April 08, 2015

No Pam Bondi for Senate campaign in 2016

via @learyreports

There wasn't much chance Attorney General Pam Bondi would run for U.S. Senate in 2016, and now there is none.

"I don't believe I should be out running for another office instead of running my office," the Republican told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

A recent poll showed Bondi, who has boosted her profile with appearances on Fox News, doing well. But she hasn't been angling like CFO Jeff Atwater. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera could also seek the nomination.

The seat is likely to open with Sen. Marco Rubio running for president.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

February 03, 2015

Why won't the governor move the Cabinet meeting from the fair grounds? Some reasons


Florida Cabinet slideThe governor’s handling of the firing of former FDLE commissioner Jerry Bailey, and subsequent dust-up over Cabinet affairs, has prompted the three members of the Florida Cabinet to call for a through vetting of the personnel policies, hiring and firing and oversight practices the state Constitution tasks them with.

But there is one problem: the next meeting of the Cabinet is scheduled to be held in Tampa during the State Fair. It’s a tradition Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has welcomed for years, and is in keeping with the Cabinet’s practice of occasionally moving the business meeting to other parts of the state. 

Aware that the deliberation is likely to be serious, intense, and interfere with the light-hearted photo op with 4-H clubs, fried ice cream and giant slides, Putnam asked Gov. Rick Scott to shift the venue back to Tallahassee. Scott said no.

We asked the governor's communications office why. They refused to answer.

Attorney General Pam Bondi didn’t protest the failure to shift the venue but her spokesman released this statement: “Although the Attorney General is pleased to have the Cabinet meeting in her hometown to honor local heroes, she is prepared to discuss the recent issues involving FDLE at a Cabinet meeting anywhere in the state.”

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater also didn’t complaint but his spokeswoman released this statement: “The CFO initiated the call for the Cabinet to address the matter of how Cabinet Agency directors are hired and evaluated. He is ready to get on with this urgent issue. Be it at the Tampa Cabinet meeting or a Tallahassee Cabinet meeting, the CFO is ready to get to it!”

Continue reading "Why won't the governor move the Cabinet meeting from the fair grounds? Some reasons" »

February 02, 2015

Shedding light on Florida's Sunshine Laws in wake of Pam Bondi's comments about Rick Scott and Gerald Bailey

Gov. Rick Scott is mere weeks into his second term, but he’s already embroiled in a controversy over the ouster of the head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Gerald Bailey said he was told to resign after he refused to do work to benefit the governor’s political campaign and had complained of meddling in law enforcement issues by Scott’s office. The members of the Florida Cabinet -- the attorney general, the chief financial officer and the agricultural commissioner -- originally okayed replacing Bailey with little discussion, thinking the longtime FDLE chief had resigned on his own. They backed off supporting Scott’s move after learning the governor forced out the commissioner.

Attorney General Pam Bondi was adamant that the Cabinet didn’t know that Bailey was apparently told to leave. Bondi maintained on Jan. 28, 2015, that she hadn’t discussed it because that’s against the law.

"We all knew that there were going to be changes made in the upcoming months. Did I know that Jerry Bailey was going to be told he was fired and have his things packed up, his entire life as a career law enforcement officer, in a cardboard box, and be told to be out of the office before the end of the day? Absolutely not. Nor do I believe the governor knew it," Bondi told reporters.

"I think the staff knew it, someone knew it," she said, suggesting Scott’s aides. "But we can't talk about it with each other because of Sunshine Laws."

While it’s true Cabinet members aren’t allowed to discuss official business outside public meetings, there are plenty of unanswered questions surrounding this case, so we’re not putting Bondi on the Truth-O-Meter. Did the governor or Cabinet do anything wrong while appointing a new FDLE commissioner? How are their staffs allowed to communicate? In order to understand what the problem is, we’ll need to shed some light on the state’s Sunshine Laws. Turn to Joshua Gillin's story from PolitiFact Florida.

January 29, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott expresses confidence in his staff

Gov. Rick Scott expressed confidence in his staff Thursday, dismissing the notion that they are responsible for the controversy caused by the hurried dismissal of former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey.

"I have a great chief of staff," Scott said at the Tampa Chamber of Commerce, where he was discussing his proposed $470 million communications tax cut. "Melissa Sellers, along with my other team, is doing a great job."

The response came a day after the three elected Cabinet members criticized the governor's handling of Bailey's dismissal and said they were not consulted before the decision was made to replace him.

At a news conference Wednesday in Tallahassee, Attorney General Pam Bondi proposed that the controversial ouster of Bailey in December could have been the doing of the governor's staff without his knowledge. By law, The FDLE commissioner works for the governor and the elected cabinet.

"We all knew there were going to be changes made in the upcoming months, but did I know that Jerry Bailey was going to be told he was fired and have his things packed up, his entire life as a career law enforcement officer in a cardboard box, and be told to be out of the office before the end of the day? Absolutely not," Bondi said. "Nor do I believe the governor knew it."

More here.

-- Josh Solomon, Tampa Bay Times

January 19, 2015

Pafford: Gerald Bailey's ouster from FDLE is 'concerning'

In response to allegations that Gerald Bailey's resignation from the top job in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was both forced and politically motivated by the governor's office, House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford's reaction is clear but measured:

"What's been slowly coming out is concerning, obviously" Pafford told the Times/Herald on Monday.

Pafford said he would likely have a more complete statement later this week, as the Legislature returns to Tallahassee for committee meetings but said this is the kind of situation he's heard of happening before.

"There's always been hints of this type of thing for years," he said.

At issue in Bailey's removal from the job is what role was played by the other cabinet officials, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.

They, together with Gov. Rick Scott, have oversight of FDLE. It appears Bailey was asked to resign by members of Scott's staff.

The other cabinet officials' versions of the story remain unclear: While they initially held to a similar line of comment -- that they respected Bailey and that he resigned -- all three had by last Thursday expressed their own concern about the behind-the-scenes processes that led to Bailey leaving office.

When asked about how he would have handled the situation if he had a seat on cabinet, Pafford said he thought the officials should have been made aware of any details about how and why Bailey resigned. But, he was sure to say, he isn't in the same situation.

"You want to be made aware of certain things," he said. "That's part of the gig. There are only three people doing that other than the governor, so you would hope that you would have the information, that it would be provided."

What is clear, Pafford said, is this:

"I think there's a lot more questions right now than answers, and I guess that will kind of unravel, and I'm sure there'll be a story to tell."

January 16, 2015

Bondi pleased Supreme Court will consider gay marriage

After the U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday it would take up four same-sex marriage cases by the end of the term, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi issued a statement of her own, praising the court:

"All along, I have maintained that the U.S. Supreme Court should decide the same sex marriage issue in order to provide uniformity in Florida and resolve the legal issue nationwide. I am pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the same sex marriage issue and provide finality on the matter."

Bondi was largely quiet after same-sex marriages began in Florida last week. She asserted that Solicitor General Allen Winsor was looking into the next steps the state ought to take and that she was happy for the couples that did marry.

The court could provide consistency on same-sex marriage nationwide by striking down state bans as unconstitutional, or it could continue allowing states to determine their own laws and policies.

January 11, 2015

How Marco Rubio could run for president then governor and what that does to other pols

@MarcACaputo

Marco Rubio is expected to run for president.

All that’s really in doubt is the year: 2016, 2020, 2024?

What’s not uncertain is that the U.S. senator has a tough decision to make: does he make a longshot bid and give up his seat or does he run for president and then seek reelection?

Either way, there’s increasing political chatter that Rubio is well-positioned to run for governor in 2018.

And then, if he wins, there’s a good chance Gov. Rubio will run for president — 2020 would be attractive if a beatable Democrat is president. The next presidential year, 2024, an open-seat year, would be more likely. He’ll only be 52.

Rubio is offering few public clues about what’s next.

“At the end of the day, it’s a very personal decision,” Rubio told reporters last week when asked about a presidential bid. “You don’t make this decision on the basis of political advisers. You make it on your own.”

Continue reading "How Marco Rubio could run for president then governor and what that does to other pols" »

January 05, 2015

Bondi's office: 'We wish these couples the best'

Pam BondiFlorida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican who vigorously fought to defend the state's same-sex marriage ban against a barrage of legal challenges, on Monday conceded defeat.

"The judge has ruled, and we wish these couples the best,'' said Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray in a statement.

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Tallahassee, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, declared the state ban unconstitutional in August, but stayed his decision through Monday to give some time for legal appeals. The ban will now expire on the same day that Bondi, who vigorously fought to keep the state's ban, and Gov. Rick Scott and the remainder of the state Cabinet take the oath of office for a second term.

For the last several months, Bondi sought extensions of the stay from the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, but both turned her down.

A day before a gay-marriage ban that has been ruled unconstitutional is lifted in the rest of the state,  Miami-Dade County became the first place in Florida to allow same-sex couples to marry on Monday when a judge lifted the stay there.

Continue reading "Bondi's office: 'We wish these couples the best' " »

January 02, 2015

Hinkle to Bondi: Yes, Constitution does apply to all counties, so does same-sex ruling

@SteveRothaus

On the first day of the New Year, a federal judge issued a landmark ruling that finally cleared the way for same-sex marriage in every county in Florida.

And, significantly, Attorney General Pam Bondi — Florida’s chief legal opponent to gay marriage — said the state would not try to block county clerks from issuing licenses, beginning as early as 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

Specifically, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle, clarifying a previous order, ruled that all Florida clerks are bound by the U.S. Constitution not to enforce Florida’s gay marriage ban and that any couple seeking a license should receive one.

“The preliminary injunction now in effect thus does not require the Clerk to issue licenses to other applicants,” Hinkle wrote in an order released Thursday afternoon. “But as set out in the order that announced issuance of the preliminary injunction, the Constitution requires the Clerk to issue such licenses.” More here. 

December 05, 2014

Pam Bondi makes FL 18th state to sue President Obama over immigration action

@MarcACaputo

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced late Friday that the Sunshine State would join a federal lawsuit to block President Barack Obama’s executive action sparing as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Of the 18 states now suing the Obama administration over immigration, all have Republican governors or Republican attorneys general. But Florida is the only major swing state with a significant Hispanic population, making Bondi’s decision a potential presidential campaign issue as the 2016 election cycle gets underway.

In a written statement, Bondi said the lawsuit isn’t about politics, it’s about Obama circumventing Congress and acting alone.

“This lawsuit is not about immigration, rather this lawsuit is about President Obama — yet again — overstepping the power granted to him by our United States Constitution,” Bondi said echoing the language of the suit initiated this week by Texas Attorney General and Governor-elect Greg Abbott.

“We need to fix our system of immigration,” Bondi said, “but willfully turning a blind eye to the inconvenience of law and rule is not the path to a remedy, but a prescription for unwarranted presidential overreach.”

But Democrats say Bondi is leading Republicans into a problem with Hispanics that has vexed them in recent presidential elections and threatens to do so again. Republican Gov. Rick Scott has stayed out of the fray and referred questions to Bondi's office.

More here