January 18, 2017

Florida Gov. Rick Scott won't say if he's looking for potential Pam Bondi replacement

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via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - If Attorney General Pam Bondi is preparing to take a job in the Trump administration, Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday gave not an inch in acknowledging the task of appointing a replacement.

"She's been a good partner in our governor and cabinet meetings," Scott said. "I hope she doesn't leave. I hope she stays in Florida."

But if she does leave, do you have plans in place?

"I'll worry about that when it happens," he said. "I hope she doesn't leave."

This post will be updated with responses Scott gave to a number of issues, from Obamacare to the pardons President Obama has given drug offenders, many of them in Florida.

Scott declined to comment on that, saying he didn't know details of individual cases, but pivoted to yesterday's commutation of Chelsea Manning. "There is no question in the world this guy, or this person, committed treason. ... It's despicable. We have got to decide as a country that we're going to support our military."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

January 07, 2017

FLL passengers flag down Florida Gov. Rick Scott to help find missing bags after shooting

Mackey and oliphant
via @NickNehamas

In the wake of the mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale’s airport, authorities have an unusual problem: More than 20,000 pieces of luggage were abandoned on the scene, with passengers desperate to retrieve the bags.

On Saturday morning, Gov. Rick Scott did his best to find four of them.

Passengers Ronald Mackey and Charod Oliphant of Maryland saw the governor walking through Terminal 2 and approached him Saturday morning.

“I just explained to the governor my frustration with the process of finding my bag,” said Mackey, who flew to Fort Lauderdale yesterday for a Caribbean cruise.

Mackey said he got the run-around from Delta representatives about their four bags, which were filled with warm-weather clothes for their trip — until he handed the phone to the governor.

“They told me it was a crime scene and it would be at least three or four days before they release our bags,” Mackey said.

After speaking with Scott, a Delta rep said she would arrange to have the bags sent to Aruba, their first port of call — and would approve an allowance for them to buy toiletries and undergarments.

“I think they would have done that anyway,” Oliphant said, “but [talking with the governor] gave them more incentive.”

More here.

January 06, 2017

Gov. Scott going to Fort Lauderdale following reports of airport shooting

@MichaelAuslen

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is on his way to Broward County, where the sheriff's office says multiple people were killed this afternoon at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport after shots were fired there.

In a statement released at 1:45 p.m. Friday, Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said:

"We have initial reports of a shooting at Fort Lauderdale International Airport. At this time, state law enforcement do not have confirmed information on fatalities, injuries or motive. Governor Scott is currently traveling to Fort Lauderdale to be briefed by law enforcement.  We will continue to provide details as we receive them."

Scott is likely traveling from Fort Myers, where he was scheduled for a "terrorism prevention event" at noon, or his home in Naples.

In a tweet, President-elect Donald Trump said he spoke with Scott about the shooting Friday afternoon.

Florida Attorney General Diaz? Miami lawmaker rumored as post-Bondi appointment

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@PatriciaMazzei

If Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi takes a job, as expected, in President-elect Donald Trump's White House, Gov. Rick Scott will get to appoint her successor. Could he be a Miami state legislator?

State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz's name has been making the rounds in Tallahassee as a potential Scott pick. Diaz, who will turn 37 later this month, would bring youth and diversity to Scott's Cabinet -- and perhaps give Republicans a leg up to keep the seat. Diaz said he'd be eager to run for the powerful attorney general's post in 2018, at the end of Bondi's term.

"I'm definitely honored to be on those lists," Diaz told the Miami Herald on Friday, adding that "it would be hard not to" seriously consider the job.

Even if Bondi weren't to leave the AG's office, Diaz said he's thinking about seeking the position in two years, when he will be term-limited from the House. He was easily reelected to his western Miami-Dade County seat in November.

"It's something that I've looked at pretty aggressively the past few years," he said. "I knew that, no matter what, whether there was a Trump appointment or not, the General was term-limited in 2018 -- so I've been looking at it as an option regardless of whether she goes to D.C. or not."

Bloomberg reported Thursday that Bondi will get a White House position, though Bondi refused to confirm that Friday.

An attorney with the Akerman law firm, Diaz, who is known as Pepi, is a litigator in zoning and land-use matters, though he said he's had exposure to a "pretty varied" slew of cases, ranging from criminal defense to family law.

"I'm a real lawyer. I've been practicing now for the better part of my adult life," he said. "I went to law school to, you know, study comparative constitutions and the way the government interacted with laws, so that's a dream job for a kid like me."

Diaz is close friends with state Rep. Carlos Trujillo, a fellow Miami Republican who was a top South Florida Trump surrogate. Trump's transition team is considering Trujillo for an ambassadorship to Latin America. 

While Diaz was not quite as involved in the campaign as Trujillo, he did also lend his name to a Trump Hispanic advisory board (Diaz is a past competitor on "The Apprentice" who has known Trump since.) Both lawmakers plan to attend the Jan. 20 inauguration.

Photo credit: Steve Cannon, Associated Press. Diaz appears on the left.

January 04, 2017

Florida Gov. Rick Scott to host inaugural ball in D.C.

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@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Gov. Rick Scott and his wife, Ann, will host an inaugural ball to be held in Washington D.C. two days before Donald Trump is sworn in as president.

Save-the-date invitations to the gala went out over the past few days. Though state political parties often organize inaugural balls, this one is being put together by Scott's political committee, Let's Get to Work.

The ball will take place at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 18, at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium. Some Republicans who plan to attend the Friday inauguration have already booked flights for Thursday, which means they might miss the Wednesday night party.

Two Florida Board of Education seats vacant as next meeting approaches

via @TB_Times' @JeffSolochek

The seven-person Florida Board of Education heads toward its Jan. 17 meeting with two open seats and no announced time line from the Governor's Office to fill them.

Board member John Padget, a Keys businessman and onetime Monroe superintendent, was forced to step down in December after having served two full terms. He cannot be reappointed.

Board member Michael Olenick, a former Department of Education general counsel, could be considered for another stint on the board. He spent only two years in the seat, filling the unexpired term of Miami-Dade physician Ada Armas, who resigned after two years.

"Anyone is welcome to apply and can find more information at http://www.flgov.com/appointments/," Governor's Office spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said via email.

So far, Schenone wrote, six people have submitted applications for the positions. They include two former Republican candidates for public office and a college administrator.

Scott follows through on previous plan and will budget 46 additional 'counterterrorism' agents

From our friends at the Associated Press:

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Gov. Rick Scott wants to spend nearly $6 million to boost the number of state agents dedicated to counterterrorism efforts.

Sparked by last year's attack on the Pulse nightclub that left 49 dead, Scott will ask legislators to include enough money in the annual budget to hire agents who will be stationed in seven regions across the state.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen last fall first recommended hiring 46 additional agents. Legislators will consider the request during their annual session that starts in March.

Scott said he is backing the request because the state needs "specialists that are solely dedicated to identifying these terrorists and stopping them."

During the June rampage, shooter Omar Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in telephone conversations with a 911 operator and a police negotiator. 

December 23, 2016

Florida's denial of felons' voting rights 'radically out-of-step,' report says

@ByKristenMClark

A new report from the Brennan Center for Justice takes Florida to task for its law denying voting rights to felons unless they successfully navigate an arduous and lengthy process to get those rights back.

The Brennan Center calls Florida’s law “radically out of step with policies around the rest of the country” and “one of the harshest laws in the nation.” The law needs to be replaced,the report said.

MORE: Read the full report

According to the report, released this month, 1.6 million Floridians are denied voting rights because of the state law. Those residents represent more than 10 percent of the state’s voting-age population. A disproportionate number, nearly one-third, are black.

“Florida’s criminal disenfranchisement law is rooted in some of our country’s most discriminatory voting practices, and it continues to have its intended effects today,” said the report’s author, Erika Wood, a New York Law School professor and director of the Voting Rights and Civic Participation Project of the Impact Center for Public Interest Law.

“It is time for Florida to learn from the past and then leave it behind. The right to vote should not be used as a tool for lifetime punishment,” Wood added.

Full story here.

December 21, 2016

Florida Gov. Rick Scott writes to Raúl Castro: 'Allow a new era of freedom and opportunity'

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@ByKristenMClark

Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott sent a letter to Cuban President Raúl Castro on Tuesday, calling for him to change course and “allow a new era of freedom and opportunity for Cuba.”

Scott referenced the celebrations in Miami after the death of Fidel Castro last month, saying the demonstrations “represented the hope for an end to the decades of torture, repression, incarceration and death that you and your brother have caused the people of Cuba.”

But, Scott noted, Raúl Castro appears to be continuing his brother’s legacy — with recent examples that include the arrest of Cuban artist Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado, who mocked Fidel’s death in an online video.

“After Pope Francis’ trip to Cuba, you suggested that you may return to the church and pray again. My prayer for you and the Cuban people is that you listen to Pope Francis and focus on bringing absolute freedom and democracy to Cuba,” Scott wrote. “I pray that you open Cuba to freedom of the press and religion; release all political prisoners; provide unfettered access to the internet; allow ownership of land; provide reparations to those whose property was confiscated; bring all Cuban military home and allow for free and fair elections with international supervision.”

Full story here.

Photo credit: Walter Michot / Miami Herald

December 16, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott picks appellate Judge Alan Lawson to serve on Supreme Court

Alan LawsonGov. Rick Scott appointed C. Alan Lawson to be Florida’s next justice of the Supreme Court Friday, choosing a conservative appellate judge to leave the governor’s mark on a moderate court that has been responsible for some of sharpest defeats of his political career.

Lawson, who currently serves as the chief judge on the 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach fills the seat on the seven-member court that is being vacated by Justice James E.C. Perry, a liberal jurist who is retiring at the end of the month because he has reached the mandatory retirement age. Perry was the the fourth African-American jurist to serve on Florida’s high court. Lawson, who lives in the Orlando suburb of Winter Park, is white.

Perry, who was appointed to the bench in March 2009 by former Gov. Charlie Crist, must retire because of a state law requiring justices to retire on their 70th birthday or the end of their six-year term if they are halfway through the term. Perry turned 70 in January 2015 but his term ends Jan. 3, 2017.

Scott said he choose Lawson for his 20-year track record, his public service and because "he's not going to legislate from the bench." Our story here. 

Photo: Gov. Rick Scott choose C. Alan Lawson as the new justice of the Florida Supreme Court. From left his mother Velma Lawson, sister Laurie Cox, Gov. Scott, Alan Lawson, his son Caleb Lawson.