March 17, 2017

Gov. Rick Scott visits Jewish school in Broward that faced bomb threats



Gov. Rick Scott visited a Jewish school in Broward County Friday morning that faced bomb threats twice earlier this year.

Scott toured the David Posnack school and neighboring Jewish Community Center in Davie.

"We gave him a tour of the campus and we were talking about the most recent bomb threats around the country at all of the different sites in the state of Florida and how we can deal with it," JCC director Scott Ehrlich said.

The governor didn't offer any new assistance in response to the bomb threats but Ehrlich said he expressed that Florida won't tolerate discrimination against any group including Jews.

Scott requested to visit the campus -- the event was organized by the Jewish Federation of Broward County, Ehrlich said.

Scott had previously visited the center in 2016 for a ceremonial bill signing related to a memorial in Tallahassee for Holocaust survivors. For that visit, Scott was accompanied by Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera shortly after he had a quickie Bar Mitzvah in Israel.

The Posnack school faced bomb threats Feb. 27 and March 7 and is one of the several Jewish institutions in South Florida that have faced bomb threats this year. So far in 2017, there have been 165 bomb threats to Jewish institutions in 38 states and three Canadian provinces, according to data compiled by the Anti-Defamation League through March 15.

Scott's press office did not respond to an email seeking comment. Scott's daily schedule did not reflect any additional events in Broward County.

March 16, 2017

Rick Scott launches TV ad in war with House of tourism spending


Florida Gov. Rick Scott is taking to the airwaves to defend the state-funded tourism marketing programs.

Scott is using a 30 second television ad paid for by Let's Get to Work, his political committee, to rip "Tallahassee politicians" who voted to dramatically damage Visit Florida. Last week the Florida House voted 80-35 for a bill that would dramatically cut Visit Florida's budgets and put in place new strict restrictions that Scott's administration has opposed.

State Rep. Paul Renner, a Flagler County Republican, has argued that Visit Florida has to be reined in because it has embarrassed the state over the last few years. He often cites a $1 million marketing contract with Miami pop star Pitbull to promote Florida as a "Sexy Beaches" destination as an example.

The TV ad is just the latest tool Scott has employed to fight the House on the issue. He's traveled the state to home districts of Republicans like Renner to publicly call them out, Let's Get to Work has made videos mocking House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, and the committee has also paid for automated phone calls to legislative districts telling voters to call their members of the House who voted for the bill to damage Visit Florida's mission.

Scott has credited the $78 million that Florida spends on Visit Florida as a key reason the state has set tourism spending records for the last 5 years in a row.

Scott's new television commercial will start airing statewide next week, his political aides say.

March 15, 2017

Gov. Rick Scott's broken promise to drug test welfare applicants



A father-son lawmaking duo from Clearwater is breathing new life into Gov. Rick Scott's campaign promise to require drug testing for welfare recipients.

The promise hit a roadblock when federal courts struck down a 2011 law that Scott signed as "warrantless, suspicionless drug testing."

Because we assess promises based on outcomes rather than intentions, we rated Scott's campaign pledge as Promise Broken in 2015 when he gave up his battle in court and chose not to appeal.

But Rep. Chris Latvala in the House and his father Senate appropriations chair Jack Latvala have proposed a rewrite of the 2011 state law that focuses on applicants with a track record of drug use. A House committee approved the bill on March 13.

Keep reading our update from PolitiFact Florida and check out Scott's progress on all of his promises on our Scott-O-Meter.

March 13, 2017

Gov. Scott's ideas for teacher incentives didn't resonate; Legislature has own plans



Back at the end of January, Gov. Rick Scott made teachers a top priority in his budget recommendations to the Legislature for next year.

But his proposals aren’t getting much traction, now that lawmakers are delving into the nitty-gritty of their own ideas.

More here.

Photo credit: AP

March 10, 2017

Who dared to defy Gov. Rick Scott on jobs program?


(AP Photo)


Sixty two Republicans and 25 Democrats stood up against Gov. Rick Scott and voted to kill Enterprise Florida, the agency he has most relied to fulfill his campaign promises to create jobs.

Scott, a Republican, has traveled the state calling on voters to pressure their lawmakers to protect the agency, ran automated phone calls against some Republicans and released videos slamming Republicans who want to kill the agency as “job killers.” Still it did not stop 87 House members for voting to kill Enterprise Florida and 23 other tax incentive programs run by the state.

Here is how Florida House members voted Friday on a bill (HB 7005) to abolish Enterprise Florida. The vote was 87 to 28 with five missed votes.  A yes vote is a vote to abolish the agency.

YES (87):
Democrats: Bruce Antone, D-Orlando; Robert Asencio, D-Miami; Daisy Baez, D-Coral Gables; John Cortes, D-Kissimmee; Janet Cruz, D-Tampa; Kimberly Daniels, D-Jacksonville; Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville; Nicholas Duran, D-Miami; Katie Edwards, D-Plantation; Joe Geller, D-Aventura; Roy Hardemon, D-Miami;  Patrick Henry, D-Daytona Beach; Kristin Jacobs, D-Coconut Creek; Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach; Shevrin Jones, D-West Park; Larry Lee Jr., D-Port St. Lucie; Kionne McGhee, D-Miami; Sharon Pritchett, D-Miami Gardens;  David Richardson, D-Miami Beach; Barrington Russell, D-Lauderdale Lakes; Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton; Carlos Smith, D-Orlando; Cynthia Stafford, D-Miami; Richard Stark, D-Weston; Patricia Williams, D-Lauderdale Lakes

Republicans: Larry Ahern, R-Seminole; Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula; Thad Altman, R-Indialantic; Bryan Avila, R-Miami; Halsey Beshears, R-Monticello; Michael Bileca, R-Miami; Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton; Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford; Danny Burgess Jr., R-Zephyrhills; Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach; Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers; Charles Clemons, R-Newberry; Neil Combee, R-Polk County; Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes; Bob Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs; Travis Cummings, R-Orange Park; Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami; Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah; Byron Donalds, R-Naples; Dane Eagle R-Cape Coral; Randy Fine, R-Brevard County; Jason Fischer, R-Jacksonville; Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers; Julio Gonzalez, R-Venice; Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach; James Grant, R-Tampa; Mike Grant, R-Port Charlotte; Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart; Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa; Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill; Clay Ingram, R-Pensacola; Sam Killebrew, R-Winter Haven; Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud; Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater; Thomas Leek, R-Ormond Beach; MaryLynn Magar, R-Tequesta; Amber Mariano, R-Hudson; Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto; Stan McClain, R-Belleview; Larry Metz, R-Yalaha; Jeanette Nuñez, R-Miami; Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes; Bobby Payne, R-Palatka; Cary Pigman, R-Avon Park; Scott Plakon, R-Longwood; Mel Ponder, R-Destin; Elizabeth Porter, R-Lake City; Jake Raburn, R-Lithia; Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo; Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast; Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero; Bob Rommel, R-Naples; Rick Roth, R-Loxahatchee; Ross Spano, R-Dover; Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor; Cyndi Stevenson, R-St. Johns; Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora; Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa; Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami; Frank White, R-Pensacola; Jayer Williamson, R-Pace; Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville.

NO (28):
Democrats: Joe Abruzzo, D-Boyton Beach; Ramon Alexander, D-Tallahassee; Loranne Ausley, D-Tallahassee; Lori Berman, D-Lantana; Kamia Brown, D-Ocoee; Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg; Bobby DuBose, D-Fort Lauderdale; Al Jacquet, D-Lantana; Amy Mercado, D-Orlando; Wengay Newton, D-St. Petersburg; Sean Shaw, D-Tampa; David Silvers, D-West Palm Beach; Barbara Watson, D-Miami Gardens; Matt Willhite, D-Wellington.

Republicans: Brad Drake, R-Eucheeanna; Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando; Jay Fant, R-Jacksonville; Tom Goodson, R-Rockledge; Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota; Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton; Don Hahnfeldt, R-The Villages; Alex Miller, R-Sarasota; Mike Miller, R-Winter Park; George Moraitis Jr, R-Fort Lauderdale; Kathleen Peters, R-Treasure Island;  Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando; David Santiago, R-Deltona; Charlie Stone, R-Ocala;

Democrats: Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs,  *Clovis Watson Jr., D-Alachua.

Republicans: Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland; Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City; Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City,

*After the vote, Clovis Watson Jr. recorded a vote against the bill.

March 09, 2017

Florida House Republicans ready to kill jobs program despite Rick Scott's protests


State Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, answers questions about his plan to kill Enterprise Florida during a debate on the floor of the Florida House of Representatives on Thursday. State Rep. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican and ardent defender of the agency, watches on. (Photo: Scott Keeler/Tampa Bay Times)


Despite unusual political pressure from Gov. Rick Scott over a period of weeks, Florida House Republicans shrugged off his stinging attacks and took a big step toward destroying his No. 1 legislative priority.

On Thursday the Florida House started debate on a bill that would kill Enterprise Florida, the economic development agency Scott has relied on to hand out tax breaks to companies in exchange for them creating jobs in Florida. The bill is now almost certain to pass the Republican-led Florida House on Friday, a stunning act of defiance of the sitting Republican governor and his top legislative priority.

State Rep. Paul Renner, a Republican from Flagler County in northeast Florida, offered no apologies as he rolled out his plan that would kill 24 difference economic development and tax credit programs in Florida in a quest to rid government of what House leaders have called “corporate welfare.” Renner said Enterprise Florida is selective in picking companies to get subsidies, often over competitors.

“These incentives violate principles of fairness and they also pick winners and losers,” Renner said.

To hammer home his point, Renner took a subtle jab at Scott, proposing a scenario in which a doughnut shop, which gets no incentives, watches another one open across the street with the help of government incentives paid for by taxpayers. Scott famously touts his days of running a doughnut shop in the 1970s as his start to becoming a businessman.

Better than handing out tax breaks to a few companies, Renner said the government should use that money to improve education, infrastructure or cut taxes more broadly.

Continue reading "Florida House Republicans ready to kill jobs program despite Rick Scott's protests" »

GOP health care plan 'work in progress,' Gov. Scott says

Florida Governor Jobs
via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday called the Obamacare replacement bill "a work in progress," stopping short of a full endorsement of legislation that has drawn the scorn of conservatives.

"As I've talked to people up here, I've let them know Florida has got to be treated fairly and I'm very interested in making sure that when the dollars come to the state  ... we have more flexibility to run a Medicaid programs and also we're not treated unfairly as compared to the states that expanded," Scott told reporters.

He's on his second day in Washington, a regular destination of late for the likely 2018 U.S. Senate candidate eager to show he's a player on national issues. Scott met Thursday morning with Sen. Marco Rubio and had meetings scheduled with Republican Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Francis Rooney and Vern Buchanan.

Asked about criticism from some conservatives that the health care bill is being rushed, Scott said: "I'm not familiar with the process. I'm excited we are having a conversation."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: Lynne Sladky, Associated Press

March 08, 2017

Fact-checking Gov. Rick Scott's claim about commercial lease tax


via @allisonbgraves

At his State of the State address, Gov. Rick Scott once again promised to cut the state's tax on commercial leases, something he says is unique only to Florida.

"Florida is now the only state in the nation to tax commercial leases," Scott said March 7.

Florida does levy a 6 percent sales tax on the total rent paid for any commercial property, including storefronts, offices and warehouses. But is that the only state-level tax of its kind?

Scott’s team sent over an October 2015 report from Florida TaxWatch, a group that takes a critical look at state spending with an eye toward long-term savings. The report says that Florida "is the only state to impose a standard, statewide sales tax on commercial real estate leases."

It cites as evidence a Nov. 24, 2014, research memorandum from the Florida Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, which is nonpartisan.

Keep reading from PolitiFact Florida.

Tampa Bay Times photo of Senate President Joe Negron and Scott.

Gov. Scott loves D.C.

State of State Florida
via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Gov. Rick Scott can't get enough of this town.

As the legislative sessions enters day two, the governor is on his way to Washington for a meeting with Rep. Neal Dunn, R-Panama City, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, according to his schedule.

Scott had made repeated trips in recent months, all around the Obamacare repeal. But it's obvious, too, that he's signaling interest to voters that he wants to be a player here.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: Steve Cannon, Associated Press

Mason-Dixon poll: Nelson leads Scott in potential 2018 Florida Senate race


Sen. Bill Nelson leads Gov. Rick Scott in a potential 2018 U.S. Senate match-up, according to a new public-opinion poll that suggests next year's election will be defined by the presidency of Donald Trump.

Nelson is ahead of Scott by 46-41 percent in the survey released Wednesday by Jacksonville-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Research. That 5-percentage-point lead is similar to the 6-point advantage Nelson had over Scott in another poll released Monday by the University of North Florida. Scott has yet to declare his candidacy.

While favorable views of both candidates are almost identical -- 42 percent for Nelson and 41 for Scott, according to the poll -- more respondents viewed Scott unfavorably: 38 percent, compared to 25 percent for Nelson. President Trump is even more disliked: 43 percent hold a favorable opinion of him, compared to 48 percent who hold a negative one.

"This contrast in perception will be part of the dynamic of the race, as Scott stirs more passion and polarization (much like Trump), while Nelson is generally liked but perceived as a bland policy wonk," pollster Brad Coker wrote in a memo outlining the results. "The outcome of the race will likely be shaped by the political fortunes of President Donald Trump. The central question is how will the country feel about Trump in 2018?"

Florida appears just as divided in the poll as it did last November, when Trump won the state by about 1 percentage point. Asked about their preferred senate candidates, 47 percent said they'd back a Democrat who'd oppose Trump's agenda -- and 45 percent said they'd back a Republican who supports it. 

Historically in Florida, Republicans do better at getting their voters to the polls in midterm elections.

The poll of 625 registered voters was conducted by phone from Feb. 24-28. It has an error margin of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points.

Photo credit: Andrew Harrer, Bloomberg