House panel clears Special Session infrastructure, job training bill
Ruby ansd Roy Stephens. Image via Polk County Sheriff's Office/Fresh Take Florida.

The House’s main budgeting panel on Wednesday cleared one of the bills planned for the Special Session dealing with tourism promotion, job training and public infrastructure.

The Appropriations Committee, on a unanimous vote, OK’d the measure (HB 1A).

Among other things, it creates the $85 million Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, and awards $76 million to and imposes accountability and transparency measures on VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism marketing agency.

The bill—carried by House Republican Paul Renner—was supported by a range of tourism interests, including VISIT FLORIDA CEO Ken Lawson, the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, and more than a dozen independent hotel owners from throughout the state.

Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat, tried to amend the bill, however.

He wanted to shut down the ability of a project getting funded the same year it was vetoed: “I don’t want this to become a back door,” he said.

Moskowitz withdrew his amendment after Renner said there could be “changes in circumstance” that would merit later funding of a vetoed project.

Several Democrats complained about the bill before voting for it.

Rep. Roy Hardemon, a Miami Democrat, said he had no compassion for people “crying on his shoulder” about not getting funding when tourists already don’t visit inner city areas, including Liberty City, that he represents. 

Rep. David Richardson, a Miami Beach Democrat, had reservations about giving Scott and future governors a “big bucket of money with no oversight,” referring to the Job Growth Grant Fund.

Also, “it seems to me there’s going to be no transparency at all … when that money goes to local governments” to be spent, he said. 

And House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa used the example of a man who has expensive golfing equipment but can’t play.

The growth fund “is all bag, no golf … it’s a slush fund, money you worked hard for and send to us, now we’re going to say, ‘here you go, Guv, spend this on who you want to,’ ” she said. 

But Republicans countered that the bill was “exactly what we hoped for … and it feels great,” as Rep. Jason Brodeur put it. 

House Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues added: “We will have greater control … We have taken a program that was problematic and made it much, much stronger.”

The committee also approved a bill (HB 3A) for education funding that “appropriates $11.7 billion in total state funds” and “provides $7,296.23 in total funds per student, a $100 increase over total funds per student provided in Fiscal Year 2016-2017.”

Jim Rosica

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at [email protected]


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