May 05, 2016

Miami-Dade city has so many unpaid bills that it faces a shutdown


via Michael Sallah and @jayhweaver

In March, the lights were turned off for several hours at Opa-locka City Hall after the bill didn’t get paid.

The next month, the cell phone service used by police detectives was cut off for days because the city didn’t make the payments.

Two weeks ago, the medical benefits of city workers were abruptly canceled when the city failed to pay the premium.

Eight months after elected leaders were warned their city was close to financial collapse, Miami-Dade County leaders have asked the state to declare a financial emergency and consider taking over the troubled city’s entire operations.

With Opa-locka struggling to pay basic costs — including gas for police cars — Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez urged the governor’s office for the second time in as many months to place the city of 16,000 people under its control.

“We believe the city’s financial condition continues to deteriorate,” Gimenez and County Commissioner Barbara Jordan wrote in a letter on May 3 to the governor’s inspector general. “If the state does not take immediate action, there could be a shutdown of city government.”

With no formal recovery plan in place by Opa-locka leaders, top county officials say they do not believe the city is capable of saving itself from insolvency. Already, Miami-Dade police have been put on notice that they will be mobilized to provide police services if municipal operations cease.

More here.

The first step from Miami Beach's mayor toward a run for Florida governor?

@PatriciaMazzei @joeflech

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine positioned himself Thursday as a leading Democratic voice against Florida Gov. Rick Scott, in what is perhaps the most concrete sign yet that Levine might seek the state’s highest political office in 2018.

Levine unveiled a radio ad touting his city’s planned vote for a living wage. Here’s the twist: The ad is airing in California, the state Scott just visited in an attempt to recruit companies to Florida. Democrats are pushing the wage issue as a key difference with Republicans in upcoming elections.

“This is Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and I want the people of California to know that Miami Beach is about to vote on an historic measure: a living wage for all its residents, one that allows them to not only work here, but live here,” Levine says in the ad, which his office says is airing in the pricey markets of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento. The spot says it’s paid for by Levine himself.

Levine scheduled an afternoon news conference in Miami Beach to discuss the ad and “to comment on Governor Rick Scott’s visit to Miami and address his latest trip to California where he took aim at minimum wage policies.”

The press event turned out to be a one-on-one with a Miami Herald reporter after no other news media showed up.

More here.


This post has been updated.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott: I won't be Donald Trump's VP

via @learyreports

Gov. Rick Scott predicted Wednesday that Donald Trump would “have a big win both in Florida and in the United States,” while saying he is not interested in serving as Trump’s vice president.

“This election is about one thing. It’s about jobs,” Scott said on CNN. ”Donald Trump is a business person. He has created jobs. He’s going to focus on building jobs. And he’s running against a career politician that has never, ever created a job.”

Scott said Trump’s task is “no different than my election in 2010, where I focused on jobs and I won against a sitting attorney general and a sitting CFO.”

Asked by host Erin Burnett about the VP position, Scott said, “I’m going to stay in this job and finish this job.” If Trump calls? “I’m going to pass. I will do everything I can to make sure he wins.”

Scott was then asked if he had reservations about a candidate who would bring up a National Enquirer story about Ted Cruz’s father.

“Erin, you know we’re not going to agree on - I’m not going to agree with any candidate and how they present the issue. Here’s the way I look at it: We have a choice. If people like the way Washington is going, they should vote for Hillary Clinton. If you want to change, you get somebody to focus on jobs, then you should vote for Donald Trump.”

Though Scott did not endorse Trump until the day after the March 15 Florida primary, he signaled support in January.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

May 04, 2016

Florida Gov. Rick Scott heads to Congress to ask for Zika funding


Florida Gov. Rick Scott plans to drop by Capitol Hill next week to push for emergency funds to combat the Zika virus.

Without asking for a specific amount of money, Scott will request that lawmakers treat the Zika threat like they would a hurricane: something to be prepared for in case of devastation. His trip is planned for May 11-12.

"Florida has now had more than 100 documented cases of the Zika virus, Scott said in a statement. "We are now headed into summer, when heat and rainfall cause our mosquito population to grow. Simultaneously, the Olympic games in Brazil will heavily increase travel to a country where the Zika virus is spreading rapidly.

"We don't yet know for certain what will happen with this virus, but we owe our citizens a vigorous and thorough preparation effort at the federal level to best protect their health."

The first U.S. Zika death was confirmed last week, in Puerto Rico.

Scott met last week in Miami with Dr. Celeste Philip, the Florida health department's interim surgeon general. He has been vocal about asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more Zika testing kits, and he's declared a public health emergency over the virus. His office initially planned a D.C. trip for last Friday, a day before the governor attended the White House Correspondents Dinner, but it didn't work out.

President Obama has asked Congress for $1.9 billion to fight the virus. Florida has more Zika cases than any other state; most of them are in Miami-Dade County. Scott's office won't say explicitly if he backs Obama's dollar figure.

Some Republicans question whether the Obama administration really needs that much money so urgently. Congress already approved $589 million for Zika efforts. A deal for $1.1 billion more is in the works in the Senate, though Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, has rejected that amount.

Florida's two senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, have backed Obama's request. Rubio spoke about the money on the Senate floor last week, calling for action "as quickly as possible." Nelson was in Miami on Tuesday, meeting with local officials "to get a firsthand report of what they’re seeing." 

This post has been updated

May 02, 2016

Starbucks heckler vs Rick Scott led PolitiFact Florida in April 2016


When Gov. Rick Scott walked into a Starbucks in Gainesville, he got an unexpected jolt when a customer attacked his record on spending for health care and Planned Parenthood.

Scott fired back by defending his jobs record.

The exchange, in which heckler Cara Jennings called Scott an "a------" drew more than 2.3 million hits on YouTube, made national news and led our fact-checks in April.

Other statements that drew in readers were by Republican frontrunner Donald Trump and his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski; U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, who is running for U.S. Senate; and Democratic presidential candidate.

Here’s a look at PolitiFact Florida’s most clicked fact-checks in April counting down to the most popular.


May 01, 2016

Florida politicians spotted at White House Correspondents Dinner


WASHINGTON -- Florida was in the house Saturday night at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, where President Obama and comedian Larry Wilmore roasted politicians and the press.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott worked the room before and during the speech, dropping by the Washington Post's pre-dinner reception and eventually taking a seat at the Washington Hilton ballroom for the meal. He was invited by the Washington Examiner, Scott told the Miami Herald.

Also making the rounds were U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, who also attended a Friday night bash ahead of the dinner, according to Page Six.

And near the center aisle of the dinner sat Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a Democrat who was listed in the program as a representative of SiriusXM, the satellite radio network that earlier this year hired him to host a show. He was mulling whether to return to Miami early enough Sunday to catch the Miami Heat's afternoon playoff game. 

April 27, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott's jobs agency spends money attacking California's minimum wage hike

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has a problem with the minimum wage -- in California.

Scott heads to California next week for another job poaching mission. In advance of the trip, Enterprise Florida released a radio ad attacking California for raising the minimum wage.

“Seven hundred thousand. That’s how many California jobs will be lost thanks to the politicians raising the minimum wage," says the narrator. “Ready to leave California? Go to Florida instead — no state income tax and Gov. Scott has cut regulations. Now Florida is adding one million jobs, not losing them.”

Stephen Lawson, a spokesman for Enterprise Florida, said he doesn’t know yet when the ad will start running or how much it cost. It will run in the San Francisco and Los Angeles markets.

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill to raise the minimum wage from $10 to $15 an hour although it will be phased in by 2022. Florida’s minimum wage is $8.05.

When Scott stopped in Miami Wednesday at the PACE Center for Girls to discuss the state’s effort to combat human trafficking, we asked him about the ad attacking California:

Q: “Can you tell me why you think it's appropriate to spend taxpayer dollars on ads related to California’s minimum wage?”

A: “It’s important to get more jobs in our state. I will be going out there. I did four missions last year to different states to try to get more jobs. I’ve done 12 missions around the world to try get more jobs and it’s clearly working. Last week I announced a company that I met with up in Philadelphia, B Braun, they are adding 175 jobs in the state, they are building over a $100 million manufacturing plant. (B Braun Medical will open a manufacturing facility in Daytona Beach) As I  travel the state and show the difference between that state and our state we continue to get more jobs.

Q: “Why does it matter what calif sets their minimum wage at? why spend taxpayer money to attack them?”

A: It matters a bunch of things. Whether it's their minimum wage, whether it's their taxes, whether their regulation, whether their business attitude. They are making it very difficult for businesses to compete. I’m going to do everything I can to make businesses in Florida and businesses want to come here to  compete globally so these young women and everybody in our state has the opportunity for a great job.”

Brown spokesman Evan Westrup fired back at Scott:

"As one of the millions of tourists flocking to the Golden State this time of year, we’d like to extend a warm welcome to the Governor. We can understand why he’s coming back -- there’s lots to do and plenty to learn. In fact, since his last 2,000 mile cross-country jaunt, California has added twice as many jobs as Florida, while paying down debt, building a robust rainy day fund and taking bold action on issues Governor Scott continues to ignore, like climate change and poverty." 

FL Gov. Rick Scott: "It is time for the ‘Stop Trump’ movement to end"


On Facebook this afternoon, Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott called for an end to the #NeverTrump movement, saying "yesterday’s election results show that the anti-Trump efforts didn’t work."

Scott -- who endorsed Donald Trump, also with a Facebook post, after Florida's primary last month -- again urged Republicans to accept what he calls the inevitable.

"Republicans now need to come together. Donald Trump is going to be our nominee, and he is going to be on the ballot as the Republican candidate for President," Scott wrote. "The Republican leaders in Washington did not choose him, but the Republican voters across America did choose him. The voters have spoken."

According to Real Clear Politics, Trump now has 954 delegates, compared to 562 for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Ohio Gov. John Kasich trails with 153 delegates. (Florida Sen. Marco Rubio -- who exited the race after the Florida primary, when he won only his home of Miami-Dade County -- is technically in third with 171 delegates.)

To win the GOP nomination, 1,237 delegates are needed. Neither Cruz nor Kasich have shown any signs of giving up, although it's mathematically impossible for either of them them to get enough delegates to clinch the nomination.

Scott cautioned that the GOP in-fighting will serve to help Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton. He said President Barack Obama had done "serious and substantial" damage to the country and said America "cannot afford another four years of liberal incompetence, and that is exactly what Hillary Clinton would bring."

"We’ve had an extensive debate amongst ourselves, it is now time to get serious about winning in November. This was a hard-fought campaign, but now is the time for Republicans to unite," he said.

Scott has, for weeks, been urging the GOP to unite around Trump, who has consistently been the party's presidential front-runner.

Gov. Rick Scott praises environmental agency's handling of FPL's dirty cooling canals

Gov. Rick Scott seems satisfied with how state regulators have handled the Florida Power and Light’s troubled cooling canals at Turkey Point.

On Monday, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection cited Florida Power & Light for threatening nearby drinking water supplies and ordered the utility to come up with a plan to stop the spread of an underground plume of saltwater.

Critics say there has been evidence for years that the cooling canal system was harming water beyond the nuclear power plant.

After DEP signed off on a December 2014 uprating project that expanded power output from the plant’s twin reactors, multiple plaintiffs including cities sued, saying state regulators did too little to address a growing underground plume that has pushed saltwater inland about four miles. An administrative judge in February agreed, faulting DEP for not citing the agency for violations and ordering state officials to redo the plan.

Here is a partial transcript of Scott’s replies after an event about human trafficking in Miami Wednesday morning:

Q: “Should DEP have acted earlier on the cooling canals and do you have an action plan if there is contaminated water as a result of the cooling canals?”

A: “We have received that. We are reviewing that right now.”

Q: "On the cooling canals what do you mean you received that and reviewing that? What did you receive?”

A: “There was a court decision so my office is reviewing that right now.”

Q: “Do you have an action plan if we have contaminated water?”

A: “My office is reviewing it.”

Q: “Are you satisfied with the pace that DEP has addressed issue of cooling canals?”

A: “I think they are working hard.”

Q: “So you are satisfied even though some critics brought this up first in December 2014 that there was going to be contamination?”

A: “I think between water management districts, DEP, everybody is working very hard to solve issues like this.”

Gov. Rick Scott highlights Florida's efforts to fight human trafficking

Gov. Rick Scott visited the PACE Center for Girls in Miami to highlight Florida’s efforts to combat human trafficking.

PACE, which has 19 centers throughout the state, is a prevention and intervention program that helps girls ages 11-17 who have suffered trauma and are failing in school or at risk of becoming involved in the juvenile justice system. It serves more than 2,300 girls every year.

Scott thanked PACE for helping to provide “countless young women with the opportunity to achieve their dreams.”

In March, Scott signed HB545 which establishes harsher penalties for those who commit human trafficking.

“Thanks to law enforcement we are able to identify more occurrences of human trafficking while working to ensure Florida’s most vulnerable are protected,” he said.

Scott said that Florida invested $19 million PACE centers and highlighted $2 million that is earmarked for after-school programs.