Richard Corcoran Archives - Page 7 of 31 - SaintPetersBlog

Federal judges’ lifetime tenure for good reason; Tallahassee should take note

There is a profound reason why the Founders gave life tenure to federal judges, subject only to impeachment for bad behavior. As Alexander Hamilton explained it in The Federalist No. 78:

“In a monarchy, it is an excellent barrier to the despotism of the prince; in a Republic, it is a no less excellent barrier to the encroachments and oppressions of the representative body…”

Judges subject to the whims of a president or the Congress to keep their jobs would be worthless. So would the Constitution.

The founding wisdom has been confirmed time and again, most famously when the Supreme Court ruled that Richard Nixon was not above the law, and most recently Thursday, when the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that Donald Trump is not above it either.

Although the effect is only that Trump’s immigration decree remains on hold while the court fully considers his appeal of the District Judge’s order suspending it, the three-judge appellate panel made an enormously important point.

Trump’s lawyers had argued, as the court put it, that his “decisions about immigration policy, particularly when motivated by national security concerns, are unreviewable, even if those actions potentially contravene constitutional rights and protections.” The regime had also claimed, the court said, that “it violates separation of powers for the judiciary to entertain a constitutional challenge to executive actions such as this one.” (Emphasis supplied)

A president in office less than three weeks was asserting the powers of a dictator.

“There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy,” the court said.

I hope they’re paying attention in Tallahassee, where some legislators seem to think they too are above the constitution and are trying to take down the state courts that sometimes disagree.

The current attack is led by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes. A constitutional amendment (HJR 1), sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, would prohibit Supreme Court justices and justices of the five district courts of appeal from qualifying in retention elections after serving more than 12 years in the same office.

Why term-limit only those judges? Circuit and county court judges have vastly more power over the lives and property of citizens. But it’s the appellate courts that rule on the laws that legislators enact and the decisions governors make.

Corcoran, whose ambition to be governor is no secret, has declared that his nine appointees to the new Constitution Revision Commission must be committed to neutering the judiciary.

This concerns conservatives no less than liberals. Both sides warned a House subcommittee Thursday that, as one speaker put it, the first-in-the nation term limit would “insure that the best and bright rarely, if ever, apply” for appellate court appointments.

The subcommittee approved the measure 8-7, with only Republicans voting for it. However, the two Republicans voting no portend the lack of a supermajority to pass it on the House floor.

Although there’s no precise Senate companion, term-limit legislation assigned to three committees there is in several ways worse. No one could be appointed to an appellate bench who is under 50 and it would restrict Supreme Court appointees to candidates who had been judges for at least one year.

That would have ruled out such widely-esteemed lawyers as Justice Raoul G. Cantero III (2002-2008) who was 41 when Gov. Jeb Bush appointed him in 2002 and, Justice Charles T. Wells (1994-2009). None of three significant justices in the 1950s, Steven C. O’Connell, B. Campbell Thornal, and E. Harris Drew, had previously been a judge. Nor had Attorney General Richard Ervin when Gov. Farris Bryant appointed him to the Supreme Court in 1964.

Conceptually, there is a form of term limit that would make sense: A single, nonrenewable term of 20 years, with the judge no longer having to face retention elections, and the judicial nominating commissions restored to the independence they had before Republican governors got total control over them. But what the legislators are proposing does nothing good.

As the subcommittee was told but apparently chose not to hear, there is already significant turnover in the judiciary, where judges must retire upon or soon after becoming 70. The Judicial Qualifications Commission has not been idle in getting bad ones kicked off the bench. (I’ll write more about that in a subsequent column.)

The Legislature’s attacks on the judiciary may not succeed, but the greater danger is that Constitution Revision commission, which can send amendments directly to the 2018 ballot. With the House speaker and Senate president each appointing nine members, Governor Rick Scott, another court-hater, naming 15 including the chairman; and the attorney general, Pam Bondi, as an automatic member, it will be the first of the three commissions since 1978 to be dominated by one party’s appointees and, likely, hostile to the courts at the outset. The three members whom Chief Justice Jorge Labarga named next week will have the fight of their lives to protect the courts from becoming subverted by the governor and legislature.

Labarga’s three are well suited for their mission.

Hank Coxe of Jacksonville is a former Florida Bar president and has served on the Judicial Qualifications Commission. The CRC will need to listen to him on that subject.

Robert Martinez, of Miami, is highly regarded as the former U.S. attorney there. “In addition to being a good person and excellent lawyer, with thoughtful and humane values, Bob is one of the most courtly and well-mannered people I know,” a former assistant told me.

Arthenia Joyner, a Tampa lawyer who served in both houses of the Legislature, can tell the CRC firsthand what happens when the courts and law don’t respect people’s rights. As a student in the 1950s, she took part in lunch counter sit-ins at Tallahassee and was jailed for trying to desegregate movie theaters there.

Scott, Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron have yet to make their CRC appointments. Let them follow Labarga’s examples of integrity, experience and wisdom. One can always hope.

___

Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the Tampa Bay Times. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

Term limits for top Florida judges clears first hurdle

A push by House Speaker Richard Corcoran to limit how long top judges can remain on the bench is moving in the Florida House.

A divided House panel on Thursday approved a measure (HJR 1) that would ask the state’s voters to approve a 12-year term limit for all Supreme Court justices and appeals court judges. If passed by the Florida Legislature it would go before voters in 2018.

Justices and appeals court judges currently must go before voters every six years for a merit retention vote. Supporters of the term limits proposal note that no judge has ever lost a merit retention vote.

But opponents say the amendment would undercut the independence of the judicial branch and argued it would lead to fewer people seeking to become judges.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

House, Senate trying to avoid budget showdown over rules

The Florida Senate and House have agreed to work together on a joint rule to avoid a “who blinks first” approach to this year’s budget negotiations. 

Sen. Jack Latvala, the Clearwater Republican who heads the Appropriations Committee, Thursday told the Rules Committee he was “pleased to report” House leaders had agreed to consider what’s known as a “joint rule” to streamline the process.

The Naples Daily News reported Wednesday the Legislature could be headed to “a partial state government shutdown” over a disagreement on how requests to fund hometown projects get into the state budget.

The House now requires each request to be filed separately; those were due Tuesday. 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.

Latvala called that an “unprecedented situation” at the Rules Committee meeting Thursday.

He said he consulted with Senate President Joe Negron, who agreed the Senate “could either pass a budget and see who blinked first, or be proactive and try to resolve the situation.”

The compromise offered to the House would allow, among other things, “funding of projects (to) be included in a conference committee report if the information … is provided to the public at the time the funding is proposed … and the conference committee has provided time for public testimony.”

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

At deadline, 381 House project bills had been filed, worth over $796 million.

“I think this approach will bear fruit,” Latvala told the panel. 

Corcoran previously told the Daily News that the House’s “concerns in regard to member project openness, project accountability and other central issues still remain, (but) we are always willing to work with our Senate counterparts, and we hope we can have a constructive dialogue.”

An existing Senate rule, however, limits 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.

“A conference committee, other than a conference committee on a general or special appropriations bill and its related legislation, shall consider and report only on the differences existing between the Senate and the House, and no substance foreign to the bills before the conferees shall be included in the report or considered by the Senate.”

Francis Rooney says he’s not considering 2018 gubernatorial bid

Rep. Francis Rooney dismissed rumors he is considering gubernatorial bid, saying he is focused on “being the best congressman” he can be for Southwest Florida.

Rooney, a freshman congressman and the former ambassador to the Holy See, said he was not considering a run for governor in 2018.

“I am considering one thing — being the best congressman I can be for Southwest Florida,” he said. “I’m thankful to have the opportunity to represent Southwest Florida, and I’m not intending to do anything else other than do the best possible job I can.”

Rooney replaced Rep. Curt Clawson in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. The Naples Republican was backed by Gov. Rick Scott, who endorsed Rooney during the primary.

Scott has made no secret that he’d like to see another businessman in the Governor’s Mansion, and is believed to have approached Rooney about throwing his hat in the race. The two men are friends, and live just a few minutes away from each other in the same Naples community.

“The example of Gov. Scott and another businessperson in politics, Vern Buchanan, is part of what inspired me to run for this,” said Rooney. “I think we need business people in the government. I think if you look at the good they’ve been able to do with their experience and their track record with their decisions and things, it’s been very positive.”

But Rooney says he’s not interested in running for governor, saying he’s has “said it a lot, no way.”

“I’m sure there’s a lot of good business people that would make excellent governors in Florida, and congressmen and senators as well,” he said. “I just want to be the best congressman I can be.”

The race to replace Scott, who can’t run for re-election because of term limits, is expected to be a crowded one. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is widely expected to run, while House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Sen. Jack Latvala are believed to be considering their options.

House panel votes to kill Enterprise Florida, VISIT FLORIDA

A Florida House panel Wednesday cleared a bill that would eliminate the Enterprise Florida economic development organization, the VISIT FLORIDA tourism marketing agency, and a slew of economic incentive programs – the first step of a long journey through one chamber of the Legislature.

The Careers and Competition Subcommittee OK’d the proposal (PCB CCS 17-01) by a nearly party-line vote of 10-5.

One Democrat voted for it, Miami’s Roy Hardemon, and one Republican was opposed, Sarasota’s Joe Gruters – an ally of Gov. Rick Scott, who believes in incentives. 

The committee room was packed with bill opponents, including those in the service and tourism industry and many from rural areas, who said economic development and tourism marketing was vital to their livelihood.

Passing the bill as is will “destroy our tourism industry,” said Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, speaking for the thousands of “waitstaff, cooks (and others) worried about losing their jobs.”

The legislation comes in the wake of VISIT FLORIDA CEO Will Seccombe’s December resignation, the last casualty of a kerfuffle over a secret contract – later revealed to be worth up to $1 million – with Miami rap superstar Pitbull to promote Florida tourism.

Moreover, Scott’s continued support of incentives puts him at odds with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who has derided Enterprise Florida as a dispenser of corporate welfare.

“Politicians in @MyFLHouse turned their back on jobs today by supporting job killing legislation,” the governor tweeted after the vote.

Chris Hudson, state director of Americans for Prosperity-Florida, lauded the vote as the death knell of “bloated subsidies.”

“Lawmakers were elected to serve the hardworking people of the state, not well-connected special interests that seek lucrative deals to pad their bottom line,” he said.

“… We applaud the members of this committee who today stood up for fairness, for principle, and for Florida taxpayers.”

But dozens more local officials and small business owners came to Tallahassee to oppose the legislation. Dairy owners joined oyster farmers, short-order cooks, and fishing captains to tell lawmakers the bill would harm them financially.  

Kelly Paige is president of Film Florida, but also owns Level Talent Group in Tampa. She said the state’s previous ending of a film incentive caused her to lose 40 percent of her workforce.

“This bill actually represents a tax increase for my industry,” she told the panel. “If you repeal (any more incentives), you are saying we are closed for business.”

Eric Fletcher, manager of airport operations for Allegiant Air, said VISIT FLORIDA helped his airline grow 2,000 jobs in the state, bringing in 3 million visitors.

And Visit Florida board chairman William Talbert told the subcommittee “every single representative here knows … we would have a state income tax if it was not for tourism.”

After the vote, state Rep. Halsey Beshears, the Monticello Republican who chairs the panel, said he was impressed by the many stories he heard during public comment.

“Obviously, there’s a huge demand out there for (both organizations), but I do think we have to start from zero,” he said. “Still, we’ll let the Speaker know all the concerns we heard today.

“… Not everything will be zeroed out,” Beshears added. “We cannot ignore all the people who traveled from all over Florida to be heard on this.

“I appreciate the dairy man who said every little bit (of marketing) helps, but then the server in Orlando (who supports the bill) told us we need to be good stewards of the people’s money,” he said.

On Rick Scott/Richard Corcoran feud; ‘incentives’ not needed to draw business to Florida

In 2012, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan went on a personal crusade to convince Bass Pro Shops to build a store in Brandon.

Hagan’s aim was to create jobs as the county struggled to recover from the Great Recession. He proposed an “incentive” package that was about $15 million of taxpayer money, arguing that it was the cost of doing business with a company like that.

Many people disagreed. They screamed. They howled. They complained that giving a Death Star-like Bass Pro public money to open shop forced small outdoor businesses to subsidize a multibillion-dollar corporation that could run them into bankruptcy.

Eventually, the incentive package was winnowed way down to some infrastructure improvements. Bass Pro came anyway. It seems to be thriving in its Brandon location.

I mention this in the context of the now-public feud between Gov. Rick Scott and Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran over the governor’s signature issue — jobs.

Scott has repeatedly shown he is a true believer in offering tax and other incentives to lure business to Florida. Corcoran guards the public bank account like a hungry pit bull, which is apropos because one of Corcoran’s targets was Visit Florida — the state’s tourism promotional arm that paid rapper Pitbull $1 million to tout our glory.

Scott built $85 million into his budget proposal for business incentives. Corcoran has dismissed that as corporate welfare and will have none of it.

I think Corcoran’s aim is more on target. Hillsborough’s experience with Bass Pro is proof.

Big businesses do create jobs, yes, but they also exist to make money. They will go to places where they can do that. Florida, now the third-largest state in the nation, is fertile ground for any company that wants to turn a profit.

But with the assumption that Scott will run for the U.S. Senate in 2018, the ability to “create” jobs seems to be his singular mission. There are about 1 million more jobs now in the state than when Scott took office in 2010. When you peel back the layers, though, the picture isn’t quite as bright.

As FloridaPolitics.com reported, the nonpartisan Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability studied eight state incentive programs and found that most of the money went to existing Florida companies that have more than 1,000 employees.

It also found that many of the companies receiving grants from the Innovation Incentive Program failed to hit their marks.

That underscores the notion that these are little more than giveaways that companies that shouldn’t be receiving tax dollars.

Scott tried to turn the tables from his own ambition, questioning what Corcoran has to gain politically. While the Speaker has been quiet about his plans, many wonder if a run for governor in 2018 could be part of his game plan.

“What else could it be,” Scott told reporters during a gaggle Tuesday in Tallahassee.

Well, just spit-balling here, it could be the idea that giving millions of tax dollars to companies who, like Bass Pro, might come here anyway is ethically and morally wrong. From what I can tell by watching and listening to Corcoran, this is not a position he adopted last week because it looks good politically. He really believes that spending needs to be scrutinized and minimized.

I would add that any company needing an “incentive” beyond Florida’s obvious strengths to do business here is probably not a company we need. But that’s just me.

DEO “Cissysplains” economic incentives to Richard Corcoran

Gov. Rick Scott has now sicced the Department of Economic Opportunity, headed by executive director Cissy Proctor, on the Florida House to take down its critique of economic incentives.

A news release, issued late Tuesday, continues the cold war of words between the governor, an ardent supporter of incentives, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who has called them “corporate welfare.”

The department’s response is reprinted below, unedited and in its entirety:

Today, the Florida House of Representatives used data maintained by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) that was unfortunately used to inaccurately describe the result of the state’s economic incentive programs. DEO would like to take this opportunity to accurately explain the data and how the incentive programs work to create valuable Florida jobs while aggressively protecting taxpayer dollars.

DEO Director Cissy Proctor said, “Before Governor Scott came into office, state incentives were often awarded before stringent requirements were met. However, under Governor Scott, Florida companies receive economic incentives after these requirements are met, including proven job growth and wage requirements.  Only contractual commitments that are met are paid.  This ensures a return on investment for Florida families.”

CLAIM

64.3 percent of the economic incentives listed below were unsuccessful because: 

•They only completed a portion of their requirements for which they were paid and can receive no more payments (inactive) 14.2%

•They never received any payments though a contract was executed and are ineligible for future payments (terminated) 36.9%

•The contract was never signed (vacated) 11.9%

•The application was withdrawn 1.2%

FACT

It is inaccurate to say that all inactive, terminated, vacated and withdrawn projects are not successful. While inactive projects met some performance measures, businesses were only rewarded for the jobs they created. This means the program is working. Only contractual commitments that are met are paid.

For example, if a company moves to Florida and commits to creating 100 jobs over five years but ultimately only creates 75 jobs over four years, the company only receives payments for the 75 jobs created; not for the full 100. Are those 75 jobs a failure? No. Are the 75 Floridians who found a new opportunity to provide for their family or achieve their dreams evidence of a failed project? No.

Job creation should never be viewed as a failure. This process shows the reforms that Governor Scott put in place are working to protect taxpayer dollars while encouraging job growth.

Furthermore, terminated, vacated and withdrawn projects NEVER received taxpayer funds. This shows that the Governor’s strict accountability measures are working to safeguard taxpayer dollars. This is part of the due diligence process that was reformed under Governor Scott’s leadership.

CLAIM

Less than 10% of approved incentives were completed having met all its contractual obligations with the state.

FACT

Many state incentive projects resulted in the creation of new jobs, capital investment, or higher wages in companies across the state. These job creation deals are multi-year projects with multiple different types and sizes of businesses across various industries. A multitude of factors can result in a company changing its business model, which is why Governor Scott’s reforms included strict performance-based contracts for each year of the agreements. In the years that the companies meet their contract goals, jobs are created for Florida families and investments are made in Florida communities. These new opportunities and investments are a success for the state. Again, if jobs are not created, no taxpayer dollars are spent.

CLAIM
A trend worth noting for many of the incentive programs is the common practice of either providing a one or more year extension for the various businesses receiving incentives to meet performance criteria with no award penalty, or simply amending contracts to change performance criteria.

FACT

When companies enter into agreements with the State of Florida, they are projecting performance up to a decade in advance. When initiating their projects, companies may experience delays related to local permitting, construction, renovation, federal contracts, and relocating their business. While some extensions may be provided after a thorough and strict review process, state money is not given out until full job creation, wages and capital investment from the contract are made.

CLAIM

6 out of 10 approved incentives do not result in successful projects

FACT

While inactive projects met some performance measures, they were only paid for the investments that were made. Furthermore, job creation is never a failure. Terminated, vacated and withdrawn projects NEVER received taxpayer funds.

CLAIM
3 (“Active”) of the remaining 4 that could potentially be successful could still end in a status of “Termination” or “Inactive”

FACT

All incentive projects are held accountable for the life of the project and taxpayer dollars are not spent until strict performance measures are met.

CLAIM
12% of approved incentives never execute a contract with the state

FACT

In these cases, companies seeking incentives meet with the state to discuss their business growth plans. During the due diligence process that was reformed under Gov. Scott’s leadership, the state works with the company regarding the strict requirements of the incentive program. At this point, a company may decide not to pursue an agreement. Again, in this case, no taxpayer money is ever spent. This shows that the program is working.

CLAIM
Since 1994 a total of 186 (9.6%) of approved incentives have resulted in a project that completed its contract with the state

FACT

While inactive projects met some performance measures, they were only paid for the investments that were made. Furthermore, job creation is never a failure. Terminated, vacated and withdrawn projects NEVER received taxpayer funds.

CLAIM
No statistics are currently available for the 9.6% to determine how many, if any, were sanctioned during contract performance for failure to meet their full performance requirements

FACT

All performance-based contracts have sanctions and clawbacks in the event that a company is unable to meet a requirement. This is part of the reforms of the incentive process done by Governor Scott, and the state will continue to aggressively pursue efforts to hold companies accountable in order to safeguard taxpayers’ dollars.

Former prosecutor, young GOP leader Berny Jacques contemplating run for House District 66

Former Pinellas County Assistant State Attorney Berny Jacques is seriously considering a run for the state House District 66 seat next year, which will become an open seat with Republican Larry Ahern term-limited out.

The 29-year-old Haitian native has been active with the Pinellas County GOP since he arrived in the community in 2009 to attend Stetson Law School in Gulfport. That’s when he says he was drawn into the grassroots aspects of state government.

In many ways Jacques and his family are the embodiment of the American dream. His parents worked two and sometimes three jobs concurrently when they moved to the states in the mid-1990’s.

“They had to work hard to put their children in a better position,” he says. “And to see me go to college and graduate and become an attorney all within their lifetime, I mean, that’s a strong testament to what this nation has to offer, and I think that’s made possible by a free enterprise system that capitalizes on people’s desire to work hard.”

Jacques’ father currently teaches English as a second language in Naples, Florida, while his mother works as a registered nurse at a nursing home. He says they always stressed the power of education when he was growing up.

“They said if you take your schooling seriously and you apply yourself, you can stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone.  I’ve always taken that with me and ran with it.”

Jacques was president of the Pinellas County Young Republican club in late 2013 when longtime U.S. Representative Bill Young died, igniting what would ultimately be one of the most expensive congressional campaigns ever. He got behind David Jolly’s candidacy early on. He also assisted on the campaigns of Chris Latvala and Chris Sprowls in 2014.

If he pulls the trigger and announces later this spring for 2018, he says his platform will center around three main tenets – public safety, education and job creation.

Regarding education, he says you can expect him to be a strong advocate for school choice. On business, he talks about the importance of government creating “the environment” for businesses to grow.

Now working at the St. Petersburg law firm of Berkowitz and Myer, Jacques considers himself “very pro Second Amendment,” saying that he wants to put individuals in the position too protect themselves as much as possible.

On the battle between House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Governor Rick Scott regarding whether or not it’s a good thing to offer tax incentives to lure businesses to Florida, Jacques doesn’t take sides, saying  that “it’s important to understand that they both have the same goals, and that’s to create jobs for the state of Florida.” He does state that the doesn’t want government to choose between winners and losers.

On transportation, Jacques adamantly opposed the 2014 Greenlight Pinellas transit tax. Yet he also says that he wouldn’t oppose changing state law to allow big cities like St. Pete or Tampa to hold their own referendums. Current law only allows counties to do that.

For the past several years, both Rick Kriseman and Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn have unsuccessfully lobbied Bay area legislators to give them the power to tax themselves to pay for rail projects in recent years. Jacques says as a legislator he wants to hear what the people say, and if they want the right to tax themselves, he says he wouldn’t stop them.

“I’m all for empowering voters to make decisions, so  if the people of St. Pete feel it’s appropriate, and it’s clearly stated that here’s the funding structure, and here’s what you’re going to be on the hook for, if they decide then they decide that,” he says, adding that his baseline philosophy is to err on the side of empowering the people to make the decision themselves. “I would probably vote no if you asked me to raise taxes, but my fellow citizen might feel otherwise.”

February poised to be busy month for fundraising for lawmakers seeking re-election

February will be a busy month for state lawmakers hoping to raise a few bucks for their next campaign before the start of the 2017 Legislative Session.

Several candidates will be holding campaign fundraisers in Tallahassee during back-to-back-to-back committee weeks this month.

House Majority, the campaign arm of the Florida GOP, will host fundraisers for nine House Republicans, all of which are running for re-election, in the next few weeks.

On Feb. 15, there is a fundraiser for Reps. Heather FitzenhagenMaryLynn MagarKathleen Peters, and Holly Raschein. The event is scheduled to kick off at 5 p.m. in the Library Room at The Governor’s Club, 202. S. Adams Street.

Five days later on Feb. 20, the House Majority is hosting a fundraiser for Rep. Paul Renner and Rep. Cyndi Stevenson in the Library Room of the Governor’s Club.

Both events are hosted by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Rep. Jose Oliva, and Rep. Chris Sprowls.

On Feb. 21, a fundraising reception is scheduled for 5 p.m. at The Beer Industry of Florida, 110 S. Monroe Street, for Raschein and Reps. Travis Cummings, Frank White, and Jayer Williamson. That event is hosted by Corcoran, Olivia, Sprowls, Rep. Matt Caldwell and the Beer Industry of Florida.

House members won’t be the only ones using their time in Tallahassee to raise some dough. Sen. Dana Young is scheduled to hold a fundraiser for her re-election campaign on Feb. 13.

That fundraiser is scheduled for 5 p.m. at Florida Finance Strategies, 111-B East College Avenue. The reception is hosted by Senate President Joe Negron, Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, Sen. Rob Bradley, Sen. Anitere Flores, Sen. Bill Galvano, Sen. Jack Latvala, and Majority Leader Wilton Simpson.

Dana Young decries the ‘shrill tone’ coming out of Tallahassee this winter

The clash between Rick Scott and the leaders of the Florida House and Senate have dominated the front pages of several Florida newspapers this week.

Dana Young doesn’t like it one bit.

“There is this angry, shrill tone coming out of Tallahassee, and I truly don’t understand why,” the GOP District 18 state Senator told a crowd of over 50 people at the Oxford Exchange in Tampa Friday morning.

“I kind of feel that we’re on the same team and we should be working together to get a budget passed, but this shrill screaming is discouraging,” she continued. “So it could take awhile.”

The biggest public clash has been the different budget proposals unveiled from the governor and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. The House plan would eliminate the state’s economic development agency Enterprise Florida, and the state’s tourism marketing arm Visit Florida, angering Scott.

The House would also eliminate any public subsidies for film incentives and sports stadiums. When asked where she came down regarding the issue of giving incentives to recruit businesses to Florida, Young said she saw validity to both arguments, but said she didn’t believe it is necessary to get rid of state agencies.

“It’s an interesting argument,” she said, adding that there was no right answer about whether economic incentives are good or bad. But she did come out strongly in support of Visit Florida, saying their advertising efforts have been the fuel that has led to record tourism numbers in the state the past couple of years.

“Why completely do away with an agency that by all appearances is doing a decent job of bringing people here?”

Young represented South Tampa and western Hillsborough County in the Florida House for the past six years before graduating to the Senate representing roughly the same geography last fall. That’s when she defeated Democrat Bob Buesing and independent candidates Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove in a bruising campaign that led to bitter feelings on all sides.

Third-party environmental groups also ganged up on trying to bring Young down, attacking her specifically for her vote in the House on a controversial bill regarding fracking. Young denied the claims that her support for the bill in the 2016 legislative session was a vote of support for fracking, and she’s delighted many of those same groups by introducing a bill (SB 442) that would eliminate fracking in Florida with bipartisan support.

She isn’t ready to say that it will get clear sailing this year, contending that there will be fierce opposition to the bill, and asked that her constituents have her back when the bill gets debated this spring in Tallahassee.

Young did support Amendment 2, the medical marijuana constitutional amendment that was overwhelmingly supported by the public last fall. However, she’s urging a cautious approach to implementing it, co-sponsoring a bill with Orange Park Republican Rob Bradley (SB 406) that limits the number of marijuana producers to seven, though it could expand to as many as 20 or more medical marijuana producers once the number of patients registered for that treatment reaches 500,000.

A competing bill by St. Petersburg’s Jeff Brandes (SB 614) eliminates the cap on how many marijuana producers there can be in the state and sets up four new types of licenses so companies can be licensed to grow, process, transport or dispense.

Bradley and Young’s proposed legislation would also eliminate the current requirement that doctors treat patients for at least 90 days before being allowed to order marijuana for them. It also would expand to 90 days from 45 days, the amount of marijuana supplies patients can purchase.

Young says she prefers to maintain the concept of vertical integration, which keeps the same company that grows the plant also processes it and dispenses it.

The Senator also discussed her just-introduced bill that would allow small craft breweries the opportunity to self-distribute their product to other establishments, saying it demonstrated her support for “the little guy.”

A member of the audience questioned her on why she didn’t embrace that same concept when it came to medical marijuana?

“If we let this genie out of the bottle, there is no putting it back in,” Young responded, acknowledging that there was an inconsistency in her philosophy regarding the two issues.

Like several of her GOP colleagues in the Tampa Bay Area, Young has been a big supporter of ride-sharing companies, and a huge critic of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, which the local delegation has already voted to eliminate later this year. But Young did take up for the taxicab industry on Friday, saying it is unfair that they have to pay a premium fee to be legally allowed to pick up fares at Tampa International Airport, while Uber and Lyft are doing so without paying anything.

Regarding the upcoming gun debate in the Legislature, Young declined to speak specifically about pending legislation, and instead posited the question as being simply whether more guns or fewer guns make the public safer.

Referring to the fall of 2015 mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, she decried the fact that school was a gun-free zone.

“How would you feel if you were that Chancellor and you opted not to allow students who were adults with guns, to carry guns on campus when that shooter came in, and they could have killed him,” she said. “But there was nobody there to respond.”

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