Tom Lee Archives - SaintPetersBlog

House Speaker: ‘Zero’ chance Bucs get state money for stadium

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers shouldn’t hold their breath for any state subsidy to renovate Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran told WTSP’s Noah Pransky in an interview there was “zero” chance his chamber will fund the pro football team’s $10 million subsidy request – and didn’t think the Senate would go along either.

The Bucs “applied under a statutory scheme put in place” that may be eliminated, he said. The team is the only professional team seeking money from the state this year.

Sen. Tom Lee, a Tampa Bay-area Republican, last month filed legislation to do away with a 2014 state program to provide revenue toward constructing or improving professional sports franchise facilities.

“The Sports Development Program was ill-conceived,” he said. “Professional teams are vying for taxpayer funds to pay for largely superficial facility upgrades, many of which are already in progress or completed. History has shown that team owners will make these investments without hardworking families having to foot the bill.”

Corcoran, an enemy of what he calls “corporate welfare,” agrees. This year, he’s looking to eliminate the public-private Enterprise Florida economic development organization and VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism marketing agency.

“We shouldn’t be building stadiums or subsidizing billionaire owners of professional sports franchises,” he said. “It’s a multibillion-dollar industry. That’s just insane.”

The $10 million asked for Raymond James Stadium breaks down to $1 million a year for at least 10 years. And that’s just a fraction of the projected total costs for the renovations, pegged at a minimum of $120 million.

“We have an education system that needs improvement,” said Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican. “We have seniors who need a greater safety net. We have law enforcement and its needs. Those are the things we should be engaged in.

“Or just returning (money) back to taxpayers,” Corcoran added. “…Giving subsidies to billionaires and picking winners and losers is horrible public policy.”

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Senate bill would shake up state worker health insurance plans

Legislation filed in the Senate would let state employees decide between four levels of group health insurance coverage, so they could buy cheaper, stripped-down plans or pay for more comprehensive care.

“Our current plan offers limited choices and lacks the price transparency needed for employees and their families to make cost-effective health care purchases,” bill sponsor Tom Lee said in a written statement.

“This bill incorporates modern, innovative models for delivering high-quality health care at lower costs that will empower state employees to decide what benefits make the most sense for them,” the Thonotosassa Republican said.

SB 900 would allow state workers to choose between bronze, silver, gold, or platinum plans, depending on how many benefits they’d like to pay for.

If a plan costs less than the state’s share of a worker’s monthly premium, the worker could stash the extra money in a flexible savings or health savings account, or buy extra benefits — or take the extra money as a pay increase.

The measure would take effect in 2020.

“If an individual decides they don’t want or need the full coverage offered by the state’s traditional plan, why not give at least some of the cost back to them in another way — maybe in the form of increases in their health-savings accounts, maybe in the form of more take-home pay?” Lee said.

The State Group Health Insurance Plan covers more than 360,000 state employees through either preferred-provider organizations or HMOs. Workers pay $50 per month for individual coverage and $180 for families.

A little more than 1 percent choose in another option — a high-deductible, low-premium plan.

The Department of Management Services would submit recommended premiums to the Legislative Budget Commission for approval.

The bill would create a price transparency program to educate employees about their choices — including quality and price information for services and providers.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

FMA agenda: Florida’s doctors want insurance companies to get out of their way

The Florida Medical Association released its legislative priorities for 2017; removing interference by insurance companies in doctor’s decisions about patient care is prominent on the list.

“The FMA believes in promoting the highest standards of medical care, maintaining choice for patients in a free-market health care system, and preserving the sacred relationship between patients and their physicians,” the document says.

“The best way to achieve these objectives is by advocating for public policy that establishes fair and transparent insurance markets, reduces onerous red tape, and eliminates bureaucratic hassles that impede care and harm patients.”

First, the priority is a direct primary care system, described as “an alternative to the traditional fee-for-service model in which patients are charged a simple, affordable flat monthly fee for comprehensive coverage of all primary care services.”

The idea is to prevent chronic illnesses and reduce administrative expenses. Primary care doctors prefer this system because it lets them spend more time with patients and provides better care for less money, the document says.

It is the only objective for which the FMA mentions formal legislation — HB 161, by Republican Danny Burgess, and the companion SB 240, by Republican Tom Lee.

The bills would authorize such arrangements, specifying that they do not constitute insurance policies subject to oversight by the Office of Insurance Regulation.

Second, the FMA supports allowing doctors to override “fail first” policies by which, it says, insurers decide which drugs doctors should try first.

“This causes delays in care that can lead to unnecessary hospitalizations and sometimes devastating consequences for patients,” the FMA says.

“Florida needs legislation that allows physicians and patients to override step therapy protocols when deemed medically necessary and in patients’ best interests.”

Next is legislation to standardize the system for obtaining insurers’ authorization before doctors can prescribe medication, refer patients to specialists, and order testing or other treatments.

The document says doctors spend two hours on paperwork, such as obtaining these approvals, for every hour spent with patients.

The FMA wants legislation to require insurance companies to broaden their networks of approved doctors and hospitals, to give patients more choice, and to expand the availability of out-of-network care.

The organization decried “bait and switch” tactics, “whereby health plans publish inaccurate information about their provider networks in order to attract premium dollars.”

The FMA seeks to ban insurers from retroactively denying payment for services they previously approved. Doctors, the organization says, are “plagued” by underpayment, lack of payment, and retroactive denials by insurance companies.

Another priority is legislation similar to that passed in other states limiting doctor certification requirements to standard continuing education after initial board certification.

 

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Senate committee passes Florida Building Code reform

By unanimous vote, the Senate Community Affairs Committee passed a bill Tuesday that would change the way the state makes changes to the Florida Building Code.

Every three years the Florida Building Commission votes on whether to automatically accept the entire international building code, or amend it with certain provisions of the international code.

LobbyTools reports that if passed, SB 7000 would require the commission to use the most recent published edition of the Florida Building Code as the foundation, and mandate the committee to review, rather than update, the Code every three years. The measure would also delete the provision specifying how long amendments or modifications to the foundation code would remain valid.

The bill would also carry forward any changes to the state building code through the time the next edition is published.

Committee chair Tom Lee believes that using the Florida Code as a base instead of the international code would avoid any interruption in the building industry, due to frequent code changes.

Amending the building code update process would take care of the “tremendous amount of disruption associated with these building code updates, many of the provisions of which are fairly ‘de minimis’ at this point,” Lee said at the meeting.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Bill Galvano’s higher-ed reform bills sail through Senate committee

Two bills that would increase Bright Future scholarship benefits and rework how colleges and universities measure progress and deal with top professors sailed through the Florida Senate Education Committee Monday.

Senate Bills 2 and 4, both introduced by Sen. Bill Galvano, drew some concerns about how they might affect nontraditional and working students but little opposition, as Galvano assured committee members, he shared and would be addressing those concerns.

“The thrust of this bill is not to somehow put additional pressure on a student, or mess with the opportunities they have by putting additional requirements on what the students achieve,” Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, said of SB 2, which took up the bulk of the committee’s discussion and drew the most concern. “The thrust of this bill is to make sure the institutions that they attend are achieving the highest levels of excellence. and within the definition of excellence is the ability to attend and achieve regardless of your financial background.”

That bill would do several things, most notably:

— Re-establish the Bright Futures Academic Scholars Awards to a level that would pay 100 percent of tuition and certain fees;

— Expand eligibility to the Benacquisto Scholarship Program for eligible out-of-state students;

— Double the state match to the First Generation (in college) Matching Grant Program to two dollars for every dollar the student pays;

— Strengthen the program that has two-year state colleges sign automatic matriculation programs with four-year universities; and,

— Modify the state accountability metrics and standards to reward universities for getting more students to graduate in four years.

That latter point was the only one drawing much concern. Galvano’s overall intention was to encourage students to not waste time in graduating, which could run up additional student debts and cost additional money. And no one on the committee seemed to have a problem with that.

But several public speakers and committee members, notably Democrats Gary Farmer and Perry Thurston Jr. and Republican Tom Lee, raised concerns about unintended consequences of pressuring the schools — with funding formulas — to push for four-year graduations. That, they argued, could lead the schools to start reducing opportunities to nontraditional students, many of whom are lower-income, and can only attend while working at the same time, or must take semesters or years off to earn money.

“It’s a pipe dream that they could ever finish college in four years,” said Lee, of Brandon.

Thurston, of Fort Lauderdale, cautioned that some schools such as Florida A&M University specialize in such nontraditional students, and those schools could be hurt for doing so.

Galvano assured he would work with them to prevent those concerns from playing out.

Farmer, of Fort Lauderdale, said he appreciated and accepted Galvano’s intentions.

“There are so many great things in this bill I will be ultimately voting for this bill today,” Farmer said. “I share the goal of making our university system a great university system …. We’re tired of hearing people talking about North Carolina or Virginia or Michigan, and Florida should be mentioned right up there with them, and Florida State.”

The companion measure, SB 4, would create a program for universities to identify, hire and retain star faculty members, and establishes programs to improve quality and prominence of graduate programs including those for medicine, law and business. It drew little discussion before being approved.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Legislative hopefuls file to run in 2018, 2020

More lawmakers are gearing up for a re-election bid.

State elections records show dozens of members of the state House and Senate have filed to run for re-election in 2018, and several more are looking ahead to 2020.

Sen. Greg Steube is one of those lawmakers who is starting to think about his next race. The Sarasota Republican filed to run for re-election in Senate District 23 on Jan. 10. Steube replaced Sen. Nancy Detert, winning the seat after a hard-fought Republican primary last year.

When it comes to 2018, House members are staking their claim on their seats for another two years.

Rep. Ramon Alexander filed to run for re-election on Jan. 6. The Tallahassee Democrat currently represents House District 8. And Alexander isn’t the only freshman thinking about the future.

Rep. Ralph Massulo filed to run for re-election in House District 34. The Lecanto Republican filed to run for re-election on Jan. 9. Meanwhile, Rep. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican, filed to run for re-election in House District 73 on Jan. 5.

Gruters filing is notable because some Florida campaign watchers have questioned whether he leave office once President-elect Donald Trump takes the oath of office later this month. Gruters was an early supporter of the New York Republican, and there has been some speculation that he will take a job within the Trump administration.

Rep. Ross Spano, a Dover Republican, filed to run for re-election in House District 59 on Jan. 4; while Rep. Bryan Avila, a Hialeah Republican representing House District 111, filed to run again on Jan. 11.

It’s not just incumbents getting an early start on 2018. Democrat David Poulin, who challenged Rep. Ben Albritton in 2016, filed to run in House District 56. Albritton can’t run again in 2018 because of term limits. Andy Warrener, a no party affiliation candidate, filed to run against Tampa Republican Rep. James Grant; while Libertarian Spenser Garber is planning to challenge Rep. Jayer Williamson, a first-term lawmaker, in House District 3.

And Sen. Tom Lee could have primary challenger. John Houman, a Thonotosassa Republican, filed to run in Senate District 20 on Jan. 9.

Houman ran in Senate District 19 in 2016. At the time, the self-described “Mr. Manners” described his ideology and background in a lengthy post on his website— Mr-Manners.com.

On his website, he admitted to having a felony DUI, even saying he petitioned to have his civil rights restored in 2008. He said at the time he would bring several ideas — including streamlining government regulation — with him to Tallahassee, outlining 33 points in his so-called “Manifesto de Leadership.”

Lee, a Brandon Republican, was re-elected in June 2016, after no one else qualified to run in his district. Houman, who faced Darryl Rouson in his 2016 Florida Senate bid, received 69,875 votes (about 33 percent) to Rouson’s 141,305 votes (about 67 percent).

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Pro sports franchises: Build your own stadium, ballpark, or arena

Mitch Perry’s story Tuesday on FloridaPolitics.com about the bill filed by state Sen. Tom Lee to dismantle state’s Sports Development Program triggered an instant thought: Well, forget about a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays.

I followed up with a call to Lee, a Republican from Brandon, and asked if my thought about the Rays was on the mark.

“This won’t preclude the Rays or any other franchise from coming to the Legislature and asking for help with a stadium, but they will have to stand on their merits,” he said.

“They won’t be able to hide behind a program designed to give an automatic seal of approval to these sports franchises. There are ways government can invest in these big projects without being a donor to the team.”

Mark that last sentence down. It may be the only way for pro franchises in Florida to get a sympathetic ear from Tallahassee lawmakers.

Big stadium projects bring lots of associated costs – road construction, sewer upgrades, water and so on.

“Those things are in government’s wheelhouse,” Lee said. “Those things stay behind even if the sports team leaves town.

“This specific program was a ruse to give the Legislature cover to make it look like they were doing a hard analysis on the revenues of these teams. Why do they get this break? Because they’re major donors and have big-time lobbyists representing them.”

The gist of that sentiment is this simple message to team owners: Build your own stadium, ballpark or arena. If you need help with access roads and other infrastructure costs, we can talk.

The program Lee wants to eliminate was a pet project for Gov. Rick Scott in 2014. It allowed team owners to apply for a rebate of increases in sales taxes if revenues jumped because of stadium upgrades. The maximum amount was $3 million for up to 30 years.

“It became the JumboTron amendment,” Lee said. “Or the Wrestlemania amendment. There was one proposal to improve a facility so it could host a special event. That turned out to be Wrestlemania. In Jacksonville, they wanted a rebate because they were adding JumboTrons to the stadium.

“Well, if a guy owns a Subway shop and he adds a drive-thru and his revenues go up 20 percent because of that, does he get a rebate on the increase? This was found money for the team owners.”

These are wealthy franchises, it should be noted. The late Malcolm Glazer purchased the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1996. Forbes magazine estimates the Bucs are now worth $1.8 billion. The Miami Dolphins are worth $2.375 billion, while the Jacksonville Jaguars are a reported $1.95 billion.

“With what I see in education and exploding costs in delivering health care to the neediest Floridians, it’s hard to justify spending tax dollars on these sports teams,” Lee said. “That doesn’t mean that we don’t like to have them, or that they don’t enhance a community. I believe they do.

“But we have to have priorities in government. While these teams are wonderful amenities, they do essentially cannibalize other things in the community. Instead of going to the park or the golf course, people go to the stadium. They don’t create economic growth.”

Translation: The climate in Tallahassee now is turning against this so-called corporate welfare.

The message to the Rays and other teams is that the state might listen if they need help building a road or stuff like that. But if they’re asking for tax money to build something that strictly benefits the team’s bottom line, think again.

 

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Tom Lee wants to eliminate agency designed to use taxpayers funds for constructing or improving sports facilities

Less than three years after Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation providing for state revenues to go toward constructing or improving professional sports franchise facilities, state Sen. Tom Lee wants to eliminate the agency created to distribute those funds.

“The Sports Development Program was ill-conceived and based on the false premise that these capital improvements are a boon for economic development,” the Brandon Republican said Tuesday. “Professional teams are vying for taxpayer funds to pay for largely superficial facility upgrades, many of which are already in progress or completed. History has shown that team owners will make these investments without hardworking families having to foot the bill.”

Under the Sports Development Program created by the Legislature in 2014, sporting projects and complexes seeking Florida tax revenue must submit proposals to be evaluated by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Then the disbursement of funds must pass approval by the Florida Legislative Budget Commission. The state can award up to $13 million annually for all certified applicants. The maximum annual distribution for a single sports franchise facility is for only $3 million, and distributions can be made for up to 30 years.

In spending $100 million to upgrade Raymond James Stadium over the past year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had hoped to procure $3 million in Sports Development Program funds to help pay for that upgrade. However, their application was rejected because it wasn’t completed on time. The NFL franchise reapplied to the program last month, requesting $1 million a year for at least 10 years.

Scott hailed the legislation when he signed it into law in June of 2014, saying that the program would add more jobs to the state, as well as increase tourism.

“I am proud to support this legislation, and this Sports Development Program will allow franchises to expand in Florida, and create more jobs and opportunities for Florida families,” Scott said at the time.

The legislation was also supported by Clearwater Sen. Jack Latvala, now serving as Senate Appropriations Chairman. But it will undoubtedly be backed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who has historically opposed giving sales-tax dollars to professional sports facilities.

The anti “corporate welfare” attitude espoused by Corcoran prevailed last year in Session, when three different sports facilities — EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Sun Life Stadium in Miami-Dade County and Daytona International Speedway — received no funding from the Legislature, despite the Department of Economic Opportunity finding they qualified for the state sales-tax money.

Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Stuebe has filed legislation (SB 122) that would prohibit a sports franchise from constructing, reconstructing, renovating, or improving a facility on leased public land. Hialeah Republican Rep. Bryan Avila has filed a companion bill in the House.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

More than a dozen lawmakers file for re-election in 2018

The number of lawmakers prepping for another run keeps on growing.

State elections records show dozens of members of the state House and Senate have filed to run for re-election in 2018. Many of those are incumbents who faced little-to-no opposition in 2016, while others ran hard fought battles to win their spot in the Florida Legislature.

Sen. Tom Lee filed to run for re-election in Senate District 20 on Dec. 29. The Brandon Republican was re-elected in June 2016, after no one else qualified to run in his district.

Lee was first elected to the Florida Senate in 1996. He served in the upper chamber until 2006, serving as Senate President during the 2004-06 term. Voters sent Lee back to the Florida Senate in 2012.

Lee is set to serve as chairman of the Senate Community Affairs Committee during the 2016-18 term.

Sen. Kelli Stargel also appears to be vying for another term in the Florida Senate, filing the initial paperwork to run in 2018 on Dec. 16. First elected to the Florida Senate in 2012, Stargel was re-elected in Senate District 22 in November. Stargel will serve as the chairwoman of the Senate Finance and Tax Appropriations Subcommittee.

Over in the Florida House, Reps. Loranne Ausley, Paul Renner, Neil Combee, Bob Cortes, Mike La Rosa, Erin Grall, Sean Michael Shaw, Alexandra Miller, Julio Gonzalez, Michael Grant, Rick Roth, Bob Rommel, and Jose Oliva have filed to run for re-election in 2018.

The election in 2018 isn’t the only one on the minds of Florida lawmakers. Several state legislators have already filed to run for re-election in 2020, including Sens. Travis Hutson, Debbie Mayfield and Kevin Rader.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission likely doomed after local delegation approves bill to kill it

The troubled Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission received a terminal diagnosis Friday after members of the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation voted unanimously for a local bill that would eliminate the agency on December 31, 2017.

After that, the County Commission would pick up its regulatory duties.

“The public has lost complete faith in the ability of this agency to regulate credibly, equitably and efficiently,” said bill sponsor James Grant said before the entire delegation vote in support of his bill.

The proposal was similar to a previous bill Grant brought to the local delegation in 2013 that sought to put a stake through the heart of the agency, but with a significant difference.

The local bill approved on Friday gives the county and the PTC a full year to contend with the transition.

“It’s not about moving fast. We want to make sure we avoid any unintended consequences,” Grant said. That was in notable contrast to the 2013 version, which would have killed the agency immediately, making it a bridge too far for other legislators to support, even with noted PTC critics like Dana Young

“I think the plan is to subcontract the regulation out to Uber, isn’t it?” asked Brandon Senator Tom Lee, eliciting the largest round of laughter of the morning.

Although meant for humorous effect, there’s no question that the addition of Uber and Lyft into the county ultimately was the beginning of the end for the PTC, which was already burdened with a toxic reputation well before the emergence of ride-sharing in Hillsborough County.

Among the previous lowlights that had saddled the PTC came in 2010, when Cesar Padilla, then the executive director of the agency, resigned after it was reported that he had been moonlighting as a security guard.

There was also the case of former County Commissioner Kevin White, was busted in 2008 for taking bribes for helping tow company operators to get permits in his role as PTC chair. White ended up serving three years at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta.

The PTC caught the attention of lawmakers like Grant and Jeff Brandes after the PTC went after Uber when it introduced its Uber Black limo service during the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. The PTC shut that effort down quickly.

Those lawmakers became incredibly irritated with the PTC and its (now former) chairman Victor Crist over the past few years, as Uber and Lyft refused to comply with PTC regulations. That led to PTC agents citing those drivers, leading to court actions and more than two years of fighting before an agreement bringing both companies into compliance occurred last month.

At Friday’s meeting, County Commission Chairman Stacy White said, “the county stands prepared to take over regulation of this industry and create a meaningful regulatory framework.”

“I think that those types of things would be able to be implemented by the county with relative ease,” White said. “We do stand prepared to create a lean, regulatory framework.”

The PTC has been funded by fees paid by the taxicab and limousine companies, not directly by taxpayers. Plant City Republican Representative Dan Raulerson asked White if the county would continue to fund their regulatory efforts in the same fashion.

“We certainly do have the ability to charge various permitting fees to offset the costs of the regulatory process,” White said.

“It seems like a good move in broadening out transportation options,” added recently elected Commissioner Pat Kemp.  

“I support it, and I realize that there are 66 other counties in the state of Florida that have figured out how to do this,” said Tea Party activist Sharon Calvert. “Let’s get it done.”

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons