September 11, 2017

Miami politicians take to the skies to view Irma damage

@alextdaugherty 

A gaggle of Miami politicians are getting an up-close-and-personal view of Hurricane Irma's destruction in Key West. 

Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson along with Rep. Carlos Curbelo, state Sen. Anitere Flores and Miami-Dade County commissioner José Pepe Díaz were all aboard a U.S. Coast Guard cargo plane bound for Key West with personnel dispatched to help with recover operations. 

The flight followed a Miami press conference with Curbelo, Flores Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Gov. Rick Scott

"We're working with FEMA, I can tell you the White House has been outstanding," Scott said. "I talked to President Trump three times yesterday, I talked to administrator Brock Long of FEMA multiple times yesterday. The White House and everybody at the federal level is showing up and my belief is they are going to show up and do everything they can." 

"Carlos Curbelo and I are determined to go back to D.C. and work with our colleagues to find the funds needed for the hurricane relief efforts," Ros-Lehtinen said. "We found it for Hurricane Harvey, we're going to band together and find it for the residents who are survivors of Hurricane Irma." 

"The Florida Keys is going to need a lot of help and we're blessed to have a wonderful governor and a very effective adminstrator at FEMA who is well aware of what the sitaution on the ground is starting to look like," Curbelo said. "We keep getting this question of how much this is going to cost and we don't have an exact estimate. But I can guarantee you this, it's going to cost billions upon billions upon billions of dollars to help the Florida Keys, Florida's Southwest Coast and obviously some of our residents here in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties to recover."  

Curbelo said he talked to Long, who relayed to him that FEMA has enough money to get through September. 

"What I would tell all my colleagues is...we cannot fund an agency like FEMA month to month," Curbelo said, adding that he plans to speak with Speaker Paul Ryan about a "robust" funding plan for FEMA.

 

September 10, 2017

Gov. Scott expects storm surge to flood his Naples home

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via @ByKristenMClark

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott owns a waterfront mansion in Naples that he says should see 10 to 15 feet of storm surge because of Hurricane Irma.

“So, we’ll see. I just can’t imagine it’s not going to have water all through the whole house,” he told reporters Sunday afternoon when he was asked about the status of the home as Irma moves up Florida’s west coast.

But he added, “It’s nothing new... you can replace a house.”

“I was more worried— my daughter just had two little babies. She’s further inland, and so I was more worried about her,” he said.

His daughter Allison, her husband Pierre and their five sons — including two-week-old twin boys — had evacuated to the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee on Friday to join Scott and his wife, Ann

But now with the capital city poised to be in Irma’s path on Monday, Scott told reporters they didn’t stick around.

“They actually went to D.C. today,” he said. “They had come up here but it doesn’t make sense — when it looks like we might be hit up here — for them to be here, especially with five little boys.”

--KRISTEN M. CLARK, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

Trump declares disaster for Florida amid Hurricane Irma

US NEWS TRUMP 19 ABA
via @stevebousquet

TALLAHASSEE -- President Donald Trump on Sunday approved a major disaster declaration for Hurricane Irma in Florida, hours after Gov. Rick Scott requested it.

In a week in which the president and governor spoke several times by phone, the governor's office said the disaster declaration will authorize federal funding to flow to areas affected by the storm and will reimburse cities and counties and the state for costs of response and recovery.

The major disaster declaration authorizes 100 percent federal reimbursement for 30 days in all counties for emergency protective measures, such as the costs of running emergency operation centers, hurricane shelters and related expenses. After the initial 30-day period, the federal government will reimburse 75 percent of those costs, including counties' costs for debris removal.

The declaration also authorizes direct federal financial aid to nine counties: Miami-Dade, Monroe, Charlotte, Collier, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota.

The president's declaration is here.

--STEVE BOUSQUET, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

Photo credit: Olivier Douliery, TNS

Rick Scott gets national airtime as Irma batters Florida's peninsula

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@ByKristenMClark

With Hurricane Irma affecting much of southern Florida by Sunday morning — making travel unsafe — Gov. Rick Scott remains in the state’s capital city.

He’s staying busy — spending four hours going from national TV interview to national TV interview, with the state Emergency Operations Center as his photogenic backdrop.

His line-up started at 7 a.m. and includes almost all of the networks, several more than once: NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, The Weather Channel, Fox News and Fox Business. (No MSNBC.)

More here.

September 04, 2017

Trump and Scott hold Hurricane Irma phone call

@PatriciaMazzei

President Donald Trump spoke by telephone with Florida Gov. Rick Scott late Monday night to discuss the potential threat of Hurricane Irma.

Scott's public schedule was updated to show the 10:20 p.m. call.

Earlier Monday, Scott declared a state of emergency in all 67 Florida counties ahead of the storm. It is still too far away to know with certainty if Irma will hit the state, but Florida entered the storm's long-term forecast cone on Labor Day. The governor was briefed twice during the day by Bryan Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

"Today, given these forecasts and the intensity of this storm, I have declared a state of emergency for every county in Florida to make certain that state, federal and local governments are able to work together and make sure resources are dispersed to local communities as we get prepared for this storm," Scott said in a statement. "In Florida, we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best and while the exact path of Irma is not absolutely known at this time, we cannot afford to not be prepared."

September 01, 2017

Scott breaks with Trump on DACA, gently

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged President Donald Trump on Friday not to summarily end an Obama-era program that that protects from deportation immigrants brought into the country illegally as children.

Amid rampant speculation that Trump on Tuesday will stop the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Scott said in a statement that DACA recipients should be given a reprieve.

“I do not favor punishing children for the actions of their parents,” Scott said. “These kids must be allowed to pursue the American Dream, and Congress must act on this immediately.”

He endorsed legislation filed by Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo and North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis that would offer an eventual path to citizenship to immigrants who arrived illegally before Jan. 1, 2012, and were 16 years old or younger when they entered.

Those people have been dubbed “Dreamers,” after the failed legislation that first attempted to give them legal status, the DREAM Act.

“We love the Dreamers,” Trump told reporters Friday. “We love everybody.”

The governor’s statement marked a rare break with the president, Scott’s Republican ally and longtime friend. Scott chaired a Trump political action committee during the 2016 presidential campaign and has been a frequent visitor to the White House and, most recently, Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, N.J., for lunch with the president.

More here.

Photo credit: José A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

 

August 31, 2017

Supreme Court: Gov. Scott did 'not abuse his broad discretion' in death-penalty dispute

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@ByKristenMClark

Gov. Rick Scott was within his executive authority in reassigning more than two dozen potential death penalty cases away from an Orlando state attorney who declared she wouldn’t pursue the punishment for any case prosecuted in her district, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

In a 5-2 ruling, justices said Aramis Ayala’s “blanket” opposition to seeking the death penalty negates her argument of having exercised prosecutorial discretion.

Writing for the majority, Justice C. Alan Lawson — a conservative judge whom Scott appointed to the Supreme Court in December — said Scott, as governor, has leeway in his constitutional duty to “take care that the laws are faithfully executed,” and “the governor has not abused his broad discretion in reassigning the cases at issue” to Brad King, a state attorney in Ocala.

Full story here.

Photo credit: AP

August 30, 2017

Florida Democrats urge state lawmakers to remove Confederate statue in U.S. Capitol

Confederate Statue Florida

@alextdaugherty 

 

The entire Florida Democratic congressional delegation wants Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers to remove a statue of Confederate general Edmund Kirby Smith from the U.S. Capitol.

On Wednesday, 11 House Democrats from Florida sent a letter to Scott, State House speaker Richard Corcoran and State Senate president Joe Negron urging the trio to call a one-day special session to replace the statue in September.

“No family visiting our nation's Capitol should have to explain to their child that the statue representing our state honors someone who fought for a philosophy built on hatred, inequality and oppression,” the letter said.

Last year, the state legislature agreed to remove Smith's statue but it remains in National Statuary Hall in Washington, where daily tours are conducted in the Capitol, because lawmakers couldn't agree on a replacement.

But with the recent violent protests in Charlottesville and elsewhere over the legacy of Confederate statues, and debates about streets named after Confederate generals in Florida, Democrats around the country are pushing to remove statues in public places.

Two weeks ago, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, asked state lawmakers to make the change.

“It's time to stop playing games,” Wasserman Schultz said.

Now, Wasserman Schultz is joined by her Democratic colleagues in Washington, including Miami Gardens Rep. Frederica Wilson.

Scott and Corcoran ruled out the possibility of a special session two weeks ago.

“Like most politicians in Washington, the Congresswoman is out of touch,” Corcoran said on Twitter. “We've already made this decision and are now having a conversation about which great Floridian we should honor. The Congresswoman should stop grandstanding and focus on balancing the Federal budget.”

Read more here. 

August 28, 2017

Latvala asks Scott for $20M more to fight opioid crisis

Florida Legislature (11)

@ByKristenMClark

The budget chairman of the Florida Senate is calling on Gov. Rick Scott to allocate another $20 million from state reserves toward the ongoing opioid crisis.

Calling the health emergency an “existential threat to the people of our state,” Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala wrote in a letter to Scott on Monday that Floridians cannot wait until the Legislature passes the next state budget in March before more state resources are funneled to address the crisis.

Opioids were the direct cause of death of 2,538 Floridians and contributed to an additional 1,358 deaths in 2015, the last year data is available. Citing death trends for this year, Latvala cautioned that “by the time the Legislature passes a budget in March 2018, over 2,700 more Floridians could die.”

“We must provide the proper financial resources to those communities across Florida that have been struggling with this crisis for many years and join together to help end the stigma of addiction,” wrote Latvala, who is a 2018 candidate for governor. “I urge you in the strongest terms to continue to lead on this issue.”

After Latvala’s letter was sent this morning — also requesting an extension of a statewide emergency declaration that was set to expire in the coming days — Scott’s office noted this afternoon that the emergency declaration was “already extended today.”

More here.

Photo credit: AP

How Richard Corcoran prepares for a possible 2018 run for governor

House Speaker Richard Corcoran says he won't announce whether he'll run for governor until seven months from now, after the 2018 legislative session. But the Pasco County Republican is laying the groundwork for a candidacy in a field where Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has a big head start and where Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, has entered the field.

He may run and he may not, but Corcoran, 52, who began his rise through Republican ranks as a campaign strategist, has the instincts of an operative and the travel schedule of a full-time candidate. Whether dining with donors at Tampa's Capital Grillle or borrowing lobbyist friend Bill Rubin's Fort Lauderdale conference room to huddle with consultants, Corcoran keeps much of his political activity under the radar and does not publicize what he's doing.

Read more here about the four signs of a budding candidacy.