Rick Scott Archives - Page 5 of 224 - Florida Politics

House to consider proposed committee bill to eliminate Enterprise Florida

The Florida House has fired back, filing a proposed committee bill this week completely eliminate Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private jobs agency.

The proposed committee bill (PCB CCS 17-01) would, among other things, abolish Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, two organizations which have drawn the ire of House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

The bill, which is expected to be discussed during Wednesday’s House Careers & Competition Subcommittee meeting, comes as Gov. Rick Scott makes some of his strongest criticisms to date about the House’s position on incentives and Visit Florida.

“If you don’t support Enterprise Florida, if you don’t support Visit Florida, then you don’t care about jobs,” said Scott after Thursday’s Enterprise Florida Board of Directors meeting. “When somebody gets a job, who gets helped the most? The most disadvantaged in our state gets helped the most. So who ever doesn’t support Enterprise Florida, doesn’t support Visit Florida, doesn’t understand how business works and is not focused on how families in every part of the state get a job.”

Corcoran played a key role in blocking Scott’s proposal for $250 million for Enterprise Florida in 2016, and he’s poised to do the same in 2017. He remains staunchly opposed to incentives, taking the position they are little more than “corporate welfare.”

And on Tuesday, Corcoran said there would be “no (economic) incentives” in his chamber’s proposed 2017-18 budget.

That position could be costing the state jobs in the long run. A few years ago, Scott said the state was in the middle of conversations with GE when the state Legislature decided to cut funding for incentives. Those conversations, Scott said, ended soon after.

“We’re not going to get the leads. You’re not going to do business with someone with no money,” he said. “If the legislature says they don’t want to do deals, then if you’re a site selector you don’t want to waste your time. We’re not the only state out there trying to get them.”

Scott said he is going to “work tirelessly” to get more jobs, and said he believes the Legislature will “fully fund” Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. He would not say whether he would veto the bill if it makes it his desk.

Dana Young files bill allowing craft breweries to distribute limited amounts of their own product

Dana Young is introducing new legislation to give small craft breweries the ability to move product through other craft breweries.

But the “Big Beer” industry in Tallahassee is already expressing concerns about SB 554, the Senate proposal filed Thursday by the Republican from Tampa.

The bill allows craft breweries producing under 7,000 kegs a year, and does not currently have agreements with distributors, to move its product to other Florida craft breweries.

“I am proud to sponsor SB 554 and continue to be an advocate for our state’s craft brewers,” Young said. “We want to see the craft beer industry continue their trend of record growth and this bill will help new brewers get their beer to market faster. I look forward to working with the bill’s co-sponsor, Sen. Jack Latvala, my colleagues in the Senate, and members of the Florida House to provide a regulatory structure that encourages craft brewers to grow.”

In the summer of 2015, Gov. Rick Scott signed a law allowing craft breweries to finally sell beer in 64-ounce containers known as “growlers.” Until then, Florida (bizarrely) was one of the few states in the nation that didn’t legally sanction such growlers.

But a key part of that legislation allowed craft breweries to ship its product to affiliated locations, up to eight in the state.

That represented a small chip in the “three-tier” alcohol beverage regulation system, which has historically given distributors exclusive power to move beer from manufacturers to the retailer. Passage of the 2015 bill lifted a requirement that those breweries operate as tourist attractions — otherwise known as the “Busch Gardens” exception, named after the Tampa amusement park (then owned by Anheuser-Busch). It allowed them to serve beer at its theme park’s hospitality centers.

That bill maintained that all other alcoholic beverage products (beer, wine and cider) had to go through a distributor.

Young’s new legislation would permit craft breweries (currently without distribution agreements) to send its product to unaffiliated brewers, as well as restaurants and other retail outlets, another potential crack in the three-tier system.

While most craft breweries in Florida generally have distribution agreements, Young’s bill would allow new breweries to have an ability to move product without having to go through a distributor.

“It’s troubling,” says Florida Beer Wholesaler Association executive director Mitch Rubin, “because it upset the balance of the 2015 law.”

Rick Scott stresses need for economic incentive dollars during Enterprise Florida meeting

Gov. Rick Scott continued to make the pitch for economic incentives, telling Florida business leaders to call their House members to encourage them to support his request for millions of dollars for Enterprise Florida.

“Here’s my ask: This, in my opinion, is the most important thing we can do for the state,” he said. “Talk to all of your employees. Let them know the importance of these things. Talk to your House members. Session starts in just a month. Let them know (you support this).”

The Naples Republican made his appeal during the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors meeting Thursday morning. The meeting comes just days after Scott officially unveiled his fiscal 2017-18 budget, which included $85 million for economic incentives.

“The way I think about it is if you care about the most disadvantaged family in the state, then fully fund EFI,” said Scott. “People forget, six years ago all across our state homes were being foreclosed on, cars were being repossessed, people were moving out of our state because they couldn’t get a jobs. Now we have thousands of people moving here a year. We are the best melting pot in the world. And I’m going to fight every day to make sure when I finish, this is the No. 1 place for jobs.”

But to say Scott faces a tough sell in the Florida House, might be an understatement. House Speaker Richard Corcoran is staunchly opposed to incentives, taking the position they are little more than “corporate welfare.”

And the Land O’Lakes Republican isn’t budging from that position, saying Tuesday there would be “no (economic) incentives” in his chamber’s proposed 2017-18 budget.

That position, Scott told Enterprise Board members Thursday, sends a message to businesses and site selectors looking to relocate corporate or regional headquarters. A few years ago, Scott said the state was in the middle of conversations with GE when the state Legislature decided to cut funding for incentives. Those conversations, Scott said, ended shortly thereafter.

“We’re not going to get the leads. You’re not going to do business with someone with no money,” said Scott. “If the legislature says they don’t want to do deals, then if you’re a site selector you don’t want to waste your time. We’re not the only state out there trying to get them.”

Enterprise Florida board members expressed frustration with Corcoran’s position Thursday, calling him the “elephant in the room.

It’s unlikely this is the only time business leaders will hear Scott’s appeal for help this week. The board meeting came just hours before the start of Scott’s 2017 “Jobs Summit.”

The two-day event is expected to be similar to Scott’s successful 2016 Degrees to Jobs Summit. While that focused largely on preparing Florida’s students for the workforce, the 2017 event appears to focus on economic development development.

Rick Scott, Legislature set for an old-fashioned ‘T’ word throwdown

If there was any uncertainty what the main event will be in the 2017 Florida Legislature, that has been answered.

It’s the throw down over the “T” word.

In one corner, Gov. Rick Scott is seeking an $815 million increase in public school funding. To help pay for that, the governor wants to use the ongoing spike in property values that is expected to bring in an additional $558 million.

In the other corner, House Speaker Richard Corcoran said no way, no how. Even though the actual tax rate isn’t going up, that doesn’t seem to matter. Corcoran sees using the extra money as a de facto tax increase. And you know he feels about that.

“I’ve said it a thousand times: The House will not raise taxes,” Corcoran told reporters at a gaggle on Tuesday.

It was widely reported that he gave special emphasis to the last six words, probably channeling his inner George H.W. Bush when the former president famously stated, “Read my lips … no new taxes.”

Bush later changed his mind about that but I can’t see Corcoran giving an inch — even if it means going head-to-head with his fellow Republican who sits in the governor’s mansion.

I think Corcoran would relish that battle anyway. He has already clashed with the governor over Scott’s penchant for offering business incentives. He is at it again. His proposed $83.5 billion budget includes $618 million in tax cuts that largely benefit businesses.

Scott calls it “job creation.”

Corcoran calls it “corporate welfare.”

Public schools aren’t corporate welfare, though. Without excellence in education, the whole state suffers.

To be fair, I don’t know if Scott’s education pitch was a grandstand play, aimed at a potential 2018 run for the U.S. Senate. He had to know how Corcoran and House members would react. It’s worth noting that he put way more into the budget than education officials requested.

Even so, Scott zeroed in on a couple of things related to education that need to be addressed, no matter how the main event turns out.

He has proposed ending the ridiculous Best and Brightest bonus program that awkwardly required all teachers, even those with 30 years of experience, to submit their high school SAT or ACT test scores to be considered.

Really stupid. Really, really, really, really stupid. Insulting, too. The governor gets an extra cookie for recognizing this.

He also wants to eliminate some the fees teachers pay to be certified. That can amount to more than $500 per teacher at the start, along with regular renewals that cost $75. Teacher retention is a major systemwide problem and nuisance fees like those make it worse.

I hope Corcoran is at least sympathetic to that. Florida seems determined to push ahead with as many for-profit charter schools as possible, but public schools remain the backbone of the state’s education system.

They won’t get all the money the governor has requested. That doesn’t mean they should get shut out.

After years of piling on standardized testing that has put teachers’ jobs in jeopardy, cutting education funding, and generally devaluing the incredible work being in public schools, the Legislature needs to cut teachers a break.

Capitol Reax: Rick Scott’s proposed 2017-18 budget

Gov. Rick Scott officially rolled out his nearly $83.5 billion budget during the Associated Press’ annual legislative planning session Tuesday.

“AIF applauds Governor Scott’s proposed budget that fights for the future of employers and employees in our Sunshine State. His proposed spending plan, which includes $618 million in tax cuts and $85 million for economic incentives to businesses, will go a long way in continuing to help our state achieve the prosperity and growth our Florida families deserve.

“From the proposed business rent tax reduction by $454 million, to the corporate income tax exemption, to the increase in the number of sales tax holidays, Governor Scott is clearly on a mission to ensure Florida job creators are excelling and Florida families are benefitting from a pro-business environment in their home state.

“As the 2017 Legislative Session gets underway, AIF encourages Florida lawmakers to support this good budget that fosters a competitive approach to how we do business and will set up Florida for a brighter future.” – Tom Feeney, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida

“Providing women the opportunity to detect cancer early when it is most survivable is something that everyone deserves, no matter who they are or where they live. The state has supported this program in the past and it’s critically important that House and Senate leadership step up to ensure more women have access to it, not less. This program has been a lifesaver for hundreds of women in Florida because it provides access to evidenced-based screenings, which are the most important tools for detecting breast and cervical cancer early and improving survival rates.” — Heather Youmans, senior government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).

“Governor Scott’s transportation budget makes the right investments in the right places for today’s needs while preparing for tomorrow’s demands. This budget continues to recognize the diverse needs of our residents, our businesses and our visitors.” — Jay Trumbull, chairman of the Florida Transportation Commission.

“Governor Scott’s record budget continues important strategic investments in transportation infrastructure. The budget maintains a solid foundation for a growing economy and more jobs for Florida’s families.” — Bob Burleson, president of the Florida Transportation Builders’ Association

“Governor Scott continues to make Florida’s seaports a priority by investing in the necessary improvements to keep up with current needs and prepare for future growth in cargo and cruise passengers.” — Doug Wheeler, president and CEO of the Florida Ports Council

“Florida’s transportation system continues to be the best built and maintained in the country because Governor Scott knows that our residents, visitors and businesses rely on it every day.” — Sally Patrenos, president of Floridians for Better Transportation

“Governor Scott’s investments in Florida’s critical infrastructure demonstrate his commitment to creating one of the best and safest transportation systems in the nation.” — Kevin Wall, president Florida Concrete & Products Association.

“Florida residents and visitors who rely on local transit systems will benefit from the Governor’s transportation budget. He recognizes the importance public transportation plays in the lives of those who need it most.” — Lisa Bacot, executive director of the Florida Public Transportation Association

“Thanks to the strategic investments Governor Scott has made in Florida’s airport system, we continue to be prepared to handle record volumes in traffic and operations while at the same time making critical improvements to keep our workers and passengers safe.” — Lisa Lyle Waters, president and CEO of the Florida Airports Council

“There is nothing more important than providing Floridians access to a K-12 and college education that will lead them to prosperous careers. I commend Governor Rick Scott for his ‘Fighting for Florida’s Future’ Budget, which further demonstrates his steadfast commitment to Florida’s families and their futures.” — Education Commissioner Pam Stewart

“Governor Rick Scott hit the mark with his ‘Fighting for Florida’s Future’ Budget. Florida is recognized as a national leader in the field of education, and by investing in the areas that have the greatest impact on student success, Governor Scott is investing in Florida’s next generation and securing Florida’s future success.” — Marva Johnson, chairwoman of the State Board of Education

“There has never been a more important time to focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in our state’s schools. Throughout the world, there is a growing demand for employees who can seamlessly fill positions in STEM fields, and Governor Scott’s investments will help ensure Florida students are prepared to compete in this global economy.” — Andy Tuck, vice chair of the State Board of Education

“Our state’s students will greatly benefit from Governor Scott’s focus on K-12 education in his ‘Fighting for Florida’s Future’ Budget. I am particularly pleased by the significant increase in per-student funding, which will enable us to keep our focus where it belongs – on our students.” — Malcom Thomas, superintendent of Escambia schools and president of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents.

“I appreciate Governor Rick Scott for proposing an increase of $10.5 million for the Florida College System. Our 28 colleges serve more than 800,000 Florida students and lead the nation with graduation rates topping nearly every other state. This infusion of funds will help ensure each college has the resources necessary to offer their students a world-class education and to respond to the needs of their communities.” — Ed Meadows, president of Pensacola State College

“At Santa Fe College, we are committed to helping our students achieve their academic and career goals.  Our leadership and staff strive for excellence in all that we do, and I am thankful that Governor Rick Scott has included financial incentives to reward colleges for exemplary performance.” — Jackson Sasser, president of Santa Fe College

“We appreciate the Governor’s commitment to performance funding in the Florida College System.  We are convinced Governor Scott’s consistent advocacy for performance funding represents solid business logic and will continue to drive positive student outcomes at Valencia and throughout the system.” — Sandy Shugart, president of Valencia College

“I cherish the opportunity to help mold Florida’s future generations through my work in the classroom, and I know that so many of my fellow teachers around the state share that sentiment. I am immensely grateful that Governor Scott has once again proposed $10,000 for each of the district teachers of the year and additional funds for the finalists and statewide winner. These outstanding educators truly deserve to be recognized for their dedication to Florida’s students.” — Jessica Solano, 2017 Florida Teacher of the Year

“We commend Governor Scott for his commitment to streamline and make state agencies run more efficiently through his proposed budget. We believe the Governor can go even further! We applaud Governor Scott’s focus on broad based tax cuts that can provide real relief to hardworking Floridians, but he should forgo calls to expand wasteful tax giveaway programs like Enterprise Florida that promote unfair competition to existing businesses.

“The Governor is wrong in expecting Florida taxpayers to give away their tax dollars to businesses that want to come and compete against them in the market. We believe that his broad based tax cuts should be matched with common sense spending cuts, and that the legislature should work to give as much money back to the Florida families and entrepreneurs that are the real keys to economic development.” — Chris Hudson, state director for Americans for Prosperity-Florida

“Governor Scott has been steadfast in his commitment to our state’s juvenile justice reform work and the ‘Fighting for Florida’s Future’ Budget is a reflection of that unwavering commitment. From the implementation of DJJ’s Roadmap to System Excellence several years ago to today, Florid a has and will continue in the future to serve as a model juvenile justice system for the rest of the country.” — Cathy Craig-Myers, executive director of the Florida Juvenile Justice Association

“On behalf of vulnerable girls in our state, we appreciate Governor Scott’s investment in prevention services in Florida. Under his leadership, more girls and young woman have access to education, counseling, and trauma informed services so that they can reach their full potential and successfully transition to adulthood.” — Mary Marx, president and CEO of the Pace Center for Girls

“The Florida Network would like to thank Governor Scott for continuing to recognize the importance of investing in prevention services in our state. Having the ability to reach younger children, before they come into contact with the juvenile justice system, ensures not only a brighter future for them but strong families and communities overall.” — Stacy Gromatski, president and CEO of the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services.

“While mental illness and substance abuse can be unimaginable challenges for a family, this budget recognizes the importance of supporting services to address these needs a priority for our state. I applaud the Governor’s leadership in keeping these issues in the forefront and driving long-term, effective treatment solutions.” — Mark Fontaine, executive director of the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association

“We applaud Governor Scott’s continued commitment to invest state resources in community behavioral health programs. His budget proposals will provide much-needed relief to families in need, make our communities safer, and help those at risk.”– Melanie Brown-Woofter, interim president of the Florida Council for Community Mental Health

“This budget provides additional workforce capacity and services for child victims of human trafficking and crossover youth who find themselves in both the child welfare system and the juvenile justice system. The Governor clearly understands the urgency of providing these children with relevant and timely services and specifically, ensuring effective treatment for the trauma that they have experienced.” — Jessica Pryce, director of the Florida Institute of Child Welfare

“Florida Health Care Association is grateful  to Governor Scott for his continued support of quality care and services for Florida’s frailest elders. We appreciate him fully funding Medicaid for nursing center services and for initiating the dialogue on the creation of a Prospective Payment System. In addition, his ‘Fighting for Florida’s Future’ Budget will help to further streamline the background screening process, allowing qualified employees applying at our centers to enter the long term care workforce faster so they can more quickly begin caring for nursing center residents.” — Emmett Reed, executive director of the Florida Health Care Association

“The investments in the Provider Data Management System in the ‘Fighting for Florida’s Future’ Budget will greatly streamline the application process for providers wishing to participate in the Medicaid program. Thanks to Governor Scott for streamlining the process, and allowing us to open our doors and serve Floridians in the most cost-effective, patient-preferred setting sooner.” — Bobby Lolley, Home Care Association of Florida

“Cultural organizations and museums provide many benefits to communities throughout Florida and strengthen the economy and job creation. We applaud Governor Scott for his continued dedication to cultural and museum grant funding.” —Malinda Horton, executive director of the Florida Association of Museums.

“Funding for culturally-based activities improves quality of life and increases opportunities for all Floridians. We thank Governor Scott for his support of arts and culture in the State of Florida.” — Lois Benson, chair of the Florida Council of Arts & Culture

“Governor Scott understands that historic preservation serves as an economic engine for Florida communities and supports cultural heritage tourism. Investments in historical properties are an investment in Florida’s future.” — Marion Almy, chairman of the Florida Historical Commission

“Governor Scott recognizes the significant contributions that libraries provide to Florida citizens. From supporting early learning and providing homework assistance to career exploration, information literacy, and lifelong learning, libraries provide critical services to our communities.” — Charlie Parker, executive director of the Tampa Bay Library Consortium

“The conservative estimate that Florida could be paying nearly $45 million a year in claims for ineligible dependents receiving benefits is astonishing. Florida Tax Watch commends Governor Scott’s commitment to reducing the burden on Florida taxpayers and for seeking innovative solutions to increase efficiencies throughout state government.” — Dominic M. Calabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch

Rick Scott spending plan sets DEO budget at nearly $1.3B

Gov. Rick Scott is recommending a $163 million increase in funding for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity in his proposed 2017-18 budget.

LobbyTools reports that the boost will bring the DEO budget to nearly $1.27 billion. Scott announced his budget proposal Tuesday morning at a Tallahassee news conference.

Scott’s ask includes $85 million in economic incentives – a contentious issue with some lawmakers.

Last year, Scott made a similar request, asking for $250 million for the “Florida Enterprise Fund;” which lawmakers rejected for 2016-17.

Florida’s public-private partnership programs would get about the same amount as it did in previous years; Scott wants $76 million for Visit Florida. $23.5 million for Enterprise Florida and $19.5 million for Space Florida.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a longtime critic of incentive funding – which he calls “corporate welfare” – has suggested his chamber will consider all the governor’s requests.

Scott’s budget will also give DEO $300 million from settlement money for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. LobbyTools notes that the House has so far resisted using BP Oil Spill money for economic development.

Water experts urge Tallahassee, Washington to ‘finish the job’ on Florida water quality, quantity

Five dozen water quality experts have sent a letter to urge Gov. Rick Scott, as well as state and federal governments, to finish the job on Florida water that began more than 15 years ago.

The letter Tuesday morning, signed by 60 Florida water policy experts, went to Scott, Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. It calls on lawmakers at both the state and federal levels to come to a “thoughtful, comprehensive solution” in fixing issues with the state’s water quality and quantity.

“Water is Florida’s most precious resource and the state’s largest freshwater system — which spans from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades — deserves a thoughtful, comprehensive solution in addressing water quality and quantity issues,” the letter says. “This solution has already been developed with input from some of the most knowledgeable scientists, engineers, and water quality experts in the world.”

Delivering the message was Henry Dean, former executive director of both the South Florida and St. Johns River Water Management Districts. Dean ran the St. Johns water district for 17 years until 2001, when then-Gov. Jeb Bush asked him to take over the South Florida water district. Dean then led SWFMD until stepping down in 2005.

Water experts and scientists from across the state want Tallahassee and Capitol Hill to come together to finish work agreed upon in 2000 under the umbrella of the Integrated Delivery Schedule — suite of state and federal water restoration projects for wetlands throughout Florida.

The signers are recommending the completion of authorized IDS projects, which include the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), first enacted by Congress in 2000; the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), a series of ecosystem projects by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee.

These plans are each codified in the IDS, adding up to a comprehensive restoration “blueprint” of construction projects for Everglades’ restoration and management of the Lake O system.

“The goal is to provide the optimum science-based sequencing of key restoration projects to deliver maximum benefits as early as possible,” they write.

The 60 experts signing the letter each have direct involvement — some with more than 30 years’ experience — on a variety of restoration projects from the Everglades to St. Johns County.

A copy of the letter as delivered is below:

Rick Scott talks public safety budget with Florida Sheriffs

It was High Noon in Jacksonville on Tuesday when Gov. Rick Scott got on the microphone at the winter meeting of the Florida Sheriffs at the Hyatt Hotel.

Gov. Scott had a message to deliver, just hours after unveiling a budget with public safety enhancements.

Scott’s new budget earmarks $5.1 billion for public safety, including a $14.6 million spend on 5 percent pay raises for Florida’s law enforcement officers, $5.8 million to FDLE to hire 46 counterterrorism employees, and $45 million to boost correctional officers’ pay.

The budgets for both corrections and public safety, meanwhile, see year over year increases — though nothing dramatic.

The corrections budget increased by $126 million year over year, with 327 new positions in a $2.53 billion corrections budget.

The law enforcement budget increased by approximately $5 million since 2016, coming in at $302 million, with 51 positions added.

Scott noted that the current budget allows for upgrades in counterterrorism, pay raises for correctional workers, and “other things” that will arise during the session.

Tourists wouldn’t come to Florida, Scott said, if they didn’t feel safe — a product of effective law enforcement.

“The most important thing we can do,” Scott said, “is keep everybody safe.”

Much of what Scott said was familiar to those who listen to him regularly.

But for the sheriffs, who greeted him and bade him farewell with a standing ovation, that was enough.

Janet Cruz ready to support Richard Corcoran on Enterprise Florida

After laying out Democrats’ priorities for the House this session, Florida House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz said she would support Republican Speaker Richard Corcoran’s attacks on Enterprise Florida and VISIT Florida.

Speaking before journalists gathered for the Florida Legislative Planning Session, Cruz, of Tampa, pledged that Democrats would continue to fight for increasing funding for public education, particularly for teachers, health care coverage for low-income Floridians and support for public hospitals.

Afterward, pressed for where that money might come from, she offered to do away with corporate development incentives provided by Enterprise Florida, incentives that were vigorously defended by Gov. Rick Scott, but targeted by Speaker Corcoran for major reform, at the same conference.

“I understand the importance of attracting business, but in a good economy, do we really need to spend that money to attract businesses? Won’t they come to Florida?” Cruz challenged. “I think in a good economy these corporations find their way to Tampa without incentives.”

Cruz offered that she sees both sides on corporate incentives, but added, “we still have teachers that are some of the lowest paid in the country. We have school funding that is 50th. You know, that’s why I say we have misplaced priorities.

“Maybe we make cuts on some of the Enterprise money; maybe we start there,” Cruz said.

The priorities that she laid out are not new to Democrats. Cruz said the party and leadership have to do a better job of making a case for how the priorities would help Floridians.

“I don’t think as Democrats we’ve done a good enough job of articulating our core values have a direct impact on ensuring Florida’s families can continue to climb the economic ladder to success,” she said. “It comes down to the simple idea that we need to get more money into Floridian’s pockets.”

Those priorities include that:

— Every child deserves a quality public education. That includes re-expansion of the Bright Futures scholarship program.

— Every Floridian should have access to quality, affordable health care.

— Florida protects and preserve the environment for future generations.

— Florida creates “safe communities” where families can live without the threat of violence.

— Floridians all deserve the same equal a uniform treatment under the law.

— And “everyone deserves a fair shot to achieve their version of the American Dream.”

In question and answer, Cruz took to defending hospitals for criticism and state subsidy cuts, saying they had become like public schools and teachers, vilified by some Republicans for opposing Republican initiatives, and then cut.

“Years ago this started where we villainized teachers, and we villainized the unions that support them. Now I think that all has changed in the direction of public hospitals. Hospitals are not accustomed to being villains, but they are being villainized. You hear, ‘Oh, the hospitals are too large. They need to be privatized.’ All of this is an attempt to privatize. So we Democrats are standing up for our safety-net hospitals.”


Rick Scott wants state to cut $8M in fees

Gov. Rick Scott wants to cut millions of dollars of fees that impact Florida’s veterans, seniors and businesses.

The Naples Republican announced Monday he plans to cut an $8 million in annual fees during the upcoming legislative session. The announcement comes on the eve of the annual Associated Press legislative planning session, where Scott will officially announce his fiscal 2017-18 budget.

The cuts, according to the Governor’s Office, include: free vehicle title transfers for surviving spouses; free replacement and renewal ID cards for citizens 80 years old and over; and free ID cards for citizens over 80 who surrender their drivers’ licenses.

About 5 percent of Florida’s population is over the age of 80, according data compiled as part of the 2015 American Community Survey$8 .

The proposal also includes free veteran designation on new identification, licenses and renewals; free commercial driver’s licenses for veterans; reducing all fees associated with commercial driving schools by 50 percent; and reducing delinquency fees.

“When we cut fees and taxes, it helps businesses create jobs, and reduces costs for families across our state,” said Scott in a statement Monday. “This session I look forward to working with the Legislature to cut more than $8 million in unnecessary fees. We have to continue to do all we can to return more money back to families and job creators.”

Scott’s decision to push for a fee reduction comes just one week after he announced he wants to cut taxes by $618 million. The governor will unveil his full budget at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.

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