January 07, 2016

When offered jobs and $ promises - not guarantees - Florida voters like the proposed Seminole compact

In the face of widespread legislative opposition to the $3 billion gambling deal signed by Gov. Rick Scott and the Seminole Tribe, the Florida Chamber conducted a statewide poll over the holidays that clearly shows that most Floridians have no idea about the issue but, when seeded with many unchecked claims, respondents overwhelmingly support it.

The compact, signed by Scott in December, would give the tribe the exclusive right to operate craps and roulette at its seven casinos and have partial exclusivity over the right to play blackjack in return for revenue sharing. But because the Legislature must approve the compact, and because of pushback from competing gaming interests, the issue will likely be one of the most challenging facing lawmakers in the session that begins on Tuesday. 

The Florida Chamber, whose roster of paid members includes the Seminole Tribe, conducted a statewide poll Dec. 28-30. The chamber won't tell us if it's a poll for hire but the press release accompanying the poll emphasized the fact that those who know about the compact support it.

One thing is certain: most people know nothing about the gaming compact. At least 51 percent didn't know if the tribe had kept its agreement "to provide a minimum of $1 billion over five years in revenue to the state" and 63 percent knew nothing about the 20-year deal Scott just signed with the tribe, according to the poll by Public Opinion Strategies.

When pollsters pushed voters with information, the support then emerged.  For example, 80 percent liked the claim that if the compact is approved it will save 3,500 blackjack related jobs; 74 percent liked the claim that the tribe commits to giving the state $3 billion over seven years "three times more than the prior compact guarantee of $1 billion."

Other claims were predictably popular: "the Seminole Tribe has agreed to invest more than $1.8 billion dollars in improving its entertainment facilities, creating more than 15,000 new jobs in the state" and "this agreement not only creates a cap on the amount of gaming that can be offered by the Seminole Tribe, but it also empowers the legislature to limit the expansion of other gaming across the state."

While the revenue raised is guaranteed in the compact, there are no enforcement provisions that ensure the jobs will emerge or the investment will be completed, and the pollsters made no effort to explain that. However, after the push questions, 75 percent of the 700 responding said they would approve of the Legislature signing the compact and 20 percent said they would not. In Miami Dade and Broward, the support surged from 33 percent before the claims were spelled out, to 73 percent. In Tampa, the support grew from 38 percent before the claims, to 74 percent afterward.

Another of the key findings is that 53 percent of those polled believe the state should "keep the number of gambling opportunities about the same"  while 27 percent want to expand gambling and 19 percent want to reduce gambling. 

When asked about whether the current gaming compact is good or bad, people are also rather ambivalent with 53 percent saying it is "somewhere in between."

Here are the crosstabs. Here are the top lines. Here's is the summary.  


January 06, 2016

Florida Gov. Rick Scott doesn't endorse but praises Donald Trump

From an op-ed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott published in USA Today:

Political pundits are shocked that Donald Trump is leading in the polls. The same thing happened in 2010 when I entered the Florida gubernatorial race against the already anointed and establishment-endorsed sitting Republican attorney general. One establishment member even said to me “how can you be Governor? I don’t know you.”

I won the governor’s race in 2010 and many outsiders — some businesspeople — continue to shock the political establishment by coming into elected office from careers outside of politics. Attorney Chris Christie was elected governor of New Jersey in 2009; manufacturer Ron Johnson was elected senator in Wisconsin in 2010; businessman Bruce Rauner won the governor’s race in Illinois in 2014; and businessman Matt Bevin won the governorship of Kentucky just a few months ago. Voters have been choosing new ideas and new energy over the old formula of sheer time served in political office.

I know Donald Trump personally, and while I currently have no plans to endorse a candidate before Florida’s March presidential primary, there is no doubt that Donald is a man who speaks and tweets his mind freely. But, I don’t think his ability to give the most interesting interviews or speeches is the only thing that has him leading in the polls. I think he is capturing the frustration of many Americans after seven years of President Obama’s very intentional government takeover of the American economy.

Gary Fineout of the Associated Press and Politico Florida had reported last week that public records showed Scott preparing pro-Trump talking points for the new year.

January 05, 2016

Rick Scott's stalled promise to enact tougher environmental fines

Gov. Rick Scott's re-election promise to increase penalties for polluters fell short in 2015.

Scott's Department of Environmental Protection pointed to one bill linked to his promise. But that measure failed to pass during the spring legislative session. It was also a bill limited to fracking -- a type of oil and gas extraction -- not overall environmental protection. Oil and gas wells equal less than 1 percent of the 81,000 businesses and entities that DEP regulates, from paper mills to wastewater treatment plants.

SB 1468 called for increasing penalties from the current $10,000 a day to $25,000 per day for oil and gas companies using "high pressure well stimulation" for a variety of violations that would have harmed the air, water or ground. Those violations included not following DEP rules, improper storage of gas, or refusing to allow a state inspection.

The bill followed a controversial drilling project that was later shut down in Collier County, where Scott calls home.

The bill ended up dying without a full vote when the House went home a few days early amid a fight over Medicaid expansion and the budget.

"No oil regulatory or trade secret bills passed of any kind," said Jennifer Hecker, director of Natural Resource Policy for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, after the session. "No rulemaking from DEP to do anything either."

Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, sponsored the 2015 bill and has introduced a similar bill, SB318, for the 2016 session, which starts Jan. 12. The bill is similar to HB191, which passed a House committee Dec. 2.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

December 29, 2015

Agency head Gov. Scott aimed to replace announces resignation


The head of the Florida Department of Revenue, whom Gov. Rick Scott announced almost a year ago he was aiming to replace, has announced he’s leaving his position for a job in Washington D.C.

Marshall Stranburg, executive director at the Department or Revenue, said in a letter to Scott and the other three independently elected members of the Florida Cabinet that he is resigning effective April 1, 2016 after what will have been almost 4 years leading the agency. The head of the Department of Revenue reports to Scott and the rest of the cabinet, which also will be charged with selecting Stranburg’s replacement.

Stranburg is leaving to become deputy executive director of the Multistate Tax Commission in Washington, D.C., the News Service of Florida reported on Tuesday.

Stranburg was one of three agency heads that Scott said 11 months ago he wanted to replace after he led a controversial effort to remove Gerald Bailey, the long-time commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. That resulted in a dustup with other members of the Cabinet who questioned how Scott handled Bailey’s removal and how it was conveyed to them.

Besides Stransburg, Scott said then he also wanted to replace two other Cabinet-level agencies leaders Drew Breakspear at the Office of Financial Regulation and Kevin McCarty, the head of Florida's Office of Insurance Regulation since 2003. Both Breakspear and McCarty still hold those positions.

December 22, 2015

Resorts World Miami donates to Gov. Scott's political committee days after compact deal announced


Three days after Gov. Rick Scott signed a new gambling agreement earlier this month, a company that is a division of a Malaysian casino conglomerate that could benefit from the deal wrote Scott one of the biggest donation checks it has written all year to any political player in Florida.

Scott’s Let’s Get To Work political committee reported receiving a $20,000 check from Resorts World Miami - a part of The Genting Group - on Dec. 10. On December 7, Scott announced he signed a new gaming deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida that would give the tribe exclusive rights to operate blackjack and add craps and roulette. But the deal also opens the door to expanded gaming, especially in South Florida where the Genting Group has said it wants to build a casino resort on Biscayne Bay on the former site of the Miami Herald building.

Under the new compact, the Seminole Tribe would continue to make payments to the state even in the face of increased competition from a new Miami or Broward slots casino.

The compact still must be approved by the Florida Legislature before it can go into effect. It has already received a lukewarm reception from some lawmakers who have predicted the deal will get a tough review when the Legislature meets in January.

Resorts World Miami has given over $120,000 in donations to political players in Florida this year, but the $20,000 donation is the single largest check since the company wrote the Republican Party of Florida a $50,000 check on March 3.


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December 18, 2015

Miami health care executive appointed to Florida university system board

@ByKristenMClark F_J_Valverde_MD

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has appointed a health care executive from Miami -- and one of his former policy advisers -- for a three-year term to the State University System's Board of Governors.

Dr. Fernando Valverde, 56, of Miami, fills a vacancy left by Elizabeth Webster, who resigned. Valverde is state regional president of Humana and previously was associate dean with the Florida International University College of Medicine.

After Scott was first elected in 2010, Valverde served as a senior advisor and member of Scott's transition team for the Department of Health.

Valverde's appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate. Valverde will finish out Webster's term, which ends Jan. 6, 2019.

The Board of Governors oversees Florida's 12 public universities with an enrollment of more than 300,000 students, more than 60,000 faculty and staff, and an annual operating budget of more than $8.5 billion.

Photo credit: Businesswire

December 17, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott appoints Cissy Proctor new head of DEO


Gov. Rick Scott has named Cissy Proctor to replace Jesse Panuccio as the head of the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Proctor has been the chief of staff at DEO, the state’s jobs agency, since last January and previously served as both director of legislative affairs and director of the Division of Strategic Business Development.

She will take over as executive director of the agency on Jan. 9 after Panuccio officially leaves the job.

Proctor is a graduate of Florida State University and FSU’s College of Law. From 2004 to 2013, she worked at Tallahassee law firm Bryant Miller Olive.

In a statement, Scott highlighted Proctor’s experience working with the legislature, a key point for the agency, which the governor frequently uses to tout his business development and tax cut proposals. This year, Panuccio has been grilled by senators over a $250 million fund for Enterprise Florida, as well as technological snafus with the state’s unemployment benefit system.

“(Proctor) has a strong background in legislative affairs, and I know she will be a great partner with the Florida Legislature to continue to diversify our economy,” Scott said in the statement. “Her great work to support job growth for Florida families is a strong testament to the work she will do as executive director.”

Those legislative showdowns are widely believed to have contributed to Panuccio’s resignation, which was announced Dec. 4. Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, said he was in “extreme danger” of not being confirmed by the Senate this spring.

“I was not a supporter of his,” Detert said.

Proctor will have to be confirmed by the Senate in the next two sessions. Shortly after Scott's office announced her appointment, President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, released a statement of support for the new director.

"I am certain this experience has prepared her well for the responsibility of leading this important agency and will aid in a smooth transition," he said. "My Senate colleagues and I look forward to working with Governor Scott and Director Proctor on key policy and funding reforms that will make Florida first in the nation in job creation."

December 10, 2015

Florida GOP mum on Donald Trump's Muslim plan

via @adamsmithtimes

Gov. Rick Scott has declined take a position, pro or con, on Donald Trump's controversial proposal to halt temporarily Muslims coming to America. Here's the statement we received from his spokeswoman, Jackie Schutz:

“Governor Scott continues his focus on getting more information from President Obama about the Syrian refugees being placed in Florida by the federal government to ensure the safety of all those in our state.  He has not made an endorsement in the Presidential race and is focused on the security of Floridians from those who may wish us harm."

Florida GOP Chairman Blaise Ingoglia this week also has declined multiple requests for comment on the proposal, although state GOP Chairs in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Ohio have criticized it.

Several recent polls have found that Republicans are either evenly divided on the proposal or mostly in favor of it.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

December 09, 2015

Years later, lucky lawbreakers win pardons from Scott and Cabinet

Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet members granted a half-dozen full pardons Wednesday to people who in some cases broke the law decades ago and whose petitions for mercy reached the state's top decision-makers in the holiday season. The four officials meet four times a year as the Board of Clemency to decide cases in which long ago lawbreakers seek mercy from the state.

William Bartlett Jr., who had a string of run-ins with the law as a youth in St. Petersburg, was one of the lucky ones. Decades after what Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam called a "reign of terror" that included burglary, grand theft, DUI, discharging a firearm in public and obstructing a police officer, Bartlett's criminal record was wiped clean.

Bartlett, a building contractor and member of a local sewer board in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, won a unanimous vote of mercy after owning up to his past behavior. "I absolutely take responsibility," Bartlett said. "As a reckless adolescent, I made horrible decisions." A drunk-driving accident that cost him the use of his left hand is "a daily reminder of what I've done," he testified.

"I'm not the same person," said Bartlett, with his wife, attorney Lauren Bartlett, at his side in the Capitol's Cabinet room.

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December 08, 2015

Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott says he hasn't 'seen' what Donald Trump said about banning Muslims


via @adamsmithtimes

That a Pinellas County congressman, David Jolly, would call on Donald Trump to quit the presidential race after calling for America to stop allowing Muslims into the country is surely  irrelevant and/or laughable to Trump and many of his supporters.

But when that congressman is also a leading Republican running in a competive U.S. Senate primary for a toss-up open seat, that move by Jolly to go after the Republican presidential frontrunner is bold, risky and a the latest sign of how much heartburn Trump's candidacy is causing fellow Republicans. They are worried that as the GOP nominee he could drag down Republicans up and down the ballot in the general election. Of course, blasting Trump could also damage the blasters among many GOP primary voters.

We've reached out to prominent Florida elected officials and candidates. Here's a compilation of reactions to Trump which we will update throughout the day. Those who choose not to react, pro or con, tell us as much about them as those who do.

We should start with St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, whose tongue in cheek tweet last night went viral:

St Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman: (on Twitter): I am hereby barring Donald Trump from entering St. Petersburg until we fully understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate David Jolly: “We do face a security test that I believe the president's policies have underestimated. But we also face a test of our commitment to religious freedom, one of the basic freedoms upon which our nation was founded. … It should be heartbreaking to every American that we have a front-runner in the presidential race that suggests there will be a religious test for anybody who wishes to come to our shores. ... It is time that my side of the aisle has one less candidate in the race for the White House. It is time for Donald Trump to withdraw from the race.”

Gov. Rick Scott: Declined to comment. "I haven't seen what he said."

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