October 06, 2016

President Obama signs Florida emergency declaration for Hurricane Matthew

@PatriciaMazzei @ByKristenMClark

President Barack Obama signed an emergency declaration for Florida on Thursday afternoon, anticipating extensive damage from the approaching Hurricane Matthew.

Gov. Rick Scott had requested the federal designation Wednesday. He and Obama spoke by phone early Thursday afternoon, according to Scott’s office, and the White House announced the emergency declaration shortly after.

Federal agencies will now be authorized to coordinate disaster relief efforts and use federal aid to assist state and local governments in dealing with the storm. The emergency designation applies to 28 counties all along Florida’s coast, from Monroe in the Florida Keys to Nassau on the Georgia border.

Scott had criticized Obama for not signing an emergency declaration as quickly as the governor would have liked after Hurricane Hermine hit Florida last month. The president eventually approved the designation for six counties.

On Thursday ahead of Matthew, Scott and Obama spoke for a few minutes just after 12:30 p.m., Scott’s spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said.

More here.

Photo credit: Kevin Dietsch, Bloomberg

Gov. Rick Scott on Hurricane Matthew: 'Unfortunately, this is going to kill people'

State at eoc 1006


As South Florida began to see squalls from the outer bands of Hurricane Matthew on Thursday morning, Florida Gov. Rick Scott didn’t sugarcoat the danger that awaits coastal residents who don’t evacuate.

“This storm will kill you,” Scott said during a morning briefing at the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. If “you’re in an evacuation area, get out. Don’t take a chance.”

“Do not surf. Do not go to the beach. This will kill you,” he added.

More here.

October 05, 2016

Trump telephones Florida Gov. Scott ahead of Hurricane Matthew

via @learyreports

Donald Trump called Gov. Rick Scott Wednesday evening to check in as Hurricane Matthew approaches.

Scott's office described the call as a courtesy.

The pending storm has put the election on hold, with a Wednesday visit by President Obama put off as well as an appearance in Miami by Ivanka Trump that was to be followed by a "Women for Trump" bus tour.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Governor asks for 'pre-landfall' emergency declaration in anticipation of Matthew's arrival

Gov. Rick Scott late Wednesday asked President Obama to declare a "pre-landfall" emergency in 26 counties along the east coast, from Monroe to Duval, to accelerate the federal assistance needed in anticipation of the arrival of the hurricane force winds as early as Thursday afternoon.

The governor also activated another 1,000 members of the Florida National Guard to begin assisting evacuation. Earlier Wednesday, Scott suspended tolls along the Florida Turnpike, Alligator Alley, Central Florida Expressway Authority and the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority to ease the evacuation process. Read Scott's letter to Obama here. 

“Based on the most recent forecast I received from the National Hurricane Center, the eye of Hurricane Matthew is going to be much closer to Florida,'' Scott said in the statement. "There are hurricane watches and warnings along Florida’s entire east coast and we now have Tropical Storm warnings on Florida’s Gulf Coast. This storm is serious and protecting life remains our number one priority."

Scott's formal request allows the state to start receiving federal assistance for food, water and tarps if Obama approves the request. The governor's action also positions 1,500 National Guard members throughout the state. “Storm impacts will begin tomorrow morning in our state,'' he said in a statement.

"There is still time to evacuate. Get out now if you are in an area with evacuations. If you make a decision not to leave before the storm, we cannot send someone to save you because you made a bad decision. Don’t wait until you lose power. You need to leave before it is too late.”

The Hurricane Warning remains in in effect for: North of Golden Beach to the Flagler/Volusia County line Lake Okeechobee, the state said.

 A Hurricane Watch is in effect for: North of the Flagler/Volusia county line to Savannah River. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for: Chokoloskee in Collier County to Golden Beach Florida Keys from Seven Mile Bridge eastward Florida Bay.  A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for: North of Chokoloskee in Collier County to the Suwannee River in Dixie County.

The National Hurricane Center reports that Hurricane Matthew is a major Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 120 miles per hour. Matthew is currently moving Northwest at 12 miles per hour.

Based on the current forecast, the state’s entire east coast from Monroe to Nassau County will experience tropical storm or hurricane force winds, beach erosion, rip currents and heavy rain. On Monday, Governor Scott signed an Executive Order declaring a State of Emergency in every Florida county to ensure resources for evacuations, sheltering and other logistical needs across our state are readily available.

Hurricane Matthew: Gov. Scott suspends tolls in mandatory evacuation zones



Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday afternoon that he's directed the Florida Department of Transportation to suspend traffic tolls in counties where there are evacuations for Hurricane Matthew.

"This includes all toll roads in counties with mandatory evacuations," Scott spokeswoman Taryn Fenske clarified to the Herald/Times. "Obviously this is fluid and will continue to change as counties issue evacuation orders."

As of 2 p.m., the only county that had declared a mandatory evacuation was Brevard County -- where a mandatory evacuation for the county's barrier islands takes effect at 3 p.m.

Scott tweeted that tolls on State Road 528 in Brevard County had been suspended, but his office hasn't mentioned any other affected roadways.

Voluntary evacuations have begun in St. Lucie, Flagler and Duval counties, Scott's office said in a noon update.

MORE: The latest on Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane warnings now cover almost the entire east coast of Florida, from the Miami-Dade and Broward County line north to Flagler County, just south of Jacksonville. Scott said this morning that the suspension of traffic tolls would depend on county evacuation plans. 

"Evacuations have started to be ordered this morning and I expect more counties to order evacuations soon," Scott said in his statement this afternoon. "Protecting life and moving people to safety remains our top priority and today I directed the Florida Department of Transportation to suspend tolls as needed to keep traffic flowing. If there is an evacuation order in a county, all tolls will be suspended in that county."

Photo credit: El Nuevo Herald file photo

Gov. Scott, state emergency officials stress 'calm and urgency' ahead of Hurricane Matthew

State at eoc5


As Hurricane Matthew prepared to lash the Bahamas and inched closer to Florida on Wednesday morning, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he is worried there haven’t been enough evacuations yet in advance of the strong storm.

“My biggest concern is people don’t take it seriously enough,” Scott said told emergency management officials during a morning briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. “This could turn, and are we going to be ready?”

In a news conference afterward, Scott repeatedly used words like “devastating” and “catastrophic” to stress the seriousness of the damage Matthew could do to Florida’s eastern coast.

MORE ON MIAMIHERALD.COM: The latest on Hurricane Matthew

He said residents in coastal low-lying areas or on barrier islands should leave immediately.

“This is a dangerous storm and it is never too early to evacuate,” Scott said. “You must leave before it’s too late. We cannot put first-responders’ lives at risk during the storm.”

Full story here.

Gov. Rick Scott: Hurricane Matthew 'won't have an impact' on election

While a major hurricane threatens Florida's east coast this week, many residents are already starting to vote in the November election.

County supervisors of election sent out 2.5 million mail-in ballots this week to Florida voters who requested them, but Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott told reporters Wednesday that Hurricane Matthew "won't have an impact" on voting.

"The nice thing about our state is you have a lot of opportunities to vote," Scott said. "You can vote by mail, you can vote early and then you still have the opportunity to vote on Election Day. It's not like we have just one day in our state."

Scott made the remarks during a morning press conference in Tallahassee about the status of Hurricane Matthew and the state’s preparation efforts. More here.

September 30, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott's false attack about Hillary Clinton's refugee plan


Gov. Rick Scott backed up Donald Trump’s first presidential debate performance, praising the Republican nominee and lamenting that Hillary Clinton wasn’t pressed hard enough on her policy positions.

In a Sept. 27 Facebook post touting an ad from the pro-Trump Rebuilding America Now PAC, Scott declared the real estate mogul "the winner in last night’s debate because he is the candidate for change."

"The biggest loser was the American people," Scott wrote, "because we never got to hear a vigorous conversation about why Hillary set up an illegal email server for classified information or why she wants to bring in thousands of refugees to America from all around the world without any kind of security screening."

We’ll set aside the email controversy and focus on the assertion about vetting refugees. Does Clinton want to bring in thousands of foreigners with no background checks at all?

She does want to allow refugees into America, although the figures are up for debate — but the idea that there will be no security screening is wrong.

Keep reading Joshua Gillin's fact-check from PolitiFact Florida and here's a look at Scott's Truth-O-Meter record.

September 29, 2016

Rick Scott super PAC to question Clinton's honesty in new TV ad

via @learyreports

The Donald Trump super PAC chaired by Gov. Rick Scott is planning to go on air as early as Friday with a new ad questioning Hillary Clinton’s honesty.

The ad, which will air on cable, doesn’t cite a specific issue; rather it shows various clips of Clinton answering questions including whether she has “always” told the truth. “I’ve always tried to,” Clinton replied in an interview.

Rebuilding America Now PAC has spent more than $14 million so far in support of Trump. It recently signaled a shift in strategy to more positive ads, so the new one is a departure. “That remains the core of our PAC’s strategy,” Scott said in a release, adding positive ads will be soon announced. But, he added, “This is tackle football. We are going to put offense and defense on the field for Donald Trump and we are going to win.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Scott takes victory lap on $1.1B Zika funding but wants more federal help


It's not yet certain how Florida will benefit from the $1.1 billion Zika spending package Congress passed Wednesday, but on a call with reporters, Gov. Rick Scott made this clear: It's about time the federal government acted.

"What's frustrating is everybody said they were for funding," said Scott, who has traveled to Washington, D.C., twice to meet with congressional leaders and demand emergency money. "I'm frustrated it took so long. I think it shows the incompetence of the federal government, but I'm glad we got something passed."

Now, the governor is asking for the feds to refund the state for money it spent under an emergency declaration signed by Scott in February. To date, Florida has spent $36 million on fighting and preventing the spread of Zika and Scott last week promised another $25 million for a vaccine research grant program. That's on top of millions spent by local governments, particularly in Miami-Dade County, where the virus continues to spread in Miami Beach.

"My goal is the federal government will give the money out quickly," Scott said.

He also renewed demands for additional support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He wants the CDC to send an epidemiologist, match the grant funds for vaccine research and speed up test results for pregnant women.

But the federal government already has provided resources, including sending an epidemiologist. The CDC has to date spent well over $100 million on a vaccine research program.

As well, the CDC has granted $8 million in Zika-specific aid to Florida, as well as $27 million in federal emergency funds that could be used to combat Zika, in addition to other purposes. As of Friday, Florida had used less than $3 million, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Much of that money is allocated for other purposes, and the state has budgeted for -- even if it hasn't spent -- all of the Zika-specific money from the federal government, spokespeople for the state of Florida told the Miami Herald last week.

Pregnant women have reported waiting as long as five weeks to receive the results of Zika tests Scott made available in every county health department. The CDC has bought some lab resources to speed that up.

Under Scott, the state has cut staffing in the Florida Department of Health, reducing the agency from more than 17,000 positions when he took office in in 2011 to fewer than 14,000 full-time employees this year, according to state records.

This has not impacted Zika test results, Scott insists. Cuts are all tied to a change in the Medicaid program that farmed out work to private health insurers, he said.

"Any efficiencies made in years past did not impact the response to Zika," Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said.

Some of the testing has to be done by the CDC, and that's what the state is waiting on, according to Scott's office. 

"We are clearly doing our part," he said, "but the CDC needs to provide an epidemiologist, needs to provide lab support."