Richard Corcoran Archives - SaintPetersBlog

Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco says he is ‘very disappointed’ Jack Latvala is putting political ambitions first

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco is criticizing Sen. Jack Latvala for standing in the way of what he calls a big win for Pasco County.

“I am very disappointed that Senator Latvala is putting his political ambitions ahead of the needs of the state,” he said.

As the battle over the 2017-18 budget continues to wear on, several hometown projects could be on the chopping block, including $4.3 million for the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.

The money, according to the Times/Herald, will be used to create the Florida Forensic Institute for Research, Security and Tactical Training. The forensic laboratory, located in Land O’Lakes near the Pasco County jail, would teach law enforcement officers and students, all the while focusing on an estimated 16,000 unsolved murders and missing person cases in Florida.

The Miami Herald reported Tuesday that Latvala said it was ironic that the “single largest project in the budget is for” House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

“I haven’t criticized the project,” said Latvala, according to the report. “”I’m just saying that it’s ironic: He’s against projects, but the largest single project in the budget is for him … It’s do as I say, not as I do.”

Corcoran said the project is for the “entire state.”

The project’s leaders include Nocco and forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle, who led the research that unearthed the remains of young boys buried in unmarked graves at the Dozier School for Boys.

Nocco said he’s surprised Latvala’s Tallahassee politics could be blocking a win for Pasco and the state.

“He said he would not be our biggest cheerleader, but he also said he would not stand in our way,” said Nocco.

Nocco also doesn’t understand why Latvala won’t support a project that will be based in Pasco.

“He does remember that part of his district is in Pasco County,” he said.

Florida Forever bill could affect Everglades reservoir plan

A bill that looks to “un-muddy” the mission of Florida’s main environmental land acquisition program could potentially affect the plan for an Everglades reservoir.

A House bill brought forth Monday by Rep. Matt Caldwell, a Republican with close ties to House leadership, was passed unanimously by a House panel. Caldwell wants to alter what projects are eligible for money under the Florida Forever Program and put more money into land conservation. But the measure would also remove funding allocations for acquisitions on water management districts’ priority lists.

Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, said this could potentially make it more difficult for water management districts to fund projects through bonding.

“I’m just pointing out that by taking water management districts out, it takes away an important part of the Florida Forever program that has been used to fund both land acquisition and construction of projects,” Draper said.

This could hinder Senate President Joe Negron‘s plan to build a $1.2 billion reservoir system south of Lake Okeechobee to curb toxic algal bloom from coastal communities. Senate Bill 10 would direct the South Florida Management District to find land for the reservoir system.

Negron’s plan to have the state borrow money to pay for the project has not been welcomed by House leadership, which has yet to hear the proposal. Caldwell’s bill could prevent the South Florida Management District from using bonding for the reservoir project. House Speaker Richard Corcoran supports the Florida Forever bill.

Caldwell does not believe his bill takes aim at Negron’s project because the focus of his bill pertains to land acquisition for conservation purposes, not capital projects.

Environmental groups were split on whether removing water management districts would affect the project. But they said they were hopeful Caldwell’s bill could lead to more money in the state budget for the Florida Forever program.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Legislature at stalemate over new state budget

With time running out in this year’s regular session, Florida’s legislative leaders are at a stalemate over a new state budget and are starting to lash out at one another over the breakdown.

The first but crucial round of negotiations between the House and Senate fell apart on Sunday. The session is scheduled to end on May 5, but state law requires that all work on the budget be finished 72 hours ahead of a final vote.

The lack of a budget deal can also derail other crucial legislation since many times stand-alone bills get tied to the spending plan or are used as leverage in negotiations.

The growing divide prompted Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran to lash out at fellow Republicans in the Senate, comparing them to national Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders.

“There are no limits to their liberalism,” Corcoran said.

Sen. Jack Latvala, the Senate budget chief, said that Corcoran was acting as if “everyone was a liberal but him.”

“I just think it’s very unfortunate for the process, where we start calling names and broadly classify people instead of trying to constructively work out solutions,” Latvala said.

The House and Senate are working on a new budget to cover state spending from July 1 of this year to June 30, 2018. The two chambers started their budget negotiations with a roughly $4 billion difference in their rival spending plans.

For more than a week, the two sides privately traded broad offers that outlined how much money would be spent in key areas such as education, health care, the environment and economic development.

Gov. Rick Scott has been highly critical of a House plan to shutter the state’s economic development agency and to sharply cut money to Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing corporation. Scott has urged Senate Republicans to stand firm against House Republicans.

Part of this broad framework also included how much money the state should set aside in reserves.

Corcoran said one stumbling block was that the House wanted to place more money in reserves because of projections that show a possible budget deficit in the next two to three years if spending continues to increase.

“We refuse to let the state go bankrupt,” said Corcoran, who also said such a strategy could force Florida to raise taxes.

Unable to reach a deal, the House over the weekend offered a “continuation” budget that would have kept intact state funding at current levels in many places. That would have allowed legislators to end the session on time and avoid the need for a costly special session. But it would have meant that there would be no money for any new projects.

The Senate, however, rejected this idea. Senate President Joe Negron, in a memo sent out to senators Monday morning, called it a “Washington creation where Congress is habitually unable to pass a budget.”

Reprinted with permission of The Associated Press.

Sabato’s Crystal Ball calls Florida’s 2018 gubernatorial race a ‘toss-up’ in initial ratings

With so much uncertainty about who is in or out of the 2018 Florida gubernatorial race, it’s not surprising that at least one political seer has deemed Florida too-close-to-call.

Initial 2018 gubernatorial ratings released Thursday by Sabato’s Crystal Ball ranked Florida as one of 10 states considered a “toss-up” going into the 2018 election cycle. The ratings found more than half of the 38 gubernatorial races on the ballot next year either start in “competitive toss-up or leans Republican/Democratic categories.”

The report noted Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has been “gearing up for a gubernatorial run for years” and is seen as the favorite on the Republican side to succeed Gov. Rick Scott. But with several other Republicans considering a run, authors Geoffrey Skelley and Kyle Kondik report it is “hard to say just how clear his path to the nomination will be.”

Putnam has been touring the state meeting with local Republican and business group to talk about his vision for the future, and has been building up his campaign coffers in advance of his expected bid. State records show Florida Grown, the political committee expected to fuel his gubernatorial bid, has raised more than $10.5 million since 2015, and had more than $7.7 million cash on hand at the end of March.

The Bartow Republican is scheduled to have a barbecue in his hometown on May 10, just five days after the expected end of the annual 2017 Legislative Session. The event, according to the Tampa Bay Times, will be held at the Old Polk County Courthouse.

But Putnam could face competition from Sen. Jack Latvala and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, both of whom are believed to be considering a 2018 bid.

Latvala, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, raised more than $246,000 for his political committee, the Florida Leadership Committee, in the days leading up to the start of the 2017 Legislative Session. That one-week fundraising haul in March came after one of his best fundraising months to date, when his committee raised nearly $1.1 million in February.

The Democratic side isn’t any easier to predict, according to the team at Sabato’s. While the authors write it might “come down to Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and ex-Rep. Gwen Graham, both of who could be considered rising stars in the party,” the team does note there are “some wealthy wild cards who could self-fund, such as 2010 Senate candidate Jeff Greene, businessman Chris King, and well-known attorney John Morgan.”

Gillum and King are the only Democrats who have filed to run, but Graham is widely expected to jump in the race soon, as is Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who could fall into the self-fund category.

State records show Levine pumped $2 million of his own money into his political committee, All About Florida, in March. Levine has spent the last few weeks touring the state meeting with community members.

Both Gillum and King have been staffing up. Gillum announced this week that Scott Arceneaux, the former head of the Florida Democratic Party, would be joining his campaign as chief strategist; while King unveiled a host of key hires, including Raymond Paultre as his director of strategic engagement and Stephanie McClung as his finance director.

Gillum announced earlier this month he had raised $765,000 — spread between his official campaign and his political committee Forward Florida — since the start of 2017, most of which was raised since March 1. Meanwhile, state records show King brought in nearly $1.2 million for his official campaign in March. That sum included a $1 million contribution King made to his own campaign.

But a crowded field could be an issue for Democrats hoping to turn Florida blue, according to Sabato’s Crystal Ball. The rankings noted that although Democrats came close to winning in 2010 and 2014, they “haven’t won a gubernatorial race in Florida since 1994 … so an extremely crowded field in an expensive state with a late primary could be problematic for them.”

Newest draft rules governing 2022 Speaker race: Members not eligible for nomination if they violate GOP conference rules

An updated draft of rules governing the election of the Republican’s freshman caucus leader — and eventual Speaker of the House — moves up the organizational meeting and stipulates a member found in violation of Republican conference rules would be ineligible for consideration.

Reps. Ralph Massullo and Michael Grant have been tasked with writing draft rules to help guide the freshman class’s decision-making process. While new rules approved by members this year banned any active speaker’s races until June 30, the draft election rules are meant to spell out how the freshman class would ultimately pick its leader.

The latest draft of rules states an organizational meeting shall be called for June 30, 2017, “at a time and location that will be determined.” An earlier draft of the rules called for the meeting to held on July 1.

The newest version also adds an extra layer when it comes to proxies. According to new provisions, caucus members may not be the proxy designate for more than one absent caucus member. That’s something the earlier draft of the rules was silent on.

But, perhaps the most notable change is the provision that outlines exactly who is eligible to become leader.

When it came to nominations, the earlier draft of rules only noted that nominations “shall be from the floor and must receive a first and a second to be a valid nomination. Members may be the first or second for their own nomination.”

New draft rules, however, go a step further.

According to the latest version of the rules, a caucus member would be ineligible to be nominated if the House Speaker declares the member in violation of House Republican Conference Rules.

Adopted last year, those rules state a “candidate for the office of Republican Leader-designate may not have directly or indirectly solicited or accepted a formal or informal pledge of support before June 30 of the year following the general election which the final members of their legislative class were elected.”

The conference rules go on to say a violation would render that candidate “ineligible to stand for election before the House Republican Conference as either the Republican Leader-designate or the Republican Leader.”

The addition of the provision comes just a week after POLITICO Florida reported Rep. Paul Renner held a meeting of House freshman Republicans to talk about his speaker’s bid.

Renner is one of several people widely believed to be in the running for House Speaker in 2022-24, and his meeting came after two separate dinners were held by groups opposed to his bid.

House PR machine turns to its version of state budget

The House of Representatives has released a new “explainer” video to explain its proposed 2017-18 state budget.

And—fun!—it’s a cartoon.

“Don’t have time to read hundreds of pages?” it starts. “That’s OK, because we’ve got the Florida House budget in under a few minutes.”

The nearly three-minute video explains that the House, led by Speaker Richard Corcoran, proposes no new taxes and adds another $25,000 on top of the state’s homestead exemption for property tax.

The House also “cuts pork barrel spending,” it says.

The House and Senate, having passed their respective spending plans, soon will go into conference to work out a compromise budget for 2017-18.

There are even suggested messages for members to tweet and create Facebook posts to promote the video.

“While cutting waste, the Florida House budget funds: kid care, schools of hope, Everglades cleanup and more,” reads one sample tweet.

And a suggested Facebook post says, “The Florida House budget slashes earmarks and member projects by hundreds of millions of dollars; all while spending LESS than we did last year. I believe cutting government waste and abuse is essential, and I’m proud to have voted for it. Learn more about how we’re eliminating waste and funding Florida’s priorities by watching this quick video.”

The House also will release a series of graphics that feature “nearly every aspect of the budget,” according to an email.

“The graphics are intended for you to use on social media to highlight whatever aspect of the budget is most important to your constituents.”

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Rick Scott pushes ahead for VISIT FLORIDA funding

Gov. Rick Scott went once more unto the breach Tuesday, pressing his case for full funding of the state’s VISIT FLORIDA tourism marketing agency.

The Republican governor—surrounded by VISIT FLORIDA’s CEO Ken Lawson, board chairman William Talbert, and others—spoke with reporters outside his Capitol office.

The GOP-majority House of Representatives, which at first wanted to eliminate the agency, instead reduced its budget to $25 million for next year.

Scott wants $100 million to market the state to visitors, saying every dollar spent brings back $3.20 in tourism-related revenue, including from gasoline and sales taxes.

Scott mentioned that Florida is getting shellacked by ads—”…and they’re nice,” he said—from Utah, Michigan, California, Texas, and Georgia trying to divert tourists.

With Florida getting roughly 113 million tourists last year, “if we want even more tourists, we’re going to have to spend more money,” Scott said. “We have plenty of money in the budget … but the House has really limited our ability to market the state.”

The Senate supported the work of VISIT FLORIDA with about $76 million in its budget. Senators soon will go into conference with the House to work out a compromise budget for 2017-18.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has criticized both VISIT FLORIDA and economic development organization Enterprise Florida as needless dispensers of “corporate welfare.” Though both are public-private partnerships, both take in far more public money than private.

But Scott says they help create jobs, adding that 1.4 million jobs are tied to tourism alone.

Scott has gone around the state, including the home districts of Republican House members who voted against VISIT FLORIDA, to host “roundtables.” There, he has pointedly criticized lawmakers who went against him.

The people have his back, Scott added: They are “just shocked that the House would even think” about cutting money to promote tourism. “…I don’t want to lose any jobs.”

And he has enlisted them to the cause.

“I tell people, ‘look, this is your Legislature,’ ” Scott said. ” ‘You need to reach out to them.’ “

House Speaker: Push for tougher ethics laws dead

State House Speaker Richard Corcoran says a push to give Florida some of the toughest ethics laws in the nation is dead for this year’s session, and he’s blaming Senate Republicans for showing “zero interest.”

The Land O’Lakes Republican pushed to enact several far-reaching proposals, including one that would ban legislators and elected officials from lobbying state government for six years after leaving office. The House overwhelmingly passed them, but the legislation has not moved in the state Senate. The annual session ends in less than three weeks.

“The Senate has shown us they have expressed zero interest in holding elected officials accountable and draining the swamp,” said Corcoran, echoing a line used by President Donald Trump on the campaign trail last year.

Corcoran said this week he’s not giving up and will seek other ways to place his proposals into law, including asking the state Constitution Revision Commission to put them before voters in 2018 or launching a petition drive to get them on the ballot. The commission is formed once every 20 years to propose additions, deletions or revisions in the state’s constitution.

When he came into his leadership post, Corcoran vowed to aggressively change what he called a broken system that let special interests and lobbyists wield too much influence. The House adopted rules limiting contacts between lobbyists and legislators and Corcoran pushed to shed more light on projects added to the annual budget.

Currently, legislators and statewide elected officials are subjected to a two-year lobbying ban after leaving office. The House proposed a constitutional amendment and a new state law to extend that ban to six years. The measure would also expand lobbying restrictions so that a legislator or statewide elected official could not lobby any state agency during that period.

The House has also passed a bill that would require city officials to file more detailed financial disclosure forms. The House is also scheduled this week to consider another measure that would clamp down on public officials using their posts to seek jobs or going into business with lobbyists.

When asked earlier this month Senate President Joe Negron said he was “open for ways to make the process more transparent, more accountable.” But he also said he was “content” with the current ethics laws in place including the two-year ban on lobbying.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

House backs Governor in battle with Orlando prosecutor Aramis Ayala

Florida’s House is backing Gov. Rick Scott in his legal battle against an Orlando prosecutor who refuses to seek the death penalty in cases handled by her office.

The state Supreme Court said Monday it would allow attorneys working for House Speaker Richard Corcoran to file legal briefs in the case between the governor and State Attorney Aramis Ayala.

Ayala is challenging Scott’s authority to transfer murder cases from her office to another prosecutor.

The Republican-controlled House in a legal filing with the high court said it wants to address “the ill effects that flow from” Ayala’s opposition to seeking the death penalty. The House may also argue whether Scott has the authority to suspend Ayala.

Ayala is a Democrat and Florida’s first African-American state attorney.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Joe Henderson: Richard Corcoran’s invite to Bill Nelson a stick in Rick Scott’s eye, maybe more

There were all kinds of messages being sent to Gov. Rick Scott late last week at the Florida House of Representatives.

The one from Democrat Bill Nelson, a three-term U.S. senator, can be summed up in two words: game on.

Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran had his own two-word message for the governor. I think I’ll leave it at that. Is loathing too strong a word for how those two feel about each other?

Whatever the interpretation of the message, the invitation to Nelson from Corcoran to address the House was intriguing, given that Nelson could face Scott in a bare-knuckle brawl for the 2018 senate race.

It gave Nelson some free airtime on a no-lose issue at a time when Scott’s poll numbers are surging.

His effusive praise of Corcoran for the courageous stand he’s taken with all of those children who are all buriedat the infamous Dozier School for Boys in north Florida” allowed Nelson to look like someone willing to work with everybody for the greater good.

Corcoran came across that way as well, just in case he decides to run for governor in 2018.

Unless …

Corcoran decides to go after Scott for the GOP nomination.

Say what?

That speculation is gaining traction, given the Republican field for governor likely can be winnowed down to “Adam” and “Putnam.”

As a senate candidate though, Corcoran could be the darling of cost-cutters everywhere. He has stood in the legislative doorway to block Scott’s favored programs for business and tourism incentives.

Republicans consider Nelson vulnerable and will pour every nickel they can into the effort to unseat him. And Corcoran is amassing quite a reputation for changing the way business is done in Tallahassee.

It won’t be easy.

Even though a lot has changed since Nelson swamped Connie Mack IV by 13 percentage points in 2012 and much of it hasn’t been good for Democrats, he has made sure to shore up the home front while in office.

He frequently returns to the state to touch base with voters and was a vocal advocate for congressional funding to combat the Zika virus and to address the environmental mess known last summer as the algae bloom.

Just as Republicans will roll out the war chest to unseat Nelson, so Democrats likely will spend what it takes to keep an important seat from going into GOP hands.

That brings us back to Corcoran’s invitation to Nelson. It was a sharp stick in the eye of the governor, one possibly designed to fuel the kind of speculation we have in this column.

Corcoran, a crafty chap, undoubtedly knew that.

He got his wish.

But if his aim is to run against Nelson eventually, why give his rival the chance for free feel-good publicity?

Because he could.

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