Nearly eight months after appointing him, Gov. Rick Scott on Monday announced that Mike Carroll will be the permanent secretary of the Department of Children and Families. Carroll is a long-time Pinellas County resident who was named DCF's interim secretary last April.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced late Friday that the Sunshine State would join a federal lawsuit to block President Barack Obama’s executive action sparing as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Of the 18 states now suing the Obama administration over immigration, all have Republican governors or Republican attorneys general. But Florida is the only major swing state with a significant Hispanic population, making Bondi’s decision a potential presidential campaign issue as the 2016 election cycle gets underway.
In a written statement, Bondi said the lawsuit isn’t about politics, it’s about Obama circumventing Congress and acting alone.
“This lawsuit is not about immigration, rather this lawsuit is about President Obama — yet again — overstepping the power granted to him by our United States Constitution,” Bondi said echoing the language of the suit initiated this week by Texas Attorney General and Governor-elect Greg Abbott.
“We need to fix our system of immigration,” Bondi said, “but willfully turning a blind eye to the inconvenience of law and rule is not the path to a remedy, but a prescription for unwarranted presidential overreach.”
But Democrats say Bondi is leading Republicans into a problem with Hispanics that has vexed them in recent presidential elections and threatens to do so again. Republican Gov. Rick Scott has stayed out of the fray and referred questions to Bondi's office.
UPDATE: The Florida Department of Health provided the following statement Friday: "Florida hospitals are prepared. In addition we have worked to enhance Florida’s readiness across the state through acquiring additional PPEs [personal protective equipment], establishing a National Guard Rapid Response Team and working with all hospitals, first responders and ports of entry to maintain the strong sense of readiness we have established regarding Ebola in Florida. We will continue to push the federal government to provide additional testing kits and to conduct screening at Florida airports."
ORIGINAL POST: Republican Gov. Rick Scott made Ebola preparedness a top priority in October during the final weeks of his re-election campaign — so much so, that he appeared on live television to tout his plans for keeping Floridians safe.
But as of Thursday, no Florida hospitals had been designated Ebola treatment centers.
The 36 treatment centers are in New York, California and ten other states, along with the District of Columbia, according to a list released by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The closest to Florida is Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
While the CDC plays a role in assessing potential Ebola treatment centers, it is up to state health officials to decide which hospitals receive the designation.
Florida Department of Health spokesman Nathan Dunn declined to say why no Florida hospitals appeared on the list. But he noted that 159 hospitals in Florida have completed Ebola-specific training.
"We feel like we’ve taken the steps necessary to make sure Florida is prepared for a case of Ebola," he said.
Read more here.
A federal appeals court on Wednesday dealt another blow to Gov. Rick Scott’s crusade to conduct drug tests on welfare applicants and upheld a lower court ruling that the practice was unconstitutional.
The unanimous ruling from a bipartisan panel of judges concluded that the state failed to show any evidence as to why it was necessary to force applicants seeking Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to surrender their constitutional rights as a condition of receiving the aid and instead suggested that the policy played on stereotypes.
"We have no reason to think impoverished individuals are necessarily and inherently prone to drug use, or, for that matter, are more prone to drug use than the general population,’’ the court said in its 54-page ruling.
Proponents hailed the decision, which came just two weeks after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges heard arguments in the case, and predicted it would have broader impact in protecting the rights of people receiving a wider range of government benefits – from Bright Futures scholarships to licenses.
"This should be the end of the road for the governor’s crusade,’’ said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, which sued the state. "The opinion says that people cannot be forced to surrender constitutional rights as a condition of any government benefit – driver licenses, library cards, student loans and farm subsidies."
Smart move: Ryan Smart started a new job on Monday as president of 1000 Friends of Florida, the state's advocacy organization for livable communities, working in the group's Tallahassee office.
Smart "will jump start our reinvigorated focus on managing our state's water resources, including our springs, and strengthening the resiliency of coastal infrastructure," 1000 Friends Chairman Tim Jackson said in a statement.
Smart has recently managed the Florida Conservation Coalition and he was previously a program and special project director with the Consumer Credit Housing Services of Delray Beach.
Leaving the bench: Miami-Dade County Judge Gladys Pérez is joining Shutts & Bowen as a partner in the firm's class action and mass litigation defense practice group,
Before becoming a judge, she served in Tallahassee as assistant general counsel to former Govs. Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist; as an assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division of the Florida Office of the Attorney General; and as a senior staff attorney for the Fourth District Court of Appeal.
In CFO Office: Michelle Dahnke, the governor's former deputy communications director, has been appointed the deputy chief financial officer of the Florida Department of Financial Services by state CFO Jeff Atwater.
Nearly 900,000 Floridians could lose Obamacare tax subsidies under a new U.S. Supreme Court case, but state political leaders say they’re making no plans to deal with the potential fallout.
The court case — affecting as many as 4.7 million people in 37 states — revolves around a dispute over how the federal government provides tax credits to those who buy insurance plans in Obamacare marketplaces, which are called “exchanges.”
Under the Affordable Care Act, people get the tax credits if they bought insurance on exchanges “established by the State.” Florida and 36 other states didn’t set up an exchange. So they left it to the federal government, which then issued a rule saying residents in those states would get the subsidy-like tax credits anyway.
Conservatives sued, saying the decision by the Internal Revenue Service violated the strict letter of the law. If the tax credits are struck down in 37 states, Republicans hope it could lead to the “implosion” of Obamacare. Liberals and defenders of the Obama administration say the lawsuit is politically motivated and that it fails to consider the design and context of the ACA: to make everyone insured.
The states in question could make the controversy go away by establishing their own exchanges. But Florida and other conservative-led states want Obamacare to fail — and they’re content right now to leave this in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court, which leans Republican.
“I’d wait and see what happens. That’s down the road,” said Gov. Rick Scott, a phrase repeated by his fellow Republicans who lead the House and Senate in Tallahassee.
After Scott was first elected in 2010, Florida fought against the ACA by returning a $1million federal grant to establish a state-run exchange. Scott said the state should spend no money to implement Obamacare, which he calls an unconstitutional job-killer.
Florida has also refused to expand Medicaid, which could ultimately provide government-run healthcare to nearly 1million in a state with one of the highest uninsured rates, nearly 25 percent at one point.
The federal government has no statistics on the effects of Obamacare on Florida’s uninsured, but a Gallup survey indicated that the law is reducing the uninsured rate across the nation. States that set up their own exchanges and that expanded Medicaid saw the biggest drop in the uninsured rate, Gallup reported.
Florida lawmakers have time to decide what to do next.
Though exit polls indicated Gov. Rick Scott lost Hispanics by a 20 percentage-point margin, the Republican’s campaign conducted its own post-election survey that showed he might have almost tied Democrat Charlie Crist with these voters.
Scott’s survey, conducted by OnMessage Inc., shows Scott earned 47 percent of the Hispanic vote compared to Crist’s 49 percent, unlike the exit polls that had the Democrat leading the Republican 58-38 percent. The 2010 exit polls had Scott winning 50 percent of the Hispanic vote to Democrat Alex Sink’s 48 percent.
“While an array of news articles point to a Rick Scott victory ‘despite losing ground with Hispanics,’ that’s simply not true,” wrote OnMessage’s Wes Anderson and Kayla Dunlap in a polling memo.
One potential problem with the surveys from OnMessage and Edison Research (which conducts the exit polls for media groups): Their Hispanic samples were relatively low. OnMessage’s sample was 304 and Edison’s was 367. So the error-margins of the results will vary widely. (UPDATE/aside: A few readers have pointed out it's important to note that some voters in post-election surveys have a tendency to say they backed the winner).
A third survey, conducted on the eve of the election by the premier Hispanic polling firm of Latino Decisions, had 400 Florida respondents and found Crist leading Scott 52-45 percent -- results that fall somewhere in between the OnMessage and Edison surveys.
OnMessage’s polling also took issue with Edison’s results for Cuban-American voters. It’s always a contested topic because Cubans (especially those in Miami-Dade) tend to vote Republican and are the most-reliable of Hispanic voters. Also, because Cuban-Americans are a subset of Hispanic voters, the margin of error in surveying this demographic group is even greater.
OnMessage said Scott won Cubans over Crist 65-30 percent. Edison showed Crist ahead of Scott, 50-46 percent. Unfortunately, Latino Decisions didn’t report Cuban-voter results.
So who’s right? Who knows? When the Florida voter file is finally updated next month, we can examine voting patterns of heavily Cuban-American precincts to get a better idea of how the vote broke.
My guess is OnMessage is more right on Cuban voters. It’s tough to believe that Crist, who made little outreach with Spanish-speaking voters and who called for an end to the Cuban embargo, would have attracted majority support from Cubans. Yes, it’s true that younger Cuban Americans tend to vote more Democrat or independently and aren’t as hardline about Cuba policy, but most election data indicated this was an older electorate.
Scott, meanwhile, had a Cuban-American running mate in Carlos Lopez-Cantera and the support of Miami-Dade’s Cuban-American legislative delegation. Scott got just 39 percent of Miami-Dade’s vote in 2014 and, considering 72 percent of the county’s registered Republicans are Cuban-Americans, it’s reasonable to guess that an outsized portion of the Scott vote was among Cuban Americans.
“When the Hispanic vote is broken down by county of origin, we find that Governor Scott won a sizable majority of Cuban voters as well as more Puerto Rican voters than many expected,” Anderson and Dunlap wrote. “In the end, most Hispanic voters were focused on the economy, and they decided that under Governor Scott’s leadership, the state’s real estate and job markets are headed in the right direction.”
The race for Florida governor was officially certified last week, so now we have final numbers. By our estimate, more than $103 million was spent on TV ads since March.
All told, 6,026,802 Floridians cast ballots. Of them, about 53 percent voted early in person or by absentee ballot (1,878,537 absentees + 1,309,198 early votes = 3,187,735).
More people voted in the governor's race than any other contest: 5,951,561. Scott received 2,865,343 votes to Crist's 2,801,198. That's 48.14 percent to 47.07, a margin of 1.08 percent, or 64,145.
Scott's raw-vote margin was 4.2 percent bigger than in 2010, when his margin was 61,550 over Democrat Alex Sink. On a percentage basis, though, Scott did worse than in 2010, when his win-margin was 1.2 percentage points (the overall number of people voting in the governor's race grew 11 percent since 2010).
Here's how the 2014 votes broke down by media market, along with the ad spending:
From an email:
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Governor Rick Scott today announced the appointments of Frank Collins, Kim McDougal, Brad Piepenbrink, Karl Rasmussen and Jeff Woodburn to key positions in the Executive Office of the Governor. Frank Collins will serve as Deputy Chief of Staff; Kim McDougal will serve as Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Affairs Director; Brad Piepenbrink will serve as Deputy Chief of Staff and External Affairs Director; Karl Rasmussen will serve as Deputy Chief of Staff; and Jeff Woodburn will serve as the Governor’s Policy Director. All positions are effective on December 1st.
After successfully guiding Gov. Rick Scott's re-election victory, campaign manager Melissa Sellers is a leading candidate to be Scott's new chief of staff in a second term, running state government on a day-to-day basis.
Multiple Capitol sources say Sellers is at the top of a very short list of candidates to succeed Adam Hollingsworth, who will soon return to private life after two-and-a-half years in the high-pressure position.
"It's Melissa's if she wants it," one source said.
One question about Sellers concerns timing, and whether she might take a high-level post in the presidential campaign of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or her former boss, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Contacted Wednesday, Sellers declined to comment.
Sellers, 32, is a driven and disciplined Scott loyalist who joined his staff as communications director in 2012 and was appointed campaign manager last January.
"It's going to shake out pretty quickly," another source said Wednesday, predicting Scott would reorganize his senior staff within weeks.
On Election Night in Bonita Springs, Scott told cheering supporters how his late mother Esther shaped his life, before he turned his attention to his campaign team. "I have a tremendous staff," Scott told the crowd, and the next two words out of his mouth were: "Melissa Sellers."