrd, a Neptune Beach Republican; Bob Cortes, an Altamonte Springs Republican; Tracie Davis, a Jacksonville Democrat; Dane Eagle, a Cape Coral Republican; Michael Grant, a Port Charlotte Republican; Kristin Jacobs, a Coconut Creek Democrat; Larry Lee Jr., a Port St. Lucie Democrat; Jared Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat; Elizabeth Porter, a Lake City Republican; Holly Raschein, a Key Largo Republican; Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican; Sean Shaw, a Tampa Democrat; Chris Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican; Richard Stark, a Weston Democrat; Cyndi Stevenson, a St. Johns Republican; and Jay Trumbull, a Panama City Republican.

Evacuation Route Sign, photo: AAA

Joe Henderson: Corcoran’s big move for hurricane readiness

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has taken the first step to improve Florida’s hurricane readiness, and it sounds like a good one.

He is convening the bipartisan Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness to study what steps the state should take to prepare in the future for mega-storms like Hurricane Irma.

Excellent idea.

We’re all going to play close attention to the group’s findings.

Yes, there is more than a little bit of political grandstanding involved, but it is really good grandstanding.

In a memo to House members, Corcoran said, “…I ask all of you, and our colleagues in the Senate, to join me in setting aside the business-as-usual of pork projects and instead invest all of those funds to either assist those in need after Hurricane Irma or prepare Florida against the threat to life and property that will surely come with future storms.”

We’ll see how that goes, since the 2018 elections would usually signal a year-long pork buffet in Tallahassee. My guess is, not well.

And we have to mention that since the Speaker hasn’t ruled out running for governor while all this is going on, he’ll have critics willing to label this a political stunt designed to improve his standing with voters.

Well, guess what?

While every bit of that may true, it also is a fact that these storms have shown they will devastate large portions of this state we all love and call home.

That’s exactly why we need a group willing to study the issue in detail and issue a report that, frankly, may be hard for a lot of folks to swallow. If it happens to play well with voters, shouldn’t that tell everyone something?

Or course, anyone can make recommendations and some of what needs to be done probably is obvious – just as it has been for decades.

Developers seem intent on filling every inch of coastline with resorts and condo cities, which leaves residents especially vulnerable in a hurricane. Their attitude seems to be that it’s easier to clean up the mess and rebuild than to worry about things like 12-foot storm surges.

So, it will be Corcoran’s task to make the group’s recommendations into laws, not suggestions. There is a lot at stake here and none of it will be easy or unanimously accepted.

Leadership is about doing the right thing, though. After what Florida has just been through with Irma and likely will endure again with future storms, there is no other choice.

Gwen Graham: Hurricane Irma showed Florida isn’t as prepared as it should be

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham believes Florida should have been better prepared to handle the impact of Hurricane Irma.

“The state of Florida was not ready for this storm,” Graham declared Saturday night. The 54-year-old attorney and former Tallahassee-area congresswoman made the comments while delivering the keynote address before a record crowd at the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee’s annual Kennedy-King Dinner in downtown Tampa.

Graham said the destructive storm – which hit the Florida Keys as a Category 4 hurricane last Sunday morning before moving its way through the state, proves that state lawmakers need to address climate change and comprehensive hurricane preparedness.

Considered the establishment favorite, Graham began her 19-minute speech by talking about the selfless acts performed by Floridians throughout the state during what was an excruciatingly stressful time.

Graham’s Hurricane Irma experience involved setting up and supervising a shelter at Richards High School in Tallahassee. She said that all the preparations had been done correctly at that shelter, “but when the power went out across the state of Florida, it became clear that we were not as ready as we needed to be.”

Governor Rick Scott has received mostly laudatory reviews, even from Democrats, for his handling of the storm. But Graham didn’t go there. She insisted that her criticisms weren’t political , but practical, saying that the state has to be better prepared for when the next major hurricane comes Florida’s way.

“They have been decades in the making,” she said about the lack of proper preparation. “Hurricanes have grown stronger, but the state has not done nearly enough to prepare us for the changes we’re witnessing.”

Graham blasted Scott for prohibiting state agencies for even using the words “climate change,” and said she would act in a completely different and proactive way in trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Florida. Those measures would include joining states like California and New York in what is being called the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition of U.S. states committed to upholding the Paris Climate Agreement and taking aggressive action on climate change. She also said she would ban oil drilling off Florida beaches and ban fracking throughout the state.

Referring to how the roads running to North Florida were clogged for days as people evacuated before Irma’s arrival, Graham criticized Scott for not reversing southbound traffic on the major interstates and state roads. But she said the state wasn’t prepared to do that because that would have cut off gas and emergency crews from reaching South Florida.

“Supplying every community is vital, which is why the state must develop a plan before the storm, capable of reversing highway lanes and also allowing for providing crucial needs for those south,” she said. “The day will come when we must reverse traffic to once again evacuate major cities, and the state must have a plan and a willingness to do that.”

Graham then spoke about the biggest tragedy connected to the storm – the news that eight elderly patients died at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills after the nursing home lost power. Democrats have seized on the incident, with U.S. Senator Bill Nelson calling it “an emerging scandal of gargantuan proportions.” Graham has called for an investigation and made a public information request for Scott’s cellphone records shortly after a CBS affiliate in Miami reported Friday that the executives at that nursing home called Scott’s cell phone asking for help getting their power back on.

Graham cited legislation proposed in 2004 that would have considered safety measures to protect seniors in nursing homes — legislation that she said was stopped by industry lobbyists who said it was “too expensive.”

“Eight Florida seniors died because our system failed them,” she said. “They died, in part, because elected leaders failed to see the real cost, the human cost.”

Graham then threw a jab at House Speaker Richard Corcoran, saying that an hour after the media first broke the news about the deaths in Hollywood, Corcoran was tweeting about tax rates. “It’s a sickening example of how the politicians in Tallahassee have the wrong priorities for the wrong people,” she said.

Corcoran is contemplating a run governor; Adam Putnam and Jack Latvala are the only two major Republicans to have entered the race to date.

The other two Democrats in the race are Orlando-area businessman Chris King and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who showed up to the VIP party before the dinner began and earlier spoke to more than 100 people at a Tampa craft brewing pub.

Still lurking in the shadows are two Democrats who bring tremendous financial resources to the race if they opt to enter it – Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and attorney/entrepreneur John Morgan.

DEC officials said 450 tickets were sold to the event, the most in the history of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party.

Local Democrats Karen Clay, Betty Castor and Tom Scarritt were all given awards earlier in the evening.

Personnel note: Richard Corcoran committee hires Taylor Budowich

House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s political committee has hired Taylor Budowich, privately described as a “first rate organizer” who has “contacts throughout the conservative movement.”

Budowich joins Watchdog PAC from Tea Party Express, the nation’s largest Tea Party political action committee, where he served as the organization’s executive director and national spokesperson.

“Taylor’s proven record of identifying and electing strong conservative fighters will be a great asset to Watchdog PAC’s mission of supporting limited government, pro-growth ideas and candidates throughout the state of Florida,” the group said.

Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, has said he will decide after the 2018 Legislative Session whether to jump into the race for governor.

Nationally, Budowich organized hundreds of political rallies in support of conservatives like U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, along with congressmen from across the nation including Florida’s Ted Yoho and Ron DeSantis.

The organization’s national bus tours, which he oversaw, have made stops in over 40 states across the country, including over a dozen events throughout Florida.

Budowich was responsible for the media planning and operations for the Tea Party’s response to the State of the Union from 2012-16, delivered by conservative thought leaders like U.S. Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee, and former Florida Congressman Curt Clawson.

He has been published in USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, and The Dallas Morning News.

Billionaire blasts Donald Trump ‘dreamer’ decision

A prominent Republican fund-raiser turned critic of President Donald Trump said Thursday it would be a huge economic mistake not to let young undocumented immigrants, called “Dreamers,” remain in the United States.

“There is something wrong in separating families,” Miguel “Mike” Fernandez said, after delivering a speech to students and faculty at Florida A&M University. “That is a universal wrong. We are doing that in DACA.”

DACA is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows children brought to the country by their undocumented-immigrant parents to remain in the U.S. Former President Barack Obama put the program in place by executive order.

But the Trump administration this week rescinded the order, with an effective date of six months, giving Congress time to enact its own version of a DACA plan.

The Cuban-born Fernandez, who is a billionaire Miami businessman, supported Jeb Bush in last year’s presidential primary, but broke with his party over Trump’s anti-immigration stances and spent some $3 million in a campaign against Trump.

“If the president talks about Mexicans, murderers, criminals, rapists and so on, these (the Dreamers) are the very best. These are the opposite,” Fernandez said. “These are the students who are working hard. They are going to be tomorrow’s taxpayers.”

Fernandez, 65, who has created a number of health-care companies and later sold them, said Florida has more than 32,000 immigrants protected under DACA, and he estimates they will pay $6.7 billion in taxes over their lifetimes.

“It’s an economic issue,” he said. “Throw them out?”

Fernandez’s own story as a Cuban exile who came to the U.S. as a 12-year-old with his family was the focus of his speech to the FAMU students. Despite his enormous economic success, Fernandez repeatedly emphasized that he did not believe he had any great talents.

“I’m as average as they come,” he said.

He also talked about the many setbacks in his life, including business failures, three failed marriages, two heart attacks and cancer.

“You have to adjust,” Fernandez said. “There is not a linear path to success. Actually, I guarantee you that failure is a necessary step towards your success. If you haven’t failed, you haven’t pushed yourself hard enough.”

Fernandez distributed 700 copies of his autobiography, “Humbled by the Journey,” and took time after the speech to sign dozens of copies and talk to individual students.

Fernandez’s candor was also on display. Earlier in the day, he sent an email to the Tampa Bay Times calling state House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, who supports the elimination of DACA, a “bully” and an “intellectual midget.”

“They are just facts,” Fernandez said when asked about the comments. “That’s my opinion of the guy.”

Fernandez, who said he has given about $30 million to Republican causes over the last 15 years, also expressed “disappointment” in Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, although he had given $100,000 to help Putnam’s Republican gubernatorial campaign.

“I think that we lack in this country people who speak and stand on their backbone,” Fernandez said.

“He’s a guy who was fairly normal in his position until he is faced with an opponent who is more to the right. He feels he has to move to the right,” Fernandez said. “I move to where I am, and that’s who I respect.”

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Jack Latvala adds $273K in committee cash

Republican gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Jack Latvala raised $273,000 last month for his political committee, according to updated reports on the committee website.

The top contributor to “Florida Leadership Committee” last month was investor and hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones II, who cut a $50,000 check to Latvala.

The committee also took in $25,000 from veterinarian Richard D. Wilkes and Titan Healthcare Services.

The committee also spent about $100,000 last month, including a $20,000 payment to Tel Opinion Research, several small consulting contracts and a handful of donations to county level Republican parties.

The August haul leaves the committee with about $4 million in the bank heading into September.

The Clearwater Republican, who chairs the Senate Appropriations committee, entered the race for governor in mid-August, and as of Sept. 7 had not turned in his first campaign finance report. Candidates and committees face a Monday deadline to file updated reports.

Latvala was the second major Republican candidate to enter the race after Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Putnam had about $10.8 million on hand in his political committee, “Florida Grown,” at the end of July. He also had a little over $1.5 million on hand in his campaign account through the same date.

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and House Speaker Richard Corcoran are also considering entering the primary race. Corcoran had about $2.8 million in his “Watchdog PAC” committee at the end of July.

Legislative committee week cancelled

Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran have cancelled next week’s legislative committee week because of Hurricane Irma, they said in separate memos to members Wednesday.

Negron also said Senate offices in the Capitol “will remain open during regular business hours tomorrow (Thursday) … District staff should contact each Senator to determine appropriate office hours in your district offices as the storm approaches.

“As a precautionary measure, consistent with the Governor’s decision to close state offices in all 67 counties, I have authorized discretionary leave for all Senate employees, and all Senate offices will be closed on Friday,” he added.

“Please use this time to prepare your family and home. The specific trajectory of this unprecedented storm is still uncertain and impacts could vary drastically across the state. All Floridians need to be ready. Staff should monitor local weather advisories and adhere to local evacuation orders.”

Negron, a Stuart Republican, also authorized “Senate staff interested in volunteering in support of the state’s emergency shelter mobilization efforts up to 15 days of administrative leave.”

“I encourage all Senate employees to tend to the needs of your own family prior to pursuing volunteer opportunities,” he said. “We each have a responsibility to prepare our families and homes so that limited government resources can be used to help the most vulnerable. Please be safe and cautious during this time.”

In his memo, Corcoran said the next committee week would be Oct. 9-13. He also ordered all House offices closed on Friday.

“Earlier today, Gov. Scott stated that there is a need for volunteers at shelters throughout the state,” Corcoran added. “Please be supportive of these efforts if you are near an affected region.”

Sides seek more time in $700M Lottery lawsuit

The Florida Lottery and the House of Representatives are seeking an extension in which to settle a pending lawsuit over a $700 million contract for new equipment, court records show.

Lottery outside counsel Barry Richard and House general counsel Adam Tanenbaum asked the 1st District Court of Appeal that they “be permitted to provide another status report to the court by Oct. 31.” Last Thursday was the previous deadline for a status report.

“The parties continue to pursue good faith negotiations,” their 2-page filing says, obtained Tuesday after a public record request to the court. “Some of the issues involved necessitate additional time to work out a satisfactory resolution.

“In the meantime, the parties respectfully suggest that leaving the current stay in place will increase the likelihood of achieving that resolution.”

The appellate court, based in Tallahassee, had agreed to suspend the case while the sides work out their differences.

“If the case has not been dismissed” by the end of August, the parties had to report whether they see a “need for any further proceedings,” according to a docket entry.

In March, Tallahassee-based Circuit Judge Karen Gievers invalidated the Lottery’s 15-year deal with IGT (International Game Technology), OK’d by former Secretary Tom Delacenserie, for new equipment for draw and scratch-off tickets.

Delacenserie has since quit to head the Kentucky Lottery and was replaced by former Department of Economic Opportunity chief of staff Jim Poppell. 

The contract also provided for in-store signage, self-service ticket checkers and would upgrade security in the communications network.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran sued, essentially saying the agency went on an illegal spending spree when it inked the contract last year.

Hurricane could affect legislative committee week

The approach of Hurricane Irma may affect the upcoming legislative committee week, currently set for Sept. 12-15.

“We are closely monitoring the developments of Hurricane Irma as the storm approaches our state,” House Speaker Richard Corcoran wrote in a Tuesday memo to members.

“As the path of the storm becomes more clearly defined, we will, in consultation with the Senate, make a final decision regarding the status of House committee and subcommittee meetings scheduled for next week,” he said. “In the interim, House committees and subcommittees will be releasing meeting notices.”

Corcoran added: “Please join me in continuing to pray for those who will be affected by Hurricane Irma in the coming days.”

Updated 11 a.m. — Senate President Joe Negron also wrote to members that he is “closely monitoring the impending storm expected to impact Florida in the coming days.”

Later today, the Senate “plan(s) to proceed with publication of the interim calendar, including the notice of committee meetings scheduled for next week,” he said. “As more information becomes available, we will provide updates regarding any potential schedule changes.”

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