Andy Gardiner Archives - Page 6 of 23 - SaintPetersBlog

Florida GOP, Blaise Ingoglia get truce offer from Rick Scott one year after split

The Republican Party of Florida kicked off the 2016 election year with offers of truces from Gov. Rick Scott and incoming Florida Senate leaders though the party still will have less of the state’s Republican campaign money and political messaging under its control.

With unity being a critical theme in a presidential election year commonly carried by Democrats, an emissary for Scott and incoming Senate President Joe Negron both pledged just that Saturday at the party’s annual meeting in Orlando. The pledges come a year after a Scott and current Senate President Andy Gardiner effectively split with Florida GOP leadership, took back money they had contributed to the party, and set out to run fundraising, Republican campaigns and agenda messaging more independently of the party.

The rift occurred after state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia of Spring Hill got elected the new chairman of the RPOF in what had essentially been a grassroots coup last January, ousting Scott’s hand-picked party chief, Leslie Dougher. Ingoglia, calling for a party refocus on grassroots, then cleaned house of much of the RPOF staff under Dougher, infuriating Gardiner.

But now, about 10 months from the general election, everyone is insisting they want to be on the same page.

The money that Scott and Gardiner removed from RPOF coffers is not likely to come back; and Scott, the  Senate Republicans and others will continue to run their independent political committees to promote Republican campaigns and political agendas. But Saturday everyone vowed to be on the same page, and even help the RPOF with its fundraising.

“Governor Scott’s agenda is the party’s agenda, and the party’s agenda is the governor’s agenda,” Scott Hopes, a medical services executive who is a Scott designee to the party, told the RPOF general meeting.

And he offered more, an end to outright competition for Republican contributions. In the past year, Scott’s fundraising efforts have focused on his own Let’s Get To Work committee rather than the party.

“We are calling on all Republicans across the state to unify for the cause, including raising money for the party,” Hopes said. “Mr. Chairman, we look forward to helping you raise money for the party.”

Ingoglia accepted.

“We love the governor,” he told the meeting. “The governor is the head of the party, and, like Scott [Hopes] said, the governor’s agenda is our agenda, and our agenda is the governor’s agenda.”

Ingoglia insisted in his report to the party that it “has never been in a better position than we are in right now.”

But it has been a challenging year as the splits of the governor and Senate president accelerated what might have been an inevitable shift anyway, how the party itself can raise money and direct the Republican campaigning and messaging. Nationwide super PACs and other committees have been rising to compete with national and local parties for money and control of candidates’ campaigns and political messages.

Ingoglia insisted later that the party and the governor’s staff have never fallen out of communication. But he added, “Any involvement the governor has with the party, we welcome.”

Legal battle over state Senate districts coming to an end

A contentious battle over Florida state senate districts is coming to an end.

The Florida Senate is not going to appeal a redistricting ruling handed down in December. Circuit Judge George Reynolds in that decision signed off on a map drawn by a coalition of voting rights groups.

That decision means that Republicans could lose control of the state Senate. That’s because the map chosen by Reynolds is split nearly evenly between GOP and Democratic-leaning districts and will likely create four South Florida seats that could be won by Hispanic candidates.

Senate President Andy Gardiner decided to accept the ruling after discussing the ruling with attorneys and Sen. Bill Galvano. Galvano said he concluded that it would not be “prudent” to pursue an appeal.

Voting rights groups in 2012 sued over the existing Senate districts.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Legislature passes measure to aid disabled

In what Senate President Andy Gardiner called the last of a “trifecta” of first-week bills, a measure to help people with disabilities get jobs is heading to Gov. Rick Scott.

The Florida Senate unanimously approved the bill (HB 7003) on Friday.

Gardiner, an Orlando Republican, has a son with Down syndrome and has pushed several bills this year to help those with disabilities.

The final bill in the package is intended to encourage state agencies to hire disabled employees. It also establishes a financial literacy program for those with disabilities and recognizes businesses that advance the cause of employing the disabled.

“This has been a good week for the citizens of Florida,” Gardiner said, seemingly beaming from the dais. “We’re changing lives.”

On Thursday, the Legislature approved a bill that would expand a program providing scholarships up to $10,000 a year to families of children with autism, Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities.

It also passed a comprehensive water policy bill sought by House Speaker Steve Crisafulli.

• • •

Capitol correspondent Jim Rosica contributed to this post. Reprinted with permission of The Associated Press.

Big-name groups, leaders trumpet progress on legislative priorities

A major trio of political players at the Florida Capitol are happy with 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.

Cabinet members praise ‘taxpayer friendly’ policies during Florida TaxWatch State of the Taxpayer dinner

The defining debate of the 2016 Legislative session? Tax cuts.

That was Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s prediction Wednesday during Florida TaxWatch’s inaugural State of the Taxpayer Dinner. The event featured several state lawmakers, including Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

“If you think about the foundation of this organization and what this state has been through, you have every reason to be extraordinarily proud of your taxpayer friendly House, taxpayer friendly Senate and taxpayer friendly Cabinet and governor,” said Putnam.

Putnam said the “taxpayer friendly nature” of state government helped pull the state out of the recession. Now, he said the unemployment rate is barely over 5 percent; the crime rate is at a 44 year low, and discussions of tax cuts will likely be a driving factor of the 2016 session.

“The defining debate of this legislative session is likely to be how much of your tax money is going to be returned to you,” he said. “That’s an extraordinary accomplishment in what is the third largest state.”

The state, Atwater said, was able to cut taxes and reduce the debt during difficult times. That, he said, was part of a concerted effort to make sure there wasn’t a burden on future generations.

“After what we have been through … we have reduced our taxes on a per capita basis through that period of time and into this period of recovery more than any other state in the union,” said Atwater. “We didn’t extract more from the market place; we gave the market place more of what it needed, its own resources to create the next job, to invest in the new piece of equipment and keep us moving forward.”

Atwater said the choices of former lawmakers had “created conditions for success.”

Putnam said the state should now focus on sustainable growth through things like focusing on talent development and boosting reserves.

Senate President Andy Gardiner also spoke during the event, telling attendees the Senate was “absolutely committed to having very positive tax cuts.”

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.”

Senate passes education, water bills

The sausage-making began in earnest Wednesday morning, as the Florida Senate teed up nine bills for final approval and passed a sweeping $95 million educational policy bill and a water protection measure desired by House Speaker Steve Crisafulli.

The education bill (SB 672) was sponsored by GOP state Sen. Don Gaetz of Niceville, a former schools superintendent. Among other things, it expands scholarships for students with disabilities and awards public and charter schools $10 per K-8 student if they adopt a dress code or require school uniforms.

The dress-code provision generated the most questions, with Lake Worth Democrat Jeff Clemens even saying he was concerned about “shoving school uniforms down the throats” of constituents. He offered an amendment to delete that language, then withdrew it.

The bill then hit a snag when Gaetz, as a last-minute change, wanted to name the scholarships after Senate President Andy Gardiner. He politely rejected that notion, saying he promised to send the House a “clean bill.” But Crisafulli actually called the Senate, saying the idea was OK by him.

Finally, Gaetz asked for ceremonial co-sponsors from the floor and 38 other senators added their names, missing only state Sen. Denise Grimsley of Sebring, who had an excused absence.

In closing, Gaetz said there wouldn’t be lobbyists or protesters interested in the passage of his bill, “just thousands and thousands of Florida families who are waiting quietly, and prayerfully, to see what we will do today,” he said.

It then passed 39-0 and was sent to the House.

The water protection bill (SB 552) was sponsored by state Sen. Charlie Dean, an Inverness Republican.

According to the Associated Press, it “modifies dozens of areas of Florida law including controlling pollution and restoring natural water flows in springs and rivers; developing alternative water supplies; water-use permitting; and restoring flows and preventing pollution around Lake Okeechobee and the northern Everglades.”

The legislation easily survived several attempts at floor amendments to make it even tougher; environmentalists say it doesn’t go far enough to guard the state’s springs and surface water.

It was supported by the H2O Coalition, an offshoot of the Associated Industries of Florida business lobby, which called the bill “the best path forward for our people and our state.”

Getting a water bill done this session is one of Crisafulli’s top goals before he departs the Legislature: He’s term-limited this year.

The bill passed the Senate 37-0. That makes two priority bills that likely will be the first triumphs the two leaders will advertise as signs of their new harmony after the 2015 regular session that ended in impasse over health care funding.

“What you see is a real trust between the Speaker and me going into this Session that we want to help each other,” Gardiner later told reporters.

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.

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