January 15, 2018

Bill Nelson raised $2.4 million in last quarter, campaign says

BillNelsonCarlJusteApril172017

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson raised about $2.4 million in fourth quarter of 2017, his campaign said Monday, and has $8 million cash on hand.

The Democrat "received more than 30,600 contributions from more than 21,500 individual donors during the last three months of 2017 alone," his campaign said in a release.

Nelson is seeking a fourth term and is expected to face Gov. Rick Scott, though Scott hasn't declared he's running.

January 11, 2018

Targeting Florida Republicans in 2018 will be tricky for Puerto Rican leaders

Governor Ricardo Roselló0183 JAI (1)

@alextdaugherty

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló intends to throw his political weight around in the 2018 elections, mobilizing Puerto Ricans who recently moved to the mainland to vote against lawmakers he says “turned their back” on the U.S. territory in its time of need.

Rosselló’s threats are ostensibly aimed at Republicans in Congress tasked with doling out billions in disaster aid and in charge of an overhaul of the nation’s tax system, where Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. territory creates rules that don’t exist on the mainland. He called out Sen. Marco Rubio by name in December, saying he was “disappointed” in his tax bill vote, though Rosselló stopped short of offering any specific political retribution against the Florida Republican.

“Once it’s crunch time for the elections, that’s when our organization is going to start saying, ‘These are the folks who have been for Puerto Rico and these have been the folks that are against Puerto Rico,’” Rosselló said this week in Washington.

But carrying out political advocacy in swing state Florida, where Puerto Ricans who are Democrats and Republicans hold elected office, is a tricky balancing act for Rosselló, a Democrat.

Puerto Ricans in Florida could form a large enough voting bloc to affect statewide elections for governor and U.S. Senate in 2018. But Florida Republicans like Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott enjoy widespread support among many members of Rosselló’s pro-statehood New Progressive Party, in contrast to heavily Democratic states with many Puerto Ricans, like New York, Illinois and Connecticut.

“You don’t bite the hand that feeds you,” said state Rep. Bob Cortes, one of two Puerto Rican Republicans in the state Legislature.

Read more here.

January 05, 2018

Trump plan for oil drilling off coast ripped by Florida leaders — in both parties

Trump offshore drilling

@jenstaletovich

Florida waters long closed to offshore drilling would open up under a Trump administration plan to dramatically expand domestic oil and gas production.

The plan drew swift criticism from political leaders of both parties in Florida. Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who previously opposed protections put in place by the Obama administration, objected. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who have fought to extend a drilling ban in the eastern Gulf, also criticized a draft proposal released Thursday by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

“I have already asked to immediately meet with Secretary Zinke to discuss the concerns I have with this plan and the crucial need to remove Florida from consideration,” Scott said in a statement.

According to the proposal, open to public comment for the next 60 days, the nation would more than quadruple the number of drilling leases available in U.S. waters. The plan covers parts of the eastern Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast not available since 1988, as well as the Atlantic coast and Florida Straits. In total, the plan would open the nation’s offshore oil and gas reserves in all but one area off Alaska over the next five years.

“This is clearly the difference between energy weakness and energy dominance,” Zinke said in a press call.

Zinke said Florida’s worries, still colored by thedisastrous oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig failure in 2010, would factor into the final plan, along with concerns about sensitive military operations in the Gulf.

“Certainly, Florida is going to have a say,” he said. “Interior should not be the role of adversary. We should be a partner.”

Read more here.

January 04, 2018

Rick Scott agrees with Bill Nelson and opposes Trump's oil drilling plan

055 Hurricane Irma Gov Scott 091117

@alextdaugherty

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday that he opposes a planned measure by the Interior Department that would potentially open up Florida for offshore drilling, putting him in agreement with Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. Scott is likely to run against Nelson, a longtime opponent of offshore oil drilling, in 2018. 

“Based on media reports, it is likely that the Department of the Interior will consider Florida as a potential state for offshore oil drilling – which is something I oppose in Florida," Scott said in a statement. "I have already asked to immediately meet with Secretary (Ryan) Zinke to discuss the concerns I have with this plan and the crucial need to remove Florida from consideration. My top priority is to ensure that Florida’s natural resources are protected, which is why I proposed $1.7 billion for the environment in this year’s budget."

Scott, an ally of President Donald Trump, was largely silent on opening up Florida for offshore oil drilling during his tenure in Tallahassee, an idea opposed by many Florida Democrats and Republicans in Congress. 

Nelson vehemently opposed the Interior Department's plan, which is expected to be officially announced later on Thursday, during a speech on the Senate floor on Wednesday. He argued that loosening regulations and expanding drilling could lead to more environmentally destructive oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico. 

"I hope the public understands that and starts registering some complaints, and I hope that during that time every Floridian remembers what happened to us when the beaches of Pensacola Beach were blackened with tar and oil, and we lost a whole season of our guests, our tourists who come to this extraordinary state," Nelson said.  

With one year to go, numbers sum up Rick Scott’s governing legacy

055 Hurricane Irma Gov Scott 091117

@stevebousquet

Rick Scott rewrote the playbook of Florida politics, not once but twice, as a candidate and governor, in ways that will endure long after he leaves Tallahassee.

As Scott begins his eighth and final year as Florida’s 45th governor, he’s considering a bid for the U.S. Senate against three-term Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. If he were to win, it would extend an improbable winning streak for a multi-millionaire who as recently as 2010 was a political novice and unknown.

But one cornerstone of his legacy is secure: He’s the tireless and nerdy CEO with a singular focus on jobs that bordered on an obsession while he was governor, who’ll be remembered chiefly for leading his state out of the Great Recession.

The rest of Scott’s legacy is less glowing.

He relegated Florida motorists and tourists to decades of gridlock by killing a high-speed rail system that would have linked Tampa to Orlando, and later to Miami.

His reversal on Medicaid expansion denied up to a million low-income Floridians access to affordable healthcare, left billions of federal dollars on the table and brought criticism from fellow Republicans that he was a flip-flopper.

Scott is the first governor who was sued successfully for violating state public records laws, including the failure to disclose emails involving public business sent from a private account, and was forced to spend $700,000 of taxpayers’ money to pay his opponents’ legal fees. He publicly apologized for mishandling the firing of a top state law enforcement official that cost taxpayers another $55,000 in legal fees to advocates for open government.

He has exercised the death penalty more than any governor in Florida history. More inmates have been put to death under his watch (26) than by any of his predecessors.

Read more here.

December 14, 2017

Court tosses lawsuit over whether Scott or his successor appoints new justices

Florida supreme court.1_12061496_8colThe Florida Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit over whether Gov. Rick Scott or his successor has the power to appoint three new justices to the Florida Supreme Court saying that action is not "ripe" because the appointments have not yet been made.

In a majority opinion, in which Chief Justice Jorge Labarga joined the three conservatives on the court, Justice Charles Canady, Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson, the court held that the "writ of quo warranto," the method used by the litigants, the League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida, was inappropriate.

"Until some action is taken by the Governor, the matter the League seeks to have resolved is not ripe, and this Court lacks jurisdiction to determine whether quo warranto relief is warranted,'' the majority ruled.

But the decision was blasted by Justice R. Fred Lewis, who warned that the court may not have invited a "constitutional crisis" and created a dangerous precedent when the majority required "that that illegal and unconstitutional conduct which produces disarray must have already occurred to allow judicial action."

"Under the majority view, elected politicians can announce their intentions and plan to engage in all types of illegal and harmful conduct but no relief is available until the illegal and harmful act has already inflicted its damage,'' he wrote. "Magnificent trees cut, pristine waters fouled, and unthinkable harm inflicted upon our citizens, which may not be prevented when the actor plans and even announces his intentions. Today, we have a new test. The writ is only available when the illegal act is taken and harm is actually inflicted—at times even irreparable harm."

Lewis was explicit that the court was creating a new precedent that has the potential to harm future generations.

"I fundamentally disagree with depriving the citizens of Florida of their ability to challenge inappropriate action by a state official simply based on this unfounded limitation,'' he said. Today’s decision - 16 - allows state officials, such as Governor Scott, to circumvent this extraordinary writ at the convenience of the office holder based on a ripeness challenge that does not, in my view, have any legal justification."

Agreeing with the result, but not the reasoning, was Justices Peggy Quince and Barbara Pariente. Quince wrote the opinion and Pariente concurred, arguing that both the majority opinion and Lewis confuse the issue because they under court precedent in a previous case involving a Scott appointment to the court, the court has shown "we have the authority to act prior to the Governor’s making an appointment that is contrary to law."

Quince wrote that "while I agree with the majority that it is not appropriate for us to rule on the petition at this time, I do not agree that it would only become appropriate to do so after Governor Scott has consummated an appointment."

Quince, however, noted that Scott's lawyers conceded in their oral arguments that he may not have the authority to make the appointment.

Dan Nordby told the court that “the Governor’s term concludes at the end of the day on [the first] Monday” in January, “the same day that the Justices’ terms end" and if the justices do not leave before the end of their terms and “if the new governor’s term has begun, then the new governor would have the authority to make the appointment.”

Quince noted that this is what voters concluded when they rejected a 2014 amendment to the state Constitution to clarify the law and give the appointment power to the outgoing governor. Lewis also noted in his dissent that he disagreed with this interpretation as well.

The Florida branch of the League of Women Voters and the government watchdog group Common Cause filed a petition with the Supreme Court in June saying Scott's successor should make the appointments.

Age limits are forcing three justices to retire on the day Scott leaves office in January 2019 because of term limits. Scott has said he plans to name their replacements that same morning.

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.