Jack Latvala Archives - Page 7 of 35 - SaintPetersBlog

Board member takes strong exception to potential interlocal agreement between HART and PSTA

In late October, Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long – in her role with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Agency (PSTA) – came before her counterparts with the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) to talk up the benefits of the two transit agencies collaborating on a more formal basis, which she said could be used as way to leverage the power of the region when trying to procure more federal and state funding.

However at Monday’s HART meeting of its Legislative and Strategic Planning Committee, board member Karen Jaroch strongly objected to the language of a draft copy of the agreement, calling it “very subjective.”

“I contend that there are a lot of reasons why this won’t work,” said Jaroch, who came to prominence as a leading critic of the Moving Hillsborough Forward transit tax initiative that failed in 2010. Among the more problematic proposals for Jaroch, as well as board member Mickey Jacobs, was one that said that “staff will develop a strategic coordination plan to merge operational functions in IT.” Another said that “Staff will identify two departments, including IT, for functional merge in calendar 2017.”

Jaroch also noted how there was resistance from state officials to the joint proposal from the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration that strongly encourages the consolidation of regional Metropolitan Planning Organizations in the nation’s urban areas. (On Friday, the FHA & FTA finalized that rule). 

She read several paragraphs from a letter written by officials from the Florida Metropolitan Planning Organization Advisory Council that citied several problems with the proposed rule (however, Carl Mikyska, the Executive Director of that organization, now tells SPB that “overall, MPOAC is not opposed to collaboration of MPOs. In fact, we stated in our letter that we are supportive of voluntary, incentive-based approaches to collaboration.  Our letter provides greater detail about our position related to what was at the time, the proposed rule.”).

She then followed up by reciting statements made in a critical letter from Florida Dept. of Transportation Secretary Jim Boxold to the FTA & FHA calling for the proposed rulemaking “to be suspended until legislation is enacted that clarifies the Congressional intent.”

Like several of her fellow board members, Jaroch was resistant to a call by state Senator Jack Latvala back in 2012 to study the benefits of a merger between the Hillsborough and Pinellas agencies, and she made several references to the Pinellas County Republican in her comments.

“I really hate to lose the sense of local control for unfounded reasons,” Jaroch said. “Unfortunately it’s designed to show a certain senator that we are working together. “

Jaroch said that in fact the two agencies are working together, and mentioned several examples of that, clarifying for her that there is no need for an interlocal agreement to certify that. “We need to do what’s best for HART, and not worry about one or two powerful senators who I don’t think has the power that some people may think that he has.”

Latvala is serving over the next two sessions as the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, considered to be a prestigious and yes, powerful position in the state legislature.

While no other board member was prepared to respond Jaroch’s swipe at Latvala, Sandy Murman, the chair of the committee, emphasized to Jaroch that HART was a regional transit authority and not the MPO, and said correlating the two was “a bit of a stretch.”

That then led to a general discussion with board members and HART attorney David Smith on how they could strengthen the document. Smith said he thought that some of the proposals “needed to be a little more flexible in some of the goals you’re trying to accomplish.” He also said that a termination clause should also be inserted in the event that HART wanted to get out of the agreement.

“We are moving towards regional cooperation and that is going to be the theme in the Tampa Bay area moving forward in the future with everything,” Murman later added.

HART CEO Katherine Eagan said that she would work with board members and Smith and have a new draft of the interlocal agreement available for review at the committee’s meeting next month.

Meanwhile, PSTA officials want to see the agreement go forward.

“Focusing on regionalism is something that we have been talking about at PSTA for a long time, and we are happy to see our sister-agency getting on board with drafting an early concept of what exactly that would look like,” said PSTA spokesperson Ashlie Handy.“We have a lot of great resources here at PSTA, and we are excited to start talking about the best ways to share these resources across the bay.”

Rick Scott wants it both ways: cut taxes, fund services. Can it be done?

Last April, in a news release by his office after signing HB-7099, Gov. Rick Scott bragged, “Over the past two years, Florida has cut more than $1 billion in taxes.”

What a happy day that must have been for the governor.

He has never met a tax he wouldn’t cut or gut, and that bill was a continuation of the theme. It included the permanent elimination of the sales tax on manufacturing machinery and a three-day sales tax holiday for back-to-school stuff.

Scott wants to keep cutting taxes, too.

It stands to reason, though, when there is less money coming in something has to lose. We got a hint of that right here in a story last week on FloridaPolitics.com. It included a quote from state budget chair Jack Latvala about what could be a hotly contested fight for dollars when the Legislature gets together next year.

“To do any increases, we’re going to have to find areas to cut. That’s a certainty,” Latvala said. “Just my luck to be chairman in a year like that.”

But where can the hunt to “find areas to cut” lead when the governor and House Speaker Richard Corcoran want to keep chopping taxes, while Senate President Joe Negron wants to increase funding for higher education?

The Florida Policy Institute reported that more about 70 percent of Florida’s $82.2 billion budget for 2016-17 was allocated to education (29 percent) and “human services” (41 percent). Nearly 18 percent went to natural resources, growth management and transportation.

FPI also noted that despite spending increases in that budget for service areas, “they fail to fund state services at a level that keeps pace with population growth and inflation, and do not improve Florida’s national standing in the provision of these services.”

More ominously, projections are for the state to face a $1.3 billion deficit a year from now, ballooning to $1.9 billion the year after that. Since Republicans control the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the Legislature, they can’t blame Democrats for fiscal irresponsibility. That leaves them with two choices: spend less, or bring in more.

It’s the acid test of the Republican (and Libertarian) ideal that growth comes through lower taxes. It’s the mantra they’ve preached for decades. We see it playing out now in Washington with the corporate tax cuts president-elect Donald Trump has planned.

Lower corporate taxes, they argue, will lead to job creation and expansion. Workers with a healthy regular paycheck will buy more things and that will sustain the government.

Well, that might be sort of true – provided government goes on a diet. That sounds fine in theory. In application, though, it gets trickier.

You also have to look at the complete picture. To coax businesses from other states to move here, Scott has touted Florida’s reputation as a low-tax state. Florida is one of just seven states without a state income tax, for instance.

Wallethub.com also sized up the bevy of state and local taxes and concluded Florida’s bite on median-income residents this year will be $4,868 – 10th lowest in the nation. That’s nearly 16 percent under the national average.

Scott probably wouldn’t be satisfied until Florida is No. 1. He seems driven to prove this state really can have it both ways – cutting taxes, cutting spending while keeping services and education adequately funded for a rapidly growing state.

Logic says that can’t be done. Latvala’s challenge is to prove it can be.

Bill Nelson gives shoutout to Jack Latvala for stance on BP oil spill money

Among this current climate of hyper-partisanship, it is increasingly rare to find members of one party saying kind words about someone on the other.

But that was the case this week when Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson gave a “shoutout” to Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala for his efforts in making sure 2010 BP oil spill settlement money intended for the Florida Panhandle actually makes it there.

Earlier this year, Florida received its first payment of $400 million – with $300 million of that amount slated for eight counties in the Panhandle most affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The settlement totals $2 billion through 2032.

Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reports that the Legislature’s Long-Range Financial Outlook applies that initial payment to the state’s general budget for the next three years. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has launched the House Select Committee on Triumph Gulf Coast which is tasked with supervising the state’s nonprofit corporation that will assign settlement money to counties.

However, Latvala, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, says that several lawmakers believe that the final decision on how to allocate the money should be in the hands of elected officials. The Clearwater Republican said he was not interested in using BP settlement money toward Florida’s general budget. The effort to move that money into the state’s general fund was a “glitch” in the system.

“We made the commitment,” Latvala said. “And I believe in keeping my commitments.”

Nelson, who helped write federal law mandating portions of the settlement money must go to affected counties, not the state.

“A shoutout to Jack in making sure that money goes to the counties where they have suffered economic damages,” Nelson said during a news conference in Tallahassee.

Dana Young, Amber Mariano, others file to run for re-election in 2018

Count them in for 2018.

Dozens of state lawmakers have already filed to run for the state House and Senate in 2018. For some, their decision comes before their first bills get a hearing. Others have their eye on the higher office as they embark on their final term in the House.

State elections records show more than 50 members of the House and Senate have filed to run in two years. While many of those are incumbents who faced little-to-no opposition in 2016, many just came off hard-fought battles to secure their spot in the Florida Legislature.

Sen. Dana Young is one of those. Young, a Tampa Republican, filed to run for re-election in Senate District 18 on Dec. 2. While the former House Majority Leader easily won her seat over Democrat Bob Buesing, it was far from an easy campaign. Buesing and Joe Redner, an independent candidate, attacked Young over her voting record.

Senate President Joe Negron announced last week that Young will serve as the chairwoman of the Senate’s Health Care Policy committee during the 2016-18 Legislative Session. She’ll also serve as the vice chairwoman of the Higher Education Appropriations subcommittee.

Records show Sen. Debbie Mayfield, a Vero Beach Republican, filed to run for re-election in Senate District 17 on Dec. 1. Mayfield defeated former Rep. Ritch Workman, a Melbourne Republican and the former chairman of the House Rules committee, in one of the nastiest primary elections of the cycle.

Mayfield will serve as the vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee during the 2016-18 Legislative Session. She’s also scored a spot on the general government appropriations subcommittee, and the environmental and natural resources appropriations subcommittee.

Sen. Keith Perry, a Gainesville Republican, also filed to run for re-election in Senate District 8 on Dec. 1. Perry defeated Democrat Rod Smith in the November general election. He’ll serve as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

And while Rep. Manny Diaz still has two years left in his House career, he’s already eyeing his next step. The Hialeah Republican filed to run in Senate District 36 on Nov. 21. He’s hoping to replace Sen. Rene Garcia, a Hialeah Republican, who can’t run again in 2018 because of term limits.

In the Florida House, Reps. Randy Fine, Emily Slosberg, Tom Leek, Amber Mariano, Carlos Guillermo Smith, Chris Latvala, and Kathleen Peters are among those who have filed for re-election.

Fine, a Brevard County Republican, is one of at least three House members believed to be in the running for House Speaker in 2022-24, after winning his House District 53 seat earlier in November.

Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat and daughter of former Rep. Irv Slosberg, filed to run for re-election in House District 91; while Leek, an Ormond Beach Republican, filed to run again in House District 25. Both are freshmen lawmakers, as are Mariano, a Hudson Republican and the youngest member of the Florida House, and Smith, an Orlando Democrat.

Mariano will run for re-election in House District 36, while Smith will run for re-election in House District 49.

Latvala, a Clearwater Republican and son of Sen. Jack Latvala, will seek a third term representing House District 67. First elected in 2012, Peters, a Treasure Island Republican, has filed to run for her final term representing House District 69.

Rick Scott declines to comment on proposal to repeal immigration bill he signed in 2014

Rick Scott is declining to comment on a proposal filed for the 2017 Florida Legislative Session that would repeal a major immigration policy change that he signed into law two years ago.

Last week, Sarasota state Senator Greg Steube filed a bill (SB 82) that would repeal legislation approved by the GOP-led Legislature in 2014 that offers lower in-state tuition rates in Florida state colleges and universities for undocumented immigrants. Passage of that bill was uncertain until the end of that year’s session, but was strongly supported by then-House Speaker Will Weatherford and Clearwater state Senator Jack Latvala.

“I haven’t seen it,” Scott told this reporter about the bill as he took questions after hosting a press conference at the Florida Highway Patrol offices in Tampa on Monday.

“I think there are about 2,000 bill that are being proposed during the session, so as I go through the process if they get to my desk, I’ll review,” he added. “I need to look at the bill.”

The legislation is a political power keg, as are most items concerning immigration. Scott campaigned as a tough on immigration candidate in 2010 when first running for governor, getting behind what was then known as an “Arizona style” immigration proposal that asked suspects stopped by the authorities for proof of their citizenship, similar in nature to the conversion SB 1070 immigration law passed earlier that year in Arizona.

“We need to come up with an immigration policy that works for the country,’’ Scott told the Miami Herald back in late 2010. “If you’re stopped in our state — no different than if you’re asked for your ID — you should be able to be asked if you’re legal or not,” he told the Miami Herald.

But the Legislature failed to pass that proposal, along with other major immigration bills in the spring of 2011, including a much discussed E-Verify bill that was killed by Lake Wales Republican J.D. Alexander.

In addition to giving the undocumented a break on their college tuition payments,  the Legislature in 2014 also passed a bill that would allow some undocumented immigrants to obtain law licenses from the Florida Bar.

There has been no companion bill filed in the House, but there is plenty of time for that to happen, with the 2017 Legislative session not commencing until next March. House District 60 Republican Jackie Toledo campaigned during her primary race on a platform to repeal both measures, but has not publicly commented on Steube’s bill.

Pinellas Legislative Delegation to consider changes to construction licensing board

Responding to a request from Charlie Justice, the Pinellas Legislative Delegation will consider changing the way members of the Construction Licensing Board are chosen.

State Sen. Jack Latvala, the delegation chair, called on state Rep. Larry Ahern to come up with a plan by the delegation’s Jan. 31 meeting. State Sen. Jeff Brandes said he wanted Ahern to consider dissolving the board so it would come under control of the Pinellas County Commission.

The licensing board, created in 1973, regulates some construction and home improvement contractors practicing in Pinellas County. It also provides countywide certification and registration of contractors.

It has come under fire in recent weeks because of the way the board members are chosen. Certain organizations and others, named in the statute, suggest members and the chair — currently Justice — of the Pinellas County Commission is responsible for appointing them.

Justice explained the problems in a Nov. 16 letter to Latvala and the delegation:

“When the request to appoint various positions of the PCCLB came before me this fall, I noticed some discrepancies as to the number of appointees provided by the various appointing organizations … In addition, some of the appointing organizations no longer exist or have been adopted under the umbrella of another, similar organization.”

Justice concluded, “I would ask that the Pinellas Legislative Delegation review the laws that pertain to the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and consider amending them to reflect the makeup of the appointing organizations as well as the process by which the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners chair would go about appointing/reappointing board members to the PCCLB.”

Pinellas Legislative Delegation hears from frustrated beach mayor, homeowners

Redington Beach Mayor Nick Simons and four of his constituents came to ask members of Pinellas’ Legislative Delegation to help municipalities that want to regulate short-term, vacation rentals.

Delegations members heard their pain and frustration and made a move toward helping Redington Beach and a similar problem in Indian Rocks Beach. But they showed no interest in working to loosen restrictions on municipalities and counties that want the power to regulate those type rentals.

“I want to see this problem solved this year,” state Sen. Jack Latvala said. Latvala, Republican, is the chair of the delegation. “We are committed to try to solve this problem this year.”

State Sen. Jeff Brandes pointed out the money that short-term rentals bring into the county — about $63,000 a month in bed taxes. He added that the “vast, vast majority” of short-term rentals are working out but that there are isolated problems. He cautioned that any tinkering with the statute should be done delicately.

Latvala appointed Reps. Kathleen Peters and Ben Diamond as a “committee of two” to come up with a proposed solution for Redington and Indian Rock beaches in time for the delegation’s Jan. 31 meeting. Democrat Diamond, a lawyer from St. Petersburg, is new to the delegation. Peters, a Republican, represents many of the beach communities.

The Redington Beach council passed an ordinance in 2008 that restricted short-term vacation rentals. In 2011, the Legislature passed a statute saying that local governments could not restrict them. If, however, a city already had a rule in place, those would be honored.

Redington Beach thought it was protected. Recently, however, a Canadian couple bought a beach house and began renting it out. That was apparently successful because the couple bought another, larger house to rent out. Neighbors soon began complaining about noise, trash and rats, among other things.

They complained to the city, which tried to shut them down under the 2008 ordinance that prohibited such rentals. But the Canadians’ attorney argued that the ordinance was null because it had not gone to referendum before being passed as required by the Redington Beach charter.

That left the city’s hands tied and residents suffering.

“You’re looking at the poster child of what’s wrong with vacation rentals,” Redington Beach homeowner Steve Fields said. “Our life is holy hell. … It stinks. Rats are running around all over the place.”

Claudia McCorkle, a Redington Beach homeowner who lives between the two rentals, said, “It is a veritable nightmare.”

Neighbors, she said, must put up with “shrieking, screaming, undisciplined, unsupervised children.”

“The piercing shrieks are obnoxious,” McCorkle said.

Delegation members suggested the city cite the landlords or renters under other ordinances and to call the sheriff when the noise became too loud.

Mitch Perry Report for 12.1.16 — What does Rick Scott and rest of Legislature do with bill repealing in-state tuition rates for the undocumented?

Florida lawmakers have been filing bills this week for the 2017 Legislative Session, and one of the most provocative ones so far is an immigration-related issue from Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube.

As initially reported by the Tampa Bay Times Claire McNeill, Steube would repeal the Jack Latvala-sponsored bill that waives out-of-state fees for undocumented Florida high school students.

“It is certainly a big issue in my district among my constituents, who were frustrated and upset that the state would allow undocumented illegal immigrants to receive taxpayer-supported, in-state tuition,” Steube told the Times. “So I think it’s important to file the bill and have a discussion on it.”

During the House District 60 GOP primary in Hillsborough County, Republican Jackie Toledo also campaigned on repealing the law, as well as repealing the measure that would allow some illegal immigrants to obtain law licenses from the Florida Bar. Toledo did not respond to FloridaPolitics’ request for comment on Steube’s bill, including whether she would sponsor a House version of it.

There’s no doubt many Republicans in the Legislature will gladly sign on to the bill. If Donald Trump‘s success in the Republican primaries was about anything regarding public policy, it was about being tough on immigration.

But will Rick Scott back repealing a bill he happily supported two years ago? Cynics would say he got behind it because he didn’t want to alienate Latinos as he ran for re-election in 2014. Well, everyone in the world believes he’ll be challenging Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate in 2018, and Florida is only becoming browner. Such a bill would seem punitive, a reversal of the progress made among those who really, through no fault of their own, are considered to be out of compliance (“illegal” if you prefer) with U.S. law.

In other news …

Tampa City Council District 7 candidates Jim Davison and Luis Viera debated for the first time in a one-on-one matchup on Tuesday night (They also debated last night. You can read a complete report on that coming up shortly).

During that debate, former City Councilman Joe Caetano questioned Viera’s endorsement from current Council Chairman Mike Suarez, a longtime friend.

Lakeland GOP Rep. Dennis Ross is now a member of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team.

And instead of moping around after last month’s election debacle, former Florida Democratic Senate candidate Pam Keith is going to Louisiana next week with some fellow D’s to campaign for Senate candidate Foster Campbell.

Jack Latvala, Jeff Brandes will help control the purse strings in Tallahassee next year

When the dust cleared in Tallahassee on Tuesday, one thing was clear: Pinellas was on top when it comes to the state’s funds.

Republican Sens. Jack Latvala and Jeff Brandes, who represent parts of Pinellas, landed some plum appointments. Latvala will be the chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and alt. chair of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission. Brandes will have a seat on the Appropriations Committee and be the chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development.

The news was welcomed by local elected officials who expect to ask Tallahassee for money in 2017.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s office issued a statement, saying, “Their appointments are great news for the city of St. Petersburg, and the Tampa Bay Region.”

Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long, who will chair the commission in 2017, agreed, saying, “I’d like to think it would be very good for Pinellas County.”

Long said the county has just begun work on its legislative package for the coming year.

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority has also begun work on its legislative package. St. Petersburg council member Darden Rice, the PSTA chair, said two projects high on the agenda are rapid transit from the Tampa airport to Clearwater and Clearwater Beach and a bus lane on the Clearwater causeway.

Both Latvala and Brandes are aware of the need for the projects, she said. And Brandes, in particular, has already been supportive of innovative PSTA programs that involve partnerships with companies like Uber and Lyft.

The PSTA, Rice said, “is very fortunate to have two such strong senators. I think this will be very helpful.”

That help, she said, can extend to other issues. One such is the sewer and infrastructure problems facing Pinellas. Although St. Petersburg has taken the brunt of criticism after dumping thousands of gallons of raw and partially treated sewage in the bay during two storms this year, the problem with infrastructure is countywide. Latvala has called two delegation meetings for fact finding.

“I think they had a very clear picture of St. Petersburg’s struggles,” Rice said. “We need help from the state to fix our fragile infrastructure.”

Rice said she’s not talking only about St. Petersburg’s infrastructure. It’s the entire county, she said. That’s another place that the senator’s appreciation for regional solutions will be helpful.

Rice noted that Latvala is known for fighting for what he believes in. That’s good for the county.

“He’s a bruiser,” Rice said. “He’s not afraid to go in and fight for what’s right.”

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