July 21, 2014

Rick Scott privately profited in FPL pipeline deal approved by governor's appointees

By Dan Christensen of the Broward Bulldog:

Upon his election in 2010, Gov. Rick Scott’s transition team included a Florida Power & Light executive who pitched his company’s plan to build a major natural gas pipeline in North Florida to fuel a new generation of gas-fired power plants in places like Port Everglades.

“The proposed project will need state regulatory and governmental agencies to understand and support this project,” said the proposal submitted by FPL vice president Sam Forrest.

Gov. Scott understood. In May and June 2013, he signed into law two bills designed to speed up permitting for what came to be known as the Sabal Trail Transmission — a controversial, 474-mile natural gas pipeline that’s to run from Alabama and Georgia to a hub in Central Florida, south of Orlando.

Five months later, the Florida Public Service Commission, whose five members were appointed by Gov. Scott, unanimously approved construction of Sabal Trail as the state’s third major natural gas pipeline. More approvals are needed from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which the governor oversees.

What wasn’t publicly known in 2013, however, was that the governor owned a stake in Spectra Energy, the Houston company chosen by Florida Power & Light that July to build and operate the $3 billion pipeline. Sabal Trail Transmission LLC is a joint venture of Spectra Energy and FPL’s parent, NextEra Energy.

Before the story, here's the governor's whole statement:

"Neuberger Berman, and therefore Spectra, became an investment after the Governor’s blind trust was created in 2011. Therefore, he had no knowledge of the investment because the decision to invest was made by a trustee of the blind trust. Immediately upon disclosing his assets to the public, Governor Scott placed all of his assets back into a blind trust to ensure that there would not be the possibility of any conflict of interest. As a result, Governor Scott has no knowledge of the current contents of the blind trust. Governor Scott went above and beyond to provide Floridians with transparency by disclosing his assets and releasing tax returns for both himself and the First Lady. Charlie Crist is still refusing to follow suit by releasing his wife’s tax returns, which only makes us wonder what he’s hiding."

More here

'Cuban' rivals featured in flier from candidate in Miami congressional race

Flier front

@PatriciaMazzei

In case any voter in Florida’s 26th Congressional District thought candidate Ed MacDougall was of Cuban descent, one of his latest campaign advertisements should clear things up.

The flier features photos of MacDougall’s four original Republican primary rivals, with a sentence or two about each one. What all the blurbs have in common: Each includes the word “Cuban.”

Carlos Curbelo is the son of Cuban exiles.”

David Rivera is an advocate for the Cuban Embargo...”

Joe Martinez championed the creation of the Cuban Memorial...”

Lorenzo Palomares wants to be a strong voice for tightening restrictions on our dealings with the Cuban Government.”

The other side of the flier shows MacDougall and lists four policy positions — “The MacDougall Plan” — without making any other mention of Cuba or U.S. policy toward the island.

MacDougall, who is the mayor of Cutler Bay, said the “Cuban” references merely repeat what each of his current or former opponents — Rivera has suspended his campaign — has played up on the campaign trail.

“Virtually everything I hear is that,” MacDougall said. “My feeling is that it is not about Cuba. It’s about America.”

More here.

Rick Scott: "I would have voted for the traditional marriage"

Blog updated to include information provided by Gov. Rick Scott's campaign.

A few days after a Monroe County judge ruled that the state’s gay marriage ban is unconstitutional, Gov. Rick Scott continues to give evasive answers to questions about his views.

Attorney General Pam Bondi quickly announced she would appeal which essentially puts a stay on the judge’s ruling for now. The plaintiffs asked the judge today to lift the stay but as of noon the judge hadn’t made a decision.

The judge sided with Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, who argued that the 2008-voter approved ban on same-sex marriage in the Florida Constitution violated their rights under the U.S. Constitution.

Scott issued a statement after the ruling saying he “supports traditional marriage, consistent with the amendment approved by Florida voters in 2008, but does not believe that anyone should be discriminated against for any reason.” Last Friday when asked about gay marriage he gave vague answers to Michael Putney and then pivoted to talk about jobs.

We asked Scott to elaborate on his views on discrimination at a campaign pit stop promoting jobs in Pompano Beach this morning:

Q: “Gay rights groups say that the marriage ban discriminates against them but proponents of the ban say that judges are now discriminating against their votes. You have said you are against discrimination. Which kind of discrimination are you against?”

A: “First off, as we know in 2008 the voters of the state decided that marriage would be between man and a woman, traditional marriage. It's gone to the courts. The courts will end up deciding. The Attorney General is doing her job. She is appealing it which is her job to defend the Constitution. In my case I believe in traditional marriage. Also I don’t want anybody discriminated against. We will see what the courts do.”

Q: “How did you vote in 08 on that?”

(Scott’s response was so quiet I couldn’t hear him.)

Q: “What?”

A: “I would have voted for the traditional marriage.”

A spokeswoman for the campaign, Jackie Schutz, later told us that in 2008 Scott “voted for the amendment.”

The amendment defined marriage as between one man and one woman and was approved by about 62 percent of the voters.

 

Scott makes new jobs promises at campaign event

Another week, another policy tour for Gov. Rick Scott with a focus on ... you guessed it ... jobs.

Scott’s campaign brought his “Jobs for the Next Generation” tour to Pompano Beach this morning at Hoerbiger Corp., which manufactures parts for compressors. The company is headquartered in Switzerland and employs about 350 people at the Pompano Beach site. 

Scott chatted up workers as he toured the facility (without the safety goggles that reporters and other visitors had to wear) and then gave a short speech in which he talked up the growth in manufacturing jobs.

Scott also used the event to bash his expected opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist, for jobs lost during his tenure. Scott didn’t name Crist, but said that FLorida “lost 832,000 jobs in four years” before he became governor while under his watch the state has added “over 620,000 jobs.”

Both statements ignore this context: Crist governed during a national recession while Scott led during a national recovery. Unemployment rose under Crist and fell under Scott though economists warn against any simple claims about credit or blame.

This particular jobs plan focused on manufacturing and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) jobs and included the following promises should he win a second four-year term:

* Permanently eliminate the manufacturing sales tax -- under Scott the Legislature eliminated it through 2017.

* Create a program to give STEM teachers summer jobs in the private sector and pay them with $10,000 in state money

* Secure $10 million to create $10,000 STEM degree programs. (In 2012, Scott urged all four-year colleges to offer $10,000 degrees.)

* Pursue $30 million for workforce training focused on STEM and other high-skilled, high-wage jobs

* Expand the number of National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers in the state from one to three

* Achieve it's first Top 10 and second Top-25 public research institution

The first day of Scott's tour coincided with the campaign announcing an endorsement by the Manufacturers Association of Florida. Scott took his tour to Boca Raton in the afternoon and plans to continue the tour in Orlando tomorrow. 

Kevin Cate, a spokesman for the Crist campaign, said that Crist will soon release his own policy proposal about jobs. 

 

South Florida prepares for (legal) new cash crop: marijuana

Before the sun set over the rows of palms and ferns and hibiscus that Thursday, Chuck Buster had heard from a half dozen friends, all calling to tell him that his next venture could be in Florida’s medical marijuana business.

For more than three decades, the co-owner of Alpha Foliage has tilled the Homestead earth near the southern tip of Florida, raising tropical foliage season after season. But a rising drumbeat to bring medical marijuana to Florida, plus a Legislature that relented on the last day of the lawmaking session last spring have combined to create a potential new business boom for nursery owners such as Buster.

What he learned on that Thursday in May was that his nursery qualified as a potential pot growing location. So with 300 acres at his disposal and 30 years of experience in the foliage business, Buster suddenly found himself poised to enter the legal pot business.

He’s far from alone. Alpha Foliage is one of 50 veteran nurseries, including 12 based in South Miami-Dade County and one in Broward County, eligible to compete to become one of five regional growers. That has fueled a frenzy of callers — ganja-preneurs, investors, technology companies — looking to partner with an eligible nursery in what will become Florida’s newest legal crop, a limited, low-THC form of marijuana for medical purposes. It will be used for patients with seizures, severe and persistent muscle spasms and cancer.

“I started getting all these inquiries as to whether I had any interest in partnering in a marijuana growing operation,” said Buster, as he surveyed the growing list of agricultural companies from the town of Havana in North Florida to Homestead, that met the criteria of operating for at least 30 years and having an inventory of 400,000 plants. “Everybody is trying to be a part of this.”

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized use of some medical marijuana. Florida became part of the group with the passage of the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act this year.

Story here

FL CFO Jeff Atwater blasts NY Gov. Cuomo as 'huckster' over ad campaign

@MarcACaputo

Florida's top finance official, CFO Jeff Atwater, is accusing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of running a deceptive TV ad campaign designed to lure businesses to the Empire State.

“We know a huckster when we see one,” Atwater, who dashed off a letter about his concerns, told the New York Post about the Cuomo Administration's $113 million TV and radio "START-UP NY" ads in Florida and other states that promote New York's business climate and tourism.

Cuomo's office fired back, saying Atwater was misconstruing the incentives that the ad campaign is promoting.

"For a CFO, he must be pretty bad at math if he doesn’t understand that the zero in StartUp’s zero-tax zones means no state taxes for new businesses,” Cuomo spokesman Matthew Wing said in an email response.

In his July 18 letter, Atwater says the ads contain "glaring errors and misstatements" about New York as a place to work. And Atwater needles the number of New Yorkers who have moved to low-tax Florida, a job-creation leader. 

"These advertisements portray an image of New York that simply cannot be supported by facts, particularly in comparison with Florida,” writes Atwater, who is running for re-election this year and faces little-known Democrat William Rankin.

"The reality is that New York boasts the highest taxes in America, the highest costs of living in the country, and one of the worst business climates in the nation. Conversely, by every objective measure, Florida continues to be one of the best states in which to start a business and raise a family." 

This isn't the first time Cuomo has drawn the fire of an elected Republican from outside New York. In April, Texas Gov. Rick Perry visited New York in an effort to lure jobs to Texas and challenged Cuomo to a debate.

Cuomo declined the offer from the Republican, who plans to run for president in 2016.

"I don't think so," a grinning Cuomo said, according to USA today.

Download Atwater

July 20, 2014

Stumbles aside, numerous numbers favor Rick Scott

@MarcACaputo

Charlie Crist had one of the best weeks of the governor’s race after picking a widely admired running mate, Annette Taddeo, Miami-Dade County’s Democratic leader.

And Gov. Rick Scott, called out by TV stations across Florida and the nation for serial non-answers and question-dodging, had one of the toughest stretches ever.

But don’t let the coverage fool you. Crist has serious trouble on his hands.

He knows it. Crist’s admittedly “unorthodox” early pick of Taddeo — 40 days before the primary against Democrat Nan Rich — shows it.

And beyond the horse-race headlines and the tragicomic TV of an odd-gazing Scott murmuring poll-tested platitudes (“I’m against discrimination”), Scott has numerous advantages.

“One number should worry you: $70 million. That’s how much Rick Scott spent in 2010,” Taddeo told Democrats in January, underestimating the Republican’s personal $75.1 million in spending when he was first elected in 2010.

Scott has a number of other numbers on his side:

More here

Even to opponents, Crist running mate Annette Taddeo is a 'class act'

@PatriciaMazzei @MarcACaputo

The Miami-Dade County Republican Party leader quickly summed up the opposition’s greatest strength.

“The best asset that the Miami-Dade Democratic Party has is Annette Taddeo,” Nelson Diaz, chair of the local GOP, said during a spring good-government seminar arranged by the Miami Dade College faculty union.

“As the Democrat chair, she’s very involved,” he said. “She worked hard to organize and mobilize the left wing of her party — which is now the party’s base — making them more of a presence. She made us work harder.”

Now, Taddeo has a much bigger role in state politics: running mate for Democrat Charlie Crist, who tapped her on Thursday to become the first female Hispanic lieutenant governor if the ticket can knock off Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

Unlike Lopez-Cantera, Diaz says, he doesn’t believe Taddeo, a Miami businesswoman who runs a translation company, is ready to become governor because she has never held elected office or run a large company.

But when it comes to the mechanics of fundraising and generating buzz, Republicans should not — and will not — take her lightly, Diaz said.

Taddeo twice has run for elected office — Congress in 2008 and the Miami-Dade County Commission in 2010 — and lost both times. An avid partisan Scott-basher, Taddeo jumped at the chance to help Crist when he called her Tuesday to offer her a spot on the ticket.

“I am so fired up. And I’m ready,” Taddeo told Crist, paraphrasing the Obama campaign’s fired-up, ready-to-go call-and-response mantra.

More here

July 19, 2014

Rick Scott’s gay marriage-question dodge: “Let’s talk about jobs!”

@MarcACaputo

What used to be well-known only to political print reporters in Florida is now seeping into local TV news across the state: Rick Scott won’t directly answer questions about most topics of the day.

The most-recent example: Gay marriage and the decision Thursday by a Florida Keys judge to declare the 2008 voter-approved same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. On Friday at two events, the governor wouldn’t really say what he thought of the ruling or Florida Attorney Pam Bondi's appeal.

“Nobody wants discrimination in our state,” Scott said in Bonita Springs, adding that he believes “in traditional marriage” and citizens’ access to the courts.

Gay-rights groups say the same-sex marriage ban discriminates against them, but the ban’s backers say their votes are being discriminated against by judicial activism.

So what discrimination is Scott against? Scott won’t say.

Continue reading "Rick Scott’s gay marriage-question dodge: “Let’s talk about jobs!”" »

July 18, 2014

Judge eases rules for write-in candidates

It just got easier to be a write-in candidate in Florida.

On Friday, a Leon County judge struck down a state law requiring write-in candidates to live in the district where they are running for office.

The ruling may seem inconsequential, considering no write-in candidate has ever won an election in Florida. But it could have a profound impact on the state’s quirky election system.

In Florida, write-in candidates have a unique power. If all of the candidates in a primary election are from a single political party — meaning the winner of the primary will be the office-holder — all voters can participate regardless of their party affiliation. That changes if a write-in candidate enters the race. Write-in candidates close the primary election to independent voters and members of the other party. As a result, they have become a popular tool to limit voter turnout.

"In almost every case, the write-in candidate is a sham candidate who is there to close the primary and disenfranchise voters," said Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who supports the residency requirement. "We need to close that loophole, not widen it."

Read more here.