Note: This blog's templates will be updated this afternoon to a responsive design bringing it in line with

At that time, we will also change to the Facebook commenting system. You will need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment.

March 23, 2017

Is Rick Scott focusing on the wrong job creation issue? House Speaker says so



If Governor Rick Scott really wants to save jobs, he’s focusing on the wrong issues while he travels the state bashing Republicans, House Speaker Richard Corcoran told reporters Thursday.

Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, said too much energy is being paid to saving Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida under the guise of saving jobs when the real crisis for Florida businesses is the threat of dramatically higher workers compensation insurance rates and increasing rates on property insurance because of lawsuits related to water losses under a program called Assignment of Benefits.

“If I were to give encouragement to the governor I’d say: ‘go keep traveling. Start talking about workers comp and assignment of benefits which have far more effect than Enterprise and Visit Florida on jobs,’” Corcoran said as part of wide ranging press conference in Tallahassee.

Corcoran said if the House succeeds and kills Enterprise Florida and scales back Visit Florida it will be about $100 million in savings to taxpayers. But if unchanged, the two insurance issues could cost businesses and homeowners hundreds of millions of dollars he said. On both issues he said there doesn’t seem to be “tremendous” movement” in the Senate. He said the governor needs to start working the senate to get those bills moving.

“How can you just be silent on what really will hit jobs,” Corcoran said.

Scott has been touring the state going to the districts of Florida House members who voted to kill Enterprise Florida accusing them of hurting the state’s economic momentum. He’s also funded robo-calls and television ads arguing against the cuts. He’s also funded videos that mock Corcoran for trying to kill Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. Corcoran for his part has been unapologetic in taking on the governor’s top priority, calling Enterprise Florida a “cesspool” that cannot be reformed.

Continue reading "Is Rick Scott focusing on the wrong job creation issue? House Speaker says so" »

Gov. Scott still won't give GOP healthcare bill his backing

via @KyraGurney

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday said he is "encouraged" by House Republicans' bill to replace the Affordable Care Act but still wouldn't endorse it, saying he wants to "keep working to improve it."

Speaking at Coral Way K-8 Center in Miami, where he was touting his education budget, Scott told reporters the state needs more flexibility to improve Medicaid and that lawmakers in Congress should focus on driving down healthcare costs.

"We need to let people buy the insurance they want," he said. "We need to reward people for taking care of themselves."

Eight Republican governors -- but notably not Scott, a big Obamacare critic -- sent Congress a letter Thursday supporting the House GOP's American Health Care Act. A vote planned for Thursday night was postponed until Friday.

Accompanied by Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and two local school board members, Scott promoted his education proposals — almost $21 billion in combined state and local funding for schools, of which he hopes to spend $58 million on teacher recruitment and retention.

Asked if he was concerned about Florida House Speaker Corcoran's opposition to his education budget, Scott said he was confident the state had enough revenue to invest more in schools. "We have the money to do this," Scott said. "There's nothing more important."


Richardson asks Scott to use emergency power to take control of women's prison in Gadsden County

Richardson at GadsdenWarning that inmate health and safety is at risk at the state’s largest privately run women’s prison, Rep. David Richardson on Thursday asked Gov. Rick Scott to use his emergency powers to replace the top officers and take state control of Gadsden Correctional Facility.

In a letter delivered late Thursday, Richardson asked Scott “to direct the Florida Department of Corrections to install a temporary warden, chief of security, and other resources you deem necessary to restore order and reverse what I can only describe as a loss of institutional control.” Story here. 

Photo: Rep. David Richardson at Gadsden Correctional, Courtesy of David Richardson


How Nelson and Rubio voted on internet privacy rules

via @learyreports

The Senate voted today to kill regulations that would prevent Internet providers from tracking and sharing personal data without consent, and Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio were on opposite sides.

Nelson voted against the measure; Rubio voted for it.

The Associated Press explains:

The regulations would have required a company like Verizon to get approval before telling an advertiser what websites customers visited, what apps they used, their health and financial information, or their physical location. Under the regulations, many more people likely would have chosen not to allow their data to be shared than if they had to take an extra step of asking a company to stop sharing or selling their information.

Industry groups and Republicans protested the regulations. They said broadband providers would have to operate under tougher privacy requirements than digital-advertising behemoths like Google and Facebook.

Nelson blasted the move. “We are talking about taking privacy rights away from individuals if we suddenly eliminate this rule,” the Democrat said in a statement after the vote. “This is a gold mine of data, the Holy Grail, so to speak.”

“It is no wonder that broadband providers want to be able to sell this information to the highest bidder without the consumer's knowledge or consent,” Nelson continued. “And they want to collect and use this information without providing transparency or being held accountable. Is this what you want to inflict upon your constituents in your state by changing this rule about their personal, sensitive privacy?”

Rubio: "The FCC’s last-minute regulation was poorly conceived and held internet service providers to a different standard than other companies handling the same information, all while doing nothing to protect consumers’ privacy. It was important to overturn this burdensome rule so that we encourage innovation and investment instead of adding another complex layer of bureaucracy to the internet.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Richard Corcoran calls on governor to suspend Orlando state attorney



Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Thursday called on the governor to suspend Aramis Ayala, the Orlando state attorney who last week said she would not seek the death penalty in any cases while in office.

Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, said Ayala stepped outside the bounds of the state Constitution by declaring up front that she would not consider the death penalty, even in the most heinous murder cases. Florida's Constitution says that "the death penalty is an authorized punishment for capital crimes designated by the legislature," but state attorneys also have broad discretion to decide which cases they prosecute and how they do so.

"(Ayala) has a right to say, 'In this particular case for these reasons, we've decided not to seek the death penalty,' " said Corcoran, who is mulling a run for governor. "That is not what she said."

Gov. Rick Scott is empowered to suspend state attorneys from office for "malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties, or commission of a felony." Scott has been under pressure from other lawmakers to suspend Ayala, but the only action he has taken against her is to remove her from the case of Markeith Loyd, who is accused of killing an Orlando police officer, as well as his ex-girlfriend.

"We are reviewing our options as we said earlier this week," Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said in an email.

Corcoran said he has been in conversations with other lawmakers, including Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, a former prosecutor and the House Judiciary chairman, as well as Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, who is in line to be the next speaker.

Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, has been mum on the issue. If Scott did suspend Ayala from office, his chamber would be able to permanently remove or reinstate her.

Before Ayala made her comments about the death penalty, the House had already been moving forward with legislation that would give the Legislature the ability to impeach state attorneys.

"You can bet your bottom dollar, if we could get that bill passed and it was law right now, we would absolutely start impeachment proceedings on that prosecutor," Corcoran said.

Photo: House Speaker Richard Corcoran (Scott Keeler | Times)

Corcoran blasts Constitution Commission's schedule for 'disenfranchising' legislative members

House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Thursday criticized Constitution Revision Commission chair Carlos Beruff for scheduling four public hearings in the middle of the legislative session, when five of his nine appointees, all legislators, are unavailable to attend.

 "When you have such a once-in-20-year august body, dealing with something of the highest impact -- which is our Constitution -- and you only have a limited number of members, 37, and immediately the first action is to disenfranchise one sixth, I don't think that is a good start,'' Corcoran told reporters on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Beruff announced four public hearing dates and sites for the 37-member panel charged with recommending revisions to the state constitution and placing them on the 2018 ballot.

The meetings will be held in Orlando on Wednesday, March 29, in Miami on Thursday, April 6, in Boca Raton on Friday, April 7 and in Pensacola on Wednesday April 12.

The House has committee meetings and or floor session scheduled for each of those days with the exception of Friday, April 7, and lawmakers would have to get an excused absence from House or Senate leadership to attend the public hearings in person.

Corcoran named to the commission Sens. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, and House Reps. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, Jeanette Nunez, R-Miami, and Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor.

The Constitution Revision Commission convened for the first time on Monday and immediately ran into trouble when Beruff was forced to delay a vote on the pending rules amid concern raised by several members. 

Update: Meredith Beatrice, external affairs director of the CRC, responded to Corcoran's comments late Thursday, noting that there will be more hearings scheduled for legislators to attend. 

"As a commission which meets just once every 20 years, commissioners have a responsibility to be accountable to the people of Florida and accomplish as much as we can in the short time we have,'' she said. "The work before this commission is incredibly important. We will be working with all commissioners on additional public hearings to ensure the best possible outcome for families in our state.

"It is very important commissioners participate and hear from the public. That is why we only released a few dates, more will be scheduled soon. Videos of the meetings will also be posted online."


Liquor law changes split Senate Republicans and Democrats in South Florida



The Florida Senate voted 21-17 on Thursday to allow hard liquor like whiskey and vodka to be sold at grocery stores and big box retailers, a move opposed by smaller liquor stores and Publix. The vote split both Democrats and Republicans. Here are how State Senators voted:

Republicans (14): Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers; Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island; Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg; Anitere Flores, R-Miami; Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton; Rene Garcia, R-Miami; Travis Hutson, R-Elkton; Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples; Keith Perry, R-Gainesville; David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs; Greg Steube, R-Sarasota; Dana Young, R-Tampa; Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart.

Democrats(7): Lauren Book, D-Plantation; Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando; Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens; Audrey Gibson,D-Jacksonville; Kevin Rader, D-Boca Raton; Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami; Linda Stewart, D-Orlando

Republicans (9): Frank Artiles, R-Miami; Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala; Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach; Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze; George Gainer, R-Panama City; Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater; Debbie Mayfield, R-Melbourne; Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby; Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland

Democrats (8): Daphne Campbell, D-Miami; Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth; Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale; Bill Montford, D-Tampa; Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach; Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg; Perry Thurston,D-Fort Lauderdale; Victor Torres, D-Orlando.

Not voting: (2) Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring; Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange

Senate set to approve bill to limit ‘gotcha’ public records lawsuits

Greg SteubeThe Florida Senate on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a compromise proposal aimed at cracking down on “gotcha” public records requests while preserving the attorney fees leverage the public has against public officials who violate Florida’s Sunshine laws.

The bill, SB 80, by Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, is intended to crack down on what he says is are a small group of serial records abusers who attempt to snag unsuspecting public officials into violating public records laws in an effort to coerce a financial settlement.

But Steube’s initial draft of the measure was criticized by public records advocates who warned that the plan to give judges more discretion in deciding whether or not to award attorneys fees in public-records lawsuits would have a chilling effect on public records challenges.

Florida law allows for citizens to be awarded attorney fees to encourage people to pursue their right to access government records and prevent public agencies from violating the public records laws. It is the only enforcement provision in state law, short of prosecution. Steube originally proposed removing the requirement that the legal fees be paid by agencies by changing the requirement that judges “shall” award attorneys fees to “may” award the fees.

The compromise language, which mirrors an agreement brokered last year by Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Miami, leaves the mandatory attorneys fee provision in the law but adds a new requirement that the public provide the records custodian with written notice of the public record request five days before filing a lawsuit to force compliance.

If the public agency does not provide contact information for the records custodian on its website and in the administrative building where public records are routinely requested, the five-day notice is not required.

“This would put some parameters in place as it relates to how individuals ask for public records from public agencies,” Steube said. “We’re obviously trying to go after some bad actors that everybody agrees is going on in the state and this is the tightest language we could agree to.” Story here.


Bill promoting religious expression in school passes Florida Senate

Stand Your Ground (3)@ByKristenMClark

Florida’s public schools would have to let students lead religious prayers during the school day and at school-sanctioned events, under a controversial proposal that the state Senate approved Thursday, mostly along party lines.

Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, heralded his bill (SB 436) as a way for lawmakers to “take a stand for liberty,” because it makes explicitly clear the rights to religious expression that students and teachers have in public schools, regardless of their faith.

But Democrats worry the measure goes beyond existing protections of religious freedom and violates the constitutional separation between church and state. They also fear it could lead to students and teachers being ostracized or discriminated against if they’re of non-Christian faiths or non-religious.

“It’s religiously coercive, divisive and unconstitutional,” said Sen. Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach.

The bill passed on a 23-13 vote, with Miami Shores Democratic Sen. Daphne Campbell voting with Republicans to support the bill. Campbell told the Herald/Times: “I don’t see anything wrong. The bill is not discriminatory. ... I just don’t see how anyone could be against prayer.”

Baxley’s proposal — which has large support from Christian and conservative-leaning groups — is more controversial and more far-reaching than a companion measure that’s moved through the House with, so far, unanimous support. The full House could vote on its bill (HB 303) as early as next week.

Full story here..

Photo credit: Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala. Steve Cannon / AP

Miami Beach mayor, Airbnb launch dueling campaigns



Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Airbnb have launched dueling campaigns ahead of a Miami City Commission vote Thursday to enforce laws against short-term rentals in the city.

The home-sharing platform rolled out a television commercial Wednesday in the Miami market criticizing Levine and Miami counterpart Tomas Regalado for being "against middle class Miami families" by opposing short-term rentals in their cities. Regalado wants commissioners to vote Thursday to endorse the "vigorous" enforcement of a zoning opinion that says rentals for periods shorter than a month are illegal in residential neighborhoods.

On Thursday, Levine, whose city has aggressively fought Airbnb, responded.

As commissioners began their meeting before a chambers packed with Airbnb supporters, Levine personally paid to fly a banner plane knocking Airbnb. The mayor, who is mulling a run for governor, also floated a boat off Dinner key with a billboard accusing the company of being cozy with "Tallahassee,"a reference to state lawmakers.

“Airbnb’s model does not work for our community, or for many others across the country," Levin said in a statement issued by his political consultant, Christian Ulvert. "Sadly, they have chosen agitation and confrontation to express their views, attacking the virtues of local control and self-determination."

Airbnb says its service is good for tourism, and helps support middle class families who use the platform to rent out their homes to visitors.