Andy Gardiner Archives - Page 6 of 22 - SaintPetersBlog

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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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Andy Gardiner promises first 3 bills this Session

On the first day of the 2016 Legislative Session, Senate President Andy Gardiner made a promise that Gov. Rick Scott would get three bills by the end of the week.

Gardiner, an Orlando Republican, spoke during the Senate’s first floor session for 2016, with Scott sitting in the first row.

The first measure is statewide water policy legislation (SB 552/HB 7005) championed by Republican state Sen. Charlie Dean.

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.”

Another was an education bill (SB 672/HB 7011) that creates a Personal Learning Scholarship account for children with autism or muscular dystrophy that would provide for a $10,000 lifetime scholarship. It’s backed by state GOP Sen. Don Gaetz.

The third (SB 962/HB 1359) is aimed at employment opportunities for people with unique abilities, focussing on “vocational evaluation and planning, career counseling and guidance, job-site assessment and accommodations, job placement, job coaching, and on-the-job training.” Gardiner has a son with Down syndrome.

Forwarding those efforts to Scott by the end of the first week of session “sets the tone,” Gardiner said.

“Last year was unusual,” he added, referring to the regular session that ended in the House leaving town three days early over a budget impasse, resulting in a special budget session.

Two other special sessions for redistricting ended without agreement on new political maps, resulting in courts making the final decision.

“You have my commitment we will do everything we can,” Gardiner told the chamber, filled with former and current lawmakers, all the statewide elected officials and five Supreme Court justices. “We will work to cut taxes, pass a balanced budget and appropriate unprecedented funding for K-12 education.”

Gardiner, however, said his chamber would “work with” Scott on funding for Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private economic development agency. Scott wants a $250 million fund for business incentives, something the Senate isn’t fully on board with.

By the end of this session, Gardiner said, he hoped every senator will be able to say, “Andy gave me every opportunity to be successful.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Gambling, guns, tax cuts and more facing Florida lawmakers

The Legislature will begin its annual session early this year with the hopes of avoiding the chaos and dysfunction that marked the 2015 Session and three special sessions that followed.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner say the past is the past and there’s no lingering animosity after the two chambers found it difficult to agree on much last year.

“What you’re seeing is a real desire to get some things done. While a lot of people talk about what happened last session, as far as I’m concerned the relationship with the speaker and the governor have been good,” said Gardiner.

Crisafulli acknowledged there were “many challenges” this past year.

“Now it’s time to look ahead,” he said, adding that lawmakers will begin the upcoming session by addressing major issues that died last year when the House went home early, including a water protection bill and measures to help developmentally disabled residents.

Here’s a look at issues facing lawmakers when the 60-day session opens Tuesday.

GOV. RICK SCOTT’S AGENDA

Scott is pushing for $1 billion in tax cuts and a $250 million for business incentives. On Wednesday, he will start a three-day bus tour that hits most of Florida’s major media markets to promote both ideas. Scott’s proposed cuts are largely aimed at businesses, including the elimination of corporate income taxes for manufacturers and retailers. That alone would cost the state treasury an estimated $770 million a year. Scott also wants to cut sales taxes charged on commercial leases by 1 percent and permanently eliminate the sales tax charged on the sale of manufacturing equipment.

The governor is also calling for a 10-day back-to-school sales tax holiday as well as a nine-day sales tax holiday on supplies used for hurricane preparation. Scott also wants to permanently eliminate sales taxes on college textbooks.

While the Republican-led Legislature is open to the idea of tax cuts, leaders in both chambers have said $1 billion might be too much, especially if it’s largely revenue the state will permanently lose.

GUNS

Two bills are moving through committees that would give more rights to gun owners. Each has been passionately debated during legislative committees. One would allow concealed weapon permit holders to openly carry their handguns. A second would allow permit holders to carry guns on state university and college campuses.

If both become law, universities could go from gun-free places to having students in class openly displaying handguns. Gun-rights advocates say that will make universities safer. However, every state university president and police chief in Florida opposes the guns-on-campus bill.

ENVIRONMENT

Both chambers say a top priority is passing a bill designed to help protect springs and groundwater while cleaning Lake Okeechobee, the northern Everglades, rivers and other waterways. The idea is to limit pollutants entering waterways and to come up with long range plans to manage water resources. Environmentalists say the legislation doesn’t go far enough to address regulating sugar producers, cattle ranchers and farms that contribute to pollution.

Lawmakers will also consider a proposal to dedicate $200 million a year to restoring the Everglades.

Environmentalists are upset over a bill that would require the Department of Environmental Protection to come up with regulations for fracking, a form of drilling that uses chemicals and water to blast through rock to get to oil and gas underneath. Supporters say there is nothing to stop fracking now, so regulations would make sure it’s done safely. Opponents would prefer to see the practice banned because of fears groundwater will be contaminated.

GAMBLING

The Legislature will consider the gambling deal Scott signed with the Seminole Tribe. It would guarantee the state $3 billion in revenue in exchange for allowing blackjack to continue at the tribe’s seven casinos and letting them operate roulette and craps. The agreement as signed is guaranteed to go through changes as the lawmakers consider regional interests like slot machines at dog and horse tracks.

Lawmakers will also consider a proposal to allow lottery sales at gas pumps and self-checkout registers at grocery stores.

A bill would regulate the fantasy sports companies like DraftKings and FanDuel while making it clear that they can legally operate in Florida.

AND MORE …

• Among other bills is a measure that will repeal an unenforced 19th-century law that makes it illegal for unmarried men and women to live together and have sex.

• Lawmakers are considering a measure that will ask voters to make the education commissioner an elected instead of an appointed position.

• A bill would ask for the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith that represents Florida in the U.S. Capitol.

• A bill would let terminally ill patients use marijuana.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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2016 Legislative Food Fights: Water policy, money for Everglades could be hot topics

Lawmakers may be prepared to pass a massive water bill, but that doesn’t mean the battle over Florida’s water woes is over.

State lawmakers are expected to take up the measure — HB 7005 and SB 552 — shortly after the annual 60-day session convenes this week. The measure, years in the making, is likely to pass both chambers.

Among other things, the proposal creates the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act; updates and restructures the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program; and calls on the Department of Environmental Protection to conduct an annual assessment of water resources and conservation lands.

The proposals have received  widespread support in committee hearings, and Rep. Matt Caldwell, a North Fort Myers Republican and sponsor of the House bill, said it is an effort to clean up state statutes. Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Miami Democrat, thus far is the only state lawmaker to vote against it.

It’s a top priority for Rep. Steve Crisafulli and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, and has received support from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Farm Bureau Federation and Associated Industries of Florida.

In recent weeks, however, environmental organizations have come out in opposition.

In December, more than 100 environmental organizations and businesses — including 1000 Friends of Florida, Florida Clean Water Network, the League of Women Voters of Florida and Sierra Clubsent a letter to Crisafulli, Senate President Andy Gardiner and state lawmakers calling for the bill to be amended to address “significant concerns.”

House and Senate Democrats said they would bring up floor amendments to address concerns, but bill sponsors, including Caldwell, have said they would oppose those changes.

Lawmakers may also be prepared set aside additional dollars for projects to restore the Everglades, following a tumultuous 2015 session where they faced criticism for how Amendment 1 dollars were allocated.

Rep. Gayle Harrell, a Stuart Republican, has filed legislation, HB 989, that secures 25 percent or $200 million annually, whichever is smallest, from money available through the land and water conservation amendment. Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican, is sponsoring similar legislation, SB 1168, in the Senate.

Lawmakers expect to see a significant increase in Amendment 1 dollars this year, and Caldwell said he hopes to spend “as much as we can on land acquisition.”

Several environmental groups, including the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club —  have asked a judge to rule the state Legislature violated the constitution by spending some of the Amendment 1 dollars on to pay for salaries and other agency expenses.

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Florida Senate Republicans plan major fundraising on eve of Session

Now that 2015 is history, Florida’s Senate Republican caucus is looking to 2016 with a major fundraiser planned on the eve of the start of the upcoming Legislative Session.

The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee 2016 Welcome Back Reception will be held Monday, January 11 beginning 5:30 p.m. at the Tallahassee Doubletree Hotel Ballroom, 101 S. Adams St.

Hosted by Senate President Andy Gardiner, the event also features President Designate and FRSCC Chair Joe Negron and Sens. Bill Galvano, Lizbeth Benacquisto, Anitere Flores and Jack Latvala.

With new district maps approved last week by Circuit Judge George Reynolds, the FRSCC faces a challenging 2016 election season, as the entire Senate is now up for reelection, including 20 members with terms ending in 2018. The redrawn maps are split somewhat evenly between Republican and Democratic-leaning districts, in a move that creates several competitive seats.

The reception comes one day before the start of the 2016 Legislative Session, during which state lawmakers are prohibited from fundraising.

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New state Senate seats renumbered

Staff from the Florida Senate and Auditor General’s office met Tuesday to assign random numbers to districts in the state’s new Senate District map.

Here are the results, with the first number being the district number on the map as adopted by Circuit Judge George Reynolds; the second is the new randomly assigned district number. Same numbers means districts stay the same:

  • 1-2
  • 2-1
  • 3-3
  • 4-4
  • 5-5
  • 6-7
  • 7-8
  • 8-12
  • 9-6
  • 10-9
  • 11-10
  • 12-11
  • 13-14
  • 14-13
  • 15-22
  • 16-17
  • 17-18
  • 18-20
  • 19-19
  • 20-16
  • 21-15
  • 22-24
  • 23-28
  • 24-21
  • 25-30
  • 26-26
  • 27-31
  • 28-23
  • 29-32
  • 30-27
  • 31-33
  • 32-25
  • 33-35
  • 34-29
  • 35-37
  • 36-40
  • 37-36
  • 38-39
  • 39-38
  • 40-34

The random numbering was done using the randomizing function in Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet software. Reynolds ordered the renumbering as part of his earlier decision.

In a memo announcing the meeting, Senate President Andy Gardiner said: “Complying with the circuit court ruling does not preclude the possibility the Senate will take further legal action in this case.”

On Tuesday, Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta said a decision on challenging Reynolds’ ruling had not yet been made.

In a conference call last week, plaintiffs’ attorney David King said he didn’t know what the Senate would gain by appealing Reynolds’ ruling, calling the decision “rock solid.”

In redrawing the boundaries of the Senate’s 40-district map, Reynolds picked a map drawn by a coalition of voter-rights groups, including the League of Women Voters of Florida, who say the current districts violate the state constitution’s anti-gerrymandering provision.

The Senate ruling was the second time in the past year that the courts have decided the state’s political boundaries.

In October, Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis endorsed a map drawn by the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause as the new boundaries for the state’s congressional districts.

Those organizations and others sued the state over congressional and state Senate district lines. They said the existing maps violated the state’s “Fair Districts” constitutional amendments aimed at prohibiting gerrymandering.


A technical description of Tuesday’s renumbering process is here.

The new map, not yet renumbered, is here.

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Mike Clelland confirms he’s running for SD 13 seat

Former Rep. Mike Clelland confirmed speculation he will indeed run for the open state Senate seat vacated by term-limited President Andy Gardiner this year.

The former Democratic lawmaker issued a statement Monday corroborating reports — first reported by Florida Politics — he will pursue a return to the statehouse.

“Throughout my nearly three decades as a firefighter, I saw firsthand every day what can be accomplished when we work together for the public good. Unfortunately, I have also seen firsthand how things work in the Florida Legislature,” Clelland said.

“I’m running for the Florida Senate because I believe that there is no higher honor than public service. There’s simply too much at stake to stay on the sidelines while career politicians play politics with the future of our great state.”

Clelland joins Realtor Dean Asher and Chuck Sheridan, both Republicans, as well as Democratic Orange County School Board member Rick Roach in seeking to succeed Gardiner.

Fellow former Rep. Linda Stewart is expected to join the race in the coming weeks as well.

Stewart, like Clelland, was also vanquished during the 2014 midterms that wiped out half a dozen central Florida Democrats. Republican Rep. Scott Plakon bested Clelland 57 to 43 in November 2014.

He pledged Monday to continue fighting for reform in the moderate Central Florida swing seat.

“Tallahassee is broken. Too many politicians on both sides are more focused on political games than actually making our schools stronger, helping small businesses, and protecting our land and water,” said Clelland. “The people of Florida deserve better. Rather than trying to find the Republican or Democrat solution, it’s time we get back to finding the right solution.

“I don’t have all the answers, but I’m ready to work with anyone in any political party who is ready to roll up their sleeves and find realistic solutions to the problems we face. As your state senator, I’ll work every day to protect and promote Florida small businesses, to stop the over-testing and corporate handouts that have corrupted our education system, and to ensure that we preserve our environment for future generations. We can’t wait any longer to solve our problems, but I know that working together we can achieve a brighter future for all Floridians.”

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