Steve Crisafulli Archives - Page 7 of 34 - Florida Politics

Rick Scott signs Legislature’s priority bills

As expected, Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday signed into law three bills that were priorities of House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner.

Scott approved SB 552, which “implements policies to protect and restore water and natural resources statewide, with a focus on meeting water quality and supply needs.” Crisafulli wanted the measure passed before he leaves the Legislature; this is his last year in office.

Scott also OK’d HB 7003, which “expands employment opportunities and creates a financial literacy program for individuals with disabilities,” and SB 672, which “increases educational opportunities for students with unique abilities, expands the Personal Learning Scholarship Account Program, and provides funding for school uniforms.”

They were backed by Gardiner, an advocate for people with disabilities. He has a son with Down syndrome.

“This is a great start to Session,” Scott said after the signings. “What we’ve signed today is going to help (people with disabilities) get jobs. Our weakest, our poorest, our most disadvantaged, what do you want to do? Give them a job.”

He added on the water bill, “we’re going to continue to protect the Everglades, but this is going to go further, and include our springs.”

The legislative leaders released statements afterward.

“These new laws will help us utilize responsible, science-based solutions to address our state’s water-quality and water-supply challenges; expand educational options for students and schools; and, give those with disabilities the tools they need to become more independent,” Crisafulli said. “These laws affect the lives of all Floridians and will create a stronger future for our state.”

“The complete cradle to career pathway to economic independence will make a significant impact on the lives of individuals with unique abilities and their families for generations to come,” Gardiner said. “We are blessed to have Gov. Scott and Speaker Crisafulli as partners in promoting Florida as the state where all people have access to an education suited to their own unique needs and the opportunity to achieve their career goals.”

“I am also pleased to see our statewide water and natural resources policy become law today,” Gardiner said. “This legislation will protect Florida’s unique environment for the next generation of Floridians to enjoy. The new law will increase public access to conservation lands for recreational purposes and ensure Floridians have quality water for future use through restoration and conservation efforts of our water bodies.”

Ken Detzner reports online voter registration on track to begin October 2017

This past May, Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation to require Florida to adopt online voter registration by October 2017, though he said he did it with “some hesitation.”

Democrats were unhappy the state couldn’t enact the new system in time for this fall’s general election, but if it were up to Secretary of State Ken Detzner it wouldn’t happen at all. Detzner vehemently expressed opposition to the bill last year, but he told a Senate committee Wednesday that the system will be working by next year.

“Last year I made a promise that I would commit 110 percent to the online voter registration development,” Detzner told the Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections. “Our team and I have followed through on that promise.”

Detzner said the timeline for online voter registration system is still on schedule to begin in October 2017. He reminded lawmakers that security remains his top priority: “We are doing everything we can to ensure that Florida voters have a reliable and secure network, and our consulting cyber security experts.”

Detzner’s office issued a progress report on to Scott, Senate President Andy Gardiner, and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli on Dec. 31. It noted that once the system is launched, Florida would join 26 other states, including California and New York, in operating online voter-registration systems. Florida’s system is being built by the Department of State, the 67 county supervisors of election, and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Scott referred to his fear of cyber attacks when he signed the bill last year. Election officials noted Wednesday that as part of their concurrent voter-registration modernization effort, the state has installed new hardware with “the latest state-of-the art equipment reflecting the choice of major data centers in the public and private sectors.”

Officials said there are now nearly 12 million registered voters in the state. Detzner said that while working on online voter registration and the voter-registration modernization effort, his office is working hard on being prepared for the presidential primary election taking place March 15.

Big-name groups, leaders trumpet progress on legislative priorities

A major trio of political players at the Florida Capitol are happy with the progress made Thursday on big-ticket priorities in the Legislature.

The H2O Coalition, a water policy consortium affiliated with Associated Industries of Florida, applauded the further progress of what it calls comprehensive water reform in the Legislature.

The praise comes after the House gave final approval to SB 552 by Sen. Charlie Dean, which is identical to HB 7005 by Rep. Matt Caldwell, who led the House’s efforts to update state water policy after voters’ overwhelming approval of Amendment 1 in 2014.

“Today is a historic day for Florida. Floridians should be proud of the leadership demonstrated by House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, Senate President Andy Gardiner, Representative Matt Caldwell, Senator Charlie Dean and Commissioner Adam Putnam in passing a comprehensive water policy that should serve as a model for other states,” AIF Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs Brewster Bevis said in a prepared statement Thursday afternoon.

“If enacted, the impact of this comprehensive water policy will be far-reaching and felt long after the members of this body are in office,” Bevis said. “Future generations of Floridians will remember the 2016 Legislative Session as the time when lawmakers upgraded our water policy with higher water quality standards, stronger protections for our springs, and a forward-thinking approach that integrates water planning into economic development.”

The AIF executive and policy advocate concluded his remarks with a clarion call to the governor, who must sign the legislation for it to go into effect.

“As this bill goes to Governor Scott’s desk for his consideration, I join representatives from Florida’s business, environmental and agricultural communities in urging him to sign it,” Bevis said. “The future of Florida’s water supply depends on it.”

Foundation for Florida’s Future, for its part, celebrated the approval of greater educational funding and support for children with unique abilities.

“I am particularly grateful to the Legislature, which today expanded the Gardiner Scholarship Account Program to include 3- and 4-year-olds, as well as students with muscular dystrophy and autism spectrum disorder,” FFF Executive Director Patricia Levesque said after the passage of SB 672. “This measure will give parents more options and resources to ensure brighter futures for their children. Thank you to Senator Don Gaetz and Representative Erik Fresen for sponsoring this measure, and to House Speaker Steve Crisafulli for supporting and leading the House to support.

“But my deepest appreciation goes to Senate President Andy Gardiner. His passion and drive has turned a personal crusade into a state priority. The impact of his advocacy will make a profound difference in the lives of children – with unique abilities – for generations to come. It is an outstanding legacy and one that will be long remembered.”

Finally, the Senate President himself took a victory lap after securing the relatively easy passage of a raft of priorities, chiefly the aforementioned support for children with disabilities.

“I am so grateful to Speaker Crisafulli and my colleagues in the House for making our cradle-to-career pathway to economic independence a reality for people with unique abilities and their families,” Gardiner said.

“There are so many Floridians with unique abilities who can benefit from the opportunity to personalize their education and to learn the skills needed to contribute to Florida’s workforce in a meaningful way. This comprehensive package will give people with unique abilities and their families a road map to education and employment opportunities that will help them on the path to economic independence.”

House OKs priorities for Steve Crisafulli, Andy Gardiner

The state House of Representatives knocked out three pieces of priority legislation Thursday, sending two measures — a wide-ranging water policy bill and an education bill expanding scholarships to students with disabilities — to the governor.

“I think this just sets the tone,” Senate President Andy Gardiner said after the House adjourned Thursday. “I think you’re going to see us work together quite a bit on all this stuff. This has just been a really good week.”

The water bill (SB 552) was a top priority for House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican. The bill, according to the Associated Press, “modifies dozens of areas of Florida law, including controlling pollution and restoring natural flow in springs and rivers.”

“This is what working together can do, and obviously this is us finishing off a work plan we started together,” Crisafulli said during a joint news conference with Gardiner. “Obviously there is a lot left to do, with the budget to pass and some great things we can do for the state of Florida over the next several weeks.”

The House shot down several amendments proposed by Minority Leader Mark Pafford, a West Palm Beach Democrat.

The water package passed the Senate 37-0 on Wednesday. The House voted 110-2 on Thursday to approve it.

“The Florida Chamber has long supported science-backed efforts that will ensure our state can meet the demands of today and of the future,” said Christopher Emmanuel, director of infrastructure and governance policy at the Florida Chamber, in a prepared statement. “This bill is a meaningful step in the right direction to help ensure Florida’s water future doesn’t go the way of California. This bipartisan effort is a fantastic start to Florida’s 2016 Legislative Session.”

The House also approved an education bill (SB 672) that a top priority for Gardiner. Among other things, the bill expands scholarship opportunities for students with disabilities and provides incentives for school districts to adopt dress codes for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

The measure also renames the scholarship program — formerly known as Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts, or PLSAs —  the Gardiner Scholarships, after the Senate President.

The state Senate voted 39-0 to approve the measure Wednesday; while the House supported it 109-1. Republican state Rep. John Tobia was the only”no” vote.

The House also approved another Gardiner priority bill. That measure (HB 7003) addresses economic independence of individuals with disabilities. Among other things, it creates a Financial Literacy Program for Individuals with Development Disabilities to promote economic independence and employment opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities. That measure passed 110-0. It now heads to the Senate.

Senate passes disabled children bill; now it moves to House

The Florida Senate on Wednesday passed legislation expanding aid for students with intellectual disabilities and named the program for Senate President Andy Gardiner, who has made what he calls “people with unique abilities” the signature issue of his tenure as president.

The bill (SB 672) increases funding from $55 million to $73 million for $10,000-per-year scholarships for children with autism, Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities, starting as early as age 3.

The program was expanded last year to add categories of disabilities, increasing recipients to about 4,300. The new bill makes the expansion permanent, likely increasing recipients to 8,000.

Gardiner says he expects the House to pass a companion bill, HB 7011, by Friday, sending the legislation to Gov. Rick Scott.

Gardiner has a son with Down syndrome, and his wife has been active on the issue.

He initially rejected an amendment by sponsor Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, naming the program “Gardiner Scholarships” in honor of his family. Gardiner said he had promised House backers the Senate would pass a bill with no amendments, to match the House bill.

But he accepted the honor, and was overcome with emotion at the podium, when House Speaker Steve Crisafulli called during the deliberations to say the House would accept the amendment.

“I didn’t see that coming. It’s a moment I won’t forget,” Gardiner said afterward.

“This is a bill that people come up to us with tears in the eye and talk about how it’s changed their lives,” he said from the podium.

The bill passed despite objections by Democrats that it included $14 million for financial incentives for school districts that require students to wear uniforms. The districts would get an extra $10 per student per year.

Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat, called the incentives “a giveaway to the school uniform industry,” but withdrew an amendment to remove them.

Gardiner said the uniform measure was included because, “It was a priority of the House.”

The Senate also passed bills creating employment incentives and a financial literacy program for persons with intellectual disabilities.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Major players react to Senate passage of water legislation

On Wednesday, the Senate passed a major water bill, a major priority of House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and the object of much interest on the part of environmentalist community as well.

Reactions from significant groups and individuals will continue to flow in as the debate goes forward, but for now here’s a look at what some of the most influential Floridians are saying about the move.

The Senate itself put out a detailed statement breaking down the legislation piece by piece. It heralded the move as a major step forward, one year after disagreement on health care policy ended the Session and sent a similar environmental bill to its demise.

“Passing this legislation today is a win for Floridians,” said President Andy Gardiner. “This legislation increases public access to conservation lands for recreational purposes, protects Florida’s unique environment, and ensures Floridians have quality water for future use through restoration and conservation efforts of our water bodies.”

Gardiner also thanked Sen. Charlie Dean, who chairs the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation committee.

“Today, the Senate approved legislation to transform the way Florida conserves our most valuable natural resources, making certain that we take a statewide, comprehensive approach on restoring and preserving our water and natural resources,” Dean said. “This bill establishes a systematic and transparent process to ensure taxpayer dollars are allocated to meaningful water quality and restoration projects and implements best management practices to increase our clean water supply.”

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam also relayed his pleasure at the bill moving forward.

“I thank the Senate for the passage of this key legislation,” Putnam said. “This session, we have an opportunity to pass meaningful water policy reform that will help meet the needs of our growing population and thriving economy, while protecting our most precious natural resources.

“This proposed legislation is a much-needed step forward that accounts for a long-term, science-based and strategic approach to protecting our water,” Putnam said.

The Associated Industries of Florida’s affiliated H2O Coalition also had fond words for the legislation Wednesday. The group was formed in part to promote the bill in 2015.

“The Florida Senate’s adoption of SB 552 has been many years in the making. Over the past year, this legislation has been improved to strengthen the protection of Florida’s springs and create stronger water quality standards. Today, a unanimous, bipartisan majority has agreed this comprehensive approach to water policy represents the best path forward for our people and our state,” said AIF VP of State and Federal Affairs, Brewster Bevis.

“We appreciate the leadership of President Gardiner and Senators Dean, Simmons, Hays, Simpson, and Montford.  Their tireless work on this bill has put us one step closer to passing this historic reform.”

Lenny Curry again scheduled to hilt in Tallahassee

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has as much local political momentum for his pension tax plan as he could want. Everyone on City Council co-sponsored a resolution of support, which passed Tuesday night.

However, Senate co-sponsor Rob Bradley is the first to say that getting it through both chambers in Tallahassee is a “heavy lift.” To that end, Curry has another action-packed day of meetings with movers and shakers, both in the Duval Delegation and from more far-flung locales.

The meetings started just after 8 a.m. Wednesday, with a conclave with state Rep. Lake Ray.

From there, a sit-down with Senate President Andy Gardiner, followed by a meeting with Broward Sen. Jeremy Ring, chairman of the Governmental Oversight and Accountability committee.

A 10 a.m. meeting with Jacksonville Democratic Rep. Reggie Fullwood was followed up with a meeting with Speaker Steve Crisafulli.

Then, before lunch, meetings with local Democratic Rep. Mia Jones, and another one with Miami-Dade GOP Senator Anitere Flores, chair of the Fiscal Policy Committee.

After Curry dines, a meeting with Senator Audrey Gibson, then a meeting with Clay County Rep. Charles Van Zant, followed by a meeting with Rep. Janet Cruz.

The Tampa Democrat is the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee.

From there, a three-hour block of time for a private appointment, which seemingly would be enough time to Build Something That Lasts, if one were inclined to build.

Steve Crisafulli advocates for ride-sharing legislation in opening-day speech

Opening the 2016 Legislative Session Tuesday, Speaker Steve Crisafulli listed the priorities that he expects the House to focus on in 2016.

That included an endorsement of Gov. Rick Scott‘s goal of cutting taxes by $1 billion, something that Senate members have expressed discomfort with. He also put in a good word for legislation that would regulate ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

“Let’s put the free market to work for Florida families,” he said in his speech. “Let’s cut red tape and create forward-looking, predictable regulatory frameworks to give companies like Uber and Lyft and other disruptive technologies their day in the sun. Florida should be a state where our regulations welcome innovation, not discourage people from finding new and better ways of doing things. If people in Orlando or Miami or Tallahassee want Chair Workman to be their Uber driver, then we should give them that freedom.”

That was a reference to House Rules Committee Ritch Workman from Melbourne, who took a side job as a driver for Uber last year.

Crisafulli’s comments are his most enthusiastic yet about backing a bill that would regulate the ridesharing companies that have been operating in Florida for the past couple of years with no state or local regulations.

Controversy in some local communities has followed Uber and Lyft since they began operating in Florida, however, particularly in Hillsborough and Broward counties.

Uber pulled out of Broward on July 31 to protest the county’s new regulations, which included fingerprint-based FBI background checks and a geography test for drivers.

After harsh criticism from constituents who professed their love for Uber and Lyft, though, the Broward County Commission reversed course in October and dropped the requirements.

In Hillsborough, the county’s Public Transportation Commission has resumed issuing citations against Uber and Lyft drivers for driving without permits, while litigation continues between the county and the two companies. The PTC curtailed issuing those citations as a statement of good will last fall, saying they would hold off on passing any regulations until the Legislature addressed the issue in the Session that began Tuesday.

Last month, the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation approved a measure sponsored by Plant City Republican Dan Raulerson that would establish a new regulatory framework for allowing Uber and Lyft to operate legally in the county.

Those lawmakers said that they hoped the Legislature would approve a statewide bill during the current session. A bill has been introduced by Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz in the House (HB 509) would set insurance requirements for transportation-service drivers while they are logged on, require prospective drivers to undergo criminal background checks and prohibit local governments from imposing their own rules on the app-based companies as they do now for taxi companies and limousine services. The legislation passed in the House Highway and Waterway Safety Subcommittee last month. It’s scheduled to be debated in the House Economics Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

It lacks a Senate sponsor, though, and the perception is that it won’t get much support in that part of the Legislature

“Florida should be a state where our regulations welcome innovation, not discourage people from finding new and better ways of doing things,” Crisafulli said Tuesday. Whether that will translate finally into a statewide policy regarding Uber and Lyft is uncertain.

Steve Crisafulli: House, Senate will pass “3 important bills” by end of week

The state House and Senate will pass three bills by the end of the week, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli told members during his opening remarks Tuesday.

“As we look ahead to the next 60 days, I want us to double-down,” said Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican. “We will do that first by finishing what we started. By the end of the week, the House and Senate will pass three important bills that were part of last year’s Work Plan.”

Crisafulli said the House and Senate will take up statewide water policy legislation (HB 7005 and HB 522); an education bill that expands the personal learning scholarship (HB 7011 and SB 672); and a measure (HB 1359 and SB 962) aimed at creating employment opportunities for people with unique abilities.

“Members, these are three bipartisan bills we can all be proud to support and deliver for Floridians,” said Crisafulli. “Of course, those bills are only a fraction of our work this session.”

Crisafulli’s comments were echoed by Senate President Andy Gardiner, who told lawmakers that sending Scott those measures by the end of the first week of the 2016 Legislative Session “sets the tone.”

Crisafulli used his opening comments to highlight several other issues lawmakers will tackle this session, including tax cuts.

Gambling, guns, tax cuts and more facing Florida lawmakers

The Legislature will begin its annual session early this year with the hopes of avoiding the chaos and dysfunction that marked the 2015 Session and three special sessions that followed.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner say the past is the past and there’s no lingering animosity after the two chambers found it difficult to agree on much last year.

“What you’re seeing is a real desire to get some things done. While a lot of people talk about what happened last session, as far as I’m concerned the relationship with the speaker and the governor have been good,” said Gardiner.

Crisafulli acknowledged there were “many challenges” this past year.

“Now it’s time to look ahead,” he said, adding that lawmakers will begin the upcoming session by addressing major issues that died last year when the House went home early, including a water protection bill and measures to help developmentally disabled residents.

Here’s a look at issues facing lawmakers when the 60-day session opens Tuesday.



Scott is pushing for $1 billion in tax cuts and a $250 million for business incentives. On Wednesday, he will start a three-day bus tour that hits most of Florida’s major media markets to promote both ideas. Scott’s proposed cuts are largely aimed at businesses, including the elimination of corporate income taxes for manufacturers and retailers. That alone would cost the state treasury an estimated $770 million a year. Scott also wants to cut sales taxes charged on commercial leases by 1 percent and permanently eliminate the sales tax charged on the sale of manufacturing equipment.

The governor is also calling for a 10-day back-to-school sales tax holiday as well as a nine-day sales tax holiday on supplies used for hurricane preparation. Scott also wants to permanently eliminate sales taxes on college textbooks.

While the Republican-led Legislature is open to the idea of tax cuts, leaders in both chambers have said $1 billion might be too much, especially if it’s largely revenue the state will permanently lose.



Two bills are moving through committees that would give more rights to gun owners. Each has been passionately debated during legislative committees. One would allow concealed weapon permit holders to openly carry their handguns. A second would allow permit holders to carry guns on state university and college campuses.

If both become law, universities could go from gun-free places to having students in class openly displaying handguns. Gun-rights advocates say this will make universities safer. However, every state university president and police chief in Florida opposes the guns on campus bill.



Both chambers say a top priority is passing a bill designed to help protect springs and groundwater while cleaning Lake Okeechobee, the northern Everglades, rivers and other waterways. The idea is to limit pollutants entering waterways and to come up with long range plans to manage water resources. Environmentalists say the legislation doesn’t go far enough to address regulating sugar producers, cattle ranchers and farms that contribute to pollution.

Lawmakers will also consider a proposal to dedicate $200 million a year to restoring the Everglades.

Environmentalists are upset over a bill that would require the Department of Environmental Protection to come up with regulations for fracking, a form of drilling that uses chemicals and water to blast through rock to get to oil and gas underneath. Supporters say there is nothing to stop fracking now, so regulations would make sure it’s done safely. Opponents would prefer to see the practice banned because of fears groundwater will be contaminated.



The Legislature will consider the gambling deal Scott signed with the Seminole Tribe. It would guarantee the state $3 billion in revenue in exchange for allowing blackjack to continue at the tribe’s seven casinos and letting them operate roulette and craps. The agreement as signed is guaranteed to go through changes as the lawmakers consider regional interests like slot machines at dog and horse tracks.

Lawmakers will also consider a proposal to allow lottery sales at gas pumps and self-checkout registers at grocery stores.

A bill would regulate the fantasy sports companies like DraftKings and FanDuel while making it clear that they can legally operate in Florida.



– Among other bills is a measure that will repeal an unenforced 19th-century law that makes it illegal for unmarried men and women to live together and have sex.

– Lawmakers are considering a measure that will ask voters to make the education commissioner an elected instead of an appointed position.

– A bill would ask for the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith that represents Florida in the U.S. Capitol.

– A bill would let terminally ill patients use marijuana.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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