July 06, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott trumpets MLB spring training complex

via @JeremySWallace

Florida Gov. Rick Scott starts his day with a little baseball celebration.

The Republican Governor will hold a ceremonial bill signing for legislation this morning that allows a land swap between Palm Beach County and the city of West Palm Beach to remove a final hurdle for the construction of a $135 million stadium that will be home to two major league baseball teams’ spring training teams.

The Washington Nationals and Houston Astros would co-operate the stadium that is scheduled to open in 2017.

The deal assures the Astros and Nationals will remain among the 15 spring training teams in Florida for the next 30 years. A year ago, the Astros were considered a potential threat to move to Arizona. They are the only team in either the American League West or National League West that continues spring training in Florida rather than Arizona.

Arizona’s aggressive push to lure MLB teams away from Florida for spring training has been particular tough on Florida’s east coast. Over the last 20 years, Arizona has convinced 7 teams to move to Arizona for spring training, giving it 15 teams total. Only four three teams remain in southeast Florida – the Mets, Cardinals and Marlins. But with the Nationals moving from Brevard County and the Astros from Osceola, there will now be 5 teams clustered around Palm Beach County and Martin County.

Scott signed the legislation on June 10, but often holds ceremonial bill signings around the state to garner extra publicity.

--JEREMY WALLACE, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

July 04, 2015

In honor of the Fourth of July, PolitiFact takes a look at a claim by Scott Walker about the Founding Fathers

As he moves closer to declaring a presidential bid, Gov. Scott Walker often tells audiences a story about his first visit to Independence Hall in Philadelphia and his reverence for the founding fathers.

In closing a June 20, 2015 speech to the Faith & Freedom Coalition in Washington, D.C, Walker repeated the story, describing how, as a boy, he viewed the founding fathers "like superheroes."

He was awed when, in 2011, he stepped into the building where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were debated and signed.

"And I looked at the chairs and I looked at the desks and it dawned on me," Walker told the audience with a dramatic pause. "These were ordinary people. These were ordinary people who did something extraordinary. You see, they didn’t just risk their political careers. They didn’t just risk their business ventures. These were patriots who risked their lives -- their lives -- for the freedoms we hold dear today."

Walker has many times called the founding fathers ordinary people. And while campaigning, he has emphasized that he himself doesn’t come from wealth or prominence, even bragging that he bought a sweater for a dollar.

Turn to PolitiFact Wisconsin for the rest of the story.

Gov. Rick Scott spends nearly $300K on political consultants in 3 months

via @JeremySWallace

For someone who cannot seek re-election, Gov. Rick Scott is spending a whole lot of money on political consultants, adding fuel to speculation that he is aiming to run for the U.S. Senate in 2018.

This week, Scott’s Let’s Get To Work political fundraising committee reported paying $26,000 to a pair of political consulting firms, one in Miami that specializes in Hispanic outreach and the other based in Tallahassee. With that, Let’s Get to Work has now spent $292,616 on eight different political consulting firms just since April 1 on a wide range of services, including work on surveys, research, advertising and general consulting.

Scott has told some big political donors that he is interested in running for the Senate in 2018. But publicly, Scott has brushed off the questions by the media about his political future.

Asked in April about running for the Senate, Scott did not directly answer.

“I’m going to keep working on being governor,” he said then. “I just got re-elected. We’re going to have a good four years. It’s exciting.”

More here.

July 03, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott isn't really that rich, is he? (No, he isn't)

The big surge in Gov. Rick Scott's personal wealth in the past year raises a question: Is Florida's governor the richest governor in the country? The short answer is no, not by a longshot, but he's way up there.

Scott's net worth is $147 million. He got rich running the Columbia/HCA hospital chain, left the firm in 1997 with a $10 million severance package and stock worth $300 million, became an investor and has successfully nurtured an extensive portfolio. The financial disclosure statement he filed with the state this week shows his net worth grew by $14 million over the past year but is still well below the $217 million he reported when he filed to run for governor in June 2010.

Scott has not yet made up the $73 million he spent in that campaign.

By comparison, Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee reports a net worth of $2 billion. He's the son of the founder of the nationwide chain of truck stops known as Pilot Flying J, based in Knoxville, Tennessee. Care to fill 'er up, Mac? Pilot's presence on America's interstates is as ubiquitous as mile markers: There are a dozen Pilot travel centers within a 100-mile radius of Tampa alone, and more are on the way.

A number of former governors are a lot wealthier than Scott, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger of California ($300 million in 2014), Jon Corzine of New Jersey ($300 million in 2013) and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts (at least $190 million in 2012). Former New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller had a net worth of $62 million in 1974, which in present-day dollars would be worth about $303 million. Net worth numbers fluctuate from year to year and states have different reporting requirements.

On the web site cheatsheet.com, based on public records and news reports, Scott is rated as the eighth-richest officeholder in the U.S. Behind Haslam at No. 2 is Rep. Darrell Issa of California, followed by U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. and Secretary of State John Kerry, whose wife Theresa is heiress to the Heinz ketchup fortune.

It's all relative. The bottom line is that Scott makes more money in a month that most Floridians will make in a lifetime. Isn't that rich? 

--With reporting by Tampa Bay Times researcher Caryn Baird

July 02, 2015

Putnam's plea for pre-veto face time with Gov. Scott was ignored

Here's yet another backstory on Gov. Rick Scott's budget vetoes, and this one is likely to give Scott headaches at future Cabinet meetings.

As the budget time clock was ticking, Scott and his staff dissed Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

It began to unfold on Friday, June 19. As the Legislature was passing a budget, ending a three-week special session, Putnam immediately sought face time with the governor to argue his case for priority projects."I request a meeting with you at your earliest convenience," Putnam wrote.

Putnam's office hand-delivered a highly detailed four-page letter to Scott asking for "careful consideration" of his priorities, including $4.5 million for water-farming projects, $3.7 million to replace a dilapidated petroleum lab at Port Everglades and $2,000 raises for state forestry firefighters.

Not only did Putnam not get the meeting he wanted, but the request was ignored, and four days later Scott vetoed all three requests, among others.

"We never received a response," said Putnam's spokeswoman, Jennifer Meale.

Even though Scott signed the budget four days later, and a week earlier than required by law, his spokeswoman said there wasn't enough time. (The day before Scott signed the budget, Monday, June 22, Scott was on a prearranged seven-city fly-around to promote the $430 million tax cut package).

"The governor reviewed project information submitted to OPB (Office of Planning and Budgeting) staff during the regular session and during the special session up until the budget was finished by the Legislature," spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said in a written response. "The governor did not take any additional meetings on special projects once the budget was finalized by the Legislature because we were up against a tight time frame to get the budget signed by June 30th.”

July 01, 2015

State tight lipped on incentives given to Missouri company to create 15 jobs

@JeremySWallace

No amount of jobs appears too few for Gov. Rick Scott to celebrate with bold headlines and press releases.

That point was obvious today, when Scott sent out a press release applauding the state’s role in luring 15 new jobs that will be created over two years in Suwannee County in north Florida.

"We are on a mission to make Florida the number one destination for jobs, and today we are another step closer as we announce the creation of new jobs in Live Oak," Scott said in a press release.

But what Scott or the state did to lure those 15 jobs is a mystery. That is because neither Scott nor Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development arm, will say what the state gave International Mulch Company, a Missouri-based business, for financial incentives until as late after Christmas.

Continue reading "State tight lipped on incentives given to Missouri company to create 15 jobs" »

Gov. Rick Scott's net worth grows to $147 million

Gov. Rick Scott reports his net worth has grown to nearly $147 million -- an increase of about $14 million or nearly 11 percent more than the year before. The wealthiest governor in Florida history filed his annual financial disclosure statement with the Commission on Ethics, and the agency posted it online Wednesday.

Scott reports that the assets held in a blind trust are worth $128 million and that his Naples home is worth $15.4 million. Most of Scott's assets are kept in a blind trust, a decision that was the subject of much litigation over the past year in a case in which the governor prevailed. Scott has defended the blind trust as necessary to prohibit him from making official decisions that could affect his portfolio. But because the assets are in a blind trust, the public cannot know how Scott got richer over the past 12 months.

Scott did list the assets in the trust when he filed his previous financial disclosure one year ago.

Senate president calls Gov. Scott's UCF veto 'a shot at Orlando'

If Republicans in the Florida Senate are getting over their anger at Gov. Rick Scott's rash of vetoes, they sure don't sound like it.

Appearing on News 13's Political Connections, Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, did not mince words in describing Scott's zeroing out of money for programs for people with disabilities and for the start of a downtown Orlando campus of the University of Central Florida.

"It's a shot at our community. It's a shot at Orlando, Orange County, Central Florida, those of us who believe in economic development," Gardiner told the cable outlet in an interview. "While everybody will try to say, 'Oh, this is a shot at Andy Gardiner,' in many ways, it's a shot at our community." 

Scott vetoed $15 million to start the first phase of UCF's "downtown presence," saying it was not on the three-year list of approved projects by the Board of Governors. Gardiner said the BOG backed the project but for less money and he defended the Legislature's right to increase appropriations.

He said Scott vetoed other university projects that had the BOG's support, saying: "That's where the inconsistency comes in from our members. They kind of wonder, what are we playing with here?"

Gardiner also accused Scott of vetoing projects that were supported by the governor's own agency heads. He called out by name Barbara Palmer, director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, saying she "advocated for" Senate-backed projects to help people with special needs enter the work force. APD did not respond to the Times/Herald's request for a response.

Gardiner is term limited. But he has another full year as president of the Senate and his staying power may be enhanced by the fact that Senate Republicans have not yet coalesced around a successor in the competition between Sens. Jack Latvala of Clearwater and Joe Negron of Stuart.

June 29, 2015

Pam Bondi asks court to move forward with execution after Supreme Court ruling

via @MichaelAuslen

Florida’s rapid pace of executions — derailed in February because of a pending U.S. Supreme Court Case — is cleared to start up again. And the state isn’t wasting any time.

Just hours after the high court ruled that a drug used for lethal injections in Florida is allowed under the Constitution, Attorney General Pam Bondi filed to lift a state court order blocking executions.

Specifically, Bondi is asking the Florida Supreme Court to move forward with the execution of convicted quadruple-murderer Jerry Correll, who would be the 22nd person put to death since Rick Scott became governor in 2011.

He would also be the first person executed since January. The six-month break is unusual for Scott, who has signed death warrants at a faster pace than any governor in recent memory. Former Gov. Jeb Bush ordered 21 executions in his eight years in office, and Charlie Crist waited a full year and a half before issuing his first death warrant.

In Florida, executions take the form of lethal injection. The process requires a series of three drugs: one to knock out and numb the inmate, followed by one that causes paralysis and a third to induce cardiac arrest.

More here

As Gov. Scott's vetoes reverberate, one critic offers praise

Gov. Rick Scott's liberal use of his veto pen in the new state budget continues to reverberate across the state in a number of pointed editorials and woe-is-us news stories. But one of Scott's most persistent critics isn't complaining.

Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen penned a piece over the weekend that actually sprinkled some praise on Scott for a "rare display of might" in dealing with a "malfunctioning" Florida Legislature, and the popular author also concluded that Scott axed so much spending ($461.4 million) that he couldn't have been playing favorites. "The slashing was evenhanded," Hiaasen writes.

Others were less charitable. The Gainesville Sun blasted Scott for vetoing $200,000 for Reichert House, a well-regarded after school program for troubled children in Alachua County that has a waiting list for services. The paper questioned the values of a governor who cut projects for the poor and disabled while championing a cell-phone tax cut that will save a typical customer $20 a year.

Scott's motives continue to be questioned by fellow Republicans. Rep. Ken Roberson, R-Punta Gorda, is quoted in his hometown paper, the Charlotte Sun, as telling a GOP club about the flood of vetoes: "A lot of us legislators are still scratching our heads over that. It may have been political.”

The Leesburg Daily Commercial reports that backers of the historical significance of the notorious fugitive Ma Barker aren't surrendering despite Scott's veto of $250,000 to restore her Depression-era hideout in Marion County, the scene of a bloody shootout with FBI agents. "We are disappointed, but we are not deterred," said the project's champion, Marion County Tax Collector George Albright, a former Republican House member.