August 25, 2016

Rubio raps FEMA over algae blooms

Senate 2016 Rubio_Ordo (1)-082516

@jamesmartinrose

Sen. Marco Rubio criticized the Obama administration for again declining to issue a federal disaster declaration in response to toxic algae in Florida's waterways.

"Even though the end to this disaster is not in sight, the President is telling our state we are on our own," the Miami Republican said Thursday in a statement.

Barack Obama did not appear to be involved in the decision. In a brief letter earlier Thursday, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate rejected Gov. Rick Scott's appeal of his agency's earlier denial of extra money to help fight the algae blooms from Lake Okeechobee discharges intended to protect its aging dike.

"After a thorough review of all information contained in your initial request and appeal, we reaffirm our original findings that supplemental federal assistance under the Stafford Act is not appropriate for this event," Fugate wrote to Scott. "Therefore, I must inform you that your appeal for an emergency declaration is denied."

The thick algae blooms look like guacamole and smell bad. The algae has fouled Treasure Coast waterways fed by Lake Okeechobee.

"The Administration has chosen yet again to turn a blind eye to the livelihoods of Floridians who are affected by this toxic algae," Rubio said.

For more on Rubio's response:

Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

 


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article86989367.html#storylink=cpy

 

Florida Gov. Rick Scott plans another DC trip to ask for Zika money

ZIKA_SCOTT f epf
@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Gov. Rick Scott plans to return to Washington when Congress convenes after Labor Day to again press lawmakers for emergency funds to combat the Zika virus.

"I will travel to Washington D.C. to meet with members of Congress on the day they return to work to make sure they immediately get something done on this urgent issue," Scott said in a statement Thursday. "During Congress's vacation, we have identified 43 cases of locally acquired Zika in four Florida counties. The Zika virus demands immediate federal action and I will impress upon our congressional members the urgency to protect our residents and visitors."

The Republican governor has already lobbied the GOP-controlled Congress for help, to no avail. Federal Zika dollars are scheduled to start drying up at the end of September.

Scott has blamed Democratic President Barack Obama for also failing to find money to deal with the virus outbreak. The president has requested a $1.9 billion allocation from Congress. Scott hasn't committed to any number.

Locally transmitted Zika has been identified in Wynwood and Miami Beach, and there are two cases under investigation in Pinellas and Palm Beach counties.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff

August 22, 2016

Miami Beach mayor blames Florida governor for slow Zika response

ZIKA_SCOTT b epf
@PatriciaMazzei

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine on Monday blamed Florida Gov. Rick Scott for the confusing way in which his city conveyed information about the Zika virus outbreak.

"The governor made, I believe, a big mistake by not believing the folks that are on the ground -- myself, [Miami-Dade County] Mayor [Carlos] Gimenez -- informing us, telling us what he knows," Levine told reporters at a news conference.

"This issue is serious," Levine continued. "To play politics with people's lives is wrong, and there's no place for that. Information must be timely. It must be coming out."

Levine, a Democrat who wants Scott's job, had insisted to reporters Thursday night that Miami Beach had no confirmed Zika cases -- even after the Miami Herald and later other news media reported otherwise, citing sources inside the Florida Department of Health.

The next day, Republican Gov. Scott traveled to Miami to announce the new Zika cases on the Beach, making Levine look like he was either uninformed or more interested in protecting the city's tourism business.

Continue reading "Miami Beach mayor blames Florida governor for slow Zika response" »

August 20, 2016

Miami Beach mayor accuses Rick Scott of "playing politics" with Zika information

@joeflech

 

Amid the public health concerns and worries about impacts on tourism, the news of Zika spreading to Miami Beach has set off a political quarrel between Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine — rumored to be eying a gubernatorial run in 2018 — and Gov. Rick Scott.

He's taken to cable news channels to accuse Scott of withholding information from him about the presence of Zika in the popular resort city, which is a crucial economic engine for the region's tourism industry.

Fourteen hours after Levine told reporters late Thursday that there was "no outbreak, no epidemic of Zika on Miami Beach," Scott held his own press conference in Miami to announce that five cases were confirmed and Zika was being transmitted locally in South Beach. 

On Friday, Levine blamed Scott for a lack of communication that left the mayor unaware of what was going on in his own city. On Friday night and Saturday afternoon, the mayor took to cable news networks to blast the governor. 

"On Friday, the governor played politics with this horrible issue," Levine told CNN's Martin Savidge on a live segment aired just after 1 p.m. Saturday.

That's after a Friday night appearance on MSNBC.

 

"It is so sad that this governor is withholding life-saving information and playing politics with it," he said.

When the Herald asked Scott's office for a comment Friday, a spokesperson seemed to say, in the same breath, that Scott has been in contact with local officials, but he didn't tell them about the new local cases until after his press conference.

"Governor Scott has been in contact with mayors, local officials and community leaders for weeks and will continue to keep them informed," a spokesperson wrote. "Friday afternoon, the Governor hosted a call with all of the local officials in Miami-Dade to give them updates on what is going on."

Meanwhile, Levine himself could benefit politically by throwing darts at Scott.

This isn't the first time the millionaire mayor has taken on Scott. Earlier this year, Levine bought a radio ad in California touting his proposal to create a citywide minimum wage, and the ad ran while Scott was in California. During that trip, Scott criticized the state's high taxes and labor costs.

He's also promoted Beach issues on a national level, putting the oceanside city in the spotlight when it comes to sea-level rise and U.S.-Cuba relations. And he is now a regular contributor on cable news shows talking about the presidential election (he's a Hillary Clinton surrogate and personal friend of the candidate).

Levine has said he wants to run for a third term as mayor, but he has not ruled out a run for the top spot in Tallahassee. 

August 16, 2016

Rick Scott biggest donors? It's all business

ScottTimesArchivesphoto

@JeremySWallace

It’s unmistakable who Gov. Rick Scott’s biggest fans are if you look at his political fundraising over the last two years.

The latest campaign finance records show Scott’s Let’s Get to Work Committee this month has received another $100,000 combined from a pair of political action committees affiliated with Associated Industries of Florida, one of the most influential business groups in the state. Now three groups with ties to AIF have combined to give Scott’s committee $740,000 since the start of 2015.

But they are still not his top donor. The Florida Chamber of Commerce and a political committee tied to it, hold that spot. They have combined to donate more than $925,000 to Let’s Get to Work.

It’s a big drop off after that. Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts gave Scott more than $252,000 last year. And U.S. Sugar Corporation, and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeffrey Vinik are next in line, both donating $200,000 to Scott’s committee.

Scott continues to raise money in Let’s Get to Work, despite facing term limits and being unable to run for another term as governor because of term limits. Scott has used the fund over the last two years to run television ads and fuel bus tours around the state to promote his agenda. He has raised $6.8 million for the fund since the start of 2015.

August 15, 2016

Four people control who is disenfranchised in Florida; three say it's time for reform

Restrictions on felons voting is one of the two ways Florida legally disenfranchises voters.

One way, the write-in law, which allows a write-in candidate to close a primary to all voters, is intended to undercut the constitutional provision that allows all voters to vote in a primary election.

The other is the law that permanently requires felons who have completed their sentences to apply and petition for their voting rights to be restored. But unlike the write-in laws, which the Florida Legislature can revise to make less restrictive, the laws regulating ex-felons voting is controlled by the governor and Cabinet and the state Constitution. Any change in the rules requires the governor to be on the prevailing side.

In interviews with the Herald/Times, everyone but Gov. Rick Scott said they are open to changes in the system they installed five years ago.

“If someone does an analysis, we have been granting civil rights to those who were waiting who would have automatically had their rights restored [under the previous system] and it’s probably time for us to revisit,” said Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

“Having had some time and experience on the Clemency Board, I’ve come to believe that there are opportunities for improvement,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Attorney General Pam Bondi said she was open to some reforms before an application may begin.

"I wouldn't mind reevaluating the time frame of how long we wait,'' she said. "I would reconsider reevaluating the time frame to three years." But she does not support automatic restoration for non-violent felons.

“Serving your time meant that you lost your rights,” she said. “If you’re going to have your rights restored, I want you to ask for them.”

Scott, however, said through a spokesperson he does not support any changes. 

Florida leads the nation in the number of felons who have served their time who are disenfranchised with an estimated 1.5 million Floridians barred from voting. According to the Sentencing Project, Florida holds nearly one-fourth of all disenfranchised former felons in the nation. Read more on that here. 

The practice is a vestige of post Civil War white supremacy and now disenfranchises more whites than blacks. There once was a time when more blacks were registered to vote in Florida than whites. Our story on the history of disenfranchising black voters here.



August 09, 2016

PolitiFact: Debbie Wasserman Schultz claim about Rick Scott and mosquito money stings, but it's misleading

DWSSunriseSS

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz pointed blame at Republicans -- namely Gov. Rick Scott -- for not doing more to dish out dollars to prevent the spread of the Zika virus.

"While he seems to be saying out loud that he wants Congress and the president to provide more funding, he conveniently leaves out that he cut nearly $1 million dollars from mosquito control and closed down the state’s mosquito research lab a few years ago," Wasserman Schultz said at a town hall in Broward County on Aug. 8.

Wasserman Schultz is running for re-election in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary against first-time candidate Tim Canova.

Did Scott cut funding and close the state’s mosquito research lab? There’s a lot more nuance to this story than Wasserman Schultz lets on.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

Photo by the Sun Sentinel

August 07, 2016

Pro-Trump super PAC chaired by Rick Scott targets Clinton finances, foundation

@PatriciaMazzei

On "Meet the Press," Florida Gov. Rick Scott unveiled a new TV ad by Rebuilding America, the super PAC he chairs that backs Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

The spot, set to air in Florida, Ohio and North Carolina, goes after Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's wealth. (Trump has yet to release his tax returns, something Scott didn't defend when host Chuck Todd pressed him on it.) 

It's the second TV ad released by Rebuilding America in a week.

On 'Meet the Press,' Rick Scott defends Zika funding, Trump

via @learyreports

Gov. Rick Scott, appearing on "Meet the Press," did not defend Donald Trump's decision on releasing his tax returns. "My view is give everybody all the information," Scott said. "Every candidate does things differently.”

Trump says he's being audited and will not release the returns until that is over.

Scott also talked about Zika.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

August 05, 2016

What the governor is not saying about Florida's economy: It's falling farther behind

Florida GDP

 

  A news release out today from Gov. Rick Scott touts Florida's as "beating the national GDP growth rate of 1.2 percent" and outpacing the nation "in economic growth." 

Indeed the state's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew 2.1 percent annualized in the first quarter of 2016, compared to the nation's which is at 1.9 percent.

But what the governor is not saying: the reason the fast-growth numbers are even happening is because Florida has so far to go to catch up to the national average. 

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which posts quarterly and annual GDP data for the United States, Florida’s GDP rate was the 10th fastest growing GDP in the nation in the first quarter of 2016, behind Arkansas, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, New Hampshire, Arizona, Utah and Massachusetts.

Gross domestic product, or GDP, is a key way to measure economic growth. It is the sum total of a state's economic activity and it is important because it includes includes the wages and salaries that workers earn as well as the income earned by individual entrepreneurs and by corporations. 

When you consider the growth of the GDP compared to the growth of the state's population, Florida has lagged behind the national GDP average for years. But rather than remain stable or narrow since the recession, the gap is widening. The only conclusion is: Florida's is falling farther and farther behind the rest of the nation. 

Between 2003 and 2015, Florida's per capita GDP dropped from $40,368 to $38,950, according to the BEA data. By comparison, the national average per capita GDP increased from $45,858 in 2003 to $49,844 in 2015 -- despite the recession. During that time, the gap between Florida's per capital GDP and the nation's doubled. And since Scott took office, Florida has dropped 18 percent more behind the national average in 2015, than it was in 2010. 

These GDP gaps between the national average and Florida's occurred during the time both Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist were governor. But, while Florida's GDP had been improving until 2006, the numbers show the gap has widened dramatically since then. Here's the data, from the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis:

Florida Per Capita Gross Domestic Product

Area

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Florida

40368

41623

43333

44038

43729

41579

38771

38396

37627

37790

38197

38664

38950

United States

45858

47037

48090

48909

49126

48401

46680

47287

47586

48160

48397

49110

49844

Difference

-5490

-5414

-4757

4871

-5397

-6822

-7909

-8891

-9959

-10370

-10200

-10446

-10894

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis

In 2003, the gap between the national GDP and the state's was $5,490 per person but, since then, even as parts of Florida’s economy recovered, the per capita GDP has declined. The number inched slightly upward in 2012 and 2013, but the gap between Florida and the U.S. average has nonetheless widened steeply and now Florida's GDP per person is $10,894 below the national average. That's a big drop, even with inflation.

The governor told the Republican convention that the national "economy is not growing." PolitiFact rated that false, noting the U.S. has seen GDP has grow every year since 2010, between 1.5 and 2.5 percent a year. Florida's has risen too, since 2011, but the amount of goods and services produced in Florida continues to lag behind many other states and the national average. 

Here's how the BEA defines its GDP measure: "an industry's GDP by state, or its value added, in practice, is calculated as the sum of incomes earned by labor and capital and the costs incurred in the production of goods and services. That is, it includes the wages and salaries that workers earn, the income earned by individual or joint entrepreneurs as well as by corporations, and business taxes such as sales, property, and Federal excise taxes—that count as a business expense."

Here's the governor's press release: 

Continue reading "What the governor is not saying about Florida's economy: It's falling farther behind" »