Posts Tagged ‘Tom Lee’

Bill to require high-school students to take financial-literacy courses advances in Florida Senate

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

A proposal by Port Orange Republican Dorothy Hukill to require high-school students to take a half-credit of instruction in personal financial literacy and money management easily won approval in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Pre-K-12 Education on Wednesday. However, several lawmakers expressed reservations about the fact that unless lawmakers extend the hours of the school day or school year, the inclusion of this necessary course will eliminate another course, and potentially expose how Florida students are behind the curve compared to others around the nation and the world.
The quest to get Florida high school students more financially literate began in 2013, when the Legislature approved a feasibility study conducted by the Department of Education about implementing such a course in Florida high schools.
Tallahassee Democrat Bill Montford said he strongly supported the legislation, but he expressed concerns that by requiring that such a class be part of the regular curriculum in Florida high schools, another program may have to be jettisoned.
“We’re still stuck on the same number of hours a day, 180 days a year, and everytime we add something in as a graduation requirement, something else has got to fall out, and in the past that has usually been art, music and physical education,” said Montford, a lifelong educator.
Montford said that if students in Florida are going to have to compete nationally and even internationally in 2017, “we’ve got to bite the bullet” and begin adding more time in the classroom over, mentioning that children in other countries go to school for eight hours a day and “200 something days out of a year.”
Eastern Hillsborough County Republican Tom Lee agreed in party, saying that the Legislature has also been working on other bills that would be added to the regular curriculum, such as making computer coding a second language to study, as well as

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Joe Henderson: After Enterprise Florida fight, Rick Scott has little political capital left

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Rick Scott went to Tallahassee in 2011 as an outsider. He often has operated like one as well, and not always in a good way.
In a private company, stubborn employees can get fired for standing up to the boss. In politics, though, defiance can be considered a virtue. Eventually, people who vow to run government like a business learn you can’t just issue orders and expect things to get done.
Real democracy can be a free-for-all.
That brings us to the current state of affairs in the capitol city, a time that has the seen the governor behaving less like a CEO and more like a politician trying to win friends and influence people.
To save his most-favored Enterprise Florida agency, the governor put a public campaign that included visits, robo-calls, videos and a public mocking of House Speaker Richard Corcoran.
It didn’t work, at least not yet.
The House dealt the governor a stinging rebuke last week with by passing HB 7005 – or what Scott calls “job-killing legislation” – by an overwhelming 87-28 vote.
Scott responded with a statement reading in part, “Many politicians who voted for these bills say they are for jobs and tourism. But, I want to be very clear – a vote for these bills was a vote to kill tourism and jobs in Florida.”
Everyone waits now to see what happens in the Senate, where Jeff Brandes has a bill that would keep Enterprise Florida but with much greater state oversight. Scott, meanwhile, is keeping up the pressure.
His office sent out eight news releases Monday within 19 minutes touting job gains in cities around the state. He made sure to credit the embattled jobs agency.
It was easy for Scott to get his way when he arrived in Tallahassee on a populist wave, promising to produce jobs and get Florida out

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Could anti-Donald Trump quotes hurt Pat Neal’s chances of becoming CFO?

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Not surprisingly, Donald Trump hasn’t been too keen in hiring those associated with the “Never Trump” movement of conservative policy who surfaced in last year’s presidential campaign.
The most glaring example of that was the case of former State Department official Elliott Abrams. A meeting between the two last month reportedly went well, according to CNN.  Ultimately Trump opted not to hire Abrams for the job as deputy Secretary of State, however, once he learned that Abrams criticized him during his White House run.
Might strong GOP criticism of the president during the campaign turn off Rick Scott, a close ally of Trump’s, specifically when it comes to naming a new Chief Financial Officer?
While there have been a host of names floated as possible contenders (including state Senators  Jack Latvala, Jeff Brandes, Tom Lee and Lizbeth Benacquisto, state Rep. Jim Boyd,  former interim head of Citizens Property Insurance Tom Grady, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, former Speaker of the House Will Weatherfod, and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera), Pat Neal, the Manatee County real estate developer and former state lawmaker, is being looked at by many as the top choice to succeed Jeff Atwater in filling out the remainder of his term. Atwater announced last month that he will be stepping down as CFO to serve as Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Chief Financial Officer at Florida Atlantic University at the end of the Florida Legislature’s regular session in May.
Neal announced last June that he would not be a candidate for the CFO position in 2018, telling the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that he was “dispirited with what I see every morning having to do with the Trump campaign.”
He went on to tell  reporter Zac Anderson that he viewed Trump as an incredibly “vulgar” candidate  who “is leading our party off a cliff.”
Neal later told the Times’ Adam C. Smith  that, “I, Pat Neal, have never had a bankruptcy, never had a bank default. When you sign a note of bonds, or sell stock with investors the right thing to

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Richard Corcoran to pick Darryl Rouson, Tom Lee to constitution panel

Monday, March 6th, 2017

House Speaker Richard Corcoran is expected to announce that Sen. Darryl Rouson, Rep. Chris Sprowls, and Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco will be among his nine picks for the Constitution Revision Commission. He’s also putting himself on the Commission.
The Land O’Lakes Republican’s selections will round out the 37-member review panel, which meets every 20 years to look over and suggest changes to the Florida Constitution. The panel must be established within 30 days before the regular 2017 Legislative Session convenes.
The annual 60-day session kicks off Tuesday.
Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat, was elected to the Senate in 2016, after serving serving eight years in the Florida House. He’s a former Pinellas County prosecutor, who also served as commissioner on the Tax and Budget Reform Commission.
Sprowls is also a former prosecutor, leaving the State Attorney’s Office over the summer to join Buchanan Ingersoll and Rooney. First elected in 2014, the Palm Harbor Republican has quickly moved up the leadership ladder, and is in line to become Speaker after the 2020 elections.
Sprowls isn’t the only member of the House leadership team expected to get a spot at the table. Corcoran is also expected to name Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Speaker Pro Tempore Jeanette Nunez to panel, according to sources briefed on the Speaker’s plans.
Look for Corcoran to also select Rich Newsome, a long-time friend and attorney who has lobbied on behalf of the state’s trial lawyers; Sen. Tom Lee, a Brandon Republican and former Senate President; and Erika Donalds, a member of the Collier County School Board and the wife of freshman Rep. Byron Donalds. 
 Corcoran’s announcements comes just days after Gov. Rick Scott announced his appointments, which were also heavy on supporters and political allies.
As Governor, Scott selected 15 of the 37 commissioners, as well as its chairman. The Naples Republican selected Carlos Beruff, a Manatee County homebuilder who ran for U.S. Senate in 2016, as chairman.
Senate President Joe Negron also got nine picks, while the Chief Justice

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Tom Lee files bill to protect Florida seniors in retirement communities

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

Tom Lee announced Wednesday he filed the “Protecting Florida Seniors from Financial Fraud Act,” seeking to safeguard Floridians in Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs).
“Unfortunately, the conduct of a few bad actors, specifically the management of one CCRC in my community, has highlighted the need to increase oversight of these organizations,” the eastern Hillsborough County state senator said in a statement from his office. “Current statute does not adequately protect residents and employees against facility insolvency, loss of provider assets, and loss of resident investments. It’s essential to address these issues to ensure CCRCs can fulfill their obligations to one of the most vulnerable segments of our population.”
There are 71 licensed CCRCs in Florida serving more than 31,000 residents. The Office of Insurance Regulation (Office) is responsible for regulating a CCRC’s financial solvency, residency contracts, and the disclosures made to prospective residents.
“The decision to join a CCRC represents a substantial investment of assets, time and trust for a resident and their family. I applaud Senator Lee and Representative Stevenson’s sponsorship of this important legislation to further strengthen protections for these residents by increasing financial safeguards and fixing provisions under current law that act as a deterrent to regulatory oversight for those with bad intentions,” said Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier.
The legislation, sponsored by St. Augustine Republican Cyndi Stevenson in the House, requires CCRCs to retain reserves to protect residents and their families, increases the Office’s authority to prohibit hazardous practices and transactions, streamlines the acquisition process to reduce the burdens on applicants, and creates an “impairment” framework to allow for earlier intervention to prevent harm to Florida consumers and their investments.
“Recent events have brought to light weaknesses in the CCRC industry and its regulation,” said Representative Stevenson. “I am introducing this legislation to strengthen the industry and protect residents. I’ve worked closely with the Office of Insurance

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Bring on the orange juice: Denise Grimsley schedules breakfast fundraiser for March 7

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

It’s never too early in the day to start fundraising.
Sen. Denise Grimsley is scheduled to hold a fundraising reception for her 2018 bid for Agriculture Commissioner at 7:30 a.m. on March 7 at Florida Finance Strategies, 111-B East College Avenue in Tallahassee.
The reception, according to a copy of the invitation, is hosted by Sens. Aaron Bean, Dennis Baxley, Rob Bradley, Anitere Flores, George Gainer, Bill Galvano, Rene Garcia, Jack Latvala, Tom Lee, Debbie Mayfield, David Simmons, Wilton Simpson, Kelli Stargel, and Greg Steube.
The breakfast fundraiser comes just hours before the start of the 2017 Legislative Session.
A Sebring Republican, Grimsley was first elected to the House in 2004, before heading to the Senate in 2012.
She is currently a hospital administrator for Florida Hospital Wauchula and Lake Placid, and has served as vice president and chief operating officer of her family business, Grimsley Oil Company, as well as being involved in the citrus and ranching industry. She’s a member of the Peace River Valley and Highlands County Citrus Growers Association, and the Florida Cattlemen’s Association.
Grimsley filed to for the statewide office earlier this month, and has already lined up the backing of former state Sen. JD Alexander. And several Central Florida agriculture industry leaders appear to be lining up behind her, with many listed on an invitation for a fundraiser at Florida’s Natural Grove House in Lake Wales next week.
She isn’t the only member of the Legislature eyeing the agriculture post. Last week, Rep. Matt Caldwell told FloridaPolitics.com he intends to file to run for the seat later this summer.

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Legislation to require unanimous jury rulings for the death penalty advances in Florida Senate

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

The state of Florida took another step towards the mainstream of American jurisprudence when a Senate committee Wednesday approved a proposal that would require a unanimous verdict from a jury to sentence a prisoner to the death penalty.
The Senate Rules Committee approved a measure (SB 280) sponsored by Orlando Democrat Randolph Bracy that would replace the current state law that calls for at least 10 of the 12 jurors to recommend death, and make it unanimous for the death penalty to be imposed. That follow a similar measure passed by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
The death penalty in Florida has effectively been suspended since January of 2016, when the U.S. Supreme Court found the state’s death penalty law unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges, instead of juries. It left it to the Florida Supreme Court to decide whether the ruling should apply retroactively.
The state has not executed an inmate since then.
The Legislature rewrote the death penalty law immediately after that ruling giving juries more power, declaring that at least 10 of the 12 jurors had to agree to recommend a death sentence. However, the Florida Supreme Court struck that law down last October, saying it was unconstitutional because it failed to require a unanimous vote by jurors before the death penalty could be imposed. The Court ruled that every penalty decision since 2002 was unconstitutional.
The bills being pushed in the Legislature this winter addresses the state Supreme Court’s ruling, and it appears likely that a remedy of requiring unanimous verdicts only in death penalty cases will soon get to Governor Rick Scott’s desk.

Rex Dimmig, the Public Defender for the 10th Judicial Circuit of Hardee, Highlands and Polk counties, said the Legislature should have passed a bill last year requiring unanimity in death row cases.
Reacting to a comment from Hillsborough County based GOP Senator Tom Lee about the

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Richard Corcoran: ‘Zero’ chance Bucs get state money for stadium

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers shouldn’t hold their breath for any state subsidy to renovate Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran told WTSP’s Noah Pransky in an interview there was “zero” chance his chamber will fund the pro football team’s $10 million subsidy request – and didn’t think the Senate would go along either.
The Bucs “applied under a statutory scheme put in place” that may be eliminated, he said. The team is the only professional team seeking money from the state this year.
Sen. Tom Lee, a Tampa Bay-area Republican, last month filed legislation to do away with a 2014 state program to provide revenue toward constructing or improving professional sports franchise facilities.
“The Sports Development Program was ill-conceived,” he said. “Professional teams are vying for taxpayer funds to pay for largely superficial facility upgrades, many of which are already in progress or completed. History has shown that team owners will make these investments without hardworking families having to foot the bill.”
Corcoran, an enemy of what he calls “corporate welfare,” agrees. This year, he’s looking to eliminate the public-private Enterprise Florida economic development organization and VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism marketing agency.
“We shouldn’t be building stadiums or subsidizing billionaire owners of professional sports franchises,” he said. “It’s a multibillion-dollar industry. That’s just insane.”
The $10 million asked for Raymond James Stadium breaks down to $1 million a year for at least 10 years. And that’s just a fraction of the projected total costs for the renovations, pegged at a minimum of $120 million.
“We have an education system that needs improvement,” said Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican. “We have seniors who need a greater safety net. We have law enforcement and its needs. Those are the things we should be engaged in.
“Or just returning (money) back to taxpayers,” Corcoran added.

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Jeff Atwater’s surprise departure makes CFO job the hottest in state

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Never mind who’s running for Governor in 2018, Floridians want to know which Republicans are in the running for Florida Chief Financial Officer now that CFO Jeff Atwater announced he is leaving this year, with speculation starting with Tom Grady, Tom Lee, Will Weatherford and Teresa Jacobs and including seven or eight others.
Grady, a securities lawyer who is a former state representative who also has held several positions in state government, is widely reported as a close friend of Gov. Rick Scott, who will select a replacement for Atwater for the nearly two full years left in the term.
Weatherford, a venture capital and business consultant, is a former Speaker of the House who draws praise from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and who recently announced he’s not running for Governor.
Jacobs is the Orange County Mayor and a former banker who always sounds like she’s already someone’s chief financial officer, and who reportedly has been exploring a possible state run for that job in 2018 when she’s term-limited from the mayor’s office.
Names tumbling around Tallahassee  – some with more spin than others – also already have included Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, former Speakers Steve Crisafulli and Dean Cannon, state Sens. Jack Latvala, Aaron Bean, Jeff Brandes, Lee and Lizbeth Benacquisto, state Rep. Jim Boyd, former state Sen. Pat Neal, and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.
Atwater was once a widely-speculated candidate for Governor himself, but that buzz cooled to nothing and on Friday he surprised much of Florida’s political establishment by announcing that he’s planning office to become vice president for strategic initiatives and chief financial officer at Florida Atlantic University after the Florida Legislative Session.
Besides overseeing the states’s financial operations and financial and insurance regulations, as well as the state fire marshal’s office, the job is a full-voting position on the Florida Cabinet. It’s normally filled by statewide vote, for a four-year term, and Atwater was to be term-limited out with the 2018 election.
Atwater’s office’s imminent availability is so fresh almost no

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FMA agenda: Doctors want insurance companies to get out of their way

Monday, January 30th, 2017

The Florida Medical Association released its legislative priorities for 2017; removing interference by insurance companies in doctor’s decisions about patient care is prominent on the list.
“The FMA believes in promoting the highest standards of medical care, maintaining choice for patients in a free-market health care system, and preserving the sacred relationship between patients and their physicians,” the document says.
“The best way to achieve these objectives is by advocating for public policy that establishes fair and transparent insurance markets, reduces onerous red tape, and eliminates bureaucratic hassles that impede care and harm patients.”
First, the priority is a direct primary care system, described as “an alternative to the traditional fee-for-service model in which patients are charged a simple, affordable flat monthly fee for comprehensive coverage of all primary care services.”
The idea is to prevent chronic illnesses and reduce administrative expenses. Primary care doctors prefer this system because it lets them spend more time with patients and provides better care for less money, the document says.
It is the only objective for which the FMA mentions formal legislation — HB 161, by Republican Danny Burgess, and the companion SB 240, by Republican Tom Lee.
The bills would authorize such arrangements, specifying that they do not constitute insurance policies subject to oversight by the Office of Insurance Regulation.
Second, the FMA supports allowing doctors to override “fail first” policies by which, it says, insurers decide which drugs doctors should try first.
“This causes delays in care that can lead to unnecessary hospitalizations and sometimes devastating consequences for patients,” the FMA says.
“Florida needs legislation that allows physicians and patients to override step therapy protocols when deemed medically necessary and in patients’ best interests.”
Next is legislation to standardize the system for obtaining insurers’ authorization before doctors can prescribe medication, refer patients to specialists, and order testing or other treatments.
The document says doctors spend two hours on

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Senate Community Affairs Committee passes Florida Building Code reform

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

By unanimous vote, the Senate Community Affairs Committee passed a bill Tuesday that would change the way the state makes changes to the Florida Building Code.
Every three years the Florida Building Commission votes on whether to automatically accept the entire international building code, or amend it with certain provisions of the international code.
LobbyTools reports that if passed, SB 7000 would require the commission to use the most recent published edition of the Florida Building Code as the foundation, and mandate the committee to review, rather than update, the Code every three years. The measure would also delete the provision specifying how long amendments or modifications to the foundation code would remain valid.
The bill would also carry forward any changes to the state building code through the time the next edition is published.
Committee chair Tom Lee believes that using the Florida Code as a base instead of the international code would avoid any interruption in the building industry, due to frequent code changes.
Amending the building code update process would take care of the “tremendous amount of disruption associated with these building code updates, many of the provisions of which are fairly ‘de minimis’ at this point,” Lee said at the meeting.
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Bill Galvano’s higher-ed reform bills sail through Senate committee

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

Two bills that would increase Bright Future scholarship benefits and rework how colleges and universities measure progress and deal with top professors sailed through the Florida Senate Education Committee Monday.
Senate Bills 2 and 4, both introduced by Sen. Bill Galvano, drew some concerns about how they might affect non-traditional and working students but little opposition, as Galvano assured committee members he shared and would be addressing those concerns.
“The thrust of this bill is not to somehow put additional pressure on a student, or mess with the opportunities they have by putting additional requirements on what the students achieve,” Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, said of SB 2, which took up the bulk of the committee’s discussion and drew the most concern. “The thrust of this bill is to make sure the institutions that they attend are achieving the highest levels of excellence. and within the definition of excellence is the ability to attend and achieve regardless of your financial background.”
That bill would do several things, most notably:
– Re-establish the Bright Futures Academic Scholars Awards to a level that would pay 100 percent of tuition and certain fees;
– Expand eligibility to the Benacquisto Scholarship Program for eligible out-of-state students;
– Double the state match to the First Generation (in college) Matching Grant Program to two dollars for every dollar the student pays;
– Strengthen the program that has two-year state colleges sign automatic matriculation programs with four-year universities; and,
– Modify the state accountability metrics and standards to reward universities for getting more students to graduate in four years.
That latter point was the only one drawing much concern. Galvano’s overall intention was to encourage students to not waste time in graduating, which could run up additional student debts and cost additional money. And no one on the committee seemed to have a problem with that.
But

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Legislative hopefuls file to run in 2018, 2020

Friday, January 13th, 2017

More lawmakers are gearing up for a re-election bid.
State elections records show dozens of members of the state House and Senate have filed to run for re-election in 2018, and several more are looking ahead to 2020.
Sen. Greg Steube is one of those lawmakers who is starting to think about his next race. The Sarasota Republican filed to run for re-election in Senate District 23 on Jan. 10. Steube replaced Sen. Nancy Detert, winning the seat after a hard-fought Republican primary last year.
When it comes to 2018, House members are staking their claim on their seats for another two years.
Rep. Ramon Alexander filed to run for re-election on Jan. 6. The Tallahassee Democrat currently represents House District 8. And Alexander isn’t the only freshman thinking about the future.
Rep. Ralph Massulo filed to run for re-election in House District 34. The Lecanto Republican filed to run for re-election on Jan. 9. Meanwhile, Rep. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican, filed to run for re-election in House District 73 on Jan. 5.
Gruters filing is notable because some Florida campaign watchers have questioned whether he leave office once President-elect Donald Trump takes the oath of office later this month. Gruters was an early supporter of the New York Republican, and there has been some speculation that he will take a job within the Trump administration.
Rep. Ross Spano, a Dover Republican, filed to run for re-election in House District 59 on Jan. 4; while Rep. Bryan Avila, a Hialeah Republican representing House District 111, filed to run again on Jan. 11.
It’s not just incumbents getting an early start on 2018. Democrat David Poulin, who challenged Rep. Ben Albritton in 2016, filed to run in House District 56. Albritton can’t run again in 2018 because of term limits. Andy Warrener, a no party affiliation candidate, filed

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Hillsborough County PTC may be on way out after local delegation approves bill to kill it

Friday, December 16th, 2016

The troubled Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission was given a terminal diagnoses on Friday, after the members of the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation voted unanimously to support a local bill proposed by Tampa Republican House member Jamie Grant that would kill the agency on December 31, 2017, with the County Commission picking up its regulatory duties after that.
“The public has lost complete faith in the ability of this agency to regulate credibly, equitably and efficiently,” Grant said before the entire delegation vote in support of his bill.
The proposal was similar to a previous bill that Grant brought to the local delegation in 2013 that would put also put stake through the heart of the agency, but with an important difference. The local bill approved on Friday gives the county and the PTC a full year to contend with the transition. “It’s not about moving fast. We want to make sure we avoid any unintended consequences,” Grant said. That was in notable contrast to the 2013 version, which would have killed the agency immediately, making it a bridge too far for other legislators to support, even noted PTC critics like Dana Young. 
“I think the plan is to subcontract the regulation out to Uber, isn’t it?” asked Brandon Senator Tom Lee, eliciting the largest round of laughter of the morning.
Although meant for humorous affect, there’s no question that the addition of Uber and Lyft into the county ultimately was the beginning of the end for the PTC, which was already burdened with a toxic reputation well prior to the emergence of ridesharing in Hillsborough County.
Among the previous lowlights that have saddled the PTC came in 2010, when Cesar Padilla, then the executive director of the agency, resigned after it was reported that he had been moonlighting as a security guard.
There was also the case of formerCounty Commissioner Kevin White, was busted in 2008 for taking bribes for helping tow company operators get permits in his

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Hillsborough County PTC may be on way out after local delegation approves bill to kill it

Friday, December 16th, 2016

The troubled Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission was given a terminal diagnoses on Friday, after the members of the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation voted unanimously to support a local bill proposed by Tampa Republican House member Jamie Grant that would kill the agency on December 31, 2017, with the County Commission picking up its regulatory duties after that.
“The public has lost complete faith in the ability of this agency to regulate credibly, equitably and efficiently,” Grant said before the entire delegation vote in support of his bill.
The proposal was similar to a previous bill that Grant brought to the local delegation in 2013 that would put also put stake through the heart of the agency, but with an important difference. The local bill approved on Friday gives the county and the PTC a full year to contend with the transition. “It’s not about moving fast. We want to make sure we avoid any unintended consequences,” Grant said. That was in notable contrast to the 2013 version, which would have killed the agency immediately, making it a bridge too far for other legislators to support, even noted PTC critics like Dana Young. 
“I think the plan is to subcontract the regulation out to Uber, isn’t it?” asked Brandon Senator Tom Lee, eliciting the largest round of laughter of the morning.
Although meant for humorous affect, there’s no question that the addition of Uber and Lyft into the county ultimately was the beginning of the end for the PTC, which was already burdened with a toxic reputation well prior to the emergence of ridesharing in Hillsborough County.
Among the previous lowlights that have saddled the PTC came in 2010, when Cesar Padilla, then the executive director of the agency, resigned after it was reported that he had been moonlighting as a security guard.
There was also the case of formerCounty Commissioner Kevin White, was busted in 2008 for taking bribes for helping tow company operators get permits in his

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Hillsborough County PTC may be on way out after local delegation approves bill to kill it

Friday, December 16th, 2016

The troubled Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission was given a terminal diagnoses on Friday, after the members of the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation voted unanimously to support a local bill proposed by Tampa Republican House member Jamie Grant that would kill the agency on December 31, 2017, with the County Commission picking up its regulatory duties after that.
“The public has lost complete faith in the ability of this agency to regulate credibly, equitably and efficiently,” Grant said before the entire delegation vote in support of his bill.
The proposal was similar to a previous bill that Grant brought to the local delegation in 2013 that would put also put stake through the heart of the agency, but with an important difference. The local bill approved on Friday gives the county and the PTC a full year to contend with the transition. “It’s not about moving fast. We want to make sure we avoid any unintended consequences,” Grant said. That was in notable contrast to the 2013 version, which would have killed the agency immediately, making it a bridge too far for other legislators to support, even noted PTC critics like Dana Young. 
“I think the plan is to subcontract the regulation out to Uber, isn’t it?” asked Brandon Senator Tom Lee, eliciting the largest round of laughter of the morning.
Although meant for humorous affect, there’s no question that the addition of Uber and Lyft into the county ultimately was the beginning of the end for the PTC, which was already burdened with a toxic reputation well prior to the emergence of ridesharing in Hillsborough County.
Among the previous lowlights that have saddled the PTC came in 2010, when Cesar Padilla, then the executive director of the agency, resigned after it was reported that he had been moonlighting as a security guard.
There was also the case of formerCounty Commissioner Kevin White, was busted in 2008 for taking bribes for helping tow company operators get permits in his

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Hillsborough legislative delegation to meet December 16

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

With Tallahassee a four-hour drive away, the annual meeting of the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation to be held in two weeks in Tampa could very possibly be the only time local residents can address their state representative(s).

That meeting will take place on Friday, December 16 at the Tampa Bay History Center, 801 Old Water Street, from 9 a.m. to 3.p.m.
The Delegation consists of 13 members of the Florida Senate and Florida House of Representatives that represent all or parts of Hillsborough County. Senators Dana Young, Bill Galvano, Darryl Rouson will join Brandon area state Senator Tom Lee , who serves this year as the current Chair of the Delegation.
House members include Jake Raburn, Dan Raulerson, Sean Shaw, Ross Spano, Jackie Toledo, Janet Cruz, Jamie Grant and Wengay Newton.
The annual meeting is an opportunity for the general public to interact with and voice any concerns or opinions to their elected officials prior to the start of the 2017 Legislative Session. It’s also when lawmakers will propose so-called “local bills”
Public testimony will be limited to three minutes per speaker. The deadline to submit a request to speak is 5 p.m. on Friday, December 9, which you can access from this page. Additional speaker request forms will be available at the meeting.

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Dana Young named to chair Health Care policy committee in Florida Senate

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

Dana Young has been named as chair of Health Care policy in the Florida state Senate. The South Tampa Republican, who was elected to the Legislature’s upper chamber earlier this month in SD 18, will also serve as Vice Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education
Senate President Joe Negron handed out such assignments to his charges in the Senate on Tuesday for the 2017 and 2018 sessions.
Other Hillsborough County area senators who learned that they would chair committees include Bill Galvano, who will chair the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education
Senator Galvano previously served as Majority Leader to the Florida Senate during the 2014-2016 legislative term, and has also served as the Chair of Education Appropriations in the past. He represents District 21, which encompasses all of Manatee County, as well as a portion of Hillsborough County.
“I appreciate the confidence President Negron has placed in me by appointing me Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education,” said Galvano.  “I look forward to delivering a higher education budget that truly meets the needs of the people of Florida; a budget that will elevate our university system to the highest level of excellence.”
Darryl Rouson, who narrowly defeated fellow Democrat Ed Narain in the Tampa/St. Pete District SD 19 race, will serve as Vice Chair of the Transportation Committee.
And Brandon’s Tom Lee heads Community Affairs.
The post Dana Young named to chair Health Care policy committee in Florida Senate appeared first on Florida Politics.

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Dana Young named to chair Health Care policy committee in Florida Senate

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

Dana Young has been named as chair of Health Care policy in the Florida state Senate. The South Tampa Republican, who was elected to the Legislature’s upper chamber earlier this month in SD 18, will also serve as Vice Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education
Senate President Joe Negron handed out such assignments to his charges in the Senate on Tuesday for the 2017 and 2018 sessions.
Other Hillsborough County area senators who learned that they would chair committees include Bill Galvano, who will chair the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education
Senator Galvano previously served as Majority Leader to the Florida Senate during the 2014-2016 legislative term, and has also served as the Chair of Education Appropriations in the past. He represents District 21, which encompasses all of Manatee County, as well as a portion of Hillsborough County.
“I appreciate the confidence President Negron has placed in me by appointing me Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education,” said Galvano.  “I look forward to delivering a higher education budget that truly meets the needs of the people of Florida; a budget that will elevate our university system to the highest level of excellence.”
Darryl Rouson, who narrowly defeated fellow Democrat Ed Narain in the Tampa/St. Pete District SD 19 race, will serve as Vice Chair of the Transportation Committee.
And Brandon’s Tom Lee heads Community Affairs.
The post Dana Young named to chair Health Care policy committee in Florida Senate appeared first on Florida Politics.

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Tom Lee files constitutional amendment on property taxes

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

State Sen. Tom Lee has filed a proposed constitutional amendment to keep “dramatic increases in annual property tax assessments” in check on vacation homes and other properties.
Lee, a Brandon Republican, filed SJR 76 on Monday.
“Failure to pass this joint resolution will result in one of the largest tax increases in the history of our state,” Lee said in a statement. “Florida voters will have the ultimate say on the 2018 ballot, but it is the legislature’s responsibility to act in a timely manner so these important provisions don’t expire.”
The amendment, which would apply to Section 27 of Article XII of the State Constitution, would protect limits now in place on annual tax hikes.
Florida voters amended the constitution in 2008 to give property owners some protection, according to a statement from Lee’s office.
“The amendment, set to expire in 2019, currently prohibits the assessment of certain non-homestead property, including second homes, rental properties, vacation homes, vacant land or commercial property, from increasing by more than 10 percent per year,” it said.
“Sen. Lee’s resolution would extend this provision indefinitely.” Property owners affected by this provision in 2016 will save a total of $776 million, he said.
“This amendment has done its job in keeping annual tax increases modest for Floridians, and anything less than that is unacceptable,” Lee added.
The post Tom Lee files constitutional amendment on property taxes appeared first on Florida Politics.

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Final round-up of the money chase in Tampa Bay’s legislative races

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

On Friday, candidates released their final campaign finance reports before Election Day, and reports out of Senate District 18 show Tampa Republican Rep. Dana Young pressing her fundraising advantage in the race with $1.2 million in spending.
Young spent more than $500,000 of campaign’s war chest in between Oct. 22 and Nov. 3, most of it heading to a media buy with Mentzer Media Services.
The exiting House Majority Leader also raised $67,000 for her SD 18 campaign, leaving her with about $113,000 on hand in her campaign account heading into the final few days of the election cycle.
Her political committee, “Friends of Dana Young,” spent even more money, with $700,000 heading to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee chaired by incoming Senate President Joe Negron. Young’s PAC had about $200,000 on hand Nov. 3.
Young is running against Democratic attorney Bob Buesing and a pair of NPA candidates for the Tampa-based seat, but none of her opponents have come close to competing in the money race.
Despite raising another $76,000 in contributions and putting another $35,000 of his own money into the race during the two-week reporting period, Buesing’s total fundraising is less than a quarter of what Young has been able to pull in through her campaign and committee accounts.
Buesing’s $111,000 performance was coupled with $119,000 in spending, mainly on media buys through Chicago-based AL Media. His campaign had about $53,000 in the bank heading into the final five days.
Joe Redner, the better funded of SD 18’s two NPA candidates, didn’t post any contributions during the period, though he did spend $35,000 on media. Fellow NPA candidate Sheldon Upthegrove also laid an egg in his report and showed a $100 account balance Nov. 3.
The other five Senate seats covering Hillsborough or Pinellas counties are pretty much decided, with Sens. Tom Lee, Bill

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Lawmakers get grim budget news for next year

Monday, September 12th, 2016

Florida is likely to basically break even next year in terms of its state budget, lawmakers heard Monday.
The Joint Legislative Budget Commission met in the Capitol to hear the latest financial outlook for 2017-18: Present income and outgo estimates leave Florida with a relatively scanty $7.5 million left over out of about $32.2 billion in available revenue.
The current year’s budget is roughly $82 billion, for example, after Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a total of $256 million in spending. Roughly two-thirds of the yearly budget goes toward health care and education.
After the meeting, Republican lawmakers stressed that the state didn’t have a revenue shortage, it had a spending problem, painting a picture of government profligacy.
But, since the GOP has controlled the Legislature for nearly two decades, it’s a picture they’re prominently featured in.
House Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran said education and health care spending isn’t to immune to cuts next year.
“If you’re asking me, do I think we are misspending or wasting money, or not getting an efficient return from money that spend on 70 percent of our budget, the answer is yes,” he said. “Every single government person comes up here and spends money like a teenager in the mall for the first time with a credit card. We’ve got to start cutting up the credit card.”
But first on the chopping block, Corcoran suggested, was Enterprise Florida (EFI), the state’s public-private economic development organization. It got $23.5 million for operations, marketing and other initiatives in the 2016-17 state budget.
“Spending money on economic development is a bad idea,” the Land O’ Lakes Republican said. Lawmakers this year did reject Scott’s request for a $250 million incentives fund to be administered by Enterprise Florida.
When asked whether the organization needed to be dissolved, he said: “I think that’s definitely a discussion that’s going to take place this coming session.
“But you have to understand, over the

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Bob Sparks: Despite court requirements, new congressional maps will put few incumbents at risk

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

The dartboard known as the draft Florida congressional district maps is receiving the kind of comments and attacks one might expect. Some are happy, but others fall into the range of sad and outraged. In the end, few new faces are likely to join the Congressional Club in 2017.
U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, for one, is content. The proposed map reflects no changes to his Western Panhandle district.
Miller’s Republican colleague, U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, sees the writing on the wall in what he describes as an “uncompetitive” district for a Republican.
“This new plan not only disfavors an incumbent, but it appears to be an attempt to eliminate an incumbent,” Webster said.
That is a pretty strong indictment against the map drawers from within his own party. Webster certainly has reason to at least scratch his head.
The hoopla surrounding the Florida Supreme Court’s July 9 decision focused a great deal on its reversal of Judge Terry Lewis, who approved the redrawn District 2, held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown. Unlike Brown’s district, Webster’s revised District 10 actually met constitutional muster as interpreted by the Supreme Court.
You can’t blame Webster for feeling a bit disrespected. Where’s the love from Republicans for the guy in a Supreme Court-approved district who also did Central Florida a favor by ousting U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson in 2010?
Falling into the category of “outraged” is Brown. The court wants her current “serpentine” district originating in Jacksonville and running north to south replaced by a district running from Jacksonville to the west that includes Gadsden County.
Brown is fighting the state’s highest court in the only way possible. On Wednesday, she filed suit in federal court alleging legislators will violate federal voting laws if they comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling. To avoid this suit, the Legislature merely needs to ignore

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