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News Service Of Florida

The News Service of Florida provides journalists, lobbyists, government officials and other civic leaders with comprehensive, objective information about the activities of state government year-round.

Florida bond deals could take hit in U.S. tax overhaul

Florida taxpayers could lose billions of dollars in future savings under part of pending federal tax-reform legislation that would limit the ability of states and local governments to refinance bonds.

“This is down in the weeds, but it is extraordinarily important,” said Ben Watkins, director of the state Division of Bond Finance, after briefing aides to Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet members on Wednesday.

Sweeping tax bills have passed the U.S. House and Senate, and the final version will have to be worked out in negotiations between the two chambers. But Watkins said both bills contain a provision that would prohibit the “advance refunding” of tax-exempt bonds.

The ability to refinance bonds during a period of low interest rates allowed the state to save $2.5 billion in a 6 ½-year period that ended in December 2016, according to the Division of Bond Finance.

In the 2015-2016 fiscal year alone, the state executed 13 refundings, totaling about $3 billion in debt that resulted in $619 million in savings.

The ability to refinance bonds has been the prime reason Florida government has been able to reduce its overall debt — which peaked at more than $28 billion in 2010 — by more than $4 billion through June 2016.

But if the new tax law prohibits the refinancings, it means Florida will not be able to realize similar savings in the future, although the scope of the savings will depend on whether interest rates rise or not.

“It impairs our ability to reduce interest rates and save money for our citizens and taxpayers,” Watkins said in an interview.

Watkins said state and local government bond officials were given no early indication that federal lawmakers were looking at ending the practice as part of an overall effort to balance large cuts in corporate and personal income-tax rates in the new legislation.

“It’s like a drive-by shooting. It came from nowhere,” Watkins told the Cabinet aides. “It hadn’t been in any proposals, and it just came out of the blue.”

With the expectation that the prohibition will remain in the final tax legislation and take effect Dec. 31, Watkins said the state is moving forward with immediate plans to refinance about $400 million in school construction bonds and approximately another $100 million in debt related to Florida Turnpike projects.

“This is it. We’re done after this,” he told the Cabinet aides.

Watkins said he has alerted Florida’s congressional members to the issue, noting the inability to reduce debt costs will impact the state’s ability to build roads and other infrastructure projects.

“To the extent our debt costs more, that means we have less money to build schools, build roads, do water systems. It’s that way across the country,” Watkins said.

Watkins said tax-exempt bonds issued by state governments and other entities have long been a target for some federal officials who view them as “subsidies.”

“Since they can’t collect personal income taxes on the investment income for tax-exempt bonds, they view that as a federal subsidy,” Watkins said.

He said bond-refinancing supporters have argued that while the provision will benefit the federal government, it will cost state and local governments in lost savings.

“We’ve explained to them why from a policy standpoint that it doesn’t make any sense. But it makes no difference to them because they are fixated on the $1.4 trillion number,” Watkins said.

Watkins said the ban on advance refundings will produce an estimated $17 billion in federal revenue over the next decade, which is part of the overall plan to keep the tax-reform bill from increasing the federal deficit by no more than $1.4 trillion over that period.

Watkins said the provision will prevent advance refundings during the “no-call” period of the bonds, which typically is the first 10 years of a 30-year bond issue.

After that period, Florida and other governments will be able to refinance the tax-exempt bonds, although the limitation will make refinancing much less effective, Watkins said.

“(It is) a tremendous impediment to our ability to be able to be nimble and access the market to lower our interest rates when the market conditions are favorable,” Watkins said.

Monica Russo bows out of run for Florida Democratic Party chair

Even though she was never officially eligible, Monica Russo has been running for the past few weeks to become the next party chair of the Florida Democratic Party — until Wednesday.

In a statement, Russo, the president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Florida and executive vice president at 1199 SEIU in Miami, said she would not pursue what appeared to be a quixotic attempt to win the election as next party chair.

“As soon as I sought election, I learned that the Democratic Party’s rules and structures are closed and exclusive,” she says. “The rules do not make those who have fought alongside the Democratic Party feel welcome. This holds progress back, and changes are clearly needed.  Though I am not eligible to run for Chair, I still plan on continuing my push for these common-sense reforms.”

Russo is not a local party chair or state committeewoman, which continues to be the only way to become a candidate for FDP Chair. Though there has been talk about reforming that law, it won’t happen before Saturday, when state Democrats will convene in Orlando to elect a new chair.

To become eligible, Russo would have had to move out of Miami-Dade County, a maneuver previous party leaders have used but which Russo rejected. Or Democrats could have changed the rules during Saturday’s meeting, something that would have required a two-thirds vote and which would have been unlikely to succeed.

The race is now officially between three candidates: Hillsborough County State Committeewoman Alma Gonzalez, Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Terrie Rizzo and Brevard County Democratic Executive Chair Stacey Patel.

“We must open up the party so that all Democrats feel welcome and engaged,” Russo said in her statement. “Our power lies in grassroots leaders and we need to welcome new activists and young people into our fold because it is not just about how much money a person can raise or the existing connections a person may have — it is about giving everyone a seat at the table.”

Russo’s critique mirrors that of other activists, including former party Chairwoman Allison Tant, who have called on Democratic leaders to revise the manner in which the party boss is chosen.

The party’s by-laws not only require potential candidates for the chairmanship to be county leaders, but executive-committee votes are based on a complicated formula that takes into account the number of registered voters in each county and how they cast their ballots in the most-recent general election.

Critics complain that the system gives too much power to party “insiders” and to Democratic strongholds in the highly populated Southeast Florida counties of Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach.

“It’s ridiculous,” Tant told The News Service of Florida.

Tant said Barack Obama could have moved to Florida and been ineligible to become the head of the state party.

“It limits our ability to be effective when we can only choose from a small cadre of people,” Tant said.

The fight over a new leader comes at a critical time for Florida Democrats, who were hoping to pick up several legislative seats next year and are facing the likelihood of being outspent in statewide races for governor, state Cabinet and the U.S. Senate.

Party activists were hoping to go into 2018 riding a wave of momentum generated by two critical victories this fall. State Sen. Annette Taddeo won a heated special election in September, recapturing a Miami-Dade County seat long held by Democrats. In St. Petersburg, incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, a former Democratic state House member, retained his position after a fierce contest against former Mayor Rick Baker.

But the victory laps were tarnished by separate controversies involving Bittel and former state Sen. Jeff Clemens, who quit his legislative post after admitting he had an extramarital affair with a lobbyist. Clemens was slated to take over as head of the Senate Democrats after next year’s elections.

Now, Democrats — who have long struggled with infighting between factions — face the prospect of attempting to unify behind the second party boss in less than a year.

You can read Russo’s entire statement below:

“For 30 years, I have dedicated my life to empowering working class folks across Florida and the South — from the Maries from Haiti to the Miss Morgans from the South and the Angels from Cuba.

“I put my hat in the ring for Florida Democratic Party Chair to ensure that every day Floridians are front and center in the Party — not lobbyists or big donors.  The Florida Democratic Party needs to step out of the past and rigorously rejuvenate and empower grassroots leaders and give them the tools, support, and recognition they need for their organizing.

“We need to be more intentional about being open, inclusive, and cross-generational, a Party where Floridians from every community in all 67 counties feel like they belong.  We have to take the time to do this and not only listen, but learn.

“As soon as I sought election, I learned that the Democratic Party’s rules and structures are closed and exclusive. The rules do not make those who have fought alongside the Democratic Party feel welcome. This holds progress back, and changes are clearly needed.  Though I am not eligible to run for Chair, I still plan on continuing my push for these common-sense reforms.

“First on the list: we must open up the party so that all Democrats feel welcome and engaged.  Our power lies in grassroots leaders and we need to welcome new activists and young people into our fold because it is not just about how much money a person can raise or the existing connections a person may have — it is about giving everyone a seat at the table.

“We need to make sure that the Party’s investments go into building a permanent field infrastructure — including recruiting, training, and cultivating new leaders in all 67 counties, specifically in communities that don’t currently feel served by Democrats.

“We need to clearly show that we are on the side of everyday Floridians, including those who can’t afford health care and child care, those who are forced to make the decision between paying the rent or putting food on their table, or have kids pushed out of school and into prison — a hyper-majority of whom are from communities of color.

“Twenty years of Republican leadership has left Florida near the bottom in national rankings around affordable housing, access to health care, education, and more.

“And twenty years of the current Democratic strategy has been ineffective and has not brought Floridians together.  Too many people believe that the Democratic Party is out of touch with their everyday concerns.  We need to build a party that focuses on creating an economy that works for everyone, including a $15 minimum wage, expanding Medicaid, winning health care for all, free education, affordable housing, and strong unions so that workers have a voice in building their future.

“I do not need to be the Chair of the Democratic Party to continue the labor of love to which I have dedicated my work and my life.

“I look forward to working with the next Florida Democratic Party Chair on this and other ways we can ensure all Floridians win and more importantly thrive in 2018 and beyond.”

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report

Lawmakers question increased tourism funding

Gov. Rick Scott‘s request for lawmakers to boost tourism marketing by $24 million next year might be a tough sell in the House.

Members of the House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee said Wednesday that Visit Florida would have to justify the proposed increase by showing how many of the 112.3 million visitors last year, and 88.2 million so far this year, came to Florida because of the agency’s marketing efforts.

“Throwing out $75 million and 112 million visitors is just not compelling,” Rep. Randy Fine, a Palm Bay Republican, said after the meeting. “If you can show the incrementality (of marketing to tourism growth), it’s easier to justify the money.”

Other members of the panel questioned if the state has the money available to spend. Lawmakers provided $76 million to Visit Florida during the current fiscal year, and Scott has requested $100 million for the fiscal year that will start July 1.

“The pie is only so big, and we may actually have a budget shortfall,” Naples Republican Rep. Bob Rommel said. “So if you’d like an additional 32 percent of the money, I don’t know where we’re going to get it.”

Visit Florida President and CEO Ken Lawson told the panel the money should be viewed as an investment, saying state economists have projected that spending by tourists accounted for $11.3 billion in state tax revenues the past fiscal year.

“By increasing the investment in us, we’re able to reach out more to show the diversity of Florida, which brings more tourists here, who spend money,” Lawson said.

Lawson said Florida competes against states such as California, which has $120 million for marketing. Also, while Visit Florida’s spending plan for 2018 is still begin drawn, the additional money would help Florida expand its digital media reach west of the Mississippi River and further into international markets, Lawson said after the meeting.

The agency has seen it annual visitor counts grow from 87.3 million in 2011 to more than 112 million last year, an increase that Lawson attributed to lawmakers boosting Visit Florida’s funding from $35 million in 2011 to $76 million.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, has argued in the past that people are driven to travel more by their personal finances than by state marketing.

But in seeking the increase for next year, Scott has pointed to the effects of Hurricane Irma. Lawmakers will consider the funding request during the Legislative Session that starts Jan. 9.

“You’ve got to let people know our beaches are open, our restaurants are open, our hotels are open, our amusement parks are open, so we keep our tourists coming because 1.4 million jobs are tied to tourism,” Scott said last month.

Visit Florida put together $5 million for a post-storm marketing campaign, which the agency has credited for helping the state draw a record 27.9 million tourists between July 1 through Sept. 30, even with Irma closing the Florida Keys for most of September.

Details of generator rules draw criticism

Emergency management officials, engineers and long-term care providers flagged problems Tuesday with a pair of proposed rules that require nursing homes and assisted living facilities to install generators and have 96 hours of fuel and also took aim at state agencies that drafted the rules for not being more collaborative.

Walton County Emergency Management Director Jeff Goldberg, who traveled to Tallahassee to testify at a hearing about the proposed rules, said he was “disappointed” that the state had largely ignored comments he made about the proposals at a public meeting last month.

“We want to work with you. We want to meet with you, we want to make a good rule, have a good product and something that makes sense. But without a two-way conversation, with us just talking and weeks later getting a draft rule pushed down to us, doesn’t facilitate good cooperation in my opinion,” Goldberg said.

Goldberg said the proposed rules require local emergency-management officials to review plans that detail how facilities are going to meet backup power requirements and to ensure that the facilities are in compliance with the rules. However, local emergency management officials don’t have authority to review the power plans, he said.

Additionally, the rules require emergency management officials to post approved plans on their websites. But Goldberg said he and other local officials are being advised by county attorneys that they can’t post the plans because the plans belong to the providers and not the government.

Gov. Rick Scott‘s administration in September issued emergency rules requiring nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have generators and 96 hours of fuel to keep the buildings cool. The emergency rules were issued after the deaths of eight residents of The Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills following Hurricane Irma, which knocked out the Broward County facility’s air conditioning system.

The emergency rules were invalidated in October by an administrative law judge who found no emergency situation existed.

The proposed rules under consideration Tuesday are meant to replace the emergency rules. Testimony was provided at two separate public meetings on the proposals, one hosted by Agency for Health Care Administration, which licenses nursing homes, the other by the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, which has regulatory authority over assisted living facilities.

Neither agency indicated Tuesday whether the proposed rules would be changed to address concerns raised at the meetings.

To come into compliance with the requirements will cost the nursing-home industry more than $186 million, state estimates show. Nursing homes are asking the state to help offset those costs with Medicaid funding. Estimates show that it will cost assisted living facilities more than $280 million to comply with the requirements. The steep price tags mean that the Legislature will have to ratify the rules before they can take effect.

Tallahassee health care consultant Skip Gregory criticized the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Elder Affairs for not being inclusive or reaching out to experts who, he said, could help them draft rules.

Gregory is an engineer who headed the Office of Plans and Construction at AHCA for 22 years but now is a consultant who has worked for the Florida Health Care Association, a nursing-home group. He rolled through a number of concerns he has with the proposed rules, including the fact that they set a maximum temperature of 81 degrees Fahrenheit but don’t mandate a minimum temperature.

“When a nursing home loses power, doesn’t the agency care how cold it gets inside the nursing home?” he asked, noting that temperatures drop below freezing in the Panhandle.

Gregory also said the rules are too vague. For instance, the nursing home rule makes clear that the required temperature must be met in an area the facility determines is sufficient to maintain all residents “comfortably at all times and is appropriate for the care needs and life safety requirements.” But the rule doesn’t make clear whether that area needs to be equipped with toilets for the patients or whether the area needs to offer privacy to patients.

And while the rule says that, for planning purposes, nursing homes must have no less than 50 net square feet per resident cooled, it doesn’t define what “net” means.

“It’s not a statute, it’s a rule and it needs to have specificity to it,” he said. “The way we write rules, how we always wrote rules, is to get a group together and sit down and try to hash this out.”

The rules also require the state fire marshal to inspect facilities to ensure compliance with the rules. Gregory noted, though, that the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Elder Affairs don’t have the authority to direct the fire marshal.

The generator and fuel requirements only apply to assisted living facilities and nursing homes, and Gregory said other providers, such as hospitals, family care homes, hospices and intermediate care facilities for the developmentally disabled, aren’t required to have generators and 96 hours of backup fuel.

“There are 80,642 souls who are not going to be impacted by this rule,” he said.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Supreme Court rejects football workers’ comp case

A divided Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to take up a dispute about whether a former Arena Football League player should receive workers’ compensation insurance benefits because of injuries suffered while trying to regain a roster spot with the Orlando Predators.

Justices, in a 4-3 decision, turned down an appeal by Bryon Bishop, a former lineman for the Predators who was injured in July 2013 as he worked out with the team.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal this year overturned a judge’s ruling that had supported workers’ compensation benefits for Bishop.

The appeals court concluded that Bishop was not an employee of the Arena Football League. Bishop and a Predators coach had signed a contract, but the document had not been signed by a league official.

Unlike in the National Football League, where teams and players agree on contracts, the Arena Football League employs the players, the ruling said. The Supreme Court, as is common, did not explain its reasons Tuesday for turning down Bishop’s appeal. But justices Barbara Pariente, Charles Canady, Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson were in the majority, while Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and justices R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince wanted to consider the case.

Supreme Court refuses to take up tobacco case

In a victory for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, the Florida Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a case that initially involved a more than $23 billion verdict against the cigarette maker.

The estate of Michael Johnson Sr., a longtime smoker who died at age 36, asked the Supreme Court to take up the case after the 1st District Court of Appeal in February ordered a new trial. A three-judge panel of the appeals court blasted an attorney for the estate, pointing to the “depth and pervasiveness” of improper closing arguments in the Escambia County case.

The Supreme Court, as is common, did not explain its reasons for declining to take up the case, though two justices, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince, disagreed with the decision, according to an order posted on the Supreme Court website.

A jury initially awarded nearly $16.9 million in compensatory damages and $23.6 billion in punitive damages to the estate. But the trial judge later tossed out the punitive-damages award as excessive and ordered a new trial for R.J. Reynolds on punitive damages.

The February ruling by the appeals court required a new trial on the overall issues in the case, not just punitive damages.

 A brief filed in the Supreme Court said Johnson started smoking at age 13 and was diagnosed with lung cancer at age 35.

The case is one of thousands in Florida that are known as “Engle progeny” cases. Such cases are linked to a 2006 Supreme Court ruling that established critical findings about the health dangers of smoking and misrepresentation by cigarette makers.

Court rules against insurer on ‘assignment of benefits’

With a legislative battle brewing again about the issue, an appeals court has ruled against a property insurer’s effort to place restrictions on a controversial practice known as “assignment of benefits.”

The 5th District Court of Appeal, in an eight-page ruling Friday, upheld a decision by the state Office of Insurance Regulation to reject restrictions proposed by Security First Insurance Co.

The ruling was another blow to the insurance industry, which has blamed assignment of benefits for driving up property-insurance premiums — but has been unable to persuade lawmakers to make changes to the longstanding practice.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court pointed to past legal rulings about assignment of benefits and said it was up to the Legislature to decide whether to make changes.

“Review of the case law relating to the subject of the assignability of post-loss benefits reveals that Florida courts have been previously invited to consider these public policy arguments; however, the district courts have refused these invitations, concluding that such considerations are for the Legislature to address. … We agree that the asserted public policy concerns are best addressed by the Legislature,” said the ruling, written by Judge George Paulk and joined by Chief Judge Jay Cohen and Judge Wendy Berger.

In assignment of benefits, homeowners in need of repairs sign over benefits to contractors, who ultimately pursue payments from insurance companies. While assignment of benefits is nothing new, it has become high-profile in recent years because of increased claims for water damage to homes, particularly in South Florida.

The insurance industry contends that the practice has become riddled with fraud and has increased litigation, driving up costs. But plaintiffs’ attorneys and contractors argue that assignment of benefits helps homeowners hire contractors quickly to repair damage and forces insurers to properly pay claims. Plaintiffs’ lawyers and contractors also contend that assignment of benefits can help prevent consumers from having to fend for themselves in insurance disputes.

In the case decided Friday, Security First sought to add restrictions to policies that, in part, would have required assignment of benefits to have written consent from policyholders and their mortgage lenders. The Office of Insurance Regulation and a hearing officer rejected the proposal, with the hearing officer concluding that a “restriction on the right of a policyholder to freely assign his or her post-loss benefits is prohibited under Florida law,” according to the appeals court.

The ruling came as a lobbying battle is building about the assignment-of-benefits issue for the 2018 Legislative Session, which starts Jan. 9.

A House committee last month approved a bill (HB 7015) that would make changes in assignment of benefits, including taking steps to curb litigation and impose new reporting requirements. A Senate bill (SB 62) has not been heard in committees.

The assignment-of-benefits debate, however, has moved beyond residential property-insurance policies and has become an issue with claims for automobile windshield damage. The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee on Tuesday is expected to take up a bill (SB 396), filed by Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Port Orange Republican, that could lead to required inspections before damaged windshields get repaired or replaced.

Latvala accuser seeks armed security in Capitol

Rachel Perrin Rogers, the high-ranking Senate aide who accused Sen. Jack Latvala of groping her and making lewd comments about her physical appearance, has asked for security guards when she returns to the Capitol tomorrow.

Perrin Rogers, the chief district legislative assistant to Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, came forward last week and identified herself as the woman who accused Latvala of sexual harassment on several occasions over the past few years.

Perrin Rogers’s lawyers, Tiffany Cruz, sent a letter to Negron on Thursday blaming Latvala and his supporters of forcing Rogers to go public, and accusing the Clearwater Republican and his paid minions of “engaging in serious acts of retaliation” against Rogers, “both directly and indirectly through attempts to harm her spouse’s employment.”

Perrin Rogers is married to Brian Hughes, a GOP consultant and former spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott whose clients include attorney general candidate Frank White and Baxter Troutman, who’s running to succeed Adam Putnam as ag commish.

Tiffany Cruz, Perrin Rogers’s lawyer, said she wants a Capitol Police or Florida Department of Law Enforcement officer to be assigned to the Senate staffer as she enters and exits the building and while she’s in her office because she doesn’t feel safe.

(We originally wrote that the request for security came after a whistleblower complaint was filed Friday, which is true. But Cruz said late Sunday evening she was unaware that the complaint had been filed, until reading about it in this post.) 

The complaint, filed with the secretary of the Senate Friday, accuses Perrin Rogers of “displaying a pattern of harmful and retaliatory behavior” toward Lily Tysinger, a former Senate Majority staffer who’s backed Latvala in the increasingly toxic sexual harassment investigation.

“Ms. Perrin Rogers is requesting that someone from Capitol Police or FDLE be provided to her this week while she will be working in the building. She would like someone to be with her when she comes in the building from the garage and when she leaves as well as to remain in her office area whenever she is there,” Cruz wrote to Office of Legislative Affairs General Counsel Allison Deison in an email sent Saturday morning.

Perrin Rogers “does not feel safe with Lily Tysinger in the building and having access to her and her office in light of Ms. Tysinger’s past and present conduct,” Cruz wrote. “If this is not an option, please advise so we can independently retain a law enforcement officer to be present.”

Several hours later, Deison replied that her request had been received.

Tysinger filed a whistleblower complaint Friday accusing Perrin Rogers of numerous workplace violations, including “engaging in a pattern of conduct” designed to “intimidate me due to my status as a witness” in the Senate investigation into Latvala’s alleged sexual misconduct.

Again, Cruz said late Sunday she was unaware of the complaint, which came a day after Cruz asked Negron to intervene on Perrin Rogers’s behalf because of intimidation.

“While the Senator has the right to deny the allegations, he does not have the right to spread false and defamatory information about the complainant to the public in an effort to discredit her claims,” Cruz wrote. “I expect that as his employer, you will ensure that this retaliatory conduct is not tolerated.”

Negron’s spokeswoman, Katie Betta, did not respond to a request for comment over the weekend. Cruz said Saturday she had not yet heard back from the president or his aides.

When asked whether Negron had approved the security guard, Betta said she could not comment.

But, in a text late Sunday evening, Cruz said the request had been denied.

Latvala’s lawyer, Steve Andrews, denied that the senator’s team had done anything to intimidate the senate aide or her spouse.

“Absurd,” he said in a text message.

Cruz also asked for — and was granted — extra staff to essentially provide a buffer for Perrin Rogers, whose office is located near Simpson’s inside the Senate Majority Office.

“Since next week is a committee week and my client will be back in the Capitol working, she said it would be helpful if the Majority Office could have a receptionist and/or administrative assistant sitting out front. This would prevent people from coming in to her office without permission,” Cruz wrote in an email to Deison Wednesday.

“The Senate will make sure that there is an assistant in the front of the Senate Majority Office next week,” Deison wrote back Friday morning.

Pam Bondi seeks information over Uber data breach

Attorney General Pam Bondi‘s office issued a subpoena to Uber in search of information related to the ride-sharing company’s alleged cover-up of a 2016 data breach.

The San Francisco-based company recently acknowledged that drivers throughout the country might have had their personal information accessed as a result of the breach. At least 32,000 Uber drivers in Florida may have been affected, according to a news release issued Friday by Bondi’s office.

Uber should have reported the data breach to Bondi’s office within 30 days, according to Florida law.

Instead, the company “reportedly paid a ransom and then concealed the hack by entering into a nondisclosure agreement with the hackers,” the release said.

“Uber’s delay to provide timely notice to affected individuals is inexcusable,” Bondi said. “I have always been a strong advocate for Uber’s innovative technology, but if these revelations prove true, I am disgusted by this cover up and Uber will be held accountable.”

Bondi helped craft the Florida Information Protection Act, passed in 2014, that requires businesses and governmental entities to provide notice regarding data breaches to consumers and take certain measures to protect personal information.

Rick Scott looks to replenish ‘job growth’ fund

Gov. Rick Scott has yet to dip into the $85 million lawmakers set aside this year to attract new businesses to Florida, but he’s already seeking to replenish the pool of money.

Scott told the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors, meeting this week in Jacksonville, of the need to ensure lawmakers maintain the new “Florida Job Growth Grant Fund,” which has attracted 209 applications from governments and other groups across the state since opening in July.

However, Scott and his office haven’t indicated when money could be awarded to the first regional or workforce project.

“I have no interest in doing any deals unless we get a very good return on investment,” Scott said. “When I was in business, I had a fiduciary to my employees, to the shareholders. In this, I have an absolute fiduciary to the taxpayers of the state to make sure all those dollars we get a very good return on investment.”

Scott’s request to replenish the fund with another $85 million is part of his $87.4 billion budget proposal for the 2018 Legislative Session.

The various applicants this year have collectively requested $713.4 million to help with projects with an estimated cost of $1.5 billion. Most offer local matches.

The proposals range from $2,580 sought on Oct. 4 by Film Florida — for an industry training event that occurred Oct 21 — to $25 million requested by Pasco County for a $62.1 million Interstate 75 and Overpass Road interchange project.

The fund was created during a June special Session as a compromise between Scott and House leaders. The House had earlier sought to eliminate the business-recruitment agency Enterprise Florida and other economic-development programs.

After the fund was created, several Democrats derided the money as a “slush fund” that needed more oversight. Enterprise Florida and the state Department of Economic Opportunity are reviewing the proposals.

House leaders were heavily focused on ending programs that awarded economic incentives to single companies in return for relocating to Florida or expanding in the state. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, repeatedly called such incentives “corporate welfare.”

Money in the new fund is prohibited from going to projects that provide exclusive benefits to single businesses.

In 2016 and earlier this year, Scott was unable to get lawmakers to approve his requests to continue funding economic incentives through Enterprise Florida.

That cut off money Scott had offered in prior years to attract, maintain or help expand companies, such as Hertz, United Technologies and Harris Corp.

On Wednesday, Mike Grissom, Enterprise Florida executive vice president, said Scott — who has only a year left in the Governor’s office — has been adamant that any money awarded is guaranteed to have a positive return on investment.

“I think we’ve found a place where everybody is happy when it comes to this program,” Grissom said. “I think we’ve seen that it’s useful and valuable to our state and that the Legislature is OK with it. So, we want to make sure that we can continue to use it.”

Among the largest requests:

— Hillsborough County, Apollo Beach Boulevard extension. A $33.6 million project along the “I-75 Job Corridor” linking U.S. 41 and U.S. 301 over the interstate. Request: $23 million.

— State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota STEM campus. The proposal seeks money to help secure land and make other improvements needed to support a campus. Request: $22.44 million.

— Marion County, Crossroads Commerce Park. The $272 million project, encompassing more than 900 acres, is envisioned as having distribution, warehouse and manufacturing facilities. Request: $22.24 million.

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