July 23, 2014

Senate Dem leader to Rick Scott: Examine all tax-incentive deals, not just Crist era's

Almost as soon as Gov. Rick Scott's administration announced it would sue a firm to recoup $20 million in a Charlie Crist-era deal, the leader of the Senate Democrats, Fort Lauderdale's Chris Smith, said Florida should broaden its focus. Here's Smith's email and letter:

Dear Governor Scott:

Last week, you announced your intention to file suit against Digital Domain Media Group over its failure to comply with the terms of a $20 million agreement signed by the State of Florida to encourage the company’s relocation to the state and create 500 jobs. The litigation is also reportedly going to include the former governor for his role in the incentives’ approval.

Continue reading "Senate Dem leader to Rick Scott: Examine all tax-incentive deals, not just Crist era's" »

Rick Scott/Fabrizio poll: Crist trails governor by 4% in crowded race, 5% head-to-head

@MarcACaputo

Normally, you can readily dismiss a campaign's polling memo because it's so self-serving. So read the following internal memo from Gov. Rick Scott's pollster, Tony Fabrizio, with caution.

The survey shows Scott beating Democrat Charlie Crist by 5 percentage points in a head-to-head match, while SurveyUSA yesterday found Crist up by 6 points and Quinnipiac University reported today that Crist is winning by 5 points head to head (but up by an inside-the-error margin of only 2 points with Libertarian Adrian Wyllie in the race).

But also remember, it's Fabrizio.

He helped mastermind the mechanics and message of Scott's improbable 2010 primary and general-elections wins. Also, he was one of the few pollsters to get the margin right in the March special congressional election between Democrat Alex Sink and U.S. Rep. David Jolly, who bested her by 2 points.

Another bit of history: Fabrizio was a top advisor for Tim Pawlenty's successful 2002 race for Minnesota governor. It was a three-way contest, and Fabrizio helped perfect the art of getting someone elected with less than 44 percent of the vote.

There's a good chance that could happen here in Florida with Scott, who reaches 45 percent in Fabrizio's poll and 50 percent in a head-to-head matchup against Crist (the highest we've seen the incumbent reach).

Here's the memo

FROM:             Tony Fabrizio & David Lee, Fabrizio Lee & Associates
TO:                   Campaign Supporters
DATE:              July 23, 2014
SUBJECT:       Polling Update

In a survey conducted last week for Let’s Get to Work after Crist and his allies had spent more than $2 million on ads, we found very significant changes in the political environment in Florida. The voters have taken a sharp turn towards Republicans, with a 10-point advantage on the described generic ballot.

President Obama’s numbers have continued their erosion. The President’s job approval is only 41 percent, with 55 percent disapproving. ObamaCare is similarly unpopular, with only 39 percent approving of the law, versus 55 percent who disapprove.

Governor Scott’s ratings continue to strengthen, especially on issues. The Governor leads on the most important metrics: which candidate is best able to create jobs, turn Florida’s economy around, and improve education. That’s why 51 percent of Florida voters say they approve of the job Rick Scott is doing as Governor, with only 41% disapproving.

Governor Scott leads Crist by 4 points – 45% to 41% in the 3-way ballot. Head-to-head versus Crist, Governor Scott reaches the 50% threshold – leading by 5 points, 50% to 45%.

Movers and Shakers

Legislative director leaves

A longtime presence in state government, Darrick McGhee has left his job as director of legislative affairs for Gov. Rick Scott, and will be starting a new position as vice president of government relations for the lobbying firm, Johnson & Blanton, on Aug. 4th.

Darrick is “an outstanding human being, a really good guy,” said Travis Blanton. “He’s very knowledgeable of the (state) agencies because he’s worked in several and he’s very knowledgeable about how Florida government works.”

McGhee’s 17 months as director of legislative affairs included two legislative sessions. His other state posts included interim executive director, and also chief of staff, of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity; director of the Office of Legislative and Cabinet Affairs; and director of the Office of Governmental Relations among other positions.

A graduate of Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, McGhee is also an ordained minister and pastor of the Bible Based Church in Tallahassee.

New human trafficking council taking shape

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle is among the four members appointed to the newly created Statewide Council on Human Trafficking by Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Bondi, who will chair the 15-member council, also appointed Martin County Sheriff William SnyderTerry Coonan, executive director of the Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights; and Dotti Groover-Skipper, chairwoman of the Community Campaign Against Human Trafficking.

The council’s purpose, said Jennifer Meale, communications director for the Attorney General’s office, is to “bring everyone to the table who may be able to assist in the effort to end human trafficking in the state and build on the state and local efforts that are already underway.”

Mike Carroll, interim secretary of the state Department of Children and Families, will serve as vice chairman. Also on the council: State Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong; Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Elizabeth Dudek; Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey; Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Interim Secretary Christina Daly; and Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

Other members to be announced will be a senator, appointed by Senate President Don Gaetz; one representative, appointed by House Speaker Will Weatherford; and two members appointed by Scott.

The council is expected to start meeting at the end of August.

Continue reading "Movers and Shakers" »

Nan Rich faces Truth-O-Meter on economy, taxes

PolitiFact Florida fact-checked two claims by Nan Rich, a Democratic candidate for governor, from statements she made to the Florida Press Association July 11.

Rich said, "tourism and retirees are the dominant economic engines in our state."

We didn’t find a simple way to quantify whether tourism and retirees are the dominant economic engine in Florida, but a combination of statistical data and expert analysis suggests that both are important engines, and possibly too important, due to the low-wage jobs they bring.

We rated this claim Mostly True.

Rich also said that there is evidence that Florida has "the third most-regressive tax base," though she acknowledged when she spoke she wasn’t certain if she had the number right.

She was close: A study placed Florida No. 2 in terms of its regressive tax base.

Florida has a regressive tax base because we lack a state income tax. Though the Tax Foundation criticized the report, it didn’t dispute the states’ rankings, and other experts we interviewed also had no qualms about Florida’s placement.

Rich’s number of third place was just a smidgen low, so we rated this claim Mostly True.

Charlie Crist announces 2nd TV spot, attacks Scott on school spending

@MarcACaputo

A day after the Republican Party released a Spanish-language ad touting Gov. Rick Scott's school-spending recording, Democrat Charlie Crist hit back by announcing his second English-language spot that draws attention to the education budget on Scott's watch.

Overall, the spot -- like the RPOF ad -- appears accurate. The education budget was reduced $1.3 billion under Scott (because of the federal stimulus money flameout) and PolitiFact Florida found that per-student education spending was slightly higher under Crist when adjusted for inflation.

But then Crist veers into hyperbole.

"Rick Scott's education cuts are closing that door on Florida's kids," Crist says. Then he pivots from talking per-pupil spending to higher-education scholarships called "Bright Futures," which Crist says were "cut in half."

But not on a per-student spending basis. Based on each recipient, Bright Future awards are about 2,086, which is an increase from Scott's first 2011-12 budget but a decrease of $2,364 under Crist's last budget in 2010-11.

In overall spending and student population, Bright Futures declined from about 180,000 recipients and $423 million under Crist's FY11 budget to 128,000 students for a total of $266 million.

Either way, it's not in half. And Crist made some cuts to Bright Futures as did Scott.

 

But going forward, Crist might have more of a point.

State data show that the number of newly eligible students (that is, high-school graduates) fell from 41,000 in 2012-13 to slightly more than 21,000 in 2013-14 as the new requirements -- largely passed under Scott and the GOP Legislature -- began to take hold. That’s a 48 percent drop.

Crist tinkered with Bright Futures in a different fashion. He agreed to tuition hikes (halted by Scott in an election year), which made part of the bill for college not covered by Bright Futures.

But the changes approved by Scott and Legislature are expected to have some dramatic impacts, especially on minorities qualifying for it. FSU's interim president recently said at the last trustees meeting that the changes were going to have a big impact at the university.

Let's also not forget that the Legislature appropriates, so it gets it's share of the credit or blame.

Crist's ad is potentially effective because he's talking direct to camera -- instead of using surrogates -- and the commercial initially seems positive in style. But then, voters respond more to negative ads. And people who hate Crist think anything with him is awful (ditto the opposite for Scott ads).

 

DOH schedules second workshop on medical pot rules

@tbtia

The second workshop on the state's proposed rule to implement new medical marijuana laws will be held Aug. 1.

The rule carries out Senate Bill 1030, the so-called "Charlotte's Web" bill, passed by the Legislature and approved by Gov. Rick Scott this spring. A second draft addressing issues raised at the first standing-room only workshop will be publicized by the end of the week.

The law the Legislature approved authorizes five nurseries in Florida to cultivate and distribute marijuana for a limited number of ailments and medical issues. The Department of Health has proposed a lottery system in each region to give all eligible participants -- including at least 41 growers that have operated consistently for 30 years -- equal opportunity to win.

Critics at the first rule hearing said a lottery would ignore the quality of services and experiences offered by various nurseries and urged the DOH to rethink that portion of the rule.

Florida became the 22nd state to legalize a form of marijuana for medical purposes and the 11th to authorize strains low in TCH, the chemical that causes a feeling of getting high. However, in November Florida voters will be asked to approve a constitutional amendment that would expand the use of medical marijuana for more general illnesses.

Click here to visit the DOH's Office of Compassionate Use site that outlines the process of implementing SB 1030.

Q-Poll: Crist over Scott 39-37%; Libertarian Wyllie has big 9% impact

@MarcACaputo

From a Quinnipiac University press release:

Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott trails former Gov. Charlie Crist, running as a Democrat, by a narrow 45 – 40 percent margin in a two-way race. When Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie is added to the mix, the race is too close to call, with 39 percent for Crist, 37 percent for Scott and 9 percent for Wyllie, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

This compares to a 48 – 38 percent Crist lead in a head-to-head matchup without Wyllie in an April 30 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University.

Today, Scott leads former State Sen. Nan Rich 41 – 34 percent in a two-way race.

Wyllie gets his strongest support from independent voters who back Crist over Scott 45 – 38 percent in a two-way matchup, but split with 36 percent for Crist and 34 percent for Scott, with 12 percent for Wyllie, in the three-way race.

Republicans back Scott 79 – 12 percent in the two-way, and 74 – 9 percent, with 5 percent for Wyllie, in the three-way. Democrats go from 78 – 10 percent for Crist in the two-way to 73 – 9 percent, with 6 percent for Wyllie.

Florida voters give Scott a negative 43 – 48 percent approval rating, one of his best scores in almost four years in office, and a negative 40 – 45 percent favorability rating.

Crist gets a split rating, 40 percent favorable and 42 percent unfavorable.

For Wyllie, 92 percent don’t know enough about him to form an opinion.

“The campaign to be Florida’s next governor tightens slightly and takes on a new dimension with a third candidate in the running,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

“Libertarian Adrian Wyllie is not, at this point, a serious contender to win the governorship. But he may have a great deal to say about who does win.”

“Virtually no one knows much about Wyllie, but there are a lot of Floridians who aren’t keen on either of the major party candidates, Gov. Rick Scott or former Gov. Charlie Christ,” Brown added.

Gov. Scott does not deserve to be reelected, Florida voters say 51 – 40 percent.

Both candidates get low grades for character:

More here

July 22, 2014

SurveyUSA/WFLA poll: Charlie Crist pulls ahead of Rick Scott 46-40%

@MarcACaputo

Democrat Charlie Crist has jumped ahead of Gov. Rick Scott, leading the Republican 46-40 percent among likely voters in the SurveyUSA latests governor's race tracking poll conducted for WFLA.

Crist's 6 percentage point lead is the largest he has had in the firm's poll track and represents a significant 8-point shift in the race since SurveyUSA's last poll released July 3. Then, Scott led by an inside-the-error margin amount of 2 percentage points.

Three factors are at play: Scott's horrendous week, where numerous TV stations featured Scott ducking the most-basic of questions; new ad buys from Crist and Democrats promoting him and tearing at Scott; and Crist's decision to pick Miami-Dade Democratic Party Chair Annette Taddeo as his running mate on Thursday -- which just happened to coincide with the first day of the five-day poll, said Jay Leve, SurveyUSA's editor.

"The news after-glow for Crist has continued for about five days," Leve said.

Essentially, the race has reset in SurveyUSA's poll track. It's first poll for WFLA, on April 15, had Crist leading Scott 46-41. See the chart below.

Scott clawed ahead by spending more than $12 million in unanswered TV ads. Scott's ad spending, along with the Republican Party of Florida's, now exceeds $16 million. But Crist and the Florida Democratic Party have run and placed nearly $3 million in ads since early June.

Assuming Scott stops the unforced errors and Crist doesn't continue to rack up major favorable news coverage, Leve said, he expects the race to settle back to a near tie. This Crist surge aside, SurveyUSA did have another, less explicable one in early June, before the Crist-FDP ads began.

We'll know more about how these latest numbers stack up tomorrow morning when Quinnipiac University releases its Florida poll.

SurveyUSA

Rick Scott agency sues Digital Domain in $20 million deal linked to Charlie Crist

Associated Press:

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The state of Florida has filed a lawsuit seeking to recoup millions of taxpayer dollars provided to the failed Digital Domain film visual effects company.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by the Department of Economic Opportunity in St. Lucie County Circuit Court against Digital Domain Media Group and a number of other entities. Digital Domain had promised to create about 500 jobs at a Port St. Lucie animation studio and a West Palm Beach film school, but it filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

The lawsuit contends Digital Domain defrauded the state out of $20 million in seed money by misrepresenting its debt problems and other allegedly fraudulent acts. The company also got $62 million in funding from St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties.

Its shutdown resulted in 280 layoffs.

Here's the lawsuit, which mentions Gov. Rick Scott's Democratic opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist, repeatedly because the deal was allegedly approved with the Democrat's knowledge:  Download Digital-Domain-Complaint

To close cash-gap with Scott, Crist to rely on $1m -- and counting -- from taxpayers

@stevebousquet

Democrat Charlie Crist says he can't raise nearly as much money as Republican Gov. Rick Scott, but he can close the gap thanks to a big subsidy from Florida taxpayers.

Crist soon will get his first infusion of millions in campaign cash under the state's public campaign financing program, created to help low-budget candidates counter big-money opponents as long as they abide by a self-imposed spending cap of about $25 million.

Candidates for governor and three Cabinet offices who agree to limit spending by their own campaigns are eligible for matching money. The state matches contributions of $250 or less from Florida residents, and Crist has far more small donors than Scott.

Crist says more than 30,000 people have donated $100 or less to his campaign. Larger donations are also matched up to $250 each.

"I think it's a good idea, because the public needs to be involved in our government, our democracy," Crist said at a campaign stop in Tampa on Saturday.

Continue reading "To close cash-gap with Scott, Crist to rely on $1m -- and counting -- from taxpayers" »