August 13, 2014

Judge orders Google to provide details about gov's private email account

Project SunburstInternet giants Google and Yahoo must disclose who established several email accounts held by Gov. Rick Scott and his current and former employees as part of a lawsuit pending in Tallahassee that claims the governor routinely circumvented the state’s open records law, a court ruled Wednesday.
Tallahassee Circuit Court Judge Charles A. Francis ordered the companies to respond to a limited request by lawyer Steven R. Andrews to explain who created the Gmail and Yahoo accounts and when they were established.
The governor’s lawyers did not deny the existence of the accounts but called the exercise a “fishing expedition” because the email accounts used by senior staff and the governor are private and not used for public business. 
Andrews argued that there is no way to verify whether the email accounts did not contain government business unless the court knows who created them and the owners of the accounts are put under oath. Andrews is suing is Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi over whether they hid records related to a dispute between him and the governor's office over property the governor wanted to buy to create a legacy park.

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Jeff Atwater dials up social media on campaign trail


Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is already way ahead of his competition as he seeks reelection. For every $1 his Democratic challenger collected in campaign cash, Atwater has raised $166.


Still, Atwater is campaigning in earnest. In recent weeks, he has taken advantage of the power of the incumbency by traveling the state to talk about fire prevention and unclaimed property -- part of his official duties -- in between campaign stops. He chronicles everything on his Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages.

Last week, Atwater stepped it up a notch by launching a smartphone app to allow even more direct contact with voters -- and their cash if they so chose. The app links to his social media accounts, allows voters to send the campaign a message and has a donation button.

As far as we can tell, none of the other candidates for statewide office have smartphone apps. Attorney General Pam Bondi launched one recently, but hers is an official resource of her state office and not a campaign resource.

Meanwhile, Democratic CFO candidate William Rankin started tweeting just today. 

Crist kicks off education tour in Tallahassee


Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist kicked off his "Restore the Cuts" school bus tour in a Tallahassee park on Wednesday.

The first elected official to arrive at the event: Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, of Fort Walton Beach, speaking for Republican Gov. Rick Scott's re-election campaign.

"[Crist] has got to start this bus tour and go around this state to talk to anything other than his jobs record because of course, Florida lost hundreds of thousands of jobs under Gov. Crist and we’ve added hundreds of thousands of jobs under Gov. Scott," Gaetz told reporters.

A dozen Scott supporters were also on hand. Three wore black-and-white striped prison uniforms and oversized nametags, each naming a jailed Crist supporter: Alan Mendelsohn, Scott Rothstein and Jim Greer.

Another wore a chicken suit. "Stop ducking Nan Rich," his sign said.

Crist arrived at the park about 20 minutes later, accompanied by his running mate Annette Taddeo and his wife Carole Crist. He was greeted by a dozen Leon County schoolteachers chanting his name.

Crist stepped up to the podium, flanked by supporters holding campaign signs. The Scott supporters crowded behind them with signs of their own.

Included in the fray: Kim McDougal, a top educator policy advisor on leave from Scott's office. She carried a sign that said, "CRIST RAISED MY TUITION."

Crist slammed Scott for cutting $1.3 billion from public schools in his first year in office, and was equally as critical of cuts to the Bright Futures scholarship program.

"We don’t have a revenue problem," Crist said. "We have a priority problem. The priority needs to be education."

Taddeo also spoke, recounting how a teacher had inspired her to go to college and pursue a career in business and politics.

The bus then took off for Jacksonville.

Crist is scheduled to make additional stops in Orlando, Tampa and Miami over the next two days.

Libertarian governor hopeful Wyllie chooses running mate

The Libertarian Party candidate for governor, Adrian Wyllie of Palm Harbor, reached across the Pinellas County line for a running mate: Greg Roe, a 58-year-old Pasco County insurance executive.

Wyllie introduced Roe Monday on the second Tampa Bay stop of his statewide 30-city tour of craft breweries, at Wild Rover Pub and Brewery in Odessa. In a statement from his campaign, Wyllie said he picked Roe partly because of his insurance background and that "property, flood and especially health insurance" will continue to be major issues in the years ahead.

Roe was a registered Republican until July 8, 2013, when he became a Libertarian. When the Times/Herald asked the Pasco elections office for a copy of Roe's voter history, the timing of Roe's switch caught the eye of Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley, who recalled the Legislature's passage in 2011 of the so-called 365-day provision (the law that blocked ex-Republican Sen. Nancy Argenziano from running for Congress as a Democrat in 2012).

Under that provision, a candidate cannot qualify for office if he switched his party affiliation less than one year before qualifying. Corley asked the state for an opinion and the Division of Elections said Roe appears to be in the clear because he hasn't yet filed qualifying papers as a candidate for lieutenant governor. The standard week-long qualifying period was in June, but the deadline for qualifying for lieutenant governor is much later: 5 p.m. on Sept. 4.

"I don't see a problem," assistant state elections chief Gary Holland told Corley in an email, "but someone may challenge him in court to see if he would have had to meet the requirement before the beginning of the June qualifying period."

A recent Quinnipiac poll showed Wyllie the favored candidate for governor by 9 percent of voters in a three-way race against Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist, both of whom received low marks for trustworthiness from voters in the same poll. 

Health insurance for Florida government employees gets another look


Compared with other states, Florida's health insurance plan for government employees is about average.

It doesn't have the cheapest premiums or the most expensive. The state is generous to its employees, but not to an extreme.

The implementation of federal health care reform has caused more states to analyze spending. A national study released Tuesday provides a snapshot of each state, including how much public workers pay for health coverage and what they get in return.

The State Health Care Spending Project by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the MacArthur Foundation found that, on average, states require employees to pay 16 percent of their health insurance costs. Florida public workers pay 13 percent.

In Florida, 54 percent of state workers are enrolled in zero-deductible plans compared with 45 percent nationwide. Florida doesn't offer any high-deductible plans, defined as $1,500 or more; nationally, 4 percent of public workers are enrolled in such plans, the report said.

Still, House Republicans see a system that needs fixing. They want to provide more choices and perhaps require state workers to pay more for their health coverage.

Read more here.

August 12, 2014

Jeb Bush and Rick Scott together Fri


Charlie Crist's three-day bus tour concludes Friday with to-be-announced event in Miami, after campaign stops in Tallahassee and Jacksonville Wednesday, and Orlando and Tampa Bay on Thursday.

But in south Florida Friday,  former Jeb Bush Republican-turned Democratic nominee Crist may have trouble dominating the media as the original Jeb Bush Republican - Jeb Bush - makes his first campaign appearance this year with Rick Scott. Only a few months ago, Crist called Bush a "great" governor.

Scott campaign spokeswoman Jackie Schutz says Govs. Bush and Scott will visit "a business in Homestead to highlight proposals to keep Florida working."

Movers & Shakers

Former Junior League president and police chief appointed to human trafficking council 

Lee Lowry, a former president of The Junior League of Tampa, and Philip Thorne, Springfield's police chief, have been picked by Gov.Rick Scott to fill the two remaining seats on the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking.

The council, which was created during the legislative session to develop recommendations for programs and services for victims of human trafficking and maximize existing resources, will have its first meeting at 2 p.m. Aug. 18 in Room 214 of the Knott Building at the Capitol. 

The other members of the 15-member council are Attorney General Pam Bondi, the council's chairman; Mike Carroll, interim secretary of the state Department of Children and Families, who will serve as vice chairman; State Surgeon General Dr. John ArmstrongElizabeth Dudek, Secretary of the state Agency for Health Care Administration; Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey; Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Interim Secretary Christina Daly; and Education Commissioner Pam Stewart; Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle; Martin County Sheriff William Snyder; Terry Coonan, executive director of the Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights; Dotti Groover-Skipper, chairwoman of the Community Campaign Against Human Trafficking; Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring; and Rep. Jeanette Nunez, R-Miami.

New faces on the Commission on the Status of Women

Nancy Acevedo and Dhyana Ziegler have been appointed to the Florida Commission on the Status of Women.

Acevedo, 65, of Winter Springs, is an intelligence analyst with the Seminole County Sheriff's Office.

Ziegler, 65, of Tallahassee, is the Garth C. Reeves eminent scholar chair of journalism at the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

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PolitiFact Florida to appear in Halifax Media Group papers

Fact-checking reports from Florida’s Truth-O-Meter can now be read in Halifax Media Group newspapers around the state, thanks to a new agreement between the Tampa Bay Times and Halifax Media Group.

Now, many of the Florida Truth-O-Meter rulings that appear in the Tampa Bay Times, TheMiami Herald and online at be available to newspaper readers in other Florida cities. The agreement will reach readers of the Sarasota Herald-TribuneThe Daytona Beach News-JournalThe Lakeland Ledger, theWinter Haven News ChiefThe Gainesville Sun, the Ocala Star-Banner, the Panama City News Herald, the Northwest Florida Daily News of Fort Walton Beach and the Leesburg Daily Commercial.

PolitiFact Florida helps readers sort out the truth in state politics. Our fact-checking reports hold politicians and candidates accountable for their comments and political advertising. PolitiFact Florida is fact-checking the Florida governor’s race, the state’s congressional delegation in Washington and potential 2016 presidential candidates from Florida, among other topics. We also fact-check statements made about popular issues, such as education, immigration and the economy.

"We are excited to broaden our reach so that more newspaper readers will be able to sort out the truth in politics," said Tampa Bay Times Editor Neil Brown. "With statewide elections set for November, we are anticipating an even larger audience our award-winning fact checking."

Dade Data: How wealthy are Miami-Dade politicians?


When they qualify to run for public office — and every year once they’re elected — Miami-Dade County candidates are required by Florida law to disclose their finances.

They list the value of their assets, including investments and property, and of their liabilities, including mortgages and student loans. The resulting subtraction equals their net worth.

A review of the most recent financial disclosures available of Miami-Dade commissioners and the mayor shows significant disparity.

Commissioner Barbara Jordan, a 71-year-old retired assistant county manager, reported wealth of more than $1.5 million. Commissioner Jean Monestime, a 51-year-old real-estate broker, reported $89,400. 

More here.

August 11, 2014

Redistricting session ends but challenges to map likely to continue

RedistrictOldNew@MaryEllenKlas and @MikeVanSickler

Florida legislators completed their hasty fix of a congressional redistricting map Monday, sending the plan on to Gov. Rick Scott for approval as they scramble to meet Friday’s deadline set by a state court.

In an attempt to address the concerns by Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis - who said the map violated a constitutional ban on partisan gerrymandering - the legislature moved 368,000 voters in North and Central Florida into new districts as it changed the boundaries of seven congressional seats.

The House and Senate voted for the map along party lines, as a handful of Jacksonville Democrats voted with Republicans in solidarity with U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, a Jacksonville Democrat whose winding district was invalidated because it packed Democrats voters into the district so that Republicans in surrounding districts would face less competition.

The new map makes the biggest changes to the districts now held by Brown, John Mica, R-Orlando, and Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden. Lewis ordered the Legislature to fix Districts 5 and 10, held by Brown and Webster, by Friday, saying they were in violation of the state’s Fair Districts rules.

No South Florida districts were modified. Story here.


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