Steve Crisafulli Archives - Page 6 of 35 - Florida Politics

State police radio replacement dispute becomes budget conference sticking point

An obscure but heated battle over a state contract potentially worth hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money is at stake as budget conferees continue to hammer out differences between House and Senate proposals.

At issues is the radio equipment law enforcement agents use to communicate. Problems with communication gear have led to the deaths of several officers across the country.

Tucked into the House’s government operations budget proposal is $7 million for a line item that reads “Replacement Of Statewide Law Enforcement Radio Equipment.”

The budget request came from Melbourne Rep. Ritch Workman on behalf of a Washington, D.C.-based government relations director for Harris Corp. Harris holds a state contract to provide law enforcement radio support valued at an estimated $18 million annually.

Critics of the move – including representatives for Motorola Solutions who hope to take over the contract after the current arrangement expires in 2021 – say the $7 million appropriation would unfairly bolster Harris’ grip on the contract. The contract provides that proprietary Harris-made radios fulfill orders for replacements.

The Harris representative named in the request, Glenn Grab, said during the weekend that state officials in agencies such as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles tell him they need new radios to replace outdated units, some more than a decade old.

Grab said an equipment “refreshment” before the 2021 contract expiration is only a matter of time. He said guidelines indicate law enforcement radios should be swapped out every seven years. The current 20-year procurement deal was awarded in 2000 under then-Gov. Jeb Bush.

Harris is headquartered in Brevard County, represented in the House by both Workman and Speaker Steve Crisafulli.

Sources familiar with the budget process said the contentious issue is likely to be “bumped up” to appropriations chiefs Rep. Richard Corcoran and Sen. Tom Lee, who are set to take over any unresolved budget issues Monday evening at 6 p.m.

Key senators, including conference committee Vice Chairman Alan Hays and Sen. Jack Latvala, expressed concerns about the line item when it was proposed late in the budget process last year.

Latvala called it “a back-door extension” of the current contract, and said it could jeopardize a planned competitive bidding process set to solicit offers to continue servicing state communications infrastructure needs.

Budget writers approved $800,000 for the Department of Management Service to add staff in preparation of the bid last year.

A state Joint Task Force that administers the state’s radio systems has been careful not to publicly take sides in the battle of vendors, though a DMS study recommended a bid process go forward “as soon as possible.”

A Harris PR rep told reporter Matt Dixon last year that switching vendors after 2021 could lead to nine-figure costs to the state and a possible disruption in service.

Budget conference to begin this weekend

Legislative leaders issued a joint statement on the 2016-17 state budget Thursday night:

Members,

We are pleased with the progress President (Tom) Lee and Chair (Richard) Corcoran (the Senate and House budget chiefs) have made and are optimistic we will be ready to begin the budget conference this weekend.

We will update you as early as possible tomorrow, so you can make the appropriate travel arrangements.

Thank you for your patience as we work through this important process. We look forward to providing you with more information as soon as possible.

President Gardiner and Speaker Crisafulli

Stay tuned for an update Friday morning …

Bob Sparks: Battle over economic incentives features unlikely alliances

Sometimes during legislative sessions some unusual partnerships develop. Unlikely alliances can form to pass or defeat a measure that fits a common goal.

Florida has provided a prime example of such teamwork. The philosophy of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” syndrome has played out in the area of economic incentives.

House Bill 1325, simply titled “Economic Development,” is the cause of back and forth between legislators, as well as between the executive branch and lobbyists. There is bipartisan support for and bipartisan opposition against this contentious bill.

HB 1325 provides, among several other things, that companies wishing to come to Florida and create 150 new jobs and a cumulative investment of $150 million may be eligible for a $3.5 million to $4.5 million grant. A sliding scale for lower impact means a lower grant.

Among the many other provisions are financial incentives for keeping Major League Baseball teams for spring training, and communities dependent on the defense industry, along with many others. It could be rightly known as comprehensive economic incentives reform.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Jim Boyd, repeatedly stated that no state money is committed to incentives. The companies must first keep their pledges before receiving any incentives.

Opponents referred to the bill as corporate welfare. The obligatory comments about giving tax money to “fat cats” entered the dialogue as the vote neared.

The legislation passed the House 79-39 on Wednesday. These numbers roughly reflect the Republican vs. Democrat breakdown of the chamber, but this was far from a party-line vote.

Voting in support was a large majority of Republicans led by Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Majority Leader Dana Young. Voting in opposition was a majority of Democrats led by House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford, who had a prominent conservative ally.

The Koch brothers-supported Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a fierce opponent of this bill. Not one dime, it says, should go to corporations for this purpose.

This did not sit well with Enterprise Florida CEO Bill Johnson, who is representing the interests of his agency and Gov. Rick Scott. He made his views clear.

When Johnson pointed out that Koch Industries has gotten $196 million in government incentives, AFP had a quick retort:

“Newsflash, AFP is not Koch Industries.”

It is a fact the Koch brothers are the bogeymen of Democratic politicians, many times to ridiculous extremes (listen to Harry Reid some time). But when Chris Hudson, the state director of a group supported by the Kochs engages in a food fight with a representative of a Republican administration, their previous actions will receive scrutiny.

Is there some hypocrisy going on? We report, you decide.

While most voted with their party’s majority, some interesting defections make this a must-watch bill in the Senate. While Crisafulli and Young supported the bill, Speaker pro tempore Matt Hudson and Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran were among the 39.

Also voting against the bill, which is supported by Scott, was Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. This is not the first time these two have been on opposite sides. Ingoglia defeated Scott’s preferred candidate, Leslie Dougher, for RPOF chairman 14 months ago.

Not only was Republican leadership split on this bill, so too were the Democrats. Negating Pafford’s “nay” was a “yes” from Democratic Leader pro tempore Mia Jones. Several other Democrats joined with the majority.

Conservatives and liberals voted for the bill while conservatives and liberals voted against the bill. It was Doc Holliday joining the Earps to fight the Clantons at OK Corral. Each side would argue the other personified the Clantons.

While only a few can appreciate the legislative process also known as sausage making, this one is worth watching. It is one of the final pieces of the puzzle that will help determine the 2016-17 state budget.

It will be a fascinating final two weeks.

***

Bob Sparks is a business and political consultant based in Tallahassee. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Rick Scott calls session “successful” – but still hasn’t got what he wants

Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday suggested, with as much subtext as he could muster, that lawmakers need to come around on his two main budget goals for 2016-17: $1 billion in tax cuts and $25o million for business incentives.

After all, legislative leadership passed their priority bills early on, which Scott happily signed.

The message was clear: You got yours, I want mine.

“We’ve had a very good Session. It’s all going to be successful,” Scott told reporters after a bill signing in his office.

“We started with the water bill that the Speaker of the House wanted, we started with the Gardiner Scholarship bill for those with unique abilities (named after Senate President Andy Gardiner), those have already been signed,” he said.

“Everyone knows my priorities,” Scott added. “All of them are tied to getting more jobs in our state. The tax cut is important … along with the $250 million for (the Florida Enterprise Fund).

“I believe we’re going to have a good end to Session. And there’s plenty of money in the budget.”

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, in separate comments to reporters, basically said Scott was overspending and asking for too much.

“I’ve said it, the president has said it, even the governor has said it: There has to be compromise on all sides,” he said. “That’s the only way to bring those numbers within a threshold we can obtain.”

As of Wednesday night, House budget chief Richard Corcoran and Senate budget chairman Tom Lee had not announced agreement on allocations, the silos of money for each major part of the state budget.

“We know the governor is very focused on his message,” Crisafulli said. “He’s fighting for as much as he can get, but there’s a reality in all this … Nobody gets everything they want.”

Added Gardiner: “It’s give and take … everybody’s going to have give and take if we want to go home on time.”

The session ends March 11, but the budget has to be finished before then because of a 72-hour “cooling off” period mandated by law, giving lawmakers and the public time to inspect the details.

“He’s going to have vetoes; he’s probably going to have a lot of vetoes,” Gardiner said of Scott after a Wednesday Senate floor session. “If we all sat out and had a big group hug, he’d still have a lot of vetoes … I’m trying to put together what I think is a responsible budget.”


Jim Rosica (jim@floridapolitics.com) covers the Florida Legislature, state agencies and courts from Tallahassee. 

Stand Your Ground bill still in legislative limbo

There were still no definite answers Wednesday on whether the House will consider a Senate-approved change to the state’s Stand Your Ground law.

The Senate bill, backed by state Sen. Rob Bradley, “shifts the burden of proof from the defendant to the prosecution” in pretrial hearings on whether a use of force was justifiable, according to a staff analysis.

Those hearings determine whether a defendant can claim self-defense at trial.

The House version died in the Criminal Justice Subcommittee in November on a 6-6 vote. But the Senate bill passed that chamber last month on a 24-12 vote and was redirected to the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Jacksonville Republican Charles McBurney.

But the bill wasn’t on the agenda for Thursday, the last scheduled meeting of that committee for the 2016 Legislative Session.

After a Wednesday floor session, McBurney exited the chamber through a side door before reporters could get to him.

Speaker Steve Crisafulli wasn’t able to give any more clarity: “I couldn’t tell you. Chair McBurney has the authority to meet through next week. He’ll be the one to make the decision” to hear the bill.

On Tuesday, he denied reports of pressure from the National Rifle Association to move the bill.

“We are certainly not under pressure,” Crisafulli said. “Members are moving legislation as they see fit.”

House passes incentives measure desired by Rick Scott

After a debate that included mentions of monsters, Robert A. Heinlein and the Tampa Bay Rays, the Florida House of Representatives Wednesday passed its 2016 business and economic incentives package, including the framework for Gov. Rick Scott‘s proposed $250 million Florida Enterprise Fund.

As bill sponsor Jim Boyd reminded members, it still has no funding: “This is a structure bill, a policy bill,” he said, explaining that how much money goes to incentives still must be decided in the budget process. 

The legislation (HB 1325) will provide “more oversight, more control and will foster growth for all businesses throughout Florida,” he told members.

But his measure fractured the usual party-line vote on high-profile measures: Those in favor included members of the Legislative Black Caucus, who had held a closed-door meeting Tuesday after the House first started considering the bill.

Caucus chairman Ed Narain, a Tampa Democrat, did not immediately respond to a text message seeking comment after the vote.

Those opposed included dozens of Republicans, including Speaker pro tempore Matt Hudson of Naples, House budget chief Richard Corcoran and state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

In a statement, the governor thanked the House, saying he wants to “protect taxpayer money by ensuring no incentive dollar leaves the state until we have confirmed a company’s economic investment or job creation in Florida.”

The Florida Enterprise Fund “will also diversify our economy at a key time in our state’s history to help guard against another economic downturn, and make Florida first for jobs in the country,” Scott said. “As the legislative process continues, we’ll continue working closely with the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors and Senate and House members on finalizing this legislation.”

State Rep. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat and Black Caucus member, said he supported the bill because the businesses it could help attract may wind up in his district, bringing jobs to many of the depressed areas he represents.

It might also help keep the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, he added, even as the team considers a move to a possible new ballpark in Tampa.

But Rouson also offered a caveat: “I believe in the free market but I don’t believe the free market always believes in me.”

His support and that of his colleagues galled state Rep. Kristin Jacobs, however, who chided the back row about “ghost companies” and their lack of jobs.

“Wake up,” she said. “You’re not going to get the money you think you’re going to get.”

Jacobs, a Coconut Creek Democrat and former Broward County mayor, even compared the measure’s supporters to prostitutes, saying they cut a deal for their votes.

She quoted science-fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein about “just haggling over the price.” (The quote, by the way, has a complicated history.)

State Rep. Amanda Murphy, a New Port Richey Democrat, apologized to her constituents for the bill, saying the legislative process “makes monsters out of men.”

And Rep. Evan Jenne, a Dania Beach Democrat, called it “a quarter-billion-dollar slush fund” that would only “make a few fat cats that much fatter.”

Even supporters struggled to rise to the same level of histrionics.

“It is not rosy but it is not the status quo, which is what we have had,” said Rep. Charles Van Zant, a Keystone Heights Republican.

He had planned to vote no, but said Boyd had won him over with multiple text messages that included pleas of “you got to support my bill.” 

“And I don’t text,” Van Zant added.

The Senate already committed to the fund, with state Sen. Jack Latvala championing both the idea and the dollar amount, but wants to use money coming from the settlement over the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Legislators are still awaiting an announcement of the 2016-17 “allocations,” the big silos of money available for each major section of the 2016-17 state budget to be worked out by House budget chief Richard Corcoran and Senate budget Chairman Tom Lee. 

Stand Your Ground bill revived in House – or is it?

After a House version died, the Senate version of a Stand Your Ground bill might be finding new life – in the House.

And that’s if it can get on an agenda.

The Senate bill, backed by state Sen. Rob Bradley, “shifts the burden of proof from the defendant to the prosecution” in pretrial hearings on whether a use of force was justifiable, according to a staff analysis.

Those hearings determine whether a defendant can claim self-defense at trial.

The House version died in the Criminal Justice Subcommittee in November on a 6-6 vote. The Senate bill passed that chamber last month on a 24-12 vote.

The Senate legislation was redirected to the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Jacksonville Republican Charles McBurney.

On Tuesday night, though, it wasn’t on the agenda for the next and last meeting of that committee for the 2016 Legislative Session.

It wasn’t clear whether the measure would be added at the last minute, and McBurney could not be reached after Tuesday’s floor session.

On Tuesday, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli credited the bill’s reappearance to a procedural decision.

“Our rules allow that to happen,” the Merritt Island Republican told reporters. “Now, it hasn’t been agenda-ed yet … but any bill that would come over here like that can be re-referred to a committee.”

He denied reports, however, of pressure from the National Rifle Association to move the bill.

“We are certainly not under pressure,” Crisafulli said. “Members are moving legislation as they see fit.”

House members grapple with incentives funding process

House lawmakers spent nearly two hours Tuesday setting up the chamber’s 2016 business and economic incentives package, which will likely be debated and voted on by that chamber on Wednesday.

A line of Democrats barraged sponsor Jim Boyd, a Bradenton Republican, with questions on the measure (HB 1325) before it was finally rolled over to a third reading.

With dozens more bills to consider ahead of them for the day’s session, Speaker pro tempore Matt Hudson chided members, saying he hoped they brought dinner “and a change of clothes.”

The bill is the vehicle for Gov. Rick Scott‘s planned $250 million Florida Enterprise Fund that state officials would use to entice businesses and their jobs.

The proposal still has no funding attached; Boyd said that would be worked out in the upcoming budget conferences.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli had pulled the legislation (HB 1325) from its remaining committee stops, sending it directly to the floor.

“It’s been very important to me that we have some policy in place before we start talking about the dollars and cents,” the Merritt Island Republican told reporters last week.

The Senate earlier committed to the fund, with state Sen. Jack Latvala championing both the idea and the dollar amount.

Everything now depends on what money is available for the state’s spending plan for next year.

As of midday Tuesday, legislators were still awaiting an announcement of the 2016-17 “allocations,” the big silos of money available for each major section of the 2016-17 state budget to be worked out by House budget chief Richard Corcoran and Senate budget Chairman Tom Lee. 

House economic incentives bill heading to floor

The bill meant to be the vehicle for the House of Representatives’ 2016 business and economic incentives package will be considered by the full chamber soon.

But it still doesn’t have a dollar amount.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli yanked the legislation (HB 1325) from its remaining committee stops this week, meaning it will go straight to the floor for discussion and vote.

“We’re ready to bring that forward … it’s been very important to me that we have some policy in place before we start talking about the dollars and cents,” the Merritt Island Republican told reporters Thursday evening.

“There’s no money in the bill,” he said. “It’s just the policy piece. We’ve worked closely with the Governor’s Office to come to some kind of understanding of what that might look like.

“We have to have more conversations on it with our Senate partners … but it was important to us to go ahead and move that (legislation) out of the House.”

The Senate earlier committed to one of Gov. Rick Scott‘s requests for the 2016 Legislative Session: a $250 million Florida Enterprise Fund that state officials would use to entice businesses and their jobs to come to the Sunshine State.

Last month, state Sen. Jack Latvala said he would push the proposed pot of money through the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development, which he chairs.

“We’re all on the same team, we all want to produce jobs,” the Clearwater Republican said. “We want to give him the tools he needs for business recruitment.”

Everything, though, depends on allocations, the big silos of money available for each major section of the 2016-17 state budget.

House budget chief Richard Corcoran and Senate budget Chairman Tom Lee have been trying to come to agreement on those numbers, which has delayed the start of the budget conference process to next week.

Steve Crisafulli says no budget conference yet

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli on Thursday said the budget conference process won’t begin just yet.

The Merritt Island Republican announced the news to members of this chamber in an email:

From: Crisafulli, Steve
Sent: Thursday, February 18, 2016 9:16 AM
Subject: Conference will not begin this weekend

Members:

There is positive forward progress in the effort to reach an agreement on budget allocations with the Senate. However, there is still a great deal to be worked out. Therefore, we will not begin conference this weekend. It is my hope that we will begin conference early next week.

I hope you enjoy your weekend.

We’ll have more on the budget as it develops. The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m.

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