August 20, 2013

Rep. Castor asks GOP leaders to reinstate approval of insurance rates

Republican lawmakers are standing by their decision to suspend for two years the state's ability to regulate health insurance rates. But that hasn't stopped U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor from witing a letter to Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford asking them to reverse course.

Castor, D-Tampa, said that some lawmakers and even Gov. Rick Scott may have been misinformed when they supported Senate Bill 1842, assuming the federal government had the power to negotiate insurance rates. She says the lack of state oversight could cause premiums to be higher in Florida than they would otherwise under the health care law.

"This appears to be a cynical attempt to saddle Florida consumers with higher insurance rates simply to sabotage the Affordable Care Act and the new health insurance marketplace where Floridians and small businesses can shop and compare new health plans," Castor wrote.

The Legislature would have to call a special session in order to approve any new laws prior to the launch of the health exchange on Oct. 1. But again, with Republican leaders saying there is nothing wrong with the changes in Senate Bill 1842, that is unlikely to occur.

Click here to download Castor letter on insurance regulations.

August 14, 2013

Weatherford creates new House committee on health care

Committee assignments are out for the Florida House.

"With very few changes from last year, the Florida House will be ready to tackle our state’s biggest policy challenges, including most importantly helping to improve Florida’s job creation and economy," House Speaker Will Weatherford wrote in a statement Wednesday.

There is one notable change: the creation of a House Select Committee on Health Care Workforce Innovation.

The new committee, which Weatherford said will focus on "addressing the looming shortage of medical providers," will be chaired by Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes.

"Rep. Oliva’s background as a business owner makes him the perfect choice to lead this committee," Weatherford said. "He understands the fundamental principle of supply and demand and how it impacts cost and quality for consumers."

Oliva has been tapped to become speaker in 2018. 

Weatherford also gave committee assignments to newly elected Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola. Hill will sit on the Regulatory Affairs Committee and four subcomittees: Health Care Appropriations, Health Innovation, Civil Justice and Energy and Utilities.

Read the full list of assignments below.

Download 2013-2014 Committee Assignments


August 13, 2013

With Fasano neutral as GOP fights over his successor, Dems may have shot

Bill Gunter locked up the endorsements of Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford and his three successors Tuesday, but the man who matters most in the race said he won’t get involved.

In a race that’s exposing Republican dysfunction, this could be a break for Democrats.

“I don’t plan on endorsing anyone,” said Mike Fasano, who represented the New Port Richey area in District 36 before getting picked by Gov. Rick Scott to be Pasco County tax collector.  “This race is very special to me. These are the people I served for the past 19 years as either a senator or a representative. They mean so much to me. They deserve someone who will serve them, who will vote their conscience and not what the  leadership wants and special interests want. Right now, I don’t see that in any candidate.”

That’s not exactly what Gunter, who often draws comparisons between himself and Fasano, was hoping to hear. Still, the 43-year-old has had a busy week counting endorsements from elsewhere.


Continue reading "With Fasano neutral as GOP fights over his successor, Dems may have shot" »

August 12, 2013

As Gunter guns for office with help of Pasco Sheriff posse, Weatherford mulls residency requirement

Bill Gunter touted his ties to the Pasco County Sheriff’s office on Monday in his bid to replace Mike Fasano in the State House District 36, which covers western New Port Richey.

He was endorsed Monday by Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco. Gunter, a presbyterian minister, happens to work at the sheriff’s office as a chaplain. Gunter’s main sponsor for office, Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity, also works there. Slated to become House Speaker in 2016, Corcoran is the outside counsel for the sheriff’s office, representing the office in employment and union matters.

Also in Gunter’s corner is Jeremiah Hawkes, the son of Taj Mahal judge Paul Hawkes (and, like Jeremiah, a Corcoran confidante) who also works for Nocco as the in-house counsel for the sheriff’s office. As if to leave no doubts where the Pasco Sheriff’s office stands on the issue of Gunter’s candidacy, Hawkes retweeted Nocco’s endorsement on Monday.

But don’t start icing the champagne for Gunter just yet. The primary election isn’t until Sept. 17 and at least one other Republican, Jim Mathieu, the county GOP chairman and former New Port Richey city attorney, says he’s running. The general election is Oct. 15 if the Democrats bother to field a candidate.

Then there’s the matter of where Gunter actually lives. Florida law requires that representatives live in the district they represent, but Gunter now lives about five miles away in District 37, Corcoran’s district. Gunter, 43, says he intends to move to a rental by Election Day, but he told the Times/Herald last week that he would move back to the house he’s lived in since 2003 if he were to lose in 2014. (Unlike Gunter, Mathieu actually lives in District 36).


Continue reading "As Gunter guns for office with help of Pasco Sheriff posse, Weatherford mulls residency requirement" »

August 08, 2013

Dream Defenders to launch massive voter registration drive

The Dream Defenders, who are marking Day 24 of their Capitol sit-in outside Gov. Rick Scott's office, announced they are launching a massive drive to register 61,550 voters by 2014 -- the margin Scott won by in the 2010 election. 

"We intend to register the people that are forgotten - the black, the brown, the indigent, the poor, the LGBT community and we will meet them where they are, in the classrooms, in the mall, at the club, on the corner, at the bus stop" said the Dream Defenders Executive Director Philip Agnew at a press conference Thursday.

He said the effort, which would enlist students on Florida campuses, would be geared toward issues, not candidates. "At the end of the day, we are not blue or red."

There's a need to "build power," Agnew said, so that "when the time comes again for us to move on issues like the school-to-prison pipeline, like racial profiling, like Stand Your Ground, we don't have to sit on the floor again."

Continue reading "Dream Defenders to launch massive voter registration drive" »

July 31, 2013

Weatherford taps Crisafulli as new House Majority Leader

Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford on Wednesday announced a changing of the guards, and they're both named Steve(!)

Out goes Rep. Stephen Precourt, R-Orlando as House Majority Leader. In comes Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, who is scheduled to become the House Speaker in 2014. Weatherford also announced the creation of a new committee, Health Care Workforce Innovation. He chose Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, to be its chair. Oliva is slated to become speaker in 2018.

The promotion will raise the profile of Crisafulli, who only became speaker designate last year when Chris Dorworth lost his reelection. The majority leader is the second most senior official in the House and the day-to-day manager of business on the House floor.

"The Speaker thought it's a great opportunity that will prepare Speaker-designate Crisafulli to be Speaker of the House by leading our caucus," said Weatherford's spokesman. "Also, it's an opportunity for Rep. Precourt to focus on what he loves - policy - in his last year in the Florida House."

Precourt couldn't be reached for comment. But from Weatherford's release, it sounds like Crisafulli is pretty stoked. 

House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) today announced the appointment of Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island) as the Florida House Majority Leader and has released the 2014 chairs and vice chairs of substantive committees for the Florida House of Representatives.
“Speaker-designate Crisafulli has already earned the support of the Republican caucus as a future Speaker; as Majority Leader, he will help to articulate our party’s vision for less government, education reform, low taxes and economic freedom in the next year," said Weatherford.  "I want to thank Leader Precourt for doing a tremendous job in the Majority Office this year and I look forward to his leadership as the new chair of the State Affairs Committee.” 

 “Under Leader Precourt’s leadership, our members had a great session in 2013, and I’m looking forward to more success in the next year,” said Crisafulli.  “I appreciate Speaker Weatherford’s confidence in me and thank him for the opportunity to serve as House Majority Leader.”



July 24, 2013

Residency of all legislators under review

From the News Service of Florida

Legislative leadership wants to know where House and Senate members are when they say they're at home.

With Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, raising questions about a number of Democratic lawmakers living outside the districts they represent, the top attorneys for the House and Senate have been directed to recommend standards for residency.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Ken Detzner will be asked to get a list of where all 160 legislators are registered to vote.

"Neither the House nor the Senate has historically developed a clear set of principles to determine the residency of our members," House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said in letter Wednesday to Latvala. "The recommended guidelines should draw on any past rulings of the House and Senate on this question, as well as decisions from other bodies in related legal contexts."

Continue reading "Residency of all legislators under review" »

July 16, 2013

All aboard the SS Crisafulli

Even by Tallahassee’s standards, Steve Crisafulli’s idea for an upcoming fundraiser for House Republicans is pretty showy.

It’s a three-day trip to the Bahamas aboard the Disney Cruise Line’s “Disney Dream” where guests will stay in deluxe oceanview stateroom with Verandah (cabins that usually fetch about $3,000).  

Set to sail from Port Canaveral -- located in Crisafulli’s House district -- the Disney Dream and its 1,458 crew members and 4,000 passengers will anchor in ports of call Nassau and Castaway Cay, Disney’s “private island paradise.”

Floating atop international waters, lawmakers will soak in the contributions while luxuriating on the 14-passenger deck ship and its many bars (“Evolution Night Club, anyone?”). Guests will get a $200 onboard credit and all meals included.

When asked about the rumors of the upcoming fundraiser on Tuesday, Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, confirmed the fundraiser is set for an Aug. 1 launch.

All that guests have to provide so they can attend is a $50,000 contribution to the Republican Party of Florida.

Continue reading "All aboard the SS Crisafulli " »

Rouson wants Weatherford to order hearings into FDLE probe of GOP voter fraud

Is Gov. Rick Scott covering up GOP voter registration fraud?

The future leader of the House Democrats thinks perhaps he is and is asking Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford to hold legislative hearings on what he says could be an attempt by Scott to “stifle” a criminal investigation.

“I have been following the many news media reports about rampant fraud regarding voter registration drives associated with the company Strategic Allied Consulting and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation that was tasked by Gov. Rick Scott some months ago,” states a letter that Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, sent out Tuesday afternoon.

“The governor, at a recent press conference in June, said that he had not seen or read any reports from his own agency. It is widely believed that a full-faith investigation has not taken place.

“The Legislature is constitutionally tasked with the checks and balances of government. Given that the governor has had adequate time to respond to the FDLE reports and has ordered an inadequate investigation, the House needs to task a committee with holding hearings. Floridians deserve to know if the governor’s office has stifled a law enforcement investigation. The State Affairs Committee seems ideal because the committee oversees the Ethics and Elections subcommittee.”

Continue reading "Rouson wants Weatherford to order hearings into FDLE probe of GOP voter fraud" »

July 12, 2013

Weatherford's income hard to figure

TALLAHASSEE — For the past six years, Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford has reported that his largest source of personal income is from an outfit called "Breckenridge Enterprises."

When asked about Breckenridge, which hasn't been registered in Florida since 2007, Weatherford says he doesn't actually work for the company.

Breckenridge, he says, handles payroll services for the company he does work for, a construction firm out of Mount Pleasant, Texas. That company is Diamond K Corp., but in Florida it's called T. King Construction Inc.

Florida has what's called a "Citizen Legislature," where state senators and representatives serve what are considered part-time jobs. They are required by law to disclose what they earn from other jobs so the public has a better understanding of their qualifications and connections.

But it's no easy task understanding how Weatherford, one of the most powerful politicians in the state, earns the majority of his money or who pays him. His speaker job pays $29,714, so the vast majority of his income — more than 75 percent — comes from other sources.

In recent years, it's become the norm for a Florida House speaker's income to raise questions. Ray Sansom resigned as speaker in 2009 after he was charged with channeling more than $25 million to Northwest Florida State College — where he had taken a $110,000-a-year job as the chief fundraiser. Marco Rubio saw his income to jump once he was on track to be speaker, climbing from $90,000 in 2001 to $414,000 in 2008.

Weatherford's income has remained steady since he joined the Legislature. But he has continued to report his income in a confusing fashion.

Read story here.