Scott Powers - 6/29 - SaintPetersBlog

Scott Powers

Richard Corcoran says philosophy, facts drive his EFI, VISIT Florida axe

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran made it clear Friday he is sticking to his drive to abolish Enterprise Florida Inc. and VISIT Florida saying the moves are right in philosophy and facts.

“I’m telling you we’re right. We’re absolutely right,” Corcoran declared in a speech before the Central Florida Urban League.

Corcoran described Enterprise Florida as an organization that serves the top 1 percent of companies and most of them did not deliver and  belittled VISIT Florida for paying for Pitbull‘s video that he said essentially declared, “Come to Florida and have sex.”

“Here is what we know about VISIT Florida and Enterprise Florida. First, Enterprise Florida and VISIT Florida didn’t exist in this state until the mid-’90s. Guess what we had before that? I’m going to shock you. We had visitors. I’m going to shock you. We had businesses that came to this state.”

Corcoran, a Republican from Land ‘O Lakes, began Friday by defending his positions against criticism from Democratic Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who, in an earlier speech, declared both organizations are valuable to Florida’s economic growth.

Yet Corcoran’s fight has not been with Democrats, and certainly not with mayors, but with Gov. Rick Scott and others in the Republican Party. Corcoran acknowledged that, referring to “my fight with the governor” and “members of my own party.” He then accused them of launching personal and uncivil counter attacks.

“I always try to maintain civility. I’ll stick to the facts. We ought to do that in a civil way. I will tell you that words matter. Words hurt. Words destroy,” Corcoran said. “And you ought to be very careful with your words. Especially now more than ever in this environment. And we ought to be speaking the truth.”

Corcoran also took a shot at the state’s Urban Crime Tax Credit, which has been criticized for creating loopholes that allowed, for example, Universal Orlando to receive the credits because the broad region of Orlando which the park is located qualifies.

“It sounds great, it sounds noble,” he said of the program. “All of your benefactors are the top 1 percent of companies, like Universal. I’ve been there with my family and my six kids. I never felt threatened by high crime.

That’s what happens when you engage in that kind of philosophy. And then you find out they start wasting money; they start spending money, on everything under the sun. Bonuses. High-end furniture.”

He accused Enterprise Florida of sponsoring the arrival of 232 businesses to Florida, but said 124 of them never met their contractual obligations, and that less than 2 percent of the capital obligations and delivering less than 2 percent of the jobs.

“And we just pour more money into it,” he said.

He said he was not offended by Pitbull’s video, saying he went to the University of Florida for three years, “all of them freshmen.”

“That’s not offensive to me. But it’s the philosophy behind that,” he added. “And all of that money that goes to those things that are gratuitous waste of money, is money that could go to education, that could go to infrastructure, or creating a fair and equitable tax structure.”

Jeff Brandes bills keep Enterprise Florida, but with tight leash

State Sen. Jeff Brandes‘s new economic development proposal would continue operations of the embattled Enterprise Florida and state Department of Economic Opportunity, but on tight leashes.

Senate Bills 1110 and 1112 spell out a new way of doing business for two of Florida’s major economic development programs that have been under fire for accountability, particularly through their spending and penchants for luring out-of-state business with incentives in cases that go awry.

Brandes’s bills focus more on fostering small businesses and startups already in Florida, with tighter controls on EFI’s spending and salaries. That includes creating a grant program for new business incubators and accelerators.

The plan behind the bills calls for full funding for Gov. Rick Scott‘s budget recommendations for Enterprise Florida and protection for current incentive programs. After that, though the rules will change.

Brandes’s bills could become the counter offer to what may come out of the House of Representatives, where Speaker Richard Corcoran is targeting Enterprise Florida for elimination due to concerns over its lack of accountability. House Bill 7005, introduced Tuesday, would abolish Enterprise Florida and strip to bare-bones another state-chartered economic development corporation, VISIT Florida.

Brandes is calling for redirection for Enterprise Florida. It does not address VISIT Florida.

“The focus of economic development should be on Florida’s small businesses,” Brandes stated in a news release. “Fostering a startup culture in our state and encouraging small business development will create a better ecosystem where opportunity can thrive. This legislation provides greater oversight and safeguards over our current economic development programs. This bill recasts our focus on new businesses that breathe the entrepreneurial spirit and diversify Florida’s economy.”

Among the proposals, Brandes’s bills would:

— Require the return of $117 million currently held in escrow for the Quick Action Closing (QAC) Fund to the State Economic Enhancement and Development (SEED) to increase the rate of return on those funds.

— Sanction businesses that relocate from the state within three years of receiving final incentive payments, and prohibit the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) from making material amendments to incentive contracts.

— Restructure Enterprise Florida Inc.’s board to be broader based, including reserving seats for the president of CareerSource Florida and someone from the Small Business Development Network, and requiring it to include at least one member with expertise in rural economic development.

— Prohibit any employees at Enterprise Florida from being paid more than the governor, and restricting bonuses, while requiring Senate confirmation for the president of Enterprise Florida.

— Establish a “Startup Florida Grant Program” within DEO, providing $50 million per year for the development and operation of small business incubators and accelerators throughout the state. The grants would be limited to $5 million a year.

— Establish the Small Business Information Center (SBIC) within the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network Lead Center of the University of West Florida. It would serve as a clearinghouse for small businesses seeking help from DEO.

— Require the DOE to provide, to the governor and the Florida Legislature, annual reports on the estimated contractual obligations of the state’s Quick Action Closing Fund.

— Require two-thirds board votes for any contracts involving any board members who might have conflicts of interest with the companies involved.

— Limiting new incentive contracts to ten years.

Oscar Braynon calls for emergency declaration on heroin

Citing reports that heroin and fentanyl overdose deaths and public health costs are exploding in numbers in Florida, Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon called Monday for Florida to declare a public health emergency.

In a letter, Braynon urged Gov. Rick Scott to have Florida Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip to declare the public health emergency, which would give state agencies wider latitude to address the growing problem.

His call was made on behalf of the entire Florida Senate Democratic Caucus.

Braynon’s call echoes one made by Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay two weeks ago. And that call follows media reports in the Palm Beach Post, the Miami Herald and elsewhere detailing the impacts, including 77 percent or better increases in deaths. Earlier this month The Post estimated the heroin epidemic is costing $1.1 billion a year in Florida hospital charges.

“No longer confined to small urban enclaves, heroin and fentanyl have become the scourge of communities throughout Florida, wreaking widespread devastation not only from the ravages of addiction, but the resurgence of deadly diseases associated with drug abuse,” Braynon wrote. “There is no family, no race, no ethnicity, no income level this epidemic cannot touch, and no effective state bulwark in place to stop it.”

Braynon noted that public health emergencies were declared in 2011 during the height of the pill mill epidemic and the Zika outbreak in South Florida last year.

“This letter is to request that you issue a similar order urgently needed to address the growing threat and rising body count arising from Florida’s opioid-addiction crisis,” he wrote.

Kennedy Space Center back in launch business — this time for business

Kennedy Space Center is back in the rocket-launching business — and this time it’s really a business.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off into space from historic Launch Complex 39A Sunday morning, the first launch from Kennedy since the space shuttle program ended in 2011.

This was a business launch in almost every sense, except in purpose. The Dragon capsule sent into orbit by the rocket is full of 5,500 pounds of equipment and goods for the International Space Station.

SpaceX is trucking the goods into space on a NASA contract, and it began the mission from a NASA-owned launchpad, but this is a private business that has leased the launchpad and which is hauling the goods entirely for business.

The rocket launch appeared perfect, blasting upward and into cloudy sky, disappearing 10 seconds after liftoff.

“And liftoff of the Falcon 9 to the space station, on the first commercial launch from Kennedy Space Center’s historic pad 39!” announcer George Diller declared.

Until now NASA’s launchpads were used only for government rockets, and the last one that went up was the one boosting the Space Shuttle Atlantis into space on its final mission in July 2011.

NASA and Kennedy officials decided the best — really only — use for its billions of dollars in launch infrastructure for most of the future might be to support all the emerging private space companies such as SpaceX. The California company won a bidding competition in 2013 and signed a 20-year lease for exclusive use of 39A, and a year later began rebuilding it to accommodate the company’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.

NASA still has 39A’s twin, Launch Complex 39B, which the space agency is rebuilding to accommodate its next generation big rocket, the Space Launch System.

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said the cost of the 39A rebuild is approaching $100 million and likely will top $100 million before it is fully outfitted to accommodate astronauts. Starting in probably 2019 SpaceX will be launching astronauts from there to the International Space Station.

So Saturday’s launch is the beginning of a new era.

Donald Trump rally in Melbourne confirmed

President Donald Trump will be holding a rally in Melbourne Saturday afternoon in what is essentially a re-election campaign stop being promoted by his campaign.

Team Trump-Pence, the successor to Donald J. Trump for President, announced the president’s rally would be at a 5 p.m. event at the AeroMod International Hangar at Orlando-Melbourne International Airport.

The appearance presumably is on his way for his weekly weekend visit to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach. It also comes hours after SpaceX will be making the first launch of a Falcon 9 rocket from the historic Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center a few miles up the coast, fueling speculation that the president may also make a space center visit and take in the historic launch during his time in Brevard County.

His return to Melbourne is a return to one of the hottest campaign rally spots Trump had in Florida during his triumphant run through last summer and fall. A stop he made there in September — at another hangar at the Melbourne Airport — was absolutely overwhelmed with supporters who became infamously rowdy for him that evening.

There he’s likely to get a crowd not concerned with what his critics have focused on during his first month, including his relationship with Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin, his fights with the federal judiciary, or his staff’s gaffes and repeated misstatements. He’s likely to leave energized by an audience enamored by his immigration, border control, trade, and deregulation moves during his first weeks.

It’ll also be his first purely public appearance in Florida since he was sworn into office Jan. 20, though he has ben to Mar-a-Lago nearly every weekend.

Free tickets for the Melbourne event are available through the Team Trump-Pence websiteThe announcement also notes that campaign merchandise will be sold at the event. Doors open at 3 p.m.

Bobby DuBose challenges Richard Corcoran’s ‘terrorists’ comments

With all but an OMG! reference, House Democratic Leader Pro-Tempore Bobby DuBose has challenged House Speaker Richard Corcoran to share anything he has to back up claims that terrorists have likely infiltrated Muslim refugees in Florida.

DuBose sent a letter Tuesday to Corcoran and copied several key Republican lawmakers urging the speaker to “share with me any information you have received from FDLE or other law enforcement agencies that lend credence to your assertion.”

DuBose, of Fort Lauderdale, is responding to an interview Corcoran gave over the weekend in which DuBose said Corcoran stated there is a “tremendous potential likelihood … based on facts” that terrorists have infiltrated the 1,200 refugees from Muslim-majority nations who were resettled in Florida in 2016.

DuBose also is reacting to state Rep. David Santiago‘s House Bill 427, which would withdraw Florida from the federal refugee resettlement program.

“I owe it to our constituents, the members of our caucus, and my fellow committee members to inform them of any credible information that shows the people of Florida may be at risk,” DeBose wrote. “The timely release of this information is vitally important as it could influence how members vote on HB 427, a piece of legislation scheduled to be heard this week in a subcommittee.”

DuBose is ranking member on the House Health and Human Services Committee. That committee’s chairman, state Rep. Travis Cummings, was copied on the letter; as were Santiago; state Rep. Gayle Harrell, chair of the Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee; and state Rep. Jason Brodeur, chair of the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.

Updated noon Wednesday: DuBose said he had “yet to receive a response from Speaker Corcoran detailing the facts behind his allegations.”

“I am disappointed that Speaker Corcoran has so far refused to respond to my request for more information on the ‘facts’ behind his statement,” DuBose said in a statement. “If it is truly the case that there is hard evidence that terrorists have infiltrated Florida’s refugee resettlement program, this is information that should be shared with the public immediately.

“Nothing is more important than protecting the safety and well-being of our fellow Floridians, and with HB 427 pending before the House right now, it is vital members have a clear view of the security situation facing our state before they vote,” he added. “I look forward to reviewing the data Speaker Corcoran has compiled as soon as possible.”

Paul Paulson seeds state Ag Commissioner campaign with $120K

Orlando businessman and former lawyer Paul Paulson has seeded his campaign to run for Florida Agriculture Commissioner in 2018 with a $120,000 personal loan.

Paulson, a state committeeman with the Orange County Republican Party and 2015 candidate for Orlando mayor, entered the agriculture commissioner race in late December, seeking to succeed fellow Republican Adam Putnam, who is term-limited out at the end of 2018.

Republican state Sen. Denise Grimsley of Lake Placid also has entered the race.

New campaign finance reports posted by the Florida Division of Elections show he lent his campaign $120,000 in January. He also spent $32,000, with $18,000 of that going to BEAG Inc. political consulting in Maryland and the rest to J.M. Design of Winter Garden for printing. He did not report raising any other money.

However, Paulson said he has hired a fundraiser and is using his personal money to get the infrastructure set up for a statewide campaign.

“I don’t mind putting my money where my mouth is,” Paulson said.

Grimsley raised $40,700 through the end of January, with about half of that transferred in from her last Senate campaign fund, and the rest coming from scores of donors. She’s spent about $36,000, on a variety of items.

Paulson, whose business is mostly in real estate, lost the 2015 mayoral election to incumbent Mayor Buddy Dyer by 30 points. Still, he’s remained a fixture around the City Beautiful, as a director of the Orlando Marathon, administrator of the Breast Cancer Outreach Foundation, and organizer in various veterans’ groups. He is a former Army combat infantry officer.

Paulson, who grew up on a cattle farm in Minnesota, is a member of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association, raises cattle in east Orange County, and has a citrus farm in Lake County.

Winter Park businessman Chris King mulling gubernatorial run

Winter Park businessman Chris King is mulling a 2018 Democratic run for governor in Florida, sources close to him said Monday.

While not highly active in Central Florida political circles, King, president and CEO of Elevation Financial Group in Winter Park has been exploring prospects, with national consultants based in Washington D.C., of an outsider’s run with a mixture of liberal social and business-oriented views.

Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Obama alums Larry Grisolano of AKPD Message and Media and Jeremy Bird of 270 Strategies are closing to joining King’s team.

The son of Marilyn and David King, the latter the Orlando lawyer who represented the League of Women Voters in its successful Fair Districts Amendments legal fights with Florida that forced the state to redistrict Senate and congressional seats, T. Christopher King, 38, runs a company that invests in and manages real estate.

He has spoken at length with the Orlando Sentinel about the need to spur development of affordable housing, and last summer published a guest column in the Sentinel urging Christian churches to embrace the LGBT community, following last summer’s massacre at the popular Orlando gay nightclub Pulse.

King, a Winter Park High School graduate, holds an undergraduate degree in religion, politics and American public policy from Harvard University, where he was elected class marshal; and a law degree from the University of Florida, where he won mock trial competitions.

If King enters the race, he could wind up in a primary battle with several other Democrats, including fellow Orlando-area lawyer John Morgan and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee.

King told Smith that “we have to make a decision in the next 30 to 60 days.”

Dana Young joins push for new greyhound bill, banning steroids

Decrying that racing dog owners are “doping greyhounds,” state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith joined state Rep. Alexandra Miller and Dana Young Friday in another effort to tighten regulation of dog racing in Florida, with a bill explicitly banning the use of steroids.

Smith, the Orlando Democrat, and Miller, the Sarasota Republican, introduced House Bill 743 Thursday, replacing an earlier version Miller had introduced. Young, the Tampa Republican introduced Senate Bill 512 last month. On Thursday, it was referred to the Senate Committees on Regulated Industries, Rules, and Appropriations.

The two bills were unveiled Friday as a bipartisan effort banning anabolic steroids on greyhound racing dogs.

The trio asserted that female racing greyhounds are routinely given injections of anabolic steroids, or testosterone, to prevent the loss of race days and push their bodies beyond natural limits.

“We know they are using steroids,” Smith said. “They are doping greyhounds. It’s inhumane.”

A release issued by Smith’s office contended that the practice is outlawed in several countries but allowed in Florida. It sites the industry handbook Care of the Racing and Retired Greyhound as a warning of serious side effects including virilization and aggression, and that steroid use has been shown to have a negative effect on dogs’ heart function, and is linked to liver, kidney and cartilage damage, gastrointestinal problems and shock.

It’s not the first time for the effort. It and other greyhound reform bills have stalled in recent sessions as the Legislature has struggled with issues of “decoupling” greyhound racing from other forms of gambling allowed at tracks, notably card games.

Smith predicted this would be the year lawmakers seriously address decoupling, freeing track owners from having to offer dog racing if they want to offer more lucrative forms of gaming.

He said there are 19 racetracks in the United States and 12 are in Florida, and described wider abuses he’d like to see addressed, ultimately including the end of greyhound racing.

“Most track owners don’t want to race greyhounds anymore. The only reason they are doing it is because they are required to by law in order to run their card tables,” Smith said.

Jeff Atwater’s surprise departure makes CFO job the hottest in state

Never mind who’s running for Governor in 2018, Floridians want to know which Republicans are in the running for Florida Chief Financial Officer now that CFO Jeff Atwater announced he is leaving this year, with speculation starting with Tom Grady, Tom Lee, Will Weatherford and Teresa Jacobs and including seven or eight others.

Grady, a securities lawyer who is a former state representative who also has held several positions in state government, is widely reported as a close friend of Gov. Rick Scott, who will select a replacement for Atwater for the nearly two full years left in the term.

Weatherford, a venture capital and business consultant, is a former Speaker of the House who draws praise from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and who recently announced he’s not running for Governor.

Jacobs is the Orange County Mayor and a former banker who always sounds like she’s already someone’s chief financial officer, and who reportedly has been exploring a possible state run for that job in 2018 when she’s term-limited from the mayor’s office.

Names tumbling around Tallahassee  – some with more spin than others – also already have included Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, former Speakers Steve Crisafulli and Dean Cannon, state Sens. Jack Latvala, Aaron BeanJeff BrandesLee and Lizbeth Benacquisto, state Rep. Jim Boyd, former state Sen. Pat Neal, and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

Atwater was once a widely-speculated candidate for Governor himself, but that buzz cooled to nothing and on Friday he surprised much of Florida’s political establishment by announcing that he’s planning office to become vice president for strategic initiatives and chief financial officer at Florida Atlantic University after the Florida Legislative Session.

Besides overseeing the states’s financial operations and financial and insurance regulations, as well as the state fire marshal’s office, the job is a full-voting position on the Florida Cabinet. It’s normally filled by statewide vote, for a four-year term, and Atwater was to be term-limited out with the 2018 election.

Atwater’s office’s imminent availability is so fresh almost no one has had time to actually declare interest in it. No one has filed to run in 2018.

Said Brandes in a tweet Friday, “I haven’t talked to the governor yet, but if I was asked, I would carefully consider it.”

Grady, from Scott’s hometown of Naples, has been looking around. He recently was interviewed for the open president’s post at Florida Gulf Coast University, and last cycle talked briefly about running for Congress in Florida’s 19th District. Last year he declined an opportunity to become the state’s insurance commissioner. He’s on the state board of education, is a former commissioner of financial regulations and a former interim president of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. the state-chartered insurer of last resort.

Once this is done there may be another opening on the cabinet, as state Attorney General Pam Bondi remains a widely-speculated prospect to move on to Washington as part of President Donald Trump‘s team.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons