Richard Corcoran Archives - Page 4 of 31 - SaintPetersBlog

Legislative leaders strike deal to write state budget

House and Senate leaders have tentatively brokered a rules deal to avoid a meltdown over how requests to fund hometown projects get into the state budget.

Released Friday, the proposed joint rule follows Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala telling his chamber’s Rules Committee in February that House leaders had agreed to compromise to streamline the process.

“I think this is a big potential problem that’s been dodged,” the Clearwater Republican said following an event in Naples on Friday. “The only thing you have to do in the Constitution during the session is do a budget, and by having a game plan and a joint approach to that before we start out is a big deal.”

The new rule first defines an appropriations project identically to the House Rules. It also stipulates that no appropriations project “may be included in a budget conference report unless the project was included in the House or Senate general appropriations act,” according to a memo to House members from Speaker Richard Corcoran.

In the memo, Corcoran goes on to say that the “Senate has agreed to collect and post online specific detailed information on each appropriations project prior to the passage of their proposed general appropriations act.”

“The House is getting something that is important to them … written documentation of a request, so they’re not just in the middle of the night, on a napkin, or whatever they want to say. We’re getting what we wanted, in that we still have until we pass our budget the right to put in our requests, and it’s not arbitrarily cut off four or five weeks before session starts,” said Latvala. “Could this have been done before the process started this year? Yes. But I’m glad it’s done now.”

The new rule further grandfathers in existing recurring projects as long as they do not receive additional funding. New money must be non-recurring, meaning not required in future budgets, and “the project must be clearly identified in the conference report.”

The House requires each funding request to be filed separately. But the House’s method also required any senator’s project request to have its companion filed in the House or that chamber would not consider it.

The rationale behind the House’s system stems from Corcoran‘s desire for greater transparency in the budget process, particularly on local project funding.

“Today’s announcement that the House and the Senate achieved an agreement on the strongest, most transformational joint budget rules in Florida history, demonstrates that people of good will, negotiating in good faith, can make government better,” said Corcoran in a statement. “The joint rules, agreed to by President Negron and I, are unprecedented in both accountability and transparency. … I believe deeply that we’ve produced a paradigm shift in how budgets are made and it should become a model for other legislatures.”

An existing Senate rule, however, limited what the Senate can consider in conference, when members of both chambers get together to hammer out a final state budget to present to the governor.

“Establishing a joint rule to govern the budget conference process assures fidelity to the Constitution and preserves the autonomy of both Chambers,” said Senate President Joe Negron in a statement. “Both the House and Senate will be able to represent our constituents throughout Session as we construct a budget that reflects our values and priorities.  I look forward to a vibrant budget process in both the House and Senate as we make tough choices on how to allocate the revenue entrusted to us by the citizens of Florida.”

As of Friday, there were over 1,100 requests filed in the House, worth nearly $2.5 billion, according to a running list on LobbyTools.

— Reporters Jim Rosica in Tallahassee and Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster in Naples contributed to this report.

Report: Rick Scott to invoke Donald Trump in battle with House

Gov. Rick Scott will is expected to bring President Donald Trump into his battle with the Florida House over taxpayer incentives during a speech at a Republican National Committee fundraiser this weekend.

POLITICO Florida reported Friday that Scott is expected to insert Trump into his messaging. According to excerpts of the speech provided to the news organization, Scott is expected to say that the “biggest surprise President Trump will have in his transition in his transition from business life to political life is the same surprise I had — the number of people who treat politics as a game.”

The Naples Republican is in the middle of a well-publicized fight with House Republicans, led by Speaker Richard Corcoran, who want to shut down Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development agency. Legislation passed the House Appropriations Committee last month that would eliminate the agency and a slew of other economic incentive programs, as well as drastically slash funding for Visit Florida, the state’s tourist marketing agency.

POLITICO Florida reported Scott will also cast House Republicans as hypocrites. According to excerpts provided to POLITICO Florida, Scott is expected to say he has “vowed to fight against this kind of hypocrisy and I know President Trump will do the same thing at the national level.”

Does splitting bill in two edge Enterprise Florida closer to chopping block?

Democratic lawmaker David Richardson appears to be getting his Enterprise Florida wish from his conservative House colleagues.

The Miami Beach state rep won’t be getting a grant from the taxpayer-supported economic incentive organization; rather he’ll soon have a chance to help abolish it.

House leadership, headed by Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, will be splitting a bill aimed at eliminating Enterprise Florida and reducing Visit Florida’s taxpayer-funded tourism marketing budget by 67 percent into two bills, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The move incorporates feedback from a House Appropriations Committee last week.

“I have very little good to say about Enterprise Florida and the way it has been conducted in the past,” Richardson said during the committee meeting, echoing sentiments from the organization’s toughest critics.

But after recounting several issues, such as the public-private partnership’s 90-10 taxpayer-to-private funding ratio, poor performance and a cash “slush fund” used to purchase furniture and pay for travel, Richardson voted against cutting Enterprise Florida.

He disagreed with the proposed funding reduction on Visit Florida, so said he had no other choice but to cast a dissenting vote because the two organizations were packaged together.

“But if you pull out Enterprise Florida … I’d be happy to kill it for you,” he said.

Splitting the bill in two also honors Rep. Paul Renner’s, R-Palm Coast, commitment to Democratic Minority Leader Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, to allow for further debate on Visit Florida funding. With that promise, Cruz, the highest-ranking House Democrat, voted to eliminate Enterprise Florida last week.

Richardson, Cruz and other Democrats will have an opportunity to vote with their GOP counterparts, perhaps by late next week.

HB 7005 is scheduled to be split Monday in the House Rules and Policy Committee. All references to Visit Florida will be moved to a new bill, HB 9, and the remaining language would eliminate Enterprise Florida, as well as the Office of Film and Entertainment and 22 other incentive programs.

The formal legislative session begins Tuesday, and House lawmakers could schedule floor votes on both bills before the end of the week.

Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, is vehemently opposed to eliminating Enterprise Florida and reducing funding for Visit Florida. Scott wants $85 million and $76 million for the taxpayer-supported organizations, respectively, this year.

Corcoran and Scott released dueling videos last week in an attempt to build public support for their positions. Corcoran’s message, Session is Coming, focuses on ridding the legislature of “corporate welfare,” while Scott’s Fighting for Florida Jobs features business leaders and economic development officials touting the benefits of public assistance.

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William Patrick reports for Florida Watchdog. Contact him at wpatrick@watchdog.org and on Twitter.

Jack Latvala raises nearly $1M in February

Sen. Jack Latvala’s political committee had one of its strongest fundraising period to date, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in February.

Florida Leadership Committee, Latvala’s political committee, raised at least $870,083 during the one-month fundraising period, according to contribution data posted to the committee’s website. That number is expected to rise to more than $1 million when final numbers are calculated and reported to the state later this month.

That one-month fundraising haul boosts total contributions to the committee to more than $7.7 million.

Top contributors during February included FCCI Services, Altria Client Services, The Voice of Florida Business PAC, Mednax Inc., LEMA Construction & Developers, Broadview Realty, Equestrian Sport Productions, Costa Nursery Farms, and Southeast QSR.

The big fundraising month comes as rumors have been circulating that Latvala is mulling a 2018 gubernatorial bid. The Clearwater Republican can’t run for re-election in 2018 because of term limits, but earlier this month told the Tampa Bay Times he considering a run for governor.

A prolific fundraiser, the February numbers mark one of the biggest fundraising period the committee has reported since 2013. State records show the committee raised $487,625 in February 2015, the next largest haul posted on the state’s campaign finance website.

Latvala is one of several Republicans believed to be considering a run in 2018. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Richard Corcoran are often mentioned as possible contenders.

On the Democratic side, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum made it official this week, announcing he plans to run for governor. State records show he filed his paperwork Tuesday, and he formally announced his run Wednesday. Gwen Graham, Philip Levine and John Morgan are also considering a run.

Email Insights: Adam Putnam political committee brings in more than $2M in February

The political committee backing Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says it raised more than $2 million in February, bring total contributions to more than $9 million.

In an email  to supporters from Justin Hollis, the chairman of Florida Grown, said the committee raised more than $2.25 million in February 2017. Hollis said that one-month fundraising haul brought total contributions to the committee, which is expected to fuel Putnam’s 2018 campaign, to more than $9.4 million.

“Support for Adam’s Florida Grown PC is not only evident through fundraising, however, it’s also seen on social media platforms,” wrote Hollis. “More than 170,000 people follow Adam on Facebook, while Phil Levine has just 44,000, Bob Buckhorn has just 17,000, Gwen Graham has just 13,000 followers and the newly announced gubernatorial candidate from the Capital City Andrew Gillum has just under 17,000.”

Gillum formally announced his 2018 bid Wednesday; while Levine and Graham have both indicated they are mulling a bid. Buckhorn is also believed to be considering a run.

Putnam is expected to run in 2018. House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Sen. Jack Latvala are believed to be considering a run.

Hollis went on to say that behind the scenes, the Florida Grown team is “working hard, traveling the state and building relationships.”

House splitting legislation on incentives, tourism funding

In a letter to fellow members, state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz says House leadership now is planning to bifurcate its legislation to eliminate Enterprise Florida and to overhaul VISIT FLORIDA.

The Senate, however, so far still intends to keep Enterprise Florida as part of its economic development tool chest.

On Monday, Diaz – the Miami-Dade Republican who chairs the House Commerce Committee – wrote an email titled “Accountability – Everyone is for it, Right? We’ll see…” about his chamber’s proposal (HB 7005).

“We have heard from members and stakeholders that they would prefer if Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA were addressed in separate bills,” he wrote. “Dividing the issues into separate bills allows for more engaged and meaningful debate while putting VISIT FLORIDA on a path to real reform.”

Originally, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, aimed to abolish both the state’s economic development organization, dispenser of many of the state’s business incentives, and its tourism marketing agency, both public-private endeavors.

The speaker had threatened to sue VISIT FLORIDA after it refused to reveal a secret deal with Miami rap superstar Pitbull to promote Florida tourism, later revealed to be worth up to $1 million. The ensuing controversy cost former agency CEO Will Seccombe his job.

But Corcoran later decided to salvage the tourism agency from the legislative wrecking ball, though stripping it down to a bare $25 million yearly budget from nearly $80 million.

As is, the combined bill cleared its review panels and was ready to be considered by the full House when the 2017 Legislative Session begins March 7.

Its sponsor, Republican Paul Renner of Palm Coast, has instead filed new legislation (HB 9) that addresses VISIT FLORIDA on its own. It will first be heard March 6 by the Rules & Policy Committee, the House website shows.

It “contains the accountability and oversight provisions introduced last week,” Diaz said. “The bill also tightens private matching requirements and clarifies that VISIT FLORIDA funding will be addressed in the budget.

“HB 7005 will also be amended in the Rules and Policy Committee to focus solely on Enterprise Florida and other economic development programs,” he added.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, the St. Petersburg Republican who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development, last week filed his own economic development legislation.

It would leave VISIT FLORIDA alone, and overhaul but not get rid of Enterprise Florida and incentive programs.

House also files short witness list for Lottery trial

The House of Representatives’ in-house lawyer also plans to call just two witnesses at trial in Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s lawsuit against the Florida Lottery.

House general counsel Adam Tanenbaum‘s witness list was posted in court dockets Monday.

Barry Richard, the Lottery’s outside lawyer, similarly said he plans to call only two witnesses. A non-jury trial is scheduled for March 6.

The speaker sued the agency, which reports to Gov. Rick Scott, saying it was guilty of “wasteful and improper spending” for signing a multiple-year, $700 million contract for new equipment from International Game Technology (IGT).

Tanenbaum listed JoAnne Leznoff, staff director of the House Appropriations Committee, and Bruce Topp, budget chief for the Government Operation and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee.

Both started working for the House in November 2006, House records show.

Leznoff, among other things, will testify as to the history of the Lottery’s budget requests, while Topp will talk about the agency’s “fiscal policy” and “communications” between House and Lottery staff about the IGT contract.

Corcoran says the Lottery can’t sign “a contract that spends beyond existing budget limitations.”

The deal with IGT is for an initial 10-year period, and the Lottery exercised the first of its three available three-year renewal options.

Richard has countered that the Legislature cannot “micromanage individual contracts” and noted that the state’s “invitation to negotiate” for the contract discloses that any deal would be contingent on “an annual appropriation” from lawmakers. In fact, he adds, such a disclosure is required under state law.

Richard Corcoran, Rick Scott still holding on constitutional panel picks

With the 2017 Legislative Session fast approaching, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Gov. Rick Scott still have not released their appointees for the upcoming Constitution Revision Commission.

It’s the panel that meets every 20 years to suggest rewrites and additions to the state’s governing document.

Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and Senate President Joe Negron have already announced their combined 12 picks. (Those appointments are here and here.)

Corcoran last week said he planned to disclose his nine picks next Monday, the day before Session begins. Scott’s office has not said when he plans to announce his 15 selections. His received applications can be seen here.

The state constitution says the commission must be “established … within (30) days before the convening of the 2017 regular session of the legislature.”

The “commission shall convene at the call of its chair, adopt its rules of procedure, examine the constitution of the state, hold public hearings, and, not later than one hundred eighty days prior to the next general election, file … its proposal, if any, of a revision of this constitution or any part of it,” it says.

As governor, Scott will choose 15 of the 37 commissioners, and he also selects its chairperson. Corcoran, as House Speaker, gets nine picks, as does Negron as head of the Senate.

Republican Pam Bondi is automatically a member as the state’s Attorney General.

The commission has met twice before, in 1977-78 and 1997-98, but this will be the first to be selected by a majority of Republicans, virtually ensuring it will propose more conservative changes to the state’s governing document than previous panels.

The nonprofit Partnership for Revising Florida’s Constitution has suggested several issues the commission could address this year, including transportation, natural resources, crime and justice, representation, and “youth, elderly & the underserved.”

Any changes the commission proposes would be in the form of constitutional amendments, which would have to be approved by 60 percent of voters on a statewide ballot.

Richard Corcoran says philosophy, facts drive his EFI, VISIT Florida axe

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran made it clear Friday he is sticking to his drive to abolish Enterprise Florida Inc. and VISIT Florida saying the moves are right in philosophy and facts.

“I’m telling you we’re right. We’re absolutely right,” Corcoran declared in a speech before the Central Florida Urban League.

Corcoran described Enterprise Florida as an organization that serves the top 1 percent of companies and most of them did not deliver and  belittled VISIT Florida for paying for Pitbull‘s video that he said essentially declared, “Come to Florida and have sex.”

“Here is what we know about VISIT Florida and Enterprise Florida. First, Enterprise Florida and VISIT Florida didn’t exist in this state until the mid-’90s. Guess what we had before that? I’m going to shock you. We had visitors. I’m going to shock you. We had businesses that came to this state.”

Corcoran, a Republican from Land ‘O Lakes, began Friday by defending his positions against criticism from Democratic Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who, in an earlier speech, declared both organizations are valuable to Florida’s economic growth.

Yet Corcoran’s fight has not been with Democrats, and certainly not with mayors, but with Gov. Rick Scott and others in the Republican Party. Corcoran acknowledged that, referring to “my fight with the governor” and “members of my own party.” He then accused them of launching personal and uncivil counter attacks.

“I always try to maintain civility. I’ll stick to the facts. We ought to do that in a civil way. I will tell you that words matter. Words hurt. Words destroy,” Corcoran said. “And you ought to be very careful with your words. Especially now more than ever in this environment. And we ought to be speaking the truth.”

Corcoran also took a shot at the state’s Urban Crime Tax Credit, which has been criticized for creating loopholes that allowed, for example, Universal Orlando to receive the credits because the broad region of Orlando which the park is located qualifies.

“It sounds great, it sounds noble,” he said of the program. “All of your benefactors are the top 1 percent of companies, like Universal. I’ve been there with my family and my six kids. I never felt threatened by high crime.

That’s what happens when you engage in that kind of philosophy. And then you find out they start wasting money; they start spending money, on everything under the sun. Bonuses. High-end furniture.”

He accused Enterprise Florida of sponsoring the arrival of 232 businesses to Florida, but said 124 of them never met their contractual obligations, and that less than 2 percent of the capital obligations and delivering less than 2 percent of the jobs.

“And we just pour more money into it,” he said.

He said he was not offended by Pitbull’s video, saying he went to the University of Florida for three years, “all of them freshmen.”

“That’s not offensive to me. But it’s the philosophy behind that,” he added. “And all of that money that goes to those things that are gratuitous waste of money, is money that could go to education, that could go to infrastructure, or creating a fair and equitable tax structure.”

Florida GOP lawmakers hosting annual ‘Mardi Gras’ fundraiser this weekend

Ever wanted to ask Senate President Joe Negron what he’d do to earn some Mardi Gras beads?

Well, you’ll have the chance to do just that if you take part in a “Mardi Gras Celebration” at Universal Studios in Orlando where Negron, Speaker Richard Corcoran, Senate Presidents-to-be Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson and House Speakers-to-be Jose Oliva and Chris Sprowls and other legislative leaders will come together for a fundraiser the weekend before the start of the 2017 Legislative Session.

According to an invitation obtained by FloridaPolitics.com, on March 4-5, the Republican lawmakers will take part in a full schedule of activities, including VIP tours. There will be a lunch and dinner, followed by a VIP viewing of a Mardi Gras Celebration Parade & Concert.

Funds raised at the event will benefit House Majority 2018, one of the campaign arms of the Republican Party of Florida.

Presumably, it would be during the parade when an adventurous donor could trade some beads for a check — if only doing so were not against the gift ban.

Let’s hope Negron, Corcoran and Co. do not partake too much in the Mardi Gras festivities. The legislative session will kick-off just two days later.

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