July 11, 2016

Florida Gov. Rick Scott confirms GOP convention attendance

via @learyreports

Not a huge surprise, given his endorsement, but an aide to Gov. Rick Scott confirms he will attend the GOP convention.

It's not clear if Scott will have a speaking role. Scott endorsed Donald Trump the day after the March 15 presidential primary. "The voters are speaking clearly – they want a businessman outsider who will dramatically shake up the status quo in Washington," he said.

Sen. Marco Rubio is not attending, citing a need to campaign for re-election. Jeb Bush is not going, either, because he does not support Trump.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

July 08, 2016

Florida Gov. Rick Scott 'heartbroken' over Dallas police shootings

@PatriciaMazzei

In a statement Friday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott decried the sniper killings of five Dallas police officers Thursday.

This morning, Ann and I are heartbroken to hear of the horrendous tragedy that took place in Texas last night. The violence displayed against Dallas law enforcement was a senseless and cowardly act that has no place in our country. Law enforcement officers across the nation bravely put their lives on the line every day in order to protect our homes, our communities, and our families. We join of all of America in mourning these fallen heroes and praying for the recovery of those injured. Just as Texas stood with Florida following the Orlando terror attack last month, Florida will stand with Texas during this unfathomably difficult time.

July 07, 2016

Guess who's joining Donald Trump in Miami on Friday? Florida Gov. Rick Scott

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Gov. Rick Scott plans to attend both of Donald Trump's events in Miami on Friday, Scott's top political adviser told the Miami Herald.

Melissa Sellers said Scott will have lunch with Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, at Versailles Cuban restaurant and then be in the audience during Trump's speech at the DoubleTree hotel.

Scott endorsed Trump immediately after Trump's sweeping Florida primary win March 15. He has declined, however, to be considered a Trump running mate.

June 30, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott's blind trust drops in value $27 million, as he nearly doubles his income from it

Rick Scott 2015 APFlorida Gov. Rick Scott, a multi-millionaire former businessman, saw his net worth decline $27 million last year as his blind trust dropped in value.

Scott filed his annual financial disclosure form Thursday, showing that his net worth was more than $119 million at the end of 2015, a 19 percent drop from the previous year.

Scott, a former hospital executive, has maintained most of his assets in the Gov. Richard L. Scott 2014 Qualified Blind Trust. The law allows public officials to create a blind trust in lieu of revealing their assets on a financial disclosure form.

The governor’s blind trust is managed by a third party — a company that includes a longtime business associate of Scott. By law, the trust is intended to shield his investments from his direct control, but it also shields them from public disclosure.

The governor reported that in 2015 his blind trust dropped in value from $127.8 million to $100 million, but the governor also drew more income from the trust last year than he did in 2014.

Scott reported $16.5 million in income from his trust in 2015 — up from the $9.7 million in income he drew from two trusts in 2014. The law does not require Scott to report how he spent the income from his trust. The governor does not take a salary from the state.

Questions have followed Scott since he first created the blind trust when he was elected in 2010. When Scott ran for re-election in 2014, he briefly dissolved his first trust and released information about the individual holdings in it. He also released his tax returns for 2013.

The tax returns showed that the Scott family earns millions more than the governor reported individually on his financial disclosure form. It also raised questions about whether Scott may have control over assets held by his wife, Ann Scott.

An investigation by the Herald/Times into those investments found that filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission indicated the governor had substantially larger holdings in several companies than what he reported to the state. A lawsuit was filed by George Sheldon, a Democrat candidate for attorney general, but a court ruled that the governor could not be compelled to disclose more information. More of the story here. 

June 28, 2016

White House gives rare shout-out to Rick Scott, on Zika

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has made no bones about criticizing the federal government over its plans to prevent the Zika virus.

But he and President Barack Obama have a common foe on the matter: Congress, which on Tuesday morning failed to pass a Zika-funding bill in the Senate.

That prompted White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest to give Scott a rare shout out in his Tuesday briefing with reporters.

"Gov. Rick Scott from Florida, no friend of the Obama administration but is making the same case that the Obama administration is, that Congress needs to step up to the plate and provide additional resources that can be used to try to fight the mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus," Earnest said.

Here's the full question and answer, from a transcript:

Continue reading "White House gives rare shout-out to Rick Scott, on Zika" »

June 27, 2016

PolitiFact: Rick Scott often fails with FEMA requests

Politifact%2Fphotos%2Fscottobama

In what has become a familiar political two-step, Gov. Rick Scott bashed Washington after he asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help but didn’t get it.

Scott specifically blamed President Barack Obama following FEMA’s refusal to declare a state of emergency in the wake of the June 12, 2016, massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Scott had asked for $5 million to deal with emergency response efforts, medical care and counseling.

"It is incredibly disappointing that the Obama Administration denied our request for an Emergency Declaration," Scott said in a June 20 press release. "Last week, a terrorist killed 49 people, and wounded many others, which was the deadliest shooting in U.S. history. It is unthinkable that President Obama does not define this as an emergency."

He included a list of situations that FEMA has declared a state of emergency, including the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the Flint water crisis and a 2009 order for Obama’s inauguration.

In typical rejection verbiage, FEMA administrator W. Craig Fugate wrote in a letterthat Scott’s request "did not demonstrate how the emergency response associated with this situation is beyond the capability of the state and affected local government or identify any direct federal assistance needed to save lives or protect property."

Fugate for years was director of the Florida Department of Emergency Management under former Gov. Jeb Bush, including during seven hurricanes over 2004-05.

Scott’s office told us Scott plans to appeal the denial.

His disappointment in FEMA’s rejection isn’t really a fact we can check, but it does highlight Scott’s record of not getting what he wants from the agency.

Keep reading Joshua Gillin's story from PolitiFact Florida.

June 22, 2016

Report: Florida gets an 'F' for failing racial and gender diversity among court judges

Florida supreme court.1_12061496_8colFlorida is one of 26 states to receive a failing grade for its gender and racial diversity, according to the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, progressive legal organization. Florida ranked 29 out of 51 state court jurisdictions in the country because it's judiciaries are 45% less diverse than the state population.

The findings echo some of the research done by the Herald/Times in 2014, which found that Gov. Rick Scott appointed only nine black attorneys to judgeships in his first four years. 

The report, authored by law professors Tracey E. George and Albert H. Yoon, compiled the race, ethnicity, and gender of 10,000 sitting judges on state courts. It is  titled The Gavel Gap: Who Sits in Judgement at State Courts?

“The vast majority of Americans’ interactions with the judicial system, ranging from traffic violations to criminal proceedings, happen in state courts,” said George of Vanderbilt University. “When people do not see themselves represented in their community leadership, when the vast majority of judges cannot relate to the lived experience of those they serve—this is a problem. It creates a mistrust of judges, and propagates the mystery surrounding the court system. For the first time, we have the data we need to identify and address this serious problem.”

Photo: Tampa Bay Times

 

Four years after brutal Florida prison death, no punishment but lack of trust, disclosure and confidence

Raineyvia JKnipeBrown

One thousand four hundred and sixty one days.

That’s how long it’s been since Darren Rainey was forced into a shower by officers at Dade Correctional Institution and left there, under a blistering spray of scalding water, for nearly two hours. It’s been four years since Rainey screamed and begged to be let out of the small stall before finally collapsing in a heap, his skin peeling.

Since Rainey’s death, it was discovered that he and other mentally ill inmates at the prison had been tortured, beaten, starved and left to sleep in their own excrement. They were doused with buckets of chemicals, over-medicated, kept in extended isolation and placed in painfully cold or blistering showers as punishment for behavior caused mostly by their own illnesses.

While Rainey’s death has led to some reforms in the treatment of the mentally ill in Florida prisons, the prison system remains dangerously understaffed and rife with violence, as evidenced by recent riots and turmoil at Franklin Correctional Institution in north-central Florida.

Details of the June 9 incident at Franklin haven’t been made public, and may never be known. The absence of transparency by the agency, critics say, has bred distrust and a lack of confidence that the prison system is truly taking the steps necessary to keep inmates, officers and the public secure. Story here. 

June 21, 2016

LGBT rights activists want Rick Scott to sign anti-discrimination rules after Orlando shooting

@MichaelAuslen

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A week after a gunman killed 49 people inside an Orlando gay nightclub, advocacy groups want new protections enacted to protect LGBT Floridians.

Equality Florida, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights has long pushed for state anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

In a move that could presage more forceful action when the state Legislature returns to Tallahassee next year, the group’s lobbyist, Carlos Guillermo Smith, called on Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi to act now — without lawmakers’ involvement.

“Gov. Rick Scott and Pam Bondi could issue an executive order today with the stroke of a simple pen that would forbid and make illegal anti-LGBTQ discrimination in our state,” said Smith, a Democrat also running for the Florida House, in an interview Sunday on MSNBC.

State law does not protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

For 10 years, lawmakers have proposed expanding Florida’s civil rights protections, but their attempts have never reached a floor vote either chamber of the state Legislature. This spring, the proposal achieved a small victory: its first-ever committee hearing. The Senate Judiciary Committee considered the bill but did not approve it.

Asked whether he would support anti-discrimination protections, the governor’s office reiterated comments Scott made Monday when reporters pressed him on his gay-rights record.

“Right now what I want to focus on is how do we make sure that we love everybody impacted: the gay community, the Hispanic community,” he said. “But let’s all remember this was an attack on our entire nation.”

He did not say whether he intends to push for additional protections of LGBT groups.

However, Scott could not extend full anti-discrimination protections to LGBT people in hiring, housing and public accommodations by executive order.

In an interview with the Times/Herald on Tuesday, Smith said he wants Scott and Bondi to enact narrower, more immediate change: executive action to protect state workers and government contractors.

This would be within the governor’s powers. Early in his first term, Scott issued an executive order requiring state workers to be randomly drug tested, although that was later struck down by a judge.

Cabinet officials could set similar rules within their offices. Bondi already has done this, spokeswoman Kylie Mason said.

“The Attorney General does not have the authority to issue an executive order,” she said in a statement. “However, our office already has a policy in place against discrimination based on sexual preference.”

Some groups criticized Smith for pushing Equality Florida’s agenda so soon after the shooting at Pulse nightclub. The Florida Family Policy Council, which advocates for social conservatives and largely opposes LGBT-rights groups’ agenda, tweeted Tuesday morning that Equality Florida is “politicizing tragedy.”

Since the attack, Scott and Bondi have both issued statements supportive of the state’s LGBT community.

“We pray for our LGBT community,” Scott wrote on Twitter. “Our Hispanic community. Our state. Our nation. This was an attack on every American.”

But during more than five years in office, neither Republican official has taken up the mantle of gay rights.

Bondi fought and lost a court battle to uphold a same-sex marriage ban, spending $493,000 in taxpayer funds in the process. Scott’s administration is in the process of removing proposed protections for LGBT foster children in group homes from state rules.

LGBT-rights advocates hope recent well wishes could turn into political action when the Legislature is in session next year.

Equality Florida’s wish list includes not only anti-discrimination laws but also expanding the definition of hate crimes to include transgender people and banning so-called conversion therapy.

Smith said the group has requested a meeting with Scott and Bondi to discuss its agenda.

Photo by Eve Edelheit, Tampa Bay Times.

June 20, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott criticizes decision to release partial transcript of Orlando shooter's 911 call

via @learyreports

Gov. Rick Scott says it doesn't make sense to release only partial 911 transcripts of the Orlando shooter.

 

Appearing today on Fox News:

On Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s comments regarding releasing the partial transcripts of the Orlando terrorist’s 911 call:

“Bill, I do not know, but I’ve talked to families and have been down here since the terrorist attack. I’ve talked to families who have lost their loved ones, I met with families that are in the hospital with loved ones in the hospital. We are all looking for answers. Why wouldn’t she release everything? We all need to know, but especially these families. They need to know exactly what happened to try and understand why this happened. It doesn’t make any sense to me why you wouldn’t release the entire transcript.”

On whether he disagrees with Lynch only releasing partial transcripts:

“Absolutely. This seems like it is another example of not focusing on the evil here. This is evil. It’s ISIS. It’s radical Islam. At some point – we lost 49 lives here, we lost Steven Sotloff in 2014 that was beheaded by ISIS. At some point, we’re going to get a president that’s going to say I care about destroying ISIS. I want it for everybody that was impacted by this. I want a focus on how we get rid of ISIS. How do we stop this, how do we stop radical Islam. This is wrong. It’s hurting our country. This was an attack on our gay community, our Hispanic community, our entire country.”

On Lynch’s comments that she is only releasing partial transcript because she doesn’t want to ‘re-victimize the victims’:

“I have no idea what she means, but I’ll tell you what. I’ve gone to funerals, I’ve sat down and cried with the parents. I’ve gone and visited individuals in the hospitals, they’re grieving. They want answers. If it was my family, I’d want answers, she would too. We all would like answers. She should release everything that doesn’t impact the investigation. I could understand if it was something that impacted that investigation until this is finished, I get that. She’s not saying that. It doesn’t make any sense to me. We’ve got to get serious about destroying ISIS. Destroy ISIS, stop radical Islam.”

On what he thinks the administration’s motive behind not releasing the full transcript is:

“I have no idea, but it sure appears that they don’t want to talk about that ISIS was involved. This is clearly ISIS-inspired. It’s clearly a result of evil, radical Islam. We’ve got to call this what it is. We’ve got to defend our country. We’ve got to stop saying ISIS is not the problem, they are the problem. They want to destroy us. There’s people that want to kill us, they are killing us. 49 people in my state massacred because of radical Islam, because of the evil of ISIS.”