Richard Corcoran Archives - Page 6 of 39 - SaintPetersBlog

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.

Florida Education Association calls for proper funding for public schools in new ads

The Florida Education Association is taking to the airwaves to call on lawmakers to better fund public schools.

The statewide education association released two advertisements Thursday in response to several measures being advanced by the Legislature. The proposals, education officials said, would under fund public schools and harm public school students.

“Students are at the center of everything we do. That’s why we are fighting for students and for better public schools,” said Joanne McCall, the president of the Florida Education Association. “We’re fighting against too many tests that do nothing to help our children and working to ensure that schools and students have the resources they need for success.”

The House on Thursday voted 70-44 to approve a $200 million plan to shift students from chronically failing schools to charter schools run by private organizations. The bill, a priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, would offer up money to build what are being called “Schools of Hope” in neighborhoods across the state, many in urban and poor areas.

GOP lawmakers have framed the legislation as an effort to help children in some of the state’s persistent failing schools, but Democrats questioned whether it was designed to help the for-profit management companies that are often hired by the non-profit groups that run charter schools.

According to the FEA, the ads will go out digitally to the FEA’s 140,000 members and will run extensively in Tallahassee through the end of session.

“We will stand up for Florida’s public schools, for every student in every classroom,” said McCall.

__The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

Andrew Gillum, Shevrin Jones lambaste charter school funding plan

Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum on Wednesday called proposed House funding for charter schools “a giveaway to (House Republicans’) friends and family.”

But Gillum at first wouldn’t answer whether he would veto such funding if he were governor, saying instead he would put a “premium” on fully funding the state’s public school system.

A spokesman later said he would veto that kind of funding if elected, explaining Gillum “fundamentally believes the bill’s approach is wrong.”

The mayor appeared with Democratic state Rep. Shevrin Jones of West Park at a news conference in the Capitol.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has proposed a “Schools of Hope” program, starting with $200 million in financial help for nonprofit companies to open charter schools in the Sunshine State. But it’s been reported that those concerns aren’t interested in coming.

Nonetheless, Gillum bemoaned the proposal, which he said would put millions of dollars “in the hands of friends (of Republicans) who are well-heeled and well-connected.”

He also criticized the state’s “sharp turn toward a culture of testing that doesn’t tell (parents and teachers) what they need to know about a child.”

Democrats “need to speak truth to power and call it what it is—a giveaway to friends and family” of the House Republican leadership, Gillum said.

Jones went a step further, saying earmarking money for charter schools means “we’re creating a segregated system … that will not fix the issues.”

He added that though he believes in school choice, “if they close a (charter) school down” because it reaches capacity, “where do the kids go? I still haven’t gotten an answer.” The implicit answer was students go back to the same D- and F-rated schools they tried to escape.

The news conference can be viewed in a Periscope video below:

Rick Scott won’t end fight for economic development, tourism funding

With the House seemingly intent on gutting VISIT FLORIDA and eliminating Enterprise Florida, Gov. Rick Scott suggested he won’t stop counterpunching.

The governor, who spoke to reporters after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, has been openly warring with House Speaker Richard Corcoran. He’s been out to kill state government’s business incentives programs.

Corcoran counts Enterprise Florida (EFI), the state’s economic development organization, and VISIT FLORIDA, its tourism marketing arm, as dispensers of “corporate welfare.”

Scott says they help create jobs. Though both are public-private partnerships, both take in far more public money than private.

The governor has been going to the home districts of Republican House members and hosting “roundtables” with the aim of “encourag(ing) members of the community to voice their support for EFI and VISIT FLORIDA,” spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said.

At these roundtables, however, Scott has pointedly criticized House Republicans who had voted to kill incentive programs and the two organizations.

“I’m traveling the state to make sure everybody knows the importance of what our Legislature does,” Scott said Tuesday. “We’re at record tourism numbers,” with close to 113 million tourists visiting the state last year.

With thousands of jobs tied to tourism, “it’s important to me that we fully fund VISIT FLORIDA,” he said. “I know it’s a lot of jobs … If you look at the fact we added all these jobs, it’s because we got a good return for taxpayers. We’ve also recruited companies to expand and to move here. It’s really had a very positive impact.”

But many of those jobs were created without the use of subsidies, leading to a question of whether that worked against the governor’s position. Scott’s proposed $250 million Florida Enterprise Fund was zeroed out by lawmakers in the current year’s budget.

“We haven’t seen a lot of big deals; we haven’t seen a lot of corporate offices moving here,” Scott said. “There aren’t a lot of manufacturing plants moving here. We’ve got to compete … this is about somebody’s job.”

Carlos Frontela chastened by 2016 mistakes, is fired up for House District 62 bid

In declaring his candidacy early for the Tampa-based House District 62 seat, Carlos Frontela already demonstrates he’s learned from rookie mistakes made last year in his bid for the Hillsborough County School Board.

“I jumped in really late, two months before the primary,” he says, reminiscing about his ill-fated run for the District 7 seat ultimately captured by Lynn Gray last November.

“No time to really organize, no time to really gain any campaign contributions,” he says which is why he’s working on qualifying by petition to get on the ballot next year in the seat that will be vacated by a term-limited Janet Cruz.

The 42-year-old Frontela was born in Cuba and grew up in New Jersey before moving to Tampa in 2004. He owns his own small business, a document preparation service based in an office located near Raymond James Stadium in West Tampa.

“I think the Legislature could use somebody like me with business experience,” he said Tuesday. “I’m not necessarily a career politician. I can bring some sense of normalcy where I can reach across the aisle and do things a bipartisan process.”

Frontela looks forward to campaigning next year in earnest, acknowledging that with a full-time business and five children, it won’t be easy.

Frontela often speaks about working to find common ground with Republicans in Tallahassee to pass bills helping his constituents.

“That’s very important,” he says. “If you’re going to just go up there and play partisan politics, it’s not going to work.”

The subject prompts a riff on what Frontela calls a mistake by Senate Democrats in Washington opposing Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump‘s first nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. Gorsuch was sworn onto the court Monday.

“Neil Gorsuch was confirmed unanimously via voice vote to the 10th Judicial Circuit (of Appeals),” he recounts about that 2006 vote in which Chuck Schumer, Diane Feinstein and other Senate Democrats — those who opposed him last week — supported him 11 years beforehand.

“People can see clearly that was a show. It was partisan politics,” he says, criticizing his own party. The Democratic wall of opposition in the Senate led Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to break out the “nuclear option,” allowing just a bare minimum approval of 51 senators to confirm Gorsuch, versus the filibuster-proof 60 votes previously required to confirm Supreme Court no.

“Next time when a real, right-leaning conservative judge gets appointed, you’d have faith with the general public,” he says. “Now you don’t. You got the nuclear option. God knows a way right-wing justice will get through (next time) with just 51 votes.”

Regarding the battle between Republican Richard Corcoran and Rick Scott over Enterprise Florida, Frontela takes Scott’s side in believing tax incentives help businesses and communities.

He not only supports medical marijuana (though not the way the GOP-led Legislature is debating how to implement the matter) but the legalization of recreational marijuana as well. “We have two other drugs on the market that are completely legal and completely taxes, and they kill countless individuals every year,” says Frontela. “And those are alcohol and tobacco.”

“We have two other drugs on the market that are completely legal and completely taxes, and they kill countless individuals every year,” says Frontela. “And those are alcohol and tobacco.”

He considers raising the state’s minimum wage to at least $10 an hour his top issue, as well as restoring the civil and voting rights of ex-felons.

About last year’s presidential contest, Frontela is of the opinion that the Democratic National Committee “rigged” the primary fight between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in Clinton’s favor.

“That turned off a lot of people,” he says of fellow Democrats, “and a lot of people didn’t turn out.”

Frontera had a lifelong interest in politics, going back to when he was 13 and volunteered for the campaign of New Jersey Democratic Albio Sires, who in 1986 was running for Congress for the first time.

As a Cuban-American, Frontela supports the diplomatic breakthrough with the communist island led by Barack Obama in 2014.

Learn more about Frontela’s platform by going to his website: CharlieFor62.com.

Joe Henderson: Democrats may finally get the message that they need, well, a message

Florida Democrats have become such a non-factor in state politics that the real drama frequently becomes which faction of the Republican party will prevail on a given issue.

Think about it.

We have had knockdown, drag-outs between the GOP-controlled House and Senate. This year the main event has been the ongoing feud between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

It’s almost like Democrats don’t exist.

Republicans have long had a consistent message of tough on crime, lower taxes and regulations, gun expansion and job creation. Democrats, on the other hand, basically have campaigned on the “Vote For Me Because I’m Not Him (or Her)” but, guess what? They may finally be getting the message that they need, well, a message.

“What we have to do is convince them that voting for us will make a difference in our lives,” Tallahassee mayor and declared Democratic candidate for Governor Andrew Gillum told the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida in Tampa recently.

And in one of the best lines of the still-young campaign so far, Gillum told that crowd Democrats wouldn’t win 2018 by being “Republican-lite.”

Businessman Chris King, the latest declared Democratic candidate for 2018, kicked off his campaign by telling the Orlando Sentinel, “The challenge for the Democrats, I think, is to offer something different, something authentic.

Authentic, eh?

What would that look like?

How about explaining why Medicaid expansion is important because it could actually lower health care costs in the long run. Or maybe, uh … it’s just the right thing to do?

Explain what happens if we don’t take care of the environment. Under Scott, the GOP has gutted many environmental protections and the Legislature often mocks any attempt to protect the land we inhabit. Don’t just say “GOP, BAD!” though. Democrats need to explain why their way is better.

Oh, and there is transportation. Democrats have really dropped the ball there. So explain that the GOP vision, as put into practice by the Florida Department of Transportation, calls for a steady increase in the number of toll roads while rejecting any attempt at effective mass transit. You think people really want that?

Show the growth numbers expected in Florida over the next 20 years and present a vision of what the state will look like if the only transit option is to build more roads. That approach worked extremely well for Democrat Pat Kemp in last November’s election for the Hillsborough County Commission, by the way.

See how easy this is?

Guns? Democrats have ceded that and related issues like Stand Your Ground to Republicans, mostly because (I believe) they cower in fear at that the National Rifle Association will come after them hard for saying we need to bring common sense to the Gunshine State.

Psssst. The NRA will come after you anyway, quivering Democrat. So, take on that fight, loudly. Go after Stand Your Ground and the GOP’s latest pitiful move to force prosecutors to prove a shooter didn’t feel threatened when pulling the trigger.

Democrats are going to have to shout such things from the rooftop, with clarity and determination. It won’t be easy. Republicans have controlled the microphone for a long time now while Democrats have curled up in the corner with nothing to say.

Are they up for this?

Time will tell, I guess.

St. Pete officials make the case for Enterprise Florida

With less than a month to go for the Florida Legislature Regular Session, several major issues remain unresolved.

No issue is more entertaining — on a purely political basis — than the debate among Republicans on the viability of Enterprise Florida.

That’s the public-private partnership between Florida’s business and government leaders where recent records show has spent a lot more public than private money. And that’s a major reason Enterprise Florida has spent an entire year in the crosshairs of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, whose intense campaign has resulted in the Florida House voting to defund the organization.

But that’s not the case in the Senate.

The upper chamber’s current budget funds the organization to the tune of $85 million, with Gov. Rick Scott taking weekly road trips up and down the state for the past few months calling out House Republicans who voted against the measure. Much of the road trips include cheerleading sessions with both political and business elite in those communities.

J.P. DuBuque, the president of the Greater St. Petersburg Economic Development Corporation, admits that economic growth in the state won’t die out if Enterprise Florida isn’t retained. But he also believes taking away the business community’s biggest (and best) marketing arm and “unilaterally disarming” regarding tax incentives will negatively impact growth trajectory and the success overall of Florida communities.

“We’re competing against other locations. They may have deals where they might be considering locations in Cleveland or Dallas or Nashville or Atlanta. All of those states have lucrative incentive programs, and if we do not have something of our own to help close the deal, the total cost element which every business is going to look at, that pendulum moves away from Florida, and we don’t get the jobs,” he says.

In a conference call with FloridaPolitics.com Friday, DuBuque joined Bram Hechtkopf, CEO of St. Petersburg-based Kobie Marketing, a firm working with some of the biggest companies in the United States to build brand loyalty.

Working through the State’s Qualified Target Industry (QTI) program last year, Kobie qualified for 255 new hires, with an average salary of $80,000.

Under the QTI program, administered through the Department of Economic Opportunity and Enterprise Florida, companies can receive a $3,000 tax refund per new job created — if the salary is more than 115 percent of the county’s average annual wage.

After the House Rules and Policy Committee had passed a bill last month to kill Enterprise Florida, the libertarian-based Americans for Prosperity-Florida celebrated.

“Florida is the best state to raise a family and start a business, because of our outstanding recourses and infrastructure, not because of taxpayer handouts,” AFP-Florida representatives said in a statement. “The time to end these unfair handouts is now.”

AFP-Florida has been the most vocal group to call out all forms of what they dub “corporate welfare.” In so, they found an ideological partner in Corcoran, who at one point wanted the same fate for Visit Florida, the state’s tourist development arm.

Corcoran has since backed off that stance while continuing to push for a severe reduction in its budget.

DuBuque, as head of the EDC, bristles at the suggestion that EF simply gives out tax incentives willy-nilly.

“The incentives don’t make the deal,” he maintains. “The decision to consider a location for growth or relocation is driven first in most cases by availability and cost of labor, then you  have real estate considerations, you have quality-of-life considerations, so you have all of these considerations that your business are going to take.”

Hechtkopf emphasizes that Enterprise Florida has been a good corporate partner, helping attract and maintain talent in the Tampa Bay area. Although he was unable to confirm the nature of how the tax incentive program would work for Kobie Marketing, an official working with the firm later contacted SPB to say that Kobie “has the potential of $1.7 million dollars in tax refunds from calendar years 2017 through 2023 as long as the 255 net-new employee are retained through the year 2023.”

Richard Corcoran: The press corps’ enabler

At halftime in this year’s Legislative Session, House Speaker Richard Corcoran sounds like he’s getting a bit fatigued with questions about “transparency.”

At a media availability on Thursday, the Land O’ Lakes Republican pushed back against a reporter’s question about special interests who draft bills, and whether leadership pressures committee chairs to hear those bills.

“All I hear from you guys is ‘OK, you guys have done more than any other Legislature in the history of mankind (on) transparency and openness … but you forgot this one,’ ” Corcoran said.

“Really, what you ought to say is thank you. We’ve made your lives a heck of a lot easier. You guys have not even had access to all of the documents and all of the information if it wasn’t for us filing lawsuits and dragging people who take taxpayer money up here before committees and browbeating them (about) what they’re spending money on. And the only thing you guys come and tell us is, ‘you forgot this group.’

“You know, you guys have to (get over) your level of cynicism … How many times are bills given to Democrats, to Republicans, that are written by the special interests? Way too many. (But) I will (say) this year of legislators and legislation that is homegrown, owned by the members, is better than any.

“I’ll give you another example,” Corcoran went on. “Take the budget, and the pushback by the special interests. You just went through a whole budget week, and (here in the House), you had seven amendments. A budget that cuts $2.1 billion of pork, one Democrat votes against it and there’s only seven amendments, all of them completely transparent.”

(Actually, it was two Democrats: House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa and Rep. Lori Berman of Lantana.)

“Go across the hall (to the Senate), and what do you see?” Corcoran said. “How many amendments were offered to the Senate budget bill? Over 100.

“… We have a $100 million plus in (member-requested) projects. The Senate? Sitting at $700 million. So you want me to tell you where we can bridge differences? $700 million is too many projects. That is a lot of pork.”

The chamber’s respective budgets should be voted off the floor next week, then move into conference the week after that. The Senate’s more than $85 billion, or about $4 billion over the House’s bottom line. The current state budget is close to $82.3 billion.

Hillsborough Commissioners add themselves to new lobbying ordinance

Hillsborough County Commissioners added themselves to a previously drafted amendment to an ordinance that would prohibit registered lobbyists from communicating electronically during commission meetings.

The proposal before the board would have only penalized lobbyists on Wednesday, prompting Commission Chair Les Miller to say that it was insufficient, and that “we as the County Commission should also adhere to the lobbying ordinance.”

Miller offered two new amendments that the board ultimately approved. One added “commissioners” to the provision that in the case that an electronic communication sent by a lobbyist during a meeting “could not be avoided,” that lobbyist must immediately notify the lobbyist registration manager. Now a commissioner has to notify that system as well. It passed 5-2, with Victor Crist and Ken Hagan opposing.

The second amendment would fine commissioners for violating the ordinance. The original draft only included lobbyists. The first fine would be $250, the second offense $500, and a third offense would require the lobbyist registration manager to inform the Florida Ethics Commission. The measure passed 5-2, with Hagan and Stacy White opposing.

“Candidly, I think it’s a joke,” cracked Hagan about the proposals. “It’s symbolic, repetitive, impotent and has no teeth.”

In December, Commissioners approved a motion offered by Commissioner Sandy Murman directing county attorneys to draft a proposal that would ban them from receiving text messages from a lobbyist during a board meeting, a variation of new lobbying rules promulgated in Tallahassee by House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

In January 2016, the BOCC passed an ordinance requiring all lobbyists to register by name, who they met with, what they talked about and who they represented when meeting with board members. The ordinance was prompted by the controversy surrounding how transportation engineer Parsons Brinckerhoff became the contractor for the Go Hillsborough transportation effort — and then hiring Beth Leytham as a subcontractor.

Leytham never registered as a lobbyist with the county when she communicated with commissioners via text message and/or email during that process.

WTSP — 10 News reporter Noah Pransky said last week that Murman, Hagan and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn were recently interviewed by the Florida Commission on Ethics regarding the Go Hillsborough controversy.

Jack Latvala raises more than $244K on eve of 2017 Legislative Session

Jack Latvala raised more than $250,000 in the first week of March, much of which was raised in a single day.

Florida Leadership Committee, the Clearwater Republican’s political committee, raised at least $252,160 between March 1 and March 6, according to contribution data posted to the committee’s website. The committee received about $244,600 of that sum on March 6, the day before the 2017 Legislative Session kicked off.

Top contributors during the brief fundraising period, according to data posted on the website, including Associated Industries of Florida, Comcast Corp., Amscot Corp., Friends of Mount Sinai Medical Center, Minto Communities, Auto Tag of America, and the Florida Manufactured Housing Association PAC.

Latvala, the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, is believed to be considering a 2018 gubernatorial bid and appears to be boosting his coffers ahead of an eventual decision. State records show Latvala raised nearly $1.1 million in February, marking one of the committee’s largest fundraising hauls to date.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and House Speaker Richard Corcoran are also often mentioned as possible 2018 contenders

On the Democratic side, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Chris King have already announced their 2018 run, and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham are expected to formally jump into the race soon.

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