Florida House Speaker says he's exposing 'cockroaches' in Rick Scott's programs


Saying he is shining a light on "cockroaches," House Speaker Richard Corcoran railed on everything from the governor's priorities to a wayward judge during remarks to editors and reporters Tuesday.

In perhaps his most provocative remarks, Corcoran singled out Gov. Rick Scott —- without naming him directly —- and some of the governor's most high-profile policy initiatives for criticism in what was, to be fair, an equal opportunity attack on all three branches of government.

Corcoran has repeatedly jabbed Scott's focus on providing money to Enterprise Florida to lure new businesses to the state and has questioned the need for tourism-marketer Visit Florida to even exist. Among other things, the House exposed a controversial $1 million contract between Visit Florida and the rapper Pitbull.

"We kind of went downstairs in the kitchen at about 3 in the morning and we turned on the lights," Corcoran, a Land O' Lakes Republican, told members of the media at The Associated Press' annual pre-legislative session gathering in the Capitol. "And I don't mean this in a disparaging way to anybody, but there's cockroaches everywhere and I think you're seeing that. You turn on the lights, and there's Enterprise Florida and you say, let's take a closer look to it."

When pressed by a reporter about his "cockroaches" comment and Scott's contention that business gurus support the incentives, Corcoran implied the governor and other incentive supporters were uneducated on the issue.

"They haven't read enough," Corcoran, a lawyer, told reporters after his 30-minute speech, if they support "the concept that those who create jobs will all believe that picking winners and losers and having government engage in free market is a good thing."

Corcoran also pledged to maintain a crusade to expose public officials who engage in "reprehensible" and "borderline corrupt behavior," pointing to a Jacksonville judge who resigned after the House —- at the speaker's urging —- initiated impeachment proceedings.

Mark Hulsey III stepped down this month —- weeks after denying he had made inappropriate comments —- after being accused of saying blacks should "get back on a ship and go back to Africa" and referring to women staff attorneys as being "like cheerleaders who talk during the national anthem."

The 4th Judicial Circuit judge, who was also accused of referring to a female staff lawyer as a "bitch" and a "c—-,” was under investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission, which oversees judges, at the time the House launched the extraordinarily rare impeachment inquiry.

The speaker also took credit for doing away with a senior Florida Supreme Court justice.

Justice James E.C. Perry stepped down at the beginning of the year, after reaching the constitutionally mandated retirement age of 70. But, thanks to an order signed by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, Perry had continued to serve as a "senior justice," a not-unusual practice by retired justices who join in on opinions in cases in which they have already heard arguments.

Corcoran, however, questioned the validity of Perry continuing to take part in cases. Perry ended his service as a senior justice Tuesday, a month after he was replaced by Justice Alan Lawson, Scott's first Supreme Court appointee.

"Court packing wasn't legal in FDR's time … and it's not legal today," Corcoran said.

Corcoran has worked his way up the political ladder, starting as an aide in the Republican office in the House and serving a stint as an aide to onetime House Speaker Marco Rubio, now a U.S. senator, en route to his current post in the speaker's office.

Contrary to bumper stickers that declare "blank happens," he wants the House to adhere to a tenet that "philosophy happens," Corcoran said.

Corcoran has made one of his highest priorities a proposal to increase transparency in legislative lobbying, calling his ethics reforms one of the most "transformative" initiatives in modern history.

Republicans like Corcoran have controlled the House, the Senate and the governor's office for two decades, a reporter pointed out, asking the speaker to explain who is to blame for the behavior Corcoran is now seeking to expose.

"To the extent that there is cynicism among you or the public on how government operates, I think that cynicism if you were to shoot it with the highest grade steroids 1000 times, I think that is where we are as legislators. I think that we have been exposed to it probably a degree more than you have, and I think our outrage is probably higher, and our disdain greater,” Corcoran said.

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