December 12, 2017

Scott, Rubio, Bush, Corcoran … What top Florida Republicans say about Roy Moore

MooreHorse

via @learyreports

It's all about Alabama today as the U.S. Senate race comes to a dramatic conclusion.

Here's what some prominent Florida Republicans had to say about Roy Moore, who would have easily won the race against Democrat Doug Jones had sexual misconduct allegations not surfaced.

Sen. Marco Rubio:

"I think these accusers are very credible. … I think we're going to learn even more as this goes on, and even if he's elected to the Senate, I think there's going to be a process … that could reveal more and be very potentially problematic for him. In fact, I guarantee it would be."

Gov. Rick Scott:

"Whether it's Roy Moore or what you read about the media reports from California or D.C. or Tallahassee, it's disgusting. So, if any of those allegations are true, he ought to resign."

The governor was then asked if a different threshold exists regarding predatory behavior with minors.

"I think whether it's minors, whether it's women, anybody. I mean, let's think about it. We all have children. We have nieces and nephews. I have daughters. Now I have grandsons. I expect people to be treated with respect. That's what you always expect. So, if the allegations are true, he has to get out," Scott said.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran:

"As the father of two teenage girls, there can't seriously be a question of my position. Roy Moore should step aside."

Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam:

"I find the accusations repulsive. I believe that for the good of the people of Alabama, Roy Moore should drop out of the race."

Jeb Bush:

"This is not a question of innocence or guilt like in a criminal proceeding, this is a question of what's right and what's wrong. And acknowledging that you're dating teenagers when you're 32 year old as assistant state attorney is wrong. It's just plain wrong."

November 29, 2017

Progressive group launches ad campaign and website focusing on working class poverty: Rick's Recession

Ricks Recesssion screen shotA day after the Florida Chamber held a day-long "prosperity summit" to focus on Florida's growing population of people in poverty, a left-leaning advocacy group has launched a website and social media ad buy highlighting Gov. Rick Scott's economic record -- and focusing on the regions of the where the economy has not improved during his term.

RicksRecession.com is the work of For Florida's Future, an organization that calls itself a "working families advocacy group"  and which also operates a super PAC. The data comes from the Florida Chamber Foundation, the FIU Metropolitan Center, and uses media reports over the last year -- such as how 36 of the state's 67 counties have still not returned to pre-recession employment levels and how 45 percent of all Floridians are considered "working poor." 

Blake Williams, For Florida's Future communications director, said the group is highlighting the issues in a "significant" social media ad buy on Facebook and Twitter. 

“Not a single thing Scott has focused on - slashing funding for public schools, refusing to expand Medicaid for millions of low-income Floridians or giving taxpayer funding to corporations who donate to his campaigns - has helped everyday Floridians,'' he said in a press release.

"If we’re going to dig our way out of Rick’s recession, the first thing we need to do is start prioritizing working and middle class families, something Scott clearly hasn’t done.”

An economic analysis compiled for the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau by Florida International University’s Metropolitan Center in October 2016 showed that in 40 of the state’s 67 counties there were fewer people working in 2015 than were working in 2007. Only South and Central Florida’s metropolitan areas had seen employment levels return to — or exceed — pre-recession levels.

Scott spokesman John Tupps called the information on the web site "outdated and misleading."

“Florida has been a national leader in job creation since Gov. Scott took office and the state has gone from losing 800,000 jobs in the four years before he took office to adding more than 1.4 million in less than seven years,'' he said. 

The Herald/Times asked the governor’s office to provide answers to the following questions, as well as to supply information on what the governor’s office is doing to narrow the prosperity gap in the counties that have not recovered the lost jobs. We will update this post if they do.

Can you provide me with an update of the data you allege is outdated on ricksrecession.com?
 
Do you dispute the Florida Chamber claims and concerns about the widening prosperity gap in Florida?

November 17, 2017

Florida lawmakers incensed that Trump disaster plan doesn't include citrus relief (Updated)

Exchange_Citrus_Industry_Future_39003

@alextdaugherty

Last month, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam came to Washington with a simple message: include disaster relief funding for Florida citrus industry. The state's congressional delegation and Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio also made a similar pitch to the Trump administration. 

Fast forward to Friday, and Florida lawmakers are angry that the Trump administration did not include a $2.5 billion for the state's citrus industry in a $44 billion disaster relief request for Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. 

"Floridians have been kicked to the curb in this proposed disaster supplemental, which lacks relief for Florida’s citrus growers who suffered immensely from this storm," said Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland. "The Florida delegation specifically requested this relief because there isn’t a citrus grove that wasn’t affected, with some experiencing 100 percent losses – worse than anything the industry has experienced in over 20 years. I cannot—I will not—support a proposal that leaves behind over 60,000 Florida jobs. I urge my colleagues in the Florida delegation to oppose it as well. I believe we have a duty to fight to ensure our citrus growers get the relief they need." 

Ross, a senior deputy majority whip, plans to rally fellow members to vote against any disaster relief package that does not include the citrus money. He requested federal help from U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue days after Hurricane Irma made landfall in September. 

It is possible for GOP leadership to revamp the Trump administration's disaster relief proposal before Congress votes on the plan, which will likely occur when Congress returns from a Thanksgiving break. 

Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, also pushed for citrus relief funding. 

"Do we want to say that orange juice is produced and made in America? Without the inclusion of funds to address citrus crop losses; that is at risk," Rooney said. "The threat to the domestic industry is real: oranges imported to Florida, primarily from Brazil and Mexico, are already projected to surpass what is grown in Florida this season. This storm has jeopardized an iconic Florida crop and way of life. Washington must act and provide relief so that generations of family citrus growers can continue to produce, employ, and put Florida-grown orange juice on America’s breakfast tables." 

Nelson also criticized the $44 billion disaster funding request in more general terms, noting that Puerto Rico asked for $94 billion in disaster relief earlier this week while Texas asked for $61 billion after Hurricane Harvey. 

"This request by the administration doesn’t come close to providing what is needed," Nelson said in a statement. "People are hurting and they desperately need our help, yet this request has no money to provide housing for evacuees and barely any money for Florida’s citrus growers. That’s unacceptable. Congress needs to pass a more robust disaster bill that actually provides the funding needed to help people recover."

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, also opposed the package and said she will use her spot on the House committee that determines federal spending to push for changes. 

“This Trump administration request is an insult," Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. "It ignores evacuee housing, and demands matching funds that will hinder Puerto Rico’s ability to tap CDBG relief. It also falls way short of what of Florida’s citrus growers need. As an Appropriator, I will work across the aisle in Congress for a recovery package that actually takes seriously the tremendous need we have after this ravenous storm season.”

November 16, 2017

Diaz-Balart, Nelson meet with Trump administration on TPS for Haitians

@PatriciaMazzei

Two members of Florida's congressional delegation met with President Donald Trump's Homeland Security chief Thursday ahead of a looming deadline over whether to extend Temporary Protected Status for Haitian immigrants.

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami, advocates of extending TPS, met with Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, who has until Thanksgiving to decide on whether to renew the program, which affects some 50,000 Haitians.

"Though we are approaching the eighth anniversary of the catastrophic earthquake, conditions on the island remain difficult," Diaz-Balart said in a statement. "The United States was a place of comfort and solace for so many Haitians in the wake of the devastation, and forcing them to return to Haiti in its current state would be counterproductive."

Last week, Duke ended TPS for Nicaraguans, a decision that disappointed South Florida lawmakers who represent many of those immigrants and their families.

Staffers for other Florida legislators also attended the meeting with Duke, who spoke by phone Thursday with Florida Gov. Rick Scott. In May, Scott asked John Kelly, then Homeland Security secretary and now the White House chief of staff, to extend TPS.

"The Governor hopes for a permanent solution for these families," Scott spokesman McKinley Lewis told the Miami Herald.

--with Mary Ellen Klas

This post has been updated.

November 15, 2017

Florida may have a housing crisis but governor wants $92 million in housing funds used for his other priorities

Workforce housing in the Keys  Al DiazAs every Florida county struggles with an affordable housing problem, Gov. Rick Scott signaled Tuesday he is poised to engage again in the annual real estate bait and switch on taxpayers.

In the last budget proposal of his term, the governor wants to sweep money from the affordable housing trust funds and use $92 million of it for other priorities. If the Legislature agrees, it will be the 17th time since Jeb Bush took office that millions of dollars intended to lower the cost of housing in Florida will be swept into the general revenue account to fund pet projects, other spending priorities and tax breaks.

The governor’s budget includes $230.3 million for housing programs — the most he has proposed since he was elected in 2010. That includes $20 million steered to workforce housing in the Florida Keys, $96.3 million to pay for projects funded by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation and $34 million for the State Housing Initiatives Partnership program, which works with local governments.

Scott’s increased focus on housing comes after Hurricane Irma wiped out workforce housing in the Keys. Thousands of Puerto Ricans are living on temporary hotel vouchers with no place to go in Central Florida. The Florida Housing Coalition reports that nearly 1 million Florida households use more than half their income on housing. And studies show that inMiami, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach and Naples, families need to earn more than $22 an hour to afford the rent on the average two-bedroom apartment. Read more here. 

Photo: The stock of affordable housing in the Keys took a big hit in Hurricane Irma. This is the Seabreeze trailer park along the Overseas Highway, Tuesday, September 12, 2017. AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiherald.com

October 26, 2017

Mason-Dixon poll: Scott moves up, ties Nelson at 44%

Scott and nelson
@PatriciaMazzei

Yet another Florida poll shows a tied 2018 U.S. Senate race between Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott has not announced his candidacy. But pollsters are treating him as the de facto GOP nominee — and he’s tied with Nelson at 44 percent, according to a survey released Thursday by the Jacksonville-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy. Twelve percent of respondents were undecided.

The results represent a post-Hurricane Irma bump for Scott, who in February trailed Nelson by 45-41 percent. A Wednesday poll by Mason-Dixon found a majority of Floridians thought Scott handled Irma well.

“The swing has come primarily among unaffiliated voters, with Scott taking a 44-40 percent lead,” pollster Brad Coker wrote in a memo summarizing the results. “In February, nelson was ahead of Scott 46-37 percent among these Independents.”

More here.

October 25, 2017

Poll: Floridians might not heed future hurricane evacuation orders

068 Hurricane Irma Gov Scott 091117
 @PatriciaMazzei

Gov. Rick Scott did well handling Hurricane Irma, according to a new statewide poll, but Floridians are not necessarily more likely to heed evacuation orders in future storms.

In the survey, conducted by Jacksonville-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, 35 percent gave Scott a rating of “excellent” rating, 31 percent “good,” 25 percent “fair,” and 4 percent “poor.” Five percent weren’t sure.

Republicans thought most highly of Scott’s hurricane job performance: 89 percent of Republicans rated it “excellent” or “good,” compared to 62 percent of independents and 49 percent of Democrats.

Irma, a massive Category 4 storm when it made landfall in the Florida Keys on Sept. 10, threatened to roll up the spine of the state, forcing widespread local evacuation orders. Nearly 32 percent of Floridians left their homes, Mason-Dixon found, but 43 percent of people under evacuation orders stayed put. Thirteen percent of people evacuated without having to do so.

“Next time round could be a different story, as many Floridians indicate that they will rethink their actions,” the polling firm wrote in a memo summarizing the poll results.

More here.

Photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald staff

October 19, 2017

Court gives boost to legal fight against new state rule that would allow more toxins in water

Florida water@MaryEllenKlas

After a year of legal hurdles, the city of Miami and Seminole Tribe of Florida can now move forward with a lawsuit challenging a state rule that would allow higher concentrations of toxic chemicals, including carcinogens, to be discharged into Florida’s rivers and streams.

The Third District Court of Appeals on Wednesday reversed a lower court ruling and Miami said Thursday it will now continue to pursue its lawsuit against the Department of Environmental Protection's Human Health Toxics Criteria Rule.

The rule increases the acceptable levels of more than two dozen known carcinogens and decreases levels for 13 currently regulated chemicals. It was approved on a 3-2 vote by the Environmental Regulation Commission in July 2016, when the commission had only five of its seven members. Story here. 

Photo: Pembroke Pines was a semifinalist in a national tap water competition in 2011. Here at the Pembroke Pines water treatment facility Michael Ponce drinks some of the prized water on June 15, 2011 at one of the water treatment units. A new state rule would allow more toxins in water sources. JOE RIMKUS JR. Miami Herald File

October 18, 2017

Senate committee to investigate Florida nursing home deaths

NELSON_PUERTO RICO0138 JAI

via @learyreports

The Senate Finance Committee will investigate the hurricane-related deaths of 14 people at a South Florida nursing home.

The top members of the committee, Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today questioned the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services about its new nursing home emergency preparedness requirements and have requested responses from state agencies in Florida and Texas regarding their preparations and responses to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

“We are writing to request information from Florida about its preparations for and responses to Hurricane Irma as it relates to nursing homes and other similar facilities,” the senators wrote in a letter to Florida’s Secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, Justin Senior.

“The Senate Committee on Finance has jurisdiction over both the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs. As part of our oversight responsibilities, we want to ensure the safety of residents and patients in nursing homes and other similar facilities during natural and manmade disasters.”

The action follows a call for investigation from Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, a member of the committee, and that was echoed by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

Nelson has questioned Gov. Rick Scott, a potential 2018 election rival, after the governor personally received calls for assistance from the nursing home. Scott has insisted the calls were properly routed and that the nursing home had an obligation to call 911 after losing power.

October 17, 2017

PSC delivers rare rebuke to FPL on nuke cost recovery issue

FPL lineman Enrique Flor eflor@elnuevoheraldIn a rare rebuke to Florida Power & Light, state utility regulators Tuesday rejected the company’s request to charge $49 million more for the planning of a nuclear reactor that the company cannot say will ever be built.

The 4-1 decision by the Florida Public Service Commission came Tuesday after months of hearings in which the state's largest utility urged regulators to let them charge customers in the future for costs of the postponed project — even without filing a “feasibility analysis” that would show if and when they intend to build two new nuclear reactors at their Turkey Point facility in south Miami-Dade County.

“This is a hard issue,”' said Commissioner Julie I. Brown, chair of the five-member panel, who voted to reject the request. “The whole country is watching the new fleet of nuclear deployments constructed or to be constructed around the country.” Story here.