June 02, 2017

Budget deal includes $200M more for schools, $165M for economic development

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@stevebousquet @maryellenklas @michaelauslen @ByKristenMClark

Gov. Rick Scott has agreed to sign the budget and a controversial House public education plan and come back in special session next week to inject more than $165 million into the governor’s top economic development priorities, as well as put about $200 million in additional funding for public schools.

The agreement, which will be announced at a 10 a.m. news conference at Miami International Airport, was finalized late Thursday night after several days of backstage negotiations mostly involving House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Scott and their top staff members.

Lawmakers have agreed to boost public school spending by $210 million, bringing the total increase in this year’s state budget to $100 per student, Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, told the Herald/Times. That’s still less than half as much as Scott and the Senate originally sought earlier this year to boost school funding but it’s a significant increase from the extra $24.49 per student that the Legislature had in its approved budget — which critics had described as “starvation-level.”

They also will fund Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing program that was gutted in the Legislature’s original budget, at its current level of $76 million. And they will put $85 million into a new job-creation fund at the Department of Economic Opportunity, which would be used for infrastructure and other economic development costs, rather than to pay companies for bringing workers to Florida, which Corcoran has decried as “corporate welfare.”

All of that would be funded by more than $300 million in vetoes of member projects tucked into the state budget passed overwhelmingly by the House and Senate in early May.

Full details here.

Photo credit: Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

May 24, 2017

Corcoron has a new political committee, ahead of possible run for governor

via @adamsmithtimes

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran has opened a new political committee, Watchdog PAC, that may or may not bankroll his campaign for governor in 2018. The Land O'Lakes Republican says he will remain speaker of the Florida House through the 2018 session and decide after that whether or not he will run for governor.

In the meantime, it apears virtually every special interest wanting something done or not done in the legislature can bankroll the ironically named Watchdog PAC to curry favor with Corcoran. We haven't heard back from Corcoran yet, but this new committee fits exactly what he said he intended to do.

"If I can't raise the money, I can't raise the money, and if I raise the money and I don't want to run for governor, I don't run for governor. I'll use it for constitutional amendments, I'll use it for helping real conservatives, or I'll turn it over to the (Republican) party," Corcoran told the Tampa Bay Times earlier this month.

Adam Putnam already has north of $8 million for his gubernatorial campaign, and state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater seems increasingly likely to get into the race as well. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of northeast Florida is also a prospect.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

May 18, 2017

Corcoran responds to superintendents: Focus on 'building beautiful minds,' not 'beautiful buildings'

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via @martindvassolo

Two days after Gov. Rick Scott hinted at vetoing a controversial $419 million, 278-page education bill that narrowly passed the Legislature a week ago, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran visited the Miami-Dade Legislative Delegation and said he was hopeful the bill will survive Scott’s veto pen.

“I haven’t spoken to him, but I don’t know, there’s still a lot of time,” said Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, after a meeting at Florida International University on Wednesday morning. “Hopefully it’ll go well.”

The massive K-12 public schools bill, which drew sharp criticism from the Florida Association of District School Superintendents on Tuesday, is part of the 2017-18 budget. It includes a $234 million bonus package for most teachers and some top principals and a $140 million “Schools of Hope” program to help struggling traditional public schools and bring in private charter schools to give parents in these areas an alternative.

It also requires school districts to share some capital funding with charter schools, which the association said would take much-needed money away from traditional public schools.

RELATED: "In Liberty City, Corcoran praises Miami Democrat for supporting schools bill"

The association’s president called on Scott to veto the education funding bill, HB 7069, along with $23.7 billion in primary funding for K-12 schools, arguing the approved 0.34 percent increase in spending per student was not acceptable.

The bill, which passed the Senate on May 8 by a vote of 20-18 after passing the House 73-36, was a top priority for Corcoran, who called it “the most transformative, accountable, beneficial K-12 public education bill in the history of the state.”

“I know a lot of these superintendents, they’re good guys, but I wish they would focus more on not building $20- and $40 million Taj Mahal buildings,” Corcoran said. “What’s more important than beautiful buildings is beautiful minds, and this bill is about building beautiful minds.

More here.

Photo credit: Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

In Liberty City, Richard Corcoran lauds rogue Democrat for supporting 'Schools of Hope'

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@ByKristenMClark

Miami Democratic Rep. Roy Hardemon had an unlikely and influential ally showering him with praise in his legislative district Wednesday: House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

“[Hardemon] doesn’t care who’s got power. He doesn’t care what the status quo is. He doesn’t care whether he gets elected,” Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, said in brief remarks on stage for the groundbreaking of the Liberty Square redevelopment project, with Hardemon at his side.

Hardemon, a freshman lawmaker, secured himself in Corcoran’s good graces last week, when he broke from the House Democratic caucus to support a controversial $419 million K-12 public schools bill that Corcoran and House Republicans unveiled and successfully pushed through in the final days of session.

Hardemon was the only Democrat in either the House or Senate to vote in favor of HB 7069.

“He doesn’t fear. What he cares about is his community,” Corcoran said, before touting a key provision of HB 7069 that’s meant to help neighborhoods like Liberty City.

Full story here.

Photo credit: Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, left, R-Land O’Lakes, sits with Rep. Roy Hardemon, D-Miami, while they attend the groundbreaking ceremony to for the Liberty Square Rising project in Liberty City on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Matias J. Ocner / For the Miami Herald

May 17, 2017

Fact-checking Richard Corcoran's misleading tweet about education bill negotiations

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@amysherman1 @bykristenmclark

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran says his critics are wrong that the main education bill was hammered out behind closed doors.

"Time to end the myth of ‘legislation negotiated in secret.’  #transparency #HB7069#PutKidsFirst," Corcoran tweeted May 12.

Corcoran tweeted that it is "fiction" to say that the "best and brightest teachers and principals provision in HB 7069 was NOT made public."

"Fact: these provisions were contained in HB 7069 which was filed on March 10, 2017 passed two committees and the House 79-38 on April 13th, 2017."

We found the original legislation about teacher bonuses for the "best and brightest" was unveiled and voted on in public; however, the final version of the bill and important details were negotiated out of the public eye.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

Braynon to governor: We'll work with you to block override

Oscar Braynon by Keeler

@MaryEllenKlas

Senate Democrats are prepared to work with Gov. Rick Scott to block an override of a veto if he rejects the sweeping education reform bill pushed by House leaders in the final days of session and sold as a take-it or leave-it budget deal, Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon told the Herald/Times.

Pressure is mounting for the governor to veto HB 7069, and potentially the entire K-12 budget, and the 15-member Senate Democratic caucus will play a key role in making sure the Republican-controlled Legislature doesn't override that veto.

"We have to have a reason to override,'' Braynon of Miami Gardens said, referring to his Democratic colleagues. "It would depend on what the veto message looks like and if his vetoes include a bunch of things that matter to Democrats, then we're not going to override. We're willing to come back and work."

The Senate would need 26 votes to override the governor's veto and, with Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala openly suggesting he would support a veto, plus the three Republican senators who voted against the bill, the numbers won't add up if the Senate Democrats hold most of their 15 members.

"We want to see a change in RLE and FEFP,'' Braynon said. "We're not against funding Visit Florida. If the Republicans ask for an override of 7069, we're not going to do it. If they want an override of the whole budget, we will withhold our judgment on overriding until we see what happens." 

He said that the opportunity presents the governor with a rare opportunity to work with Democrats and Democrat-aligned groups, such as the teachers union. He noted that after former Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed SB 6 in 2010, a bill that would have linked teacher pay to student test scores, the Florida Education Association endorsed him for U.S. Senate over Kendrick Meek, the father of the class-size amendment. 

"This sets up an opportunity for him," Braynon said, adding. "I haven't always agreed with the governor but I'm willing to keep trying. I can find common ground with anybody."

Photo credit: Scott Keeler, Tampa Bay Times

Miami-Dade delegation hosts Richard Corcoran at a 'thank you' reception at FIU

Corcoran and Dade delegation@MaryEllenKlas

As pressure is mounting for Gov. Rick Scott to veto a sweeping education bill pushed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran that was sold to legislators as a take-it or leave-it budget deal last week, Corcoran will be honored at breakfast reception at Florida International University. 

The breakfast event "thanking Speaker Richard Corcoran for his support this Session" will be from 9:30 to 11 a.m. in Diaz Balart hall on the Maidique campus at FIU.

Corcoran, a Land O'Lakes Republican, has made it his top priority to pass the bill, HB 7069, which includes controversial incentives for charter schools, $234 million in bonuses for top teachers and principals, and a plan to force taxpayer-funded school districts to subsidize capital projects for for-profit charter school operators. The bill was negotiated in secret in the session's final days and, because it was a budget bill, it could not be amended, included provisions previously rejected by lawmakers, and was narrowly approved by the Senate.  

Although Scott has remained silent about his intentions, Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvahlo joined with other superintendents and urged the governor to veto the measure and the $23.7 billion in base funding in the budget to K-12 public schools. He said the failure of the Legislature to fund public schools, while leaving $3 billion in reserves, was a "man-made crisis" "that challenges the values of the state of Florida."

 

 

 

May 08, 2017

Lawmakers will decide major K-12 policy, spending today -- and rest of 2017-18 budget

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@ByKristenMClark

A swift outcry of condemnation came over the weekend from many parents, teachers and school administrators who want the Florida Legislature to reject a $419 million, 278-page K-12 public schools bill — which was decided behind closed doors, which lawmakers cannot change and which they’ll have had only about 72 hours to review when they vote Monday.

House and Senate members will decide the fate of HB 7069 as part of several up-or-down votes on a 2017-18 budget package. The Legislature extended its annual session until 11:59 p.m. Monday with the intent of passing an $82.4 billion spending plan, its single constitutional obligation.

MORE: “All eyes on the Florida budget as lawmakers return to state Capitol for one final act”

Public education advocates, like the Florida PTA and other groups, and superintendents — including Miami-Dade County Public Schools chief Alberto Carvalho — aim to convince their elected representatives to vote “no.” Such an outcome is unlikely but not unprecedented, and it would potentially call the entire budget into question because of the major dollars attached.

“I’ve spoken to so many senators — both parties — who are opposed to so many portions of that bill,” Broward County Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point, said. “The question is: Will they have the fortitude to vote no?”

More here.

Photo credit: Carl Juste / Miami Herald

May 02, 2017

After failing to meet deadline, Legislature headed for OT

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@ByKristenMClark @stevebousquet @MichaelAuslen

Florida’s legislative session will head into overtime after two top Republicans — negotiating in private billions of dollars worth of spending and substantive policy — failed to meet a deadline to get an $83 billion budget done Tuesday night, so that the session could have ended on time on Friday.

As time expired Tuesday, Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, both said the 60-day session would have to be prolonged, but they didn’t yet know for how long.

“You know the timetable as well as I do, with the 72-hour requirement. We will definitely not complete the budget work prior to the end of Friday,” Negron told reporters Tuesday evening — a few hours after House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, downplayed the increasingly expected delay by saying an on-time budget was still “90 percent likely.”

But earlier in the day, Trujillo was already guaranteeing lawmakers would remain in Tallahassee for longer than they’d planned.

More here.

Photo credit: House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, with Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart. Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

April 29, 2017

Corcoran: Gov. Rick Scott is 'the problem with recess,' not Legislature

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@ByKristenMClark

House Speaker Richard Corcoran offered a curious statement shortly after midnight Saturday: It’s not lawmakers who have a “problem with recess” — it’s Gov. Rick Scott.

Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, made the remark in a tweet with no additional explanation. The Herald/Times has requested clarification from Corcoran’s office and also sought comment from Scott’s spokeswoman. (This story will be updated when they respond.)

“Recess moms” were immediately perplexed by Corcoran’s mystery tweet, which was in direct response to a question from an advocate for daily school recess.

More here.

Photo credit: Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau