Florida GOP picks its final delegates to convention this summer

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia on Saturday selected the 15 delegates and 15 alternates chosen as at-large delegates who had yet to be determined to be part of the state’s contingent of  99 delegates that will represent the Sunshine State at the Republican National Convention:

They include former Miami-Dade Rep. Adam Hasner, who worked on U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign; incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who campaigned for former Gov. Jeb Bush in New Hampshire; and Senate President Joe Negron, who also endorsed Bush.

Donald Trump won the Florida GOP presidential primary last month, and all 99 pledged delegates are bound to vote for him at the party’s convention in Cleveland in July.

Electing a president is never easy, but our party is strong, focused, and ready,” said Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia. “We have made incredible gains in the past year that outpace the Florida Democrats’ best efforts, and I know every single member of our party is prepared to keep up the hard work to ensure we are successful in November.”

Here’s the entire list:

Automatic Delegates

RPOF Chairman:                           Blaise Ingoglia

Ntl. Committeewoman:                 Sharon Day

Ntl. Committeeman:                      Peter Feaman

At-Large Delegates

Brian Ballard

Majority Leader LizBeth Benacquisto

Robin Bernstein

Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran

Mayor Lenny Curry

Jeffrey Feingold

Adam Hasner

Belinda Keiser

Frmr. U.S. Sen. George LeMieux

Congressman Jeff Miller

Senate President Joe Negron

Speaker-DD Jose Oliva

Mike Barnett

Nancy Watkins

Susie Wiles

At-large Alternates

Rep. Jason Brodeur

Cynthia Crowe

Ron Howse

John Falconetti

Barbara Feingold

Janet Glassman

Karen Harrington

Scott Hoppes

Julie Ingoglia

Fred Karlinsky

William Lasky

Susan Moore

Mitzi Prater

George Scarborough

Robert Wakins

CD 1

Delegate 1          Martin Simmons

Delegate 2          Charlotte Flynt

Delegate 3          Tim Norris

Alternate 1         Dorothy Davis

Alternate 2         Sam Mullins

Alternate 3         Jeremy Evans

CD 2

Delegate 1          Clint Pate

Delegate 2          Evan Power

Delegate 3          Thelma Rohan

Alternate 1         Bill Helmich

Alternate 2         S. Curtis Kiser

Alternate 3         James Wyckoff

CD 3

Delegate 1         Layne Schultetus

Delegate 2          Kay Durden

Delegate 3          Sherri Ortega

Alternate 1         Delores Lansford

Alternate 2         Sherrie McKnight

Alternate 3         Sally Beach

CD 4

Delegate 1          Cindy Graves

Delegate 2          Lake Ray

Delegate 3          Ander Crenshaw

Alternate 1         Danny Norton

Alternate 2         Charles Cordes

Alternate 3         Alexander Pantinakis

CD 5

Delegate 1          Patty Redlich

Delegate 2          Mike Cribby

Delegate 3          Clarence Allen

Alternate 1         Thuy Lowe

Alternate 2         Gloreatha Scurry-Smith

Alternate 3         Caleb Spencer

CD 6

Delegate 1          Tony Ledbetter

Delegate 2          Bill Korach

Delegate 3          Alan Burton

Alternate 1         Jospeh Fieldus

Alternate 2         Paul Porter

Alternate 3         Stuart Epperson

CD 7

Delegate 1          Al Schwarz

Delegate 2          Ray Valdes

Delegate 3          Dana Dougherty

Alternate 1         Kathy Gibson

Alternate 2         Wade Vose

Alternate 3         Phil Kaprow

CD 8

Delegate 1          Carlie Rogers

Delegate 2          Barbara Davis

Delegate 3          Lew Oliver

Alternate 1         Richard Lacey

Alternate 2         Joseph Semprevivo

Alternate 3         Carole Jean Jordan

CD 9

Delegate 1          Rich Crotty

Delegate 2          Tammy Celeste

Delegate 3          Mark Cross

Alternate 1         Ruth Coberley

Alternate 2         Bertica Cabrera-Morris

Alternate 3         Chadwick Hardee

CD 10

Delegate 1          Jim Guth

Delegate 2          Wendy West

Delegate 3          Mark Oxner

Alternate 1         Robbie Ford

Alternate 2         Ronald Janssen

Alternate 3         Patricia Sullivan

CD 11

Delegate 1          Mike Moberley

Delegate 2          Darilyn Dolimpio

Delegate 3          Daniel Wright

Alternate 1         Sandy Balfour

Alternate 2         Lucy Sullivan

Alternate 3         Ana Trinque

CD 12

Delegate 1          Sandy Graves

Delegate 2          Tina Harris

Delegate 3          Chris Sprowls

Alternate 1         Steve Graves

Alternate 2         Pam McAloon

Alternate 3         Mary Gaulden

CD 13

Delegate 1          Nancy Riley

Delegate 2          Dan Tucker

Delegate 3          Nick DiCeglie

Alternate 1         Todd Jennings

Alternate 2         Dorine McKinnon

Alternate 3         Chely Hernandez-Miller

CD 14

Delegate 1          Terry Castro

Delegate 2          Marjorie Mittleman

Delegate 3          Spencer Rogers

Alternate 1         James Buntyn

Alternate 2         Tony DeSisto

Alternate 3         Mike Mikurak

CD 15

Delegate 1          Debbie Hannifan

Delegate 2          Tina Pike

Delegate 3          Dena DeCamp

Alternate 1         Tony Jackson

Alternate 2         Judith Wise

Alternate 3         Mark Proctor

CD 16

Delegate 1          Kathy King

Delegate 2          Joe Gruters

Delegate 3          Christian Ziegler

Alternate 1         David Matthews

Alternate 2         Donna Hayes

Alternate 3         John Colon

CD 17

Delegate 1          Bill Folchi

Delegate 2          Jimmy Nelson

Delegate 3          Kathy Rapp

Alternate 1         Jane Sturges

Alternate 2         Allen Goldstein

Alternate 3         Natalie Schmidt

CD 18

Delegate 1          Bill Paterson

Delegate 2          Mary Ann Russell

Delegate 3          Don Pickard

Alternate 1         Darlene Fuggetta

Alternate 2         Julie Paterson

Alternate 3         Linda Stoch

CD 19

Delegate 1          Mike Lyster

Delegate 2          Jonathan Martin

Delegate 3          Lisa Musial

Alternate 1         Rosealie Lesser

Alternate 2         Jesse Purdon

Alternate 3         Mike Hook

CD 20

Delegate 1          Rico Petrocelli

Delegate 2          Roger Gingerich

Delegate 3          Daniel Diaz

Alternate 1         Patrick Castronovo

Alternate 2         Terrance O’Loughlin

Alternate 3         Camille Petrocelli

CD 21

Delegate 1          Bob Sutton

Delegate 2          Maureen Jaeger

Delegate 3          Tami Donnally

Alternate 1         Marion Frank

Alternate 2         Jay Goldfarb

Alternate 3         Richard Eddins

CD 22

Delegate 1          Cindy Tindell

Delegate 2          Ed Pozzuoli

Delegate 3          Gay Gaines

Alternate 1         Mike Barnett

Alternate 2         Sue Snowden

Alternate 3         Al Massey

CD 23

Delegate 1          Sanjay Narang

Delegate 2          Corey Brier

Delegate 3          Eric Shure

Alternate 1         Richard DeNapoli

Alternate 2         Kevin Cooper

Alternate 3         Florine Goldfarb

CD 24

Delegate 1          Jessica Fernandez

Delegate 2          Kelly Mallette

Delegate 3          Stephanie Woodard

Alternate 1         Uri Benhamron

Alternate 2         Nikita Mizgirev

Alternate 3         Steve Karski

CD 25

Delegate 1          Steve Nisbet

Delegate 2          Margie Nelson

Delegate 3          Carlos Trujillo

Alternate 1         Manny Diaz

Alternate 2         Doug Harrison

Alternate 3         Doug Rankin

CD 26

Delegate 1          Carey Goodman

Delegate 2          Alex Trujillo

Delegate 3          Jeanette Nunez

Alternate 1         Jose Felix Diaz

Alternate 2         Harry Hoffman

Alternate 3         Debby Goodman

CD 27

Delegate 1          Nelson Diaz

Delegate 2          Liliana Ros

Delegate 3          Bernie Navarro

Alternate 1         Rey Lastre

Alternate 2         Rudolfo Milani

Alternate 3         Marili Cancio

Richard Corcoran endorses Carlos Lopez-Cantera in U.S. Senate race

Carlos Lopez-Cantera can add House Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran to his list of backers.

Lopez-Cantera announced Thursday that Corcoran, a Land O’Lakes Republican, has endorsed his U.S. Senate bid. The lieutenant governor said he appreciated Corcoran’s support.

“I’m grateful to have Richard’s support, and having worked side by side, I know his steadfast approach to limited government does not waver,” said Lopez-Cantera. “His dedication to his family, and to the people of Florida is truly honorable, and we are happy to have him on the team as we work to ensure a win in November.”

According to the Lopez-Cantera campaign, more than half the Republican members of the state Legislature have backed him. So have Attorney General Pam Bondi, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner.

In a statement, Corcoran said he was proud to endorse his friend.

“I’ve witnessed firsthand his dedication and commitment to all Floridians and know him to be a passionate advocate for our shared values,” said Corcoran. “Carlos, along with his wonderful family, embody the American dream and represent a bright future for our party and our country.”

Lopez-Cantera faces Rep. Ron DeSantis, Rep. David Jolly, Carlos Beruff and Todd Wilcox in the race to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate. The Republican primary is Aug. 30.

Florida Strong goes after Jeff Brandes again, this time over for-profit charter schools

Last week, a grand jury indicted a for-profit school management company runs four Pinellas County charter schools, and the advocacy group Florida Strong is demanding that state Senator Jeff Brandes answer for it.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that Newpoint Education Partners had been indicted on charges of grand theft, money laundering and aggravated white crime. The company has, according to the Times, run into major problems at four of the five schools it manages in Pinellas, and all four are currently under pressure to tell the Florida Department of Education how they plan to address their financial situation, reported to be “deteriorating.”

The GOP-led Florida Legislature has been incredibly supportive of funding charter schools in recent years, and Brandes has been among those Republicans who strongly support such efforts. Those privately run schools have limited oversight from school districts.

“Despite the troubling charges of grand theft and money laundering that face the company in question, Senator Brandes is mum on this critical issue that impacts families throughout his district,” claims Florida Strong in an e-mail. The advocacy group has been targeting several legislative Republicans this year who are for reelection this fall.

The group says that Brandes voting record in the Legislature “says enough,” regarding for-profit charters, citing his vote to ease regulation on for-profit charter companies, backing a bill that allows students to attend a school in surrounding counties if there’s space available and supports lifting barriers for for-profit charters to expand reach across the state.

Brandes has been a champion of school choice, going back to his first term as a state representative in Tallahassee back in 2011.

“Adding insult to injury, Brandes has gladly accepted campaign cash from the for-profit industry, further demonstrating the ‘disproportionate clout’ for-profit charter schools have in the Florida Legislature,” The Florida Strong email says.

It is not the first time the advocacy group has gone after the Senate District 24 Republican. In March, the group paid for a radio ad that ran in the Tampa Bay area market questioning his ethics. They’ve run similar attack ads against Dana Young, Frank Artiles, Anitere Flores and Richard Corcoran.

A request for comment sent to Brandes Senate office was not responded to by the time of this story’s posting. The St. Petersburg-based lawmaker remains unopposed in his run for re-election to his Senate seat this fall.

Tampa House Republicans not bullish on Rick Scott getting his way on incentives in 2017

During the past Legislative Session, the Florida Legislature denied one of Gov. Rick Scott’s signature issues — a $250 economic incentives funding plan to encourage businesses to locate or expand in Florida.

It was not only a blow to the governor’s ego (and list of priorities), but also disappointed those in the economic development camp, such as many of the folks who attended Tuesday’s Tampa Bay legislative delegation luncheon sponsored by the Tampa Bay Partnership.

Those same business officials couldn’t have walked away pleased after the lunch, where the majority of the five lawmakers who attended did not indicate that the governor was likely to come out victorious on that issue in 2017.

“I don’t see much opportunity in next two years for the funds,” opined outgoing Pasco County GOP state Senator John Legg. “Looking at the political structure of where people are dug in on the issue. I think there is some common ground that can be reached on restructuring tax cuts and other incentives, but, to be direct, I would say that the $250 million that [governor] requested, the House money is not going to be getting into the Legislature in the next two years I would venture to say.”

That’s probably a safe assumption, as Land O’Lakes Appropriations Chair Rep. Richard Corcoran will become Speaker of the House in 2017. Corcoran has used the Americans for Prosperity approved phrase “corporate welfare” in deriding Scott’s intentions on using cuts cash and tax breaks in return for jobs.

“I’m one who thinks that’s OK when we’re talking about several hundred million dollars worth of taxpayer money,” said Safety Harbor Republican House member Chris Sprowls about the failure of the Legislature to support Scott’s goal.

Sprowls questioned the legitimacy of the argument offered by moderator Rhea Law that such economic incentives alone were what brought corporations like Bristol-Myers Squibb to Hillsborough County a few years ago. “When folks say we’ve created this many jobs, ask them how many of those jobs were created from Enterprise Florida vs. the billions of dollars worth of tax cuts that have gone on for the last several years.”

Sprowls then asked the same question when it came to deregulation that has been championed in the House. “How many of those jobs were Enterprise Florida jobs, and how many belonged to those other things, and I think the economist’s answer would be, ‘I don’t know.” I think that’s the honest answer.”

Tampa House Republican Dana Young didn’t weigh in on incentives directly, instead relating an anecdote about billionaire David Tepper, whose recent move from tax-heavy New Jersey to Florida could result in the loss of $140 million in income tax he no longer will pay to the Garden State. “Tax cuts MATTER,” she sternly declared. “Business climate MATTERS. And a commitment to those things and to making this a good place to live and work and raise a family, matters.”

Bradenton House Republican Jim Boyd championed the governor’s $250 million request, to little avail in the House this past Session. Though disappointed by what the chamber ultimately did (or didn’t do) with the proposal, he said it came out stronger in the end.

“Whether you’re ideologically aligned with the funding or not, I think that the bill that we had, unfortunately, didn’t make it through the House strengthened the process,” Boyd said, referring to accountability and transparency provisions that were added.

AFP- Florida was also a player in denying tax incentives to lure Hollywood productions to the Sunshine State. Tampa Democrat Ed Narain referred to how the movie version of the Dennis Lehane novel “Live By Night,” based in Ybor City, was actually filmed in Georgia.

“That’s just disturbing to me. Because that’s jobs. People say those are just temporary jobs. But we have to think about the tourism,” he said, referring to what the two “Dolphin Tale” movies have done for Clearwater and its aquarium in that regard.

Three dozen lawmakers get A+ on AFP-FL’s 2016 Economic Freedom Scorecard

The report cards are out, and three dozen state lawmakers got top marks from one of Florida’s leading advocates for economic freedom.

On Tuesday, Americans for Prosperity-Florida released its annual Economic Freedom Scorecard. To tabulate the grades, the organization recorded more than 4,300 individual votes on 59 legislative proposals.

“A big part of our mission is to help Florida taxpayers hold their elected officials accountable,” said Chris Hudson, the state director of AFP-FL in a statement.

Hudson said the organization produces the scorecard so taxpayers can “clearly identify which members of the Senate and House are focused on voting and sponsoring legislation that will actually improve the quality of life and long-term prosperity for all Floridians.”

The organization awards one point for each vote cast in support of a “pro-economic freedom issue,” such as eliminating the manufacturing business tax and expanding school choice, or against an “anti-economic freedom issue,” as a resolution to ban fracking in Florida and expanding Medicaid. The organization awards one point for the prime sponsorship of a priority bill; and deducts a point for sponsoring bills AFP-FL opposes.

Of the 59 issues included in the scorecard, 24 were never brought to a vote. According to the report, these bills are “still included in the scorecard via positive or negative sponsorship points.”

So who got top marks during the 2016 legislative session? According to the Economic Freedom Scorecard, 36 state lawmakers received an A+ grade in 2016.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, received the highest score with 114.3 percent; followed by Rep. Manny Diaz, a Hialeah Republican, with 112.2 percent. Other A+ lawmakers included Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Fort Myers Republican; Rep. Chris Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican; House Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran; and House Majority Leader Dana Young.

“It was great to see 36 members earn an A+ this year,” said Hudson. “I hope that by including some of the new features we added this year that Floridians can better assess how their lawmakers have voted on key issues like corporate welfare spending, health care reforms, and education choice since we first launched this product in 2013.

The 2016 scorecard includes a few new features, including a historical reference on how lawmakers scored on economic freedom issues every year since 2013. The annual report also includes comments from staff and volunteers about why they got involved.

Not all lawmakers received top marks. Several legislators — including Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat; Sen. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat, Rep. Dwight Dudley, a St. Petersburg Democrat; and Rep. Reggie Fullwood, a Jacksonville Democrat — received an F grade.

“Our scorecard lets hardworking citizens of this state connect to what their elected officials are doing when they go to Tallahassee for Legislative Session,” said Hudson.

Dozens of candidates have raised $100,000 or more for their House races

The end of the 2016 legislative session last month can only mean one thing — election season is coming.

Campaign finance reports were due to the state on Monday. The March fundraising reports show that more than two dozen candidates for the Florida House have more than $100,000 in cash on hand, and several candidates raised upwards of $200,000 since getting in the race.

The fundraising totals were compiled by On 3 Public Relations.

House District 52 — Republican Brian Hodgers has built up quite the war chest since he got in the House District 52 race a year ago. Hodgers has raised $319,695 since March 2015. The Melbourne businessman raised $5,100 last month, and ended the one-month fundraising period with $343,064 cash on hand. He has loaned his campaign $40,000.

All that money might be a necessary precaution. Three other Republicans have thrown their hat in the race to replace Rep. Ritch Workman in the Florida House.

Sen. Thad Altman has filed to run for the House seat. Altman raised no money in March, but has raised $10,000 and loaned his campaign $200 since filing his initial paperwork in July. He had $10,025 cash on hand at the end of the fundraising period. Altman can’t run for re-election in the Senate because of term limits.

Republican Monique Irene Miller has raised $26,420 since jumping in the race. She raised $200 during the one-month fundraising period, and ended the month with $27,860 cash on hand.

Robert Francis VanVolenburgh has raised $1,240 and loaned his campaign $16,2000 since getting in the HD 52 race. He raised no money in March, and ended the period with $4,194 cash on hand.

House District 9 —  Loranne Ausley is no stranger to politics, and her campaign account ledger reflects that. Ausely has raised $227,093 since jumping into the House District 9 race last year. In March, the former state representative raised $21,900. She had $203,071 cash on hand at the end of the one-month fundraising period.

While she has raised substantially more money than Republican Jim Messer, the Tallahassee attorney is holding his own. He has raised $100,578 since filing to run for the seat; and reported raising $9,125 in March. Messer had $85,563 cash on hand at the end of the fundraising period.

Two other Democrats — Arnitta Jane Grice-Walker and Joshua Alexander Johnson — have announced they plan to run for the Tallahassee-area seat.

House District 103 — It’s unlikely Manny Diaz Jr. will face a Republican challenger, but the Hialeah Republican is building up his campaign coffers to prepare for a general election challenge.

State records show Diaz raised $37,450 in March, bringing his fundraising total to $199,200 since announcing he was running for re-election. Diaz finished the one-month fundraising period with $153,691 cash on hand.

Diaz will face Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich in the November general election. Petkovich raised $9,680 in March, bringing her fundraising total to $35,266 since getting in the race. The South Florida attorney ended the fundraising period with $29,169 cash on hand.

***

Incumbents in three House races have raised more than $200,000 since announcing their decision to run for re-election.

House District 37 — House Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran raised $10,000 in March, bringing his fundraising haul to $290,995 since he filed to run for re-election in 2014. He ended the fundraising period with $142,627 cash on hand.

It’s unlikely Corcoran will be unseated. However, Republican Ronson Hale Biedrzycki has filed to run against the Land O’Lakes Republican. Biedrzycki has raised just $115 since filing.

House District 110 — Rep. Jose Oilva is currently running unopposed, but that isn’t stopping him from raising campaign cash. The Miami Lakes Republican raised $500 in March, which boosted his fundraising totals to $208,670. He ended the fundraising period with $159,947 cash on hand.

House District 116 — Rep. Jose Felix Diaz didn’t raise any money in March, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t building up a good size war chest. The Miami-Dade Republican has raised $215,000 since December 2014. He finished the March fundraising period with $147,149 cash on hand.

***

State records show that at least 27 candidates have more than $100,000 cash on hand.

Those candidates Rep. Jeanette Nunez, who has $132,955 cash on hand and who is running unopposed; Rep. Holly Raschein, who has $126,905 cash on hand and who will face either Democrat Kevin Diaz or Artie Leichner in November; and Rep. David Richardson, who has $168,955 cash on hand and has two primary challengers — Democrats Reinaldo Valdes and Deede Weithorn.

Also of note: Republican William Richard McBride, House District 27 candidate, ended the fundraising period with $259,000 cash on hand. That sum includes a $250,000 loan. McBride has raised $9,000 since getting in the race; while Republican opponent Zenaida Denizac has raised $5,950.

House, Senate set to designate Joe Negron, Richard Corcoran leaders in November

The House will formally designate Speaker-to-be Rep. Richard Corcoran and President-to-be Sen. Joe Negron as head of their respective chambers in an organizational meeting on November 22, according to a LobbyTools Legislative IQ bulletin.

Lawmakers will meet in Tallahassee to affirm their already-settled choices in presiding officers.

First, of course, both must win reelection to their seats, a feat recent history has shown is not always a slam dunk.

The chambers will also adopt rules on committee structure, motions, debate, voting and ethics.

 The 2017 Legislative Session will begin in March as provided in the Constitution, though lawmakers have voted in recent years to move the even-numbered sessions up to a January start date.

Chris Latvala kicks off HD 67 re-election with May 2 Clearwater event

House District 67 Republican Rep. Chris Latvala will kick off his re-election run with a May 2 event at the Island Way Grill in Clearwater, his campaign announced Monday.

Among the attendees listed on the invite are incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Republican Reps. Chris Sprowls, Kathleen Peters, Larry Ahern and Jamie Grant, as well as Sen. Jeff Brandes and Latvala’s father, Sen. Jack Latvala.

For more information or to RSVP for the event, email kaylawademusic@gmail.com or call 727-545-9566.

Through March, Rep. Latvala had about $56,500 on hand for his re-election campaign, which pits him against Democrat David Vogel for the Pinellas County seat.

Vogel, an attorney, didn’t report any contributions in his first month on the campaign trail, though HD67 has the potential to be competitive in 2016. Voter statistics from 2014 show 33,430 registered Democrats and 32,600 Republicans in the district, with an additional 29,000 voters not belonging to a major party.

Despite the even split, Latvala was able to beat his 2014 challenger, Democrat Steve Sarnoff, with more than 53 percent of the vote on Election Day.

Rick Scott signs omnibus FDOT bill into law

Gov. Rick Scott gave his signature on  Monday to a omnibus transportation bill making about a dozen changes to state law regarding the Florida Department of Transportation.

Scott’s final approval of HB 7027 means numerous sundry changes for FDOT, one of the largest aspects of the budget and a prominent area of policy for Floridians who travel the state’s roads, railways, and waterways.

Perhaps most notably, the bill enacts into law a proposal championed by Republican Speaker-to-be Rep. Richard Corcoran, whereby any proposed amendment to the department’s five-year “Work Program” – essentially their funding plan for major projects – amounting to more than $3 million must be review by the joint Legislative Budget Commission.

It also deletes a provision which allowed the chair and vice-chair of that committee to alone approve a project if a meeting could not convene within 30 days, strengthening the committee members’ oversight authority.

The bill also reallocates $10 million from the current work program to go toward the Florida Seaport and Economic Development Program, raising that division’s budget from $15 million to $25 million. Increasing the prominence of state ports has been a priority among economic development officials and private sector advocates, but in practice doing so has been vexing.

Florida Ports Council CEO Doug Wheeler said the move was a step in the right direction.

“The historic funding of seaport infrastructure during Governor Scott’s tenure has already contributed to the incredible growth that we are experiencing in trade across the state, and we look forward to continuing that success,” said Wheeler on Monday.

In a release trumpeting Scott’s signing of the bill, the governor’s office played up language in the bill which “streamlines” the permitting process for proposed highway projects. According to staff analysis, the bill assumes more authority currently held by the federal Department of Transportation under the National Environmental Policy Act, which will “result in more timely delivery of transportation projects to Florida’s citizens and enhancement of the infrastructure needed to support Florida’s economic competitiveness” by “eliminating one layer of governmental review.”

The bill also mandates FDOT most consult with and provide information to the Division of Bond Finance of the State Board of Administration when considering whether to issue bond pursuant to a public-private partnership, a favored mechanism among Tallahassee lawmakers. The new provision is intended as a safeguard against public money being leveraged to finance a project for profit at a potential loss to taxpayers.

Along similar lines, the bill also creates a Florida Department of Transportation Financing Corporation which the governor’s office said will “better safeguard taxpayer dollars.” The move was reportedly requested by Secretary Jim Boxold.

Boxold issued a statement Monday afternoon praising Scott for approving the measure.

“I applaud Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature for their continued record investment in Florida’s transportation infrastructure. This legislation will allow critical transportation projects in Florida to be delivered quicker and financed at a lower cost. Everyone who uses our transportation system throughout the state will benefit from this bill,” said Boxold.

St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes – who chairs the key Senate Transportation Committee – shepherded language into the bill providing that state officials will include autonomous cars in future plans, but was opposed to the above changes regarding Legislative Budget Commission oversight.

“No one from the House has come to me to explain why this is one of their priorities,” Brandes told POLITICO Florida back in December. “I don’t think the LBC needs to have a significant role.”

The bill goes into effect July 1.

Richard Corcoran, Wilton Simpson oppose water rate hike

Two legislative leaders are asking the state’s utility regulators to “follow the law” and deny a request by a water utility serving parts of Marion, Pasco and Seminole counties to increase its rates.

State Rep. Richard Corcoran, the Land O’ Lakes Republican slated to become House Speaker after the 2016 elections, and Sen. Wilton Simpson, the Trilby Republican who chairs the Community Affairs Committee, wrote a letter to the state’s Public Service Commission on Thursday.

Illinois-based Utilities Inc. had filed a request with the Commission to increase its water rate by 33.8 percent in Marion County, 21.8 percent in Pasco County and 2 percent in Seminole County, according to its filing.

The utility said it wants to recover lost revenue “due to irrigation customers installing their own wells and discontinuing irrigation service in Pasco County,” recover the cost of replaced lines in Marion County’s Golden Hills subdivision, Summertree “water quality improvements” in Pasco County, and the “Crystal Lake I Ravenna Park interconnection” in Seminole County.

Corcoran and Simpson reminded commissioners of the Consumer Water Protection Act, which became law in 2014.

“Our constituents had been subjected to multiple rate increases by this monopoly, and there were serious issues with the secondary standards of the water coming into their homes,” the letter said. “The taste, color and smell were far from ideal and the prices were high when compared to the neighboring communities and the state average.”

They said the “legislative intent of The Consumer Water Protection Act of 2014 was clear: protect Florida’s consumers from paying high prices for substandard water.”

“This utility’s complete disregard for these consumers is very upsetting, but not altogether surprising,” they said. “The law does not require the utility to consider the public interest or that the utility provide solutions that are in the customers best interest.”

The letter concluded by reminding commissioners to “follow the law,” adding that if they or their staff “are under the impression that the law would allow a rate increase under this set of facts, please rest assured: it does not.”

A Utilities Inc. spokesman could not be reached Thursday evening.

In all, three “public customer meetings” have been scheduled on the matter:

  • 9 a.m. April 12 at Summertree Recreation Facility, 12005 Paradise Point Way, New Port Richey.
  • 6 p.m. April 12 at West Pasco Government Center, Commission Chambers Board Room, 8731 Citizens Drive, New Port Richey.
  • 6 p.m. April 13 at Marion County Commission Auditorium, McPherson Complex, 601 SE 25th Ave., Ocala.