Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
WHILE LAWMAKERS DEBATE NEW BILLS AND THE BUDGET, HERE’S WHAT’S KEEPING JOB CREATORS UP AT NIGHT
The latest Florida Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index Survey is out, and one thing is clear: Small businesses are increasingly concerned about the quality of workforce.
According to the survey, 22 percent of respondents said “workforce quality” was their top issue. Government regulations went from being tied for first place in the last survey — and in first place to a year ago — to second place in the most recent survey, with 16 percent of respondents saying it was their top issue. Healthcare costs grabbed the No. 3 spot, something the Florida Chamber noted is an indication “of the increasing concern for Florida’s small businesses” since healthcare costs weren’t in the Top 5 list during the same period in either 2016 or 2015.
Economic uncertainty and access to capital were tied for fourth in the most recent survey, while lawsuit abuse rounded out the list with 6 percent of respondents indicating that was the top issue facing small businesses.
“Florida’s small businesses continue to face a number of challenges, including increased concerns about workforce quality and healthcare costs,” said Tami Fitzpatrick, chairwoman of the Florida Chamber’s Small Business Council, and founder and CEO of Entropy Technology Design. “Florida’s economy is dependent on the small business community, and the Florida Chamber’s Small Business Council remains committed to advocating on their behalf.”
The survey was conducted electronically from March 29 through April 14. According to the Chamber, 37 percent of respondents employ less than five employees, while 42 percent employ between five and 49 employees.
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LEGISLATURE ENDS BUDGET BATTLE, SETS STAGE FOR END
It’s April 26. Do you know where your state budget is?
With the clock ticking toward the Legislature’s scheduled May 5 adjournment, House and Senate leaders appeared tantalizingly close Tuesday to agreeing on how much money to let their Appropriations subcommittee spend.
Then came the word — no conference tonight.
It was that kind of day.
Tuesday got off to an ominous start, when the House Appropriations Committee approved a “standard operating budget,” pegged to existing spending levels, that the Senate had already announced it wasn’t buying.
Budget chief Carlos Trujillo denied it was a bargaining tactic, saying he was intent on bringing the budget to the floor.
By 4 p.m., House Speaker Richard Corcoran could announce that the two chambers were “very, very, very close” to agreeing on allotments — pots of money for budget subcommittees to spend.
“And I mean close in the hand grenades sense, not the horseshoe sense,” he said.
Trujillo suggested the first formal House-Senate conference committee meeting of 2017 could begin as soon as 6 p.m.
FOR THE RECORD: It was FloridaPolitics.com, not the cute guy from Wisconsin, which broke the news about the breakthrough on the budget.
– “Contours of a $83 billion budget deal emerge” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida
RICK SCOTT ENLISTS STATE BONDS CHIEF IN FIGHT FOR VISIT FLORIDA FUNDING via Florida Politics – Gov. Rick Scott has distributed a letter by Ben Watkins, director of the Division of Bond Finance, to the House and Senate budget chairmen, warning that cutting Visit Florida could damage the state’s credit rating. The letter, dated Tuesday, addressed to Jack Latvala in the Senate and Rep. Trujillo in the House, warns that cutting back on tourism promotion has harmed the economies of states that have attempted it, including Colorado and Pennsylvania. “Even a 2 percent reduction in visitors would result in a loss of $2.2 billion in travel spending and $225 million in tax revenue,” Watkins wrote. … “I believe it is important for policymakers to be informed about the important spending decisions and their financial and economic consequences.”
WHAT CHRIS NOCCO IS READING – ‘COLD CASE’ MURDER VICTIMS GET DRAGGED INTO BUDGET CONTROVERSY via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – When Speaker Corcoran excoriated “liberal” senators for loading the budget with hundreds of millions of dollars in hometown projects, the Senate responded in kind. Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala noted that Corcoran wants to take home $4.3 million for the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, where the speaker does legal work. It’s a first-of-its-kind Florida forensics laboratory in Land O’Lakes, near the Pasco County jail, that would teach law enforcement professionals and students while focusing on 16,000 estimated “cold case” unsolved murders and missing person cases in Florida. “I haven’t criticized the project,” Latvala said. “I’m just saying that it’s ironic: He’s against projects, but the largest single project in the budget is for him … It’s do as I say, not as I do.” “It had nothing to do with me,” Corcoran said. “It’s a project, but it’s not parochial. It’s for the entire state.”
– “Pasco Sheriff ‘very disappointed’ Latvala is putting political ambitions first” via Florida Politics
– “Jack Latvala, Larry Ahern trade budget jabs on Twitter” via Florida Politics
HOUSE SETS UP $300 MILLION TAX HOLIDAY PACKAGE FOR FINAL VOTE via Florida Politics – Legislation extending $300 million in tax holidays and breaks for veterans, college students, farmers, young families, and more moved closer to a final House vote Tuesday, picking up an amendment expanding use of private contractors to collect auto tag fees. The amendment, by Republican Jason Brodeur, would let tax collectors in 64 counties where tax collectors don’t answer to county commissions contract third parties to sell auto tags after hours and on weekends, in exchange for a “convenience” fee on top of the state fees. ”Any county that doesn’t want to do this, they don’t have to. Just do it the way they do it now,” Brodeur said. HB 7109 provides for a range of sales tax breaks and holidays. … Florida’s “tampon tax” on feminine hygiene products would be eliminated, as it was between 1977 and 1986, Democrat Katie Edwards said.
SENATE MEDICAL MARIJUANA PLAN READY FOR A FLOOR VOTE via Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel – The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the Senate’s medical marijuana plan easily, with only one senator voting no. The Senate version allows edibles and vaping, while the House does not. And it would result in more treatment center licenses in the state as the number of medical marijuana patients grows. The House and Senate now will have to finish negotiations to come up with a final bill that both sides can agree on, vote out, and get to the governor for signing.
BUSINESS TAX BREAK FOR VETERANS, LOW-INCOME READY FOR HOUSE FLOOR via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The House Government Accountability Committee approved a measure that creates a local business tax exemption for honorably discharged veterans and their spouses, unremarried surviving spouses of veterans, and low-income individuals. A change to HB 487 adopted by the committee cuts out language that said local governments could only levy business taxes adopted before 2017. The bill now says any municipality can continue to levy business taxes but “may change, by ordinance, the definition of a merchant, but not the rate of the tax.”
SENATE BUDGET PANEL PASSES DIRECT PRIMARY CARE AGREEMENTS via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its plan to allow patients to contract with doctors through direct primary care agreements … It now heads to the floor. An amendment to SB 240 also “directs [Medicaid managed care] plans to provide enrollees the opportunity to enter into direct primary care agreements with identified network primary care providers as well as encourages the plans to enter into alternative payment agreements with these direct primary care providers,” sponsor Tom Lee said. That language is not in HB 161 which already passed the House.
HOUSE ASSIGNMENT OF BENEFITS REFORM MOVES CLOSER TO FINAL VOTE via Florida Politics – The House cleared its version of assignment of benefits reform for a final vote Tuesday, defeating an amendment that would have frozen property insurance rates and required a premiums rollback next summer. PCS/HB 1421 would tighten requirements for contractors to report claims to insurance companies and establish a graduated scale for determining whether contractors holding AOBs qualify to recover litigation expenses from carriers. … An amendment by Democrat Evan Jenne would have held property insurance rates at existing levels through July 1, 2018, then rolled rates back by 6.5 percent. And property insurers could no longer file “use and file” rate increases, but rather would have to go through formal, public hearings. “Rep. Jenne, I think you know, is one of my favorite members in this chamber to work with,” Grant said. “But this would actually be, I believe, a counterproductive way to roll back rates.”
HOUSE REVISES MEDICAID BILL TO DROP PROPOSED PREMIUMS – The House scaled back a proposed bill requiring Medicaid beneficiaries to pay monthly premiums. HB 7117 would have directed the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration to ask the federal government for permission to charge monthly premiums of either $10 or $15, based on income. However, lawmakers approved an amendment put forth by Miami Democratic Rep. Nicholas Duran that drops the plan. The amended bill, sponsored by Orange Park Republican Travis Cummings, chair of the House Health & Human Services Committee, is set for a vote by the full House. The bill also allows the state to seek federal approval to enact a work requirement for Medicaid beneficiaries.
GUN BILL AFFECTING FLORIDA COURTHOUSES PASSES FINAL COMMITTEE, GOES TO SENATE FLOOR via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – A proposed law that would let 1.7 million conceal-carry permit-holders temporarily store their guns with security while visiting Florida’s courthouses is on its way to the Senate floor. SB 616 from Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube passed its final committee … Members of the Rules Committee endorsed the relatively noncontroversial measure — with at least a couple Democrats opposed — after offering no discussion or debate.
LIQUOR ‘WALL OF SEPARATION’ COULD FALL IN FLORIDA via Florida Politics – A bill to allow retailers to sell hard liquor in the same store as other goods is one step closer to passing the Legislature. The House decided to take up the Senate’s version of the “whiskey & Wheaties” legislation (SB 106) out of a “spirit of compromise,” said bill sponsor Bryan Avila, a Hialeah Republican. After two and a half hours of questions and a string of amendments that were defeated or withdrawn, the House could take a final vote on the bill as early as Wednesday. Its version has been struggling out of committees on one- and two-vote margins. The Senate bill would repeal a Prohibition-era state law requiring businesses, such as grocery chains and big-box retailers, to have separate stores to sell liquor. Beer and wine already are sold in grocery aisles in Florida.
LOTTERY WARNINGS COULD GO ON ADS, TICKETS via Florida Politics – The House is expected to pass a bill mandating warnings on Florida Lottery tickets and advertisements. The measure (HB 937) would require printing or broadcasting any one of six advisories on a rotating basis, including “WARNING: YOUR ODDS OF WINNING THE TOP PRIZE ARE EXTREMELY LOW,” and “WARNING: LOTTERY GAMES ARE A FORM OF GAMBLING.” It would also require retailers that sell lottery tickets to “prominently” display a sign, “WARNING: GAMBLING CAN BE ADDICTIVE.” It’s sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, a Mount Dora Republican.
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JOSE FELIX DIAZ: HOUSE WILL ‘TAKE GIANT STEP’ IN GAMBLING CONFERENCE via Florida Politics – The House will make its offer in the Legislature’s negotiation on a gambling bill this year, Diaz told reporters. “I expect to make significant progress in the conversation,” he said, without offering many details and saying the House’s offer was still in flux. “The earlier we get it out, the better.” The House and Senate are far apart on their respective gambling bills this session, with the House holding the line on gambling expansion, and the Senate pushing for new games. But, Diaz added, “considering that the House took a very conservative approach in its bill, most people who look at our offer will think that we took a giant step forward toward the Senate’s position on certain issues.”
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The House is expected to make its offer on the 2017 gambling bill when the Conference Committee on Gaming meets at 9:45 a.m. in 37 Senate Office Building.
“DON’T FEAR THE DEBATE?” – Anders Croy, the Communications Director for the House Democrats, emails: “In the spirit of transparency, the House Democratic Caucus would like to provide the breakdown of bills that have been placed on the calendar for a hearing up to this point. We’ll be keeping a running count each week as we proceed through Session. As of Tuesday, April 24th, 1,172 bills have been placed on the calendar in the Florida House. Of those, 884 are sponsored by Republicans, 144 are sponsored by Democrats, and 144 bills have bi-partisan co-sponsors. To put that in a percentage, 75.4% of the bills that have been heard are Republican bills, 12.3% are Democratic, and 12.3% are bipartisan.”
WHERE IS CARY PIGMAN’S DISCIPLINARY ACTION? via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News – In a House of Representatives that makes a priority of members behaving ethically, how is it Rep. Pigman gets to come back from a DUI arrest where his dishonor and dishonesty were on full dashcam display — and carry on as if nothing happened? You’d better believe Frank Artiles is wondering the same thing. Pigman in the House? The Avon Park Republican returned to Tallahassee after a boozey drive home, interrupted by a stay March 24 in the St. Lucie County slammer. And what was the worst that befell him? He resigned his chairmanship of the House’s Health Quality Subcommittee. That’ll show him … This is a busy session. I don’t expect anymore to happen now. But if Pigman runs for re-election, I plan to be right here, writing reminders for voters in HD 55 of this low moment in the life of an otherwise honorable House of Representatives.
– “Correction on Nancy Smith’s Cary Pigman column” via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News
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HAPPENING TODAY — PUERTO RICO DAY AT THE CAPITOL — Hosted by the Puerto Rican Bar Association, the event is meant to recognize the contributions of the Puerto Rican community across the state and celebrate the culture. This year, the event will feature panel discussions on the fiscal crisis, migration patterns, and the impact on education, housing, healthcare and criminal justice. The event is scheduled to run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the 22nd floor.
IT’S ALSO LILLY PULITZER DAY AT THE CAPITOL h/t to Erin Daly Ballas.
BIG WIN FOR FLORIDA – JEFF VINIK, WILL WEATHERFORD, PAM IORIO NAMED TO TECO BOARD OF DIRECTORS via Florida Politics – Tampa Electric Co. is adding five prominent Florida business and community leaders to its board of directors … TECO parent company Emera Inc., the Nova Scotia-based energy conglomerate, said the new members are as part of a commitment to keeping the company under Florida oversight. “Emera believes local directors who are community leaders are best-positioned to oversee that our utilities provide the service our customers desire,” the company statement said. In addition to Vinik, Weatherford and Iorio, joining the board, effective May 2, will be Pat Geraghty, chief executive officer of Jacksonville-based Florida Blue, and Rhea Law, chair of the Florida offices of Buchanan Ingersoll and Rooney PA law firm and immediate past chair of the Florida Council of 100.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Constitution Revision Commission will hold a public hearing at 5 p.m. at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Florida, 3201 Hull Road in Gainesville.
UF LAW STUDENTS DISCUSS, DEBATE AHEAD OF CONSTITUTIONAL REVISION COMMISSION MEETING via Susan Washington of Florida Politics – With the Florida Constitutional Revision Commission set to hold a public hearing [in Gainesville] — the fifth of nine hearings scheduled throughout the state … several dozen law students at the University of Florida assembled in an auditorium named in honor of the chairman of the state’s first CRC, Chesterfield Smith, to discuss the constitutional revision process with a member of the 1997-98 Commission, Jon Mills, and a historian of the state constitution, Mary Adkins. One thing the students learned in the hourlong talk is that the CRC that convened this year is the first in Florida history that has not been chaired by a graduate of the UF law school. “Here’s a fun fact,” said Adkins. “From the 1956 group that was created by statute to originally draft this constitution, through to the 1997-98 group, all of them were chaired by a UF law grad.” Referring to the chair of the 2017-2018 CRC, Carlos Beruff — a real estate developer appointed last month by Gov. Scott — Adkins added, “This particular chair is not a college graduate.”
BOB BUCKHORN SAYS PRIMARY FOR GOVERNOR WOULD HAVE BEEN TOUGH via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Bob Buckhorn has already made clear he is not running for governor. But during a brief appearance in Tallahassee, he sounded like he is still struggling with having passed up a chance to run. “I’m built for a good fight,” Buckhorn said. He made clear there were a lot of good reasons to pass on the race, but he said he thinks he would have been a strong candidate. The trouble he said was always going to be how to manage a primary because of his willingness in the mayor’s office to work with Republicans like Gov. Scott on issues. “That’s what governing should be,” Buckhorn said, acknowledging in a primary it would have been used against him. “I would have had more trouble with the primary than a general.”
SEAN BUCHAN OF WINTER HAVEN ENTERS CD 9 REPUBLICAN FIELD via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – Buchan, 31, a banker with Wells Fargo Bank in Winter Haven, filed to run late last week, joining last year’s GOP nominee Wayne Liebnitzky in hoping to take down Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto in 2018. “The time is right,” Buchan stated … Married with two children, Buchan spent eight years in the U.S. Marines and two in the Army, and served two tours in Iraq. His top concern is the economy which he described as “doing better, but not well enough,” particularly in Polk and Osceola counties, which he said are in need of across-the-board jobs from technical trades to high-tech. He also stressed national security as a critical concern, and expressed a strong desire for tax reform that simplifies the system for tax payers.
NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS
Wayne Bertsch, Civility Management: Florida Swimming Pool Association; Swearingen and Associates
Joanna Lee Clary Bonafanti, Beth Keating, Larry Williams, Cameron Yarbrough, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: Q Link Wireless LLC
Dean Cannon, David Griffin, Jason Unger, GrayRobinson: Disasters, Strategies & Ideas Group, LLC
Al Cardenas, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: IAP Worldwide Services
Eduardo Gonzalez, Sun City Strategies, LLC: Florida Municipal Electric Association; Monroe County Board of County Commissioners
Paul Hawkes, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: The Able Trust
Rob Johnson, The Mayernick Group: Big Brothers Big Sisters Association Of Florida
Eli Nortelus, Nortelus Roberts Group: AMOAF
Samuel Verghese, One Eighty Consulting: Absolute Software, Inc.; salesforce.com, inc
Don Yaeger, Jeanette Yaeger, One Eighty Consulting: salesforce.com, inc
GOVERNORS CLUB WEDNESDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU – The Governors Club greets lawmakers Wednesday with Caribbean fare that includes conch chowder soup, salads, yucca salad, seasonal greens, three dressing sections, tomato salad, carne asada-beef, chicken à la plancha, BBQ grilled salmon, arroz con gandules and black beans.
BLUE ANGELS, THUNDERBIRDS MEET FOR RARE JOINT TRAINING via The Associated Press – The Thunderbirds landed at “The Cradle of Naval Aviation.” The eight Air Force F-16 pilots and more than 50 other officers and support staff from the Nevada-based Thunderbirds will join the six F/A-18 Blue Angels pilots and support staff at Naval Air Station Pensacola … The U.S. military’s two elite fighter-jet demonstration teams are seldom in the same place. Department of Defense guidelines say the teams must perform at the different air shows to cover as much recruiting territory as possible. The two teams haven’t been in Pensacola together for more than 15 years.
‘STAR WARS,’ ‘FROZEN 2’ AND ‘THE LION KING’: DISNEY UNLEASHES A BARRAGE OF RELEASE DATES via Anita Busch of Deadline Hollywood – Disney just unveiled a bevy of release dates for its upcoming slate, not the least of which is Star Wars: Episode IX (in 3D) which will bow May 24, in 2019. In addition, it removed the mystery around the untitled animation title previously announced Nov. 27 in 2019. It will be the highly-anticipated sequel to Frozen. Also, they have pegged the live-action The Lion King (also in 3D) based on the animated worldwide smash hit to July 19, 2019, … the new Indiana Jones movie has been pushed back by a year … Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 for the Wreck-It Ralph Sequel; it is also moving the film from March 9 of 2018 to the Thanksgiving holiday Nov. 21, 2018. Toy Story 4 is still on schedule for June 21, 2019, as is Marvel’s Captain Marvel for March 8 of the same year.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rep. Larry Ahern, Tampa International Airport’s Gina Evans, and the voice of AFP-Florida, Andres Malave.