Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran is winning – bigly.
The Land O’Lakes Republican not only has Enterprise Florida, Inc. and Visit Florida — two taxpayer-supported public-private partnerships — on the ropes, but he just hit the jackpot against the Florida Lottery.
It’s the latest victory in Corcoran’s “corporate welfare” crackdown.
In a dispute that pitted the speaker against Lottery Department Secretary Tom Delacenserie, and by extension Gov. Rick Scott, a circuit court judge ruled that the department exceeded its authority when it entered into a multi-million-dollar vendor contract without legislative approval.
Corcoran sued the Lottery Department last year when it became known that department officials signed a deal with IGT Global Solutions for the procurement of 8,025 lottery terminals offering draw tickets and scratch-offs. The agreement extended through 2031 and was $12.9 million more than what the Legislature appropriated.
“Stated differently, the Lottery (legislative budget request) for the upcoming 2017-18 fiscal year is more than 37 percent higher than the current year appropriation,” the court said.
That contract is now “void and unenforceable.”
According to Judge Karen Gievers of Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit, the dispute hinged on basic separation of powers principals.
Budgeting and appropriations are the exclusive responsibility of the Legislature. Executive branch agencies, headed by the governor, exercise administrative power to “faithfully execute” legislative directives.
But the Lottery Department ran afoul of its constitutionally defined authority when it failed to comply with state laws outlining its administrative parameters.
State agencies cannot enter into binding contracts in excess of what they’re appropriated, or make agreements involving more than $5 million without citing a specific legislative appropriation.
What’s more, the Lottery Department failed to disclose the contract until last October when it was already signed.
“Today’s decision is a victory for the taxpayer and the rule of law,” Corcoran said in a joint statement with House Rules Committee Chairman Jose Oliva and Judiciary Committee Chairman Chris Spowls.
“It reinforces the idea that respecting the separation of powers is not an arcane idea or an out-of-date philosophy. … No branch of government is above the law and the people’s House will use every power within our means — from the committee room to the courtroom — to ensure those liberties and livelihoods are protected,” the statement said.
According to the 15-page ruling, Lottery Department officials said the Global Solutions contract included “contingency language” that allowed it to ignore statutory procurement requirements.
The judge said the contingency language was “insufficient” to meet the Department’s “mandatory requirements.”
In response, Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement, “The Florida Lottery continues to make record contributions to our public schools and today’s ruling jeopardizes billions of dollars for Florida students. I strongly disagree with today’s decision and we will appeal.”