Jack Latvala Archives - Page 6 of 39 - SaintPetersBlog

Lawmakers looking to give boost to Florida’s local franchise business owners

For the Republican-dominated Legislature, helping the business community is a high priority.

So, it’s not surprising that this Session, new protections for small-business owners are capturing legislators’ attention.

Tomorrow, the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries will hear SB 750, known as the Protect Florida Small Business Act. This bill, sponsored by powerful appropriations chair Sen. Jack Latvala, outlines several measures directed toward some of the questionable business practices of out-of-state franchisors in their relationships with Florida’s local franchise business owners.

The critical need of this legislation stems from the many stories that have emerged of abuses in the franchisor-franchisee relationship. Under current law, corporations have the power to terminate franchisees without any justification. This leads to incidents like in 2010, when a Vietnam veteran living in Miami invested $500,000 to open a franchise, only to have his store terminated after only six years. He subsequently opened an independent retail business, but the franchisor corporation moved to enforce an onerous noncompetition clause to prevent him from going out on his own.

Further corporate abuses include preventing the transfer of a business, even in the event of an owner’s death, refusing to renew a franchise agreement, and restricting resale with the intention of a return on investment. Examples of these abuses are found throughout the state. A Tampa couple was forced to shut down their after-school tutoring franchise—and lose $75,000—before they could sell their business to a qualified buyer. An Orlando woman recently had her pre-school franchise terminated without cause after reporting being the victim of domestic violence.

The protections proposed by the Protect Florida Small Business Act seek to provide a stable and fair foundation for local franchise owners to conduct business with corporate franchisors. This would give the franchise owners more security and encourage them to continue to invest in the Florida economy. Interestingly enough, these protections are not new to Florida. Several industries in the state, such as agricultural equipment and automobile dealers, are already offered these protections – this bill would simply extend them to the franchise business industry.

The public has spoken – and Floridians are overwhelmingly in support of taking care of these small-business owners who invest in their communities. A recent poll conducted by Mason-Dixon reported that 71 percent of Floridians think that the state should provide protections to franchise owners. This is an impressive statistic, but also easy to believe when you consider the more than 40,000 franchised businesses in Florida that employ over 400,000 Floridians.

This bill is a product of these stories of young upstarts, family business owners, and veterans losing their livelihoods due to the unchecked power of corporations. With the support of the majority of Floridians, Sen. Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur, who are sponsors, hope to extend protections to these local franchise owners and promote their continued growth and investment in the state.

Franchise group tweets tone-deaf opposition to ‘Florida Small Business Act’ — using California in background

A pro tip for anyone seeking to curry favor with the Florida Legislature: get your facts straight — or at least know which state you’re trying to lobby.

A couple of months ago, state Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur announced support for the “Protect Florida Small Business Act” (SB 750), which seeks to “promote fair business relations between franchisees and franchisors and to protect franchisees against unfair treatment by franchisors.”

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

For some reason, that hasn’t set well with the International Franchise Association, the industry’s leading trade group.

IFA has been a vocal opponent of the act, calling it “unnecessary government overreach and intrusion into private contract negotiations.”

So, like any good trade organization, the IFA took to social media to make its case, seeking to pressure a growing number of state lawmakers — including Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, Sens. Greg Steube and Lizbeth Benacquisto and others — into opposing the bill.

But something was not quite right.

A series of tweets on the group’s page (@Franchising411) blasted several lawmakers, calling on them to reject SB 750 and its House companion (HB 1069). The tweets asked followers — nearly 12,000 of them — to tell the legislators to “protect franchising.”

Behind each image of a Florida legislator was a map of California, not Florida.

Oops.

Now, IFA is no bush-league organization; the group claims to represent more than 700,000 franchise establishments, 7.6 million direct jobs, billions in economic output for what they say is nearly 3 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. That’s not small potatoes.

In addition, IFA boasts members in more than 300 different occupations including marketing, law and business development.

Apparently, that list doesn’t include cartography.

With such a vast reach, it would be reasonable to assume IFA could spring for a staffer with some basic geographic knowledge, or at least hire a person (anyone) who knows the difference between Florida and California.

Say, someone who lives in either of those states. That should narrow it down to only 56 million people.

Ironically, the worst of these misguided tweets is one the few that got it right — with Florida in the background, that is.

Sent March 30, the tweet in question asked supporters to contact Port Orange Republican Sen. Dorothy Hukill.

Double oops.

You see, even a cursory Google search would show Hukill is not even in Tallahassee this Session. She is contending with a more pressing issue — radiation treatments for cervical cancer.

Mistaking California for Florida is ridiculous enough; going after a cancer patient in active treatment is not only tone deaf, but also insensitive and mind-numbingly stupid.

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Was Jack Latvala against Enterprise Florida before he was for it?

Sen. Jack Latvala has backed Gov. Rick Scott in his defense of Enterprise Florida—but that wasn’t always the case.

The Clearwater Republican, who now chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, had some choice words for the public-private economic development organization back in 2015.

That’s when he was chair of the Senate’s Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations subcommittee.

That’s also when the agency, which the House now is trying to eliminate, was seeking more money for its business development efforts.

“They’re asking for $85 million for ‘tools,’ ” Latvala told reporters. “I helped create Enterprise Florida. My first observation is that at that time Enterprise Florida was supposed to be a public-private partnership and all of these corporations were going to contribute.

“Well, steadily, through the years, the percentage of corporate contributions has declined and state budget allocations have increased,” he said, echoing the current argument of House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

The speaker has called the group a dispenser of “corporate welfare.”

“Why do they want (more state) money when others could use it, when other communities have very worthwhile projects?” Latvala said at the time. “It’s just irresponsible.”

The entire clip is available on YouTube or watch it below:

Senate issues draft $3.8B environmental budget, millions higher than House

On Tuesday, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Environment and Natural Resources issued the first version of its 2017-18 budget, which comes in at $3.8 billion.

The projected Senate budget includes few hundred million dollars more than the preliminary House plan.

Fleming Island Republican Rob Bradley, who chairs the committee, offered a thumbnail version at a public hearing Wednesday reports LobbyTools.

Among the legislative asks from the Senate is $275 million for Everglades restoration – compared to $165.7 million from the House. Another $50 million for springs restoration, while the House is seeking only $40 million.

There is also $22.6 million for Florida Forever for land acquisition under the Florida Communities Trust program, the same program would get $10 million from the House for local government grants to buy land for parks and wildlife corridors as buffer zones for water resources, reports LobbyTools.

Beach restoration projects would get $100 million — a priority project for Sen. Jack Latvala — as opposed to $30.1 million in the House plan; $64 million would go to water projects versus $20 million from the lower chamber.

Joe Henderson: Proposed new transportation agency a good start toward solving an old problem

Short of hitting yourself in the head with a hammer, the surest way to get a headache is to wade deep into Tampa Bay area transportation problems. You encounter a mishmash of competing agencies and agendas that has resulted in legislative and automotive gridlock for frustrated commuters for years.

Given that, I’m encouraged by what is coming out of Tallahassee. A pair of Republican legislators — state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater and state Rep. Dan Raulerson of Plant City — have introduced bills that would create a five-county regional transit agency.

Hernando County is a late addition to a group including Manatee, Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas.

But wait, you say. Didn’t the Legislature already try something like that?

Yep.

A decade ago, Tallahassee gave us the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority — known in wonk terms as TBARTA. Its scope was as large as its acronym, an attempt to bring seven counties together under a single transportation tent.

Nice sentiment, but poor execution. Trying to meet the needs of seven counties proved unwieldy.

“What Jack and I are trying to do is tweak this thing,” Raulerson said. “We want to get everybody moving in the same direction so we can put together a plan and get federal money for this. We have been woefully short there.”

The revamped board would have 13 members — seven elected officials, and six from the private sector. The elected officials likely will include the mayors from Tampa and St. Petersburg along with a commissioner from each county affected.

“That part is a work in progress right now,” Raulerson said. “But it is important to have more elected officials on the board because that provides for transparency and accountability.”

Both bills have sailed through their respective committees and appear to be gaining local acceptance. Tampa Bay Partnership President Rick Homans gave an enthusiastic endorsement to the plan, telling Mitch Perry of FloridaPolitics.com, “ … we realized that in order to get this started, we needed to have the right kind of planning and the right operational structure in place that will give us a greater chance of success.”

During committee hearings on the proposed bills, some lawmakers were skeptical that a new regional transportation agency would just be more of the same. Given the history on this issue, I certainly understand that point of view.

But I do like that this new authority would be smaller and focused on the counties of greatest need. Having Latvala and Raulerson behind this doesn’t hurt, either. Not only are they capable of guiding this from proposal to reality, they also represent both sides of Tampa Bay.

How soon can this happen?

“Once this becomes law, we probably need to have a good plan in place to take to the feds within 12 months,” Raulerson said. “The good news on that is that there already are a lot of plans out there, so we wouldn’t be starting from scratch. We just need to get moving.”

Tampa Bay Partnership on board with Jack Latvala-Dan Raulerson bill creating regional transit agency

Legislation that would create a regional transit agency connecting four Tampa Bay-area counties breezed through committees in both the House and Senate last week.

The proposed agency would be created in advance of a much anticipated Florida Dept. of Transportation transit study scheduled to be completed next year.

“It’s a real project. It’s not just talk. And so we realized that in order to get this started, we needed to have the right kind of planning and the right operational structure in place that will give us a greater chance of success,” says Rick Homans, president of the Tampa Bay Partnership, the local economic development group. The creation of the agency was the number one “ask” of the Partnership going into the legislative session.

Although some observers have said the bill seems like a rehashed version of TBARTA, the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority that was created a decade ago but without any funding to fulfill its goals, the newly proposed agency’s scope has been reduced from seven Bay area counties to four, and was originally just three – Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco.

Manatee County was added after Senator Bill Galvano advocated for its inclusion, Homans said.

Plant City Republican Dan Raulerson did hear some concerns from lawmakers when he introduced the bill in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee last week, mostly about the composition of the 13-member board. As of now, there would be seven members selected from the private sector and six lawmakers.

“The most important thing is we try to create a governance structure that encourages participation by people who think regionally,” says Homans, adding that he’s not so concerned with the exact balance, as “long as they support the mission.”

There has been increasing talk over the last year or so of creating a regional Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). Homans says that there will be a meeting on May 12 in St. Petersburg with MPO officials, elected officials and business leaders to kickoff discussions about a potential regional MPO.

The Tampa Bay Times reported on Friday about the relative lack of requests for transportation projects by Tampa Bay area lawmakers this session.

“First, you have to have a plan,” Homans says about why that’s the case. “We don’t have a plan. Then you need an organization to implement it and build it, and then you need an organization to operate it, and we don’t have those things in place. We’re moving towards putting those structures into place to make the ‘big ask.'”

The bill is being pushed in the Senate by Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala, who has a keen interest in seeing the local transit agencies work closer together.

“We’ve got a lot of folks in my party that just bury their head in the sand when it comes to transportation,” the venerable lawmaker said last summer when talking about the handling of the critical Tampa Bay area issue.

Breezing through committee: Welfare drug testing, DCF takes backseat in Walton County

Two measures dealing with drug testing for certain public aid applicants and law enforcement taking over DCF’s role investigative role in another county met no resistance Tuesday.

Among several bills heard by the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee were two dealing with applicants of temporary assistance for needy families (TANF) and child welfare investigations.

With regard to TANF, Sen. Jack Latvala introduced SB 1392, a bill that would require applicants with felony drug convictions within 10 years from the time of the application would be made to submit to a drug screening before being approved for those benefits. The bill also would include individuals with a “history of arrests for drug-related offenses,” Latvala said.

The bill also requires the Department of Children and Families, the agency tasked with distributing and overseeing TANF and food stamp benefits. DCF would be required to give advanced notice before a test and would not be allowed to withhold benefits from the children of parents who fail the illegal substance screenings.

While Latvala admitted the proposal was “controversial,” he said the idea actually wasn’t even his.

“This bill came out of ‘there ought to be a law’ competition we have at a high school in my son’s district in Pinellas County,” the lawmaker told the committee. “So I want to couch it in the fact it’s come from high school students who thought it ought to be a law.”

The applicant would be responsible for the cost of the screening, too, according to the bill’s fine print. Of that segment of applicants, those who pass would be tested every two months.

For those who fail, unless they meet strict requirements for re-testing, those individuals would not be eligible to reapply for two years, according to the bill.

Those who pass the screening will be a certain amount of dollars in their assistance from the state.

If an applicant fails once, they would have to wait two years before re-applying, but they would be eligible to attend drug rehabilitation classes contracted by DCF. If they fail twice, they won’t be eligible for benefits for three years.

There was no opposition to the bill from the public or committee members.

In a separate bill — SB 1092, Sen. George Gainer has proposed DCF to take a back seat to the Walton County Sheriff’s Office in all child welfare investigations.

If voted on favorably on the Senate floor later in the Legislative Session, Walton County would become only the seventh county out of Florida’s 67 to dish such serious responsibilities to a law enforcement agency.

The six other counties where sheriff’s offices have lead authority are Broward, Seminole, Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough and Manatee, where the idea first started as a pilot in the late 1990s.

Other measures passed during the meeting included SB 518, SB 520, SB 924, SB 1094 and SB 1400,

 

Bill creating Tampa Bay area transit authority gets first hearing in Legislature

Legislation that would refigure the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority (TBARTA) had its first hearing in the Florida Legislature, where it became clear changes may be needed if its to pass.

The bill was introduced by Clearwater state Senator Jack Latvala earlier this month, and is being sponsored in the House by Plant City Republican Dan Raulerson. The bill (HB 1243) creates a regional transit agency that would alter TBARTA by giving it direction to plan, implement and operate multimodal transit options throughout the region. It would coordinate plans among member counties and prioritize regionally-significant projects. And it designates TBARTA as the recipient of federal funds for any intercounty or major one-county project.

The fact that there would be one more board member coming from the private sector bothered some officials on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, which discussed the bill on Tuesday. The board would consist of 13 members, three of whom would be selected by the Governor. The Senate President and Speaker of the House would get two selections. The four counties would select one representative; there would be one representative from the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA).

“I think part of the issue is we want to have some private expertise on the board,” Raulerson said. “Currently we have a vast majority of elected officials on TBARTA. What we’re attempting to do is say, ‘Look, let’s have a balance.'”

St. Petersburg Democrat Wengay Newton and Tampa Republican Jackie Toledo both expressed reservations about there being more members from the private sector than elected officials on the agency. Raulerson said he was open to discussing that, but felt that there was a chance that the representatives from HART and PSTA would likely be an elected official anyway.

Toledo also questioned why there would be no member from the Florida Dept. of Transportation on the proposed board. Raulerson said the purpose of the legislation was to “unclutter the process and make sure that going forward we have an effective governance policy,” adding however that he would be open to adding an FDOT representative to the board.

Unlike TBARTA, however, it would only encompass four counties –  Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough and Manatee.

Hudson Republican Amber Mariano asked Raulerson why it had been reduced from seven. Raulerson said it was to  “narrow the focus,” because the existing structure of TBARTA “hasn’t resulted in what we want.” He later said that there is a possibility of adding Hernando County to the agency.

“This bill gives me pause,” Newton said, referring to the fact that Tampa Bay voters have rejected recent tax referendums on transit. “I don’t see how changing a board is going to do that.”

The bill is considered the number one priority of the Tampa Bay Partnership.

“Transportation is the greatest economic challenge facing our region today,” said Rhea Law, Chair of the Tampa Bay Partnership and Chair, Florida Offices at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. “Our limited transit options and lack of regional connectivity inhibit our residents’ access to jobs, our businesses’ access to workers, and the efficient movement of goods and commerce that drive economic growth. This legislation is a critical first step to creating a seamless regional transit system that successfully addresses these issues. We thank the sponsor, Rep. Dan Raulerson, and the members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, which includes Bay Area Legislative Delegation members Rep. Amber Mariano, Rep. Ralph Massullo, Rep. Wengay Newton and Rep. Jackie Toledo, for recognizing the importance of this bill and allowing it to move forward through the legislative process. Their actions today encouraged continued discussion and allow for future efforts to improve the bill.”

The bill will get its first hearing in the Senate on Wednesday in the Transportation Committee.

This fundraising invitation from Ed Hooper has me worried

Late last month, former state Sen. John Legg announced that he would not attempt to return to the Legislature in 2018. Had he run, Legg’s best path to victory was thought to be through north Pinellas’ Senate District 16, where incumbent Jack Latvala is term-limited from running again.

The person who benefits the most from Legg not running is former state Rep. Ed Hooper who, even if Legg was in the race, is the early front-runner to replace Latvala.

Hooper was in Tallahassee last Monday for a fundraiser hosted by Latvala, the next two Senate Presidents — Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson — as well as almost all of Republicans who comprise Tampa Bay’s legislative delegation.

In other words, with Legg out and the establishment behind him, Hooper should cruise in 2018, or at least through the Republican primary.

But something, admittedly trivial, has me just a tad bit worried. It’s this dang invitation (pictured below) for a fundraiser on March 29.

To look at, the invitation is hideous. And whoever filled up the invite with those throwaway puns should have their keyboard taken away.

Seriously, this invitation looks like a dog’s breakfast.

Maybe it was designed by an earnest volunteer. And maybe a campaign intern was in charge of the writing.

But you know what this invite reminds me of?

Jim Frishe.

It’s a big serving of Jim Frishe Velveeta cheese.

Frishe, of course, is the former state Representative who wanted a seat in the Florida Senate but was defeated by Jeff Brandes in a 2012 primary. The tech-savvy Brandes campaign exposed the well-meaning Frishe as a career politician and out-of-date. The final result was not even close.

Ed Hooper’s situation is not the same as Jim Frishe’s. There isn’t a Senate leadership fight shaping the primary in Senate District 16 (at least not yet). Hooper’s not on the opposite side of the Brandes-Nick Hansen wing of the Pinellas GOP which, in 2016, beat Frishe a second time in the Pinellas Property Appraiser contest.

Hooper should not have to endure a primary.

But cheesy stuff like this coming out of the Hooper camp might give some self-financing, unknown conservative — basically a Jeff Brandes of Palm Harbor — the idea that Hooper is, like Frishe was shown to be, a career pol and out-of-date.

And remember, Hooper’s coming off a loss to Democrat Pat Gerard for a County Commission seat. Many observers say that was Hooper’s race to win, but his campaign failed to execute a winning plan.

Sending out invitations designed like the one below may indicate Hooper did not learn from that loss.

Hooper can and should do better than this.

State lawmakers applaud Florida TaxWatch during annual State of Taxpayer dinner

State lawmakers applauded Florida TaxWatch this week, hailing the organization for its role in the legislative process.

“The folks that formed Florida TaxWatch had a good focus in mind,” said Sen. Jack Latvala. “And as a result of Florida TaxWatch’s efforts, we’ve turned things around.”

The taxpayer advocacy group hosted its State of the Taxpayer dinner Wednesday. The annual event is meant to highlight issues affecting the average taxpayer, and features speeches from Latvala, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Rep. Jim Boyd and Rep. Manny Diaz. House Speaker Richard Corcoran was scheduled to attend, but was unable to make it, according to a spokesman for the organization.

While speakers used the event as a chance to promote the work they’re doing, some took a few moments to show their support for Enterprise Florida, one of Gov. Rick Scott’s top priorities.

Latvala, who serves as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said at some point the state needs to start thinking about how it can balance its desire to keep taxes low, while still meeting the needs of the state.

“I believe the way we do that, just like the governor believes, is by growing the economy organically,” said Latvala. “We need to bring in high paid employees and get them in to the Florida economy, get them buying homes. And that’s been a function that’s been performed admirably by Enterprise Florida.”

While the program has come under fire in recent years, Latvala told attendees the program was the “creation of Republican leaders.” And before Enterprise Florida, there was a “zero match” when it came to companies putting in dollars to recruit businesses.

“We’ve come a long way,” he said. “If we get rid of our (economic incentive) programs, we’re going into the world in a competition situation naked as a jaybird. And I don’t want to do that.”

Florida TaxWatch has opposed legislation by the Florida House that would eliminate Enterprise Florida and a slew of other economic incentive programs. The bill cleared the House Appropriations Committee last week, and is scheduled to get its first hearing in the full House on Thursday.

“The session has gotten off to a slow start, with not much happening in the next couple of days,” joked Lopez-Cantera.

Boyd, the chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, discussed what his committee was doing, and said the House wants what is best for Florida.

“I do believe with all of my heart, and I know leadership of the House does as well, that we’re all out for the same thing. At the end of the day we want a vibrant economy, we want jobs, we want good education,” he said. “I know that as we move through this process … we share the same goal. This is a marathon, not a sprint. We’re getting closer every day.”

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