Tallahassee

Florida utilities think voters are suckers

GETTING FIRED
By Brian E. Crowley

A dear friend called recently to go over her sample ballot. She wanted me to explain some of the candidates and issues with which she is least familiar. As we worked her way down the ballot she said she was going to vote for Amendment One. 

I asked her what she thought it was all about. She said it appeared to be a pro-solar amendment that would help the environment. I gently explained to her that Amendment One is actually backed by Florida utilities with FPL being one of the biggest backers. There was a pause. 

Really?

Yup, really.

Her initial reaction to Amendment One is a common. The utilities were brilliant in their soulless effort to deceive voters. The deceit starts with the name of the group pushing passage of Amendment One - Consumers for Smart Solar. 

Well I suppose in one very broad sense FPL and the other big utilities are "consumers" and the very fact that they were able to get this amendment on the ballot suggests they are smart - but this amendment has little to do with protecting citizen rights to solar energy and everything to do with protecting utility monopolies.

There is no question that there are some complicated issues involved with broadening the availability of solar energy for homeowners and businesses. But those issues do not require a constitutional amendment. It is, as former Florida Governor Bob Graham noted today, the job of the Legislature and regulators to, well, regulate the industry.

Even if one agreed with the position being taken by the utilities - Amendment One must fail because the industry deliberately deceived voters.

Last month, the Miami Herald's formidable Mary Ellen Klas obtained an interesting audio tape:

The policy director of a think tank supported by Florida’s largest electric utilities admitted at a conference this month what opponents have claimed for months: The industry attempted to deceive voters into supporting restrictions on the expansion of solar by shrouding Amendment 1 as a pro-solar amendment.

Sal Nuzzo, a vice president at the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee, detailed the strategy used by the state’s largest utilities to create and finance Amendment 1 at the State Energy/Environment Leadership Summit in Nashville on Oct. 2.

Nuzzo called the amendment, which has received more than $21 million in utility industry financing, “an incredibly savvy maneuver” that “would completely negate anything they (pro-solar interests) would try to do either legislatively or constitutionally down the road,” according to an audio recording of the event supplied to the Herald/Times.

You can read the Herald story and hear the audio here. You will also find disclaimers from supporters of Amendment One.

Spending at least $25 million, with much of the money coming from FPL, Consumers for Smart Solar are running television ads that make it appear that these folks are just trying to Make Florida Great Again.

They are not. Instead, they clearly think Florida voters are suckers who are easily misled.

For that reason alone, Amendment One should fail.

My friend is now voting no.


Florida Democrats eat their young

Fallingcocofinc

 

Jeff Clemens, a candidate for the Florida senate, Patrick Murphy, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, and Gwen Graham, a likely future candidate for governor, represent the future to many Florida Democrats, a party that desperately needs a future.

But as often happens among Democrats, little is done to groom the new kids. Instead, Florida Democrats would rather squabble among themselves as sometimes aging politicians decide elected office is better than golf.

A little history.

Florida’s Democratic Party died in 1998. It remained on life support for a few years but voters in subsequent elections pulled the plug. Today, the party is a mess of parochial interests with much chatter about returning to its old glory but little idea how to get there.

During the 20th Century, Floridians elected just three Republicans to be governor – Claude Kirk (1967-71), Bob Martinez (1987-1991) and Jeb Bush who would end the 20th Century taking the keys to the mansion in January 1999.

The only other interruption to Democratic reign was Prohibition Party governor Sidney Catts who ran a hateful anti-Catholic campaign and described African-Americans as being part of an “inferior race.” He was governor from 1917 to 1921.

Democrats, who also ruled most of 19th Century Florida politics, controlled Tallahassee during the period of 1900 to 1999 for 87 years. Today, Florida Democrats are largely irrelevant. They have little influence in Tallahassee and even less in Washington.

During its 20th Century reign, the Florida Democratic Party fought it out in the primaries and took a nap during the general election when often hapless Republicans were slaughtered. Conservatives, liberals, moderates all found a fraction of the party they could call their own. It was a party where North Florida Democrats looked with great suspicion on South Florida Democrats – and it was equally true in the reverse.

It was a party of personality – Napoleon Broward, Doyle Carlton, Spessard Holland, Claude Pepper, Bill Gunter, LeRoy Collins, Reubin Askew, Bob Graham, Lawton Chiles, and others.

DonkrToday, the party is one of petty fiefdoms, petty rivalries, and petty politics. It is often hapless in its attempts to confront Republicans who brush them aside like pesky gnats. So desperate for political success, the party rented it soul to Charlie Crist when the former Republican governor got kicked out his party and decided to run for governor as a Democrat. Now, he is running for Congress in Democratically favored St. Petersburg district.

Florida Democrats, rightly so, get love and attention during presidential election years when the state’s otherwise red glow begins to get a purple hue.

What they don’t notice is that national Democrats are lavishing even more love on independents who really decide where Florida’s 29 electoral votes will go.

So while Democratic activists can get all giddy about Hillary Clinton, they may want to save some energy for what really matters to the future of the party – the down ballot races. Here, Democrats have some interesting choices to make on August 30.

Continue reading "Florida Democrats eat their young" »


Are Florida Republicans leaderless?

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Are Florida Republicans a leaderless party?

Who is the leader of the Florida Republican Party?

Governor Rick Scott? Marco Rubio? Adam Putnam? Pam Bondi? Jeff Atwater?

Or perhaps Jeb Bush?

Or – are Florida Republicans so fractured that there is no single leader of the party?

Today’s Florida Republican Party is very different than the one Bush took over when he staged a coup in 1994. He showed up in that year’s governor’s race as candidate who had never run for office, had limited campaign experience and a business background marked by notable failures. Like Donald Trump, what he did have was a name everyone knew – Bush.

With the help of his family name, Bush easily pushed aside more established GOP candidates to become the party’s nominee for governor. Bush would narrowly lose that election to incumbent Democrat Lawton Chiles, but the GOP would take over the Senate and the Florida Cabinet. And Bush began his reign has the undisputed leader of the Florida Republican Party.

Today, Florida Republicans are rudderless. The party that Bush ruled with a firm hand for more than a decade, is fractured. The slide began with the election of Charlie Crist as governor in 2006. It’s hard to believe now that at one point Crist was among those being considered to be John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential campaign.

Crist, much like his arch-enemy Marco Rubio, was always a malleable Republican shifting direction as fit his political ambitions. Florida Republicans tolerated Crist because, well, he was governor. And by golly, if a Floridian became vice president that would be swell too.

Bush deeply cared about the machinery of politics. He put his best people in the right places. Crist could care less. He turned the party machine over to the now notorious Jim Greer who plundered the party coffers and ended up in prison.

Crist’s hold on the party was so tenuous that a faux hug from President Obama led to screams from Eler
the hard right and opportunity for Rubio. The once moderate Rubio found maneuvering room by suddenly becoming an ardent follower of the emerging Tea Party movement. Many establishment Republicans laughed at the notion that Rubio could successfully challenge Crist who decided he would rather be a U.S. Senator than run for a second term as governor.

It was a calamitous moment for the Florida GOP and it began the cracking of party unity.

Rubio became a hero of the Tea Party and as the 2010 primary approached, his ardent followers were overwhelming the GOP establishment. And Republicans who had been lukewarm about Crist suddenly had an opportunity to abandon him

Crist leaves the GOP to run as independent. Rubio captures the party nomination and goes on to win a three way race defeating Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meek.

At the same time, a stranger arrived in town – Rick Scott.

Continue reading "Are Florida Republicans leaderless?" »


Joe Negron offers $2.4 billion plan to store water south of Lake Okeechobee

Soon-to-be state Senate President Joe Negron just announced a plan to help reduce discharges of Lake Okeechobee water into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers. One thing can be certain - the plan will be controversial.

Here's the news release:

President-Designate Negron Announces Plans for Major Water Storage Expansion

60,000 acres of land to provide 120 billion gallons of new water storage south of Lake Okeechobee

Stuart–Florida Senate President-Designate Joe Negron (R-Stuart) today announced plans to pursue funding to add ‎120 billion gallons of new water storage south of Lake Okeechobee.

“For too long, our community has been plagued by tremendous environmental and economic impacts as hundreds of millions of gallons of water are released from Lake Okeechobee each year,” said President-Designate Negron. “Permanent storage South of Lake Okeechobee is unquestionably needed as part of the overall plan to solve this catastrophic problem, particularly given the very devastating effects the current toxic algal blooms are causing in both our estuaries and the Everglades.” 

Over the last several months, President-Designate Negron has been meeting with the agricultural community, Florida’s best scientists, community advocates, and others with relevant backgrounds and knowledge, regarding strategies to reduce and eventually eliminate harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

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It is time to stop blaming Big Sugar

 

By Brian E. Crowley

SHAKING MONEY TREEIt is time to stop blaming Big Sugar.

Yes, Big Sugar is winning. It owns the governor’s office, the cabinet, and the Florida Legislature. It has power over much of Florida’s congressional delegation.

Formidable Tallahassee reporter Mary Ellen Klas did a masterful job this week with an in-depth story in the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times about the power of Big Sugar.

Between 1994 and 2016, a review of state Division of Elections records by The Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee bureau shows, the sugar industry — led by United States Sugar and Florida Crystals — has steered a whopping $57.8 million in direct and in-kind contributions to state and local political campaigns.

Indeed.

The Sugar industry has been masterful. No matter what successes the environmental community has had – passage of the 1994 Everglades Forever Act, the 1996 Polluter Pays Amendment to the Florida Constitution, the 2000 Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (sign by President Bill Clinton with then Gov. Jeb Bush by his side), or the 2014 Water and Land Conservation Act – the Sugar industry has been able to either slow down implementation or thwart the intent.

How?

By owning a stable of elected officials. By hiring top teams of lobbyists. By having connections in critical government agencies.

And, nothing they do is illegal. Sugar simply plays the game of politics better than their opponents.

As Klas reported:

“I can tell you, first hand, that the industry is directly involved with every decision this Legislature makes,” said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation which for decades has fought the sugar industry over the causes and solutions of the Everglades and was a chief of staff to former Gov. Charlie Crist. (Note: I previously was a media consultant for the Foundation.)

Eikenberg works hard to make sure the Foundation’s voice is heard in Tallahassee but it is an often frustrating experience.

Eikenberg was part of the Crist team that put together the deal to buy U.S. Sugar land. At the time, the company applauded the deal and was eager to get out of the sugar business. But when U.S. Sugar wanted out of the contract it fought hard. And they found a willing ally in the newly elected governor, Rick Scott (to whom they contributed handsomely) who said hell no about buying the land.

No matter the setback, the sugar industry always comes out ahead.

But it is time to stop blaming them. Perhaps it is time to blame the environmentalists.

Continue reading "It is time to stop blaming Big Sugar" »


First Amendment Foundation and Poynter Institute form partnership

A time when access to public meetings and records is becoming more challenging, the First Amendment Foundation and the Poynter Institute are announcing a new partnership that will strengthen the effort of protecting a citizen's right to public meeting and access.

The announcement is below. (Disclosure: Crowley Political Report is a board member of the First Amendment Foundation.

 

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Dec. 18, 2015) – The First Amendment Foundation, a 31-year-old nonprofit organization dedicated to open government in Florida, announced today that it will add offices and move its administrative management from Tallahassee to The Poynter Institute here. In addition, the two organizations will partner on training and events, including the creation of a new online “Sunshine Certificate” to help educate elected officials on open government laws.

The Foundation will rent space for a staff member at the Poynter campus in St. Petersburg while continuing to maintain an office in Tallahassee. Poynter will provide management services to support the Foundation’s membership, website and financial accounting. The Foundation is the third organization in 2015 to turn to Poynter for management services, following the move to Poynter by the Association of Opinion Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors.

Key training components include: an innovative online “Sunshine” certificate; an annual symposium; regional seminars; and development of a digital version of the 2016 Government-in-the-Sunshine manual.

“I’m thrilled to be working closely with the First Amendment Foundation, which for more than three decades has been a champion for government in the sunshine in the Sunshine State,” said Poynter President Tim Franklin. “In the end, Poynter and the First Amendment Foundation have the same mission, and that’s to improve democracy through public engagement. This is a partnership that will ultimately strengthen both organizations, and make our important work for journalists and citizens even better.”

Dave Wilson, chairman of the Foundation’s board of trustees, said, “The First Amendment Foundation is delighted to have found a strong partner in the Poynter Institute to help further our core mission of preserving open government in Florida through information and education. Keeping our government in the sunshine is important to all Floridians, and this new relationship will leverage the expertise of both organizations so we can spread that message for years to come.”

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Florida Senate goes Back to the Future

In Tallahassee, some things never change. The current struggle for power in the Florida Senate, the driving undercurrent of redistricting, is all too familiar.

Consider this Associated Press report: The squabbling Florida Senate is finally getting down to the serious business of reapportionment with the disquieting realization this normally bloody process will be immeasureably complicated by the Senate’s internal power struggle.

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That was 1982.

Much of what was happening then, is happening now. A battle over the Senate presidency.  A possible coalition of Democrats and Republicans. A fight over Senate terms.  Much of the work done in secret. Egos replacing public policy.

In 1982, the Senate President, Pensacola’s W.D. Childers was under siege. His former roommate, Panama City’s Dempsey Barron was at war with him. Their battle between the two Democrats was so ugly, two nearly came to blows on the Senate floor. The physically imposing Edgar Dunn got between them.

Barron had effectively taken control of the Senate away from Childers. There were 27 Democrats and 13 Republicans. Barron formed a coalition with the 13 Republicans and 9 Democrats – they became known as the Dempseycrats.

They could not take the presidency away from Childers but the Dempseycrats were determined to control redistricting and ensure that Childers could not be elected for an unprecedented second term – something Childers dearly wanted.

Childers, joined by House leaders, pushed for all Senators to face election after redistricting. He was convinced Barron would lose key members of his coalition. Barron insisted that senators already having two more years in their terms did not have to face reelection.

The case went before the Florida Supreme Court in April 1982. Attorney General Jim Smith, then a Democrat, argued in a 50-page brief, “it seems clear that (the state Constitution) requires four year terms for senators unless it is necessary to truncate a term in order to maintain staggered terms. That is not the case in 1982.  Generally neither the equal protection clause nor the right to vote are violated by incumbent senators being permitted (to complete their terms).”

Continue reading "Florida Senate goes Back to the Future" »


Richard Corcoran gets a beating on Fox News

Ouch! Good golly, Florida House Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran got a whoopin' on Fox News as a panel of conservative commentators ridiculed Corcoran for his spending of $238,000 on "expensive dinners, cigars, wine, fancy hotels, cufflinks for $1,000....this is crazy stuff."

At one point, Florida Republicans are urged not to let Corcoran, who has vowed to rein in special interests, become Speaker.

Hat tip to Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times for spotting the video below.

 


Florida Senate should dump Latvala and Negron

GETTING FIREDFlorida's legislature often embarrasses itself. Petty fights. Petty egos. Petty thoughts. It has been going on for decades.

Part of the problem is that the state Capitol is in Tallahassee. It is so isolated from the rest of the state that when lawmakers arrive it is their parties sent them away to an overindulgent summer camp. These kids are never under control - except by lobbyists.

Now, we have the continuing saga of two grown men battling unmercifully over who gets to be the next Senate president. Republican Joe Negron claim he has the vote and therefore he has won. As reported by Politico's Marc Caputo - Jack Latvala says Negron is full of it.

Let's put this gently - the Senate is full of it.

Negron biggest defender is former Senate President Don Gaetz. 

Don Gaetz?

Really?

You mean the guy who lied to the public when he said redistricting would be "the most transparent" in Florida history?

Continue reading "Florida Senate should dump Latvala and Negron" »


Don Gaetz should apologize and resign from Florida Senate

Don Gaetz has been exposed. The former Senate President promised Floridians that during his tenure, legislative and congressional redistricting would be "the most transparent" in Florida history.

Gaetz lied.

Court documents obtained by the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times show that Gaetz was part of a conspiracy to deceive the public. A lower court and the Florida Supreme Court tossed out the congressional map calling it unconstitutional. The Senate has already admitted it got caught and will redo the senate map.

Gaetz, who smugly sat on witness stand during the circuit court hearing, secretly worked with political operatives, Senate staff and others to create an illegal Senate map that would favor Republicans.

According to the Herald/Times, court documents show that "before the public release of that map, Gaetz was privately conducting secret briefings with individual senators, via video conference, in which they would discuss possible alterations to the proposed Senate map."

In a deposition, John Guthrie, the former staff director of the Senate Reapportionment Committee who retired in June, said that Gaetz intentionally conducted individual meetings with senators so they could “share their reactions” and avoid the public meeting requirements of the Senate rules.

This is a must read story
 
In one sense, none of it is new. The depositions are a confirmation of the deliberately secret acts orchestrated and allowed to take place by Gaetz.
 
Gaetz only got caught because he wound up in court. He has cost the taxpayers a great deal of money in special sessions and needless court fights.
 
Many in Tallahassee like to preach about accountability. 
 
Gaetz is accountable. Now what is he going to do about it?
 
 

Jeb Bush says he will turn Washington political culture upside down

Jeb artJeb Bush returned to Tallahassee today to use the town where he spent eight years as governor as a backdrop for his 2016 presidential campaign. The Republican candidate suggested that Washington is place that badly needs his Sunshine State solutions.

It is a speech that is odd in the way it condemns Washington culture - one that has had a Bush in the White House as either Veep or President for 20 of the last years. 

Here are his prepared remarks:

“Thank you very much. It’s good to be back in Tallahassee, and great to be back with so many old friends.  

"We’re in the early days of a long campaign.  I’m making my case to voters all across the country, and I’m happy to tell you the signs are good. 

"People are ready to choose a new president.  Among Republicans, they’ve got plenty of choices.  They want to know, not just what we believe, but what we have accomplished – and for me that story begins right here in Tallahassee.

 "In my eight years in office we didn’t just mark time, we filled those years with hard work and real reform. 

 "It wasn’t always a smooth path.  In fact, we used to call this city ‘Mount Tallahassee’ because it was so remote from the people, so caught up in the settled ways of a comfortable establishment.  I was a governor who refused to go along with that establishment.  I wasn’t a member of the club, and that made all the difference. 

 "Should I win this election, you will not find me deferring to the settled ways of ‘Mount Washington,’ either.  The overspending, the overreaching, the arrogance, and the sheer incompetence in that city – these problems have been with us so long that they are sometimes accepted as facts of life.  But a president should never accept them, and I will not.  We need a president willing to challenge the whole culture in our nation’s capital – and I mean to do it.

Continue reading "Jeb Bush says he will turn Washington political culture upside down" »


Jeb Bush talks about Terri Schiavo, abortion at Faith and Freedom Coalition meeting

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush told a folks gathered at the Faith and Freedom Coalition in Washington D. C. this morning that he opposes the notion that when there is a conflict of ideas that "people of faith must yield."

"We can create a government that is the servant not the master of our destiny," said Bush.

On Monday, Bush formally entered the 2016 presidential campaign. Many evangelical conservatives in the GOP believe that Bush is too moderate to be the party's standard bearer. Bush appeared to be once again trying to assure these voters that he will fight for their interests.

"Faith is really the moral foundation of our country," Bush told the gathering. He then went on to talk about Terri Schiavo, traditional marriage, abortion, and his conversion to Catholicism.

"I stood on the side of Terri Schiavo and her parents," said Bush, who used extraordinary although ultimately unsuccessful measures to prevent her husband from allowing her feeding tube to be removed. Doctors said she was in a permanent vegetative state. 

On same sex marriage, an issue now before the U.S. Supreme Court, Bush  said , "We should not put aside those who believe in traditional marriage."

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Senate Democrats go tp Florida Supreme Court to force House back in session

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Florida Democratic Senators are asking the Florida Supreme Court to force House Speaker Steve Crisafulli to finish the 60-day legislative session.  Here is what was filed with the court

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF FLORIDA

 

 Case No. SC 15- _________

 

ARTHENIA JOYNER, OSCAR BRAYNON, JOSEPH ABRUZZO, MARIA SACHS, DARREN SOTO, CHRISTOPHER SMITH, GERALDINE THOMPSON, JEFF CLEMENS, DWIGHT BULLARD, ELEANOR SOBEL, BILL MONTFORD, AUDREY GIBSON, and JEREMY RING in their capacity as a members of the Florida Senate,

 

Petitioners,

 

vs.

THE FLORIDA HOUSE OF REPRESTATIVES and STEVE CRISAFULLI, in his capacity as the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives,

 

 Respondents.

 

EMERGENCY PETITION INVOKING JURISDICTION OF THE SUPREME COURT FOR A WRIT OF MANDAMUS TO REQUIRE COMPLIANCE WITH THE REQUIREMENTS OF ARTICLE III, SECTION 3(e), FLORIDA CONSTITUTION

 

MESSER CAPARELLO, P.A. MARK HERRON Florida Bar No.: 0199737 ROBERT J. TELFER, III Florida Bar No.: 128694 J. BRENNAN DONNELLY Florida Bar No.: 268895 P.O. Box 15579 Tallahassee, Florida 32317 Telephone: (850) 222-0720 Facsimile: (850) 224-4359 Attorneys for Petitioners

 

Pursuant to Rule 9.100, Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure, Petitioners, Arthenia Joyner, Oscar Braynon, Joseph Abruzzo, Maria Sachs, Darren Soto, Christopher Smith, Geraldine Thompson, Jeff Clemens, Dwight Bullard, Eleanor Sobel, Bill Montford, Audrey Gibson, and Jeremy Ring, respectfully petition this Court for a writ of mandamus compelling the Florida House of Representatives to comply with the requirements of Article III, Section 3(e) of the Florida Constitution, which provides that “[n]either house shall adjourn for more than seventy-two consecutive hours except pursuant to concurrent resolution.”

 

 I. BASIS FOR INVOKING JURISDICTION

 

This Court has jurisdiction to issue a writ of mandamus under Article V, Section 3(b)(8) of the Florida Constitution and Rule 9.030(b)(3) of the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure. Mandamus is the proper legal remedy to compel a state officer or a state agency to perform a legal duty required by the Florida Constitution. Dade County Classroom Teachers Ass’n. V. Legislature, 269 So. 2d 684 (Fla. 1972). The jurisdiction of this Court is invoked on an emergency basis due to the fact that the action of the House of Representatives was taken in the final days of the 2015 legislative session and relief is required prior to the conclusion of the session in order for the Legislature to complete its duties and responsibilities under the Florida Constitution.

 

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Andy Gardiner sends Steve Crisafulli a letter calling for special session in June

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One of the tough things for a House Speaker is holding together 120 members who may have families that thought they were going on vacation in June. Don't pack yet kids.

Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli has declared himself the guardian of all things good and while he gave his members an extended holiday, he now must decide whether to accept Senate President Andy Gardiner's request for a special session to run from June 1, to June 20.

Here's the letter:

The Honorable Steve Crisafulli, Speaker

Florida House of Representatives

420 The Capitol

402 South Monroe Street

Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300

 Mr. Speaker:

Thank you for your prompt response to the Senate’s request that the House of Representatives reconvene to continue the exchange of legislative work product contemplated by our constitution. 

While the Senate maintains its belief that the House’s adjournment sine die clearly violates both the spirit and letter of our constitutional principles, the House has clearly indicated it has no intention of reconvening prior to the scheduled expiration of the 2015 Regular Session at 11:59 p.m. on May 1. For this reason, I have enclosed a draft call for a special session of the Florida Legislature to begin on June 1, 2015, and to conclude on June 20, 2015. 

The Senate hopes to complete our budget work as soon as possible. Given the stark differences between the House and Senate approaches to health care funding and coverage, we believe clear guidance from the federal government is crucial regarding funding for services to the uninsured which hospitals across our state are legally required to provide regardless of compensation. Beginning our special session on June 1 will provide additional time to receive a response from the federal government and we can conclude with ample time for Governor Scott to review the budget prior to June 30. 

While a federal response would clearly be most beneficial to the furtherance of negotiations, I believe it is prudent to continue to account for the potential of a complete elimination of Low Income Pool funding. In fact, the Senate Budget, unanimously passed nearly a month ago, left unallocated sufficient recurring general revenue dedicated to health care contingencies.

For the last three years our chambers have had, and continue to maintain, significant policy differences relating to health care coverage for uninsured Floridians. Last Friday, the House indicated a willingness to move from your initial offer of $200 million closer to the Senate position. As indicated in our response to House Offer #2 last Friday, the Senate remains open to reviewing a spreadsheet offer that reflects this position at your earliest convenience. 

Again, given the severity of these issues, I believe an agreement to begin a special session on June 1 will provide the Legislature the maximum flexibility to complete our work on the 2015-16 General Appropriations Act in an efficient and transparent manner. With an initial agreement on a call for special session, we can then begin to discuss a specific schedule that would allow us to inform our respective chambers of when their presence in Tallahassee will be required. I look forward to your response to this important and time sensitive matter.

 

Respectfully, 

Andy Gardiner

President  

Cc: The Honorable Rick Scott, Governor

 


Steve Crisafulli responds to Andy Gardiner letter

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House Speaker Steve Crisafulli ignores Senate President Andy Gardiner's suggestion that Crisafulli violated the Florida Constitution by sending the House home three days before the end of the 60-day session. 

Here is his response to Gardiner:

April 29, 2015

Mr. President:

As you are well aware, our Founders created two chambers in the legislative branch to ensure that the people of Florida were protected by checks and balances. No one chamber, even the House, can dictate an outcome to the other. We can have disagreements on policy issues, each year the House and Senate have plenty. At the cnd of the day, if the two sides don't agree, bills die. That is how the process works.

Please understand, I stand ready to begin discussion on allocations as soon as possible. It has been the Florida Senate who has refused to allocate funds to our schools, our environment, and our justice system, based on a view of health care policy that is predicated on borrowing against the future of our children and grandchildren.

I understand that you are angry that the House concluded our business. You know that the things that have been said about our work together are untrue. I know you know that in your heart.

I remain willing to be your partner. I told you that the House could not pass ObamaCare expansion. It's not something that I can force them to pass. Its not about a single member. This is a matter of the House exercising its constitutional duty to represent those who have elected us.

I am sorry that you could not respect that; even Senate President Gaetz understood how hard it is to force one Chamber to take positions that the others cannot.

If you felt so strongly about expansion, why did not ask a House member to file a hill? Why did you not send us your bill so that we had something to consider? Why did you not ask it to be a part of the Joint Work Plan?

We have always said, that LIP is not predicated on Florida passing a Medicaid Expansion bill. Today, CMS has clearcd up that matter and I hope that you will now be in a better position to work together to untie the issues and have separate discussions. 

We stand willing and able to do so in a Special Session.

 

Cordially yours,

 

Steve


Andy Gardiner letter accusing Steve Crisafulli of violating Florida Constitution

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Text of letter from Senate President Andy Gardiner to House Speakers Steve Crisafulli saying Crisafulli violated Florida Constitution by shutting down the House three days before end of session.

Mr. Speaker,

 

On Tuesday, April 28, 2015, you adjourned the Florida House of Representatives in contravention of express provisions of the Florida Constitution.  Accordingly, I respectfully request that you reconvene your chamber to finish the important work of the people of Florida.

 

Article III, section 3 of the Florida Constitution, plainly states: “Neither house shall adjourn for more than seventy-two consecutive hours except pursuant to concurrent resolution.”  Further support for this reading is found in the following subsection of Article III, section 3, granting the Governor the authority to adjourn a session, including the adjournment sine die.  This framework, modeled after the United States Constitution, sets up a constitutional framework encouraging cooperation between our chambers and designating the Governor to resolve disputes when our chambers cannot agree on a time to adjourn.

 

This constitutional parliamentary requirement could not be clearer and trumps our own respective chamber’s parliamentary rules.  The course of action you have taken is not only unconstitutional; it is unprecedented under our present state constitution.  In fact, the last time there was a disagreement between the chambers on when to adjourn, it was resolved by Governor LeRoy Collins in 1956.  

 

While our current parliamentary practices may gloss over this requirement where consent of the other chamber is taken for granted, such consent should never be assumed, particularly where one chamber transmits their bills and abruptly adjourns more than three days early in the 60 day regular session, effectively depriving the other chamber of providing meaningful legislative consent and dialogue. 

 

Your own rules do not support the unilateral actions you have taken.  House Rule 13.1 cites Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure as highly influential in interpreting the House’s rules.  Section 204-3 of Mason’s provides “[n]either the senate nor the house can constitutionally adjourn sine die without the other.”

 

The Senate will remain available to conduct business upon the call of the President until the scheduled expiration of the 2015 Regular Session at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, May 1, 2015.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this critical constitutional issue.

 

Respectfully,

 

Andy Gardiner, President 

 

 


Peter Schorsch is at again with Influence, a first look

Influence cover
Whatever one thinks of Peter Schorsch, and he is indeed a controversial figure, no one can deny that he has been an innovative leader of Florida's New Media. Again and again Schorsch sees an opening and grabs it - profitably.

As Florida newspapers continue layoffs, struggle to grab audience share, and push shrinking newsrooms to do more with less, Schorsch grabs money-making, staff building opportunities that newspaper owners can't seem to fathom.

Schorsch's latest effort is a quarterly magazine called Influence. The first issue appears Monday. Crowley Political Report was given an advance, review copy of the 136 page magazine.

In his introduction to the magazine Schorsch writes:

During the 2012 election cycle, about $404 million was spent by Florida candidates and political committees. Although that figure doesn’t include what Barack Obama and Mitt Romney dished out, it’s still a healthy number. A lot of political consultants built beach houses in Cedar Key and Destin with what they earned that year.

During the same period, more than $425 million was spent by over 2,500 companies, trade associations, local governments, and unions to influence the 160 members of the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott’s administration.

In other words, much more money is spent to influence lawmakers than to elect them.

Schorsch is right but Influence does not appear to be an attempt to report about unscrupulous lobbyists, or shenanigans in the Capitol. Instead, Influence seems to be the GQ of the Tallahassee's increasingly wealthy lobbyists.

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Women over the years on opening day of the Florida Legislature

 As ceremonies begin today for the opening of the 60-day session of the Florida Legislature, with the help of the Florida Memory Project, let's take a look back at what women did on opening day.

Let's slip back to the early 1960s where wives of Florida lawmakers wore hats and white gloves as they sat on metal chairs inside the chamber. On the tote board are  names of lawmakers who would later hold statewide office, become prominent lobbyists, or, as many of them did, fade from public life. This is time when legislators could hold their seats for decades. Women in the House and Senate were scarce.

That was about to change.

 

  Legislative wives 1960s

 

 In 1982, Florida lawmakers were confronted on opening day by a huge crowd of Equal Rights Amendment supporters and opponents. Congress had set a June 30, 1982 deadline for states to ratify the amendment. Thirty-five state had done so. Only three more were needed and there was enormous pressure on Florida to pass the amendment.

Over the years, the Florida House approved the amendment several times. The Senate always balked.

 Florida was considered critical to final ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Once again, the House narrowly approved the amendment 60-58.  Pressure built in the Senate, and members could not walk across the Capitol without being confronted by both sides.

In the end, the Senate once again rejected ratification voting 22-16 against. 

 

1982 opening day

 

Less than 10 years later, the Florida Senate would choose the first woman to become Senate President, Miami Democrat Gwen Margolis. She was president from 1990 to 1992. She would be followed by Orlando Republican Toni Jennings who held the gavel from 1996 to 2000, being the only Senate president to serve two consecutive terms.

Ironically, despite voting  a number of times for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, the Florida House has yet to elect a woman Speaker.

  President_of_the_Florida_Senate_Gwen_Margolis

 

 

And now Opening Day trivia - can you name the gentlemen below?

Speaker and prez

 

 


Jeb Bush says politically it is very dangerous and could end his career

JEB BUSH _
Jeb Bush believed he was starting a revolution.  "This is huger than huge and bigger than big," wrote Bush in a 1 a.m. email to Sally Bradshaw his chief of staff.

Bush also thought it might cost him a second term as Florida governor. 

"If we are unsuccessful . . . I will be Governor for four years whether that is the time I want to serve or not," he wrote to Bradshaw and her husband Paul, a Tallahassee lobbyist.

It was April 27, 1999.  A few hours earlier, Bush had learned that a legislative conference committee had approved his sweeping plan to reform education.

"I really don’t think many people understand the significance of our plan passing. In fact, I am certain that they don’t," wrote Bush.

Bush's A+ Plan  - the father of Common Core - would become law two months later. Bush's sweeping plan would fundamentally change Florida schools, throw open the doors to state-funded charter schools, make student testing a continuing measure of a school's success, and each Florida school would annually be graded from A to F. 

Since the plan's adoption, it has faced withering opposition from teacher unions and school administrators. Parents worry that students are being taught only what they need to know to pass the mandated tests. And as Bush's education philosophy morphed into a national Common Core movement, Republican conservatives would balk fearing a federal takeover of student education.

While Bush could not predict then that he would be a presidential candidate in 2016 forced to defend Common Core and education reform, he did foresee potential political peril.

 "I believe it is huge," wrote Bush. "Politically, it is very dangerous."

"It is more than worth the risk," Bush continued. "I think it will work. It is certainly worth the risk!"

 Bush closes his wee hour email sounding excited, and perhaps a bit overwhelmed by his success.

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First Amendment Foundation calls for special prosecutor

Fallingcocofinc
Florida Governor Rick Scott and the members of state Cabinet - each independently elected - are being urged to have a special prosecutor look at the firing of former FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey.

Scott had ducked, dodged and finally sort of admitted the firing could have been handled better. The Cabinet members are shocked, simply shocked, that they may have been misled.

Bottom line, Scott has a long, proud history of ignoring public records and public meetings requirements and seems more than happy to continue to walk the edges of Florida's Sunshine Law.

The Sunshine Law is not about the media - it's about a Florida's citizen's right to know that our government is doing.

Below is a letter release by the First Amendment Foundation today. (Note: Brian Crowley is a member of the Foundation's board of trustees).

 

 

 

AN OPEN LETTER TO GOVERNOR SCOTT

AND

THE MEMBERS OF FLORIDA'S CABINET

 We are writing today to express our deep concerns about the lack of transparency surrounding the firing of former FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey and the hiring of his replacement, Rick Swearingen.  

There is intense public interest regarding this matter and we think it imperative that an independent investigation be conducted to address the serious constitutional issues related to Mr. Bailey's departure. 

The continuing controversy erodes public trust and confidence in the highest levels of our government.  Additionally, the controversy and ensuing media coverage calls into question Florida's well-deserved reputation as having the most progressive open government laws in the nation. 

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