Staff Reports - 4/43 - SaintPetersBlog

Staff Reports

DEO “Cissysplains” economic incentives to Richard Corcoran

Gov. Rick Scott has now sicced the Department of Economic Opportunity, headed by executive director Cissy Proctor, on the Florida House to take down its critique of economic incentives.

A news release, issued late Tuesday, continues the cold war of words between the governor, an ardent supporter of incentives, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who has called them “corporate welfare.”

The department’s response is reprinted below, unedited and in its entirety:

Today, the Florida House of Representatives used data maintained by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) that was unfortunately used to inaccurately describe the result of the state’s economic incentive programs. DEO would like to take this opportunity to accurately explain the data and how the incentive programs work to create valuable Florida jobs while aggressively protecting taxpayer dollars.

DEO Director Cissy Proctor said, “Before Governor Scott came into office, state incentives were often awarded before stringent requirements were met. However, under Governor Scott, Florida companies receive economic incentives after these requirements are met, including proven job growth and wage requirements.  Only contractual commitments that are met are paid.  This ensures a return on investment for Florida families.”

CLAIM

64.3 percent of the economic incentives listed below were unsuccessful because: 

•They only completed a portion of their requirements for which they were paid and can receive no more payments (inactive) 14.2%

•They never received any payments though a contract was executed and are ineligible for future payments (terminated) 36.9%

•The contract was never signed (vacated) 11.9%

•The application was withdrawn 1.2%

FACT

It is inaccurate to say that all inactive, terminated, vacated and withdrawn projects are not successful. While inactive projects met some performance measures, businesses were only rewarded for the jobs they created. This means the program is working. Only contractual commitments that are met are paid.

For example, if a company moves to Florida and commits to creating 100 jobs over five years but ultimately only creates 75 jobs over four years, the company only receives payments for the 75 jobs created; not for the full 100. Are those 75 jobs a failure? No. Are the 75 Floridians who found a new opportunity to provide for their family or achieve their dreams evidence of a failed project? No.

Job creation should never be viewed as a failure. This process shows the reforms that Governor Scott put in place are working to protect taxpayer dollars while encouraging job growth.

Furthermore, terminated, vacated and withdrawn projects NEVER received taxpayer funds. This shows that the Governor’s strict accountability measures are working to safeguard taxpayer dollars. This is part of the due diligence process that was reformed under Governor Scott’s leadership.

CLAIM

Less than 10% of approved incentives were completed having met all its contractual obligations with the state.

FACT

Many state incentive projects resulted in the creation of new jobs, capital investment, or higher wages in companies across the state. These job creation deals are multi-year projects with multiple different types and sizes of businesses across various industries. A multitude of factors can result in a company changing its business model, which is why Governor Scott’s reforms included strict performance-based contracts for each year of the agreements. In the years that the companies meet their contract goals, jobs are created for Florida families and investments are made in Florida communities. These new opportunities and investments are a success for the state. Again, if jobs are not created, no taxpayer dollars are spent.

CLAIM
A trend worth noting for many of the incentive programs is the common practice of either providing a one or more year extension for the various businesses receiving incentives to meet performance criteria with no award penalty, or simply amending contracts to change performance criteria.

FACT

When companies enter into agreements with the State of Florida, they are projecting performance up to a decade in advance. When initiating their projects, companies may experience delays related to local permitting, construction, renovation, federal contracts, and relocating their business. While some extensions may be provided after a thorough and strict review process, state money is not given out until full job creation, wages and capital investment from the contract are made.

CLAIM

6 out of 10 approved incentives do not result in successful projects

FACT

While inactive projects met some performance measures, they were only paid for the investments that were made. Furthermore, job creation is never a failure. Terminated, vacated and withdrawn projects NEVER received taxpayer funds.

CLAIM
3 (“Active”) of the remaining 4 that could potentially be successful could still end in a status of “Termination” or “Inactive”

FACT

All incentive projects are held accountable for the life of the project and taxpayer dollars are not spent until strict performance measures are met.

CLAIM
12% of approved incentives never execute a contract with the state

FACT

In these cases, companies seeking incentives meet with the state to discuss their business growth plans. During the due diligence process that was reformed under Gov. Scott’s leadership, the state works with the company regarding the strict requirements of the incentive program. At this point, a company may decide not to pursue an agreement. Again, in this case, no taxpayer money is ever spent. This shows that the program is working.

CLAIM
Since 1994 a total of 186 (9.6%) of approved incentives have resulted in a project that completed its contract with the state

FACT

While inactive projects met some performance measures, they were only paid for the investments that were made. Furthermore, job creation is never a failure. Terminated, vacated and withdrawn projects NEVER received taxpayer funds.

CLAIM
No statistics are currently available for the 9.6% to determine how many, if any, were sanctioned during contract performance for failure to meet their full performance requirements

FACT

All performance-based contracts have sanctions and clawbacks in the event that a company is unable to meet a requirement. This is part of the reforms of the incentive process done by Governor Scott, and the state will continue to aggressively pursue efforts to hold companies accountable in order to safeguard taxpayers’ dollars.

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Arthenia Joyner “truly honored” to be on Constitution Revision Commission

Following her appointment to a constitutional review panel, former state Sen. Arthenia Joyner said she was “truly honored and deeply grateful for the trust Chief Justice (Jorge) Labarga has placed in me.”

On Monday, Labarga announced the Tampa Democrat as one of his three picks for the Constitution Revision Commission. The other two are former Florida Bar president Hank Coxe of Jacksonville and former federal prosecutor Roberto Martinez of Miami.

“The fight for equal justice and equal standing has been at the forefront of everything I’ve done and worked for throughout my entire life,” Joyner said in a statement later Monday. The former Senate Democratic Leader was arrested while picketing outside the whites-only Florida Theater in Tallahassee as a then-college student at Florida A&M University

“The compact between the people and our government is sacred, and meant to grow to embrace the changes our society demands,” she said. “But it can never lose the basic fundamentals on which our nation and our state were founded, and it can never waiver from defending those rights when confronted by powerful opposition.

“As we see in real time today, the checks and balances encased in both our federal and state constitutions continue to be the lone guardian when rights are threatened or limits to power are trampled,” added Joyner, an attorney. “I am proud to be part of the CRC as we work to maintain that integrity.”

The commission meets every 20 years to review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document. It has convened twice before, in 1977-78 and 1997-98, but this will be the first to be selected by a majority of Republicans, virtually ensuring it will propose more conservative changes to the state’s governing document than previous panels.

Any changes proposed, however, would be in the form of constitutional amendments, which would have to be approved by 60 percent of voters on a statewide ballot.

As governor, Rick Scott will choose 15 of the 37 commissioners, and he also selects its chairperson. Republican Pam Bondi is automatically a member as Attorney General. Representatives for Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who each get nine selections, have not said when the leaders will announce their decisions.

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Latest findings released in St. Petersburg pelican deaths

After initial testing in and around a retention pond known as Riviera Bay Lake, independent biologists from Arcadis have discovered a potential cause.

“There’s a significant nutrient impact on this stormwater lake,” said Interim Water Resources Director John Palenchar, “A lot of nitrogen was seen in the analytical results that came back from this lake.”

Arcadis biologists say potential sources of the increased nitrogen could be from runoff containing fertilizers which create the neighborhood’s landscaping up to the lake shore, as well animal waste.

They also point to a cold-weather snap that occurred the first week of January, which produced an inversion event. Inversion events occur when the surface water temperature drops dramatically and is replaced with a bottom layer of water, containing lower levels of oxygen.

That led to a substantial fish kill in the lake – primarily of tilapia.

Tilapia are mainly freshwater fish, known for an inability to survive in cooler waters, and inhabit shallow streams, ponds, rivers and lakes and less commonly found living in brackish water -and are a food source of pelicans.

“It was very likely some sort of pathogen within the freshwater fish that may have caused this,” said Palenchar.

While studies continue to further pinpoint the problem, including tests on samples obtained along Coffee Pot Bayou, Palenchar is confident that Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission-initiated necropsies and future Arcadis findings will help chart a course of action to remedy the situation, including aerating dissolved oxygen in the lake.

“Being able to put in a fountain or a pump could actually alleviate that,” he said.  “We are asking Arcadis to look at any best management practices or improvements that can be done to improve water quality.”

The latest findings from Arcadis are available at stpete.org/water/waterquality.php.

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Vern Buchanan says citrus greening aid finally bearing fruit

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan

Congressman Vern Buchanan announced Monday federal money for citrus greening has been awarded to researchers working to find a cure for the devastating disease.

In the most recent round of funding, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded $13.6 million to citrus greening research projects.

The funding was made possible by a USDA program the Sarasota Republican fought to include in the 2014 farm bill, called the Citrus Disease Research and Extension Program.

“Finding a cure for this destructive disease is vital to maintaining a strong economy and protecting jobs here in southwest Florida,” Buchanan said.

In 2014, Buchanan led bipartisan efforts in Congress to secure an unprecedented $125 million to combat citrus greening as part of the five-year farm bill that President Obama later signed into law. The legislation also authorized the disbursement of up to $125 million in discretionary funding over five years to combat this disease.

“This research funding will help protect the livelihoods of the 62,000 hardworking Floridians in the citrus industry,” Buchanan said. “Our country’s top researchers are moving closer to finding a cure for this disease.”

Since arriving in Florida nearly a decade ago, citrus greening spread to all 32 citrus-growing counties across the state within just two years. The bacterial disease infects and later kills trees that produce green, misshapen and bitter fruit. There is no known cure.

Experts projected a 26 percent decline in Florida’s signature orange crop for the 2016-2017 season – the worst in over 50 years.

Citrus greening has caused more than $4 billion in economic damage while eliminating 8,000 jobs, according to a study done four years ago by the University of Florida. Florida Citrus Mutual, a citrus trade association, estimates that those numbers have doubled in the past four years.

Speaking previously on the funding secured in the farm bill, Michael Sparks, chief executive officer of Florida Citrus Mutual, called this critical funding “a wise investment in one of Florida’s signature industries.”

Also called “yellow dragon disease,” citrus greening has begun to march across the country, and has been found in California, Louisiana, South Carolina and Georgia.

Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $400 million to address citrus greening, including more than $57 million through the Citrus Disease Research and Extension Program.

The most recent round of citrus greening grant research awardees includes:

– Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina – $4.2 million to study citrus greening resistant plants.

– Regents of the University of California, Riverside, California – $5.1 million to develop a cure for citrus greening.

– Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa – $2.4 million to study toxins that attack citrus greening.

– USDA Agricultural Research Service, Athens, Georgia – $1.8 million to study chemotherapy for citrus greening.

Buchanan has fought citrus greening on multiple fronts during his time in Congress. He is the author of the Emergency Citrus Disease Response Act, bipartisan legislation that makes it less costly for Florida orange growers to replace trees damaged by citrus greening.

Specifically, Buchanan’s bill provides tax incentives for farmers who cannot afford to replace trees affected by citrus greening. Under current law, growers are allowed an immediate deduction for the cost of replanting diseased trees, but the farmer must bear the full cost.

The bill passed the House in 2016, but did not pass the Senate before Congress adjourned.

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February poised to be busy month for fundraising for lawmakers seeking re-election

February will be a busy month for state lawmakers hoping to raise a few bucks for their next campaign before the start of the 2017 Legislative Session.

Several candidates will be holding campaign fundraisers in Tallahassee during back-to-back-to-back committee weeks this month.

House Majority, the campaign arm of the Florida GOP, will host fundraisers for nine House Republicans, all of which are running for re-election, in the next few weeks.

On Feb. 15, there is a fundraiser for Reps. Heather FitzenhagenMaryLynn MagarKathleen Peters, and Holly Raschein. The event is scheduled to kick off at 5 p.m. in the Library Room at The Governor’s Club, 202. S. Adams Street.

Five days later on Feb. 20, the House Majority is hosting a fundraiser for Rep. Paul Renner and Rep. Cyndi Stevenson in the Library Room of the Governor’s Club.

Both events are hosted by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Rep. Jose Oliva, and Rep. Chris Sprowls.

On Feb. 21, a fundraising reception is scheduled for 5 p.m. at The Beer Industry of Florida, 110 S. Monroe Street, for Raschein and Reps. Travis Cummings, Frank White, and Jayer Williamson. That event is hosted by Corcoran, Olivia, Sprowls, Rep. Matt Caldwell and the Beer Industry of Florida.

House members won’t be the only ones using their time in Tallahassee to raise some dough. Sen. Dana Young is scheduled to hold a fundraiser for her re-election campaign on Feb. 13.

That fundraiser is scheduled for 5 p.m. at Florida Finance Strategies, 111-B East College Avenue. The reception is hosted by Senate President Joe Negron, Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, Sen. Rob Bradley, Sen. Anitere Flores, Sen. Bill Galvano, Sen. Jack Latvala, and Majority Leader Wilton Simpson.

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Florida Panthers owner withdraws as Trump’s Army secretary nominee

President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Army abruptly withdrew his name from consideration late Friday night, citing his inability to get around strict Defense Department rules concerning his family businesses.

Vincent Viola, founder of digital stock trading firm Virtu Financial and owner of the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers, had been working through the confirmation process to become Army Secretary since mid-December.

In a statement, Viola said he was “deeply honored” to be nominated for the post, but concluded that he would not be able to successfully navigate the confirmation process.

“I appreciate the confidence President Trump showed in me,” he said. “I offer my continued support for President Trump and his administration, and look forward to redoubling my efforts to support the Army and its veterans as private citizens.”

Sources familiar said Viola had been looking for ways to divest from his businesses — including ownership of the hockey team — to take the top civilian Army post.

He had planned to transfer ownership to other family members but turn over operations responsibilities to the team’s vice chairman, but that arrangement did not meet Pentagon requirements, according to sources.

The surprise announcement leaves another hole in Trump’s Pentagon leadership team. While Defense Secretary James Mattis was confirmed by the Senate just hours after Trump was inaugurated, dozens of other key civilian military posts remain vacant or manned by temporary appointees.

Trump has nominated Heather Wilson to take over as Air Force Secretary and Philip Bilden to become Navy Secretary, but confirmation hearings have not been announced for either role.

Currently, Robert Speer is serving as acting Army secretary, a step up from his previous post as assistant secretary for financial management at the service.

The Army has only had a full-time secretary for a few months over the last two years. Army Secretary Eric Fanning was nominated to replace John McHugh in late 2015, but did not officially take over the job until May because of a lengthy confirmation fight with Congress. Deputy Army Secretary Patrick Murphy served in an acting role for more than four months.

Now it appears that Speer may serve a similar lengthy stint. Even if administration officials name a replace for Viola quickly, the confirmation process for many of Trump’s nominees has moved slowly through the Senate.

Viola is a 1977 West Point graduate who rose to the rank of major in the Army Reserve. The 60-year-old businessman is a former chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange and was serving in that role during the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.

He helped found the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, a privately funded research wing of the school focused on “counterterrorism policy and strategy” and “ways to confront the dynamic threat environment” facing America today.

He has also been a donor to numerous Army charities and support networks, including the Army Cyber Institute, the Modern War Institute and Army athletic programs.

Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times.

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Raulerson, Dan

Hillsborough’s Dan Raulerson aims for 2018

State Rep. Dan Raulerson has decided on another term in the Florida House of Representatives.

The state’s Division of Elections website shows Raulerson, a Plant City Republican, filed Thursday to run again for his House District 58 seat.

If re-elected, it will be Raulerson’s last consecutive term as a state representative: First elected in 2012, he is term limited in 2020.

He served as Deputy Majority Whip in 2012-14 and 2014-16.

Raulerson, a CPA by trade, has been away from the Capitol while he deals with back issues, leading to recent speculation he was stepping down from office.

Untrue, he said in December: “It’s third grade playground stuff, and you can quote me on that.”

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Larry Ahern files bill helping to reduce flood insurance premiums

Larry Ahern

Seminole Republican Larry Ahern is looking to help flood insurance policyholders with a plan to reduce insurance premiums.

On Thursday, Ahern filed HB 613, which instructs the Division of Emergency Management to set up a matching grant program for up to $50,000,000 annually to local governments for technical and financial assistance in implementing policies to reduce risks of flood hazards. The bill also requires the DEM to develop a ranking system for applications, with specific criteria for prioritizing those applications.

The measure also authorizes the Florida Communities Trust to “acquire and dispose of both real and personal property” necessary to reduce flood hazards.

“Continuing to find ways to reduce flood insurance premiums at the statewide level for residents of Florida is imperative,” Ahern said.

St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes has already filed the Senate companion bill (SB 112)

If passed, the bill could be effective July 1, 2017.

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Personnel note: Christopher Moody named Hillsborough County Chief Assistant State Attorney

Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren selected prosecutor Christopher Moody to serve as the new Chief Assistant State Attorney.

As Chief Assistant, Moody will supervise the 135 Assistant State Attorneys who prosecute cases on behalf of the Office.  In addition, he will be responsible for executing the State Attorney’s policy initiatives, overseeing the daily operations of the prosecutorial staff, and training and evaluating the Assistant State Attorneys.

Moody, a former U.S. Marine Corps veteran and high school teacher, is being promoted from his current position as the Office’s Felony Bureau Chief. He has extensive prosecutorial and leadership experience, having served previously in the Homicide Division and as the Chief of the Sexual Offense and Juvenile Divisions, among other positions during his over 21 years with the Office.

Moody received his law and undergraduate degrees from the University of Florida.

Warren said: “Chris is an accomplished prosecutor and dedicated leader who is highly-regarded by our attorneys, judges, law enforcement agencies and the community. He is an invaluable asset to this Office and will be instrumental in fulfilling my vision of making our community safer while ensuring justice and fairness for everyone in Hillsborough.”

Moody said: “I am honored to continue serving our community in this new role, and I’m excited to work with Mr. Warren as we fight on behalf of the citizens of Hillsborough County.”

Moody joins Gary Weisman, Chief of Staff and Rena Frazier, Chief of Policy & Communication, to complete Warren’s executive team.

Warren was sworn-in as the State Attorney for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit of Florida, serving Hillsborough County, on Jan. 3, 2017, after being elected in November. He was previously a federal prosecutor with the United States Department of Justice in Tampa and Washington, DC, and earned multiple accolades from the Justice Department and federal law enforcement agencies for his prosecution of complex white collar crime, including the 2013 Attorney General Award for Trial Litigation.

A native of Gainesville, Warren graduated from Brandeis University as a double-major in economics and political science before earning his J.D. from Columbia University Law School.

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Rick Scott, state Cabinet OK Ryan Matthews as interim DEP secretary

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet on Wednesday formally approved Ryan Matthews as interim Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection.

Matthews will serve until Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam decide on a permanent replacement for outgoing Secretary Jon Steverson.

Until then, Matthews will be paid Steverson’s salary of $150,000. The panel deliberated via conference call, though Matthews was at the podium of the Capitol’s lower-level Cabinet meeting room.

Bondi said she was “impressed” with Matthews, adding “he cares deeply about our environment.”

Matthews, named deputy secretary last year, had been in charge of the department’s air, water, and waste pollution programs and for overseeing the agency’s regulatory districts.

The governor and Cabinet also decided to advertise the secretary opening until April 28, with an aim to agree on a full-time hire during the May 23 Cabinet meeting.

Steverson last month announced his resignation to join the legal-lobbying firm of Foley & Lardner.

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