January 11, 2018

Corcoran’s agenda to take center stage in the House

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When legislators take their seats on the floor of the Florida House this afternoon, they will be considering an agenda both bearing the stamp of House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s legislative priorities and aligned favorably with fiscal conservatives.
 
The Land O'Lakes Republican, who is in his final session and considering a run for governor, is using his personal bully pulpit to push an array of causes, including banning so-called sanctuary cities (HB 9), ending subsidies for sports teams like the Tampa Bay Rays (HB 13) and banning future redevelopment agencies (HB 17). Also among the sixteen bills being heard this afternoon are a repeal of Florida’s no-fault auto insurance system (HB 19) and legislation that would set new barriers to local tax increases (HB 7).
 
Though advocates are expected to protest the sanctuary cities bill at the Capitol before the session begins, Corcoran’s priorities are primed for passage in the Republican-majority House. The House Democratic caucus has criticized the agenda as Corcoran's play for the more right-wing members of his party.  
 
The House outcome may also be likely, but their future in the Senate will be an uphill fight. Several of the bills being heard on the floor died in the Senate last year.
 
Photo: AP/Steve Cannon

January 09, 2018

Richard Corcoran calls on Florida House to be a 'house of reformers' in fiery opening remarks

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House Speaker Richard Corcoran opened the legislative session Tuesday with a set of fiery fiscal promises and a call on the chamber to be a "house of reformers" during the next two months.

Corcoran, who is in his final term and is considering a run for governor after the session ends, highlighted several of his legislative priorities, including a bill that would ban sanctuary cities in the state and policies that would expand school choice. Setting up a clash with Gov. Rick Scott's plan to grow funding for K-12 schools through increased local property taxes, Corcoran also vowed to resist raising taxes on individuals or businesses or dipping into the state's fiscal reserves — "the Florida House will not surrender a single penny."

The Pasco County Republican also turned his fire on the city of Tampa for what he has called a tax but what the city describes as anything but.

At issue is a $1.50-per-night surcharge on rooms at 14 hotels in downtown Tampa and Ybor City. The City Council authorized the surcharge last year at the request of the Hillsborough County Hotel and Motel Association. The money, an estimated $1.2 million a year, is earmarked for marketing that would benefit the participating hotels.

Corcoran, whose office has filed a suit targeting what he characterizes as an illegal tax, contended that the money will actually go for a new baseball stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays.

"Wrong as usual," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn tweeted: "Assessment was requested by the hotels, imposed on themselves voluntarily and has nothing to do with the TB Rays. City merely a pass through. #factsmatter."

Corcoran made reference just once to the sexual harassment allegations that have rocked the state capital in recent months, noting that "long before scandals, this House of Reformers raised the issue of sexual harassment and insisted that every single person in this process will be treated with dignity and respect."

Senate President Joe Negron had said there would be "zero tolerance" for instances of sexual harassment in his preceding speech in the adjacent chamber, after the resignations of Sens. Jeff Clemens, D-Atlantis, and Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

Missing too from Corcoran's prepared remarks were mentions of the opioid crisis or Hurricanes Irma or Maria, though Puerto Rico representatives were in the audience for the State of the State.

In response to House Speaker Richard Corcoran's comments on sanctuary cities, House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, said House Democrats would oppose the bill and called Corcoran's comments "political theater."

"Let's be clear, there are no 'sanctuary cities' in Florida," she said in a statement. "It's a waste of our time and the taxpayers' money to come up here for sixty days and debate legislation that is clearly unconstitutional and will be struck down by a judge almost instantly if it becomes law."

Tampa Bay Times staff writer Richard Danielson contributed to this story.

Photo: Scott Keeler, Tampa Bay Times

December 12, 2017

Scott, Rubio, Bush, Corcoran … What top Florida Republicans say about Roy Moore

MooreHorse

via @learyreports

It's all about Alabama today as the U.S. Senate race comes to a dramatic conclusion.

Here's what some prominent Florida Republicans had to say about Roy Moore, who would have easily won the race against Democrat Doug Jones had sexual misconduct allegations not surfaced.

Sen. Marco Rubio:

"I think these accusers are very credible. … I think we're going to learn even more as this goes on, and even if he's elected to the Senate, I think there's going to be a process … that could reveal more and be very potentially problematic for him. In fact, I guarantee it would be."

Gov. Rick Scott:

"Whether it's Roy Moore or what you read about the media reports from California or D.C. or Tallahassee, it's disgusting. So, if any of those allegations are true, he ought to resign."

The governor was then asked if a different threshold exists regarding predatory behavior with minors.

"I think whether it's minors, whether it's women, anybody. I mean, let's think about it. We all have children. We have nieces and nephews. I have daughters. Now I have grandsons. I expect people to be treated with respect. That's what you always expect. So, if the allegations are true, he has to get out," Scott said.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran:

"As the father of two teenage girls, there can't seriously be a question of my position. Roy Moore should step aside."

Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam:

"I find the accusations repulsive. I believe that for the good of the people of Alabama, Roy Moore should drop out of the race."

Jeb Bush:

"This is not a question of innocence or guilt like in a criminal proceeding, this is a question of what's right and what's wrong. And acknowledging that you're dating teenagers when you're 32 year old as assistant state attorney is wrong. It's just plain wrong."

September 18, 2017

Bonuses based on teacher test scores violate civil rights, lawsuit alleges

Dept of Education

A state program that awards bonuses to top-rated teachers based on their own SAT and ACT scores from high school violates federal and state civil rights laws against employment discrimination, argues a potential class-action lawsuit filed this week by Florida’s largest teachers union and seven classroom teachers from South Florida.

The Best and Brightest program — first enacted in 2015 and now in its third year — continues to be envisioned by Florida House Republicans as an innovative means to recruit and retain the best teachers in the state’s public schools.

But it’s been a subject of ongoing controversy because the program relies on teachers’ own test scores — sometimes decades old and unavailable — which has no proven correlation to teacher effectiveness.

The Florida Education Association is now asking a federal judge to step in and declare the program illegal and discriminatory against teachers who are older and who are non-white.

The FEA first made the accusation two years ago through a complaint to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — an avenue the union said Friday it had to exhaust before it was recently given federal authorization to file a lawsuit.

“The SAT/ACT score requirement has an illegal disparate impact on teachers based on their age and on teachers based on their black and Hispanic race,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys, John Davis and Kent Spriggs, argued in the 58-page lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee. “The SAT/ACT score requirement is not required by business necessity and is not related to job performance.”

Full story here.

Photo credit: Florida Department of Education [Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times]

September 07, 2017

Billionaire political donor Mike Fernandez rips ‘bully’ Speaker Richard Corcoran’s DACA stance

Florida Legislature

via @learyreports

Billionaire Miami businessman Mike Fernandez this morning criticized House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s hardline on DACA.

“We currently have a Speaker of the House in Florida in which the consensus among his peers can be best defined as a bully,” Fernandez said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. “This may be the case, but in my humble opinion he truly is an intellectual midget ( or short person to be politically correct). His position on the 32,000 Floridian attending our universities is discriminatory at the very least. It may be legal, but so was slavery and that did not make it right.”

Corcoran praised President Donald Trump’s move to phase out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, saying “anything less would have been a tacit acceptance of President Obama’s backdoor amnesty plan for illegal immigrants.”

It was a break from the stances of two potential GOP rivals for governor, Adam Putnam and Jack Latvala, who said the children of immigrants brought to the country illegally should be protected.

“While Congress has shown little ability to get anything done (think repeal and replace of Obamacare), I just hope they don’t turn the opportunity the president has given them to deal with this illegal immigration problem into their own backdoor amnesty plan.”

Fernandez, who left the GOP over Trump, called Corcoran’s position “horrendous to our economy. President Trump’s action sidestep the issue by passing it off to Congress, but there are real consequences for our nation and the state of Florida if the this giant in his own mind gets his way, as this is not a platform on which Republicans can stand.”

The Times has asked Corcoran for a response.

His full email is below:

A former Head of the Israeli Army, Prime Minister, President and World’s Statesman Shimon Peres once told former Florida Speaker Will Weatherford and I in a private meeting... “Great Leaders Serve, they don’t rule”. On another occasion, part of my annual trip to the Israeli capital he also spoke with the wisdom of a warrior/visionary. I quote...” with as many Palestinians as we have living as our neighbors, the future for our continued prosperity and safety is dependent on a single act, A Respectful handshake”.

As a non politician I have the good fortune to speak my mind without a filter.

We currently have a Speaker of the House in Florida in which the consensus among his peers can be best defined as a bully. This may be the case, but in my humble opinion he truly is an intellectual midget ( or short person to be politically correct). His position on the 32,000 Floridian attending our universities is discriminatory at the very least. It may be legal, but so was slavery and that did not make it right.

Corcoran’s position is horrendous to our economy. ​President Trump’s action sidestep the issue by passing it off to Congress, but there are real consequences for our nation and the state of Florida if the this giant in his own mind gets his way, as this is not a platform on which Republicans can stand.

We can’t remain silent on an anti-economic position, which will increase the price of products and services, eliminates jobs while not creating new ones and position 32,000 Floridian (students in higher education) on the path to deportation. These young people are our future high wage earners and tax payers.

We all know key economic facts:

Every single Dreamer registered with DACA will be subject to deportation, 32,800 of the more than 800,000 Dreamers live in Florida.

In losing so many talented young people from the workforce and academia, Florida’s GDP will experience a loss of $1.5 billion annually.

The United States will lose $460.3 billion in GDP over the next decade as a result of repealing DACA without a legislative solution.

We can find headlines like these in just about most major newspapers,

Wall Street Journal today’s headline:

End of DACA Moves Labor Force in Wrong Direction, Big Employers Say.

Wall Street Journal today’s headline:

Paul Ryan Urges Trump to Keep ‘Dreamers’ Program.

This is the opinion of a former undocumented person who arrived in the great Nation (not in the smoke filled halls of the Capitol but with an M16 in his arms). An immigrant that created over 50,000 jobs in our State and has contributed over $30 million to the Republican causes over the last 15 years. Fir the sake of transparency, I also contributed $3million in the last election in an attempt to stop Trump. I never met Mrs. Clinton and I thought she could wound our Nation but I feared that Trump could mortally wound it.

Republicans, look back and re-evaluate our path. It is not a Republican thesis which we are following, it’s a Trumpist mistake.

Mike

 

September 05, 2017

Corcoran sides with Trump in seeking end to DACA -- with hopes for reform

Richard Corcoran smilingWith his potential rivals critical of President Donald Trump's repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival or DACA act, House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Tuesday commended the president for calling the provision that protected the children of unauthorized immigrants an "amnesty plan for illegal immigrants."

"President Trump made the right decision,'' Corcoran said in a statement. "The rule of law is the rule of law and no one should be above it.  Anything less would have been a tacit acceptance of President Obama’s backdoor amnesty plan for illegal immigrants.  And while Congress has shown little ability to get anything done (think repeal and replace of Obamacare), I just hope they don’t turn the opportunity the president has given them to deal with this illegal immigration problem into their own backdoor amnesty plan.” 

Corcoran acknowledged the decision was difficult but targeted unnamed "apologists" for the inaction. "This illegal immigration mess we are in today is because of apologists consistently opposing every sensible idea to secure the border and constantly demanding we reward illegal behavior with citizenship,'' he said. "The American people are left with no choice but to enforce the law to its fullest extent."

Corcoran, who is considering running for the Republican nomination for governor next year, took an opposing view from many South Florida Republicans in Congress and Republican candidates for governor Jack Latvala and Adam Putnam. In statements released on Monday, Putnam, Florida's commissioner of agriculture whose office works closely with an industry dependent on migrant labor, and Latvala, a state senators from Clearwater, urged Congress to act but said that children should not be punished in the meantime.

“Our national immigration system is broken, and the federal government must fix it. We must secure our borders, end illegal immigration and rid our nation of sanctuary cities,” Putnam said in a statement. “But the children of illegal immigrants should not be punished for their parents’ wrongdoings. I am glad to see the President will allow Congress to develop a solution to replace Obama’s unconstitutional program.”

“We must lead with a compassionate heart, not by punishing children,” Latvala said in a statement. “Florida is a diverse state and our economic success depends on a strong diverse workforce. If DACA ends in 6 months it will have a disastrous impact not only on hundreds of thousands of bright, promising young people but also on our business climate.

“Congress has dropped the ball on this issue like so many others. It’s time for Congress to pass a law protecting Dreamers. I call on other leaders of the Republican Party in Florida to join me in supporting these children so they can come out of the shadows and legally secure jobs.”

 

August 30, 2017

Florida Democrats urge state lawmakers to remove Confederate statue in U.S. Capitol

Confederate Statue Florida

@alextdaugherty 

 

The entire Florida Democratic congressional delegation wants Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers to remove a statue of Confederate general Edmund Kirby Smith from the U.S. Capitol.

On Wednesday, 11 House Democrats from Florida sent a letter to Scott, State House speaker Richard Corcoran and State Senate president Joe Negron urging the trio to call a one-day special session to replace the statue in September.

“No family visiting our nation's Capitol should have to explain to their child that the statue representing our state honors someone who fought for a philosophy built on hatred, inequality and oppression,” the letter said.

Last year, the state legislature agreed to remove Smith's statue but it remains in National Statuary Hall in Washington, where daily tours are conducted in the Capitol, because lawmakers couldn't agree on a replacement.

But with the recent violent protests in Charlottesville and elsewhere over the legacy of Confederate statues, and debates about streets named after Confederate generals in Florida, Democrats around the country are pushing to remove statues in public places.

Two weeks ago, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, asked state lawmakers to make the change.

“It's time to stop playing games,” Wasserman Schultz said.

Now, Wasserman Schultz is joined by her Democratic colleagues in Washington, including Miami Gardens Rep. Frederica Wilson.

Scott and Corcoran ruled out the possibility of a special session two weeks ago.

“Like most politicians in Washington, the Congresswoman is out of touch,” Corcoran said on Twitter. “We've already made this decision and are now having a conversation about which great Floridian we should honor. The Congresswoman should stop grandstanding and focus on balancing the Federal budget.”

Read more here. 

August 28, 2017

How Richard Corcoran prepares for a possible 2018 run for governor

House Speaker Richard Corcoran says he won't announce whether he'll run for governor until seven months from now, after the 2018 legislative session. But the Pasco County Republican is laying the groundwork for a candidacy in a field where Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has a big head start and where Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, has entered the field.

He may run and he may not, but Corcoran, 52, who began his rise through Republican ranks as a campaign strategist, has the instincts of an operative and the travel schedule of a full-time candidate. Whether dining with donors at Tampa's Capital Grillle or borrowing lobbyist friend Bill Rubin's Fort Lauderdale conference room to huddle with consultants, Corcoran keeps much of his political activity under the radar and does not publicize what he's doing.

Read more here about the four signs of a budding candidacy.

August 25, 2017

Ron DeSantis ties himself to Donald Trump as he weighs gubernatorial run

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@alextdaugherty 

Rep. Ron DeSantis sounds like a man who's ready to run for governor. 

"I think that there's definitely a opening for somebody that's got a proven record for advancing limited government," DeSantis said in Miami on Thursday after advocating for an overhaul of the nation's tax system with Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group funded by the Koch brothers.  "I think there needs to be someone with military experience in the race. There's definitely the opening." 

The Republican congressman from northeast Florida repeatedly echoed Donald Trump during his remarks, chastising Republican senators who voted against repealing Obamacare, referring to Washington as "the swamp" and praising Trump's decision not to support a tax on imported goods championed by House Speaker Paul Ryan as a way to fund an overhaul of the tax system.

"I think that the president's priorities have been strong priorities," DeSantis said. "We've got a lot of senators, congressman sniping that the president tweeted this or that. Here's what I would say, in the Congress whatever we pass, he's 99.9 percent likely to sign it. We complained about having Obama as president...all you have to do in the congress is legislate, put bills on the president's desk. This is a president that wants to sign legislation, he's inviting us to put things on his desk. I think the spotlight is on Congress, and particularly those members who haven't been as forward-leaning on honoring their campaign promises that they made to their constituents. Now is the time to follow through." 

DeSantis also expressed a strong desire for term limits in Congress, arguing that longtime leaders don't have an incentive to shake up the status quo and are too reliant on lobbyists when drafting bills. 

"K Street lobbyists saw the Senate health care bill before Republican senators did," DeSantis said.

DeSantis, who will make a decision about the governor's race sometime in the fall, isn't a stranger to statewide campaigns. He ran for U.S. Senate in 2016 but dropped out when Sen. Marco Rubio reversed course and decided to run for reelection. Even though DeSantis ran a statewide campaign, he acknowledged that building name recognition in large markets like Miami will be a tough and expensive challenge. 

"I think a lot of the folks that are going to be in that race are going to have similarities, they'll be much better known in Tallahassee than me, but that's fine," DeSantis said.

But there is one area where DeSantis differs from Trump; he wants to use the media to talk about the issues and get himself more well-known among voters. 

"In a Republican primary the only way to do the state is to get on cable news and talk radio," DeSantis said. "In the last cycle I wanted to do more media but all anyone cared about was the presidential race. Now we're kind of in a governing period where people are concerned about all the issues going on nationally. I think there's a lot of our primary voters that know me much better today than they did two years ago, but obviously you've got a long way to go. You've got to get free media, you've got to get paid media and you've got to have an army on the ground to spread the message. It's more difficult in this state than any other, but it can be done."

Former congressman and sitting agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam and State Sen. Jack Latvala have announced bids for the GOP nomination to replace Rick Scott in 2018. House Speaker Richard Corcoran is also weighing a run in the Republican primary. 

August 17, 2017

House committee reshuffle elevates 21 freshmen

Florida Legislature lobbyHouse Speaker Richard Corcoran released his version of musical chairs on Thursday, giving 21 of the 27 freshman Republicans elected last fall vice chair positions, ousting veterans in many cases and replacing three lawmakers who have resigned since session ended -- Reps. Jose Felix Diaz, Eric Eisnaugle and Dan Raulerson

The big winner appears to be Rep. Jamie Grant, who lost a bitterly fought race for House speaker designate for 2020 earlier this summer, and was awarded the chairmanship of the Health Quality Subcommittee. As we have already reported, Rep. Paul Renner becomes the new chair of Ways and Means and the Ways and Means Chair, Rep. Jim Boyd, becomes the new chair of Commerce, replacing Jose Felix Diaz.

Republican Reps. Kathleen Peters and Cary Pigman, seem to have gotten the biggest demotions.

Last session, Peters resisted but consented to the House leadership's insistence that the committee hear a high priority bills for Florida Power & Light that would have allowed them to charge customers for fracking operations in other states. Corcoran removed her as chair of the Energy & Utilities Subcommittee and a position on the Ways & Means Committee. She will now have two new committee assignments: Public Integrity & Ethics Committee and Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee. The new chair on the utilities subcommittee is Corcoran loyalist Jay Trumbull.

Pigman, a doctor who had an embarrassing arrest for drunk driving last session, lost his chair of the Health Quality Subcommittee.

Here are the other vice chair shuffles:

* George Moraitis, Appropriations Committee, to Jeanette Nunez.

* Larry Ahern, Post-Secondary Education Subcommittee, to Thad Altman.

* Ben Albritton, Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee to Ralph Massullo.

* Justice Appropriations Subcommittee to Cord Byrd.

* Elizabeth Porter, Agriculture & Property Rights Subcommittee to Charles Clemons. She retains Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee vice chair.

* Neil Combee, Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee to Clay Yarborough.

*  Robert Cortes, Education Committee, becomes vice chair of Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee.

* Jake Raburn, Pre-K-12 Appropriations Subcommittee to Byron Donalds.

* Brad Drake, Transportation Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee to Michael Grant

* Jay Fant not only lost the vice chair of the Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee to Erin Grall, he lost his position on the House Judiciary Committee and the Ways and Means Committee. He was added to the Education Committee and the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.

* Careers & Competition Subcommittee to Randy Fine.

* Pre-K Innovation Subcommittee to Jason Fischer.

* Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee to Don Hahnfeldt.

* Gayle Harrell, Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee to Cyndi Stevenson.

* Sean Harrison lost Health Innovation Subcommittee vice chair to Frank White, but gained the Judiciary Committee vice chair -- previously held by Ross Spano -- and retained the Rules and Policy Vice chair.

* Blaise Ingoglia, Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee to Bob Rommel.

* Clay Ingram, Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee, to Robert Cortes.

* Jennifer Sullivan, Public Integrity & Ethics Committee to Thomas Leek. Sullivan, however, is promoted to vice chair of the Education Committee.

* Energy & Utilities Subcommittee to Bobby Payne.  

* Post-Secondary Education Subcommittee goes to Mel Ponder.

* Charlie Stone, Government Accountability Committee, to Jayer Williamson. But Stone retains Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee.

Some things will not change. David Santiago will retain the vice chair of Insurance & Banking Subcommittee and Health & Human Services Committee. Mike Miller retains the vice chair of Tourism & Gaming Control Subcommittee. Rene Plascencia remains vice chair of both Health Quality Subcommittee and Pre-K 12 Quality Subcommittee. Julio Gonzalez retains his vice chairmanship of both the Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee and the Criminal Justice Subcommittee.

Bryan Avila retains his vice chairmanship of the Commerce Committee and remains as alternating chair of the Joint Committee on Public Counsel. Halsey Beshears loses his place on the Ways and Means Committee.

Colleen Burton is elevated in a couple of ways. She's now chief deputy whip and becomes vice chair of Ways and Means instead of the vice chair of Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee. Danny Burgess is added to Oversight, Transparency and Administration Subcommittee.

There appear to be only a handful of changes for Democrats. Tracie Davis was added to the Health and Human Services Committee and Emily Slosberg was added to the Judiciary Committee.