February 12, 2019

DeSantis, Scott and Rubio ask Trump for $200 million for Everglades projects

 

Tamiami bridge construction

Ever since he started his term as Florida’s most powerful leader, Gov. Ron DeSantis has held true to his stance on the environment, particularly his commitment to the Everglades.

The self-titled “Teddy Roosevelt-style Republican” sent a letter to President Donald Trump Monday, asking for $200 million to fast-track construction for Everglades restoration.

The letter, co-signed by U.S. Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, asks that the president include the money in his annual budget request to fulfill “long overdue federal commitments to restore the Everglades.”

“Florida’s recent struggles with harmful algal blooms have raised the stakes for accelerated progress on Everglades restoration,” the letter said. “Enhanced federal funding to complement years of historic state funding levels would fast-track design and construction [...] to divert and clean Lake Okeechobee releases and increase water deliveries to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay/”

DeSantis, who has made the environment a top priority, made a $625 million commitment to the environment in his annual budget proposal, representing a quarter of a $2.5 billion promise he made to spend on water quality over the next four years — a $1 billion increase from past spending.

About half the spending — a record $360 million — would go to Everglades projects, speeding up a 17,000-acre Everglades reservoir in farm fields south of Lake Okeechobee and remove almost 200,000 pounds of discharged phosphorus per year — a major source of nutrient pollution.

The request for federal money would specifically go toward the Central Everglades Planning Project and the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir. They would also advance construction of water storage and treatment facilities planned for the Caloosahatchee River West Basin Storage Reservoir and Indian River Lagoon-South projects, in order to reduce the frequency and intensity of algal blooms.

The state budget proposal makes a commitment to the cause, providing $25 million to treat the blooms and red tide plaguing the state’s water supply.

"Are we spending money now in a way we can look back and say 'it's a good thing they really tackled that?'" he said at a press conference announcing his budget. "With the water, people want us to tackle that and I'm serious and get it done."

January 31, 2019

Rick Scott says Trump should use emergency powers to pay for a border wall

Election2018SenateScottFlorida

@alextdaugherty

Florida Sen. Rick Scott is urging President Donald Trump to declare an emergency to pay for a border wall if Democrats won’t agree to it.

Less than one week after the longest shutdown in federal government history was temporarily halted, Scott said the president should bypass Congress and use Department of Defense dollars to pay for a border wall, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared Thursday that there will be “no wall money” in a bill to fund the government beyond February 15.

“If the Democrats refuse to work with him, then the president needs to use his emergency powers to fund border security and include a permanent solution for DACA and TPS,” Scott said in a statement.

Scott’s position is new. He did not explicitly endorse a move that could divert Department of Defense funds from ongoing disaster relief projects to build a wall during the previous shutdown. An emergency declaration by Trump would almost certainly be challenged in the courts, though it would allow the president to sign spending bills to keep the government open without reneging on a campaign promise to build the wall.

More here.

January 17, 2019

Marco Rubio and Rick Scott follow Trump and McConnell’s lead on shutdown negotiations

Gov Rick Scott

@alextdaugherty

Amid the longest-ever federal shutdown, Rick Scott called a solo press conference on Thursday to address “Washington dysfunction,” an unusual move in the U.S. Senate, where rank-and-file lawmakers typically pair up or gather in groups in front of the cameras.

The former governor, who campaigned on a slogan to “Make Washington Work,” is unable to force action as the most junior Republican in the Senate. As governor he passed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act against the wishes of the National Rifle Association and liberal Democrats weeks after the Parkland school shooting. In Washington, Scott is following Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s lead.

Florida’s Republican leaders in Washington don’t have the power to end a government shutdown on their own, but Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio aren’t publicly offering any ideas to resolve the current impasse between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over border-wall funding.

Thousands of federal employees aren’t getting paid while negotiations between the president and House and Senate leaders are largely at a standstill.

During his 10-minute press conference, Scott’s only substantive contribution to alleviate part of the shutdown’s effects was signing onto a relatively uncontroversial bill backed by Democrats and Republicans that would make sure Florida’s 5,000 Coast Guard members get paid during the shutdown, a proposal also backed by Rubio. Scott’s other ideas, such as suspending congressional pay and demanding that lawmakers stay in Washington over Martin Luther King Day, do nothing to resolve differences.

“It’s frustrating to me to watch how our government’s shut down,” Scott said. “The Coast Guard’s not getting paid. Other people are not getting paid and we’re not going down the path to secure our border.”

More here.

January 08, 2019

Rick Scott joins a Congress that can’t clean up after itself

Gov Rick Scott

@alextdaugherty

Rick Scott comes to Washington after eight years governing the nation’s third-largest state and a perfect three-for-three record in expensive campaigns. He even gets a special swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allowed him to finish his term as governor by appointing dozens of supporters to various boards and commissions.

But Scott isn’t the highest-profile incoming senator. That distinction belongs to Utah senator and former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who sealed the deal with an op-ed denouncing Donald Trump a day before taking office.

Instead, Scott comes to a city where the trash is overflowing on the National Mall because Trump decided to shut down the government to fight for wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. He’s the most junior senator in a body that regularly keeps the government running with hours or minutes to spare and his extra week in office as governor cost him three spots on the seniority list, a move that could affect committee assignments down the road.

“I don’t get why the government’s shut down, I didn’t do it,” Scott said during an interview inside a makeshift basement office. “I got my stuff done. Everyone wants to blame one person but it’s everyone’s responsibility; it’s House members... and the president. It’s all their responsibility to get this done.”

Scott expressed support for Trump’s border-wall push, arguing that a wall helps to fulfill every American’s desire to feel safe. He also hinted that the bomb-throwing tactics of past first-year senators like Ted Cruz, who led an effort to shut the government down in 2013 to try to repeal Obamacare, won’t be part of his game plan in Washington.

“If you look at my career I’ve gotten my stuff done by talking to other people and surrounding myself with smart people, by finding where there’s agreement and working on that, but also trying to be an incrementalist where I say, ‘What can you get done today?’”

Read more here.

November 14, 2018

Rick Scott won't certify the results of his own election, lawyer says

AP_775192837_FLORIDA-SCOTT
Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks during an event in Hialeah, Fla. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Scott McIntyre 775192837

Gov. Rick Scott will not participate in the Elections Canvassing Commission on Tuesday, relieving him from the chance that he could certify — or not — the results of his U.S. Senate race.

Scott had been silent about his participation on the canvassing commission, a relatively obscure board that signs off on the results of each federal, state and multi-county election. The commission consists of Scott and two members of the Cabinet that he chooses.

On Wednesday, his lawyer told U.S. District Judge Mark Walker that Scott plans to recuse himself from the commission, just like he did in 2014, when Scott was running for re-election and also faced the chance of certifying the results of his own election.

Since the other members of the Cabinet were also on the ballot, he appointed then-state Senate President Don Gaetz, Sen. Rob Bradley and Sen. Kelli Stargel to fill in for them on the commission four years ago.

Lawyers for the League of Women Voters of Florida said they want a "neutral third party" to fill in for Scott. The only other member of the Cabinet who could replace him — CFO Jimmy Patronis — is a Scott appointee who also is also on the ballot this year.

November 12, 2018

Trump, Scott and Rubio continue to push claims of Florida voter fraud without evidence

Donald trump 2

@alextdaugherty

President Donald Trump and Florida’s two highest-ranking Republicans are continuing to push unfounded claims of voter fraud as the state recounts votes to decide closely watched races for governor, U.S. Senate and agriculture commissioner.

The president said valid ballots in Florida should be thrown out because “an honest vote count is no longer possible.”

Governor Rick Scott said his Democratic U.S. Senate opponent, Bill Nelson, is “clearly trying commit voter fraud to win this election.”

And Republican Senator Marco Rubio said “Democrat lawyers... are here to change the results of the election and Broward is where they plan to do it.”

There is no evidence of voter fraud in Broward County, according to election monitors from the state’s Division of Elections who have been stationed there since at least Election Day. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has not received a request in writing to investigate voter fraud from Scott. And the Florida Department of State said Monday their staff has “not seen any evidence of criminal activity in Broward County at this time. ”

The president suggested Monday that Florida should certify the election based on Election Night vote tallies — even though the state is in the midst of a legally mandated recount. He had previously tweeted that Democrats were trying to “steal two big elections in Florida,” suggesting that Broward County withheld votes during the 2016 presidential election because they were “getting ready to do a ‘number’” on Trump’s margin of victory in Florida and that Democrats “’found’ many votes” in Broward County to help Nelson and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum.

“The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged,” Trump tweeted, while providing no evidence. “An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”

Read more here.

November 09, 2018

Bill Nelson goes back to court Wednesday, challenging Florida’s election signature match law

Bill-Nelson

 

Sen. Bill Nelson and his attorneys will head back to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida Wednesday afternoon in a fight for a ruling that would require ballots with “signature mismatches” be counted.

Nelson is suing the Florida Secretary of State and demanding the state count every mail-in and provisional ballot deemed to have a so-called “signature mismatch.” He also requests Saturday's deadline to canvass ballots be extended until the legal matter is resolved.

The threshold for a recount will be determined by the number of ballots reported by the canvassing board by noon Saturday. Those returns are what will determine recounts in not just the Senate race, but potentially the race for governor, agriculture commissioner and a smattering of statehouse seats.

In the complaint, his attorney wrote that by rejecting and discarding ballots with signature mismatches, the local canvassing boards are disenfranchising the voters who cast them. The complaint accused local canvassing boards of engaging “demonstrably standardless, inconsistent, and unreliable” process that has been shown to result in the “disproportionate rejection of [vote-by-mail] and provisional ballots cast by ethnic and racial minorities, as well as young, first-time voters.”

 

Mohammed Jazil, who is representing Secretary Ken Detzner, said in a hearing Friday that by changing the noon deadline, it would cause problems with the counties that have already submitted their unofficial returns.

He said that by 4 p.m. Friday, 52 of the state's 67 counties have already provided their returns to the state. 

"The counties would have to undo the counts they have already submitted and redo the counts," Jazil said."The recount would have to stop and then restart."

Judge Robert Hinkle, who is overseeing the case, said in scheduling hearing Friday that he doesn’t plan on rushing to make a ruling before noon Saturday.

“The subject this endeavor is to get this right,” he said in the hearing. “It’s far less urgent to have a ruling by noon tomorrow. It’s far more important to do this well.”

The state wants to defend the legality of the statute on signature matching, but Nelson’s side "wants a resolution as quickly possible.”

Nelson, who trails Gov. Rick Scott with a slim 0.18 percent margin, believes the final vote total will continue to move in his favor before a recount is called Saturday.

His election lawyer, Marc Elias, said on a conference call Thursday morning that by the end of the month, the senator will be preparing for a fourth term in Washington.

Broward County was still counting early voting and vote-by-mail ballots Friday. Nelson received 68.9 percent of the votes there in the primary. In Palm Beach County, where Nelson received 58.4 percent of the votes, the canvassing board was still counting vote-by-mail ballots.

October 25, 2018

Verizon names Panama City one of the first to get 5G after facing backlash over Hurricane Michael response

AP_FLCO131_TROPICAL_WEATHER
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has publicly rebuked Verizon for its slow response to Hurricane Michael.

Verizon's recovery in the Panhandle from Hurricane Michael has been nothing short of a mess, with its rivals recovering faster and Gov. Rick Scott and others publicly berating the carrier's slow response.

To make up for it, Verizon is throwing hard-hit Panama City a bone: It announced this week that the city would be one of the first five in the nation to get its next-generation 5G network.

Panama City is joining Los Angeles, Houston, Sacramento and Indianapolis in getting the service, which promises download speeds many times faster than traditional 4G LTE.

"This is about helping Panama City rebuild better than ever," Verizon spokeswoman Kate Jay said.

Panama City would become the first city in Florida to get 5G, but the details are thin.

The service might just be Verizon's in-home 5G service, which is meant to replace your traditional home Wi-Fi, albeit with superfast speeds. The other four cities got that service this month.

But the service could be over Verizon's cell towers, like a traditional cellular network. That's cutting-edge technology that the carrier doesn't expect to start rolling out until 2019 (other carriers are racing to roll out 5G as well). No phones currently sold are equipped to use 5G cellular technology.

When asked which service Panama City might get, Jay said, "Stay tuned on that, as we work to finalize our plans."

Whatever service Panama City gets, it won't be until 2019.

Verizon said it suffered "unprecedented" damage to its network after the Category 4 storm made landfall, and it's taken two weeks for the network to recover.

Over that time, it was subjected to multiple rebukes in press conferences and on Twitter by Scott and CFO Jimmy Patronis, who's from Panama City.

"We've put a lot of food and water out all across the state," Scott told the press a few days after the storm. "Well, if you have no internet and you have no cellphone, it's hard to get the information out. AT&T is working there, but Verizon is not."

October 15, 2018

Rick Scott and Jimmy Patronis aren't happy with Verizon's response to Hurricane Michael

AP_FLCO131_TROPICAL_WEATHER
Gov. Rick Scott points out some damage caused by Hurricane Michael while flying somewhere over the panhandle of Florida Thursday. The devastation inflicted by Hurricane Michael the day before came into focus Thursday as rows upon rows of homes found smashed to pieces, and rescue crews began making their way into the stricken areas in hopes of accounting for hundreds of people who may have stayed behind. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott and CFO Jimmy Patronis have been taking aim at Verizon over the last 24 hours, apparently frustrated by how slow the cell carrier has been to restore service to the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Michael.

During a Sunday press briefing, Scott mentioned Verizon's problems twice, while touting the company's chief competitor.

"There in Bay County, we’re still waiting on Verizon," Scott said, adding why it was important for cell service to be restored.

"We’ve put a lot of food and water out all across the state," Scott said. "Well, if you have no internet and you have no cellphone, it’s hard to get the information out. AT&T is working there, but Verizon is not."

Scott, continuing to dig at Verizon, has also been retweeting AT&T and praising the company on Twitter.

Thanks, @ATT, for working to get communications back online quickly & helping Florida communities following Michael," Scott tweeted.

Patronis, whose hometown is Bay County's Panama City, also took aim at Verizon on Twitter, complete with the hashtag #fixitnow.

"We are on Day 6 with no @verizon service in Bay County," Patronis tweeted. "Phones are critical infrastructure for Search and Rescue and First Responder communications. We need the same response from @verizon as we have seen from our electric companies."

Verizon in a statement said it's suffered "unprecedented damage to our fiber, which is essential for our network."

"Our fiber crews are working around the clock to make repairs, and while they are making good progress, we still have work to do to get the fiber completely repaired," the company said.

But the other three carriers are apparently not having the same problem. The Wall Street Journal quoted customers and company officials with AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint saying that all three carriers were up and running in the area.

The Panhandle suffered widespread cell service outages in the wake of Hurricane Michael, with more than 70 percent of towers down in the hardest-hit areas the day after the storm came through.

And the carriers have made little progress in Bay County since the storm made landfall.

All other counties hit by the storm have at least half of their cell towers back in use, but in Bay County, more than 65 percent of cell towers were still out Monday morning — down from 78 percent the morning after the storm, according to the FCC.

Both Verizon and AT&T have been big donors to the Republican Party of Florida for years, and Verizon has given more than $50,000 to Scott's campaigns since 2013, records show.

On Monday afternoon, Scott issued a press release noting that Verizon has opened an emergency communications center at their Panama City store and was also supporting the Bay County Emergency Operations Center.

Herald/Times staff writer Emily L. Mahoney contributed to this report.

October 11, 2018

Rick Scott asks CNN to move debate back 2 weeks, citing Hurricane Michael

Gov Rick Scott

@alextdaugherty

Gov. Rick Scott's U.S. Senate campaign asked CNN to postpone a scheduled debate with Sen. Bill Nelson by two weeks on Thursday, saying that the governor will have "no time for campaigning" as the Florida Panhandle recovers from Hurricane Michael. 

"We appreciate CNN understanding the dire situation in North Florida," campaign manager Jackie Schutz Zeckman said in a statement. "Floridians deserve the chance to see candidates debate so they can judge their leadership skills, experience, and differences. Governor Scott looks forward to debating, but will have no time for campaigning in the next few weeks as he focuses exclusively on recovery efforts for the foreseeable future." 

Scott has been a near constant presence on TV this week in his official capacity as governor, urging residents in evacuation zones to leave and giving updates on storm preparation by state agencies. Nelson was in Washington to vote on a massive water infrastructure bill when Michael made landfall on Wednesday but both Nelson and Sen. Marco Rubio missed votes on Thursday to travel to the Panhandle. 

Moving the Oct. 16th debate back two weeks would set the nationally televised event for Oct. 30, exactly one week before Election Day and after early voting begins.