Richard Corcoran Archives - SaintPetersBlog

PSC chairwoman says she is ‘fully committed’ to providing residents opportunities to participate in water rate discussions

The chairwoman of the Public Service Commission said she is “fully committed” to providing Summertree residents the chance to continue to participate in discussions about rate discussions.

In a letter to Senate Majority Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Friday, PSC Chairwoman Julie Brown said she appreciated lawmakers raising constituent concerns about whether they would have a chance to speak during upcoming proceedings about rates. The letter comes just one day after the two Pasco County lawmakers sent Brown a letter expressing concern that residents might not be able to testify during upcoming proceedings.

Brown said the commission “always welcomes timely public comment concerning matters that comes before it” and said she believes strongly that “hearing from customers is the best way to make an informed decision.”

Summertree residents have complained that they are being charged more than double than people living in nearby neighborhoods, according to a recent report from WFTS Tampa Bay.

The utility company is proposing consolidating its rates for all of its customers statewide to about $71 for water and sewer to pay for infrastructure improvements, according to the report. And that has residents worried their rate will continue to go up.

According to a letter sent to Brown earlier this week, residents have told Simpson and Corcoran that the “Public Service Commission is considering barring them from testifying at an upcoming proceeding.”

In her response to Simpson and Corcoran, Brown said the commission has held “an abundant amount of service hearings in order to solicit as much public comment from UIF’s customers.”

“To put this into perspective, in the case of UIF and its estimated 60,000 customers, the Commission held eight (8) service hearings throughout its service territory in Florida,” she wrote. “In comparison, in the most recent rate case for FPL and its estimated 4.8 million customers, the Commission held nine service (9) hearings throughout FPL’s service territory.”

Brown went on to say that under state law, anyone can address the commission at service hearings, but “in order to protect the due process rights of all parties, only parties of record may address the Commission during a formal evidentiary proceeding.” But Brown said given the “extraordinary nature” of the issue, she was committed to “providing for the continued participation of interested persons in our process.”

 

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Florida Speaker: Suspend prosecutor who nixes death penalty

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran has called on the governor to suspend a prosecutor for pledging to not seek the death penalty in any case while she is in office.

Corcoran said Thursday that Orlando State Attorney Aramis Ayala was “violating the constitution” because she is not even considering the death penalty. Capital punishment is authorized under the Florida Constitution. Corcoran added that if Florida lawmakers had the power to impeach Ayala, they would already be doing so.

Gov. Rick Scott removed Ayala from a high-profile police murder case last week after she announced her decision against the death penalty. Ayala argues Scott has overstepped his bounds and filed a motion in response, asking a judge to let her present her argument in court.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Wilton Simspon, Richard Corcoran tell PSC it is of ‘utmost importance’ residents get to express concerns during proceedings

Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson is putting the state’s Public Service Commission on notice.

In a letter Thursday, Simpson and House Speaker Richard Corcoran scolded PSC Chairwoman Julie Brown over reports that the commission is considering barring members of the Summertree community from testifying at an upcoming proceeding.

“For several years, we have voiced our serious concerns about the high prices being charged and the quality of water being received by these citizens,” the two men wrote in the letter. “The water quality issues have largely been resolved as a result of the recent interconnection with Pasco County’s water system. However, the citizens we represent continue to have very serious issues and concerns with what they consider to be exorbitant water rates and poor-quality customer service provided to them by this utility.”

Residents have complained that they are being charged more than double than people living in nearby neighborhoods, according to a recent report from WFTS Tampa Bay.

The utility company is proposing consolidating its rates for all of its customers statewide to about $71 for water and sewer to pay for infrastructure improvements, according to the report. And that has residents worried their rate will continue to go up.

According to the letter to Brown, residents have told Simpson and Corcoran that the “Public Service Commission is considering barring them from testifying at an upcoming proceeding.”

“To put it plainly, this is unacceptable,” they wrote. “It is of the utmost importance that our citizens and taxpayers are afforded further opportunity to express their grave concerns at a public forum.”

The letter goes on to point out that both the House and Senate have taken “aggressive steps to hold all governmental entities to higher standards of transparency and accountability,” and told Brown the commission’s “protocols and procedures should always reflect the State of Florida’s longstanding commitment to transparency and accountability.”

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Speaker moves ‘Eyeball Wars’ closer to House floor; docs say optometrist testimony ‘patently false’

Florida’s “Eyeball Wars” between ophthalmologists and optometrists could soon be spilling onto the House floor.

On Monday, Speaker Richard Corcoran removed HB 1037 — a controversial bill to allow optometrists to perform surgery, among other things — off the agenda of the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.

A representative for Corcoran told POLITICO Florida that the measure, which seeks to expand optometry further into the practice of surgery, was one of 12 bills removed from Appropriations under Rule 7.18(c) because they had “no fiscal impact.”

The move has raised the alarm of Adam Katz, president of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology, who felt the appropriations hearing would represent his organization’s best shot at defeating the bill.

“We feel like this is being orchestrated,” Katz, a Vero Beach ophthalmologist, told Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida.

In the bill’s earlier stop — the House Health Quality Subcommittee — HB 1037 was narrowly passed by an 8-7 vote.

Sponsored by Rep. Manny Diaz, the bill is strongly opposed by both the Florida Society of Ophthalmology and the American College of Surgeons. The measure is still on the schedule for the House Health & Human Services Committee.

“We have a responsibility to make sure everyone has access,” Diaz told reporters last week.

Nevertheless, testimony at last week’s subcommittee hearing did not sit well with the American Academy of Ophthalmology, which makes Corcoran’s procedural move even more disturbing. The Florida Optometric Association have strongly pushed HB 1037, employing a team of a more than a dozen lobbyists that include Michael Corcoran, Speaker Corcoran’s brother.

In a letter to House Health Quality chair Cary Pigman, an Avon Park Republican and emergency care physician, Dr. Mark Michels, board member of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology, pointed out several misleading and inaccurate accusation made during testimony from optometrists and their representatives.

“I cannot stay silent when the process is used by others to perpetuate falsehoods, especially when those falsehoods could endanger patients,” Michels writes. “It is for that reason, and out of respect for all of you and the integrity of our legislative process, that I am writing to bring your attention to two patently incorrect statements made by the representative of the Florida Optometric Association (FOA) at the hearing. “

One of the major selling points for HB 1037 is that it would expand access to glaucoma surgery for Medicaid patients, because in some rural regions — Bradenton was the example used in testimony — ophthalmologists do not accept Medicaid.

Michels called that claim “spurious,” pointing out that “information readily accessible in the State’s database–the AHCA Provider Master List — clearly shows that there are at least 24 active individual ophthalmologists that see Medicaid patients in Bradenton.”

He also pushed back on testimony that said “there are “less than 400 ophthalmologists in the entire State that take Medicaid.” In fact, there are nearly 1,200 active, enrolled ophthalmologists in Florida that see Medicaid patients.

A second issue is a contention that the surgery optometrists are asking to perform is not “invasive” and restricted to only lasers to “stimulate tissue in the eye.”

“Those statements are fallacious and exemplify a dangerous ignorance of what laser surgery is and the complications that can arise from the use of lasers,” Michels writes.

Lasers authorized by HB 1037 are powerful enough to cut ocular tissue — in a process called photodisruption — which can lead to several complications which can be adequately understood only by a medical professional with the training and experience of ophthalmologists.

“This knowledge is obtained from years of experience and seeing thousands of patients,” Michels writes, “all while being directly supervised by a board certified ophthalmic surgeon.”

Michels then calls out the FOA representative for holding himself as a “subject matter expert,” pledging to the committee that lasers authorized in the bill “do not cut,” are “noninvasive” and are only “stimulating” lasers similar to those used in “a new product contained in a baseball hat and used to stimulate hair growth.”

This stance is both “inexcusable and dangerous,” Michels said, before calling Pigman to do his part to “stop this dangerous bill from becoming law.”

Next for HB 1037 — the latest battle in Florida’s Eyeball Wars — is the House Health and Human Services Committee, one of only two stops before heading to the House floor.

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Andrew Gillum: GOP plan to raise food stamp eligibility ‘inhumane’

Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is pushing House Republicans to drop an idea that could take away food stamps for about 229,000 Floridians.

Gillum held a news conference Tuesday and then dropped off a petition at House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s office that asks lawmakers to maintain current food stamp eligibility rather than making it harder to receive assistance.

A House bill would limit food stamps to families that earn less than 130 percent of the federal poverty limit or $2,633 a month for a family of four. Families who earn twice the poverty limit are now eligible for food assistance.

Gillum told reporters it would be “inhumane” to remove the assistance. He noted that his family relied on food stamps when he grew up.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Joe Henderson: ‘Shy’ Rick Scott needs to pipe up on Medicaid expansion

Gov. Rick Scott hasn’t been shy about sharing his feelings on the Affordable Care Act. Like any good Republican, he hates it. He wants it to go away.

Now that Republicans have a legitimate proposal on the table to replace Obamacare, though, Scott has gone into stealth mode on the subject. In an Associated Press story, the governor did the Rick Scott Shuffle when asked for his reaction to the plan now being debated intensely in Washington.

Scott said he was glad there is “good conversation” happening on the subject. Not exactly a stop-the-presses comment.

He even met recently with House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is pushing a plan that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said could leave up to 24 million Americans without health insurance.

Would the governor like to let us mere mortals in on what was discussed? People in Florida will be greatly affected by whatever finally becomes law, especially if it has a significant impact on Medicaid.

Florida depends heavily on federal money for Medicaid funding, and under the plan being discussed more than 4 million residents here would see their benefits reduced. That probably suits budget hawks in the state House just fine, but wouldn’t be good for many of the state’s elderly and low-income residents.

That’s where Scott needs to pipe up on this subject. In 2014, remember, he went to war (and lost) with the House over Medicaid expansion. Scott pushed for it; now-Speaker Richard Corcoran was intractably against.

Given his background as a hospital administrator before he went into politics, there are few people in the state better versed on health insurance than Scott. He could help frame the debate if he chose.

He certainly hasn’t been shy about making his opinions known recently on other subjects. He has been outspoken about his trying to save Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. But now that the health care debate has intensified, we get crickets from the governor.

Curious.

 

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Richard Corcoran gets nod for dedication to term limits from U.S. Term Limits

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has been honored for his commitment to term limits.

U.S. Term Limits announced this week that it has presented Corcoran with the Champion of Term Limits Award. The Land O’Lakes Republican was honored for his commitment to term limits and citizen government.

“By supporting term limits, Speaker Corcoran has given a voice to Floridians who feel let down by corruption and careerism in government,” said Philip Blumel, the president of U.S. Term Limits. “People are tired of business as usual and term limits is the only way to change the status quo. We applaud Corcoran for his important work to get this done.”

Corcoran has pushed to impose term limits on Florida’s Supreme Court and appellate judges, which the organization supports. The organization also applauded Corcoran for his support of legislative term limits, which have been in place since 1992.

“Term limits have served as an effective check against unrestrained power in the Legislature,” said Blumel. “It will have a similar impact in bringing more discipline to our judicial system.”

The national organization is based out of Melbourne, Florida. The group aims to fight for term limits at all levels of government.

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House Speaker Richard Corcoran making good on transparency, accountability promises

House Speaker Richard Corcoran began his two-year speakership in November by promising a “transformational leap” in government accountability and transparency.

“The Florida House will set the standard for others to emulate,” he declared.

Such pronouncements are often uttered by politicians, especially those who may aspire to higher office. But one week into Florida’s annual legislative session the hard-charging Republican reformer from Land O’Lakes has a lot to show for his audacious accountability talk.

While the final outcome is far from certain, under Corcoran’s leadership the House voted to kill Enterprise Florida, the state’s chief businesses recruitment organization, and restructure Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing corporation, while cutting its funding from $76 million to $25 million annually.

Enterprise Florida’s $350 million Sanford Burnham deal that failed to create 300 jobs over 10 years, and Visit Florida’s $1 million payment to rapper Pitbull for a “Sexy Beaches” tourism promotion are symbols of Corcoran’s “corporate welfare” outrage.

The House passed the tough accountability reforms 87-28, and 80-35, respectively, despite intense pressure from Republican Gov. Rick Scott and economic development and tourism marketing beneficiaries across the state.

Lobbyists are also feeling the pressure. On Friday, the House passed the toughest lobbying ban in the country.

By a vote of 110-3, lawmakers agreed on a 6-year lobbying ban for legislators and statewide elected officials once they leave public office. The measure extends a current two-year “revolving door” restriction, and applies to all state agencies and the government bodies the elected officers formerly served.

Corcoran previously said extending the ban would eliminate the “looking to lobby” mentality that can manifest in an official’s final term. After Friday’s vote, the Speaker tweeted, “Proud that @myflhouse just passed the strongest lobby ban for fmr. legislators in the nation with a bipartisan vote of 110-3.”

All three items are central to Corcoran’s legislative agenda. Whether the state Senate will emulate his efforts remains to be seen.

Meantime, the Speaker’s transparency push continues in the lower chamber.

In a manner befitting Sunshine Week, an annual mid-March open government initiative, Corcoran is imposing additional restrictions on lobbyists with the aim of shedding light on their activities and reducing undue influence.

Before being allowed to lobby House members, lobbyists now are required to file electronic notices of appearance disclosing the specific issues they seek to influence. The disclosure is necessary to eliminate “the mystery of who is lobbying what issue,” according to a House statement.

Lobbyists also are prohibited from influencing House lawmakers via email, text message or other forms of electronic communication when the chamber is voting or when a member is in a committee meeting. It’s a practice that “if widely known to the public would engender justifiable outrage,” the statement says.

Additionally, House members are no longer allowed to travel on private jets owned by lobbyists, enter into business deals or financial relationships with lobbyists, or lobby local governments that they oversee.

Private contracts also must be disclosed if lobbyists are representing public entities or any related institution receiving taxpayer funding. “Taxpayer money being used to lobby the Legislature for more taxpayer money is a vicious cycle.”

Lawmakers and lobbyists would be subject to one or more of the following penalties for violations: public censure and reprimand, civil penalties up to $10,000 or restitution of any pecuniary benefits received in violation of the rules.

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Despite lawsuit, Florida Lottery sees record sales; tops $100M for 2nd week

For a second consecutive week, the Florida Lottery broke its own record, with total sales of more than $141 million, the game’s chief announced Tuesday.

This record for the Sunshine State’s 29-year-old lottery comes despite a nasty lawsuit that pitted Florida Gov. Rick Scott against the state’s headstrong House Speaker, Rep. Richard Corcoran.

For the second successive week, the Florida Lottery’s contributions to the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund (EETF) exceeded $19 million from scratch-off sales alone.

Total scratch-off sales for the week reached $103.23 million, with overall sales hitting $141.28 million.

Additionally, this marks the second consecutive week in Florida Lottery history that scratch-off sales exceeded $100 million in a single week.

“The consistent scratch-off sales demonstrated by the Florida Lottery over the past two weeks are integral to our mission to generate as much revenue as possible towards public education,” said Lottery Secretary Tom Delacenserie. “The lottery remains committed to providing Florida’s students with the opportunities they need to be successful in school and in life.”

Over the past 29 years, the Florida Lottery has established itself as a dependable funding source for public education.

For 15 consecutive years, the Lottery has transferred more than $1 billion to education throughout the state while remaining one of the most efficient lotteries in the nation. Additionally, the Lottery has contributed more than $5 billion to the Bright Futures Scholarship Program to send over 750,000 students to college.

Florida Lottery contributions are approximately 6 percent of the state’s total education budget. Lottery funds are appropriated by the Florida Legislature and are administered by the Florida Department of Education.

The Florida Lottery reinvests 98 percent of its revenue back into Florida’s economy through prize payouts, commissions to more than 13,000 Florida retailers and transfers to education. Since 1988, Florida Lottery games have paid more than $52.4 billion in prizes and made more than 1,900 people millionaires.

On March 7, a Leon County Judge Karen Gievers invalidated the Florida Lottery’s $700-million contract for new equipment, agreeing with Corcoran that the agency went on an unauthorized spending bonanza when it made the deal in 2016.

The multiple-year contract involved new equipment for draw and scratch-off tickets. The lottery sold more than $6.2 billion in tickets in 2016, according to records.

“The Florida Lottery continues to make record contributions to our public schools and today’s ruling jeopardizes billions of dollars for Florida students,” Gov. Scott said in a statement March 7. “I strongly disagree with today’s decision, and we will appeal.”

Corcoran, in a statement joined by House Rules Committee Chair Jose Oliva and Judiciary Committee Chair Chris Sprowls, called the decision “a victory for the taxpayer and the rule of law.”

He continued, basking in the much-publicized showdown with the governor: “It reinforces the idea that respecting the separation of powers is not an arcane idea or an out-of-date philosophy,” they said. “In truth, it is one of the bedrock principles of our Republican government and is essential to protecting the liberties and livelihoods of Floridians.

“No branch of government is above the law, and the people’s House will use every power within our means – from the committee room to the courtroom – to ensure those liberties and livelihoods are protected.”

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Joe Henderson: After Enterprise Florida fight, Rick Scott has little political capital left

Rick Scott went to Tallahassee in 2011 as an outsider. He often has operated like one as well, and not always in a good way.

In a private company, stubborn employees can get fired for standing up to the boss. In politics, though, defiance can be considered a virtue. Eventually, people who vow to run government like a business learn you can’t just issue orders and expect things to get done.

Real democracy can be a free-for-all.

That brings us to the current state of affairs in the capitol city, a time that has the seen the governor behaving less like a CEO and more like a politician trying to win friends and influence people.

To save his most-favored Enterprise Florida agency, the governor put a public campaign that included visits, robo-calls, videos and a public mocking of House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

It didn’t work, at least not yet.

The House dealt the governor a stinging rebuke last week with by passing HB 7005 – or what Scott calls “job-killing legislation” – by an overwhelming 87-28 vote.

Scott responded with a statement reading in part, “Many politicians who voted for these bills say they are for jobs and tourism. But, I want to be very clear – a vote for these bills was a vote to kill tourism and jobs in Florida.”

Everyone waits now to see what happens in the Senate, where Jeff Brandes has a bill that would keep Enterprise Florida but with much greater state oversight. Scott, meanwhile, is keeping up the pressure.

His office sent out eight news releases Monday within 19 minutes touting job gains in cities around the state. He made sure to credit the embattled jobs agency.

It was easy for Scott to get his way when he arrived in Tallahassee on a populist wave, promising to produce jobs and get Florida out of the Great Recession. He certainly wasn’t the only political leader in the land who favored subsidies to jump-start the economy.

Now that those jobs have been created – Scott claims more than 1.3 million overall so far – the mood in Tallahassee has shifted away from what Corcoran calls “corporate welfare.”

That has forced the governor into a defensive posture that he clearly isn’t used to and hasn’t shown evidence yet of mastering.

Meanwhile, the Commerce and Tourism Committee is set to consider a bill from Republican Sen. Tom Lee of Thonotosassa to repeal a program designed to make it easier for pro sports franchises to get state money for stadium projects.

Scott signed that bill in 2014, although an aide was quick to correct me recently when I called it a “pet project” of the governor’s. But, the governor obviously supported the measure and in a statement at the time said, “This sports development program will allow franchises to expand in Florida, and create more jobs and opportunities for Florida families.”

Times have changed, though, so I doubt the governor will spend any political capital now to save that pot of state money for professional sports franchises.

With all his chips in the middle of the table for Enterprise Florida, he likely won’t have much of an appetite to fight for sports teams. Judging from the way things are going, lawmakers probably wouldn’t listen anyway.

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