Welcome to The Dean’s List — an Ed Dean-style look at which Florida’s political leaders and issues made the grade and who didn’t. What you see here is strictly my opinion, not necessarily the editor’s or the rest of the staff at Sunshine State News.
Who Made the List.
Incoming Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity. Corcoran, who chairs the House Budget Committee, insists his views haven’t changed when it comes to funding sports stadiums with taxpayer dollars as he continues to oppose the idea. Sports interests like the South Florida Stadium and the Daytona Speedway are lobbying again for public funding in the amount of $90 million over the next 30 years. While some Senate Republicans still support the idea of leaving taxpayers with the bill, Corcoran is promising to do all he can to stop them. Corcoran’s over the target here and is showing fiscal conservatives he will be their champion when he takes over the House in November.
Florida Rep. Larry Lee, D-Port St. Lucie. Lee is standing in opposition to a proposal from Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, The proposal would be a state constitutional amendment giving the state more control on who would receive charter school licenses. Lee correctly notes local school boards should be in charge when of charter schools and, if the local elected officials aren’t doing their job, they can be turned out. In several counties, if a local charter school continues to get a low grade performance, it can face being shut down. That’s the opposite for what happens to local public schools. Diaz has some good ideas but that doesn’t mean it needs to be added to the state constitution. As for Lee, it’s nice to see a Democrat push against his party’s habit of centralizing everything.
Florida Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon. Lee, the chairman of Senate Appropriations has been asking what many people have been thinking. If Gov. Rick Scott is going to increase education spending, how is he going to pay for it? Lee’s concerns are spot on. The former Senate president has argued local taxpayers should not be further burdened for increases in education spending. More than 80 percent of Scott’s education spending proposal will come from local school districts -- which means out of the pockets of local taxpayers.
Who Did Not Make the List
Florida Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. Scott’s economic plan this session relies on permanently eliminating the manufacturing sales tax and cutting the tax on commercial leases. Latvala continues to back incentives for TV and film projects, insisting they are good for economic development. But in 2015, it was reported that the Florida Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research showed the state only gets back 43 cents on every dollar spent in film subsidies. Not a good investment by any means.
The Manatee County Commission. Last year, the Manatee County budget had no tax increases. The county administrator called this budget a welcome return of upward economic growth. Now, in 2016, the county’s signing a different tune. The Manatee County Commission has decided to reinstate impact fees on home construction up to 50 percent of what is legally allowed. This gives Manatee County the highest impact fees in Southwest Florida. Manatee County home values have gone up 11.1 percent over the past year, but the commission still feel the need to raise taxes. The money will go to pay for new parks and libraries.
Florida Democratic Senate Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, and Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando. According to sponsor Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, SB 344 would change the 2005 "stand your ground" by law, putting the burden of proof on the prosecution, not on the defendant in “stand your ground” cases. The Senate passed the bill 24-12. But Joyner and Thompson wanted to make it a far more emotional issue with Thompson bringing up the Trayvon Martin case while Joyner insisted changing the law would deny justice to minorities. Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, did a better job in opposing it, noting how shifting the burden of proof in ongoing investigations could make a major impact and picking apart Bradley’s citations.
Ed Dean, a senior editor with Sunshine State News whose talk show can be heard on radio stations in Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Daytona Beach, Orlando, the Space Coast, the Treasure Coast and South Florida from West Palm Beach to Miami. It can also be heard in parts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. You can reach him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @eddeanradio.