September 08, 2015

GOP governors -- including Rick Scott -- oppose Iran deal

via @learyreports

Gov. Rick Scott joined 14 Republican governors in a letter to President Obama opposing the nuclear pact with Iran. The letter focuses concern about how it would affect pension divestment policies and contracting restrictions.

"Paragraph 25 of the Iran nuclear agreement provides that the federal government will “actively encourage” states to lif t state-level sanctions such as the divestment and contracting restriction laws," the letter states. "While Secretary Kerry confirmed in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the agreement will not preempt state law because it is not a treaty, we are concerned about what steps your Administration may take to attempt to implement paragraph 25. Therefore, we wish to make it clear to you in advance of any efforts to implement paragraph 25 that we intend to ensure that the various state-level sanctions that are now in effect remain in effect. These state-level sanctions are critically important and must be maintained."

The letter was signed by Govs. Scott, Doug Ducey of Arizona, Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, Mike Pence of Indiana, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Phil Bryant of Mississippi, Chris Christie of New Jersey, Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota, John Kasich of Ohio, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota, Greg Abbott of Texas, Gary Herbert of Utah, and Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

September 06, 2015

Rick Scott’s big fundraising summer continues


Florida Gov. Rick Scott capped off a big fundraising summer by collecting another $100,000 in checks in just over six days from Aug. 27 to Sept. 1 for his political action committee, new campaign finance reports show.

Scott, a Republican who cannot seek re-election because of term limits, has now raised more than $500,000 in August alone for his Let’s Get To Work Committee and almost $1 million since June 1.

For the year, Scott has raised more than $3.6 million for the political action committee.

It has all provoked growing anticipation that Scott is building up resources to run for another office in 2018 when his term as governor will end. In July, Scott sidestepped questions from the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau about whether he was considering running for the Senate in 2018, when Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, would be seeking re-election.

“I’m continuing to work at my job as governor,” Scott said in July. “I just went through an election last year and I’ve got three and a half more years as governor and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure this is a place this a where you want to raise your family.”

Here are Scott’s 5 biggest donors since June 1 as of Sunday:

  1. $400,000 – The Florida Chamber of Commerce PAC
  2. $252,503 - Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts
  3. $100,000 – Jeffrey N. Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner
  4. $50,000 – Florida Cruise PAC
  5. $50,000 – TECO Energy Inc


September 03, 2015

Obama rejects Governor Scott's request for disaster declaration


President Barack Obama rejected Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s request for a disaster declaration for Tampa Bay’s August flooding on the basis that the damage to the region was not enough to be beyond the capabilities of the state and local governments, according to congressional sources.

A federal disaster declaration would have triggered hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured-property losses, and other help for individuals and business owners affected by the storms.

But the Federal Emergency Management Agency officials, who advise the president on disaster declarations, said the damage from the storms that saturated the area from July 25 to Aug.  3 was not of such severity and magnitude that state and local officials cannot handle it on their own – a standard phrase used in past disaster declaration denials.

FEMA notified Scott of the denial in a letter sent to him on Thursday.

It’s not the first time the Obama administration has rejected Scott’s pleas for disaster assistance. Three times in 2012, FEMA rejected Scott’s initial request for federal assistance for two hurricanes and a flooding incident near Pensacola. Later, Scott’s request for help for damage sustained in South Florida from Hurricane Isaac was approved after an appeal showed more confirmed damage.

But don’t think Obama has it out for Scott, who earlier this year sued the Obama administration over federal health care funding. Obama has also approved three other disaster declarations since 2011, most recently in May 2014 for severe storms and flooding that besieged the Pensacola area.

Continue reading "Obama rejects Governor Scott's request for disaster declaration" »

September 02, 2015

Gov. Scott and Cabinet had 'casualness' about sunshine, CFO says

Gov. Rick Scott and Florida's three elected Cabinet members are going back to school next month.

They have agreed to give themselves a refresher course in public records and open meetings laws after months of controversy involving multiple allegations that the laws were skirted or violated, resulting in the payment of more than $1.3 million in taxpayer money to settle several cases, mostly against the governor. The "sunshine" training will be given at a Cabinet meeting in Tallahassee on Oct. 27 by Assistant Attorney General Pat Gleason.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater told the Times/Herald the extra training is overdue.

"I think there has become a casualness about communicating," Atwater said. "How are people sending signals, 'Is this okay for an agenda item? Where's your guy at?' That's not how this was ever meant to be designed ... We are called together as a Cabinet to discuss public business and that should be done in public. So I think it's a very good refresher."

Atwater and his colleagues, including Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, voted in June to settle a lawsuit by St. Petersburg lawyer Matthew Weidner, news outlets and others. They raised allegations of Sunshine Law violations in the ouster of former FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey last December, but the case never went to court. The four officials admitted no wrongdoing but agreed on changes including mandatory sunshine training for new high-level employees within two weeks of being hired.

The settlement says it's legal for aides to Scott and Cabinet members to discuss official business outside of the sunshine "unless they are being used as a liaison to communicate information on Cabinet matters from one member of the board to another or they have been delegated decision-making functions."

September 01, 2015

Beer, guns, rock 'n' roll: Scott and Cabinet head to St. Augustine

America's oldest city welcomes the Gang of Four Tuesday.

Gov. Rick Scott and the three Cabinet members gather in St. Augustine in conjunction with the city's 450th anniversary that begins Friday and runs through Labor Day weekend. The top state officials will adopt measures to evaluate the job performances of FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen and Terry Rhodes, executive director of the highway safety agency, and a five-year plan for land acquisition under the Florida Forever program.

Cabinet members arrived early. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam did a news event Monday with St. Johns County Tax Collector Dennis Hollingsworth on expanding services for people seeking concealed weapons licenses.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater toured a city distillery in St. Augustine. Attorney General Pam Bondi went to a concert featuring '80s rocker Rick Springfield ("Jessie's Girl," No. 1 in '81), and posted a picture from the event on her personal Twitter account. Scott plans a Tuesday afternoon jobs announcement at Anheuser-Busch in Jacksonville.

It's the first time in six months that the Cabinet has ventured out of Tallahassee, and it's likely to be a lot tamer than the last time. The previous road show was in Tampa last March to help kick off the annual state fair, but the tension-filled session attracted a media horde and focused on Cabinet self-criticism and the need for change in the wake of Gerald Bailey's orchestrated dismissal at FDLE.

August 31, 2015

Tax collectors alarmed by state talk of revamped driver license system

You can't get completely away from politics in Florida. One of many things that make the state such a unique place is that the person who provides your license tags and renews your driver's license and provides your license tags is likely to be an elected official.

Yes, a politician. Your county tax collector. (The licenses and tags are produced using equipment owned by a vendor under contract to the state). State highway safety officials are quietly studying a possible change to a new system of issuing driver licenses. No decision has been made, and wouldn't be without the approval of Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet. But just the idea of changing things has stirred up a lot of controversy.

More here. 

August 28, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott puts all of Florida in state of emergency


Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency throughout all of Florida after the latest forecasts show Tropical Storm Erika could rip through the middle of the state.

At about 8:45 a.m., Scott announced the order, which puts Bryan Koon, director of the state Division of Emergency Management, in control of emergency response and initiates a number of state laws allowing aid to come in to Florida from the outside in the event that it's needed and for state agencies to react.

The latest forecast by the National Hurricane Center at 8 a.m. Friday says Erika is no longer expected to become a hurricane. However, the tropical storm's path is forecast to go right up the middle of the state. At 2 a.m. Monday, the current forecast shows Erika making landfall in South Florida. At 2 a.m. Tuesday, it could be in the middle of the state, not far from Lakeland.

After a briefing from emergency management staff Thursday, Scott spoke to reporters, urging Floridians to start making preparations now using resources at and to ensure loved ones are prepared as well.

August 27, 2015

Scott warns to pay attention, plan ahead for Erika


Gov. Rick Scott's message to Floridians late Thursday morning was straightforward: Start preparing for Tropical Storm Erika now.

The National Hurricane Center forecasts that the storm could approach Florida's east coast this weekend and could escalate into a hurricane. If it did, it would be the first to hit the state in 10 years.

This could cause a big problem, he said, especially as millions of people have moved to Florida in that time and haven't experienced a hurricane before. 

"We haven't had a hurricane in years," Scott said, addressing reporters in Tallahassee after a statewide emergency management conference call. "The way I think about it is stop and think about your family for a second...How can I make sure they're prepared? Do I have enough water? Do I have enough food? Are they going to need a shelter?"

The state has a website,, with resources for hurricane and storm preparation.

In addition to making a plan, ensuring people have enough food and water and a place to go in the event that an evacuation is ordered, Scott said it's important to follow the news.

Especially with the likelihood that the storm could escalate during the weekend, he said it's critical that Floridians pay attention to elected officials and follow the news to stay up-to-date about any new information about the storm.

But there remains a lot of uncertainty about the storm and its path. Tropical storms and hurricanes tend to be unpredictable, and it's not yet clear when, where or if Erika will hit Florida.

"Hopefully this will continue just being a drill," the governor said.

In the meantime, get ready. Scott's next briefing on Erika is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. in Tallahassee.

Back from vacation, Gov. Scott heads to emergency center

Gov. Rick Scott cut short his Colorado vacation and flew home late Wednesday night as Tropical Storm Erika slowly gained strength in the Caribbean. Scott's temporary base of operations will be the state Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Tallahassee, the statewide command post for storm preparations.

In Florida, the imminent threat of severe weather is always a crucial moment that tests every governor's leadership skills. Floridians rely on the state's elected leader to provide calm reassurance, provide accurate information and help people prepare for the worst. 

The National Hurricane Center in Miami usually updates its storm track advisories at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily. Immediately afterward, NHC officials, Scott, state emergency management director Bryan Koon, Leo Lachat, director of the state Emergency Response Team (SERT), other state officials and county emergency planners will join in a conference call.

Scott will meet with reporters afterward, his press office said. Storm briefings are broadcast live on the Florida Channel.

August 26, 2015

From Colorado, Gov. Scott bring briefed on Tropical Storm Erika

ErikaTSAs Tropical Storm Erika moves on a path toward the Florida peninsula, state, county and city emergency planners are watching closely, especially in South Florida. Gov. Rick Scott is still on vacation in Colorado, and his office says Scott will be briefed twice Wednesday by phone from Bryan Koon, the state director of emergency management, at 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Below is the detail for the first briefing as it appears on Scott's official state schedule.


The latest advisory, at 8 a.m. Wednesday, has the storm on a track to make landfall, possibly in South Florida, late Sunday or early Monday.

Florida has been remarkably hurricane-free during Scott's nearly five years as governor. Three years ago this week, Scott skipped many events at the Republican National Convention in Tampa to focus on the effects that Tropical Storm Isaac was having on the state, mainly in the Florida Keys.

There's no word yet from the governor's office on whether Scott will cut short his Colorado vacation to return to Tallahassee to more closely monitor weather-related developments. Scott's office has declined Times/Herald requests for details of his vacation.