Richard Corcoran updates House members on leadership, staffing changes

House Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran updated members on committees, House leadership, and staffing changes Tuesday.

The memo was meant to give members an update on what to expect in the coming weeks. In it, the Land O’Lakes Republican lays out a timeline of when members should expect to get their committee assignments and when leadership positions will be announced. It also highlights staffing changes.

Corcoran said the leadership team — including Speaker pro tempore, Majority Leader and full committee chairs — will be announced no later than Nov. 9. The leadership team will then work collaboratively to appoint committee vice chairs and subcommittee chairs.

Members will receive a committee assignment preference form on Nov. 15, but committee assignments won’t be doled out until all committee and subcommittee chairmanships have been appointed.

While Corcoran said the House hopes to finalize staff assignments by the end of September, several members of the senior staff leadership team have already been announced. Joining Matt Bahl, who will serve as chief of staff, are: Lynn Cobb, Tom Hamby, and Carol Gormley who will be involved in policy; Tony Cortese, who will be involved in process; Fred Piccolo in communications; and James Blair in external affairs.

Corcoran said JoAnne Leznoff and Stephanie Birtman will continue in Appropriations and Rules respectively, and Russell Hosford will serve another term as Sergeant-at-Arms. Portia Palmer will serve as the Clerk, and Joanna Hassell will rejoin the House to head up the education policy staff.

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37% of likely Florida GOP primary voters back Mike Huckabee for governor in 2018

It’s never too early to think about the next election, and a new poll from St. Pete Polls has Floridians doing just that.

According to the survey, 54 percent of likely Republican primary voters said Gov. Rick Scott would make a good U.S. Senator. The survey found 16 percent of respondents said they were unsure, while 30 percent said he wouldn’t be a good senator.

Scott can’t run for re-election again in 2018 because of term limits. While he’s been mum on his future political plans, many Florida insiders believe he is gearing up to challenge Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018.

Scott’s political committee — Let’s Get to Work — continues to raise money, raising nearly $1.9 million in the first seven months of 2016. He’s also become the chair of a pro-Donald Trump super PAC, giving a larger presence on the national stage.

With Scott vacating the Governor’s Mansion in a few years, speculation has already begun about who will replace the Naples Republican come 2018.

While Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is widely believed to be gearing up for a 2018 gubernatorial run, other possible contenders include CFO Jeff Atwater, Attorney General Pam Bondi, House Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran, and Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and a Florida resident.

When it comes to the governor’s race, 37 percent of likely Republican primary voters said they would vote for Huckabee; while 26 percent stated that they would pick Bondi. Nearly 8 percent of voters said they would pick Putnam, while nearly 7 percent said they would vote for Atwater.

About 1 percent of voters said they would vote for Corcoran, 3 percent stated that they would pick former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, and less 1 percent said they would vote for former House Speaker Will Weatherford.

Seven percent of voters polled said they would vote for someone else. And with more than two years until the election, 12 percent of respondents said they were unsure who they would vote for.

The survey was conducted Aug. 2 and polled 1,835 likely Republican primary voters through an automated calling system. Voters were chosen at random from the state’s registered voting lists. The margin of error is 2.3 percent.

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The company you keep: Sam Rashid turns up at Marco Rubio Tampa fundraiser

An old proverb goes: “You are the company you keep.” Another saying, not quite as old, is “stop saying dumb things on social media.”

That last one is a bit of wisdom Marco Rubio might have imparted on Republican activist Sam Rashid during Thursday’s $500-a-plate “Day One Marco” fundraiser in Tampa.

Florida’s junior Senator has been very busy this summer, crisscrossing the state in his re-election effort. That means pressing a lot of flesh. So it should come as no surprise to see Rubio meeting with a wide range of supporters coming out for the GOP front-runner.

Nevertheless, when Rubio made his way to Tampa this week, one name stood out above the rest in the high-profile host committee: Sam Rashid.

Rashid, for those not familiar, has had a long — and infamous — reputation on social media, and is also a well-known figure in Rubioworld.

To put it another way, Rashid and Rubio are more than just Facebook friends; and that might not be a good thing.

Listed among the hosts were such big names as lobbyist Michael Corcoran and his brother, incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran, as well as former Speaker Will Weatherford and Ambassador Mel Sembler and his wife Betty.

However, no one on that list has a more colorful online profile as Rashid.

For example, Rubio appointed Rashid last year to a committee advising both Rubio and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on judicial appointees. It didn’t last long.

Rashid resigned in May 2015, after he was criticized for a Facebook post calling some local judges “dumbasses.”

Later, Rashid infamously resigned again in October, this time from the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, after he called Tampa-based public relations consultant Beth Leytham a “taxpayer-subsidized slut.”

Apparently, Rashid doesn’t think people actually read the things he posts on Facebook.

Gov. Rick Scott had appointed Rashid to the Aviation Authority in June 2014 and was reportedly under immense pressure to fire him for the comment about Leytham.

Instead of showing remorse for his blatantly misogynistic remark, Rashid doubled down, stubbornly refusing to apologize for the slur that led to his resignation.

So when a notorious Facebooker like Rashid appears at the top of a Rubio host committee — $5,400 to be a “Day One Marco Supporter” — it makes one wonder.

Is this really the company Rubio wants to keep?

7.28.16 TPA Invite_Page_17.28.16 TPA Invite_Page_2

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Florida’s jobs agency gives checks to departing employees

Amid a major shakeup pushed by Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida agency responsible for luring jobs to the state is paying nearly a half-million dollars to departing employees.

Florida taxpayers are picking up the majority of the cost for severance payments and payouts for unused leave. Records requested by The Associated Press show that 10 departing employees at Enterprise Florida are receiving more than $430,000.

Rank-and-file state workers are not allowed to receive severance payments, but employees at Enterprise Florida aren’t considered state workers even though taxpayers pick up most of the tab for the economic development organization.

Many Enterprise Florida employees — including the president and CEO — have resigned or were forced out as part of an overhaul initiated by Scott, who also serves as the chairman of the Enterprise Florida board.

Scott and the board agreed earlier this month to streamline the operations of the 20-year outfit, including eliminating jobs, shuttering international offices and canceling contracts with outside consultants. The cuts are expected to save about $6 million.

“EFI is current undergoing a restructuring of its core functions to ensure our personnel contacts are the most cost effective,” said Mike Grissom, a senior vice president with Enterprise Florida.

But those employees who are leaving had contracts that guaranteed them severance payments.

Bill Johnson, the head of the organization who appears to have been forced to resign earlier this year, received a severance check of $132,500 and he also was paid more than $14,000 for unused leave. Grissom said that private donations were used to pay Johnson.

Johnson took over the post in 2015 at the start of Scott’s second term. But he wound up clashing several times with the Florida Legislature over the amount of money needed to lure new companies to the state.

Scott wanted legislators this year to set aside $250 million for a new fund that would be used for business incentives. But legislators rejected the entire request and some top Republicans such as incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran contend that the incentives are a form of “corporate welfare.”

Nine other employees at Enterprise Florida — ranging from an office manager to a senior vice president — received severance payments paid from public money that ranged from $5,000 to $60,000. Two senior vice presidents were given nearly $30,000 in lump sum payments for unused leave.

So far, Scott and Enterprise Florida officials have not said what they will do with the roughly $6 million cut from the budget of the organization. Enterprise Florida can’t legally direct it to the programs that the Legislature refused to fund. Grissom said the board will discuss in September what it plans to do with the savings generated from the cuts.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Rick Scott gearing up for GOP convention speech

Gov. Rick Scott brushed off questions about whether Donald Trump would be able to secure the nomination next week, saying the New York Republican is the clear winner.

“He clearly won the delegates,” said Scott during a stop in Naples on Friday. “My goal is that we have a great convention, and we highlight where we’re going as a country and a party, and we have a big win and change the direction of this country.”

Scott is one of dozens of people slated to speak during the Republican National Convention next week. The Naples Republican praised Trump early in the primary cycle but did not endorse him until after Florida’s March 15 primary. Since then, he has been a vocal supporter of the New York Republican and was often mentioned as a potential running mate.

Trump announced Friday he selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to be his running mate. During his stop in Naples, Scott told reporters he had made it clear to Trump he wasn’t interested in the No. 2 spot.

“I’ve been clear all along,” he said. “I have a great job, and I want to keep this job.”

Scott said he is excited to go to the convention, noting he missed most of the 2012 Republican convention in Tampa because of a hurricane. Republicans cut the conference short by a day because of the storm threat. Scott was also scheduled to speak at that event.

“I’m going to talk about why we ought to elect Donald Trump,” said Scott. “We need a business person. We need someone who is going to destroy ISIS. We need someone who is going to focus on jobs. And that’s what he’s going to do.”

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is also scheduled to speak at the convention.

Floridians heading up to Cleveland for the event will have a jam-packed schedule, including breakfasts, tailgate parties and a reception.

The Republican Party of Florida released a rundown of events Friday morning. Delegates will be able to participate in a breakfast speaker series hosted by the state party and Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran. Speakers at the breakfasts include Frank Luntz, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Dick Morris, and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Presidential hopeful Ben Carson is scheduled to attend a breakfast hosted by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“With Florida being front and center as the largest swing state, we are excited to welcome these great speakers to the conversation of Making Florida Red Again and Making America Great Again,” said Blaise Ingoglia, the chair of the Florida GOP and a state representative.

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Personnel note: Brad Swanson named president of FCTA

Brad Swanson has been tapped to lead the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association.

Derek Cooper, chair of the association’s Board of Directors, announced Thursday Swanson has accepted the position of FCTA president.

“On behalf of FCTA, I am excited that we have someone of Brad’s caliber to lead the association,” said Cooper. “We welcome Brad and look forward to the dynamic energy and varied skill sets he brings to the post.”

Swanson fills a vacancy created by the departure of longtime FCTA President Steve Wilkerson.

Swanson is the former executive director of the Florida Transportation Commission. Prior to joining the commission, he served as the state freight, logistics and passenger operations administrator at the Florida Department of Transportation. Swanson also spent several years at the Florida Chamber of Commerce, including serving as the organization’s vice president of corporate and strategic partnerships.

“Congratulations to the FCTA and its new President Brad Swanson. The FCTA and the cable industry have embraced the importance of innovation and competition, which has expanded the availability of broadband access to the people of Florida,” said House Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran. “I look forward to their continued investment and expansion in Florida.”

Florida cable companies have invested over $6 billion in Florida, and continue to invest in the state to offer Floridians more choices. According to the Association, about 13.5 million Floridians benefit from cable innovations every day.

“My congratulations to Brad Swanson,” said Senate President Designate Joe Negron. “I’ve enjoyed working with the association, and I look forward to working with Brad in his new position with this dynamic team.”

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Joe Henderson: Richard Corcoran flexes muscles with $53K June fundraising

The latest example of Richard Corcoran’s expanding power in Tallahassee came in this little news nugget: He raised $53,000 last month, despite the fact he has already been re-elected to the Florida House without opposition.

As incoming House Speaker, Corcoran’s reach extends far beyond his campaign. One of the biggest ways is in serving as a magnet for contributions. He may not need the money himself, but he knows candidates and causes that might.

“For lack of a better word, it becomes a war chest of sorts,” Republican operative Mark Proctor said.

That war chest becomes a critical part of the legislative process.

Donors basically tell the recipient — in this case, Corcoran — here’s some money, dole it out where you see fit. So if you’re a Republican candidate a little short on funds in a tough race, the soon-to-be Speaker might direct a few bucks your way. It’s a common practice in politics.

Much of that money is funneled through Corcoran’s political committee Florida Roundtable, which according to state campaign documents has raised $2.041 million since it was founded in 2013. Since Jan. 1 of this year, it has raised $371,000.

That, of course, is a great way to consolidate power because nothing ensures loyalty for the Speaker’s agenda like a helping hand in the campaign.

And what might Speaker Corcoran’s agenda include?

He’ll hold the line on taxes. He’ll fight attempts at gun restrictions, like he just did when House Democrats tried to schedule a special session on guns following the massacre in Orlando. Any attempt to revive Medicaid expansion for the state’s estimated 800,000 people without health insurance will be met with a continued cold shoulder.

He also has set his sights on ending taxpayer support for Enterprise Florida on the grounds that it amounts to corporate welfare. That could lead to a showdown with Gov. Rick Scott, who wants to expand greatly the taxpayer contribution to the agency that was created in the early 1990s to attract businesses to the state.

During Corcoran’s rise to power, he was often considered the most powerful man in the House — even ahead of then-speaker Steve Crisafulli. As House budget chairman in the last session, Corcoran helped shepherd through an $82 billion spending blueprint.

Now as Speaker, Corcoran has a chance to shape the landscape in Florida for many years to come. Months like the one that just ended help provide the needed cash to do just that.

___

Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He has covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons — Ben and Patrick.

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Without opposition, Richard Corcoran has big June, committee raises $40K

Incoming Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran raised $53,000 across his campaign and committee accounts last month, according to newly filed campaign finance reports.

Corcoran, who won re-election without opposition a week ago, raised $13,000 for his campaign and another $40,000 for his political committee, Florida Roundtable, between June 1 and June 24.

The bulk of the committee money came in through a $25,000 contribution from GOPAC Election Fund, a Republican national committee chaired by David Avella, which describes itself as “educating and electing a new generation of Republican leaders.”

Florida Roundtable also brought in $5,000 each from Coastal QSR, Florida Bells and Southeast QSR, all three of which are associated with Clearwater businessman and restaurateur Nicholas Peters.

Corcoran’s direct campaign contributions came in across 15 checks, including 11 for the campaign maximum of $1,000. Among the June donors were attorney and former Democratic House Speaker H. Lee Moffit, the Ford Motor Company Civic Action Fund and lobbying mega-firm Greenberg Traurig.

Despite spending more than he brought in last month, the third-term Pasco County representative finished the reporting period with nearly $80,000 on hand in his campaign account and another $653,000 on hand in his committee.

Corcoran was briefly opposed this cycle by Republican Ronson Biedrzycki, though he failed to get any traction in fundraising and formally dropped out of the race in May.

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More than two dozen Florida House members re-elected without opposition

As of close of business for the state Division of Elections, it appears candidates in some 29 state House seats — nearly a quarter of the 120-member body — are already headed to Tallahassee.

About 15 Republicans and 14 Democrats will have no need for a campaign manager this election cycle, according to a preliminary review of new state data.

Big names among those newly elected include Speaker-to-be Richard Corcoran, who will return to his House District 37 with no opposition, and Democratic Leader Rep. Janet Cruz, who also drew no opponent in House District 62.

Here’s a list of all the candidates with no opponent as of late Friday evening, along with the House seat they represent:

  • Rep. Halsey Beshears (HD 7)
  • Rep. Cyndi Stevenson (HD 17)
  • Rep. Clovis Watson (HD 20)
  • Rep. Larry Metz (HD 32)
  • Rep. Richard Corcoran (HD 37)
  • Don Hahnfelt (HD 33)
  • Rep. Daniel Burgess (HD 38)
  • Rep. Eric Eisnaugle (HD 44)
  • Rep. Cary Pigman (HD 55)
  • Rep. Jake Raburn (HD 57)
  • Rep. Janet Cruz (HD 62)
  • Rep. Jamie Grant (HD 64)
  • Rep. Jim Boyd (HD 71)
  • Michael Grant (HD 75)
  • Rep. Dane Eagle (HD 77)
  • Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (HD 78)
  • Sen. Joseph Abruzzo (HD 81)
  • Rep. Larry Lee (HD 84)
  • Rep. Bill Hager (HD 89)
  • Rep. Bobby DuBose (HD 94)
  • Rep. Kristin Jacobs (HD 96)
  • Rep. Jared Moskowitz (HD 97)
  • Rep. Katie Edwards (HD 98)
  • Rep. Evan Jenne (HD 99)
  • Rep. Joe Geller (HD 100)
  • Rep. Shevrin Jones (HD 101)
  • Rep. Sharon Pritchett (HD 102)
  • Rep. Cynthia Stafford (HD 109)
  • Rep. Kionne McGhee (HD 117)

Candidates had until noon Friday to qualify to be on the ballot. State elections officials said they expect all of the candidate qualifying information to be finalized by Friday evening.

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Future House speaker Richard Corcoran gets no opposition

The next Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives appears to have received no opposition and should return to his next year.

Incumbent state Rep. Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican was the only candidate to qualify for his House seat Friday.

Candidates had until noon Friday to qualify to be on the ballot. A spokeswoman for state elections officials said she expects all of the candidate qualifying information to be finalized by Friday evening.

Corcoran, who represents District 37, is slated to be the Speaker for the 2017 and 2018 Legislative Sessions.

Oliva, who represents District 110, will follow Corcoran as the speaker for 2019 and 2020. He drew an today opponent in Democrat Carlos Puentes, Sr. of Hialeah.

That assumes the GOP maintains its controlling majority in the 120-member House after the 2016 election. It is expected to, currently holding an 81-39 edge.

Corcoran, 51, first elected in 2010, was chief of staff to then-Speaker Marco Rubio, now a U.S. Senator. Last Session, he served as the House budget chief. He’s an attorney and father of six.

Oliva, 43, first elected in 2011, is CEO of the Oliva Cigar Co. Most recently, he chaired the House Economic Affairs Committee and its select committees on Affordable Healthcare Access and Redistricting.

Chris Sprowls, a third state representative slated for the speakership after Oliva, will face opposition as well.

Bernie Fensterwald qualified as a Democrat, records show, and will face the incumbent Sprowls in the November general election for the Pinellas County seat.

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