Andy Gardiner Archives - Page 2 of 22 - SaintPetersBlog

Andy Gardiner touts Center for Students with Unique Abilities at education summit

The push to make sure Florida graduates can enter the workforce shouldn’t stop when it comes to students with intellectual disabilities.

That was the message Senate President Andy Gardiner sent during a speech at the Degrees to Jobs Education Summit on Wednesday afternoon. Gardiner used his speech to highlight the work the Legislature has done to make sure all Floridians receive a good education.

The Orlando Republican also encouraged business and higher education officials to continue to work to make sure people with unique abilities have access to higher education opportunities and workforce training.

“As you spend your time talking about degrees and what we want to have, I hope … you won’t forget about this population,” said Gardiner. “There are families all over this state, kids who want to be part of this system.”

The state is already taking steps to make sure that students who want to be part of the system can be. Lawmakers earlier this year approved legislation to create a program at the University of Central Florida to help students with intellectual disabilities get into college and other post-secondary schools.

The program, dubbed the Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities, would act as a clearinghouse to approve programs at other universities and colleges. It will also serve as a resource for students and parents to learn about programs.

Gardiner said officials from other states had already been in contact with the University of Central Florida to find out more about the program.

“We’ve been a real leader in this area,” said Gardiner.

Gardiner is one of several speakers who have taken the stage during the education summit. Gov. Rick Scott kicked off the event earlier in the day, and is scheduled to speak later Wednesday. He’s widely expected to roll out higher education initiatives aimed at helping students get out of college sooner.

The two-day event has been billed as a chance for the business community and higher education officials to make connections to ensure graduates are prepared for the workforce. While Scott is hosting the event, it is being sponsored by several outside organizations, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida College Foundation, and Universal Orlando.

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Rick Scott kicks off 2016 Degrees to Jobs Summit

Calling it an opportunity to connect businesses and university leaders, Gov. Rick Scott kicked off his 2016 Degrees to Jobs Summit in Orlando on Wednesday morning.

The goal, Scott told a room of about 350 university, college and business leaders, is to “challenge everything we’re doing.”

“This is going to be a fun two days,” he said.

The two-day summit aims to connect Florida’s business leaders with university and college officials about how to best prepare students for the workforce. The line-up includes panel discussions on college affordability personnel management and personnel management; and presentations by Senate President Andy Gardiner, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and a panel of football coaches from across the state.

Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity, kicked off the day, laying out the state of Florida’s workforce. Proctor, who has been on the job since the beginning of the year, said the summit is an opportunity to build relationships to make sure the lessons learned at the summit will “turn into something real, into something tangible.”

“Take this as a call to action, to do something today, right here, right now,” she said. “Take an active role, take advantage of a unique opportunity.”

Since 2010, Proctor said the private sector has created more than 1.1 million jobs. The employment rate, she said, has dropped considerably and is now at an eight-year low. Those milestones mean Florida could be a hotspot for graduates to enter the workforce.

“We want Florida to be the best state in the nation for university and college graduates to get a job, because we know the first step for individuals and a family is a great education,” she said.

Proctor urged the business community to use this summit as a chance to connect with universities and colleges to create new opportunities for Florida students. She said whether it is through internships or full-time jobs, the state wants Florida companies “to hire Florida graduates.”

“Take the time to make a connection,” she said. “We want to make sure your company, and graduates, are ready for tomorrow.”

Scott spoke for about 5 minutes Wednesday morning, setting the stage for the next two days. The Naples Republican is scheduled to speak later in the afternoon. The Associated Press reported that Scott will call for several changes designed to help students get out of school sooner.

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Andy Gardiner, Lars Houmann, call for more health care access, but not Medicaid

At an industry-sponsored summit in Orlando Tuesday, outgoing Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner and the leader of one of Florida’s biggest hospital system both called for urgent help in providing more access to health care.

But not through Medicaid.

Gardiner, an Orlando Republican, and Lars Houmann, president of the Florida Division of Adventist Health System, told the Florida Health Care Affordability Summit that the great challenge is opening up health care to uninsured and low-income residents of Florida.

“I would encourage you to also talk about access, and access for all individuals,” Gardiner told the forum, organized by the Associated Industries of Florida.

They both said Florida has another chance, and should take it, to negotiate with the federal government for a waiver from the federal Medicaid program that might allow the Sunshine State to take federal Medicaid expansion money but use it for alternative programs to Medicaid.

For the past three years, the federal government has been trying to encourage states to accept money to expand Medicaid programs to provide coverage for people too poor to buy Obamacare insurance, but who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. In Florida’s case, that’s about $50 billion over ten years. Gardiner’s Senate has twice crafted deals to negotiate waivers with the federal government for Florida-driven programs, but the Florida House has refused.

“If the desire in the state of Florida is not necessarily to look at free-market options, that is a debate for another day, I would encourage you to talk about models like the money we put into free and charitable clinics,” Gardiner said.

Houmann also urged expansion of access to uninsured and laid out economic slides showing what they cost hospitals and Florida.

He also stressed that at Adventist Health, which runs the Florida Hospital systems in Orlando and Tampa Bay, the strategic thinking is turning toward keeping people healthy — keeping them out of hospitals.

Yet he argued that Medicaid is just a bad program for both patients, doctors and hospitals, and should not be expanded, but replaced with something that works better. Medicaid, he argued, comes with too many strings and too little money to be a good business for doctors or hospitals, and patients are punished because few doctors accept it, and their services suffer from overload.

“Yes, it is an entitlement program. Yes, it does take care of a larger part of our population,” he said. “But frankly, I could not put my heart into term ‘expand Medicaid.’

“I could put my heart into bringing the money that the Affordable Care Act made available for Florida for expanding coverage,” he added. “Frankly, this is a political lecture; we did have an opportunity to bring a deal to Washington … to restructure our program. But we couldn’t get that done.”

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Senate mural will be saved, but removed from Capitol

It’s official: The nearly 40-year-old mural outside the Florida Senate chambers will be taken down.

In a letter, Senate President Andy Gardiner said the mural will be preserved, however, for viewing elsewhere. It’ll be stored till then.

The letter was sent last Tuesday to Jeff Howell, the Republican Party of Florida treasurer. Howell, a Tallahassee attorney, leads an informal volunteer campaign to save the artwork.

The 10-foot-by-16 foot “Five Flags Mural” greeted visitors to the Senate’s 5th floor viewing galleries. The mural’s removal comes as the chamber is undergoing an almost-$5 million renovation, the first since the Capitol opened in 1978.

The work also happens to depict a Confederate general and flag. The Senate previously voted to remove that symbol from its official seal and insignia.

The name of the mural refers to the five flags that have flown over the state: U.S., Confederate, Spanish, French, and British.

Gardiner told Howell the painting is “beginning to show signs of age that must be addressed if the mural is to be preserved.” Specifically, parts of the works are fading and peeling.

The current contractor will “remove the mural and wall and to relocate these pieces to the Senate archives maintained by the Historic Capitol,” Gardiner said.

“Once removed, the Senate may elect to turn over ownership of the mural to a private entity for preservation,” but that would have to be paid for with private funds, he added.

The Senate got two estimates, one at $60,000, the other for $21,000-25,000.

Howell was in a trial and unavailable for comment. A phone number for the mural’s artist, Renee Faure of Jacksonville, was disconnected as of Monday.

Faure previously said she found it “quite hard to believe that this defacement of artwork is being considered,” referring to its removal.

Her daughter, Dreanna Bane, told FloridaPolitics.com that Faure had spent months, first in preparation and then in painting, on the work: “She had to do a lot of research” on all the historical figures depicted, Bane said. “It was a labor of love.”

Renovations are planned to be done by the Reorganization Session held after every election.

The new look includes a new ceiling dome and other design elements similar to the exterior of the Old Capitol. Among those is a pediment on top of columns over the president’s rostrum with the words “In God We Trust.”

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Jeff Brandes say his next focus will be on reforming Florida prison system

A mentally ill inmate who was in protective custody was found dead at the Columbia Correctional Institution on Tuesday, a day after a corrections officer was hospitalized in an attack.

It’s yet another black mark on a prison system that many say is overcrowded and underfunded, though Department of Corrections insist those issued had nothing to do with the attack.

The Florida Legislature opted not to give the Department of Corrections the 734 additional positions that the agency said were necessary to make Florida’s prisons more secure during the just concluded legislative session. The new jobs were part of an effort by the department to have corrections officers work eight-hour shifts instead of 12-hour shifts. The department has been reeling from a series of reports about issues such as contraband smuggling and abuse of inmates.

St. Petersburg state Senator Jeff Brandes  says it’s time for a change in how the Legislature deals – or hasn’t dealt – with this issue, and he vows to put his energies into taking a fresh look at the problem.

“We have a prison system with 100,000 prisoners in it,” he told the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon with the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation at Maestro’s restaurant in Tampa on Friday.”We have a prison system that, if you go in today as a guard, you are likely not be employed there within a year,” he said, referring to statistics that say that one-quarter of all prison guards in the state don’t last a year, and nearly a third leave within two years. And he mentioned how guards only start out making $30,000 annually, and often are recruited to work in local sheriff departments at considerably higher pay, sometimes with signing bonuses attached.

“We have a problem with our prison system in crisis. Our prisoners are in crisis,” he said solemnly, adding that it was crucial for lawmakers and citizens to think about “separating those who we’re scared of, from those we’re mad at.”

Other issues that came up during the forum was the fact that Governor Rick Scott’s top legislative priority of the year –  a proposal to have the Legislature fund $250 million in economic incentive cash – did not get passed this year.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee from Brandon said he supported the proposal, but said that too many other Republican lawmakers saw it as a form of choosing winners and losers, and could not get behind it.

Lee said that plan, as well as the governor’s call for a $1 billion tax cut, became less realistic once revenue estimates in January revealed that there was $400 million reduction in general revenues from what was previously estimated. Added on was the state’s loss of funds the Low Income Pool, or LIP, a joint state-federal program that helps some hospitals and clinics pay for treating uninsured and underinsured patients.

“Unless we come up with another way to draw down federal money, hospitals in the state of Florida are going to continue to be on their own, and we’re going to continue to have to invest GR (general revenue) money,” the Brandon Republican said, adding that another potential source of money faded with the inability to get a gaming compact signed this year.

“Frankly, we just didn’t have a billion dollars,” he said.

Tampa GOP Representative Dana Young, who is now running for a newly created state Senate seat in Hillsborough County, once again expressed disdain at a certain unnamed Senator in the Legislature who she said singlehandedly thwarted a bill that would have provided a regulatory framework for ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft.

“It passed the House unanimously, so I just want you to know, it wasn’t ‘the Legislature,’ it wasn’t us not doing our jobs, it was a procedural issue and that is something that could have saved a lot of trouble here in Hillsborough County, a lot of drivers getting tickets, and I just wanted you to know the rest of the story.”

During the session, Uber specifically put the onus on Senate President Andy Gardiner for the bill’s lack of progress in the senate.

And Tampa Representative Janet Cruz made a pitch for more funding for community colleges, generating cheers from the business community. “This is your work force,” she said, specifically alluding to Hillsborough Community College, which did receive $65 million from the Legislature. “These are the people who live in Tampa, and stay in Tampa that will go from HCC to USF and stay at home and help their families. So that’s an area where we can do better.”

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At Tiger Bay, Andy Gardiner says he expects Democrats to make some gains in 2016 elections

Outgoing Senate President Andy Gardiner conceded Thursday that the presidential election, the possible “Trump effect” and other issues likely will lead to Democrats making gains in the Florida Legislature elections this fall.

Gardiner, an Orlando Republican, told the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida that he is confident the GOP will retain its majority in the Senate but that this year voters appear to be looking at experience as a liability.

“I certainly don’t see the Florida Senate flipping Democratic, but I do think there are some seats they are going to pick up here in Central Florida, potentially, and some seats they will pick up,” Gardiner said. “What that number is, I don’t know.”

Gardiner, Orlando Democratic state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, Orlando Republican state Rep. Mike Miller and Orlando Democratic state Rep. Randolph Bracy all gave their views Thursday on what they all agreed was a far more productive and far less combative Florida Legislative Session in 2016 than the one last year.

But Gardiner and Thompson, who are leaving the Senate, also looked ahead.

The two were responding to a question about whether the “Trump effect” – a wave of anti-establishment voters following Donald Trump – would affect the Florida elections. Gardiner said he expects experience to potentially be a liability for candidates this year, but also said any presidential year could be tough, though he noted plenty of Republicans won in districts carried by President Barack Obama in 2012.

“I think it’s not just the ‘Trump effect,'” said Thompson, who is running for Congress rather than for re-election. “I think it’s also Fair Districts, and the redistricting now that makes competitive seats out of what had for a long time not been competitive. There are projections in the Florida Senate the Democrats could pick up four additional seats.”

She cautioned that money will favor Republicans and could play a big role.

But she added, “I think there are possibilities, and I think Fair Districts is the reason for that.”

The comments came in a wide-ranging discussion. The quartet expressed mostly satisfaction for results of the past Session, and assessments of what passed, what died, and what likely would come back next year.

Gardiner predicted that the Seminole Tribe’s gambling compact blackjack provision would be back next year. He expressed frustration that this year the deal Gov. Rick Scott‘s administration had negotiated with the Seminoles got weighed down with issues of tax reductions for parimutuel outfits, notably race tracks.

He thought there might be a good chance that Florida could take up Medicaid expansion again next year, seeking a federal block grant to fund a plan similar to the one he championed in the Florida Senate in 2016.

He said he expected the guns on campus and open-carry proposals to return, though he did not sound disappointed that they died this year when Republican Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla decided he would not hear them in the Senate Judiciary Committee he chaired.

“What I tried to do with my chairs is, I empowered them to make decisions. And when it came to guns on campus and open carry, my chairman, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla out of Miami, had a different view on it,” Gardiner said. “I wouldn’t have been criticized if I said, ‘Miguel you have to hear that bill.’ But that’s not how ran the Senate.”

He was less enthusiastic about the prospects of a bill to incentivize the movie industry to film in Florida, an initiative that Miller championed. He and Miller both agreed that financial incentives are out of favor in the Florida House.

“I do give Representative Miller a lot of credit on that. He fought the good fight, and unfortunately we’re just heading in a different direction right now,” Gardiner said.

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Still no decision on Florida Senate’s ‘Five Flags Mural’

With work well underway on renovations of the Florida Senate chamber, there’s still no word on the fate of the decades-old mural that greets visitors to the chamber’s fifth floor public gallery.

Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta said Tuesday no final decision has been made about the artwork’s future. This past October, Betta said the mural will be taken down because it’s showing signs of age, including fading and peeling.

The “Five Flags Mural” also happens to depict a Confederate flag, which the Senate previously voted to remove from its official seal and insignia. Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner of Tampa had explained that the flag is a “painful symbol of oppression.”

The name of the mural refers to the five flags that have flown over the state: U.S., Confederate, Spanish, French, and British.

The flag is over the shoulder of Gen. Joseph Finnegan, commander of the Confederate forces at the February 1864 Battle of Olustee in north Florida, the largest Civil War battle fought in the state.

It’s not yet clear whether the 10-foot-by-16 foot painting can be relocated, though Senate President Andy Gardiner is committed to preserving it, Betta said.

“Our construction managers have been seeking input from art preservation specialists to determine the best way of removing the mural,” she said. It’s been in place since the Capitol opened its doors in 1978.

It’s still “unclear if we will be able to remove the mural from the wall, or if the wall will need to be removed in pieces with the mural still attached,” Betta added.

Tallahassee attorney Jeff Howell, who led an informal drive to save the mural, had written to Gardiner last year that the work should be “preserved and moved to a place where it can continue to be viewed by Floridians.”

On Tuesday, Howell said he never received a response. “When we have more information regarding (the mural) component of the project, the Senate will reach out to those who have expressed interest” in it, Betta said.

Senate President Pro Tem Garrett Richter, the Naples Republican who leads the Senate’s Chamber Renovations Working Group, couldn’t be immediately reached by telephone.

The mural’s artist, Renee Faure, also could not be reached Tuesday morning. She previously told FloridaPolitics.com she found it “quite hard to believe that this defacement of artwork is being considered,” referring to its removal.

The Senate now is redoing its chamber, which has not been renovated since the building’s construction in the 1970s.

The nearly $5 million renovation, expected to be complete before the end of the year, includes a new ceiling dome and other design elements similar to the exterior of the Old Capitol, such as a pediment on top of columns over the president’s rostrum with the words “In God We Trust.”

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House, Senate Republicans to hold fundraiser at Universal Orlando

How do you celebrate the end of a Legislative Session?

If you’re Florida House and Senate Republicans, you do it with a fundraiser at Universal Orlando.

Republican leaders will hold a fundraiser at Universal Orlando on April 9 and 10. The event, first reported by POLITICO Florida reporter Matt Dixon, will benefit the House and Senate Majority Committees, which oversee legislative campaigns.

Among those listed as headliners is Rep. Chris Sprowls, the Pinellas County Republican who may be the House Speaker beginning in 2021.

Last week, Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, an Orlando Republican, conceded the 2021 House Speaker race to Sprowls. The move came after state Reps. Paul Renner and Mike Miller said they would support Sprowls. Several other of his colleagues tweeted their support for Sprowls after Renner and Miller flipped.

Sprowls is one of seven House and Senate Republican leaders headlining the event.

Speaker Steve Crisafulli, Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran and future Speaker Jose Oliva will represent the House leadership team, while Senate President Andy Gardiner, Speaker Designate Joe Negron, and Majority Leader Bill Galvano will represent the Senate leadership team.

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Property Casualty Insurers “disappointed” by failure to pass ride-sharing regulation

The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America said it was disappointed lawmakers capped off the 2016 Legislative Session without passing insurance regulations for Uber and Lyft drivers.

“Twenty-nine other states have passed legislation addressing insurance coverage requirements for TNCs, and it is past time for Florida to do the same,” the group said in a Friday email. “PCI will continue to work with lawmakers on a solution for 2017 so that this is the last year rideshare drivers and passengers operate without the necessary protections in place.”

PCI’s sentiment echoes that of the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida, which also issued a statement Friday lamenting the failure of SB 1118 and HB 509 this session.

Both bills cleared their committee stops, and HB 509 even passed through the full House by a 108-to-10 vote, though neither bill was heard on the Senate floor.

The trade group, comprised of nearly 1,000 member companies, said that “drivers and their passengers need to know their personal auto policy will not cover them if they are injured or if the vehicle is damaged in an accident.”

Still, PCI thanked Sen. David Simmons and Rep. Matt Gaetz, who sponsored the bills, as well as House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner, primarily seen as Uber and Lyft’s biggest opponent in the Legislature

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Uber legislation finally flames out

A compromise between Republican lawmakers and ride-hailing firms like Uber was on thin ice Friday afternoon as Session raced to a close, until finally, the bill hit a brick wall.

Sen. David Simmons, the Senate Rules Chair, had worked on the bill (SB 1118) for months. It would have mandated minimum commercial insurance requirements for drivers with Uber and similar app-based companies, known as “transportation network companies” in Capitol-ese.

The House — which favors a more Uber-friendly approach — passed its own bill (HB 509) last month that addressed insurance but also included a provision that is anathema in the Senate: Blocking local authorities, such as the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, from regulating the services and instead reserving that power to the state.

The two sides, with Uber at the wheel on behalf of the House, engaged in a heated and increasingly personal battle.

Simmons said he met “hours upon hours” with Uber, Lyft, and taxicab companies, insurers, and made “massive amounts of attempts” to come up with language that worked for all. It didn’t happen.

Uber made a last-ditch campaign urging the Senate to take up the House language via a bill sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes. They even went so far as to deliver a three-feet-high stack of some 32,000 petition signatures to the desk of Senate President Andy Gardiner on Thursday, but to no avail.

In the end, after Sine Die, neither Simmons’ nor Brandes’ bill passed the Senate.

Meanwhile, the state of Florida continues to operate on a patchwork basis with some local governments allowing so-called “ride-sharing” apps, and other prohibiting or limiting it.

The issue is practically guaranteed to come back in Tallahassee next year.

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