As the Florida Legislature steams towards a budget deal that increasingly looks like it would gut funding for Visit Florida, Gov. Rick Scott's office put out a letter warning of dire fiscal consequences if lawmakers don't change course.
The Florida House and Senate appeared to be nearing a budget deal that would cut Visit Florida's $76 million budget to just $25 million next year. Scott had called for $100 million for the agency to market the state....
From Patricia Mazzei and Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald:
For eight years, Erik Fresen served in the Florida House of Representatives, leaving office last November due to term limits.
During all eight of those years, Fresen never filed a federal income tax return.
Fresen, a Miami Republican, pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to failing to file a tax return for 2011, a year in which he received $270,136 in income he didn’t report to Uncle Sam....
Florida's Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is still not certain when he will leave his current position and take a post with Florida Atlantic University.
Atwater, a Republican from Palm Beach County, told The Buzz today that he may still be in office when the Cabinet next meets on May 27.
In February, Atwater announced he was taking a position at FAU, but only after the Legislature finishes it's annual session on May 5. There was no specific date he intended to leave. Gov. Rick Scott and the other two members of the Florida Cabinet had treated the last Cabinet meeting on April 11 as Atwater's last meeting. They gave him going away gifts and saluted his tenure in office....
The children killed and tortured at the hands of the state at a reform school in north Florida have a formal apology from both chambers of the Florida Legislature.
The Florida Senate voted this morning on a formal apology to the thousands of men who spent years of their childhood at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. In the bill by Sen. Darryl Rouson, the Senate acknowledged the abuse that for decades had been denied by the state at Dozier and another reform school just north of Lake Okeechobee....
Florida is already one of the hardest states for workers seeking treatment or lost wages when injured on the job.
Now lawmakers are trying again to make it more difficult for employees to sue when they have wrongly been denied workers' compensation. Competing House and Senate bills would impose new caps on workers' attorney fees in such disputes, which critics say will discourage lawyers from taking cases....
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has already made clear he is not running for governor.
But on Tuesday during a brief appearance in Tallahassee, he sounded like he is still struggling with having passed up a chance to run.
“I’m built for a good fight,” Buckhorn said....
Florida Gov. Rick Scott is calling on the Florida Legislature to not just restore all funding for Visit Florida, but also give the embattled agency another $24 million for next year.
"My goal is to spend $100 million to market our state," Scott said with Visit Florida CEO Ken Lawson standing at his side. "When we invest in Visit Florida it helps us grow our economy."
If the state spends that much money, Scott predicted the state would have another record tourism year. Scott's call for more spending comes a day after he called for $200 million for repairs to the dike around Lake Okeechobee. Last week the federal government announced it would send the state $1.5 billion additionally for hospitals to handle low-income care costs. That funding could free up state funding for other priorities like what Scott outlined over the last two days....
The Florida Legislature is supposed to pass a budget and wrap up their annual spring session on May 5.
But given the number of major unresolved issues, many have wondered if the Legislature will have to either extend this year's session or maybe even have to come back for a special session as they had to two years ago to finish the budget.
The Buzz asked Senate President Joe Negron if he has any doubt the Legislature will finish on time....
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry was in Tallahassee today meeting with Gov. Rick Scott, but he made clear that it has nothing to do with the potential of Scott considering him for the soon-to-be vacant chief financial officer position.
“I love being mayor of Jacksonville,” Curry said when we asked him if he is interested in being CFO. “I’m over here today talking to the governor about Jacksonville issues.”...
A conservative political action committee is trying to rally national support around U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in hopes he will run for governor of Florida in 2018.
The Madison Project, which backed DeSantis's brief 2016 U.S. Senate campaign, put out a statement on a popular conservative website telling readers that DeSantis should run.
"He's not just a regional candidate - Ron is a Congressman who has worked hard to represent the entire state of Florida," the statement attributed to Madison Project president Jim Ryun says. "Running for governor is a no brainer for him."...
04/14/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE —Tax cuts are coming. Again.
For the past two decades, the Florida Legislature has slashed taxes almost every year. The pricey ritual is justified by lawmakers as a way to stimulate the economy.
What remains unclear is how much this year's cuts will cost and who stands to benefit.
"There's a lot of things on the table," said Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, who heads the Senate's tax plan....
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican most expected to run for governor in 2018, is inviting his supporters to a BBQ in his hometown, just five days after the Legislature is expected to wrap up its annual spring session.
"We are having our Florida Grown Hometown BBQ on Wednesday, May 10th, and I wanted to make sure you got an invitation," Putnam said in a email blast sent to supporters....
Major reforms to Florida’s auto insurance industry would likely not produce much savings for drivers under a plan that cleared its first Senate committee on Thursday.
State Sen. Tom Lee, a Hillsborough County Republican, acknowledged his effort isn’t as much about cutting auto insurance rates as it is making sure more people have adequate coverage should they get in an accident....
Americans for Prosperity’s Florida chapter is out with a new video on the web lending support to Republicans in the Florida House who want to end two of Gov. Rick Scott’s most cherished job incentive programs.
In the 1 minute and 4 second video, a narrator slams government incentive programs.
“It’s called corporate welfare and it hasn’t paid out,” the video proclaims....
It was already pretty clear politically that the Florida Legislature wasn't much in the mood to expand Medicaid, especially while national Republicans have been try to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. For two years the Florida Senate has considered the idea, only to see the Florida House block them each year.
But there were Democrats in the Florida Senate on Wednesday giving it one more effort to convince Republicans who control the Legislature to once again pass an expansion of Medicaid to cover 800,000 Floridians that currently don’t have health care coverage. As the Senate began debate on a more than $83 billion budget, Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, from Miami Gardens, took to the floor and offered up an amendment to expand Medicaid....