Jack Latvala Archives - Page 3 of 33 - SaintPetersBlog

Jack Latvala says evidence doesn’t support House on job incentives

The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee defended state spending on economic incentives Thursday by pointing to evidence the effort produces solid returns on investment.

Visit Florida, for example, returns $3.20 cents for every dollar spent on advertising, according to figures (here; scroll down) from Amy Baker, state government’s top economist.

Enterprise Florida’s international offices program, meanwhile, returns $4. And its export assistance program returns $1.90. That’s as measured in tax revenue.

Not counting spending on beaches, transportation, and aviation, five of the top programs in return on investment involve the sort of incentives that would be outlawed under a bill approved Wednesday by the House Careers & Competition Subcommittee.

“They all produce a net increase in tax revenue, over and above what we invest in them. And all five of them are included in the bill the House passed out of committee yesterday to abolish,” chairman Jack Latvala said during a meeting of his committee.

Other than Baker, Latvala called Cissy Proctor, executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity before the committee to defend Visit Florida, Enterprise Florida Inc., and other economic incentives.

Also on hand was Stan Conley, president and CEO of Gulf Power and vice chairman of the Enterprise Florida Board; Eric Silagy, his counterpart at Florida Power & Light Co. and a member of EFI’s board; and local economic development officials from Broward, Gadsden, Palm Beach, and Volusia Counties.

Frank Walker, vice president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, endorsed incentives. So did Robert Weissert of Florida TaxWatch, who said Baker’s analyst might have understated their value by not accounting benefits other than tax returns — jobs, for example.

Latvala agreed with the thrust of Gov. Rick Scott‘s criticism of House Speaker Richard Corcoran and other House leaders who oppose economic incentives spending as corporate welfare. Scott suggested political ambition motivated them.

“People say things this time of year, and everybody forgets about it,” Latvala said.

But he added: “I have to agree with sort of the intent of the governor’s statement. I think it was trying to relate some of their policy initiatives more to politics than our economy in Florida — whether it’s politics for somebody’s personal gain or ambition, or whether it’s politics for some particular group that’s organized by out-of-state folds to advocate for a certain point. I think politics have been in play, as opposed to what’s good for Florida’s economy.”

Latvala doesn’t understand the House leadership’s logic.

“If we’re making a profit in tax funds on some of these programs, why in the world would we get rid of them?” he said.

“Because then, we just have to make up that tax revenue somewhere else. It’s going to have to come out of some retired person’s pocket, Latvala continued.

“It’s not just me. It’s not just the governor. The governor’s got a lot of support in this.”

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“Whiskey and Wheaties” bill now cleared for Senate floor

A Senate bill to remove the “wall of separation” between hard liquor and other retail goods won approval from a second committee, clearing it to be considered by the full Senate.

The bill sparked an unexpected objection from National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer after an amendment came up banning liquor from being sold in the same store as guns and ammo.

The Rules Committee on Thursday OK’d the legislation (SB 106) by a 6-4 vote, with Democrats and prominent Republicans in opposition.

“I just don’t see the fervor,” said Sen. Jack Latvala, the Clearwater Republican who also chairs the Appropriations Committee. “This is not a problem I have heard anyone urge me to fix.” He also was concerned the bill would allow workers under 18 to be around liquor. 

Trilby Republican Wilton Simpson, expected to be Senate President in 2020-22, also voted no. 

A version of the bill has been filed for four years running, aiming to repeal the Prohibition-era state law requiring businesses, such as grocery chains and big-box retailers, to have separate stores to sell liquor. Beer and wine already are sold in grocery aisles in Florida.

Senate President Pro Tempore Anitere Flores, the Miami Republican carrying the bill this year, admitted it was “not a top 10 or even top 100 issue, but we deal with these things all the time.”

The bill was amended Thursday mainly to allow for the “phasing in” of retail goods-liquor integration over four years, starting in 2018.

Pure-play alcoholic beverage retailers, such as ABC Fine Wines & Spirits and independent operators, have complained the bill is being pushed by big retailers looking to expand their market reach.

But Wal-mart, Target and others say tearing down the wall of separation between liquor and other goods is simply a “pro-consumer” move toward added convenience.

Latvala unsuccessfully tried to modify the bill to grant local control, allowing retailers to sell spirits in the same space as other items if the area in which they’re located OKs it “by a municipal or county ordinance.”

Flores argued against the change, saying that “to take this down to 67 counties means we fail as state lawmakers … this is an issue we should be deciding statewide.”

Simpson, citing crime concerns, offered his own amendment that would have barred retailers who sell firearms from also selling hard liquor.

That caused Hammer, who was in the committee for an unrelated Stand Your Ground-related measure, to stand up and object. She had concerns that some big-box stores in rural areas might give up guns to sell hard booze instead.

“I’m afraid that will be to the detriment of the constitutional right to bear arms,” she told the committee. “These stores will opt for the profit margin.” Simpson then withdrew the amendment. 

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House, Senate trying to avoid budget showdown over rules

The Florida Senate and House have agreed to work together on a joint rule to avoid a “who blinks first” approach to this year’s budget negotiations. 

Sen. Jack Latvala, the Clearwater Republican who heads the Appropriations Committee, Thursday told the Rules Committee he was “pleased to report” House leaders had agreed to consider what’s known as a “joint rule” to streamline the process.

The Naples Daily News reported Wednesday the Legislature could be headed to “a partial state government shutdown” over a disagreement on how requests to fund hometown projects get into the state budget.

The House now requires each request to be filed separately; those were due Tuesday. But the House’s method also required any senator’s project request to have its companion filed in the House or that chamber would not consider it.

Latvala called that an “unprecedented situation” at the Rules Committee meeting Thursday.

He said he consulted with Senate President Joe Negron, who agreed the Senate “could either pass a budget and see who blinked first, or be proactive and try to resolve the situation.”

The compromise offered to the House would allow, among other things, “funding of projects (to) be included in a conference committee report if the information … is provided to the public at the time the funding is proposed … and the conference committee has provided time for public testimony.”

The rationale behind the House’s system stems from House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s desire for greater transparency in the budget process, particularly on local project funding.

At deadline, 381 House project bills had been filed, worth over $796 million.

“I think this approach will bear fruit,” Latvala told the panel. 

Corcoran previously told the Daily News that the House’s “concerns in regard to member project openness, project accountability and other central issues still remain, (but) we are always willing to work with our Senate counterparts, and we hope we can have a constructive dialogue.”

An existing Senate rule, however, limits what the Senate can consider in conference, when members of both chambers get together to hammer out a final state budget to present to the governor.

“A conference committee, other than a conference committee on a general or special appropriations bill and its related legislation, shall consider and report only on the differences existing between the Senate and the House, and no substance foreign to the bills before the conferees shall be included in the report or considered by the Senate.”

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Francis Rooney says he’s not considering 2018 gubernatorial bid

Rep. Francis Rooney dismissed rumors he is considering gubernatorial bid, saying he is focused on “being the best congressman” he can be for Southwest Florida.

Rooney, a freshman congressman and the former ambassador to the Holy See, said he was not considering a run for governor in 2018.

“I am considering one thing — being the best congressman I can be for Southwest Florida,” he said. “I’m thankful to have the opportunity to represent Southwest Florida, and I’m not intending to do anything else other than do the best possible job I can.”

Rooney replaced Rep. Curt Clawson in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. The Naples Republican was backed by Gov. Rick Scott, who endorsed Rooney during the primary.

Scott has made no secret that he’d like to see another businessman in the Governor’s Mansion, and is believed to have approached Rooney about throwing his hat in the race. The two men are friends, and live just a few minutes away from each other in the same Naples community.

“The example of Gov. Scott and another businessperson in politics, Vern Buchanan, is part of what inspired me to run for this,” said Rooney. “I think we need business people in the government. I think if you look at the good they’ve been able to do with their experience and their track record with their decisions and things, it’s been very positive.”

But Rooney says he’s not interested in running for governor, saying he’s has “said it a lot, no way.”

“I’m sure there’s a lot of good business people that would make excellent governors in Florida, and congressmen and senators as well,” he said. “I just want to be the best congressman I can be.”

The race to replace Scott, who can’t run for re-election because of term limits, is expected to be a crowded one. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is widely expected to run, while House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Sen. Jack Latvala are believed to be considering their options.

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Jack Latvala, Jason Brodeur aim to protect franchisees

Legislation that would protect small business owners who enter into franchise agreements was filed Tuesday in the Florida Legislature.

State Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur announced their support of the “Protect Florida Small Business Act” (SB 750).

The bill’s intent “is to promote fair business relations between franchisees and franchisors and to protect franchisees against unfair treatment by franchisors,” it says.

“Therefore, it is necessary to regulate the conduct of franchisors and their representatives in order to prevent fraud, unfair business practices, unfair methods of competition … and other abuses upon franchisees in this state.”

A summary provided three highlights. The legislation would:

“Create more financial certainty by protecting small business franchise owners from unjust terminations. Currently, national corporate brands can terminate franchises without cause or warning.”

“Add protections for local franchise owners from unfair restrictions on sales and transfers, therefore giving these small business owners the opportunity to seek a fair return for their business success.”

“Provide needed safeguards for unsubstantiated non-renewal of franchise agreements. Local business owners often invest their savings and years of hard work building up their franchise business, yet the corporations can decide not to renew an agreement even if the business owner has fully complied with its terms.”

“As a chamber of commerce president, I’m particularly sensitive to the threats against small business owners from out-of-state companies,” said Brodeur, a Sanford Republican and chair of the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.

“I want to be sure that there is a level playing field for all business owners in Florida, whether they are a small independent shop or a franchisee,” he added.

Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who chairs the Senate’s Appropriations Committee and owns his own printing business, said franchise-based businesses employ more than 400,000 Floridians.

But he was surprised to learn that only car dealers and farm equipment sales franchisees are currently protected under Florida law. Latvala also told of his experience looking into buying a Dairy Queen franchise.

“One of the impediments of entering into the contract … was that I would have had very little control over my future,” he said. “There wouldn’t be any big impediment (for them) to pull my franchise” even after investing significant sums of money.

The International Franchise Association, which represents franchisors, issued a statement calling the bill “unnecessary government overreach and intrusion into private contract negotiations.”

If it becomes law, the proposal would not be retroactive; that is, it would affect only future franchise agreements.

“Typically, these bills are promoted by a single franchise owner or a handful of franchise owners seeking to generate leverage or extract concessions from a brand company in ongoing contract negotiations,” said IFE President & CEO Robert Cresanti.

Two 7-Eleven convenience store franchisees appeared with Latvala and Brodeur at the press conference but did not speak.

“Like similar bills rejected in numerous states, this bill appears to be a solution in search of a problem that does not exist,” Cresanti added. 

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Dana Young files bill allowing craft breweries to distribute limited amounts of their own product

Dana Young is introducing new legislation to give small craft breweries the ability to move product through other craft breweries.

But the “Big Beer” industry in Tallahassee is already expressing concerns about SB 554, the Senate proposal filed Thursday by the Republican from Tampa.

The bill allows craft breweries producing under 7,000 kegs a year, and does not currently have agreements with distributors, to move its product to other Florida craft breweries.

“I am proud to sponsor SB 554 and continue to be an advocate for our state’s craft brewers,” Young said. “We want to see the craft beer industry continue their trend of record growth and this bill will help new brewers get their beer to market faster. I look forward to working with the bill’s co-sponsor, Sen. Jack Latvala, my colleagues in the Senate, and members of the Florida House to provide a regulatory structure that encourages craft brewers to grow.”

In the summer of 2015, Gov. Rick Scott signed a law allowing craft breweries to finally sell beer in 64-ounce containers known as “growlers.” Until then, Florida (bizarrely) was one of the few states in the nation that didn’t legally sanction such growlers.

But a key part of that legislation allowed craft breweries to ship its product to affiliated locations, up to eight in the state.

That represented a small chip in the “three-tier” alcohol beverage regulation system, which has historically given distributors exclusive power to move beer from manufacturers to the retailer. Passage of the 2015 bill lifted a requirement that those breweries operate as tourist attractions — otherwise known as the “Busch Gardens” exception, named after the Tampa amusement park (then owned by Anheuser-Busch). It allowed them to serve beer at its theme park’s hospitality centers.

That bill maintained that all other alcoholic beverage products (beer, wine and cider) had to go through a distributor.

Young’s new legislation would permit craft breweries (currently without distribution agreements) to send its product to unaffiliated brewers, as well as restaurants and other retail outlets, another potential crack in the three-tier system.

While most craft breweries in Florida generally have distribution agreements, Young’s bill would allow new breweries to have an ability to move product without having to go through a distributor.

“It’s troubling,” says Florida Beer Wholesaler Association executive director Mitch Rubin, “because it upset the balance of the 2015 law.”

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Tampa Bay area legislative delegation tries to figure out if local governments can work together on a transportation fix

State legislators representing the eight counties that make up the Tampa Bay area Legislative Delegation spent two hours in Clearwater on Wednesday discussing attempts to find a way to begin adequately dealing with the region’s myriad transportation issues.

According to a new white paper prepared by the D.C. based Enos Center for Transportation for the Tampa Bay Partnership, a regional structure for transportation planning, operations and decision-making is paramount to developing a regional transportation system. Which might make an interested observer ask – isn’t that what TBARTA was supposed to be all about?

The Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority was created by the Florida Legislature a decade ago to develop and implement a regional transportation master plan of the seven-county West Central Florida region. Yet as Manatee County GOP Senator Bill Galvano recounted on Wednesday, it was created without a funding mechanism, after then Governor Charlie Crist vetoed the $8 million in appropriations that were created with it.

Galvano said, “That was  a shock to all of us,” adding that, “I don’t think he (Crist) realized the connection and it felt through the cracks.”

Whether TBARTA can ultimately become that vehicle as intended was only mentioned towards the end of the meeting held at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

Lawmakers heard from Lightning owner and Channelside developer Jeff Vinik and Barry Shevlin, co-chairs from the transportation working group with the Tampa Bay Partnership, who worked with the Enos Center to produce the white paper.

Vinik’s comments were more general, saying that waiting another five to ten years to develop a master plan will constrain the growth of the Tampa Bay area. He said all options for transportation improvements – roadway expansion, BRT lines, light rail, commuter rail, etc. – all were on the table. “I know it’s critical that we reach consensus in a direction that we want to head,” he said.

Shevlin delved more into specifics.

“We’re a top twenty metro area, but we’re acting like a collection of municipalities and counties and not a region,” he stated, adding that there was obviously no regional structure for trnasportion planning  or decision making in general happening in the region. And twice during his public comments, Shevlin lamented the fact that on last Saturday, there were 14 different buses moving from Dover in Eastern Hillsborough County to downtown Tampa, yet there wasn’t a single vehicle going from Tampa to Clearwater or St. Petersburg.

Shevlin outlined four priorities that the Partnership believes need to happen.

One is to create a multi-county Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). The second plan is to support a regional center for transit operations. Shevlin said HART and PSTA, the two biggest transit agencies in the Bay area, should have a “closer relationship,” but left it open as to how that happens.

Clearwater Republican Senator Jack Latvala called for a consolidation between the two agencies more than four years ago. After two different studies were conducted, that merger never happened, though the agencies are poised to sign an interlocal agreement which will necessitate more joint efforts.

Shevlin also called for a uniform regulatory law in the state regarding ride share, which Tampa Republican Representative Jamie Grant later assured would happen in this year’s session. And the fourth priority is the regional transit study being conducted right now by the Florida Dept. of Transportation which involves the very controversial Tampa Bay Express project.

TBX was almost an afterthought in the discussions, even though the multibillion dollar plan has been hailed as a much needed congestion relief package. Democrats Sean Shaw and Darryl Rouson, who represented the neighborhoods slated to be deleteriously affected by the TBX proposal, both counseled FDOT to double down on its efforts to communicate with the local community. “As it relates to TBX, my constituents don’t feel that they’ve been heard,” Shaw said.

Senator Galvano said that there has been too much parochialism in the past when it comes to local governments wanted to help out other governments in the 2.9 million universe that is the Tampa Bay area.

“I don’t know if we can get there,” he admitted. “It’s a real challenge, getting the mindset that you may have to ante up in your community for a regional plan that’s not going to impact your community for maybe one, two, three or maybe four years.”

As to whether TBARTA could ever become that agency?

“They are operating on a shoestring budget, cobbled together on donations from local governments,” state HD 63 Republican Shawn Harrison, who served on the TBARTA board when it was first created.  “If we can take that vision and expand, I really do think we do have at our disposal a vehicle that can plan and put assets on the road. ”

“We do have a shoestring budget,” echoed Ray Chiaramonte, TBARTA’s executive director. He did say that every local government except for Sarasota funded the agency last year.

Galvano said he appreciated the work from the Tampa Bay Partnership, but said looking at his colleagues, ranging from counties as diverse as Sarasota to Polk, that “it’s not about the Tampa Bay Partnership, it’s about us, and it’s going to take some effort.”

 

 

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Director of Pinellas construction licensing board retires

Rodney Fisher, the executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board, announced his retirement during a meeting Tuesday of the Pinellas County Legislative Delegation.

Fisher, who has been the target of recent stories in the Tampa Bay Times, referred to those saying, “The issue with the PCCLB should not be about me. … I am retiring as the executive director.”

The stories have alleged that some homeowners and contractors feel “cheated, ignored and even stonewalled” by the agency. As for Fisher, stories have claimed that he is a “bully” who can be “charming and knowledgeable, but also volatile and vindictive.”

The announcement of Fisher’s retirement came as delegation members considered two proposed local bills — one would have dissolved the board; the other would have made changes to the board’s membership.

In the end, the proposal to dissolve the PCCLB was withdrawn while the other was unanimously passed. But it’s unlikely that will be the final solution for the board’s future. State Sen. Jack Latvala, the head of the delegation, appointed state Sen. Jeff Brandes and state Rep. Larry Ahern to meet with Pinellas County Commission Chair Janet Long to try to find a solution.

It’s likely the solution will reflect a proposal sent to the delegation Monday by Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard. The proposal reached the delegation too late to be considered at Tuesday’s meeting. But some delegation members indicated they liked the concepts.

Woodard’s proposal would make three changes to the 1973 act that created the PCCLB:

— Update the names of the nominating organizations and adds a remodeling contractor to the membership of the PCCLB.

— Reinstate term limits, which were a part of the original special act, for the PCCLB members who are not serving as a function of their job with a local government.

— Place all employees of the PCCLB under the County Commission while reporting to the county administrator. Organizationally, this function would report to consumer protection.

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Pinellas legislative delegation could dissolve contractor licensing board

Members of the Pinellas Legislative Delegation are scheduled to consider a local bill to dissolve the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board.

The bill is one of two regarding the PCCLB sponsored by state Rep. Larry Ahern and state Sen. Jack Latvala. A local bill applies to a certain area only, rather than the entire state. In this case, the law would only affect the PCCLB, not any other licensing boards.

The other bill would increase the number of members of the board from 21 to 22 and directs what organizations will be represented on the board.

They will be considered at Tuesday’s delegation meeting.

Ahern, from Seminole, said the measures are designed to give delegation members a choice of how to handle the PCCLB. If members think the problems lie with the membership of the board, they could choose just to change the membership.

On the other hand, if they believe construction licensing and complaints could better be handled under the control of the county, they could vote to dissolve the agency.

Ahern said he believes licensing oversight is needed, but that it might be time to change the way it’s done. One possible advantage to dissolving the board and giving control to the county, he said, is the possibility of using other agencies, such as the Sheriff’s Office, to beef up enforcement.

The proposed dissolution bill would ban the PCCLB from incurring “any additional obligations or indebtedness” and directs it to “avoid wasting its assets.” It additionally gives a deadline for board members to wind up the board’s business: “By Dec. 31, 2017, the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board shall wind down its affairs, including liquidating all of its assets and satisfying all of its obligations and indebtedness.”

The other bill increases the number of members of the board from 21 to 22 and directs what organizations will be represented on the board.

The PCCLB came under fire after a Tampa Bay Times story alleged that homeowners and contractors feel “cheated, ignored and even stonewalled” by the PCCLB. The board has called that story false and misleading.

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Pinellas commissioners ask for power to revamp construction licensing board

Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long sent a strongly-worded letter to the head of the county’s construction licensing board telling him to get the agency’s house in order.

Long also sent a letter to state Sen. Jack Latvala asking that Pinellas’ legislative delegation give the county the power to determine how best to provide the board’s services to residents.

The construction licensing board regulates certain construction and home improvement contractors practicing in Pinellas County, including all local municipalities. In addition, the PCCLB provides countywide certification and registration of contractors and countywide certification of journeyman.

The agency has come under fire recently for a lack of accountability and a failure to adequately police those contractors who come before it, especially if the contractor serves on the board. A study by the Tampa Bay Times concluded that homeowners and contractors feel “cheated, ignored and even stonewalled.”

Long referred to the Times story in her letter:

“On behalf of the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners, I am writing about continuing  concerns related to the practices of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board (PCCLB).

“As the Legislature looks at potential options for reform, we strongly encourage the PCCLB to address the issues reported in the Tampa Bay Times to increase accountability and oversight, eliminate conflicts of interest, and adhere to Florida’s Public Records and Sunshine Laws. The public and Board of County Commissioners desires the PCCLB to operate in a transparent, ethical, and fair manner in order to restore the public’s trust and confidence in Pinellas County’s institutions.”

The Pinellas County delegation is expected to discuss the matter at its meeting next Tuesday.

In a letter to Latvala, who heads the delegation, Long wrote:

“Enclosed please find the attached letter to Mr. (Paul) Skipper, Chairman of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board (PCCLB). The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners encourages the Legislature to seek an expeditious solution to the ongoing issues with the PCCLB. We also ask that, should the PCCLB be dissolved and its activities assigned to the Board of County Commissioners, the county administrator be provided the latitude to  determine  the  structure  needed  to  deliver  these services  in an  efficient  and  effective manner.”

 

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