June 22, 2015

Would Rick Scott ask lieutenant governor to resign for U.S. Senate run?


Florida Gov. Rick Scott made light Monday in Miami that his appointed lieutenant governor, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, is poised to announce a 2016 U.S. Senate run next month.

"We're going to do this every year, year in and year out," Scott said of tax cuts in the state budget. "Carlos and I have another three years in Tallahassee -- well he might change what he's doing," he added, to laughter. "But we have another three years to cut more taxes."

Lopez-Cantera, who was standing next to him, told the Miami-Dade County Republican Party on Saturday that he will announce his decision July 15 whether to seek presidential candidate Marco Rubio's seat.

Because he holds a state office but would run for a federal one, Lopez-Cantera would not be required by law to resign his position as lieutenant governor.

Scott was asked if he would ask Lopez-Cantera to step aside anyway. The governor said he'd leave that decision to his deputy.

"He's been a very good lieutenant governor," Scott said. "I've enjoyed working with Carlos. He was very good when we worked together when he was in the House as  majority leader. I think he did a great job here in Miami [as property appraiser]. Those are decisions he'll make."

In Miami for tax-cut tour, Gov. Rick Scott calls state spending plan 'a good budget'


Florida Gov. Rick Scott dropped by the Miami suburb of Doral on Monday to trumpet tax cuts in the budget state lawmakers approved Friday -- even though they're only about half of what he had had asked for in January.

Standing at Sergio's Restaurant, Scott started a chant in English and Spanish -- "Cut my taxes! Cut my taxes! Recorta mis impuestos! Recorta mis impuestos!" -- and held up his iPhone to note the state's communications tax charged on most cell phone and cable TV bills will drop to 4.92 percent from 6.65 percent, saving an average person about $20 a year from a monthly bill of $100.

Asked about getting less from legislators than he sought, Scott still declared himself "excited."

"I'm excited that we got $400 million in tax cuts. I want to thank all the legislators that helped get that done," he said. "We cut taxes every year. Before this year, 40 tax cuts; $400 million this year. I'm not going to complain.... This is a good budget year."

He wouldn't say if the budget has too much spending on lawmakers' pet projects, or go into detail on how he plans to pick which items to veto.

"I'll be going through the budget like I've done every year," he said. "I started working on it this weekend.... The same way I go through it every time, I make sure it's good for all Florida families. I'm going to watch your money. I want to continue to make sure we have tax cuts."

Scott highlighted Sergio's, a local 40-year-old chain, for being owned by a Cuban-American woman, Blanca Gazitúa, who was the first Hispanic woman named to the National Restaurant Association, according to her son Carlos Gazitúa, Sergio's chief executive.

The governor told the story of a former server, Mónica Alarcón, an immigrant and mother pregnant with another child who stood next to him before reporters. She now manages hospitality training over 250 employees.

"Started out as a waitress -- probably 10 years old, very young," Scott joked. "Now she's a big shot.... It's great to watch [someone] build a business."

Quinnipiac poll: Lopez-Cantera trails Murphy, Obama and Scott still in 'job approval hole'

Lieutenant Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has not made it official yet, but a Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll says he is already trailing U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy in the 2016 U.S. Senate race.

If a matchup were held today, Lopez-Cantera would be behind by 40 to 28 percent. He is expected to announce on July 15. Also trailing Murphy is U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis: 39 to 31 percent. 

The news is equally grim for Gov. Rick Scott and President Barack Obama. Both remain mired in negative approval ratings in Florida, according to the poll taken June 4-15 of 1,147 Florida voters that has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. Obama's job approval rating in Florida is 43 to 51 percent while Scott's is worse with 39 percent of voters having a favorable view of him and 49 percent who don't.

Here's the press release:

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Two Florida agencies, two approaches to climate change

From the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting:

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has a steering committee to address climate change. The commission maintains computer modeling programs that show how climate change will affect water and land crucial to wildlife. It holds regular seminars to educate staff on the latest climate science.

On its website, the commission has a “Climate Change 101” page that addresses key challenges the state faces.

Eight miles from the state commission’s Tallahassee headquarters, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which bills itself as the state’s “lead agency for environmental management and stewardship,” states that it is only monitoring sea-level rise. That is its sole effort to address climate change.

As Florida Center for Investigative Reporting first reported, the emphasis on “climate change” within the DEP has declined over the past five years during Gov. Rick Scott’s tenure in office. For instance, a Web page titled “Climate Change and Coral Reefs” hasn’t been updated since Nov. 18, 2011 — the year Scott took office. That was also the year a DEP spokesperson told the Tampa Bay Times that “DEP is not pursuing any programs or projects regarding climate change.”

One likely explanation for the different priorities at the two agencies is that FWC, created by voters in 1999 as an independent commission and run by an autonomous board, does not answer to the governor. The DEP, on the other hand, does report to the governor’s office.

More here.

June 21, 2015

Scott tours state on Monday to tout tax cuts


Florida Gov. Rick Scott is wasting no time celebrating more than $400 million in tax cuts the Florida Legislature gave him last week.

The Republican governor is planning a whirlwind tour of Florida on Monday, hitting seven cities in about 12 hours to hold press conferences to celebrate the tax cut package. It starts in Fort Myers at 8:30 a.m., and hits Miami, Greenacres, St. Petersburg, Winter Garden, Jacksonville and finally Pensacola.

Scott’s Miami event is set for 10:30 a.m. at Sergio’s Restaurant, 1640 NW 87th Ave..

The centerpiece of the tax cut plan is a reduction in the state’s communications tax charged on most cellular phone and cable television services. The 6.65 percent rate will drop to 4.92 percent, saving a consumer $20 a year on a $100 a month bill. While Scott is celebrating the cut, it’s about half of what he had sought from the Legislature in January, when he proposed a $40 a month cut.

Continue reading "Scott tours state on Monday to tout tax cuts" »

June 19, 2015

Disney donated to Gov. Rick Scott's PAC on GOP summit day

via @JeremySWallace

Florida Gov. Rick Scott's presidential candidates summit earlier this month in Orlando happened in large part thanks to Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts.

New campaign finance records show Disney donated nearly a quarter million to Scott's Let's Get to Work political fundraising committee on June 2, the same day the Republican governor held an Economic Growth Summit held at a Disney hotel that drew some of the top GOP candidates for 2016.

Let's Get to Work reported collecting $252,503.34 from the Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts. It's the single largest donation to Scott's political committee this year from a donor, not counting the Republican Party of Florida, which transferred $500,000 to the governor in January.

On its website, Let's Get to Work said the money was for "travel, food and beverages."

Seven Republican presidential hopefuls spoke at Scott's Economic Growth Summit, where he touted the state's improving economy since he took office in 2011.

--JEREMY S. WALLACE, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

June 17, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott won't drop lawsuit against feds until decision made on LIP


A federal court hearing that could have featured testimony from Florida Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Health and Human Services Sec. Sylvia Burwell was canceled today after Gov. Scott withdrew his request that the judge in the case compel the government to continue a hospital payment program set to expire on June 30.

Judge M. Casey Rodgers issued the order today canceling the hearing previously set for Friday, and she ordered the federal government to file a response by July 8 to Gov. Scott's legal complaint that the Obama administration was attempting to coerce Florida to adopt Medicaid expansion by withholding a decision on the hospital payment program known as Low Income Pool.

In a legal brief filed Wednesday, Gov. Scott stated that the Florida Legislature's budget agreement assumes LIP funding will continue and that the proposal sets aside sufficient funds to pay state hospitals that care for large numbers of uninsured and under-insured  patients on Medicaid.

"The budget agreement thus mitigates the threat of imminent harm to the State, its healthcare providers, and their patients,'' the legal brief states.

Continue reading "Gov. Rick Scott won't drop lawsuit against feds until decision made on LIP" »

June 11, 2015

Family of Tampa officer killed by county official to receive $1.5 million payout

The family of Victor Guerrero, a Tampa police officer killed May 1, 2008, by a Pasco County employee, will receive $1.5 million in payouts after Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill authorizing the payout Thursday.

Guerrero’s wife, Lara, sued Pasco County after an employee struck her husband’s motorcycle in 2008. He was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital and pronounced dead on arrival.

“He was my heart, my best friend. He was my everything,” Lara Guerrero said in 2012 after a jury awarded her $7 million in compensation. “And he was taken away.”

On March 6, the county and Lara Guerrero reached a $1.5 million settlement. Large lawsuit payouts from cities, counties and the state must be approved by the Legislature and the governor.

Times files contributed to this report.

Gov. Scott signs into law bill allowing gay parents to adopt

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday evening signed intot law a bill that aims to increase adoptions but became embroiled in the debate over gay rights after a provision was added to allow adoptions by gay parents.

The new law will create incentives for state workers to adopt children, and it rewards Community-Based Care agencies in the state for achieving performance goals in adoption and foster care.

But it also repeals from statute a ban on gay people adopting children.

That change is largely symbolic. The ban hasn't been enforced since 2010, when the Third District Court of Appeal ruled it unconstiutional.

Still, it became an early flashpiont in the legislative session as conservative members of the House tried to add a "conscience clause" that would allow adoption agencies connected with religious groups to reject gay parents.

Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, carried the bill and said that in other states, reigious organizations have faced a difficult choice: Serve gay parents despite their religious convictions, or shut down altogether.

"We've seen that in other states, these agencies are being shut down," Brodeur said, debating on the floor of the House in April. "I don't believe that the state should be able to discriminate against these organizations based on their religious beliefs."

Some in the Legislature -- largely Democrats -- said that change would amount to discrimination.

In a letter accompanying the bill signed by Scott, the governor wrote that "signing this bill codifies the state’s current practice into law and does not harm those fundamental rights." However, he said, there is merit to a religious protection, as well.

"It is my hope and expectation that the Legislature will take future action to make clear that we will support private, faith-based operators in the child welfare system and ensure that their religious convictions continue to be protected," he wrote. "Florida’s laws must protect the free exercise of religious liberty and faith while protecting Floridians from illegal discrimination."

June 10, 2015

Gov. Scott signs 24-hour abortion waiting period, 54 other new laws

Florida women will now have to see a doctor and then wait another 24 hours before they can have an abortion under a bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday.

The measure, which goes into effect July 1, is one of the most emotionally charged issues tackled by the Legislature this spring. It has drawn passionate defenses from pro-life supporters and the ire of pro-choice activists.

Scott signed the bill, as well as 54 others late Wednesday:

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