Speaker Corcoran doubles down on budget transparency

On Tuesday, Rep. Jose Oliva (R-Miami Lakes) nominated Rep. Richard Corcoran (R-Land O’ Lakes) to be the Speaker of the House.

He said Corcoran has identified the biggest enemy as the “status quo.” Rep. Jose Feliz Diaz (R-Miami) seconded the nomination, calling Corcoran a “political Da Vinci.” He said Corcoran “feeds off the clash of ideas.”

Cruz moved to cease the nominations and that a unanimous vote be recorded for Corcoran. The House approved the motion, electing Corcoran as the speaker.

Florida Supreme Court Justice Ricky Polston administered the oath of office to Corcoran, who was flanked by family members.

Here is Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s address to Florida House:

“Members, I am deeply moved and humbled by your faith, confidence and trust. I will work every day to bring honor to this House and to those I represent.

We are only two weeks out from a historic national election that has left the pundits and pollsters dazed and confused. What started out as a roar during both the Republican and Democratic primaries became a primal scream on Election Day. Somehow, we were all surprised. But we shouldn’t have been. We talked about it over a year ago at our designation ceremony. We said then what the voters said on Election Day — “the enemy is us.”

And, that fact shouldn’t be a surprise either. Because from pretty much the beginning of civilization, a tension has existed between leaders acting in their self-interest versus the interests of their people. Plato, a student of Socrates, examined the first self-governing society in the history of the world. He spent his entire life questioning whether this messy thing called “self-governance” could ever really succeed. Our founding fathers asked the same question. The answer then is the same as the answer now.

Good government isn’t a destination; it’s a process; a struggle for leaders to do what is right. It requires us to put away the political tricks and rhetorical devices we use to blur the line between fact and fiction. It requires us to be selfless and to tell the truth.

So let’s start with some truth.

Too many bills filed in Session are given to Members by lobbyists and special interests.

Too many lobbyists see themselves as the true power brokers of this process.

Too many appropriations projects are giveaways to vendors and the decision of whether they get in the budget has more to do with their choice of lobbyist than the merits of the project.

Too many laws reduce competition in the private sector and make it harder for those struggling to get a job while we hide behind outrageous claims of protecting public safety.

Too many protectionist policies and carve outs in our health care laws are passed because the vendors seem to be more important than the patients.

Too many hundreds of millions of tax dollars are wasted on corporate welfare because we’ve lost sight of what we believe.

On the rare occasion the Legislature breaks through the horde of lobbyists to do something really meaningful; it rarely lasts. The special interests regroup, brag about waiting us out, and undo our good work one rule, one statute, one exemption, at a time.

That is the truth we know. And that is the truth that the people know.

But there’s another truth and it’s transformational. All of us here in this room today have the power to change all of that. We can make this our moment of reckoning and prove to the people of Florida that their broken system can be turned into something that is true and good and beautiful.

And it starts today! We have on our desk before us the most aggressive and transformative rules changes in the history of the Florida Legislature. These rules will make the Florida House the national leader in transparency and accountability.

We begin, as all good reforms should begin, by holding ourselves to a higher standard. By creating a firewall between those who seek to influence the law and those of us who make the laws. No more business deals with lobbyists. No more travel on their private planes. No more profiting off of public service. No more lobbying local government. No more lobbyist texting during committees and sessions. And, no more lobbying after our service is over for a period of not two, not four, but six years —- the strongest and longest ban in the country.

It all ends, and it all ends today.

These restraints against ourselves are a great start; but they are not enough. We also need to clean up our budget process.

The State’s budget is the most comprehensive, time-consuming, and complicated task we undertake each Session. And, there is one area we have consistently fallen short — reigning in our own spending. The proliferation of earmarks in the budget has reached an epidemic level. Last year under our initial transparency program, we identified $2.3 billion worth of earmark requests. And here’s a fact: if someone from the outside this process were to examine those requests; they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats.

And, so now we double down. Our proposed rules changes push Florida into an even greater level of budget transparency. In fact, it’s the toughest in the nation. From this point forward, to be eligible for inclusion in a final budget, any earmark must be filed as a standalone bill, and must be filed by the first day of Session. In order to submit a bill draft you will be required to provide detailed financial information about the project. We will end the practice of projects with little or no scrutiny appearing out of nowhere in the waning hours and being stuffed into our budget. Under this rule, everyone will know exactly what projects are in play when Session starts and who is being paid to push those projects.

And for those who find this rule to be too burdensome, here’s my message: if you can’t manage to convince even 1 of 120 House members to file your bill; if you can’t withstand a few weeks of public scrutiny; if you don’t have sufficient documentation to prove that the appropriation is legitimate — then you don’t deserve taxpayers’ money.

All of this is historic. And, the best part is we’re cleaning up our own House together in a bipartisan fashion. Thank you Chairman Oliva, Leader Cruz, and Representative Berman.

And now that we’ve begun the process of cleaning up our own behavior and our own House, now we can then begin to think bigger and bolder about public policy.

When we zero-funded corporate welfare last year, my Republican colleagues and I did so over the opposition of many people and many groups that have supported us. We knew it would create tension, we knew it would create internal strife, and we knew it would have consequences. But, we did it because it was the right thing to do.

Nowhere is doing the right thing more needed than in education. And now I’d like to issue a heart-felt challenge to our friends in the minority party. Just as you helped us take on our status quo, we will help you take on yours. The teachers union is fixated on halting innovation and competition. They are attempting to destroy the lives of almost 100,000 children, mostly minority, and ALL of them poor. This flies in the face of research. It defies common sense. It is downright evil. I know that is a strong word. But think about it. You are in a life boat. You see a small helpless child at sea. The child is swimming toward a different lifeboat in hopes of saving their own life. Who in their right mind would have the reaction to destroy the other lifeboat — all because the child wasn’t coming to your boat? If anyone here witnessed that, what would you call it?

Tell the teachers union they’re wrong. Tell them to stop the suit. We need to come together and build an education system that isn’t afraid to innovate and take risks. Let’s fight alongside each other to give ALL children, of ALL races, and ALL incomes a world class education.

This willingness to rethink systems is especially important in health care. It is my hope that the 2016 election will throw open the doors in health care policy. Let us send a message to our President-elect and the next Congress: if you are serious about a new direction in health care, then remove the Federal handcuffs and let Florida take the lead on reform. Let us show Washington D.C. and the rest of the country how well the people would benefit from a free market, consumer-driven health care system.

Changing health care means we need a Federal government that is willing to put principle over power. There is currently no greater example of individuals putting power over principle than in our judicial branch. We need judges who respect their role in our constitutional system and who can resist the temptation to act like an unelected, super-legislature. The problem with holding the same office for in essence life, is you forget that the office you hold is far more important than the person in it — which is why 12-year term limits are a must for a healthy judicial branch.

A functioning judiciary is an integral component to a healthy economy. No economic system has done more to benefit mankind that the free enterprise system. More people have been lifted out of poverty in the last 3 centuries than in the prior 3,000 years. But when judges or legislatures or local governments continually rewrite the rules or attempt to pick winners and losers that is when markets fail. We need to reverse the damage that has been done, untangle the red tape and tear down all these barriers to entry.

That is what the people of this state want. They want to be able to work at a good job, own their own home, send their kids to good schools, have access to quality health care and have the freedom to worship as they see fit. They want to believe that their government is working for them. And, if they get up every morning, work hard and play by the rules, they can earn their part of the American Dream.

Members, we are only one half of one Legislature in one state, and some would say that delivering that dream back to the people of Florida is beyond our ability. But that will not stop us. The special interests will not stop us. The mainstream media will not stop us. Our own party leaders will not stop us. We will fight.

At my designation ceremony, I spoke at length about my parents being from the greatest generation. My parents loved book. And, my Mom who was British — she loved the legend of King Arthur. And when I was just a kid, that story mesmerized me: This idea of a group of knights, working together side by side, none greater than the other, and all willing to die for a cause greater than themselves. Could leaders really work that way? Could the world really be like that?

Yes it can. But that’s ALL up to us.

God bless the state of Florida, and God bless the United States of America.”