March 01, 2016

Scott says he hasn't made decision on presidential endorsement and isn't sure he will

via @TMarreroTimes:

As a presidential race of epic proportions continued to rage and voters in 13 states went to the polls for Super Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott seems content to sit on the sidelines, at least for now.

Exactly two weeks before Florida’s March 15 primary, Scott has yet to endorse a candidate in the Republican race. On Tuesday, Scott said he hasn't made a decision and is not sure if he will.

Here are portions of an exchange with reporters after Scott awarded the Governor’s Service Medal to several dozen veterans during a ceremony at the C.W. Bill Young Armed Forces Reserve Center in Pinellas Park.

Reporter: You’ve been rumored to be a possible nominee to run with (frontrunner Donald) Trump. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Scott: I’ve got three years left on this job. By the way, this is a great job. I’ve worked hard to make sure everybody can get a job in our state. We’ve added a million jobs. I’ve got three years left. My goal at the end of this time as governor is people are going to say, "I have to live in Florida because I can get a job, I have to live in Florida because my kids can get a great education and I have to live in Florida because I know I can be safe.”

Reporter: Would you consider endorsing Trump for president?

Scott: I haven’t endorsed anyone in the presidential race to date. I’m not sure if I will. My focus, as you know, is on jobs. We’ve added a million jobs. I’m looking for the best jobs plan. Somebody that’s going to cut our federal debt. Somebody that’s going to cut taxes. Somebody’s that’s going to reduce federal regulation. Somebody that’s going to figure out how to destroy Isis.

Reporter: Have you made a decision that you will endorse, or are you still on the fence about whether you will? If you do, do you have a time frame on when you would?

Scott: I haven’t made a decision on it.

Scott has made known his admiration for Trump, however. In early January, penned a glowing op/ed for USA Today that seemed to all but endorse Trump.

As for Scott getting picked as Trump’s running mate, check out what Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith had to say on that. 

 

February 19, 2016

Bloomberg reports Alan Grayson's family "profited from 'pariah state' gold mine"

U.S. Senate candidate and current U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, has made headlines this past week because of mounting controversy and criticism over a once-offshore hedge fund he has managed.

Bloomberg Politics is out today with a new report, this time about investments Grayson's children made. The news organization reports Grayson's children previously invested in -- and profited from -- a company that operates a mine in Eritrea, an African country that is accused of using slave labor.

From Bloomberg Politics:

Representative Alan Grayson holds an unusual position as a member of the U.S. Congress, an active investor and manager of a hedge fund.

Now that the wealthy Florida Democrat is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio, his investments are becoming a more prominent liability.

Last year, Grayson, who was first elected to Congress in 2008, made a passionate speech denouncing trade with dictatorships or countries that employ forced labor.

But weeks earlier, his family cashed in a long-held investment in a mining company that derives its revenue almost entirely from Eritrea, an east African country labeled "a pariah state" by Human Rights Watch in part for its system of forced labor in service of a government that hasn’t held an election since 1991. Grayson said he wasn’t aware of the 2013 report criticizing the company.

The Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid of Nevada, has already called on Grayson to drop out of the race, charging that he used his role as a member of Congress to promote his own hedge fund and saying he appeared to have "no moral compass." 

Grayson, 57, is running against fellow Florida Democratic Representative Patrick Murphy, with a primary set for Aug. 30. On Sunday, Murphy also said Grayson should close his hedge fund and even resign if allegations made in the New York Times and the Tampa Bay Times were proved true that his roles as a member of Congress and hedge fund manager had become intertwined. Grayson has denied using his office for personal gain.

Asked last week about the investment in Nevsun Resources Ltd., Grayson says he wasn’t aware of concerns expressed by human rights groups about Nevsun’s mining operations in Eritrea before the stock was sold last year.

Full story here.

UPDATE: 9:55 a.m.

Murphy's campaign released a statement this morning calling on Grayson to donate to charity the profits his family made off its investments in Nevsun.

"Hedge fund manager Alan Grayson profited off of a company accused of using slave labor on a massive scale, and then sponsored legislation condemning those same practices. That kind of shameless hypocrisy is exactly what Floridians hate about Washington," Murphy campaign manager Josh Wolf said. "If Congressman Grayson still knows how to do the right thing, he should donate to charity every penny of his profit from the suffering of innocent people." 

Bloomberg Politics reported that Grayson said he "didn’t know" and "couldn’t have known" about this specific investment.

"If I had known, then I would have divested," Grayson told Bloomberg Politics. "I did actually divest, but I didn’t know when I divested, nor would I have any reason to know that, given the fact that literally thousands of different investments are involved, given the fact that nobody brought it to my attention until I’m in the midst of a competitive campaign."

January 28, 2016

Scott: Don't count Jeb out

@jamesmartinrose

Gov. Rick Scott hasn't written off one of his famous predecessor's chances of becoming president.

Scott, in Washington to deliver an address on reforming hospital pricing practices at the American Enterprise Institute, put on his politics hat after the talk.

Scott, governor since 2011, said it's too soon to give up on former Gov. Jeb Bush despite his failure to gain traction in polls.

 "I still think it's early," Scott told the Miami Herald. "I mean, we haven't even done the first primary yet."

Scott said that Bush "was a very successful governor" when he headed the state from 1999 to 2007, noting in particular his education reforms.

"We're at a 12-year high in our K-12 graduation rate," Scott said.

Adding that "Jeb is working hard," Scott said, "The person that works the hardest generally wins."

Despite praising Bush's record in Florida, Scott declined to endorse him. Neither is he endorsing -- yet -- fellow Floridian Marco Rubio, the first-term U.S. senator, nor any of the other Republican presidential hopefuls.

"Like a lot of voters in Florida, I'm watching the candidates," the governor said.

Four days before the Feb.1 Iowa caucuses, Bush tallied just 4 percent in a NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll of that state's Republican voters released Thursday. He was far behind businessman Donald Trump and U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio of Florida, while also trailing neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Bush is faring better in New Hampshire, which will hold its primary Feb. 9, according to a poll released Thursday by Suffolk University. Bush broke out of the single digits with 11 percent, putting him in a second-place tie with Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Rubio, with all four men well behind Trump's 27 percent standing.

In addition to Bush, Scott said he has personal relationships with Rubio, along with Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie through the Republican Governors Association.

Scott criticized the Republican National Committee for having scheduled just nine presidential debates this year.

"I wish the national party hadn't limited the number of debates and limited the locations," he said.

The RNC is weighing three additional possible Republican presidential debates.

The March 10 GOP debate will be at the University of Miami, nine days after Super Tuesday, when 14 states will hold Republican primaries or caucuses. Florida will hold its primary on March 15.

Scott declined to comment directly on Trump's decision to skip Thursday night's Fox News debate because of his ongoing feud with Megyn Kelly, one of its moderators.

"Every candidate's got to think about what's the best forum for them to get their message out, whether it's debates, whether it's town halls," Scott said.

 

July 25, 2015

Super-lobbyist Ron Book bashes Miami commissioner for 'despicable' behavior on homeless issue (W/AUDIO)

@MrMikeVasquez

The fierce debate over Miami’s sleeping-mat program for the homeless turned personal on Friday, as Miami-Dade Homeless Trust chairman Ron Book lashed out at city leaders — singling out one commissioner in particular.

Book took aim at Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who spearheaded the mat program. The two men have feuded over whether the county homeless agency should help fund 115 outdoor mats, which are part of a covered pavilion at the Camillus House shelter. Sarnoff says it’s only right that the county chip in; Book says outdoor mats encourage the homeless to stay on the street rather than seek social services, and his agency won’t fund something that’s counterproductive.

The mat program, started last year, runs out of money on Aug. 1.

On Friday, Book said Sarnoff has jumped into the homelessness issue without truly understanding it. And the city of Miami, he said, can’t be trusted.

“They’re never OK, they’re never satisfied, because Marc Sarnoff wants to be nothing but right, and he’s wrong about this, he’s wrong about it,” said Book, who in addition to leading the Homeless Trust is also one of Florida’s most powerful lobbyists.

Book’s angry comments, with his arm repeatedly banging on the table, came during a sit-down meeting with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. The meeting, which was open to the public, was an attempt by Gimenez to broker a deal on the outdoor mat issue.

As Book ripped into Sarnoff — who wasn’t in attendance — Gimenez tried to calm him.

“He thinks he’s right, you think you’re right,” the mayor said.

“He’s no expert!” responded Book, his voice raised. “He parachutes in, he hasn’t done any research, he hasn’t gone to conferences, he doesn’t care, ’cause he wants to be right. ... His behavior is despicable.”

Ron Book speaks with county mayor

More here.

January 07, 2015

The curious case of Dan Webster, a 'plodder, not a prophet'

Via @learyreports

U.S. Rep. Dan Webster of Florida is a "plodder" — his words — and he's maintained that style since arriving in Washington four years ago. But on Tuesday the Republican became the lead protagonist of an attempted coup against House Speaker John Boehner.

"No regrets," Webster said in an interview Wednesday as he and his staff were still consumed by the whirlwind of attention.

Webster did not get enough votes to oust Boehner, but the attempt illustrated rank-and-file dissatisfaction with Republican leadership.

"I felt like I had a message to give and an opportunity to do it, that is I want to have a more member-driven process where every member gets an opportunity to play. Take a pyramid of power where a few people make the decisions, push it down, spread it out," Webster said. "We have a lot of talented people in this Congress and we can avoid a lot of unintended consequences if we just included them."

More here

December 09, 2014

Movers & Shakers

While three secretaries of a major state agency have recently resigned, Gov. Rick Scott has announced the reappointment or promotion of three other administrators this week.

 Elizabeth Dudek will continue to serve as the Secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. Barbara Palmer has been reappointed as director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. And Mike Carroll has been appointed the permanent secretary of the Department of Children and Families after serving as the interim head for nearly eight months.

Dudek has held the AHCA secretary post since March 2011, facing such controversial issues as moving Medicaid into a managed-care program, Obamacare and troubled assisted living facilities.

Continue reading "Movers & Shakers" »

December 01, 2014

Richardson the first openly gay representative to hold House leadership post

State Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, has been selected as the Democratic Floor Leader by House Democratic leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, and Democratic Leader pro tempore, Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville. Richardson will be the first openly gay representative in Florida history to serve in a leadership position in the Florida legislature, according to House Democrats. 

Here's the Democrats' press statement:

Richardson, D-Miami Beach, was the first openly gay member ever elected to the Florida Legislature when he was elected on August 14, 2012. Richardson has been a licensed CPA in Florida for 30 years and began his career as a Pentagon auditor identifying fraud, waste and abuse in government contracts. He was re-elected earlier this year to represent House District 113 for his second two-year term and is the only openly gay member of the Florida Legislature. Richardson joins the leadership team that will guide policy and action for House Democrats. As Floor Leader, he will serve as the chief liaison between the Democratic Leader and the Office of the Speaker. Richardson will also serve as ranking member on the House Rules, Calendar & Ethics Committee. In that role, Richardson will work on daily schedules of action for the House. Richardson will also manage, in conjunction with Republican leaders, floor debate on bills and amendments.

Continue reading "Richardson the first openly gay representative to hold House leadership post" »

November 12, 2014

Half of Florida 'barely getting by' poverty report shows

@JenStaletovich

Almost half the residents of Florida, including much of the state’s glitzy southern half, are barely getting by, living below the federal poverty level or struggling to pay for food, housing, childcare and other basic needs, according to a United Way study released Tuesday.

Dubbed the ALICE report, the study looks closely at the working poor — those people squeezed between the nation’s poorest and its middle class, often overlooked and living paycheck-to-paycheck. Statewide, about 2.1 million households fall into the category, the report found. In Miami-Dade County, the rate is even higher: 21 percent of households live below the federal poverty level and an additional 29 percent can’t afford a “survival budget.”

In Broward and Monroe counties, the numbers are almost as bleak, with 47 and 48 percent living below the poverty level or scrambling to cover basic needs, according to the report. Story here.  

Key excerpts:

They attribute the swelling ranks of the poor to a variety of reasons.

More than half of the jobs in Florida pay less than $15 an hour, with the greatest growth in the job market projected for low-paying retail and service industry jobs. Almost half of households — 48 percent — don’t have enough savings or liquid assets to survive three months without a paycheck. And the state’s aging population means even more residents are likely to slip into poverty.

The state’s demographics don’t offer much hope: Only 27 percent of residents older than 25 hold a bachelor’s or advanced degree.

November 10, 2014

Movers & Shakers

Dominguez takes over as regional director of external affairs in Miami

Alex Dominguez has been named the new regional director of external affairs for the city of Miami and South Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Domingues previously served as the director of the Miami-Dade County Legislative Delegation. 

He has also had roles as the director of fundraising and membership development for the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba, the South Florida political coordinator for the Florida Association of Realtors and he was a Florida House Legislative Fellow.

In his position, Dominguez will handle legislative and community affairs initiatives. He will also assist with new technology deployment and infrastructure investment.

On the bench

Judge Rodolfo Ruiz II and Jason Bloch have been appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to Miami-Dade County's Eleventh Judicial Circuit.

Continue reading "Movers & Shakers" »

Simmons named new Senate Rules Committee chair

Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamone Springs, has been named by Senate President-Designate Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, as the new chair of the Senate Committee on Rules. 

"David is a loyal advisor, a trusted confidante and good friend," Gardiner said in a press release. "With over three decades of experience practicing law and ten years of service in the state legislature, he is well-qualified to assume this critical leadership position. Throughout his years of public service, David has exhibited sound judgment and a fair-minded, reasonable and thoughtful approach to decision making that, I am confident, will be a great benefit to the Senate over the next two years."

Simmons represents State Senate District 10, which includes all of Seminole County and portions of Volusia County. He served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2000-2008 and was elected to the Senate in 2010 and re-elected subsequently. Simmons, who earned his law degree at Vanderbilt University, practiced law in Florida for more than 30 years.