January 04, 2017

Scott follows through on previous plan and will budget 46 additional 'counterterrorism' agents

From our friends at the Associated Press:

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Gov. Rick Scott wants to spend nearly $6 million to boost the number of state agents dedicated to counterterrorism efforts.

Sparked by last year's attack on the Pulse nightclub that left 49 dead, Scott will ask legislators to include enough money in the annual budget to hire agents who will be stationed in seven regions across the state.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen last fall first recommended hiring 46 additional agents. Legislators will consider the request during their annual session that starts in March.

Scott said he is backing the request because the state needs "specialists that are solely dedicated to identifying these terrorists and stopping them."

During the June rampage, shooter Omar Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in telephone conversations with a 911 operator and a police negotiator. 

December 23, 2016

Florida's denial of felons' voting rights 'radically out-of-step,' report says


A new report from the Brennan Center for Justice takes Florida to task for its law denying voting rights to felons unless they successfully navigate an arduous and lengthy process to get those rights back.

The Brennan Center calls Florida’s law “radically out of step with policies around the rest of the country” and “one of the harshest laws in the nation.” The law needs to be replaced,the report said.

MORE: Read the full report

According to the report, released this month, 1.6 million Floridians are denied voting rights because of the state law. Those residents represent more than 10 percent of the state’s voting-age population. A disproportionate number, nearly one-third, are black.

“Florida’s criminal disenfranchisement law is rooted in some of our country’s most discriminatory voting practices, and it continues to have its intended effects today,” said the report’s author, Erika Wood, a New York Law School professor and director of the Voting Rights and Civic Participation Project of the Impact Center for Public Interest Law.

“It is time for Florida to learn from the past and then leave it behind. The right to vote should not be used as a tool for lifetime punishment,” Wood added.

Full story here.

December 21, 2016

Florida Gov. Rick Scott writes to Raúl Castro: 'Allow a new era of freedom and opportunity'



Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott sent a letter to Cuban President Raúl Castro on Tuesday, calling for him to change course and “allow a new era of freedom and opportunity for Cuba.”

Scott referenced the celebrations in Miami after the death of Fidel Castro last month, saying the demonstrations “represented the hope for an end to the decades of torture, repression, incarceration and death that you and your brother have caused the people of Cuba.”

But, Scott noted, Raúl Castro appears to be continuing his brother’s legacy — with recent examples that include the arrest of Cuban artist Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado, who mocked Fidel’s death in an online video.

“After Pope Francis’ trip to Cuba, you suggested that you may return to the church and pray again. My prayer for you and the Cuban people is that you listen to Pope Francis and focus on bringing absolute freedom and democracy to Cuba,” Scott wrote. “I pray that you open Cuba to freedom of the press and religion; release all political prisoners; provide unfettered access to the internet; allow ownership of land; provide reparations to those whose property was confiscated; bring all Cuban military home and allow for free and fair elections with international supervision.”

Full story here.

Photo credit: Walter Michot / Miami Herald

December 16, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott picks appellate Judge Alan Lawson to serve on Supreme Court

Alan LawsonGov. Rick Scott appointed C. Alan Lawson to be Florida’s next justice of the Supreme Court Friday, choosing a conservative appellate judge to leave the governor’s mark on a moderate court that has been responsible for some of sharpest defeats of his political career.

Lawson, who currently serves as the chief judge on the 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach fills the seat on the seven-member court that is being vacated by Justice James E.C. Perry, a liberal jurist who is retiring at the end of the month because he has reached the mandatory retirement age. Perry was the the fourth African-American jurist to serve on Florida’s high court. Lawson, who lives in the Orlando suburb of Winter Park, is white.

Perry, who was appointed to the bench in March 2009 by former Gov. Charlie Crist, must retire because of a state law requiring justices to retire on their 70th birthday or the end of their six-year term if they are halfway through the term. Perry turned 70 in January 2015 but his term ends Jan. 3, 2017.

Scott said he choose Lawson for his 20-year track record, his public service and because "he's not going to legislate from the bench." Our story here. 

Photo: Gov. Rick Scott choose C. Alan Lawson as the new justice of the Florida Supreme Court. From left his mother Velma Lawson, sister Laurie Cox, Gov. Scott, Alan Lawson, his son Caleb Lawson.


December 15, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott to announce first Supreme Court pick on Friday

Florida supreme court.1_12061496_8colWill it be the female appellate court judge who says she has been "rarely reversed,'' or the male appellate judge who has lobbied the Legislature for court funding or will it be the lawyer in private practice who has represented industry giants like Publix and Orkin and worked to keep David Duke off the 1992 ballot?

Either Wendy Berger, C. Alan Lawson and Dan Gerber will be standing next to Gov. Rick Scott in his Capitol office at 8 a.m. Friday for a rare Tallahassee press conference to announce the governor's first -- and potentially only -- pick to the Florida Supreme Court. The new judge will be replacing Justice James E.C. Perry who is retiring at the end of the month because he has reached the mandatory retirement age.

The candidates all have two things in common: they are all self-professed conservatives, who abide by the "originalist" judicial philosophy that adheres to the notion that interpretation of law should be based on the original meeting of the text of the statute or the Constitution at the time its enacted, and they have each been heavily promoted by members of the Florida chapter of the Federalist Society, a conservative libertarian lawyers group many of whose members serve as the governors’ appointees to the Judicial Nominating Commission.

The JNC interviewed 11 candidates to recommend the three names (who were widely expected to be the pre-determined list) to the governor. 

For more on the selection process and who the candidates are, read our story here. 

Photo by Scott Keeler, Tampa Bay Times. 

December 14, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott to attend Trump's Orlando thank-you rally


TP_403878_ELLI_26_trumptampWhen President-elect Donald Trump comes to Orlando this Friday on his nationwide "thank you" tour, Florida Gov. Rick Scott will be right there with him.

Scott has publicly supported Trump since January, even while Floridians Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio were still fighting for the Republican nomination. But he rarely appeared with Trump during the campaign.

That changes Friday, spokeswoman Jackie Schutz confirmed. Trump's event is at 7 p.m. at the Central Florida Fairgrounds.

Scott views Trump, a part-time Florida resident with a home in Palm Beach called Mar-a-Lago, as cut from the same cloth as himself. Neither man had served in public office before being elected to lead the country or the state of Florida, and both are exceedingly wealthy businessmen, seen as outsiders by the Republican Party.

A harsh critic of President Barack Obama, Scott has said he's looking forward to the new administration in Washington. He traveled to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to meet with U.S. Rep. Tom Price, Trump's appointee to run the Department of Health and Human Services.

"When we have a problem and need a solution, at least we have someone to talk to," Scott said last month.

Photo: Florida Gov. Rick Scott takes the stage to speak on behalf of Donald Trump at a June 11 campaign rally, one of the few where Scott publicly spoke. (Loren Elliott, Tampa Bay Times)

December 13, 2016

Gov. Scott to Trump team: Replace, don't tweak, Obamacare

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Gov. Rick Scott, who met Tuesday afternoon with the man charged with overseeing a repeal of Obamacare, insists the sprawling program cannot simply be adjusted.

"I know a lot of people in Washington say, 'Oh, you can't replace it. It has to be tweaked.' The truth is, you have to replace it if you want people to get access to good quality health care at a price they can afford, your employers can afford, the government can afford," Scott told reporters after meeting with Rep. Tom Price, who is President-elect Donald Trump's choice for health secretary.

Scott's stance is no surprise; his entry into politics was driven by opposition to the Affordable Care Act, which he said Tuesday was created by "liberal bureaucrats" and sold as a "lie." He said he wants to be Trump's liaison for governors on the issue.

Scott said he discussed with Price ways to make Medicaid more flexible for states and to drive more competition into health care.

"The problem is cost. It's cost. It's cost. It's cost," he said.

The former hospital executive -- and potential 2018 U.S. Senate candidate -- was asked about concern from his former industry about dismantling the program. Again, Scott said competition on price and customer satisfaction is the way to go. 

Nothing he grew up poor, Scott said access to health care for all is important. "But if you can say, 'Oh, we have access but you can't afford it,' that's not access."

"The best way to get access to health care, as we all know, is through a job ... not relying on a government program that overpromises and underdelivers," he said.

Hours before Scott’s meeting Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell was in Tampa to urge people who want to sign up for Obamacare to do so by Dec. 15. 

"Whether Floridians get coverage through an employer, Medicaid, the individual market or Medicare, they have better health coverage and care today as a result of the ACA," Burwell said in a statement issued earlier. "We need to build on our progress and continue to improve health care access, quality and affordability — not move our system backward." 

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott's Half True claim about federal Zika funding



Florida Gov. Rick Scott hopes that his ally headed to the White House, President-elect Donald Trump, will speed up funding for Florida to combat the Zika virus.

While announcing that state health officials had lifted the zone of active Zika transmission in one area of Miami-Dade County, Scott mentioned his ongoing feud with President Barack Obama’s administration about the pace and size of federal dollars flowing to Florida.

"It has been more than two months since over $1 billion in Zika funding was signed by President Obama, and the federal government has still only committed $7 million to help reimburse Florida’s costs of fighting this virus," Scott wrote in a Dec. 2 press statement. (A week later, Scott announced that the last Zika zone -- in South Beach -- had been lifted.)

We found that Scott isn’t telling the full story. Scott’s statement about only $7 million heading to Florida makes no mention of the millions of other federal dollars the state has had access to since the summer to combat Zika.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

December 05, 2016

Fact-checking Gov. Rick Scott's claim about invention of Obamacare



Donald Trump’s White House win gave Florida Gov. Rick Scott a powerful ally in his fight against Obamacare.

In a Nov. 30 op-ed in USA Today, the former hospital executive reiterated his 2010 campaign pledge to fight for repeal of the federal health care law.

"Other than President Obama and a few stragglers, everyone now realizes that Obamacare was a terrible notion," wrote the Republican governor. "It was sold on a lie. It was invented by liberal academic theorists who have no interaction with real families and businesses and therefore it doesn’t work."

Scott’s piece leaves out that the Affordable Care Act of 2010 is based on ideas from not just Democrats but also Republicans.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida


November 28, 2016

Eight months after losing confirmation fight, Armstrong leaves DOH


Since March, when it was clear the Senate would not confirm him as state surgeon general, Dr. John Armstrong has continued to cash a paycheck while on medical leave as deputy secretary of health.

On Nov. 21, he finally left the Department of Health.

The state announced Monday that Michele Tallent will officially take over the role of deputy secretary of health for administration after holding the job on an acting basis since January.

Tallent, who previously ran DOH's budget office and was Gov. Rick Scott's top adviser on the health and human services budget, will oversee the administrative functions of DOH. Her salary is $120,999.

"(Tallent's) years of service and extensive experience with finance and management will help ensure the department’s capacity to provide essential public health services," said Dr. Celeste Philip, the current surgeon general, in a statement Monday.

Armstrong has been undergoing treatment for colon cancer diagnosed last year. He continued to receive a $119,000 paycheck and benefits while on medical leave.

The state surgeon general and secretary of health from 2012, Armstrong left the job in March of this year, facing a state Senate that would not confirm him. Some senators criticized the department's handling of medical marijuana policy, the removal of sick children from a state-run health insurance program and cutbacks in county health departments that accompanied apparent rises in new HIV cases.