September 10, 2017

Trump declares disaster for Florida amid Hurricane Irma

US NEWS TRUMP 19 ABA
via @stevebousquet

TALLAHASSEE -- President Donald Trump on Sunday approved a major disaster declaration for Hurricane Irma in Florida, hours after Gov. Rick Scott requested it.

In a week in which the president and governor spoke several times by phone, the governor's office said the disaster declaration will authorize federal funding to flow to areas affected by the storm and will reimburse cities and counties and the state for costs of response and recovery.

The major disaster declaration authorizes 100 percent federal reimbursement for 30 days in all counties for emergency protective measures, such as the costs of running emergency operation centers, hurricane shelters and related expenses. After the initial 30-day period, the federal government will reimburse 75 percent of those costs, including counties' costs for debris removal.

The declaration also authorizes direct federal financial aid to nine counties: Miami-Dade, Monroe, Charlotte, Collier, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota.

The president's declaration is here.

--STEVE BOUSQUET, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

Photo credit: Olivier Douliery, TNS

Rick Scott gets national airtime as Irma batters Florida's peninsula

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@ByKristenMClark

With Hurricane Irma affecting much of southern Florida by Sunday morning — making travel unsafe — Gov. Rick Scott remains in the state’s capital city.

He’s staying busy — spending four hours going from national TV interview to national TV interview, with the state Emergency Operations Center as his photogenic backdrop.

His line-up started at 7 a.m. and includes almost all of the networks, several more than once: NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, The Weather Channel, Fox News and Fox Business. (No MSNBC.)

More here.

September 04, 2017

Trump and Scott hold Hurricane Irma phone call

@PatriciaMazzei

President Donald Trump spoke by telephone with Florida Gov. Rick Scott late Monday night to discuss the potential threat of Hurricane Irma.

Scott's public schedule was updated to show the 10:20 p.m. call.

Earlier Monday, Scott declared a state of emergency in all 67 Florida counties ahead of the storm. It is still too far away to know with certainty if Irma will hit the state, but Florida entered the storm's long-term forecast cone on Labor Day. The governor was briefed twice during the day by Bryan Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

"Today, given these forecasts and the intensity of this storm, I have declared a state of emergency for every county in Florida to make certain that state, federal and local governments are able to work together and make sure resources are dispersed to local communities as we get prepared for this storm," Scott said in a statement. "In Florida, we always prepare for the worst and hope for the best and while the exact path of Irma is not absolutely known at this time, we cannot afford to not be prepared."

September 01, 2017

Scott breaks with Trump on DACA, gently

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged President Donald Trump on Friday not to summarily end an Obama-era program that that protects from deportation immigrants brought into the country illegally as children.

Amid rampant speculation that Trump on Tuesday will stop the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Scott said in a statement that DACA recipients should be given a reprieve.

“I do not favor punishing children for the actions of their parents,” Scott said. “These kids must be allowed to pursue the American Dream, and Congress must act on this immediately.”

He endorsed legislation filed by Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo and North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis that would offer an eventual path to citizenship to immigrants who arrived illegally before Jan. 1, 2012, and were 16 years old or younger when they entered.

Those people have been dubbed “Dreamers,” after the failed legislation that first attempted to give them legal status, the DREAM Act.

“We love the Dreamers,” Trump told reporters Friday. “We love everybody.”

The governor’s statement marked a rare break with the president, Scott’s Republican ally and longtime friend. Scott chaired a Trump political action committee during the 2016 presidential campaign and has been a frequent visitor to the White House and, most recently, Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, N.J., for lunch with the president.

More here.

Photo credit: José A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald

 

August 31, 2017

Supreme Court: Gov. Scott did 'not abuse his broad discretion' in death-penalty dispute

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@ByKristenMClark

Gov. Rick Scott was within his executive authority in reassigning more than two dozen potential death penalty cases away from an Orlando state attorney who declared she wouldn’t pursue the punishment for any case prosecuted in her district, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

In a 5-2 ruling, justices said Aramis Ayala’s “blanket” opposition to seeking the death penalty negates her argument of having exercised prosecutorial discretion.

Writing for the majority, Justice C. Alan Lawson — a conservative judge whom Scott appointed to the Supreme Court in December — said Scott, as governor, has leeway in his constitutional duty to “take care that the laws are faithfully executed,” and “the governor has not abused his broad discretion in reassigning the cases at issue” to Brad King, a state attorney in Ocala.

Full story here.

Photo credit: AP

August 30, 2017

Florida Democrats urge state lawmakers to remove Confederate statue in U.S. Capitol

Confederate Statue Florida

@alextdaugherty 

 

The entire Florida Democratic congressional delegation wants Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers to remove a statue of Confederate general Edmund Kirby Smith from the U.S. Capitol.

On Wednesday, 11 House Democrats from Florida sent a letter to Scott, State House speaker Richard Corcoran and State Senate president Joe Negron urging the trio to call a one-day special session to replace the statue in September.

“No family visiting our nation's Capitol should have to explain to their child that the statue representing our state honors someone who fought for a philosophy built on hatred, inequality and oppression,” the letter said.

Last year, the state legislature agreed to remove Smith's statue but it remains in National Statuary Hall in Washington, where daily tours are conducted in the Capitol, because lawmakers couldn't agree on a replacement.

But with the recent violent protests in Charlottesville and elsewhere over the legacy of Confederate statues, and debates about streets named after Confederate generals in Florida, Democrats around the country are pushing to remove statues in public places.

Two weeks ago, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, asked state lawmakers to make the change.

“It's time to stop playing games,” Wasserman Schultz said.

Now, Wasserman Schultz is joined by her Democratic colleagues in Washington, including Miami Gardens Rep. Frederica Wilson.

Scott and Corcoran ruled out the possibility of a special session two weeks ago.

“Like most politicians in Washington, the Congresswoman is out of touch,” Corcoran said on Twitter. “We've already made this decision and are now having a conversation about which great Floridian we should honor. The Congresswoman should stop grandstanding and focus on balancing the Federal budget.”

Read more here. 

August 28, 2017

Latvala asks Scott for $20M more to fight opioid crisis

Florida Legislature (11)

@ByKristenMClark

The budget chairman of the Florida Senate is calling on Gov. Rick Scott to allocate another $20 million from state reserves toward the ongoing opioid crisis.

Calling the health emergency an “existential threat to the people of our state,” Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala wrote in a letter to Scott on Monday that Floridians cannot wait until the Legislature passes the next state budget in March before more state resources are funneled to address the crisis.

Opioids were the direct cause of death of 2,538 Floridians and contributed to an additional 1,358 deaths in 2015, the last year data is available. Citing death trends for this year, Latvala cautioned that “by the time the Legislature passes a budget in March 2018, over 2,700 more Floridians could die.”

“We must provide the proper financial resources to those communities across Florida that have been struggling with this crisis for many years and join together to help end the stigma of addiction,” wrote Latvala, who is a 2018 candidate for governor. “I urge you in the strongest terms to continue to lead on this issue.”

After Latvala’s letter was sent this morning — also requesting an extension of a statewide emergency declaration that was set to expire in the coming days — Scott’s office noted this afternoon that the emergency declaration was “already extended today.”

More here.

Photo credit: AP

How Richard Corcoran prepares for a possible 2018 run for governor

House Speaker Richard Corcoran says he won't announce whether he'll run for governor until seven months from now, after the 2018 legislative session. But the Pasco County Republican is laying the groundwork for a candidacy in a field where Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has a big head start and where Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, has entered the field.

He may run and he may not, but Corcoran, 52, who began his rise through Republican ranks as a campaign strategist, has the instincts of an operative and the travel schedule of a full-time candidate. Whether dining with donors at Tampa's Capital Grillle or borrowing lobbyist friend Bill Rubin's Fort Lauderdale conference room to huddle with consultants, Corcoran keeps much of his political activity under the radar and does not publicize what he's doing.

Read more here about the four signs of a budding candidacy.

August 25, 2017

Ron DeSantis ties himself to Donald Trump as he weighs gubernatorial run

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@alextdaugherty 

Rep. Ron DeSantis sounds like a man who's ready to run for governor. 

"I think that there's definitely a opening for somebody that's got a proven record for advancing limited government," DeSantis said in Miami on Thursday after advocating for an overhaul of the nation's tax system with Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group funded by the Koch brothers.  "I think there needs to be someone with military experience in the race. There's definitely the opening." 

The Republican congressman from northeast Florida repeatedly echoed Donald Trump during his remarks, chastising Republican senators who voted against repealing Obamacare, referring to Washington as "the swamp" and praising Trump's decision not to support a tax on imported goods championed by House Speaker Paul Ryan as a way to fund an overhaul of the tax system.

"I think that the president's priorities have been strong priorities," DeSantis said. "We've got a lot of senators, congressman sniping that the president tweeted this or that. Here's what I would say, in the Congress whatever we pass, he's 99.9 percent likely to sign it. We complained about having Obama as president...all you have to do in the congress is legislate, put bills on the president's desk. This is a president that wants to sign legislation, he's inviting us to put things on his desk. I think the spotlight is on Congress, and particularly those members who haven't been as forward-leaning on honoring their campaign promises that they made to their constituents. Now is the time to follow through." 

DeSantis also expressed a strong desire for term limits in Congress, arguing that longtime leaders don't have an incentive to shake up the status quo and are too reliant on lobbyists when drafting bills. 

"K Street lobbyists saw the Senate health care bill before Republican senators did," DeSantis said.

DeSantis, who will make a decision about the governor's race sometime in the fall, isn't a stranger to statewide campaigns. He ran for U.S. Senate in 2016 but dropped out when Sen. Marco Rubio reversed course and decided to run for reelection. Even though DeSantis ran a statewide campaign, he acknowledged that building name recognition in large markets like Miami will be a tough and expensive challenge. 

"I think a lot of the folks that are going to be in that race are going to have similarities, they'll be much better known in Tallahassee than me, but that's fine," DeSantis said.

But there is one area where DeSantis differs from Trump; he wants to use the media to talk about the issues and get himself more well-known among voters. 

"In a Republican primary the only way to do the state is to get on cable news and talk radio," DeSantis said. "In the last cycle I wanted to do more media but all anyone cared about was the presidential race. Now we're kind of in a governing period where people are concerned about all the issues going on nationally. I think there's a lot of our primary voters that know me much better today than they did two years ago, but obviously you've got a long way to go. You've got to get free media, you've got to get paid media and you've got to have an army on the ground to spread the message. It's more difficult in this state than any other, but it can be done."

Former congressman and sitting agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam and State Sen. Jack Latvala have announced bids for the GOP nomination to replace Rick Scott in 2018. House Speaker Richard Corcoran is also weighing a run in the Republican primary. 

August 22, 2017

Nelson shares Scott's cautious stance on Confederate monuments

via @learyreports

On the issue of Confederate monuments, Sen. Bill Nelson is taking the cautious route of Gov. Rick Scott.

“My attitude is a monument, a statue, ought to signify unity instead of division,” Nelson, told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on Monday after a speech before the Manatee Chamber of Commerce.

But should Confederate monuments be removed? “I think leaving it up to the good sense of the communities involved is the best thing to do," the Democrat running for re-election said.

That’s effectively what Scott, who is likely to challenge Nelson next year, told the Tampa Bay Times last week.

"We have a democracy," Scott said. "We have the ability to have conversations about things, whether it's policy or things like monuments, and that's what's going on around our country right now. Some of these decisions will need to be made locally, some will be decided at the state level, some will be decided at the federal level, but what everybody needs to do is go through the process that's set up to make policy changes and make changes if they do with regards to a monument."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times