Scott Poll Won’t Sway House On Incentives

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Gov. Rick Scott’s political organization tried to send a shot across the House bow this week. But the House doesn’t appear to be backing off its opposition to his business-recruitment and tourism funding proposals.

The Scott political committee “Let’s Get to Work” released results Monday of a telephone poll intended to show public support for the governor’s funding requests for Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who remains highly critical of using tax dollars for business incentives and tourism marketing, appeared to scoff at the poll.

“I have great respect for Governor Scott and all he’s done to cut taxes and regulations to improve the business climate in Florida,” Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, responded when asked for a comment. “But our policies in the House will be driven by principle, not by polling. And one of our fundamental principles as conservatives is that government should not pick winners and losers in the market.”

Scott has requested that lawmakers set aside $85 million that Enterprise Florida could use for incentives to attract businesses to the state and another $76 million that would go to Visit Florida for tourism marketing.

The poll results released Monday involved 1,000 likely voters who were surveyed by Annapolis, Md..-based OnMessage Inc. in late December. Let’s Get to Work has a long-running relationship with OnMessage, paying it nearly $162,000 for consulting, advertising, research and travel since July 1.

The poll said 59 percent of voters expressed support for Enterprise Florida funding, after being advised of the following: “As you may know, Governor Rick Scott has proposed investing $85 million in an incentive program called Enterprise Florida to help grow Florida’s economy and add more jobs by using state funds to encourage businesses to relocate to Florida and expand in Florida.”

Similarly, 59 percent said they were opposed to any efforts to end funding for Visit Florida, after being advised of the following: “As you may know, there is a proposal in the Florida state Legislature to end funding for Visit Florida, which supports TV, radio and internet advertising campaigns to attract tourists to Florida. Supporters of the Visit Florida advertising argue that the program benefits Florida’s economy by bringing tourists to the state. They say that cutting this program would hurt tourism in Florida, which is a major driver in the state’s economy.”

The poll also found Scott with a 54 percent approval rating.

NEGRON POINTS TO BP SPENDING IN WATER DEBATE

Senate President Joe Negron invoked the 2010 BP oil disaster in discussing a new North Florida coalition whose members announced opposition Monday to his $2.4 billion plan to clean water in South Florida.

Negron met Monday with former Congressman Steve Southerland, who is from Panama City, and others from the group “Stand Up for North Florida.” The president’s spokeswoman said the coalition members were assured Negron’s proposal to buy land from sugar growers and other farmers south of Lake Okeechobee wouldn’t impact water-project funding for Northwest Florida.

“Further, the president conveyed to the group his belief that we are all in this together and when the reputation of one area of the state is sullied, impacts are felt across the state,” Negron spokeswoman Katie Betta said in an email. “For this reason, he has been, and will continue to be, a strong advocate for policy and funding proposals that benefit Northwest Florida efforts to continue recovery from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”

The House has established a select committee that is looking to designate money from a settlement over the BP spill for infrastructure and education projects. The Senate hasn’t set up a counterpart committee.

Stand Up for North Florida includes state Rep. Brad Drake, R-Eucheeanna, and Rep. Jay Fant, R-Jacksonville.

Fant said members oppose Negron’s proposal as it continues to create an inequitable division of the money voters designated in 2014 for conservation land and water management.

STEUBE BUSY FILING BILLS

After moving from the House to the Senate in November, Sarasota Republican Greg Steube had, as of late Wednesday, filed 37 bills for the 2017 regular session.

Freed from a restraint on the number of bills that House members can file, Steube has been the Senate’s most prolific filer so far for the 60-day session that starts March 7. He’s outpacing the 20 bills by St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes, who in the past has been a top filer.

And Steube’s total may soon grow by 10, as he said this week he’s breaking up one of his most-prominent pieces of legislation (SB 140), a measure that in part would allow Floridians with concealed-weapons permits to openly carry firearms and to pack heat while on university campuses.

Steube said he wouldn’t have filed each bill if he didn’t think he could push them through the Senate. But he also said he’s realistic in that he won’t have to spend much time on certain measures.

“Some of them, I can tell by the (committee) references that they’re probably not going to get hearings from the committee chairs … and some of them that other members have asked me to file have pretty favorable committee assignments,” he said.

He’s also going to count on co-sponsors, who can appear before committees on bills.

Steube has filed measures that range from legalizing fireworks sales to the general public (SB 324) and imposing felony charges on those who deface statues that honor “heroes” (SB 418) to allowing patients to stay up to 24 hours at ambulatory surgical centers (SB 222) and restricting how dogs can ride in the backs of pickup trucks (SB 320).

As of Wednesday afternoon, 249 bills had been filed in the Senate. The House was up to 289.

Last year, 938 bills, resolutions and memorials were filed by individual senators and Senate committees. The House had 877.

Scott signed all but three of the 272 bills that the House and Senate jointly approved.

After Steube and Brandes, Miami Republican Frank Artiles had filed 18 bills in the Senate and Naples Republican Kathleen Passidomo had submitted 16.

Among Democrats, Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a freshman from Miami, tops the list with nine bills.

The News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner contributed to this report.

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