April 08, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott uses political ad to attack "latte liberal" who confronted him at Starbucks



Republican Gov. Rick Scott's political committee launched an online ad today in an attempt to turn the tables on a woman who scolded him and called him an "a--hole" at a Gainesville Starbucks this week.

In a now infamous confrontation, Cara Jennings wanted to know why Scott approved legislation regulating abortion providers and she criticized him for opposing Medicaid expansion in Florida. Before leaving the coffee shop empty-handed, Scott at the time offered an unrelated talking point that "we've got a million jobs" in Florida. (Part of the confrontation was captured on video, prompting it to go viral Wednesday. Watch it here.)

"A million jobs? Great. Who here has a great job?!" Jennings yelled at Scott.

"Well, almost everybody," claims the new 60-second ad from "Let's Get to Work."

The ad mocks Jennings by simultaneously attempting to reinforce Scott's jobs claim and demonizing her for the outburst.

Scott's ad refers to Jennings, a former Lake Worth city councilwoman, as a "latte liberal" and "terribly rude woman" and sarcastically points out that she's a self-proclaimed "anarchist," who has in the past refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

"That woman clearly has a problem," the narrator says, before noting that 9,300 jobs have been created in the Gainesville area since Scott took office in 2011 and the unemployment rate there was cut in half.

In answer to Jennings' question, the narrator concludes that "almost everybody" has a great job in Florida -- "except those who are sitting around coffee shops, demanding public assistance, surfing the Internet and cursing at customers who come in."

Watch the ad here:

Photo credit: Screen-grab from Let's Get to Work / YouTube

Like this year, 2018 legislative session will start in January



Florida's legislative session will get an early start in 2018, just like this year.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill today that moves the 2018 session's start to Jan. 9.

The Florida Constitution allows the Legislature to start session early in even-numbered years. Otherwise, session begins on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March. (The 2017 session will start March 7.)

Lawmakers were divided in moving the session date up for 2018. SB 7076 passed the Senate by a 27-11 vote and the House by a 89-28 vote.

During Senate debate, some senators questioned the cost and need for having an earlier session. Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, responded at the time: "When you’re on spring break with your kids this year, you’ll understand the significance of it."

Scott also signed 16 other bills into law today, including one that helps the families of law enforcement and first responders who are killed on the job.

SB 7012 -- sponsored by Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, and Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers -- provides the deceased individual's monthly salary to their beneficiaries for their lifetime.

The expanded benefit applies to law enforcement officers, firefighters, corrections officers, emergency medical technicians, paramedics and probation officers. The benefit takes effect July 1 and retroactively applies to eligible individuals who were killed in the line of duty on or after July 1, 2013.

"This legislation will ensure that these brave Floridians have the peace of mind knowing that their family will have financial support if the unthinkable were to ever happen," Scott said in a statement today.

Here were all of the new laws Scott approved today. He still has 26 bills pending on his desk from the 2016 session.

Continue reading "Like this year, 2018 legislative session will start in January" »

April 06, 2016

Fact-checking heckler's rant at Gov. Rick Scott at Starbucks


It starts like a joke — Gov. Rick Scott walks into a Gainesville Starbucks — but one patron wasn’t laughing.

Scott stopped in to the coffee chain for a cup Tuesday after touring the recently opened factory and headquarters for biopharmaceutical company Nanotherapeutics. Cara Jennings, a former Lake Worth city commissioner, saw Scott in the downtown store and ripped into him from her seat over health insurance, cuts to women’s health services and being an explicit word.

Her emotional rant went viral over the next 24 hours, racking up more than 371,000 YouTube views and airing on national television.

"You cut Medicaid so I couldn’t get Obamacare," Jennings yelled. "You are an a------! You don’t care about working people. ... You should be ashamed to show your face around here."

Scott replied coolly from the counter, saying "we got a million jobs."

This only set off Jennings more.

"A million jobs? Great. Who here has a great job or is looking forward to finishing school? Do you really feel like you have a job coming up?" she said. "You stripped women of access to public health care. Shame on you, Rick Scott! We depend on those services."

Jennings kept yelling as Scott and several aides left the Starbucks. Scott told reporters Wednesday in Palm Beach that he had not seen the clip, but the woman was "not somebody you could talk to." Jennings did not return calls for comment.

PolitiFact Florida decided to play referee over three claims from the back-and-forth. Keep reading here.


After 148 years, cohabitation legal again in Florida


Congratulations, all you unmarried lovers in Florida who are shacking up together. You are no longer breaking the law.

Among the 20 new laws that Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed Wednesday is a bill that immediately repeals Florida’s 148-year-old ban on cohabitation.

The previous law, enacted in 1868, made it a second-degree misdemeanor — punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine — for a man and a woman to “lewdly and lasciviously associate” and live together before marriage.

Florida had been one of only three states to still criminalize cohabitation. Now only Michigan and Mississippi make it illegal.

Lawmakers have for years bemoaned the outdated law and attempted to take it off the books.

Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, and Democratic Reps. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, of Tallahassee, and Richard Stark, of Weston, led the charge this year. During the 2016 session, they were finally successful in passing the repeal measure (SB 498) out of both chambers in early March, with supporters calling the law “antiquated” and unnecessary.

Continue reading "After 148 years, cohabitation legal again in Florida" »

April 04, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott signs transportation policy bill


Republican Gov. Rick Scott today signed a bill that increases the amount of money available in the Florida Seaport and Economic Development Program and makes other changes to statewide transportation policy, such as laws affecting "self-driving" cars.

Scott had until April 14 to sign HB 7027, but he approved it five days after the Legislature sent it to him last week.

The bill requires the state to appropriate a minimum of $25 million yearly into the seaport program, $10 million more than the current annual requirement.

It also changes laws affecting autonomous, or "self-driving," vehicles and who can operate them.

For instance, according to a legislative analysis, the new law allows self-driving vehicles to operate on public roads "by any person holding a valid driver license, without the need to be designated by an autonomous vehicle manufacturer for testing purposes, and without any testing. The physical presence of an operator is no longer required."

Read the approved law here.

April 01, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott touts 'record' HIV/AIDS prevention funding -- but it's mostly federal dollars


Asked to explain a discrepancy in the state's number of new HIV cases, Florida Gov. Rick Scott only crowed about how much is being spent on prevention programs.

Florida had the dubious distinction of leading the nation in new HIV cases a few months ago, even as the country’s overall trend was declining. Then the Department of Health’s division of disease control revised the numbers, which is a routine practice to get rid of duplicate entries and so forth.

But the Tampa Bay Times found that the adjusted total showed only a slight increase in the number of new cases reported since Scott took office in 2011, putting Florida behind California and Texas. The revisions erased one in four cases in 2014, an unprecedented drop that led experts to question the extent of the changes.

When the Times asked Scott’s office why the figures were revised so drastically, spokesman John Tupps said only that Scott is "proud that Florida is investing record amounts of funding for HIV/AIDS prevention."

For this fact-check, we are putting Scott to the Truth-O-Meter, and not his spokesman, because this has become a talking point of his administration. Scottmade a similar claim in a news release after he signed the 2016-17 budget, saying that "last year, Florida invested a record $34 million in HIV/AIDS prevention."

Leaving alone the health department’s self-editing for a moment, could it be that the state has spent a record amount combatting HIV/AIDS?

Well, the state health department did get more funding for prevention programs in 2015 than ever before. But almost all of that money came from the federal government, not Florida.

Keep reading Joshua Gillin's fact-check from PolitiFact Florida.

Crackdown on gas-station skimmers among 14 bills Gov. Rick Scott signs into law


Thieves who steal customer information using skimming devices at gas station pumps will face stiffer penalties under one of 14 new laws Gov. Rick Scott signed today.

SB 912 also requires gas stations to use certain security measures to better thwart criminals' attempts to install "skimmer" devices, which steal credit and debit card information.

The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and House Majority Leader Dana Young, R-Tampa, with support from state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services regularly inspects the state's nearly 8,000 gas stations and has found more than 190 skimmers since the start of 2015, Putnam's office said in early March.

About 100 consumers are victimized by each skimmer, resulting in $1,000 stolen from each victim on average. Each skimmer represents an estimated $100,000 threat to consumers, Putnam's office said.

Also signed into law today were additions to the list of acceptable forms of ID that Florida voters can use at the polls on Election Day or to request absentee ballots in advance.

More than 1.5 million people with concealed-weapons permits can now use that license as proper ID to vote. Also now acceptable voter IDs under SB 666: veteran health ID cards and employee IDs issued by local, state or federal government agencies.

Scott also approved SB 1044, which revises Florida's forfeiture laws. Police won't be allowed to seize property involved in a crime without making an arrest and charging someone.

It's an early victory in an effort by civil libertarians to scale back a practice called "civil asset forfeiture," in which law enforcement seize contraband -- for example, a car used to transport drugs -- sometimes never returning it, even without a criminal conviction.

"Today is a major win for liberty in the Sunshine State," the law's sponsor Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, wrote in a statement posted to Facebook. "Florida is once again taking a leadership role in the defense of private property rights, and other states should look to our work and enact similar reforms to protect the rights of their residents."

Here are the other 11 new laws Scott approved:

Continue reading "Crackdown on gas-station skimmers among 14 bills Gov. Rick Scott signs into law" »

Federal judge affirms gay marriage ban is unconstitutional after Florida officials resist compliance


Although gay marriage has been legal in Florida for more than a year and the law nationwide since last summer, a U.S. District Court judge ruled definitively this week that Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

Judge Robert L. Hinkle said that Gov. Rick Scott’s administration and the state Legislature need to recognize that and also start treating same-sex couples the same as heterosexual couples in all aspects of law.

Hinkle wrote that he was compelled to grant summary judgment in a long-standing lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Florida’s same-sex marriage ban because state officials have shown little, if any, inclination to accept and follow last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling and the implications of it.

“After the United States Supreme Court issued [its ruling], one might have expected immediate, unequivocal acceptance,” Hinkle wrote. “Not so for the State of Florida.”

More here.

March 31, 2016

After underage romance led to ‘sex offender’ tag, harsh sentence, Florida man freed early from prison


Carlos Manuel Delgado was released from Columbia Correctional Institution in Lake City on Wednesday afternoon — 13 years, 4 months and 24 days before the end of his sentence.

Or, from the perspective of Republican Gov. Rick Scott and members of the Florida Cabinet: Delgado spent 11 years, 2 months and 17 days in prison because of what they call a miscarriage of justice that branded Delgado a “sex offender” for an atypical crime.

In a rare action, Florida’s top elected officials voted Tuesday to commute Delgado’s sentence and allow him to go free. This is only the fourth sentence commuted in the last five years, according to state records.

They described his case as an unjust consequence of a “stupid decision” and “mistake” Delgado made in 2000 that didn’t align with the truly abhorrent crimes that Florida’s sex offender laws are intended to punish.

Absorbing his first taste of freedom in more than a decade, Delgado on Wednesday afternoon was still trying to take in his changed circumstances.

“From the point that the police came to get me, it was surreal,” he told the Herald/Times in a phone interview. “It’s been really crazy. It’s been super unbelievable.”

More here.

March 28, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott breaks promise to enact tougher environmental penalties

For the second session in a row, Gov. Rick Scott made no progress toward his re-election campaign promise to enact tougher environmental penalties.

"Gov. Scott will propose legislation to increase penalties to ensure fines match the value of Florida's natural resources, and also provide agencies with the flexibility to analyze the past actions of those seeking environmental permits in Florida," Scott promised during his 2014 re-election campaign.

But so far, his priority has been helping businesses avoid fines. There has been one bill intended to increase fines for only a tiny slice of businesses regulated by the environmental department -- oil and gas -- and that has failed.

In 2016, legislators proposed a bill that set rules for "high-pressure well stimulation" -- a controversial type of oil and gas extraction known as fracking. The bill would have increased the civil penalty from $10,000 per day to $25,000 per day for violations that would have harmed the air, water, animals or property.

Keep reading about Scott's broken environmental promise from PolitiFact Florida.