TALLAHASSEE —With the big ticket items in the state budget resolved or in the hands of the top leaders in the House and Senate, the rest of the Florida Legislature hunkered down into marathon negotiations over the weekend to dole out hundreds of millions of dollars for local projects back home.
While many of the items are tiny in a budget of $83 billion, they are the library projects, museums, park renovations and roadway work legislators crave to bring back home to win praise from voters....
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....
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....
04/03/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — The battle lines over Florida's next state budget are finally clear.
On public schools, universities and health care, the House and Senate have dramatically different views of Florida next year, according to competing draft budget plans unveiled this week.
The Senate wants big increases for schools and universities that the House opposes. The House is determined to give out a larger package of tax cuts, which the Senate doesn't necessarily support....
TALLAHASSEE — Most Florida drivers would see small savings with their auto insurance, but those who carry just the minimum amount of coverage, either by choice or because they can't afford more, would pay much higher rates under two proposals gaining traction in the Legislature.
Under a House plan, the vast majority of drivers who already pay for bodily injury coverage would see their bills drop by an average of $81 a year, or $6.67 a month....
03/23/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — While the prospect of another round of military base closures is getting more talk in Washington, the Florida Legislature is taking steps to kill off a non-profit created to help keep Florida bases off the chopping block.
A 187-page bill passed by the Florida House earlier this month that kills two dozen tax credits includes a clause that wipes out the Florida Defense Alliance, a mostly volunteer advocacy group created in the 1990s to work with local communities to protect the state's 20 remaining military installations, including MacDill Air Force Base....
03/17/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Republicans in the Florida House proudly declared they were rooting out wasteful "corporate welfare" in state government to protect taxpayers.
But while they agreed to eliminate tax credit programs for everything from the state's job recruitment agency to sports stadiums, they carved out an exception for what is considered the worst tax incentive of all.
Tucked on page 65 of a 187-page bill is a clause that continues to award $2 million in annual tax credits to the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine for the next six years. Even in their analysis to members, House Republicans called the museum the single worst bet the state is making with tax credits....
03/10/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — The Florida House shrugged off political threats from Gov. Rick Scott and stuck a dagger into the heart of his political legacy on Friday.
By an 87-28 vote, the House voted to kill Enterprise Florida, the agency Scott has relied on to hand out tax breaks to businesses in exchange for them creating jobs — a central promise in his two campaigns for governor. The House also voted 80-35 to place tough restrictions Scott opposed on Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing agency....
03/06/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — In a blow to one of Gov. Rick Scott's top legislative priorities, the man entrusted to defend Florida's job creation programs before a hostile Legislature abruptly quit Monday just hours before he was expected to testify.
Chris Hart IV quit as CEO of the state's economic development agency, a job expected to pay him $200,000, without so much a phone call or handshake with the man who hired him, Scott. Instead, Hart announced his resignation in a four-paragraph letter he sent to Scott and his staff at Enterprise Florida....
03/04/17 State Roundup
Gov. Rick Scott faces term limits and cannot seek re-election, but that isn't stopping the biggest special interest groups from continuing to load up his political action committee with huge checks.
A private prison operator, a sugar industry giant and a Clearwater real estate management company with ties to a major Florida insurance company are among those who have given Scott's Let's Get to Work committee at least $100,000 during the first two months of 2017 and at least $250,000 each since the start of 2015....
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott suffered another political setback with the Legislature.
Over the last two weeks he has toured the state, recorded campaign-style automated phone calls and penned a sharply worded letter in newspapers statewide to pressure fellow Republicans in the Florida House to back off of a bill that would eliminate the state agency that has been at the center of his job creation efforts....
02/20/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Almost three weeks have passed since open warfare erupted between Florida House Republicans and Gov. Rick Scott over his two prized agencies.
On Monday, Scott released a statement that accused House leaders of relying on falsehoods to dismantle Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, then announced a proposal to salvage Visit Florida, but only after a steep cut that would decimate the agency....
02/14/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Call it the Rick Scott retribution tour.
Sure, the Republican Governor's office called his stops in Cape Coral, Tampa, Panama City, and Jacksonville this week the "Fighting for Florida's Jobs" tour. But they all coincidentally have one big thing in common.
All four stops have been in the districts of four of the nine House Republicans who last week voted to kill two of his most cherished agencies: Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. And in each stop Scott was sure to remind business leaders that their locally elected representative was part of the group of nine Republicans on a key committee that defied him and voted to completely eliminate those two agencies....
02/08/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — In a rebuke of Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida House on Wednesday took its first step toward killing two state agencies charged with promoting tourism and economic development, two of his chief priorities.
Dozens of local economic development agencies and tourism promoters packed a committee room in Tallahassee for two hours, warning lawmakers that shuttering those agencies would hurt tourism, their industries and ultimately the state economy....
02/02/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida House are now in open warfare over two of his biggest priorities.
As the Republican governor sharpened his criticism of the Legislature for threatening to cut tourism marketing spending and job incentive programs, the Florida House retaliated Thursday by proposing a bill that would completely eliminate entire agencies charged with carrying out Scott's goals....