Steve Crisafulli Archives - Page 7 of 35 - Florida Politics

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


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.

Orlando’s theme park companies pour at least $2.77 million into state politics

Orlando’s theme park behemoths – mostly Walt Disney companies – have already poured $2.77 million into campaign and political committees and parties for this election cycle so far, preferring Republicans by almost 3 to 1 over Democrats.

Disney, as usual, leads the way, with a combination of cash and in-kind services (typically providing tickets or opening theme parks or other Disney facilities to party events) worth $2.4 million in political contributions, according to campaign finance reports through Jan. 31, filed with the Florida Division of Elections.

Various Disney entities have poured in almost $1.5 million to the Republican Party of Florida, Republican candidates and Republican political action committees, according to the reports. Disney gave Democrats $560,000, and contributed another $339,000 to nonpartisan political action committees.

Various companies affiliated with Universal Parks & Resorts donated $247,000 to Republicans, $43,000 to Democrats, and $41,000 to nonpartisan PACs.

SeaWorld companies were frugal compared with its Orlando theme park counterparts, providing $23,000 to Republicans, $7,500 to Democrats and $7,600 to nonpartisan groups. All SeaWorld donations were in cash.

Busch Gardens in Tampa provided almost no political contributions. examined reports listed for the entire election cycle. For state Senate campaigns, that dates back to the start of 2013. For all others, the contributions date from the beginning of 2015.

The theme park companies use various corporate entities to sponsor political contributions. For example, Disney contributions come from such varied companies as Disney Worldwide Services Inc., Walt Disney Parks & Resorts U.S. Inc., Walt Disney Travel Co., Disney Destinations LLC, and Disney Vacation Development Inc. among others.

Most of Disney’s contributions to Democrats came through in-kind donations, providing services worth $370,000 total to the Florida Democratic Party, covering five different occasions.

Disney also provided in-kind services to Gov. Rick Scott‘s Let’s Get To Work PAC, valued at $252,000, and to the Republican Party of Florida, worth $155,000.

Disney’s total contributions to the Republican Party of Florida have totaled $544,000, and to the Florida Democratic Party, $467,000.

Disney also gave $125,000 to Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam‘s PAC Florida Grown PC; $75,000 to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee led by state Senate President Andy Gardiner; $70,000 to state Sen. Bill Galvano‘s PAC Innovate Florida; state Sen. Wilton Simpson‘s PAC Jobs for Florida $55,000; and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli‘s PAC Growing a Sustainable Future, $37,000. Disney gave at least $10,000 to seven other PACs associated with Republican state office holders. Two Democrats’ PACs also got money: State Rep. Jared Moskowitz‘s Floridians for Practical Solutions got $10,000, and state Sen. Darren Soto‘s Sun PAC got $5,000.

Universal companies contributed $147,000 to the RPOF, $49,000 to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, and $32,000 to the Florida Democratic Party. State Sen. Jack Latvala‘s Florida Leadership Committee got $7,500, as the only lawmaker’s PAC to get at least $5,000.

SeaWorld gave $5,000 each to the Florida Democratic Party, the Republican Party of Florida and the FRP PAC, and $2,500 to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. Its other political contributions were all of $1,000 or less.

Legislature divided over budget, tax cuts

Separated by nearly $1 billion in spending and differences over everything from tax cuts to health care spending, the Florida Legislature has less than a month left in its regular session to reach a deal on a new state budget.

Although Republican legislators stress they won’t have a repeat of infighting that marred their negotiations last year, they conceded that it will require some major compromises to end the session by March 11.

The final decision on the state budget could wind up affecting everything from how much money teachers get in the coming year to whether the state has a back-to-school sales tax holiday this summer.

“Now is the time where the pressure points, the decision points, are here,” said Senate President Andy Gardiner, an Orlando Republican. “There are going to be some tough decisions. There will be stuff that won’t make it.”

Last year GOP legislators split over Medicaid expansion and wound up passing a budget just days before a potential state government shutdown.

Both the House and Senate on Thursday passed their rival spending plans. The Senate budget totals nearly $81 billion, while the House version is just under $80 billion.

And though portions of both budgets are aligned, fault lines exist on school spending, economic development and tax cuts. Both sides also have refused to endorse key parts of Gov. Rick Scott‘s budget recommendations, which could complicate a final resolution.

The House has pared its budget with a tax cut package that includes a 10-day back-to-school tax holiday and single-day tax holidays for the purchases of guns, computers and cellphones.

But the biggest part of the package is a cut in the tax charged on rent paid by businesses. The package totals about $350 million in the coming year, but the price tag grows to nearly $1 billion over the next two-and-a-half years.

Senate Republicans, however, remain wary of deep tax cuts, citing a volatile stock market and a softening national economy that could affect the state’s tourism industry.

Sen. Tom Lee, the Senate budget chairman, said it would be “fiscally irresponsible” to pass a $1 billion tax cut package as Scott has proposed. He said to do so could force legislators to enact tax hikes in two to three years.

Senate leaders are also floating an idea that instead of passing business-targeted tax cuts they put more state money into public schools. That would allow local school districts to slightly trim property taxes they charge.

Another key difference: The Senate has set aside $250 million for a fund that Scott wants to use to lure new businesses to the state. The House has refused so far to agree to any amount. House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said he wants an agreement first on how the money will be parceled out.

Scott, talking to reporters Thursday, contended that he would wind up getting his priorities passed.

“I’m very comfortable we are going to have a good end,” Scott said.

The Senate and House votes came after two days of questioning, amendments and sometimes harsh debate. Though the Senate passed its budget by a 40-0 vote, the House vote was 85-29, with many Democrats voting against the bill.

Democrats were sharply critical of a provision included in the House budget that would prohibit health care providers from using state money to contract with Planned Parenthood to provide services. They also faulted the budget for failing to eliminate waiting lists for state services and for failing to include a pay raise for state workers.

“It doesn’t go far enough to actually have an impact on working and middle class families,” said Rep. Edwin Narain, a Tampa Democrat.

Republican committees post 6-figure hauls in first days of 2016

Lawmakers could only raise money for the first 11 days of the year, but that didn’t stop some of the top Republicans in Legislature the posting six-figure hauls to start the year.

Campaign and committee finance reports aren’t due until Wednesday, though Sen. Bill Galvano’s political committee, Innovate Florida, leads early filers after posting $216,000 raised in January. That haul came across in just 31 contributions, including three checks for $25,000 from the Florida Medical Association PAC, optometry group OD-EYEPAC, and Costa Farms.

After $19,000 in January expenditures, the Bradenton Republican’s committee was left with about $1.23 million in the bank.

Brandon Sen. Tom Lee came in just behind Galvano with $212,700 in January contributions to his committee, The Conservative. His total included five $25,000 checks, with MCNA Health Care and multibillionaire hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones each contributing at that level alongside FMA. Costa Farms also made the list with a $10,000 check.

Expenditures were minor for the truncated fundraising period, leaving the former Senate President’s committee with nearly $2 million on-hand.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli leads in the other chamber, with $136,000 in committee money last month. His PAC, Growing Florida’s Future, got $25,000 checks from an Associated Industries of Florida committee and from the FMA to bring its total to more than $600,000 on-hand.

Not far behind Crisafulli is the presumptive 2018-20 House Speaker, Rep. Jose Oliva, who raised $135,500 for his Conservative Principles for Florida PAC. Florida Blue topped the donor list at $35,000, followed by Tampa-based real estate company American Investment Holdings, which gave $25,000. Oliva’s committee entered February with about $541,000 on hand.

Jeb Bush supporters take aim at Marco Rubio in full page ad

Eight former and current Republican House Speakers are urging New Hampshire residents to vote for Jeb Bush on Election Day.

The open letter to New Hampshire voters ran in the New Hampshire Union Leader on Wednesday. Politico reported that the advertisement is meant to highlight the number of Florida leaders backing Bush over Marco Rubio.

“While Senator Rubio is a tremendous political talent, he is not the best choice to serve as Commander-in-Chief. We like and admire Marco, but as individuals who have personally witnessed the leadership of both candidates, we are unequivocal in our belief that Governor Bush is the best choice to be our next president,” the speakers write.

“Jeb has been tested and is ready to lead our country in these challenging times. We are not alone in making this assessment. Nearly every political leader in Florida of stature who knows Marco and Jeb’s records have joined us in endorsing Governor Bush.”

The advertisement, paid for by the Bush campaign, is signed by Allan Bense, Dean Cannon, Larry Cretul, Steve Crisafulli, Tom Feeney, John Thrasher, and Will Weatherford.

Former Speaker Johnnie Byrd is not listed as a co-signer.

Also missing? Rubio, who was House Speaker from 2006 to 2008.

In the open letter to voters, the speakers tout Bush’s leadership qualities, calling him a “transformational governor who took on and beat the most powerful special interests in Florida.” The speakers point to $19 billion in tax cuts, 1.3 million new jobs and gains in student achievement as some of Bush’s successes during his time in office.

“Jeb Bush is a strong leader with a steady hand who will rebuild our military, destroy ISIS and grow the American economy at full strength so middle class families can receive a pay raise for the first time in 15 years,” the speakers write.

“Take it from the people who know Marco and Jeb best: Governor Bush is the leader we need to make America safer, stronger and freer.”

The ad was paid for by the Bush campaign. The New Hampshire primary is Tuesday.


Cocoa Democrat joins HD 51 race

House District 51 got its first Democratic candidate this past week, setting up an Election Day contest for the Brevard County seat held by House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, leaving because of term limits.

Cocoa City Councilman Michael Blake joins Republican Cocoa Beach Commissioner Tim Timulty, who filed for the seat this past February, and HD 50 Rep. Tom Goodson, who’s looking to shift districts.

The former Cocoa mayor will likely have a hard time gaining traction in the district because it tilts heavily toward the GOP.  The Republican Party carries a sizable enough advantage in voter registrations that it isn’t likely to sway too much even in a presidential election year.

Crisafulli cruised into his third term without opposition when the seat was redrawn in 2012, and followed that performance by taking 67 percent of the vote against Democrat Joe Murray in the 2014 election.

Goodson shouldn’t have much of a problem in the Republican primary or the general election. In addition to sporting Crisafulli’s endorsement, the third-term representative passed $100,000 in cash on-hand heading into the new year.

Timulty is hovering at about the $1,500 mark, including $2,000 in loans.

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