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Ex-Speaker Cannon joins online reputation firm

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 by John Kennedy

In a move that may sound a little like rain on your wedding day, a leading online reputation-building company announced Wednesday that former Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon has joined its board of advisors., whose website says it is dedicated to “protecting and advocating for our clients’ online images,” is part of a growing industry of digital message-shapers.

Cannon, R-Winter Park, ended his two-year stint as House Speaker last fall and since has opened a Tallahassee lobbying firm, Capitol Insight, with another Republican ex-speaker, Larry Cretul, among his employees.

Cannon’s path from being on the receiving end of lobbying to actually doing lobbying himself isn’t uncommon at the Capitol. But the trajectory became harshly condemned by senators this spring as they crafted a new state ethics law.

The measure approved by lawmakers and signed into law earlier this month by Gov. Rick Scott extends a current, two-year ban on former legislators lobbying the Legislature to include a new, two-year restriction on ex-lawmakers lobbying the executive branch and state agencies.

In a statement, president Michael Zammuto said there was a ”natural synergy” between and Capitol Insight.

“Online reputation management is critical across the political process, and indeed, political campaigns worldwide are won and lost on the basis of online reputation and the effectiveness of their online strategies,” Zammuto said.  “As such, has been busily gearing up for the
next election cycle, and expanding our services in the political realm.”

In the company statement, Cannon said, “The usefulness of online reputation management in the political campaign process is difficult to overstate.”

“Just imagine,” he added, “If an unflattering news headline or erroneous accusation come to light, a company like can help political campaigns get the facts of their message out aggressively, and even push those unwanted headlines off the first page of an online search results page. This can be a huge potential advantage for any political campaign.”



Hasner lands another former speaker’s endorsement in GOP Senate primary

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011 by George Bennett

Former state House Speaker Larry Cretul of Ocala has endorsed Republican Adam Hasner‘s U.S. Senate bid.

Cretul joins former Speaker Allen Bense in backing Hasner, who faces former appointed Sen. George LeMieux and businessmen Craig Miller and Mike McCalister in the GOP primary to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Says Cretul: “I’m endorsing Adam because he is the Republican Party’s best choice to defeat Senator Nelson and take a mainstream conservative message to Washington. During his service in the Florida House Adam built an impressive record and was a forceful spokesman for the principles and ideas of our Party – even when it wasn’t popular. Adam is a fighter and the only candidate in the race with a consistent, limited-government record that voters can trust to be a reliable alternative to the agenda we see coming out of Washington today.”

Hasner, a former state House Majority Leader, has also snagged endorsements from current Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami, state Reps. Dennis Baxley and Scott Plakon and state Sens. Alan Hays and Anitere Flores. Clinton tried to persuade Meek to quit U.S. Senate race

Thursday, October 28th, 2010 by Ana Valdes is reporting that former President Clinton tried to persuade Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Kendrick Meek to drop out of the race during his recent visit to Florida.

According to Politico, Clinton had twice convinced Meek to drop out and endorse independent Gov. Charlie Crist, and both had even agreed to announce Meek’s early exit during an endorsement rally Oct. 26. But Meek changed his mind last weekend, according to the report.

Meek’s campaign manager, Abe Dyk, denied Thursday that Meek ever considered dropping out.

“The article is not true. Kendrick Meek was never dropping out of this race, is never dropping out of this race, and will never drop out of this race,” Dyk wrote on Meek’s website. “Kendrick Meek will always stand up for the middle class and will not leave Floridians a choice between two lifelong conservative Republicans who only stand with the special interests. Kendrick is the Democratic nominee so if anyone should drop out, it’s Charlie Crist.”


UPDATE: It’s official: Oil spill special session off the table

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: Senate President Jeff Atwater called to clarify his position on the decision not to hold a special session on oil spill-related issues. Here’s what he had to say:

“I haven’t changed my mind on anything. I don’t know how I could have tried any harder,” Atwater said about the House’s decision that a special session is unnecessary this year. He said a special session is both “timely and necessary.”

There’s no need for a special session to address the fall-out from BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig blast that pumped millions of gallons of hydrocarbons into the Gulf of Mexico, House Speaker Larry Cretul and Senate President Jeff Atwater have decided.

Despite earlier promises that lawmakers would convene as early as September to try to give a helping hand to fishermen and others in the Panhandle whose finances have crumbled in the aftermath of the April 20 disaster, the pair are convinced those issues can wait until the regular session next year in March.

“It would appear that while there are some issues where legislative action may be appropriate, there are no issues that require immediate formal legislative action. Additionally, there are several areas where it is clear that we do not yet possess the information necessary to make informed decisions. Moreover, many of these issues require solutions that would benefit from closer scrutiny during a regular legislative session,” Cretul, R-Ocala, wrote to House members today.

Atwater, who is running statewide for chief financial officer, apparently agreed although he had previously pushed the House to come back early.

Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, said he asked his select committee “to continue developing proposals, gathering data, and working with incoming leadership in preparation for the next session” in a memo to the his members today.

House Deepwater Horizon coordinator says no need for special session

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Lawmakers appear to have abandoned their earlier pledge to hold a special session on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in September and instead could possibly wait until the regular session in March.

Rep. Gary Aubuchon, the coordinator of the House’s five Deepwater Horizon oil spill work groups, has until Aug. 31 to give House Speaker Larry Cretul a report on possible legislation to help revive the Florida Panhandle economy or provide tax breaks to residents there. Aubuchon said Tuesday those suggestions probably won’t go to Cretul until sometime during the first week of September.

And although some Panhandle business owners have already shuttered operations and others are on the brink of doing the same because of plummeting revenues during their peak summer tourist season that coincided with the April 20 oil disaster, Aubuchon said early reports from his leaders show there’s no need to rush.

“We are continuing to ask the questions, attend the meetings, gather the data and looking for a productive role the state could play. Whether we begin to play that role in September, or November, or during the regular session is a question yet to be answered,” Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral, said after meeting with Ken Feinberg, the claims czar who will take over BP’s problematic claims system on Monday at 12:01 a.m.

“One of the questions I’m asking each work group coordinator to answer is does anything you are working on now or anticipate working on necessitate the need for a special session? The early feedback I’m getting is no it does not,” Aubuchon said. “But the final conclusion has not been reached. And of course that is a decision that will be made by our presiding officers in the House and Senate.”

Even the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, whose members would probably benefit the most, is ok with holding off on a special session until after November.

Sen. Don Gaetz wants to pass a bill that would allow the FRLA to access up to $5 million of a trust fund comprised of fees paid by restaurant and hotel owners. There’s about $9 million in the trust fund, which is supposed to be earmarked for promotions.

FRLA President Carol Dover said she met with GOP legislative leaders last week.
“Coming into September with the group that are going to be gone or waiting until the organizational session with the group that are going to be bound by what they have passed could be a better way,” Dover said.

Lawmakers met in an aborted special session late in June after being ordered bv Gov. Charlie Crist to take up a constitutional amendment banning offshore drilling. They left in less than two hours without passing anything.

But before the special session even began, Senate President Jeff Atwater asked Cretul, R-Ocala, to consider a special session late in August or in September.

Atwater reiterated that hope yesterday.

The North Palm Beach Republican who is running statewide for chief financial officer believes lawmakers should meet within a month “to provide Floridians the assistance and relief that they need in the wake of this crisis,” Emhof said.

UPDATE: Cretul reins in abortion debate, nixes Holocaust talk

Friday, April 30th, 2010 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: The House passed the abortion ultrasound amendment after a three-hour debate with a 72-46 vote.

House Speaker Larry Cretul cut short some of the more heated debate on the controversial abortion bill passed by the Florida Senate yesterday that would require all women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound.

Cretul stepped in when Rep. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, likened abortion to the Holocaust.

“Everyone is aghast and embarrassed” about the Holocaust in which at least 5 million Jews were killed, Hays said.
“What are we going to say as a society about the killing of more than 50 million…,” he went on before Cretul cut him short.

“Members, I know this is a very sensitive issue and I really ask for your cooperation in keeping it within the bounds,” Cretul, R-Ocala, said.

Rep. Richard Steinberg spoke shortly after Hays.

“As a Jew in this House I am deeply disheartened” about the analogy, Steinberg, D-Miami Beach, said.

“Rep. Steinberg, we’re going to keep it within the bounds,” Cretul replied.

Earlier, Cretul gave Democrat Adam Fetterman equal treatment.

While others were surprised the abortion measure even came up, Fetterman said he was not.

“See there’s no bacon to bring back home. But you sure can bring the red meat.
This is a side of beef for some fundamentalist people. It is designed to coerce a woman to change her mind if not scare her away from the doctor’s office,” said Fetterman, D-Port St. Lucie.

Fetterman went on to say that some fundamentalists support the assassination of doctors is acceptable because they are such staunch abortion opponents.

Heck part of me is afraid to leave this chamber today without the protection of the sergeants…because of my beliefs,” Fetterman said.

“Rep. Fetterman, if you could temper your remarks just a little,” Cretul chastised.

The House is expected to vote on the measure (HB 1143) shortly.

Will GOP leaders shun Crist at sine die?

Thursday, April 29th, 2010 by Dara Kam

It’s a tradition for most governors – including Charlie Crist – to join lawmakers on the fourth floor rotunda after the ceremonial sine die hankie drop marking the end of the legislative session.

But some important GOP leaders might be missing this year, if newly-non-party U.S. Senate candidate Crist drops by.

“I will not be seen anywhere in public with the governor. I will not be participating in anything with the governor,” said House budget chief David Rivera, a Marco Rubio supporter and Miami Congressional candidate.

“I don’t think there’s any real serious discussion” of Republican House leaders boycotting the sine die ceremonies, House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala said.

“He is still the duly-elected governor of the state. He just happens to be a candidate with no party affiliation running for the U.S. Senate. We still have to respect that and if the presiding officers decide that we want to go out there and do the sine die, I’ll be there,” Cretul said.

UPDATE: House Dems hold up session over abortion bill

Thursday, April 29th, 2010 by Dara Kam

House Democrats stopped bills from moving this morning over a controversial measure that would require all women to have ultrasounds before they can get an abortion.

The Democrats will refuse to take a final vote on any bills today unless Republican leaders promise not to take up and hear the bill, House Democrats spokesman Mark Hollis said.

House GOP leaders need the 44 Democrats’ votes to roll over some bills so that they can be voted on. So far, the Dems have already blocked that from happening on one item.

The Senate yesterday attached the provision to a nursing home bill over objections from Republican women and Democrats and is expected to vote on it this morning. Based on the votes on the amendments yesterday, it (HB 1143) will likely pass.

Prior to the Democratic caucus decision, House Speaker Larry Cretul was ambivalent about whether he would take up the bill.

“We’ll see,” Cretul, R-Ocala, said before he knew about the Democrats’ procedural move. “We’ll at least take a hard look at it.”

UPDATE: Rep. Jim Waldman, a House Democratic leader, had this to say on their refusal to give two-thirds approval to take up bills until they get assurances from GOP leaders they won’t consider an abortion bill.

“We’re up here to do the budget,” Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, told reporters during a lull in House business, thanks to his caucus. “That’s the only thing we need to do.”

He said there’s no reason to take up the abortion bill – stuck in at the last minute in the Senate – while there are more important issues to discuss with just two days left until the session is scheduled to end.

“That’s not what we’re here for. They’re not sending us here to deal with ultrasounds and abortion,” Waldman said.

Oops…Budget meetings a NO-go

Saturday, April 17th, 2010 by Dara Kam

The House and Senate canceled budget negotiations scheduled to begin this weekend.

Shortly before the slated 10 a.m. organizational conference meeting, both chambers sent out terse announcements that the powwows weren’t going to happen.

“Despite our earlier optimism, it has become apparent that budget conferences will be unable to meet this weekend. We will continue working with our House partners and will notify you when we have further information.

“I hope you have a pleasant weekend with your families and look forward to seeing you next week,” Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, told his members in an e-mail.

“The 10:00 am Budget Conference organizational meeting has been postponed. We do not anticipate any conference meetings being scheduled today. Please continue to monitor your emails throughout the weekend so we can keep you up to date. Thank you for your patience and hard work,” House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, said in his message.

The news likely didn’t set well with many lawmakers who canceled their trips home late yesterday afternoon when the leaders originally announced the conferences would kick off this weekend.


Crist not getting much pressure from Speaker Cretul on teacher bill

Friday, April 9th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist said he’s being leaned on more heavily about the sweeping teacher pay reforms now on his desk or veto than on any other issue since he took office three years ago.

But caught in the hallway on his way out of the Capitol this afternoon, House Speaker Larry Cretul didn’t have much to say about the measure (SB 6).

When asked what he would tell the governor to try to convince him to sign it into law, Cretul said simply: “It’s a good bill.”

That’s it?

“Yes it is. Sixty-six people thought it was a good bill,” Cretul said.

Oops. Democratic members nearby corrected the leader. The final vote was 64-55.

“Well, I’m working it,” Cretul said.

Maybe the Ocala Republican was more tired than taciturn.

Cretul was at the podium through much of the eight-hour debate on the measure that dragged on until just before 2:30 a.m. this morning.

Angry teachers clog House Speaker phone lines

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010 by Dara Kam

So many angry teachers called House Speaker Larry Cretul’s office late last week his staff had to add four additional telephone lines and four workers to field the complaints, Cretul spokeswoman Jill Chamberlin said.

The Speaker’s office received more than 5,500 phone calls on Thursday and Friday about SB 6, the measure approved by the Senate last week that would revamp teacher salaries and job security by basing educators’ pay on how well their students perform on standardized tests.

Most of the calls objected to the proposal, Chamberlin said.

“It’s hard to generalize, but many people did not seem to know what the bill does (they thought it would reduce current teacher pay—it won’t) (they thought it would affect current teacher retirement and benefits—it won’t, etc.) and many thought we were taking a poll (which we were not.) It is certainly possible that some people didn’t get through or got voice mail—considering the volume,” Chamberlin said in an e-mail.

Speaker flip-flops on 911 call exemptions

Monday, March 15th, 2010 by Dara Kam

House Speaker Larry Cretul reversed his position on a measure that would make 911 calls exempt from public records.

Cretul, R-Ocala, had pushed the bill at the behest of Florida Farm Bureau President John Hoblick, whose organization contributed $30,000 to the Republican Party of Florida over the past two years. Hoblick was incensed about a 911 call aired after his son died after a night of drinking and using prescription pills.

“The issue of broadcasters using taped calls of desperate citizens seeking help from 911 remains a very important one. I’ve listened to many people on this matter, both pro and con, read news articles, correspondence, and editorials. There’s no question that the broadcasts provoke strong feelings. For now, it’s best to take a breather, turn our attention to the bill to improve 911 service in Florida—an equally important measure. I don’t think we need to move forward on the 911 tapes bill at this time,” Cretul said in a statement provided by his spokeswoman Jill Chamberlain.

The proposal outraged First Amendment advocates and some crime victims, including the family of Denise Amber Lee, who was murdered after the botched handling of a 911 call in Charlotte County, who want the tapes to remain available because they hold emergency dispatchers and law enforcement agencies accountable and because they are used to train dispatchers.

Denise Amber Lee’s family is backing a measure that would make Florida require training and certification of 911 dispatchers.

Chamberlain did not know whether the House sponsor Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill, would pull the bill from his committee where it is scheduled to be heard later this week.

Thanksgiving Day shootings, Deerfield teen set on fire: Listen to more recent high-profile 911 calls

Take the Poll: Should 911 calls be kept off the air?

Speaker Cretul ignores e-mail from husband of botched 911 call murder victim

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Denise Amber Lee’s six-minute 911 call that helped convict her killer is among the most notorious examples of 911 calls gone wrong, the calls that are now in House Speaker Larry Cretul’s crosshairs as he tries to create a public records exemptions for them.

Her husband Nathan Lee sent an e-mail to the sponsor of Cretul’s bill, House Government Accountability Policy Council Chairman Rob Schenk, pleading with the committee to shoot down the measure that would make 911 call recordings secret except for transcripts that could be available after 60 days. Lee also asked that his message be read at Schenk’s committee hearing the bill (PCB GAP 10-03) before it was voted on this morning.

Schenk made no reference to Lee’s message and did not read it before the measure passed by an 8-5 vote. And Cretul, who used a procedural maneuver to ensure the bill passed, never read it at all. He said he received it last night. Public records show that Cretul, his spokeswoman Jill Chamberlin and Schenk received it around 3:30 p.m. yesterday.

“I haven’t read the e-mail. I’m sure that he makes some excellent points,” Cretul, R-Ocala, said shortly before the House began session at 1 p.m.

Nathan Lee and his parents are pushing a separate 911 bill that would require uniform training standards for 911 dispatchers throughout the state. His wife was killed despite five 911 calls made in two counties, including one from a witness whose call was ignored.

Lee’s e-mail uses the botched handling of the eyewitness’ emergency call made on the day his wife was killed in 2008 to demonstrate why the calls should be available to the public.

“She provided the exact location of this event and even though there were, by all accounts, 4 police cars within a mile of this call, it was never dispatched. This call was, obviously, grossly mishandled and would have resulted in the saving of Denise’s life. Two days after this call, she was found in a grave, naked and with a single gunshot wound to the head. This call was hidden from the public and myself. And even hidden from the police department who was actively investigating the case and searching for my wife for two days. The subsequent internal affairs investigation shows the communication center and agency who took this crucial call were immediately aware that the call was about Denise. The call was suppressed. Had the eyewitness not contacted the North Port Police Department we may never have known about her call. And the prosecution would have lost the last eyewitness to see my wife alive,” Lee wrote.

Cretul said he supports the training and certification bill.

“But my whole interest in this issue has been watching what it also does to families and what it does to people that call in. They become suddenly out there for all the world to see,” Cretul said in an interview. “This is a very tough, very difficult issue. Very sensitive in all respects.”

Read the entire text of Nathan Lee’s message after the jump.

Speaker’s priority – 911 call exemption bill – lacks Senate sponsor

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010 by Dara Kam

A bill that’s one of House Speaker Larry Cretul’s priorities that would make 911 call tapes secret is on the fast-track in his chamber but lacks a Senate sponsor.

Cretul is pushing the measure on behalf of Florida Farm Bureau President John Hoblick, whose 16-year-old son died from a lethal combination of alcohol and illegal prescription drugs. Hoblick, out of town when his son Jake died, heard his older son John’s 911 call on the news.

House staff and the bill sponsor Rep. Rob Schenk, R-Spring Hill, kept the Speaker’s blessing of the bill hush-hush until this week when Cretul told a St. Petersburg Times reporter that Hoblick asked him to do something about the 911 calls.

Cretul used a seldom-used procedural maneuver today to guarantee that the measure (PCB GAP 10-03) passed. He temporarily assigned one of his lieutenants, House Speaker Pro Tem Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, to the committee. Cretul didn’t need the insurance, however; the Government Policy Accountability Council approved it with an 8-5 vote.

Despite the Speaker’s clout in the House, the bill lacks a Senate sponsor.

Sen. Garrett Richter had originally agreed to run a companion for Schenk. But an open government shell bill he had sponsored that could have been used for Schenk’s bill was designated to be heard in the Banking and Insurance Committee, which has nothing to do with the 911 calls, he said. Richter backed off the bill even before controversy surrounding it – some victims and First Amendment lawyers staunchly oppose it – began this week. The Naples Republican said he won’t sponsor the measure.

House, Senate leaders demand balanced federal budget

Monday, March 1st, 2010 by Dara Kam

After taking billions of dollars in federal economic stimulus money to balance the state budget last year, Senate President Jeff Atwater and House Speaker Larry Cretul along with other GOP lawmakers are demanding that the federal government balance its budget to put an end to the escalating federal deficit now surpassing $12 trillion.

“Unless something is done with Washington’s irresponsible fiscal behavior, Florida’s economy will drown in debt,” Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, said at a press conference this morning.

Atwater and his cadre want the feds to balance the nation’s budget as Florida lawmakers are constitutionally required to do in the Sunshine State.

But that didn’t stop the legislature under Atwater and Cretul from accepting at least $12 billion in federal stimulus money – more than $3 billion used to balance this year’s Florida budget and nearly another $6 billion plugged into next year’s. That money helped add to the nation’s rising debt.

“It’s a gaping inconsistency to take that money happily to fill giant holes in our budget and then turn around and criticize the very people who gave you the cash,” said Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota.

Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, is sponsoring a joint resolution that, if passed by two-thirds of the Florida legislature, would have the state joining 19 other states asking Congress to convene an amendments convention to propose a constitutional amendment requiring the balanced budget and limit federal lawmakers’ ability to pass mandated spending down to the states.

But Florida lawmakers have done the same thing to local governments over the past decade, forcing them to take up a large share of education spending by passing down mandates and making counties pick up the tab for other items.

Congress would have to call the amendments convention if 34 states make the request. Passage of the constitutional amendment would require ratification by three-fourths, or 38, of the states.

CORRECTION: Cretul does NOT compromise with black caucus

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009 by Dara Kam

House Speaker Larry Cretul’s offer to black lawmakers who will miss the first two days of the special session because of a conference they are attending is not a compromise, his spokeswoman Jill Chamberlain said.

And if there was any doubt, Cretul made it clear at a press conference this afternoon that the lawmakers should be in Tallahassee as they are constitutionally required.

“I’ve been doing this a long time, both at the local level and now for the past seven years at the state level.
This job comes with a lot of demands and a lot of requirements. And oftentimes some inconvenience, an inconvenience on both a personal level and a professional level,” Cretul, R-Ocala, said. “It’s just part of the job. Any time that you’re elected or have a role of responsibility you have to keep in focus just what the duties of the responsibility are…It is our job as being part of the Florida Legislature. It is our job not only constitutionally but personally to be sure that we don’t inconvenience and neglect what we’re here for.”

The black members are hosting the National Black Caucus of State Legislators’ annual conference in Ft. Lauderdale, an event that began today and lasts through Saturday. Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, is chairing the gala which was two years in the planning.

Cretul said he’s letting two members participate in a committee meeting tomorrow by telephone and will hold a briefing late Sunday or early Monday for any members who want to attend.

And he’ll allow them to file amendments on the floor.

But Cretul already had planned the briefing and would have allowed the floor amendments anyway, Chamberlain said, even before House Democrats began demanding that the session be delayed until Monday to accommodate the black caucus.

Cretul insisted time constraints determined that the session would have to begin tomorrow and end by next Friday.

UPDATE: Cretul says no way to session delay

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009 by Dara Kam

Democrats in the House, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and black state lawmakers are asking legislative leaders to put the brakes on a special session on rail until Monday to accommodate the black lawmakers’ national conference being held this week in Ft. Lauderdale.

Many of the state’s black House and Senate members will be at the event as hosts of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators’ annual conference. The conference has been in the works for two years and many members have already plunked down the cash to attend the fete that runs from Wednesday through Saturday.

Too bad, House Speaker Larry Cretul wrote in a memo today sent to all House members.

He said the black lawmakers – all but one of whom are Democrats – can get an excused absence but that’s about it.

“We all share the burdens of public office, which can be especially frustrating during this season. However, it is our duty to assemble when the needs of our state require it. I am confident that this Session is important to Florida. The issue before us means jobs for Floridians and building part of our state’s transportation future. I appreciate your willingness to undertake these important duties,” Cretul, R-Ocala, wrote.


Special session set for Thursday

Monday, November 30th, 2009 by Dara Kam

The third time may be the charm for the controversial Central Florida commuter rail project called SunRail.

A special session dealing with SunRail and South Florida’s ailing Tri-Rail system will begin Thursday at 9 a.m.

House Speaker Larry Cretul issued a memo this afternoon saying he plans for the House to vote on the bill on Monday and for the Senate to vote on it on Wednesday.

Cretul, R-Ocala, said he and Atwater have agreed in principal on the proposal, which apparently exists but has not yet been distributed to most lawmakers, if any.

Money for Tri-Rail will come from the state road project fund and money for Sunrail and other rail projects will come from doc stamps from home sales.

PDF: Summary of proposed statewide rail transit legislation

House Speaker to feds: Gambling talks “at an impasse”

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009 by Dara Kam

House Speaker Larry Cretul asked federal officials to intervene in gambling talks between Florida and the Seminoles, saying negotiations “are at an impasse.”

Cretul wrote a letter today to National Indian Gaming Commission Chairman George Skibine, who met with the speaker and the House’s chief gambling negotiator Bill Galvano yesterday, asking the feds to fine the Indians or shut them down.

Crist this week said he wanted lawmakers to address the gambling compact in a special session in December.

Cretul’s letter indicates that’s not going to happen.

The Florida Supreme Court last year tossed an agreement signed by Gov. Charlie Crist and the Seminoles and lawmakers this year failed to pass a revised version of the pact.

Under Crist’s latest plan, the Seminoles would have paid $150 million a year to the state for education in exchange for Las Vegas-style slot machines and blackjack and other card games at its Hollywood and Tampa casinos as well as its Brighton and Big Cypress locales in Broward County.

The Seminoles have continued to run the games even without an agreement with the state, irking GOP House leaders and Attorney General Bill McCollum, who accuse the tribe of breaking the law.

No money from gambling compact in the budget…yet

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Lawmakers have yet to cut a deal on gambling proposals affecting the Seminole tribe’s casinos, dog and horse tracks and education spending.

No money from changes to the gambling compact with the Seminoles is yet included in the budget, Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander said this afternoon.

“We agreed to put it in conference and let the conferees figure it out,” Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said.

Money from a potential gambling compact would be added into the budget if the conference committee reaches agreement.

Other details in the preliminary budget agreement:
- $30 million total cuts to state worker salaries. The House had wanted a sliding scale of up to 7 percent for all workers; the Senate would have hit employees making more than $100,000 with a 1 percent cut. The Senate wants a graduated scale starting with employees who make $65,000 or more. Senate President Jeff Atwater and House Speaker Larry Cretul will ultimately decide what happens there.

- $110 million cut to universities. The Senate’s budget maintained spending at last year’s levels; the House had wanted about $260 million in cuts. Alexander said the agreed-upon amount would be more than covered by the $125 million in the budget from an 8 percent tuition hike included in the budget and the differential that would allow universities to raise tuition up to 15 percent per year until it reaches the national average.

- $400 million raid on trust funds, including $100 million from road projects. That’s $300 million less than the House sought from the transportation trust fund.

- The Senate agreed to the House’s $800 million hike in fees, but tag fees won’t be included. The Senate budget originally had about $500 million in fee increases.

- $1.7 billion in working capital and reserves, depending on how much the gambling agreement brings in.

- Buck-a-pack cigarette tax and $1 an ounce tax on loose tobacco but cigars will likely come out of that.

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