February 17, 2011

Cannon on Negron Medicaid proposal: "An unrealistic risk"

House Speaker Dean Cannon who is in Washington for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said the House plans to stick by the Medicaid overhaul the House and Senate reached last November.

He said he hadn't seen details of an alternative being floated by Sen. Joe Negron, but added, I just think we need to be very careful about threatening to withdraw from a program, unless we're fully prepared to do it."

He noted the state supplies $4 billion for Medicaid, and the federal government in excess of $16 billion: "So unless we are prepared to try and provide the same amount of health care with $4 billion that we currently provide with $20 billion...We need to be prepared for that and make sure we can answer those questions before we make a major, precipitious decision like that."

He didn't rule out backing a change "if the facts support it," but added, "that’s a serious major, policy shift and is not consistent with what we had talked about doing during special session."

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February 03, 2011

The House 'transformational change' committee

From: Cannon, Dean 

The 2011 Legislative Session is an opportunity for transformational change.  We should thoughtfully and systematically pursue true reform and avoid the temptation to make changes simply for the sake of change.

 Some policy conversations reach beyond the scope of an individual Member bill and do not fit neatly inside our predefined committee structure.  For that reason, pursuant to Rule 7.6, I am hereby creating the Select Committee on Government Reorganization. 


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January 24, 2011

House (not Senate) tries to stop 'Fair Districts'. Again

After losing repeatedly in state court, the Florida House of Representatives has joined a federal lawsuit to stop the new amendments designed to stop the Legislature from drawing political districts that favor or disfavor incumbents or political parties.

The federal lawsuit was filed just after the November elections by U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Miami) and Corrine Brown (D-Jacksonville). The suit, though, only concerned the portion of redistricting concerning Congress, not the Legislature. As a result, the Florida House argues that the Legislature should have a say, too.

"It is the Legislature—not Plaintiffs—which has the primary responsibility for redistricting. And it is the Legislature—not Plaintiffs—whose prerogative will be challenged (and potentially invalidated) under the Amendment," the suit says.

Democrats are crying foul. Along with liberal-leaning groups like the teachers' unions, Democrats backed the amendments, which could loosen the Republicans' grip on the Legislature and in Florida's congressional delegation.

The filing has some other interesting political dynamics. The House is led by Dean Cannon, who has been bristling at the judiciary for throwing some of the Legislature's proposed amendments off the ballot -- including an amendment he sponsored to check Amendments 5 & 6, which he's now trying to kill in court. So on one hand, judicial activism is bad when it comes to acts of the Legislature. But when citizens pass amendments with more than 60 percent of the vote..... then it's time to get the federal judiciary to strike the language from the state constitution.


There are probably some complicated legal arguments that Cannon can and will muster to rectify the potentially contradictory stances. Still, it's worthy of note.

Another side note: The Florida Senate, where Senate President Mike Haridopolos is running for U.S. Senate, hasn't joined with the House in challenging Fair Districts. At least not yet. Here's the filing:

Download Redistricting

January 19, 2011

Cannon: Cutting taxes to be 'very difficult'

House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, kicked off the annual AP Florida Legislative Planning Session Wednesday on the top floor of a fog-shrouded state Capitol.

The $3.5-billion shortfall that confronts lawmakers will make it tough to follow through on Gov. Rick Scott's proposals to cut business and property taxes in his first year in office, even with a thorough overhaul of Medicaid. He said holding the line on taxes would be a success.

"Whether it's possible to reduce them (taxes), the governor's indicated he's got a plan for that, I'm eager to see that," Cannon said. But he described cutting taxes as "a big challenge" and "very difficult." 

Addressing about 100 reporters and editors from across the state, Cannon noted he holds a journalism degree from UF (he's also a lawyer).  He chided editorial writers for siding with the courts when he criticized the Supreme Court for striking some legislatively-approved initiatives from the 2010 ballot, and he faulted them for uniformly supporting every open records proposal "without regard to its practicality, its efficacy or its motive."  Cannon said "comprehensive court reform" is on his agenda for the upcoming session.

Cannon touched on the need for civility in public discourse. He said a "healthy tension" between the press and government has morphed into "outright hostility" by the press, which he said is bad for democracy. "Something has gone terribly wrong," Cannon said. "We talk past each other."   

-- Steve Bousquet

January 13, 2011

Cannon orders review of oil spill claims process

Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon has ordered the House Economic Affairs Committee to review the private compensation process set in motion after the BP oil spill, citing "numerous breakdowns and inconsistencies" with the facility tasked with processing claims, according to a Thursday letter he sent to the committee chairwoman.

The Gulf Coast Claims Facility has paid about $1.2 billion to 68,221 claimants as of Monday, Cannon wrote. That's out of 157,297 claimants in ithe facility's system. The Obama administration and BP chose Kenneth Feinberg to lead the facility, which opened in August and distributes money to claimants from an escrow account funded by BP. BP is supposed to pay $20 billion over the next four years.

Cannon asked the committee's chairwoman, Rep. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, to invite representatives of areas affected by the oil spill to be part of the investigation, as well as Rep. Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral. Aubuchon led House workgroups that reviewed the issue last summer, before the claims facility opened.

"Fostering an economic environment that leads to private sector job creation is our top priority over the next two years," Cannon wrote. "At the state level, we must work to ensure that those Floridians who suffered losses as a result of the Deepwater Horizon Incident are made whole, and that obligation requires us to keep abreast of any problems within the current claims process."

January 10, 2011

Environmental groups talk DOT, DEP, DCA merger

Leaders of several planning and conservation groups stopped short of criticizing the massive overhauls of the Department of Transportation, Deparment of Environmental Protection and Department of Community Affairs as recommended by Gov. Rick Scott's transition advisers.

Speaking during a conference about the groups' new position papers, Sierra Club Florida lobbyist David Cullen said he would oppose the transition team's model if it meant development and transportation were given consistent priority over the environmental community. "As long as the agencies are discrete they are bound to pursue their legislative mandate to execute the laws within their purview," Cullen said. "But if they're combined, an element of prioritizing is almost inevitable."

The position papers released Monday were authored by representatives from 1,000 Friends of Florida, Audobon of Florida, the Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy and Tropical Audobon Society. The groups ask Scott, Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon to improve the state's land-planning system, save taxpayer money through cost-efficient development and consider the state's environmental allure as part of its economic recovery, among other recommendations.

Manley Fuller, Florida Wildlife Federation president, would not recommend all three agencies be combined, but he said a structure that required the agencies to coordinate with one another would be beneficial. Several other leaders agreed, pointing to recent highway proposals that go against the interest of environmental groups. "The coordination of those functions is critical," Fuller said.

Read more about the merger idea in this Times December story.

December 17, 2010

December 01, 2010

Feds slap Republican Party with subpoena in corruption probe

Federal investigators slapped the Republican Party with a subpoena seeking financial records as part of a wide-ranging corruption probe by the FBI, IRS and U.S. Attorney's Office, the Herald/Times has learned.

The subpoena, delivered Election Day, sought documents related to big spending by top Republican honchos who were given party-paid American Express cards.

Top RPOF officials and investigators declined comment on the federal probe or the subpoena.

For more than a year, the party has reeled from scandals tied to the credit cards as well as four unrelated state criminal probes into its former chairman, a fundraiser, a former Florida House speaker and a Capitol insider.

Federal investigators have already interviewed consultants, donors and numerous senators -- some in their Capitol offices. The investigations are being handled in multiple offices throughout the state, from Pensacola to Miami.

More here

November 29, 2010

How Dean Cannon makes Ray Sansom look like Mr. Sunshine

Way back in 2008, before he resigned in disgrace and was criminally charge for his budget dealings, new House Speaker Ray Sansom wanted to show he was going to govern in the sunshine by inviting the press and public to cover a Republican caucus meeting at WaterColor in the Panhandle

Sansom's ultimate successor, Dean Cannon, doesn't seem as concerned about those pesky reporters buzzing about. Unbeknownst to the press, Cannon has called all 81 members of the Republican caucus to meet nonstop at the Rosen Shingle Creek resort and talk legislative shop and process for two days.

One topic of discussion: "Communications and working with the press." If this little-known gathering is any indication, a more fitting title could be "Lack of Communications and working around the press."

The cost of the seminar near Universal Studios was paid for by the Republican Party, not by Florida taxpayers. Legislators described the event as all work and no play and they said no lobbyists were in evidence.

“This is not fun. This is work,” said House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami. “None of this is policy we’re talking about. It’s not like we’re talking about Senate bill 6 or what we’re going to vote on.”

A memo Lopez-Cantera sent out earlier this week to members advised them “to eat before your arrival… “Hotel rooms will be provided for Monday night, and your cost of gas will be reimbursed by the Republican Party of Florida ... We expect our program to run through all meals. Please do not schedule any other meetings or events during these two days, as we need your undivided attention to make this training a success.”


November 15, 2010

Sink blasts legislators for caving to special interests rejecting override on drug bill

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink issued the following statement Monday blasting House and Senate leaders for backing down from agreement to override a veto their previously unanimous support of HB 5603, a bill aimed at limiting the cost of workers compensation claims when medications are repackaged.

According to campaign finance reports, as reported by the News Service of Florida, a company that can directly benefit from the bill, Automated Healthcare Solutions, gave more than $1 million to campaign spending accounts head by  incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon. The company also gave the Florida Republican Party another $735,000 and gave Gov.-elect Rick Scott's political committee $145,000.

"This gives the appearance that the Florida Legislature and Governor-elect Rick Scott are getting square with the special interests who funded their campaigns,” Sink said. “This was a perfect opportunity to save taxpayers millions of dollars and reduce workers’ compensation costs for Florida businesses. Once again, Tallahassee business-as-usual prevailed.” 

Cannon said legislators agreed to let Gov. Charlie Crist's veto stand because the measure had received bi-partisan support, including a letter written on Friday by outgoing House Democratic Leader Franklin Sands.