August 07, 2015

Scott agrees to pay Andrews $700k to settle public records lawsuit

Gov. Rick Scott has agreed to pay a Tallahassee lawyer $700,000 in taxpayer money to settle seven public records lawsuits alleging the governor, and several members of his staff, violated state law when they created email accounts to shield their communications from state public records laws and then withheld the documents.

The lawsuits were filed by Steven R. Andrews, who has been embroiled in litigation with Scott since 2012, when the governor wanted the state to buy a building in which Andrews’ firm is located near the governor’s mansion.

The settlement, first obtained by the Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau, is precedent-setting in that it is the first time in state history that a sitting governor and attorney general have been sued successfully for violations of Florida’s public records laws. It is also the third legal defeat in recent months for the governor, and the second time he has agreed to use state dollars to end a lawsuit against him. Also signing the agreement is Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Scott and the Cabinet in June agreed to pay $55,000 to St. Petersburg lawyer Matthew Weidner, open government advocacy groups and several media organizations, including the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times, who accused Scott and the Cabinet of violating the state’s open meeting laws when they allowed staff to use back channels to oust former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey with no public discussion or vote.

“We settled, and it was the right thing to do for the state,” said Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz.

Andrews would not comment.

“It is clear this governor has made a calculated decision that violating the constitutional rights is the cost of doing business — a cost he doesn’t have to bear,” said Weidner, whose case against the governor and Cabinet was settled in July. “While these numbers are shocking, you can’t calculate the cost to citizens of the state for government that is operating in darkness. The real costs will be borne in years to come for a government that operates in contempt for fundamental right to records.” Story here. 

August 06, 2015

Following Trump's Florida money, straight to Gov. Scott and GOP

As Donald Trump has noted, he has donated money to a number of his Republican presidential rivals, including Jeb Bush ($500 in 2002). But a review of Trump's personal contributions to Florida politicians shows that the biggest beneficiary of Trump money in Florida has been Gov. Rick Scott.

Trump wrote checks totaling $253,500 to Florida candidates and committees since 2002, the earliest year on the state campaign finance database.

Scott's Let's Get to Work committee got nearly half of that, $125,000, in 2012 and 2013, and the Republican Party of Florida got another $111,000, nearly all of it last year when Scott was locked in a tough re-election fight against former Gov. Charlie Crist, once a Trump pal. Trump hosted a big fund-raiser at his Mar-a-Lago Resort in Palm Beach when Crist ran for governor in 2006.

Trump's most recent check to a Florida politician? He sent $10,000 last September to Innovate Florida, a political committee controlled by Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who plays an important role in shaping any gambling-related legislation in Florida.

Over the years, Trump gave $1,000 to the late Jim King of Jacksonville, a former Senate president, and $1,000 to former Rep. Sharon Merchant of Palm Beach County when she ran for a Senate seat in 2002.

The only Democrat who got a check from The Donald was Walter "Skip" Campbell, a former senator from Coral Springs (and now that city's mayor) who was the Democratic nominee for attorney general in 2006. But Trump hedged his bets in that race. A few weeks later, he gave another $500 to Campbell's Republican opponent, Bill McCollum, who won the election. Florida's attorney general has a thing or two to say about casino gambling, don't you know.

August 05, 2015

Eight things you should know about the Planned Parenthood Controversy


ontroversial videos released by an anti-abortion group have highlighted the murky guidelines for harvesting fetal tissue for research purposes.

The group, called the Center for Medical Progress, has accused Planned Parenthood of selling aborted fetuses for a profit, a charge Planned Parenthood has denied. One of its videos, recorded in secret and released July 14, 2015, shows members of the anti-abortion group posing as tissue brokers discussing terms for procuring fetal tissue.

To some, it appeared that Planned Parenthood was proposing to illegally sell tissue, prompting lawmakers in several states to launch investigations and Republicans in Congress to attempt cutting off more than $500 million in federal money. But Planned Parenthood maintains that its process is legal and limited to a handful of states.

Confused about what’s going on? PolitiFact is here to help. Here’s our rundown of eight things we know — and don’t know — about fetal tissue donation and Planned Parenthood.

Read the PolitiFact article by Joshua Gillin and Will Cabaniss.

August 04, 2015

Governor Scott promotes presidential campaign slogan during TV interview

via @JeremySWallace

“I want a candidate that’s going to say we’re going to have a plan - we have a plan -  for 12 million jobs over 4 years,” Gov. Rick Scott told Fox News Channel anchor Gretchen Carlson during an interview on Tuesday.

Scott said when he ran in 2010 he pledged 700,000 jobs in seven years and won the vote because he had a clear plan for more jobs. He said he’s looking for a candidate that can take a similar message nationwide.

“So I think the right thing is 12 million jobs over four years,” Scott said about the advice he’d give to the candidates running for the White House. “Have a plan and make sure it happens. If you do that, you’re going to get the votes. That’s who’s going to beat Hillary Clinton.”

Scott went on to repeat the “12 million jobs in 4 years slogan” five times in less than four minutes during the interview.

Carlson asked Scott if his choice for the White House was going to come down to former Gov. Jeb Bush or U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, because they are from Florida. Scott would not say, only adding that “we’ve got a lot of great candidates.”

July 31, 2015

Florida Gov. Rick Scott highlights hospital infection problems

via @JeremySWallace

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is using new infection control data released this week by a consumer magazine to provide further justification of his call to create a commission to review the state’s hospital system.

On Wednesday Consumer Reports said St. Petersburg General Hospital, UF Health Jacksonville and Venice Regional Bayfront Health were among the 12 worst hospitals in the nation in preventing infections. The magazine looked at infection rates for MRSA and clostridium difficile, two of the most common and deadly types of bacterial infections in hospitals. The used dates from October 2013 to September 2014, the most recent data available.

“The news that three Florida hospitals are the worst in America for preventing infections is troubling and unacceptable,” Scott said in a statement to the media. “The study also further demonstrates the importance of the work being conducted by the Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding to shine a light on the services provided at these facilities.”

Scott wants the commission to investigate how taxpayer-supported hospitals spend their money, especially when it comes to lobbyists, political campaigns and advertising. The idea for the panel arose in April when the state was wrestling with a potential $1 billion budget shortfall after the federal government sought to end a program, called the Low Income Pool, which provides funding for state hospitals.

Continue reading "Florida Gov. Rick Scott highlights hospital infection problems" »

July 29, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott orders investigation of Planned Parenthood sites

via @kmcgrory

Amid a growing controversy over the alleged sale of fetal tissue, Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday called for an investigation of Florida’s 16 Planned Parenthood offices that perform abortions.

The investigation comes two weeks after the release of an undercover video in which a Planned Parenthood official in California discusses the use of fetal organs for medical research. The anti-abortion group that took the video says it is proof Planned Parenthood sells human tissue.

Planned Parenthood has said the footage was heavily edited, and that it does not profit from tissue donation.

Still, Scott called the video “deeply troubling.” He said he has asked Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Elizabeth Dudek “to evaluate the 16 Planned Parenthood offices in Florida that perform abortion procedures to ensure they are in full compliance with the law.”

“It is against the law for any organization to sell body parts,” he said. “If a Planned Parenthood office is not following the law, we will move quickly to take legal and regulatory action against them.”

Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, called the governor’s action “politically motivated.”

More here.

Gov. Scott and Cabinet will settle Mansion-area property lawsuit

Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet will settle a lawsuit over access to property the state wants to acquire as part of a development project to enhance the Governor's mansion.

The four officials plan to approve the settlement of three separate cases at a Cabinet meeting next Wednesday in a legal battle begun three years ago by Tallahassee lawyer Steve Andrews, who tried to prevent the state from acquiring the land that houses Andrews' law office to create a park adjacent to the Governor's Mansion. As the case unfolded, Andrews raised claims that Scott was using a private email account for official business. The public records issues remain unresolved and are not part of the proposed settlement.

Under the settlement, the state will be able to buy Andrews' land at 822 N. Monroe Street in Tallahassee, and Andrews will grant the state a permanent parking easement. Each side will pay its own costs and fees. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam's office immediately released the 13-page settlement document in response to a public records request.

The three Cabinet members were not named as defendants in the litigation, but Andrews sued them and Scott in the role as trustees of the state Internal Improvement Trust Fund, which votes on land acquisition decisions at Cabinet meetings.

July 24, 2015

Governor Scott's biggest campaign donations in 2015


Florida Gov. Rick Scott has had hundreds of political donors to his campaigns for governor and a political committee he runs.

But some are more generous than others. Scott’s Let’s Get to Work Committee has received at least $100,000 or more from 12 different donors since the start of 2015. Here is a list of those big donors, ranked by most money given.

1. $580,000 Republican Party of Florida – While listed as a donation, this money actually represents Scott removing money he helped raise for the party, but removed after his choice from RPOF chair was rejected.

2. $252,503 Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts – This was an in-kind donation for travel, food and beverage to help Scott have an economic summit with candidates running for president earlier this summer.

3. $200,000 Jeffrey Vinik  Tampa Bay Lightning owner who is leading a $1 billion redevelop plan for downtown Tampa near Amalie Arena.

Continue reading "Governor Scott's biggest campaign donations in 2015" »

Gov. Rick Scott's healthcare commission meets in Miami, urges price transparency

via @dchangmiami

Hospital profits have crept up over the past decade, thanks in part to taxpayer support, yet patients continue to struggle to find price and quality information — issues the governor’s healthcare commission vowed to tackle during its meeting in Miami Thursday.

“We’ve got to make the costs for procedures available to consumers,” said Carlos Beruff, president of a home building company and chairman of the Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding created by Florida Gov. Rick Scott. “But that needs to be in conjunction with quality.”

Created to cast light on the finances of Florida hospitals and their use of tax dollars, the commission — meeting at Miami Dade College Medical Campus — focused much of its discussion on transparency as a way to empower consumers and lower healthcare costs.

Commission members also reviewed the early performance of Florida’s switch to managed care for more than 3 million residents on Medicaid, the public health insurance program for low-income people.

But first came presentations from Carlos Migoya, chief executive of Jackson Health System, Miami-Dade’s public hospital network, and from Steven Sonenreich, CEO of Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, a nonprofit.

More here.

July 22, 2015

Governor Scott wants military recruiters armed


Florida Gov. Rick Scott has already ordered neighborhood military recruitment centers in Florida moved to armories, now he wants to assure National Guard members are armed and ready to respond if they are attacked like what happened in Tennessee earlier this month.

During a press conference in Jacksonville today, Scott said he has asked the leader of the Florida National Guard, Adjutant General Michael Calhoun, to make sure all qualified soldiers are armed so they can defend themselves, including during recruitment work.

"Our military needs to be safe," Scott said.

Calhoun said there was no policy to arm recruiters until know, unless they were in a state building and had their own personal weapon.

"We just want to reassure our recruiters and the individuals that come to those centers are protected," Calhoun said.

Scott is also looking at other options, including bullet proof glass at recruitment centers and calling for more local police patrols of recruitment centers and armories to assure safety of soldiers.

"I do hope the president is taking notice of what we are doing here," Scott said.