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.”

July 01, 2015

State tight lipped on incentives given to Missouri company to create 15 jobs


No amount of jobs appears too few for Gov. Rick Scott to celebrate with bold headlines and press releases.

That point was obvious today, when Scott sent out a press release applauding the state’s role in luring 15 new jobs that will be created over two years in Suwannee County in north Florida.

"We are on a mission to make Florida the number one destination for jobs, and today we are another step closer as we announce the creation of new jobs in Live Oak," Scott said in a press release.

But what Scott or the state did to lure those 15 jobs is a mystery. That is because neither Scott nor Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development arm, will say what the state gave International Mulch Company, a Missouri-based business, for financial incentives until as late after Christmas.

Continue reading "State tight lipped on incentives given to Missouri company to create 15 jobs" »

Gov. Rick Scott's net worth grows to $147 million

Gov. Rick Scott reports his net worth has grown to nearly $147 million -- an increase of about $14 million or nearly 11 percent more than the year before. The wealthiest governor in Florida history filed his annual financial disclosure statement with the Commission on Ethics, and the agency posted it online Wednesday.

Scott reports that the assets held in a blind trust are worth $128 million and that his Naples home is worth $15.4 million. Most of Scott's assets are kept in a blind trust, a decision that was the subject of much litigation over the past year in a case in which the governor prevailed. Scott has defended the blind trust as necessary to prohibit him from making official decisions that could affect his portfolio. But because the assets are in a blind trust, the public cannot know how Scott got richer over the past 12 months.

Scott did list the assets in the trust when he filed his previous financial disclosure one year ago.

Senate president calls Gov. Scott's UCF veto 'a shot at Orlando'

If Republicans in the Florida Senate are getting over their anger at Gov. Rick Scott's rash of vetoes, they sure don't sound like it.

Appearing on News 13's Political Connections, Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, did not mince words in describing Scott's zeroing out of money for programs for people with disabilities and for the start of a downtown Orlando campus of the University of Central Florida.

"It's a shot at our community. It's a shot at Orlando, Orange County, Central Florida, those of us who believe in economic development," Gardiner told the cable outlet in an interview. "While everybody will try to say, 'Oh, this is a shot at Andy Gardiner,' in many ways, it's a shot at our community." 

Scott vetoed $15 million to start the first phase of UCF's "downtown presence," saying it was not on the three-year list of approved projects by the Board of Governors. Gardiner said the BOG backed the project but for less money and he defended the Legislature's right to increase appropriations.

He said Scott vetoed other university projects that had the BOG's support, saying: "That's where the inconsistency comes in from our members. They kind of wonder, what are we playing with here?"

Gardiner also accused Scott of vetoing projects that were supported by the governor's own agency heads. He called out by name Barbara Palmer, director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, saying she "advocated for" Senate-backed projects to help people with special needs enter the work force. APD did not respond to the Times/Herald's request for a response.

Gardiner is term limited. But he has another full year as president of the Senate and his staying power may be enhanced by the fact that Senate Republicans have not yet coalesced around a successor in the competition between Sens. Jack Latvala of Clearwater and Joe Negron of Stuart.

June 29, 2015

Pam Bondi asks court to move forward with execution after Supreme Court ruling

via @MichaelAuslen

Florida’s rapid pace of executions — derailed in February because of a pending U.S. Supreme Court Case — is cleared to start up again. And the state isn’t wasting any time.

Just hours after the high court ruled that a drug used for lethal injections in Florida is allowed under the Constitution, Attorney General Pam Bondi filed to lift a state court order blocking executions.

Specifically, Bondi is asking the Florida Supreme Court to move forward with the execution of convicted quadruple-murderer Jerry Correll, who would be the 22nd person put to death since Rick Scott became governor in 2011.

He would also be the first person executed since January. The six-month break is unusual for Scott, who has signed death warrants at a faster pace than any governor in recent memory. Former Gov. Jeb Bush ordered 21 executions in his eight years in office, and Charlie Crist waited a full year and a half before issuing his first death warrant.

In Florida, executions take the form of lethal injection. The process requires a series of three drugs: one to knock out and numb the inmate, followed by one that causes paralysis and a third to induce cardiac arrest.

More here

As Gov. Scott's vetoes reverberate, one critic offers praise

Gov. Rick Scott's liberal use of his veto pen in the new state budget continues to reverberate across the state in a number of pointed editorials and woe-is-us news stories. But one of Scott's most persistent critics isn't complaining.

Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen penned a piece over the weekend that actually sprinkled some praise on Scott for a "rare display of might" in dealing with a "malfunctioning" Florida Legislature, and the popular author also concluded that Scott axed so much spending ($461.4 million) that he couldn't have been playing favorites. "The slashing was evenhanded," Hiaasen writes.

Others were less charitable. The Gainesville Sun blasted Scott for vetoing $200,000 for Reichert House, a well-regarded after school program for troubled children in Alachua County that has a waiting list for services. The paper questioned the values of a governor who cut projects for the poor and disabled while championing a cell-phone tax cut that will save a typical customer $20 a year.

Scott's motives continue to be questioned by fellow Republicans. Rep. Ken Roberson, R-Punta Gorda, is quoted in his hometown paper, the Charlotte Sun, as telling a GOP club about the flood of vetoes: "A lot of us legislators are still scratching our heads over that. It may have been political.”

The Leesburg Daily Commercial reports that backers of the historical significance of the notorious fugitive Ma Barker aren't surrendering despite Scott's veto of $250,000 to restore her Depression-era hideout in Marion County, the scene of a bloody shootout with FBI agents. "We are disappointed, but we are not deterred," said the project's champion, Marion County Tax Collector George Albright, a former Republican House member.

June 26, 2015

How Florida Gov. Rick Scott's trip played in Connecticut

via @stevebousquet

"You're raising taxes on everybody," Gov. Rick Scott is quoted as saying about Connectiut's Democratic governor and Legislature in Friday's Hartford Courant. Here's how the trip is playing in the state's largest newspaper. In an interview with the Associated Press in Hartford, Scott said "it truly helps me when a governor raises taxes."

--STEVE BOUSQUET, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

Will Melissa Sellers stay put as Florida governor's chief of staff?

via @adamsmithtimes

The announcement by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal this week that he was jumping into the crowded Republican presidential primary field prompted widespread speculation that Melissa Sellers, a former senior Jindal adviser, would leave Gov. Rick Scott's staff as chief of staff to join Jindal's campaign. Sellers, who managed Scott's reelection campaign, has antagonized plenty of legislators in Tallahassee since she became Scott chief of staff seven months ago - his fourth chief of staff in 4 1/2 years.

"The governor is not being well served by these kids from Louisiana,'' fumed Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, early this week after the governor vetoed more than $461-million in legislative spending measures. "I don't recall a governor's office as unresponsive as that one is. They’ve got him totally isolated. You can’t have a meeting without Melissa sitting there. She totally controls the agenda but what are her credentials to do that? She won a campaign."

So we asked Sellers and the governor's communications director if there's anything to the talk of her joing the Jindal campaign, or the rumor she might work on the U.S. Senate campaign of U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Chumuckla.

"Neither is true," said Communications Director Jackie Schutz in an email.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

June 25, 2015

Scott and Bondi react to Burwell ruling: Obamacare is still a bad law

Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi did not have much to say about the U.S. Supreme Court ruling today upholding the Affordable Care Act subsidies to states that rely on the federal exchange but instead steered their focus to the continued opposition to the underlying law. 

 "The Affordable Care Act continues to be the most heavy handed federal health care law in our nation’s history, and today’s decision in the King v. Burwell case does nothing to alleviate the harms the law will continue to cause,'' Bondi said in a statement.

Asked to comment at a veterans event in St. Augustine Scott responded, "It's a bad law. It was supposed to reduce health care costs and health care costs have gone up,'' he said, according to his spokeswoman Geri Bustamante.

He also noted that state-run exchanges "are collapsing across the country because it’s costing more than people thought." He continues to hope for the law's repeal, she said. 

Gov. Rick Scott's stalled promise about fighting for Obamacare repeal

Gov. Rick Scott's promise to fight to repeal the federal health care law was dealt another blow June 25 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to uphold subsidies for consumers who purchase insurance in the federal exchange as part of the Affordable Care Act.

That means that millions of Americans, including 1.3 million in Florida, can keep their subsidies to help them afford insurance. Since Scott and the state Legislature did not want to establish its own insurance exchange under the law, the state is one of 34 that relies on the federally-run marketplace at HealthCare.gov.

Scott, a former health care company executive, began his fight against the Affordable Care Act before he was a candidate in Florida.

In 2009, Scott spent $5 million of his own money to form Conservatives for Patients' Rights, a group that fought Obama's original health care proposal.

In 2010, Scott said he would join efforts to repeal the health care law, including supporting a constitutional amendment that "prohibits the federal government from imposing President Obama's individual mandate, to protect Floridians' freedom to control their health care choices."

At PolitiFact Florida we have been tracking dozens of Scott's promises, including his one to fight the Affordable Care Act, since he won his first campaign in 2010 and was re-elected in 2014. And we have fact-checked many claims by Scott related to the Affordable Care Act.

Turn to PolitiFact Florida for the rest of our promise update.