May 02, 2016

Starbucks heckler vs Rick Scott led PolitiFact Florida in April 2016


When Gov. Rick Scott walked into a Starbucks in Gainesville, he got an unexpected jolt when a customer attacked his record on spending for health care and Planned Parenthood.

Scott fired back by defending his jobs record.

The exchange, in which heckler Cara Jennings called Scott an "a------" drew more than 2.3 million hits on YouTube, made national news and led our fact-checks in April.

Other statements that drew in readers were by Republican frontrunner Donald Trump and his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski; U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, who is running for U.S. Senate; and Democratic presidential candidate.

Here’s a look at PolitiFact Florida’s most clicked fact-checks in April counting down to the most popular.


May 01, 2016

Florida politicians spotted at White House Correspondents Dinner


WASHINGTON -- Florida was in the house Saturday night at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, where President Obama and comedian Larry Wilmore roasted politicians and the press.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott worked the room before and during the speech, dropping by the Washington Post's pre-dinner reception and eventually taking a seat at the Washington Hilton ballroom for the meal. He was invited by the Washington Examiner, Scott told the Miami Herald.

Also making the rounds were U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, who also attended a Friday night bash ahead of the dinner, according to Page Six.

And near the center aisle of the dinner sat Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a Democrat who was listed in the program as a representative of SiriusXM, the satellite radio network that earlier this year hired him to host a show. He was mulling whether to return to Miami early enough Sunday to catch the Miami Heat's afternoon playoff game. 

April 27, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott's jobs agency spends money attacking California's minimum wage hike

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has a problem with the minimum wage -- in California.

Scott heads to California next week for another job poaching mission. In advance of the trip, Enterprise Florida released a radio ad attacking California for raising the minimum wage.

“Seven hundred thousand. That’s how many California jobs will be lost thanks to the politicians raising the minimum wage," says the narrator. “Ready to leave California? Go to Florida instead — no state income tax and Gov. Scott has cut regulations. Now Florida is adding one million jobs, not losing them.”

Stephen Lawson, a spokesman for Enterprise Florida, said he doesn’t know yet when the ad will start running or how much it cost. It will run in the San Francisco and Los Angeles markets.

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill to raise the minimum wage from $10 to $15 an hour although it will be phased in by 2022. Florida’s minimum wage is $8.05.

When Scott stopped in Miami Wednesday at the PACE Center for Girls to discuss the state’s effort to combat human trafficking, we asked him about the ad attacking California:

Q: “Can you tell me why you think it's appropriate to spend taxpayer dollars on ads related to California’s minimum wage?”

A: “It’s important to get more jobs in our state. I will be going out there. I did four missions last year to different states to try to get more jobs. I’ve done 12 missions around the world to try get more jobs and it’s clearly working. Last week I announced a company that I met with up in Philadelphia, B Braun, they are adding 175 jobs in the state, they are building over a $100 million manufacturing plant. (B Braun Medical will open a manufacturing facility in Daytona Beach) As I  travel the state and show the difference between that state and our state we continue to get more jobs.

Q: “Why does it matter what calif sets their minimum wage at? why spend taxpayer money to attack them?”

A: It matters a bunch of things. Whether it's their minimum wage, whether it's their taxes, whether their regulation, whether their business attitude. They are making it very difficult for businesses to compete. I’m going to do everything I can to make businesses in Florida and businesses want to come here to  compete globally so these young women and everybody in our state has the opportunity for a great job.”

Brown spokesman Evan Westrup fired back at Scott:

"As one of the millions of tourists flocking to the Golden State this time of year, we’d like to extend a warm welcome to the Governor. We can understand why he’s coming back -- there’s lots to do and plenty to learn. In fact, since his last 2,000 mile cross-country jaunt, California has added twice as many jobs as Florida, while paying down debt, building a robust rainy day fund and taking bold action on issues Governor Scott continues to ignore, like climate change and poverty." 

FL Gov. Rick Scott: "It is time for the ‘Stop Trump’ movement to end"


On Facebook this afternoon, Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott called for an end to the #NeverTrump movement, saying "yesterday’s election results show that the anti-Trump efforts didn’t work."

Scott -- who endorsed Donald Trump, also with a Facebook post, after Florida's primary last month -- again urged Republicans to accept what he calls the inevitable.

"Republicans now need to come together. Donald Trump is going to be our nominee, and he is going to be on the ballot as the Republican candidate for President," Scott wrote. "The Republican leaders in Washington did not choose him, but the Republican voters across America did choose him. The voters have spoken."

According to Real Clear Politics, Trump now has 954 delegates, compared to 562 for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Ohio Gov. John Kasich trails with 153 delegates. (Florida Sen. Marco Rubio -- who exited the race after the Florida primary, when he won only his home of Miami-Dade County -- is technically in third with 171 delegates.)

To win the GOP nomination, 1,237 delegates are needed. Neither Cruz nor Kasich have shown any signs of giving up, although it's mathematically impossible for either of them them to get enough delegates to clinch the nomination.

Scott cautioned that the GOP in-fighting will serve to help Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton. He said President Barack Obama had done "serious and substantial" damage to the country and said America "cannot afford another four years of liberal incompetence, and that is exactly what Hillary Clinton would bring."

"We’ve had an extensive debate amongst ourselves, it is now time to get serious about winning in November. This was a hard-fought campaign, but now is the time for Republicans to unite," he said.

Scott has, for weeks, been urging the GOP to unite around Trump, who has consistently been the party's presidential front-runner.

Gov. Rick Scott praises environmental agency's handling of FPL's dirty cooling canals

Gov. Rick Scott seems satisfied with how state regulators have handled the Florida Power and Light’s troubled cooling canals at Turkey Point.

On Monday, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection cited Florida Power & Light for threatening nearby drinking water supplies and ordered the utility to come up with a plan to stop the spread of an underground plume of saltwater.

Critics say there has been evidence for years that the cooling canal system was harming water beyond the nuclear power plant.

After DEP signed off on a December 2014 uprating project that expanded power output from the plant’s twin reactors, multiple plaintiffs including cities sued, saying state regulators did too little to address a growing underground plume that has pushed saltwater inland about four miles. An administrative judge in February agreed, faulting DEP for not citing the agency for violations and ordering state officials to redo the plan.

Here is a partial transcript of Scott’s replies after an event about human trafficking in Miami Wednesday morning:

Q: “Should DEP have acted earlier on the cooling canals and do you have an action plan if there is contaminated water as a result of the cooling canals?”

A: “We have received that. We are reviewing that right now.”

Q: "On the cooling canals what do you mean you received that and reviewing that? What did you receive?”

A: “There was a court decision so my office is reviewing that right now.”

Q: “Do you have an action plan if we have contaminated water?”

A: “My office is reviewing it.”

Q: “Are you satisfied with the pace that DEP has addressed issue of cooling canals?”

A: “I think they are working hard.”

Q: “So you are satisfied even though some critics brought this up first in December 2014 that there was going to be contamination?”

A: “I think between water management districts, DEP, everybody is working very hard to solve issues like this.”

Gov. Rick Scott highlights Florida's efforts to fight human trafficking

Gov. Rick Scott visited the PACE Center for Girls in Miami to highlight Florida’s efforts to combat human trafficking.

PACE, which has 19 centers throughout the state, is a prevention and intervention program that helps girls ages 11-17 who have suffered trauma and are failing in school or at risk of becoming involved in the juvenile justice system. It serves more than 2,300 girls every year.

Scott thanked PACE for helping to provide “countless young women with the opportunity to achieve their dreams.”

In March, Scott signed HB545 which establishes harsher penalties for those who commit human trafficking.

“Thanks to law enforcement we are able to identify more occurrences of human trafficking while working to ensure Florida’s most vulnerable are protected,” he said.

Scott said that Florida invested $19 million PACE centers and highlighted $2 million that is earmarked for after-school programs.

April 26, 2016

After waiting years, state cites FPL for threatening drinking water, wants clean-up plan in 60 days

FPL salt at turkey point

via @JenStaletovich


Days after issuing a controversial plan for managing the troubled cooling canal system at Turkey Point, state environmental officials have cited Florida Power & Light for threatening nearby drinking water supplies and ordered the utility to hammer out a fix to stop the spread of an underground plume of saltwater.

In a notice to FPL officials Monday, the Department of Environmental Protection gave the utility 21 days to provide any information about how the 40-year-old canals have seeped into the Biscayne aquifer over the years and enter negotiations to come up with a clean-up plan. If the two sides fail to agree, the agency may come up with its own measures in 60 days, the notice said.

DEP Water Resource Management Director Frederick Aschauer also warned FPL that a new problem — in March Miami-Dade County detected canal water in Biscayne Bay — may be violating other state laws, for which the utility may be liable for damages. Aschauer gave FPL 15 days to set up a meeting.

The two notices come years late for critics, who say there has long been compelling evidence that the massive one-of-a-kind cooling canal system was degrading water quality far beyond the borders of the nuclear power plant along southern Biscayne Bay.

After DEP signed off on a December 2014 uprating project that expanded power output from the plant’s twin reactors, rock miner Steve Torcise, Tropical Audubon and neighboring cities including Miami sued, saying state regulators did too little to address a growing underground plume that has pushed saltwater inland about four miles. An administrative judge in February agreed, faulting DEP for not citing the agency for violations and ordering state officials to redo the plan.

Last week, the Miami Herald reported that FPL knew about super salty canal water pushing inland since at least 2010 when it conducted its own in-house study. The study found adding fresh water alone, a fix FPL sought repeatedly as canals grew hotter after the expansion, would likely worsen the plume.

More here. 


Joe Negron: Rick Scott and I 'strongly aligned' on goals for Florida universities


After meeting for about a half hour with Republican Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday, incoming Florida Senate president Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said he and the governor seem to be in general agreement about their future goals for Florida's 12 public universities.

Enhancing the State University System -- and adding $1 billion in funding to it over two years -- is a priority for Negron as he's poised to take over the Senate in November. Last week, Negron and a handful of other senators toured all of the universities to learn about each institution's needs and goals.

"I updated the governor on some of the things that we learned during the university tour," Negron told reporters after the meeting at the Florida Capitol. "I think there’s a strong alignment of policy and budget goals, with my commitment to universities."

Scott's spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said Negron "requested a meeting to discuss his priorities." She had no comment on what they discussed, because the governor typically doesn't talk about private meetings.

But the universities have been on Scott's mind, also.

Negron said Scott has a summit planned next month in Orlando, "where he's bringing in large employers, boards of trustees and university and community college presidents."

Schutz confirmed the event will be called the "Degrees to Jobs" Education Summit. It will be held May 25-26, and a list of speakers should be announced later this week, she said.

Negron's policy goals for the university system include: Recruiting and retaining top faculty, improving graduate schools, and "making sure that every student can attend the university to which they've been accepted regardless of their financial background," he said.

"That may require them to work part-time and contribute themselves or their families, but we want to make sure that financial insecurity doesn’t keep students from going to a university or keep them from graduating on time," Negron said.

For example, he wants to improve funding for Bright Futures scholars to cover 100 percent of tuition and $300 a semester for books. He said he hopes lawmakers will approve that in the 2017 session, so next year's graduating high school seniors can start enjoying those benefits the following fall.

Here's why Florida's CFO won't accept Jeffrey Bragg as the new state insurance commissioner


After the Florida Cabinet again deadlocked over who to make the new insurance commissioner, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said he is just not certain that the man Gov. Rick Scott is committed to for the job has the right background for the post.

Moments after Scott and Atwater, both Republicans, declared another impasse in picking a commissioner, Atwater told reporters that he doesn't know if Pinellas County resident Jeffrey Bragg has the required private sector experience or regulatory experience to even legally hold the position of Florida Insurance Commissioner.

"I don't know the answer to that," Atwater told reporters.

Bragg, a 67-year-old Republican who lives in Palm Harbor, ran the nation's terrorism risk insurance program from 2003 until his retirement in 2014. In the early 1980s, he worked under the Reagan Administration, serving in the Federal Emergency Management Agency where he was the administrator for the national flood insurance program. 

Between those appointments, Bragg worked in the private sector, including as a senior vice president for Zurich Risk Management from 2001 to 2003 and as executive vice president for IMSG in St. Petersburg from 1997 to 2000.

During a public interview with Bragg on Tuesday during the cabinet meeting, Atwater said he tried to probe him about his regulatory background to get answers as to whether Bragg really is qualified to regulate Florida's insurance market. 

"He wasn't regulating players offering products in the private sector market place or who the complied with his programs," Atwater said.

Continue reading "Here's why Florida's CFO won't accept Jeffrey Bragg as the new state insurance commissioner" »

Has Florida cut more than $1 billion in taxes as Gov. Rick Scott says?

Despite lawmakers virtually ignoring his budget wish list during the 2016 legislative session, Gov. Rick Scott is boasting about fulfilling a campaign promise to cut taxes by $1 billion in his second term.

Scott took credit for the fiscal feat both before and after signing the Legislature’swide-ranging tax-cut package, HB 7099. "Over the past two years, Florida has cut more than $1 billion in taxes," an April 13, 2016, press release from the governor’s office read.

Scott had pledged to hit the billion-dollar mark in tax reductions during his successful 2014 re-election campaign, mostly by giving breaks to businesses and limiting property tax growth. In his March 15 press release announcing his intention to sign the Legislature’s budget, Scott said he’d kept his promise with $1.2 billion in tax cuts over the first two years of his second term.

Scott has repeated this claim several times in one form or another. But have taxes really gone down by more than $1 billion in two years, like he says? It depends on how you look at what the Legislature has done, but the changes haven’t happened the way Scott wanted.

Keep reading Joshua Gillin's fact-check from PolitiFact Florida  and check out Scott's full Truth-O-Meter record.