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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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


• 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

Jim Rosica’s Top 10 stories of 2015 in state government

From palace intrigues to pot, 2015 brought a plethora of material to the Capitol Press Corps. Trying to pick the top 10 state government stories is a subjective pursuit, to say the least, but here are the picks for the passing year:

No. 1: The “firing” of Gerald Bailey

Gov. Rick Scott actually forced out the state’s top cop in December 2014 but the repercussions of that move spilled well over into the new year.

Scott originally announced Bailey’s departure as voluntary at a Florida Cabinet meeting. As head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Bailey was one of a handful of top state officials whose position required the governor to consult with the rest of Cabinet before a firing.

Bailey himself soon contradicted Scott’s account, saying the governor’s staff had told him to “retire or resign.” He also said Scott’s staff asked him to state falsely that acting Orange County Clerk of Court Colleen Reilly was under investigation for a high-profile prison break that embarrassed the state’s corrections department.

News organizations and open government advocates soon filed a lawsuit, since settled, alleging that Scott staff members violated the state’s open meetings law by acting as back-channel “conduits.” That led to a weeks-long round robin of finger-pointing and question-raising as to whether Scott had orchestrated an end-run.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told The Tampa Tribune “what we were told and what happened were not the same” regarding Bailey’s leaving, adding that the governor’s staff “were not forthcoming about their timeline and intentions regarding Commissioner Bailey.” Finally, at a February Cabinet meeting in Tampa, Scott said, “I could have handled it better … The buck stops here.”

Scott, Putnam, CFO Jeff Atwater and Attorney General Pam Bondi then agreed to overhaul the way state agency heads are hired, evaluated and fired.

No. 2: Health care funding disputes sink session

The Florida Senate bet nearly all its political capital on Medicaid expansion during the 2015 Legislative Session, then lost big to the Florida House. The disagreement over taking federal dollars to expand Medicaid eventually contributed to a $5 billion budget divide between the two chambers.

The Senate wanted to help about 800,000 working poor Floridians, who make too much for traditional Medicaid but not enough to take advantage of tax credits under the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 federal health care law championed by President Barack Obama. House leadership opposed the plan, saying the state would be on the hook should the feds fail to follow through.

Also at issue was how much to pay for hospitals’ charity care through a joint federal-state fund known as the Low Income Pool, or LIP. The disagreement at one point caused controversy when  House Republicans held a closed-door caucus meeting to rally their side against expansion. Associated Press reporter Gary Fineout pressed his ear against the meeting room door to overhear snippets of conversation, during which Speaker Steve Crisafulli told members to “stand like a rock” in opposing the Senate.

Finally, an exasperated House quit three days before the scheduled end of session and went home, forcing Senate Democrats to rush to the Supreme Court in an unsuccessful attempt to coerce the other chamber back into session. Five justices, however, agreed that the House’s move was unconstitutional. The Legislature had to reconvene in Special Session in June to complete the state budget.

No. 3: Florida becomes last state to legalize growlers

Not all was lost that session, as lawmakers approved and Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a measure legalizing the half-gallon size of beer container known as a “growler.” Previous efforts to legalize that size had failed, making Florida the last state that outlawed such containers. Craft beer aficionados now can fill up 64-ounce growlers, the most favored size to take home tap-drawn beer.

No. 4: Court says online travel sites don’t have to charge tax

Ending a decade-long court case, the Florida Supreme Court in June ruled that Expedia and other travel websites don’t have to charge hotel tax on the fees they charge when customers use them to book rooms.

Alachua and 16 other Florida counties had argued that they were losing millions in tax money. The court said in a 5-2 decision that the tourism development tax counties get from hotel guests should apply only to the amount actually paid for the stay, not for the service used to book it. Furthermore, the majority opinion slammed state lawmakers for knowing about the taxing dispute for years and choosing to do nothing about it.

The issue isn’t unique to Florida: The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington-based think tank, estimated in a 2011 study that local and state governments were taking in $275 million to $400 million less in tax revenue yearly. Florida was losing out on $31 million to $45 million a year.

No. 5: Economic development czar starts war of words with lawmakers

It was the shot heard ’round the Capitol when Bill Johnson, CEO of Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private economic development agency, teed off during a conference call this summer.

Johnson was steamed that lawmakers had brushed off his request for $85 million more in business incentive funding during the Special Session for the budget. Senate President Andy Gardiner in particular said the organization was asking for more money than it was likely to dole out.

An audibly irate Johnson told his board members, “For the third most-populous state in the nation, and a leader in economic development, that’s shameful … There’s no need for (Enterprise Florida) to exist if we cannot garner the support of our Florida Legislature.”

Johnson told them to call legislators on their mobile phones, if necessary, to convince them of the need for funding. “This is not the time to back down,” he said.

The outburst stuck in the craw of key senators months later, and had Johnson eating crow: He apologized for the comments when he appeared before a Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee meeting in September. Johnson may yet have the last laugh, though. His boss, Gov. Rick Scott, is pressing for a new $250 million incentive fund and may threaten his veto pen on members’ favored projects as leverage.

No. 6: Court redraws Florida’s congressional districts

The Florida Supreme Court in December finally OK’d a redrawn version of the state’s 27 congressional districts three years after a court challenge said they were unconstitutional.

The League of Women Voters of Florida, Common Cause and others had sued over the current congressional lines, redrawn after the 2010 census, saying the existing map violates a state constitutional prohibition against gerrymandering, the manipulation of political boundaries to favor a particular incumbent or party. Voters in 2010 had passed the “Fair Districts” constitutional amendments to prohibit such gerrymandering.

The case worked its way to the high court, which ruled that the current map was “tainted by unconstitutional intent to favor the Republican Party and incumbents” and ordered a do-over. The Legislature tried but failed to agree on a redrawn congressional map in a Special Session this summer, and the matter bounced back to Circuit Judge Terry Lewis.

Lewis was charged to take evidence and figure out a new map. He recommended the plaintiffs’ plan. The justices agreed with Lewis in a 5-2 decision.

Among the big changes, the court agreed with shifting Democratic U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown‘s current Jacksonville-to-Sanford district “in an east-west manner,” stretching it into what is now Gwen Graham’s territory in the Big Bend and Panhandle. That eviscerates Graham’s Democratic base in Gadsden and Leon counties. Brown reportedly had been mulling a move to Orlando to run for Republican icon Daniel Webster’s district, redrawn to become a virtual Democratic lock. She’s since decided to make a stand in her own redrawn district. 

No. 7: Judge to recommend State Senate redistricting

Later in December, Circuit Judge George Reynolds began a week-long trial to work out the makeup of the state’s 40 senatorial districts.

Similar to the congressional case, the League of Women Voters of Florida, Common Cause and others had sued the Legislature, alleging the current Senate district map was rigged to favor Republicans and incumbents. The Senate settled the case by admitting fault – a rarity – and agreeing to redraw the lines with the House. Both chambers, however, came to an impasse over the best way to do that during a recent Special Session, ensuring that the courts would have to figure it out.

Reynolds now must figure out a configuration that also abides by the state constitution’s Fair Districts amendments. He has said he will likely pick one of five suggested maps, one submitted by the Senate and four from the plaintiffs, rather than combine elements or try to draw his own. Whatever Reynolds picks, it will have to go back to the Florida Supreme Court for final approval.

The judge also allowed the state’s elections supervisors to intervene in the case. Their attorney told him elections officials need to know the new Senate district map by mid-March 2016: Qualifying for state Senate seats begins June 20, and candidates have to know what district they’re in to run.

No. 8: Negron overcomes Latvala for Senate presidency

In November, the long, bitter race between Jack Latvala and Joe Negron for the 2016-18 Florida Senate presidency came to an end. Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, withdrew his name from consideration, deferring to Negron, a Stuart Republican.

Republicans control the 40-member chamber by 26-14. Latvala’s consolation prize was a promise that Negron would name him the Senate Appropriations committee chair. Negron had said in August that he had captured a majority of votes from the Senate’s Republican caucus to become head of his chamber for 2016-18, succeeding current President Andy Gardiner of Orlando. Latvala’s move, though, finally put a definitive end to the neck-and-neck and often contentious race.

No. 9: Scott clinches $3 billion blackjack deal with Seminole Tribe

After months of back and forth, Gov. Rick Scott announced in December a new deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida to allow it to continue offering blackjack at its casinos in return for a $3 billion cut of the take over seven years. Scott called the agreement the “largest revenue share guarantee in history.”

However, the new Seminole Compact must be reviewed and approved by federal officials and state lawmakers, some of whom blanched at the gambling expansion provisions tucked inside. The agreement would let the Seminoles add roulette and craps tables, as well as permit the Legislature to OK slot machines at the Palm Beach Kennel Club and allow blackjack at some South Florida racetracks “with some limitations.”

House Republican Leader Dana Young of Tampa tried pushing her own gambling overhaul legislation last Session that would have, among other things, allowed two destination resort casinos in South Florida. The legislation failed.

Young and other lawmakers soon gave mixed reviews on the compact’s chance of passage: “Any time you pick winners and losers, it is a very heavy lift in the Legislature,” she said.

No. 10: Medical marijuana finally gets moving in Florida

The state last year approved a mild strain of marijuana last year for children with severe epilepsy and patients with advanced  cancers. But bureaucratic and legal delays have held up the process of getting the drug to those who need it.

For instance, the awarding of licenses to nurseries that will grow the medicinal pot was challenged. Officials with the Department of Health first proposed awarding the licenses through a lottery. That was struck down by a judge.

A three-person committee was then established to screen applications and select the nurseries. But another hiccup struck that panel when one of its members picked for her financial background stepped down because her certified public accountant license was inactive. That board finally named the five nurseries on Nov. 23.

But by a December filing deadline, 13 challenges to the license awards had been lodged with the state Department of Health. Undeterred, Orlando trial attorney John Morgan is trying again for a constitutional amendment for medical marijuana. Also, bills have been filed for next Legislative Session that would allow stronger varieties of prescribed marijuana than the “Charlotte’s Web” strain.

Cissy Proctor named new head of Dep’t of Economic Opportunity

Cissy Proctor, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity‘s chief of staff, will now lead the agency, Gov. Rick Scott announced Thursday.

She takes over as the department’s executive director, succeeding Jesse Panuccio, on Jan. 9 — three days before the beginning of the 2016 Legislative Session. first heard word of Proctor’s likely appointment earlier this month.

“Cissy has been a great member of the DEO team and has accomplished a lot during her time at the agency,” Scott said in a statement. “She has a strong background in legislative affairs, and I know she will be a great partner with the Florida Legislature to continue to diversify our economy.

“Her great work to support job growth for Florida families is a strong testament to the work she will do as executive director,” he added. “She will provide leadership and help make Florida first for jobs.”

Proctor, chief of staff since January, previously was DEO’s deputy legislative affairs director and director of the Division of Strategic Business Development.

Before that, she was an attorney at the Bryant Miller Olive firm from 2004-13. Proctor received her bachelor’s and law degrees from Florida State University.

Panuccio is departing for the private sector after the Florida Senate declined to confirm his appointment earlier this year. He likely faced another bruising confirmation process in the 2016 Legislative Session; Panuccio managed to earn the ire of key senators during his tenure.

Immediately after news of Proctor’s elevation, however, Senate President Andy Gardiner issued a news release praising her selection.

“With the beginning of the 2016 Legislative Session just a few weeks away, I am grateful to Gov. Scott for working to swiftly fill this critical position in his administration,” the Orlando Republican said. “Proctor has a long history with DEO …  I am certain this experience has prepared her well for the responsibility of leading this important agency and will aid in a smooth transition.

“My Senate colleagues and I look forward to working with Gov. Scott and Director Proctor on key policy and funding reforms that will make Florida first in the nation in job creation.”

A request for comment was sent to Proctor regarding her promotion; we’ll update when we hear back.

The 5 most disappointing Florida politicians of 2015

As much as we would like to think otherwise, in politics, not everyone can be a winner.

To put it another way, as Judge Smails did in the eminently quotable Caddyshack: “The world needs ditch-diggers, too.”

Few will disagree that 2015 was a particularly fertile political year, one that produced a bumper crop of political disappointments – that’s what we get when the Legislature meets almost unceasingly in special session because it cannot agree on much of anything.

Of course, the key word in this analysis is “disappointing.” One cannot disappoint if they were not held in some regard beforehand.

So you won’t see U.S. Alan Grayson on this list, despite his year of bizarre statements and reports, such as the recent one that showed he profited from investing in a firm doing Iran oil deals while hitting Iran oil profiteers, revealing the “Senator with Guts” to be no more a gaping hypocrite.

Nor will you see state Rep. Frank Artiles, who by punching a college student, sponsoring discriminatory legislation targeting transgender Floridians, and boasting about wanting to kill bears, assembled a year of buffoonery seemingly designed to generate negative publicity.

Several other Florida pols could have made the list, especially two A-listers, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and U.S. Rep. Dan Webster; Atwater for his Hamletesque flirtation with running for the U.S. Senate and Webster for his quixotic pursuit of becoming Speaker of the U.S. House. But there was some nobility in both men’s ambitions, and both enjoyed otherwise strong years, so we’ll avoid, as Teddy Roosevelt warned against, pointing out where strong men stumbled.

So here is my list of the year’s most disappointing Florida politicians, in ascending order of disappointment.

Alvin Brown – Republican Lenny Curry is now so firmly in control of Jacksonville’s City Hall that it’s easy to forget that Brown, a Democrat with national cred and connections, entered 2015 with a double-digit lead in his re-election campaign. But Brown ran for a second term as he governed in the first, letting down too many of the moderate supporters who propelled him into office in 2011.

Don Gaetz – A case could be made for including the entire Florida Senate on this list. For so many reasons, Andy Gardiner‘s Senate has been so dysfunctional and inefficient, it’s made former Senate Mike Haridopolos‘ look like a modern-day Marcus Aemilius Scaurus. A case could also be made for specifically including Bill Galvano on this list as he has, step after step, bungled or stymied the court-ordered effort to redraw the state Senate districts. But it is Gaetz, a former Senate President, who best symbolizes the worst tendencies of the upper chamber. It’s because of Gaetz that the Legislature finds itself in court over those Senate districts. And when Gaetz took to the floor of the Senate, invoking a point of personal privilege, to personally attack another colleague, he plunged the Senate into one of its lowest points. In the past, we’ve held Senator Gaetz in high regard, but his actions this year remind us that legislative leaders are better off heading off into the sunset than sticking around after they’ve held the rostrum.

The Florida Cabinet – There may have been no sadder moment this year in Florida government than when the Florida Cabinet met at the state fair and did nothing to rebuke Governor Rick Scott for his illegal dismissal of FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey. A lawsuit alleging Scott and Cabinet members sidestepped the state’s Sunshine Law in the way they handled Bailey’s dismissal was settled, which led to one of the year’s best moments: Pat Gleason, the special counsel for open government in Attorney General Pam Bondi‘s office, giving Scott and Co. a 90-minute lecture on Florida’s broad public records and open meeting requirements.

Bob Buckhorn – The day after the 2014 elections, Hizzoner held an impromptu press conference and all but declared that he would run for governor in 2018. In fact, the Tampa mayor entered 2015 as the de facto frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. That was then; this is now. After a series of troubling scandals, including revelations that his police department disproportionately targeted black residents and that one of his chief political advisers, Beth Leytham, is nothing less than the Rasputin of Riverwalk, many Democrats now wonder if Buckhorn will even run in 2018. Meanwhile, his lackluster fundraising for his political committee, expected to be a vehicle for a 2018 run, isn’t inspiring much confidence.

Jeb Bush – Not since Willie Mays stumbled through the outfield during his last season of baseball as a New York Met have we witnessed a modern figure once so mighty laid low by the effects of time. Faced with higher expectations than the Uber IPO but with the financial resources of a small country, Bush went from presidential front-runner to cautionary tale in six months. His downward trajectory is not all his fault, as the GOP electorate appears more interested in electing a carnival barker than a president, but Bush is still mostly responsible for his single-digit standing. At times, the man who once bestrode Florida’s state government like a colossus, has struggled to assemble the most basic of responses, all while getting muscled out of the race by political neophytes (Donald Trump and Ben Carson) and his protege (Marco Rubio). Had Jeb Bush lived during the Elizabethan era, he certainly would have starred in one of Shakespeare’s tragedies.

Andy Gardiner hopes to avoid health care funding dramas of last Session

Senate President Andy Gardiner says he expects a productive 2016 Legislative Session without the turmoil that fractured last session.

Gardiner, a Republican, spoke to Thursday in a pre-session interview. House Speaker Steve Crisafulli is scheduled to hold a similar question-and-answer session with news media next Friday.

But the issue that caused the last Session to implode without a state budget – health care funding – is still at play.

Florida uses a pot of local and federal cash, called the Low Income Pool (LIP), to give to hospitals as reimbursement for the unpaid care they provide to indigent patients.

But the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) cut its contribution by $1 billion this year, which forced lawmakers to use more than $400 million in state money to help “backfill” the decreases.

Next year CMS has promised to cut an additional $400 million as it follows through with a planned phaseout of the pool.

The feds want to nudge Florida into expanding Medicaid to more poor and working poor under the Affordable Care Act, a move staunchly opposed by the House’s GOP leadership.

“The question next is, do we put more general revenue in? Do we look at the (funding) formulas?” said Gardiner, an Orlando hospital executive.

He said he has asked state Sen. Rene Garcia, who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, to start running numbers early.

“You have to run all these models; it’s a very detailed, technical process to know what the reimbursements should be,” he said. “What we eventually do, I think it’s too early to tell. You have to look at what areas will have increased spending … We’re going to have to make some decisions.”

He also mentioned other health care topics, such as a move to eliminate “certificates of need” from the hospital construction and expansion process.

The process requires hospitals to show state regulators there’s a need in the community before they can build a new facility or expand an existing one.

It also applies to adding specialty treatment programs, such as organ transplants. Legislation for next year already has cleared some committees.

“We will take them very, very seriously,” Gardiner said. “The Senate will be very active on health care.”

The House and the Senate feuded with each other earlier this year about Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, with the Senate largely in favor.

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