October 15, 2012

Thurston calls out Bondi and Cannon, urges rejection of merit retention attacks

Rep. Perry Thurston, a Democrat from Plantation and the the incoming House Democratic Leader, issued an Open Letter to Floridians Monday, urging them to reject attempts to politicize the judiciary, as well as oppose Amendment 5, which would require Senate approval of judicial appointments.

In his statement, Thurston also urged Floridians to "call on state Attorney General Pam Bondi to reject the Republican Party of Florida’s attack on the independent judiciary" and his letter chastised outgoing House Speaker Dean Cannon for double-talk.

UPDATE: Cannon responded to Thurston with these comments: “I appreciate the irony of the most irrationally partisan Democrat leader in recent years accusing everyone else of partisanship.” 

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September 26, 2012

Cannon lashes out at GOP critics and Florida Bar in merit retention fight

Outgoing House Speaker Dean Cannon, a vigorous critic of the Florida Supreme Court , chastised critics of the Republican Party of Florida, which has come out in opposition to the three justices up for merit retention.  

“It is political speech,’’ Cannon said Wednesday. “The very people who are opposing the merit retention process now, asked for this system back in the 70s and 80s and they who consider themselves the defenders of free speech and political participation should be ashamed of themselves for criticizing people for or against justices,’’ he said.  

Last week, the Republican Party of Florida took the unprecedented step of entering into the debate on a merit retention vote for Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barabara Pariente and Peggy Quince, who are each on the November ballot. State law requires that the justices come before voters every six years to determine whether they continue to demonstrate the qualities needed to render fair and impartial rulings. 

The decision of the party to get involved has come under fire from critics on both sides of the aisle, as well as Justice Lewis who warned that the judiciary is under assault because of partisan politics.   

Cannon, a lawyer who is in the process of moving his law firm from Winter Park to Tallahassee, has been a critic of the high court since the court struck down three constitutional amendments written by the Legislature in 2010. He said it is “ludicrous” for people to argue that it is inappropriate for a political party to enter into this debate.

He said that “merit retention is one of the only accountability checks on the judicial branch left. I think it was wise that we stopped having elected justices back in the 70s or 80s, or whenever it was, but frankly merit retention is intended to be an accountability check on justices. As such, the very reformers that are criticizing the participation in the process -- they created it.” 

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March 14, 2012

Clock ticking for governor to sign controversial Medicaid legislation

A controversial measure that would shift $300 million in disputed Medicaid bills to counties has been received by Gov. Rick Scott's office, triggering the 15-day window for him to either sign or veto the legislation. If Scott does neither by the March 29 deadline, it becomes law automatically.

Counties are lobbying the governor to veto HB 5301, arguing that it will put an undue burden on local governments for Medicaid bills they don't believe they owe. Under the plan outlined in the legislation, the state would withhold revenue sharing dollars to cover both the backlog and future Medicaid payments.

Now that the clock is ticking, Scott's office is sure to hear from many of the counties and advocacy organizations like the Florida Tea Party Network and Florida Association of Counties, which have both spoken against HB 5301. Flagler, Indian River and Martin county commissions have already written the governor letters requesting a veto.

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March 08, 2012

Stuff my Speaker says. Cannon signs off with quotable speech


Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon, R- Winter Park, right, gets hugged by Rep. Erik Fresen, R- Miami, after Cannon gave his farwell speech to House members, Thursday. [Scott Keeler, Times]

Speaker of the Florida House, Dean Cannon, gave a five-minute farewell speech on Monday, full of quotable words of wisdom for his colleagues, telling them not to be afraid of challenges and tough situtations.

In a flowery-worded speech, the Winter Park Republican told members of the 120-member chamber to fight back against fear.

Cannon kept his remarks short. His portrait, unveiled this week, will hang over the House for the next 100 years.

Here are a few 'Cannonisms' from the goodbye speech:

“Do not be afraid. Don’t be afraid of failure, or of success. Do be afraid to succeed on those things that don’t really matter.”

“It is better to fight and lose, than to shrink from a worthy fight.”

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March 07, 2012

Senate sends its own PIP proposal back to House

UPDATE: Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, said she voted against the PIP legislation in error and later submitted paperwork to change her vote to a yes, meaning the measure passed unanimously. END UPDATE.

The Senate passed its version of PIP reform with a near unanimous vote and no debate, a big contrast to the contentious PIP discussions on Tuesday.

Now, the legislation goes back to the House, which has already approved a much different plan to alter the no-fault auto insurance system. Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, said House members will first focus on understanding exactly what senators approved before deciding what they do and don’t support.

"I don’t know exactly what’s in their bill and I don’t know that they all do because of all the back and forth,” said Boyd, who is the House’s point person on PIP. “But we need to evaluate what’s in their bill, fully understand it, and then make our decisions about are there provisions we can live with, are their provisions that we can’t.”

The Senate inserted its own language into HB 119 before approving the measure 39-1. Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, was the only “no” vote, but we don’t yet know why because there was no debate.

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February 13, 2012

House Democrats urge Speaker to move on Brody, Dillon claims bills

They were the first bills heard on the Senate floor back when the 2012 Session kicked off on Jan. 10, but measures that would pay a South Florida man injured by a speeding cop and a Brevard County man wrongfully jailed for 27 years haven't made a peep in the House.

Curious about the delay, House Democrats have sent a letter to speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park and Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando, urging them to set the claims bill for committee hearings as soon as possible.

House minority leader Rep. Ron Saunders, D-Key West, penned the letter on Monday, urging House leadership to move on the bills, which would allow Eric Brody, of Sunrise, to collect a $10.8 million settlement and William Dillon, of Brevard County, to collect $1.35 million.

"As President Haridopolos has repeatedly stated: The fate of these important pieces of legislation rest in the hands of House Republican leaders," Saunders wrote. "I encourage your urgent consideration of this request."

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January 10, 2012

Cannon says "major" higher ed reforms not likely this year

In his opening remarks Tuesday, House Speaker Dean Cannon made the case for higher ed reform.

"If we are going to have a successful higher education system, we need to stop playing musical chairs with the governance structure and focus on implementing a modern, coordinated system for the State of Florida," said Cannon, a Winter Park Republican.

Speaking to reporters later in the day, Cannon said he would like to see lawmakers take on "strategic, big-picture issues" in higher education -- but said he did not have any specific reforms in mind.

He also didn't have a clear timetable.

"My goal... is to start the conversation," Cannon said. "It may or may not see legislation this year."

Cannon then added: "It is not likely that major reforms will happen this year, but I'm not closing the door to less-than-major reforms."

On those less-than-major reforms, Cannon said he would defer to Rep. Bill Proctor, R-St. Augustine, who chairs the House Education Committee.

"We spend a lot of dollars on higher education," Cannon said. "They should be spent as wisely as possible."

December 13, 2011

Cannon: Give priority to closing gambling loopholes

In a wide-ranging interview with House Speaker Dean Cannon Tuesday, the Winter Park Republican told the Herald/Times he agrees with Sen. John Thrasher, R-Jacksonville, that legislators should focus first on passing a bill to close the loopholes in the state's existing gambling laws before introducing destination resort casinos to Florida.

"I think Sen. Thrasher's on the right track,'' Cannon said. "It is difficult to look at what we have today and say it is orderly, thoughtful and predictable." He noted that in his seven years in Tallahassee, changes to the statutes that have expanded card rooms and the push continues to separate dog racing from poker rooms and slot machines.

Thrasher "makes a very, very good point that what we have now is in somewhat of a state of disarray and maybe worth looking at that before we add another whole layer to the mix.''

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November 02, 2011

Speaker Cannon's preview of 2012 session

House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, batted leadoff Wednesday at the annual AP Florida legislative planning session (the daylong newsmaker event is taking place two months earlier than usual because the reapportionment-year legislative session starts Jan. 10).

In 2012, Cannon said, more "hard choices" will be unavoidable to cover a $2 billion shortfall, and he said he hoped that the House would prevail in deregulating certain professions (it was one of the controversial issues that sent the 2011 session off-track in the final hours).

"Good and worthwhile programs are going to have to absorb cuts," Cannon said.

Cannon said he wants to start a "conversation" about reforming Florida's higher education system and he re-stated his personal opposition to expansion of gambling. "I am philosophically opposed to the expansion of gambling in our state," Cannon said. He spoke with pride of a series of technological changes that make legislative information more accessible to the public and the media.

Cannon recoiled a bit when reporters pressed him on whether he would commit to consider two personal-injury claims bills that are top priorities of Senate President Mike Haridopolos (another reason for the late-session meltdown last spring). "This is a new session. The bills may do fine and may not. I don't know, but claims bills are pretty far low down on the threshhold." 

"The session hasn't even begun yet," Cannon told reporters, "and you guys are already trying to forecast what might be the tension. It's so easy to talk about friction and miss the extraordinary strides we've made."  

He said he supports Attorney General Pam Bondi's appeal of a court ruling striking down privatization of state prisons because "the decision was wrongly decided." Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford said lawmakers illegally enacted the plan in budget proviso language and not in a stand-alone bill as the law requires. Bondi's challenge is before the First District Court of Appeal.

Cannon, a lawyer and UF journalism graduate, is entering his final session in a term-limited Legislature and will be succeeded by Rep. Will Weatherford, a Republican from Wesley Chapel. The speaker chided reporters for occasional sloppiness and for trying to peg a bill's chances of passage by asking if he personally supports or opposes it.

-- Steve Bousquet

September 29, 2011

Gov. Scott welcomes House Speaker Dean Cannon to the mansion

rickscott2_610691e.jpgHouse Speaker Dean Cannon and his family are headed to the Governor's Mansion tonight for dinner with Gov. Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott.

It's Cannon's first social visit to the mansion since Scott moved in.

Scott has dined with plenty of other Republican leaders in the Legislature, including Senate President Mike Haridopolos, Haridopolos' likely successor Don Gaetz, Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander, designated House Speaker Will Weatherford, House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Rep. Chris Dorworth, who is scheduled to take control of the House in 2014.

Cannon backed Scott's primary opponent, but so nearly every elected Republican, including most of those in the list above.

Cannon's dinner with Scott, like the one with Haridopolos and the House leaders, is behind closed doors. The state Constitution requires meetings between the governor and speaker or Senate president to be open to the public if the purpose is to agree on legislation.

"It's a family dinner," Cannon spokeswoman Katie Betta said. "It's purely social," said Scott spokesman Brian Burgess.