June 26, 2015

Florida politicians react to SCOTUS legalizing same-sex marriage

@PatriciaMazzei

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states Friday. Here's how Florida politicians reacted to the 5-4 ruling, updated as they come in:

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida and 2016 Republican presidential candidate

I believe that marriage, as the key to strong family life, is the most important institution in our society and should be between one man and one woman. People who disagree with the traditional definition of marriage have the right to change their state laws. That is the right of our people, not the right of the unelected judges or justices of the Supreme Court. This decision short-circuits the political process that has been underway on the state level for years.

While I disagree with this decision, we live in a republic and must abide by the law. As we look ahead, it must be a priority of the next president to nominate judges and justices committed to applying the Constitution as written and originally understood.

The next president and all in public office must strive to protect the First Amendment rights of religious institutions and millions of Americans whose faiths hold a traditional view of marriage. This is a constitutional duty, not a political opinion. Our nation was founded on the human right of religious freedom, and our elected leaders have a duty to protect that right by ensuring that no one is compelled by law to violate their conscience.

I firmly believe the question of same sex marriage is a question of the definition of an institution, not the dignity of a human being. Every American has the right to pursue happiness as they see fit. Not every American has to agree on every issue, but all of us do have to share our country. A large number of Americans will continue to believe in traditional marriage, and a large number of Americans will be pleased with the Court’s decision today. In the years ahead, it is my hope that each side will respect the dignity of the other.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, 2016 Republican presidential candidate

Guided by my faith, I believe in traditional marriage.  I believe the Supreme Court should have allowed the states to make this decision.  I also believe that we should love our neighbor and respect others, including those making lifetime commitments.  In a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side.  It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida

Today's ruling reaffirms one of the paramount principles of America that we're all created equal and have the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

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June 25, 2015

Scott and Bondi react to Burwell ruling: Obamacare is still a bad law

Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi did not have much to say about the U.S. Supreme Court ruling today upholding the Affordable Care Act subsidies to states that rely on the federal exchange but instead steered their focus to the continued opposition to the underlying law. 

 "The Affordable Care Act continues to be the most heavy handed federal health care law in our nation’s history, and today’s decision in the King v. Burwell case does nothing to alleviate the harms the law will continue to cause,'' Bondi said in a statement.

Asked to comment at a veterans event in St. Augustine Scott responded, "It's a bad law. It was supposed to reduce health care costs and health care costs have gone up,'' he said, according to his spokeswoman Geri Bustamante.

He also noted that state-run exchanges "are collapsing across the country because it’s costing more than people thought." He continues to hope for the law's repeal, she said. 

June 12, 2015

Jeb Bush secures endorsements from top Florida Republicans ahead of campaign kickoff

@PatriciaMazzei @learyreports

Jeb Bush will gain endorsements Friday from a host of top Florida Republicans, including Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

Bush will also be endorsed by 11 of the state’s 17 Republican members of the U.S. House.

The endorsements, obtained first by the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times, come as Bush prepares for his official announcement on Monday in Miami, home also to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who has emerged as a strong candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

With people beginning to talk up Sunshine State showdown between Bush and Rubio, the list is a way for Bush to show off the depth and geographical range of his support.

Bondi, Putnam and Atwater plan to attend the event as do some of the congressional members, subject to duties in Washington.

They are: Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor; Vern Buchanan of Sarasota; Ander Crenshaw of Jacksonville; Carlos Curbelo of Miami, Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami; David Jolly of Indian Shores; Jeff Miller of Chumuckla; John Mica of Winter Park; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, Dennis Ross of Lakeland; and Daniel Webster of Winter Garden.

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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!”

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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.”

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