July 14, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott signs law to create college-type savings plans for disabled

By Jenny Luna

Despite cutting millions of dollars to aid the state’s disabled community, Gov. Rick Scott signed a new law Monday that allows individuals with disabilities to boost their savings from $2,000 to $100,000 without jeopardizing their state and federal benefits.

Scott signed the Florida Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act amid students and families of the Marian Center in Miami Gardens, a school for people with disabilities. The law will go into effect by July 1, 2016.

The more celebrated news, however, was that 2,000 people previously on a wait list for a Medicaid waiver from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities will be able to receive care at home instead of being institutionalized. Under the state budget that went effect July 1, $40 million will go toward providing services for these 2,000; 20,000 people are on the wait list.

Acela Ruiz applied for a Medicaid waiver when her son, Devin Feterman, was a toddler. Devin, 9, is on the autism spectrum and in a wheelchair. He will now receive physical and speech therapy.

“We will finally get the services we weren't able to afford before,’’ Ruiz said. She can also buy supplies not covered by private insurance, such as diapers, baby wipes and food.

More here.

July 07, 2015

State vows to stop more Confederates from being nominated for hall of fame

@JeremySWallace

If any more Confederate soldiers are nominated for the state’s Veterans Hall of Fame, as they were this year, a key state official says he will refuse to pass their names on to Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet for final approval.

Veterans Affairs Executive Director Mike Prendergast said he has an Attorney General’s opinion that makes clear he can only accept veterans of the "U.S. Armed Forces." Those who fought for the South during the Civil War were not members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

"Legally I can't bring something forward to the Governor and Cabinet that is not legal and proper and doesn’t meet the statutory requirements," Prendergast said.

When the state's volunteer Veterans Hall of Fame Council meets on Thursday in Tallahassee, Prendergast said they will be reminded of the Attorney General's opinion and encouraged not to submit more Confederate soldiers for consideration as they did earlier this year.

"It's somewhat problematic to go against what our attorney general has ruled," Prendergast said.

Continue reading "State vows to stop more Confederates from being nominated for hall of fame" »

Governor downplays tensions with Florida Legislature over vetoes

@JeremySWallace

The tension between Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Senate in light of $461 million in budget vetoes has been well documented.

State senators have called his actions politically motivated and characterized his veto pen as inconsistent.

But you would not know anything is wrong if you asked Scott. Speaking to reporters late Monday, Scott was asked if he feels tension growing between him and other Republicans in Tallahassee.

“Oh gosh, we’ve had five good sessions,” Scott said of working with state lawmakers. “We’ve done 50 tax cuts. We have record education funding.”

Continue reading "Governor downplays tensions with Florida Legislature over vetoes" »

July 06, 2015

Scott sidesteps questions on possible 2018 Senate run

@JeremySWallace

Florida Gov. Rick Scott was offering no hints on Monday about whether he is considering running for the U.S. Senate in 2018. Asked about that prospect, in light of him spending almost $300,000 on political consultants since April, Scott wouldn’t bite.

"I’m continuing to work at my job as governor," Scott said following a ceremony inducting five new members into Florida’s Veterans Hall of Fame. "I just went through an election last year and I’ve got three and a half more years as governor and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure this is a place this a where you want to raise your family."

Besides spending money on consultants, Scott has also been airing television ads statewide through his Let's Get To Work fundraising committee and has tried to elevate his national profile by hosting 7 GOP presidential candidates at an economic summit he hosted in Orlando in June.

Scott's current term as governor runs through 2018, when U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, would be finishing his third term in the Senate. Some high dollar donors have said Scott privately has told them he has interest in running for the seat, though he has not said so publicly.

Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott make PolitiFact Florida's Top 5 in June

In June, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced at Miami-Dade College that he was officially launching his bid for the presidency in 2016.

Bush dominated PolitiFact Florida's Top 5 most clicked-on reports in June. Also on our Top 5 list was an article about one of Bush’s rivals -- U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio -- as well as a repeated claim by Gov. Rick Scott about the environment.

Turn to PolitiFact Florida to find our most clicked on item in June.

Gov. Rick Scott trumpets MLB spring training complex

via @JeremySWallace

Florida Gov. Rick Scott starts his day with a little baseball celebration.

The Republican Governor will hold a ceremonial bill signing for legislation this morning that allows a land swap between Palm Beach County and the city of West Palm Beach to remove a final hurdle for the construction of a $135 million stadium that will be home to two major league baseball teams’ spring training teams.

The Washington Nationals and Houston Astros would co-operate the stadium that is scheduled to open in 2017.

The deal assures the Astros and Nationals will remain among the 15 spring training teams in Florida for the next 30 years. A year ago, the Astros were considered a potential threat to move to Arizona. They are the only team in either the American League West or National League West that continues spring training in Florida rather than Arizona.

Arizona’s aggressive push to lure MLB teams away from Florida for spring training has been particular tough on Florida’s east coast. Over the last 20 years, Arizona has convinced 7 teams to move to Arizona for spring training, giving it 15 teams total. Only four three teams remain in southeast Florida – the Mets, Cardinals and Marlins. But with the Nationals moving from Brevard County and the Astros from Osceola, there will now be 5 teams clustered around Palm Beach County and Martin County.

Scott signed the legislation on June 10, but often holds ceremonial bill signings around the state to garner extra publicity.

--JEREMY WALLACE, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

July 04, 2015

In honor of the Fourth of July, PolitiFact takes a look at a claim by Scott Walker about the Founding Fathers

As he moves closer to declaring a presidential bid, Gov. Scott Walker often tells audiences a story about his first visit to Independence Hall in Philadelphia and his reverence for the founding fathers.

In closing a June 20, 2015 speech to the Faith & Freedom Coalition in Washington, D.C, Walker repeated the story, describing how, as a boy, he viewed the founding fathers "like superheroes."

He was awed when, in 2011, he stepped into the building where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were debated and signed.

"And I looked at the chairs and I looked at the desks and it dawned on me," Walker told the audience with a dramatic pause. "These were ordinary people. These were ordinary people who did something extraordinary. You see, they didn’t just risk their political careers. They didn’t just risk their business ventures. These were patriots who risked their lives -- their lives -- for the freedoms we hold dear today."

Walker has many times called the founding fathers ordinary people. And while campaigning, he has emphasized that he himself doesn’t come from wealth or prominence, even bragging that he bought a sweater for a dollar.

Turn to PolitiFact Wisconsin for the rest of the story.

Gov. Rick Scott spends nearly $300K on political consultants in 3 months

via @JeremySWallace

For someone who cannot seek re-election, Gov. Rick Scott is spending a whole lot of money on political consultants, adding fuel to speculation that he is aiming to run for the U.S. Senate in 2018.

This week, Scott’s Let’s Get To Work political fundraising committee reported paying $26,000 to a pair of political consulting firms, one in Miami that specializes in Hispanic outreach and the other based in Tallahassee. With that, Let’s Get to Work has now spent $292,616 on eight different political consulting firms just since April 1 on a wide range of services, including work on surveys, research, advertising and general consulting.

Scott has told some big political donors that he is interested in running for the Senate in 2018. But publicly, Scott has brushed off the questions by the media about his political future.

Asked in April about running for the Senate, Scott did not directly answer.

“I’m going to keep working on being governor,” he said then. “I just got re-elected. We’re going to have a good four years. It’s exciting.”

More here.

July 03, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott isn't really that rich, is he? (No, he isn't)

The big surge in Gov. Rick Scott's personal wealth in the past year raises a question: Is Florida's governor the richest governor in the country? The short answer is no, not by a longshot, but he's way up there.

Scott's net worth is $147 million. He got rich running the Columbia/HCA hospital chain, left the firm in 1997 with a $10 million severance package and stock worth $300 million, became an investor and has successfully nurtured an extensive portfolio. The financial disclosure statement he filed with the state this week shows his net worth grew by $14 million over the past year but is still well below the $217 million he reported when he filed to run for governor in June 2010.

Scott has not yet made up the $73 million he spent in that campaign.

By comparison, Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee reports a net worth of $2 billion. He's the son of the founder of the nationwide chain of truck stops known as Pilot Flying J, based in Knoxville, Tennessee. Care to fill 'er up, Mac? Pilot's presence on America's interstates is as ubiquitous as mile markers: There are a dozen Pilot travel centers within a 100-mile radius of Tampa alone, and more are on the way.

A number of former governors are a lot wealthier than Scott, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger of California ($300 million in 2014), Jon Corzine of New Jersey ($300 million in 2013) and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts (at least $190 million in 2012). Former New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller had a net worth of $62 million in 1974, which in present-day dollars would be worth about $303 million. Net worth numbers fluctuate from year to year and states have different reporting requirements.

On the web site cheatsheet.com, based on public records and news reports, Scott is rated as the eighth-richest officeholder in the U.S. Behind Haslam at No. 2 is Rep. Darrell Issa of California, followed by U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. and Secretary of State John Kerry, whose wife Theresa is heiress to the Heinz ketchup fortune.

It's all relative. The bottom line is that Scott makes more money in a month that most Floridians will make in a lifetime. Isn't that rich? 

--With reporting by Tampa Bay Times researcher Caryn Baird

July 02, 2015

Putnam's plea for pre-veto face time with Gov. Scott was ignored

Here's yet another backstory on Gov. Rick Scott's budget vetoes, and this one is likely to give Scott headaches at future Cabinet meetings.

As the budget time clock was ticking, Scott and his staff dissed Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

It began to unfold on Friday, June 19. As the Legislature was passing a budget, ending a three-week special session, Putnam immediately sought face time with the governor to argue his case for priority projects."I request a meeting with you at your earliest convenience," Putnam wrote.

Putnam's office hand-delivered a highly detailed four-page letter to Scott asking for "careful consideration" of his priorities, including $4.5 million for water-farming projects, $3.7 million to replace a dilapidated petroleum lab at Port Everglades and $2,000 raises for state forestry firefighters.

Not only did Putnam not get the meeting he wanted, but the request was ignored, and four days later Scott vetoed all three requests, among others.

"We never received a response," said Putnam's spokeswoman, Jennifer Meale.

Even though Scott signed the budget four days later, and a week earlier than required by law, his spokeswoman said there wasn't enough time. (The day before Scott signed the budget, Monday, June 22, Scott was on a prearranged seven-city fly-around to promote the $430 million tax cut package).

"The governor reviewed project information submitted to OPB (Office of Planning and Budgeting) staff during the regular session and during the special session up until the budget was finished by the Legislature," spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said in a written response. "The governor did not take any additional meetings on special projects once the budget was finalized by the Legislature because we were up against a tight time frame to get the budget signed by June 30th.”