November 30, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott orders 2nd execution for 2016 in Glades County case


Gov. Rick Scott has ordered the execution of a man who has been on Florida's death row for two murders in 1983.

The execution of Michael Ray Lambrix, scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 11, 2016, is the second already planned in the new year. Oscar Ray Bolin is scheduled to be executed Jan. 7 for murders in Tampa Bay.

Lambrix was convicted in Glades County in 1984 for killing Aleisha Bryant and Clarence Moore, Jr.

According to information from the governor's office, Lambrix and his girlfriend met the victims at a bar and invited them back to the trailer where they lived for dinner. Lambrix then beat Moore to death with a tire iron and strangled Bryant. He stole a gold chain from Moore's body and buried them in a shallow grave before taking Moore's car.

Lambrix had escaped from work release in December 1982 while serving a two-year prison sentence for violoating probation.

But outside groups, including Amnesty International, have contested the narrative that led Lambrix to spend more than 30 years on death row.

Continue reading "Gov. Rick Scott orders 2nd execution for 2016 in Glades County case" »

White House sends Florida Gov. Rick Scott more details on Syrian refugees vetting

11302015_132738_let1_8colvia @learyreports

The White House sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott on Monday defending the vetting process for Syrians and offering “more regular access to refugee resettlement information.”

“This proposal responds to governors’ input while protecting the privacy of refugee families,” Whitehouse Chief of Staff Denis McDonough wrote in the letter.

Scott has joined numerous other governors in opposing the resettlement of more refugees. Secretary of State John Kerry previously sent a letter to Scott explaining the vetting process as “extraordinarily thorough and comprehensive" -- language McDonough stood by Monday.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

November 24, 2015

Miami mayor endorses Scott's $250M proposed reform for Enterprise Florida



Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado is among the latest in a string of local and county officials across Florida who have signed a fill-in-the-blank press release from Gov. Rick Scott's office, backing his plan for $250 million in economic incentives to better attract jobs and businesses to Florida.

Scott sent letters to all Florida mayors earlier this month -- and later, also local and county council and commission members -- asking them to support his proposal to reform Enterprise Florida with the new "Florida Enterprise Fund."

Scott's plan is expected to face some resistance among his fellow Republicans in the Senate. The $250 million request triples the $85 million he requested this year for Enterprise Florida -- which lawmakers sliced in half in the current budget.

In announcing his support of Scott's plan, Regalado cited Enterprise Florida's role in "creating jobs in our community, such as HBO Latin America, LAN Airlines and Univision Network."

"These reforms will continue to diversify our local economy, empower our small businesses and create even more great jobs," Regalado said, reciting a canned quote provided by Scott's office.

Regalado, like Scott, is a Republican.

The most high-profile Democratic mayor to endorse Scott's pitch is Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn, who announced his support last week.

Others in South Florida who have backed Scott's $250 million funding request include Miami Commission Chairman Wifredo Gort, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa, North Miami Beach Mayor George Vallejo and Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez (whom Scott's office two weeks ago originally misidentified as Miami's mayor before issuing a correct version of the press release).

Photo credit: Hector Gabino / El Nuevo Herald

November 23, 2015

Gov. Scott calls for no new staff at Florida hospitals


Gov. Rick Scott is asking for no new staff to address reports of violence and abuse in the state’s mental hospitals.

In his annual budget request to the state Legislature, released Monday, the governor doesn’t provide for any new workers in the state hospitals where one employee can supervise as many as 15 mentally ill people.

It’s an issue that has recently been in the public eye after an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune highlighted deaths and neglect in the hospitals. The reporting showed an increase in violence corresponding with more than $100 million in budget cuts over the last five years.

In the budget request, Scott addresses safety, as well as overcrowding and limited capacity at the hospitals, which include “forensic” patients who have been deemed unfit to stand trial for a crime or unable to be incarcerated in a state prison, as well as people who have been civilly committed.

But staffing — which the Times and Herald-Tribune reporting found to be central to the problem and which some state lawmakers have called to increase — is not part of it.

Continue reading "Gov. Scott calls for no new staff at Florida hospitals" »

Gov. Scott wants more staffing cuts in health, environment


For the fifth year in a row, Gov. Rick Scott is asking for big job cuts to state agencies responsible for health care and the environment.

In his budget priorities released Monday, Scott asks the Legislature to eliminate a net of 718 jobs in the Department of Health and 152 in the Department of Environmental Protection.

All told, if the Legislature honors Scott’s request, the Department of Health will have shrunk by a fifth — more than 3,400 jobs eliminated — since Scott’s first budget in 2011-2012. More than 1,500 of those are in the last two years.

By and large, the cuts are expected to be for positions funded by the Legislature that have not been filled by Scott's agencies. About 200 jobs are expected to be connected to the transitioning of a health care plan for kids to be run by private insurers. Many of those could be filled by state workers who could be reassigned into other open jobs.

That means few workers are expected to lose their jobs. But it also means jobs for which the Legislature has set aside money are not being filled.

Scott is asking to eliminate more than 500 jobs in county health departments, which are charged with serving low-income people across the state. Last year, the governor asked for 758 health department jobs to be cut. Lawmakers got rid of an additional 55.

Last year, Scott’s proposal asked to cut funding for nutritionists who advise poor families, health counselors and family support workers, among other jobs in clinics across the state.

A list of which specific positions are expected to be eliminated has not been made available.

In the Department of Environmental Protection, most of the job cuts are likely to be empty positions, as well. Under the governor’s plan, most of them come from the state parks.

It is important to note that the governor’s recommended budget is only a suggestion. State lawmakers negotiate the nearly $80 billion state budget, and Scott has the power to veto items.

Still, lawmakers often make changes prioritized by the governor and his agencies. Scott this year asked each state agency to identify 5 percent of their jobs that could be cut.

Continue reading "Gov. Scott wants more staffing cuts in health, environment" »

Gov. Scott appoints new lottery secretary


Tom Delacenserie has been appointed secretary of the Florida Lottery, Gov. Rick Scott announced Monday.

He’s been serving as the interim secretary since October, when Cynthia O'Connell resigned from the job amidst reports of questionable travel and excessive vacation.

Delacenserie will face confirmation by the Florida Senate. He earns a $141,000 salary.

Delacenserie is a longtime lottery executive, who was a deputy secretary in charge of the department’s sales and marketing from 2013 until taking over the top job and before that was director of sales for eight years.

He has a degree from University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and worked in sales prior to joining the lottery in 2000.

“Tom has demonstrated his knowledge of this important agency and his commitment to serving Floridians,” Scott said in a written statement announcing Delacenserie’s appointment. “We look forward to his continued success as Secretary, and the continued investment in Florida’s education system."

Putnam 'disappointed, not surprised' at Scott's lack of pay raises

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam immediately criticized Gov. Rick Scott's proposed budget, which has $1 billion in tax cuts but no pay raises for state forestry firefighters, who earn an average of about $27,000 a year. The full text of the statement Putnam issued Monday:

"I’m disappointed that the governor left Florida wildland firefighter salary increases out of his budget, but I’m not surprised after last year’s veto. With a starting salary of $24,000 per year, our firefighters are at least as deserving as those who got pay increases last year and those who have pay increases included in the budget this year. I look forward to working with the Legislature again to meet the needs of our wildland firefighters.”

Putnam was angry and disappointed that Scott vetoed $2,000 raises for firefighters after the Legislature approved them in June, and after ignoring Putnam's request that he be given a chance to make the case for them. Putnam is asking lawmakers to approve them again next year, as some firefighters have gone to the western U.S. to battle severe wildfires there to assist in public safety and to supplement their state pay.

At his budget announcement in Jacksonville, Scott said he opposes across-the-board pay raises to workers -- though last year he gave them to a select groups of state troopers and to driver's license examiners and next year would give them to FDLE crime lab workers.

"I think the right thing to do is what's in my budget," Scott said. "I've put in my budget a bonus plan for our state workers. It will be up to $1,500 and it will be tied to agencies hitting their goals, you hitting your goals and agencies continuing to find savings. We need to continue to focus on how do we make this state government more efficient."

Gov. Rick Scott pitches 'Florida First' budget of $79.3 billion

JACKSONVILLE -- Gov. Rick Scott on Monday proposed a $79.3 billion budget for next year that would spend more on schools, cut taxes by $1 billion and eliminate nearly 1,000 more full-time jobs from the state work force.

Scott rolled out his spending plan at Harbinger, a sign-making company on Jacksonville's south side where owner Roger Williams helped to promote Scott's proposal to permanently eliminate the sales tax on equipment used in manufacturing.

Scott's "Florida First" budget would be about $1 billion dollars more than current spending, after allowing for Scott's $461 million in line-item vetoes.

He citing a projected budget surplus of $1.3 billion, a figure disputed by state economists, along with a declining unemployment rate and continued population growth as positive indicators for Florida.

"We're clearly headed in the right direction," Scott told reporters. "Now we've got to invest that money well."

Scott's spending plans have already come in for criticism from some fellow Republicans in the Legislature. His proposed increase in public school spending would require higher property tax bills for businesses and homeowners.

Continue reading "Gov. Rick Scott pitches 'Florida First' budget of $79.3 billion " »

November 22, 2015

John Kerry defends 'thorough' Syrian refugee screening in letter to Rick Scott

via @learyreports

Secretary of State John Kerry sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott that defends the vetting process for Syrian refugees as “extraordinarily thorough and comprehensive.”

“Bottom line—under the current system, if there is doubt about whether an applicant would pose a security risk, that individual will not be admitted to the United States as a refugee,” reads the letter, co-signed by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Scott was one of more than two dozen Republican governors who have pledged to block more Syrian refugees and wrote to a letter to President Obama on Friday urging him to suspend the program.

"Our multi-agency system for vetting refugees is strong, and it has been significantly enhanced over the past few years. Indeed, applicants for refugee admission are screened more carefully than any other type of traveler to the United States, the letter reads.

"We have tremendous faith in this system's ability to detect, investigate, and disrupt terrorist plotting in this country, as it has done repeatedly. With these measures in place, we believe that we are able to both protect the American people and maintain this Nation's long standing position as the world's beacon of hope and freedom.

"Our highest priority is the protection of the American people. We look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure our Nation lives up to its humanitarian heritage while keeping the American people safe."

Read Kerry's letter here.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

November 20, 2015

Do the feds want to send 425 Syrians to Florida as Rick Scott says?

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has joined dozens of governors who say they don’t want to take Syrian refugees following the terrorist attacks in Paris.

He criticized the federal government’s plans to take 10,000 Syrian refugees during an interview with Fox News’ Stuart Varney on Nov. 17.

"This is something that they are making the decision, whether we like it or not, to send 425 refugees to our state without giving us any information."

Is Scott right that the feds have decided to send 425 Syrian refugees to Florida with no input from the state? PolitiFact Florida decided to check it out.