February 23, 2017

Conciliatory Corcoran announces 'we'll get there' on a joint rule with Senate on budget process

Richard CorcoranHouse Speaker Richard Corcoran said Wednesday that he is open to compromise with the state Senate on his hardline new rules aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in the budget process. 
 
Senate President Joe Negron has resisted Corcoran's rules, last week even threatening to sue the House over what he considers an unconstitutional attempt to control the Senate, an independent co-equal branch of government. 
 
Negron defused the potential legal battle when he said the Senate would not sue but instead would work out their differences over the House rules in closed-door negotiations in an attempt to come up with a joint rule. 
 
Corcoran said Wednesday he believes the rules, which have the support of both the Democrat and Republican caucuses in the House, "have revolutionized the budget process." Although he taunted the Senate last week, urging them to "sue us,'' he sounded more conciliatory this week. 
 
"The concepts of transparency and accountability and not hiding things in the budget, if we could get that in a joint rule, absolutely we'll compromise," Corcoran told the Herald/Times in a pre-session interview.
 
Corcoran said he has been in discussions with Negron, Sens. Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson, each designated Senate presidents, and is optimistic they will come to a resolution. 
 
"They're very, very zealous that we maintain as much control with the Senate as possible,'' he said. "If they're doing that and there is good outcomes, great. Where they believe we are doing transparency stuff that doesn't hurt them, great. I think we'll get there." 

February 16, 2017

Senate keeps DC law firm hired to fight redistricting -- to fight the Florida House

Joe Negron Richard CorcoranWhy would Florida's Senate president spend $71,600 on a Washington D.C.-based legal firm with no offices in Florida to represent them in legal battles over the Florida Constitution, and with the Florida House?

That's the obvious question for Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who has signed two contracts, and assumed a third, from former Senate President Andy Gardiner, with Sidley Austin, a mega-firm in D.C. with offices across the globe -- except Florida.

Negron signed the third contract with the firm on Nov. 18, shortly after House Speaker Richard Corcoran disclosed rules that will bind the Senate to an unprecedented budget protocol, complete with disclosure requirements and prohibitions on recurring line items.

"This is a very unique area of the law given that it is unprecedented for one chamber to promulgate rules that would purportedly control the actions of another chamber,'' Negron told the Herald/Times said. "Those are issues we can look to precedence from the United State Supreme Court and to Florida courts."

He said he has authorized Sidley Austin to advise the Senate on the House rule relating to the appropriations process and it is "looking at the legal relationship and separation of powers."

"I believe their firm has expertise not only that is beneficial to us but has also done work in other states and brings a national perspective that brings significant value to the Senate and how we navigate the matter,''

The firm recently drafted a brief to challenge the House rules in court. Negron has refrained from filing that action, saying instead negotiations are ongoing.

"The House and the Senate are negotiating to work out quickly a joint budget rule that promotes transparency and a good process,'' he said. "We are continuing to talk."

Unlike the House, whose lawyers do not believe that a draft lawsuit is shielded from Florida public records law, the Senate refuses to release a draft copy of its work.

Continue reading "Senate keeps DC law firm hired to fight redistricting -- to fight the Florida House" »

Senate keeps DC law firm hired to fight redistricting -- to fight the Florida House

Joe Negron Richard CorcoranWhy would Florida's Senate president spend $71,600 on a Washington D.C.-based legal firm with no offices in Florida to represent them in legal battles with the Florida House?

That's the obvious question for Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who has signed two contracts, and assumed a third, from former Senate President Andy Gardiner, with Sidley Austin, a mega-firm in D.C. with offices across the globe -- except Florida.

Negron signed the third contract with the firm on Nov. 18, shortly after House Speaker Richard Corcoran disclosed rules that will bind the Senate to an unprecedented budget protocol, complete with disclosure requirements and prohibitions on recurring line items.

"This is a very unique area of the law given that it is unprecedented for one chamber to promulgate rules that would purportedly control the actions of another chamber,'' Negron told the Herald/Times said. "Those are issues we can look to precedence from the United State Supreme Court and to Florida courts."

He said he has authorized Sidley Austin to advise the Senate on the House rule relating to the appropriations process and it is "looking at the legal relationship and separation of powers."

"I believe their firm has expertise not only that is beneficial to us but has also done work in other states and brings a national perspective that brings significant value to the Senate and how we navigate the matter,''

The firm recently drafted a brief to challenge the House rules in court. Negron has refrained from filing that action, saying instead negotiations are ongoing.

"The House and the Senate are negotiating to work out quickly a joint budget rule that promotes transparency and a good process,'' he said. "We are continuing to talk."

Unlike the House, whose lawyers do not believe that a draft lawsuit is shielded from Florida public records law, the Senate refuses to release a draft copy of its work.

Continue reading "Senate keeps DC law firm hired to fight redistricting -- to fight the Florida House" »

February 14, 2017

Gov. Rick Scott getting help from Democratic mayors on job incentives

Buckhorn21417

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn met with Gov. Rick Scott in Tallahassee on Tuesday to strategize over how he can help save Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida from Republican critics in the Florida House. (Jeremy Wallace/Tampa Bay Times)

@JeremySWallace

A day after attending a rally with Gov. Rick Scott, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was in Tallahassee on Tuesday meeting with the governor yet again.

Buckhorn and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, both Democrats, said they met with the governor to offer their help in protecting Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida - two agencies that some state lawmakers have vowed to eliminate.

“I’d be more than happy to go anywhere and speak to anyone about the importance of these incentives for us to be able to grow our economy,” Buckhorn said after his meeting with Scott.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, has called the incentive programs forms of corporate welfare that put too much government influence in the marketplace. Last week a House subcommittee voted to kill both agencies. The bill still has a long way to go, but supporters of the two agencies are pulling out all the stops to protect both.

Buckhorn said on Tuesday that if Florida doesn’t have job incentive money to offer companies, other cities and states will have a competitive advantage in convincing them to go elsewhere.

Buckhorn acknowledged he’ll take some heat from Democrats who question him being on the same side as the Republican governor and even sounding a little like him in defending the programs.

“There will be people who are mad at me because I stand up there with the governor, but ultimately it’s to the benefit of my city and it’s what I was hired to do - what I was elected to do,” Buckhorn said.

On Monday, Buckhorn attended a meeting with Scott in Tampa that had all the feel of a pep rally for Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. At that event, Buckhorn told the crowd the incentives have benefited Tampa and need to continue.

February 09, 2017

Gov. Scott's job incentive programs get yet more scrutiny today

LatvalaTimes

@JeremySWallace

For the second straight day, one of Gov. Rick Scott’s biggest priorities will be under scrutiny at the hands of the Legislature today but with a big difference.

When Enterprise Florida goes before the before the Senate Appropriations Committee later today, it will be doing so in a committee that is lead by Sen. Jack Latvala, who has called the House Republican’s idea of killing that agency and Visit Florida the “dumbest idea.”

Cissy Proctor, the director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, is expected to testify that economic incentive programs under Enterprise Florida can “tip the scales” in the state’s favor when it comes to convincing companies to move to Florida.

Scott has argued that the incentive programs have been critical to the state adding more than 1.2 million private sector jobs since 2010.

Still, House Republicans yesterday took their first step toward killing Enterprise Florida. The House Careers & Competition Subcommittee voted 10-5 in favor of a bill pushed by Rep. Paul Renner, R-Jacksonville, which would eliminate Enterprise Florida completely and put all other economic development programs under the Department of Economic Opportunity.

“The problem with economic incentives is that they are selective and they absolutely pick winners and losers,” Renner told the committee yesterday.

Renner said the government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers in a free market.

Renner’s legislation comes as House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, has called the idea of giving tax credits to businesses to relocate or grow their operations in Florida a form of “corporate welfare.” He said other factors like improving education and infrastructure has the potential of attracting businesses more than tax credits.

Scott has warned Legislators that killing Enterprise Florida will damage the state’s economic momentum over the last 6 years.

Latvala’s Senate Appropriations Committee meets at 1 p.m. today.

February 07, 2017

Rick Scott lashes out at Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran

Scottrespondss

@JeremySWallace

Gov. Rick Scott lashed out at fellow Republicans in the Florida House on Tuesday, accusing them of not caring about jobs and of trying to kill his beloved job incentives and tourism marketing programs just to help House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s political future.

During a nearly 15 minute venting with reporters in Tallahassee, Scott ripped House Republicans for “lecturing” him about job incentives and for proposing legislation that would kill Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, two quasi-governmental agencies that are essential to Scott’s political agenda.

“When the House wants to stop Enterprise Florida, they are hurting our poorest communities. They’re hurting our rural communities,” Scott said. “When they want to say we don’t want to do any more marketing for Visit Florida what they are saying is that we don’t need any more jobs in tourism. Now what we’re seeing is, we’re seeing people that just want to run for higher office. They’re not concerned about what happens to other people.”

Scott was asked directly if he was saying the House was going after the programs because Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, might run for governor in 2018.

“It’s pretty clear, if you're not caring about people’s jobs you must be caring about something else,” he said. “I care about people’s jobs. What else can it be? How can anybody say they don’t want to help a poor family get a job. The only thing that would be is politics. You would never think this way in business.”

And there was more.

Continue reading "Rick Scott lashes out at Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran" »

January 30, 2017

Court order on retired Supreme Court Justice Perry stops threatened lawsuit by Speaker Corcoran

Corcoran_Richard Swearing In (1)@stevebousquet and @MaryEllenKlas 

Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga on Jan. 11 -- not today, as earlier reported -- modified an earlier order and ended retired Justice James E.C. Perry's service as a senior justice effective tomorrow. Perry had been serving as a retired justice until the court completed final orders on cases he participated in before retiring Dec. 30Download Perry (James E C) sj orders

Labarga's action came in response to a decision by Perry that "he had decided to pursue other things" instead of serving to fill in vacancies on the court until September 2018, as the original order had allowed, said Craig Waters, spokesperson for the Florida Supreme Court.

The ruling got attention Monday because House Speaker Richard Corcoran threatened to file a petition before Labarga's court, challenging the chief justice's action as in violation of the Florida Constitution.

Labarga said in his order that the court "has a long tradition of assigning recently retired Justices to senior service for purposes of completing the work they already had begun on this Court before the dates of their retirement."

He said the practice was intended to promote "judicial speed and economy" by "ensuring that justices who already have worked on those cases are available to continue to participate in them whenever necessary."

The Constitution gives the chief justice the authority to assign a retired justice to temporarily fill a vacancy on the court but, Corcoran argued, that in effect made Perry an "eighth justice" on the Supreme Court.  Download DRAFT 2017.xx.xx_Petition for quo warranto

Corcoran argues that after Gov. Rick Scott appointed Justice Alan Lawson as Perry's successor, the court could decide whether to rehear the cases that the court hadn't completed before Perry's retirement or allow Lawson to receive the briefs and then vote on the case.

The practice of having retired justices finish opinions that were in the pipeline before they retied has been employed by the court for the last 30 years, Waters said, and has never before been challenged as unconstitutional. Among the justices who have stayed on to complete orders of their unfinished work in recent years were both conservative a liberal judges including Justices Leander Shaw, Ben Overton, Raoul Cantero.

Perry was an outspoken opponent of the death penalty in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision a year ago in Hurst v. Florida and Corcoran has objected to many of the court's rulings in recent years in which he was in the majority. 

The draft emergency petition drafted by the House's lawyers had Corcoran, acting "as a taxpayer." It challenged Labarga's legal authority as well as what the House concluded were unauthorized payments of taxpayer money to Perry.

The court has, however, has not paid Perry anything, said Paul Flemming, spokesperson for the Florida Courts Administrator. As a retiree of state government, Perry would have forfeited his pension if he had he accepted any compensation from the state for the first year of his retirement, Flemming said. 

"There is no constitutional or legal justification for the Chief Justice's assignment of retired Justice Perry to the status of 'senior justice' or to assign him as a justice sitting on active cases before this court after retired Justice Perry resigned his commission," Corcoran's draft lawsuit reads.

Labarga's order marks the second time in a week in which Corcoran's planned action against the judiciary was short-circuited. A week ago, Duval Circuit Judge Mark Hulsey III abruptly resigned, one day before a House committee was to have launched impeachment proceedings against him for allegedly making racist and sexist remarks from the bench.

[Photo credit: House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes. Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times]

January 26, 2017

Corcoran appoints two legislators to investigate 'water wars' legal bills

House Speaker Richard Corcoran said Thursday he has asked two legislators with finance backgrounds to investigate the $100 million in legal bills the state has received in the protracted lawsuit against Georgia over access to water in the Flint-Chathoochee-Apalachicola River basin.

Corcoran, R-Lake O'Lakes, said he has asked Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, an attorney expert witness in insurance matters and Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, a forensic auditor, to look at the bills. He said he supported the litigation but "the question is: what is the fair market cost."

"I think you're going to find really fast that defending the rights of Floridians, yes, it's an absolutely worthy expense,''Corcoran told reporters. "Spending $100 million in legal fees, we are getting gouged and that needs to be fixed."

Last week, the House budget staff determined that since 2001, the state has been billed $97.8 million on the water wars and has spent $71.9 million to date. Nearly $54.4 million of it was spent in the last two years after Florida asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and the court appointed a special master to resolve the dispute.

After legislators started asking questions, Gov. Rick Scott withdrew a request asking the House and Senate Joint Legislative Budget Commission to approve another $13 million, bringing the the total cost for the year would be about $41 million.

According to a spreadsheet obtained by the Herald/Times, the numbers showed that the lead lawyers, Washington-based Latham Watkins, would be paid $35.9 million between 2015 and 2017.

Foley Lardner, the Florida firm where Steverson’s predecessor, Hershel Vinyard, works and where Steverson is now headed, would be paid $2.6 million over the same time. Two other firms also were paid lesser amounts: $1 million to Blankenau and $966,000 to Carlton.

The records also show that Latham Watkins charged the state for 32 to 35 full-time legal staff for 40 hours a week over four months. The firm also charged significantly more than the other firms for lawyers of comparable experience.

Two days after the inquiry, Department of Environmental Secretary Jon Steverson announced that he was resigning his post effective Feb. 3 and would be going to work for Foley Lardner. The Florida firm not only has represented DEP in the water wars litigation but also represents the department in litigation over the Everglades. 

January 24, 2017

Rick Scott PAC using poll to drum up support for job incentives

@JeremySWallace

Having failed to get the Florida Legislature to budge on giving him more money for job incentive programs for corporations, Gov. Rick Scott is hitting lawmakers with a little Donald Trump pressure via a poll to convince them to change their minds.

A political action committee tied to Scott, called Let’s Get to Work, partially released a poll that purports to shows 59 percent of Floridians support Scott’s plan to ask for $85 million in incentives to “encourage businesses to relocate to Florida and expand in Florida.” The poll of 1,000 people says just 34 percent oppose the idea.

Another question references Trump by name and tries to present House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, as oppositional to Trump. It asks about Trump’s decision to give special tax breaks to Carrier to keep the company from moving manufacturing jobs to Mexico.

“Some, like Governor Scott, say this is exactly the kind of thing we need our government to be doing, making it easier for businesses to grow jobs and stay in America. Others, like Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, say that it is wrong for government to provide this kind of assistance to businesses, and they call it corporate welfare.”

The results showed 55 percent of voters sided with Scott versus 37 percent with Corcoran’s view of the incentives as “corporate welfare.”

Let’s Get to Work goes further, saying 80 percent of Republicans in their poll sample supported Scott’s views over Corcoran’s. Just 15 percent of Republicans considered it corporate welfare, the polls showed.

"Floridians strongly support the mission of Enterprise Florida to work to bring more jobs to the people of Florida," the polling memo released by Let's Get to Work to "Rick Scott Supporters" says.

If the poll was an effort to move Corcoran, it appears to have missed the mark. Corcoran took to social media to respond to the “Survey Release on Corporate Welfare.”

“I have great respect for Governor Scott and all he’s done to cut taxes and regulations to improve the business climate in Florida. But our policies in the House will be driven by principle not polling. And one of our fundamental principles as conservatives is that government should not pick winners and losers in the market,” Corcoran said in his statement.

January 20, 2017

Who wants to serve on the Constitution Revision Commission? Here's who has applied so far

Florida Constitution Florida MemoryToday is the deadline to apply to House Speaker Richard Corcoran to be a part of Florida's unique opportunity for a citizens panel to propose changes to the Florida Constitution, the 37-member Constitution Revision Commission.

The Senate set a deadline of Dec. 9 but today Senate spokesperson Katie Betta said the Senate has decided to continue accepting applications.   Download Senate MEMO re 2017 CRC Applications 2016 09 23 (1)The Supreme Court Dec. 31.

Gov. Rick Scott, who appoints 15 members and the chairman, also has decided to continue taking applications here. Applications for the Florida Supreme Court closed Dec. 31.

For the list of applications we have collected so far, scroll to the end of our story here.