Scott Powers, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 154

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at or

Aramis Ayala reforms juvenile justice policy: No charge, no record

Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced Tuesday she has reformed a key juvenile justice policy in Orange County so that juveniles who are subjects of police reports inquiring about criminal charges, yet who are neither arrested nor ultimately charged, will not have criminal court records.

Such cases involve situations where law enforcement officers decide they do not have enough to arrest a juvenile, but submit reports to the State Attorney’s Office to let prosecutors review the facts and determine whether they want to file charges, according to a news release issued Tuesday morning by Ayala’s office.

In the past, and in other judicial circuits, even when prosecutors decline and no charges are ever filed, the criminal records still go to the county Orange County Clerk of Court’s office, where they can remain an official part of that person’s history.

As part of what Ayala said is her broad efforts to reform the justice system in Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit, she and her Juvenile Bureau Chief Teri Mills-Uvalle decided to have such reports bypass the clerk’s office unless and until charges are actually filed. They call it Project No/No.

An earlier Ayala justice reform, her abolition of the use of capital punishment, turned into one of the biggest controversies in Florida earlier this year, and awaits the Florida Supreme Court ruling on a battle between her and Gov. Rick Scott over whether it is permissible.

The new juvenile policy quietly went into effect in April.

“There are occasions when law enforcement decides that a juvenile should not be arrested, and in lieu of arrest submit a report to my office for review.  In many of those cases, we ultimately determine that we cannot prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Under those circumstances, there should be no criminal record that follows juveniles into adulthood. We are giving those juveniles the opportunity to have a clean record,” Ayala stated in the release. “We believe this program will make a difference in the lives of our youth and eliminate unnecessary case processing by the clerk.”

Similarly, if the State Attorney’s Office deems a diversion program is warranted and offers it to the individual in lieu of formal criminal charges, those cases also are not being submitted to the county clerk’s office to become part of the official record for the individual.

“As I was working on cases, I found instances where juveniles had official court records despite insufficient evidence to charge” Mills-Uvalle stated. “I asked myself: ‘Why are we treating juveniles more harshly than we would treat adults? In the adult system all cases bypass the clerk’s office and go directly to the State Attorney’s Office for review, when the adult is NOT arrested by the police. Why are we applying a different procedure with juveniles?

“Additionally, if the State Attorney’s Office elected to send a juvenile to one of the eight diversion programs, in lieu of filing charges, the juvenile would still have an official court record even after successfully completing the program” she added.

The broad policy already has been used for 767 individual juveniles in Orange County, according to the news release. Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit also covers Osceola County, but Project No/No is not yet being used there.

Ayala’s office offered the anecdote of Kent Johnson, a former Winter Park High School student, who was sent to Orange County Teen Court (a diversion program) after being charged with battery, stemming from a scuffle with a school resource officer in 2015. Johnson successfully finished the diversion program but still has an official record, according to the news release. Now age 19 and a sophomore at Ohio State University, Johnson plans to go into the medical field but he worries about the impact his record will have on career opportunities after he graduates, the release stated.

“I believe if you finish the diversion program successfully, you shouldn’t have an official record,” Johnson stated in the release. “If this program [Project No/No] was in place when my case was processed, I wouldn’t be concerned about a mistake I made in the past getting in the way of my future.”

Marco Rubio endorses Mike Miller in CD 7

Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is endorsing Florida state Rep. Mike Miller in the Republican primary to run for Congress in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

“I’m proud to announce my support for Mike Miller for Congress today,” Rubio stated in a news release issued by congressional campaign. “Jeanette and I have known Mike & Nora for many years, and like us, they are raising their children and serving in public office, all while balancing the same challenges Florida families do every day. Mike is a tireless advocate for Central Florida and will bring his conservative values to Washington and give me a great partner to work with in the Congress.”

Miller, of Winter Park, faces Sanford businessman Scott Sturgill in seeking a chance to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park in the 2018 election. State Sen. David Simmons from nearby Altamonte Springs has repeatedly said he expects to also run for the Republicans, but has not filed.

Miller is a two-term member of the Florida House who has worked on Rubio’s campaigns. Rubio has endorsed Miller in his past races.

“I am humbled to have the support of a champion for conservative values like Senator Rubio,” Miller stated in the release. “I admire his passion for issues impacting Florida families and his commitment to working across the aisle on important topics like human rights, veteran’s affairs, and childhood cancer research.”

Pre-election day turnout approaches 9 percent in HD 44 special primary

Nearly 9 percent of registered Republicans already have voted in Florida’s House District 44 in the primary race set for conclusion Tuesday.

The Republican primary race between Bruno Portigliatti, Bobby Olszewski, John Newstreet, and Usha Jain is in legal jeopardy because of a lawsuit brought last week seeking to disqualify the Democrat Paul Chandler, who is awaiting the GOP winner. If a judge disqualifies Chandler, the Republican primary could be challenged.

But the four candidates have turned their attention away from the suit and to the last few doors they can knock on and phones they can call for Republican voters in the district, which covers southwest Orange County.

The latest voter turnout numbers posted by Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles shows that by Sunday night, 3,950 Republicans, 8.8 percent of those eligible, had voted by mail or in early voting. About 70 percent of those had voted by mail.

The largest numbers of votes continue to come from the central part of the district where three of the candidates live, Portigliatti, Newstreet and Jain. The Dr. Phillips-area Precincts 128 and 113 each has produced more than 250 votes. In Precinct 113, 17 percent of Republicans turned out by mail or at the early-voting stations. Six of the other seven precincts that had at least 150 votes also were in the central part of the district, in the Dr. Phillips or Windermere/Lake Butler regions.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, at the 38 assigned polling places throughout HD 44.

Rick Scott, Richard Corcoran renew rebukes of white supremacists

While avoiding comment on what President Donald Trump had to say in the wake of the Charlottesville events, Gov. Rick Scott renewed his condemnations Monday of the KKK, white supremacist and neo-Nazis.

So did Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a potential 2018 Republican gubernatorial candidate. The two made their comments speaking with the press Monday morning in Lake Mary following their announcement of plans for a Constitutional Amendment proposal to restrict tax and fee increase.

After white supremacists’ marches in Charlottesville resulted in one of the white supremacist driving his car into a crowd of anti-protesters, killing a woman and injuring 19 other people, Trump’s response that violence came “from all sides” has drawn heavy criticism that he would not blame the white supremacists specifically

“I’m not going to parse the president’s words, but here’s what I’ll say,” Scott said. “It’s evil. It’s horrible. I don’t believe in racism. I don’t believe in bigotry. I believe the KKK, white supremacists, neo-Nazis they don’t belong in our society.”

“It’s evil. I don’t believe in it. It’s disgusting that this would ever go on in our society,” Scott added. “I don’t ever want it happening in our country. I don’t ever want it happening in our state.”

Corcoran noted the efforts by the Florida Legislature last spring to recognize and condemn the 1940s and 50s racism and murders behind the case of the “Groveland Four,” four young black men and teen boys who were falsely accused of rape and then either killed or wrongly imprisoned. The House and the Senate both unanimously passed resolutions apologizing to their families.

“Where ever evil presents itself, I don’t care if it’s neo-Naziism, I don’t care if it’s white supremacy, if it’s any of the incidents we saw, they need to be stamped out, and they have no business being in a free and open Democratic society,” Corcoran said. “We’re going to fight that wherever we can.”

However, Scott stopped short of addressing what has been at the root of the Charlottesville march and clashes elsewhere, including Orlando and Tampa Bay, between white supremacists and others: what to do with Confederate monuments.

Scott said that conversation would come, but he didn’t take sides.

“Today is a day to mourn. We lost a young lady. We lost two law enforcement officers [killed in a helicopter crash in Charlottesville,]” Scott said. “There is going to be an opportunity to have that conversation.  It’s disgusting that this happened. It’s hateful. It’s evil. But I know there will be an opportunity to have that conversation.”

Rick Scott, Richard Corcoran launch push for tax supermajority

Pledging to make it harder for future lawmakers to raise taxes, and surrounded by a bevy of Republican Florida lawmakers, Gov. Rick Scott pledged to push a Constitutional amendment to require a supermajority for such increases.

At an announcement at the Verizon Florida headquarters in Lake Mary, Scott said the amendment to require 60 percent votes on tax increases could come from either the Florida Legislature or the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, to be placed on the 2018 ballot.

He’ll likely have full support of the Florida Legislature’s Republican leadership. He was joined in his call Monday by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, House Ways and Means Committee chair Paul Renner and seven other Republican members of the Florida House, most from Central Florida.

Scott also said he called Senate President Joe Negron, but that the Palm City Republican was unable to attend his announcement.

“My goal is to make it harder for elected politicians to raise taxes on Florida families and businesses,” Scott said. “And that can be achieved with an amendment to the state constitution. This Legislature has shown they are absolutely committed to tax and fee decreases.

“I want to make sure to get this on the ballot so you’ll never see your taxes go up again without people taking the time to make sure that it’s something well thought out,” Scott added.

Corcoran expressed confidence that if the measure reaches the ballot Florida voters will approve it.

“All too often as we see it sometimes on the national level, it’s easier to raise taxes or fees than it is to make tough decisions on what is right and best for the people,” Corcoran said.

“This proposal says we’re going to make it really, really difficult to go back to the time when we had high unemployment and no jobs and people were struggling, and we’re going to recognize that what’s at stake, who’s really at the heart of this, is when you’ve got single moms out there who are working two jobs, trying to make ends meet, put food on the table for their kids, and trying to give them a world-class education, you can’t just go willy-nilly and raise those people’s taxes and not think it’s not going to have a dramatic affect on them,” Corcoran said.

Left uncertain is whether the amendment would apply only to the Florida Legislature or might apply to all Florida governments, including cities and counties. A governor’s staffer suggested it most likely would apply only to the Legislature, but others weren’t so certain.

Since the amendment is not drafted – by either the CRC or the Legislature – the prospect may remain one to be decided later.

Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes of Longwood suggested it might cover local governments. He said that likely would receive pushback from local governments that express frequent frustration at Tallahassee’s restrictions on the Home Rule paradigm but would be needed.

Senate Republicans’ Spanish ad says Bill Nelson ‘supports murderers’

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is being targeted in a new Spanish-language radio commercial accusing him of being soft on Cuba and for expressing admiration for former Venezuela dictator Hugo Chávez, and charging he supports murderers.

The 30-second spot from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, playing in the Miami market, also contends that Nelson’s actions offer encouragement to current Venezuelan Dictator Nicolas Maduro, who took over after Chavez’ death in 2013.

As Maduro oversaw an election marked by violence and deaths of protesters while international and opposition observers decried the vote as a sham in recent weeks, Nelson has issued several strong statements condemning Maduro.

Nelson’s campaign spokesman Ryan Brown called the ads “untrue” and “thinly-veiled attempt to distract from Gov. Rick Scott‘s record. Scott is raising money for a presumed challenge of Nelson in the 2018 election.

“These ads are untrue. Sen. Nelson is one of the strongest opponents of the Maduro and Castro regimes. In fact, the Miami Herald has called Nelson one of Chavez’s fiercest critics. And earlier this month Nelson called on President Trump to ban at least some imports of Venezuelan oil until constitutional order has been restored in Venezuela,” Brown said in a written statement. “These attacks against Nelson’s anti-Castro, anti-Maduro record are false and nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to try to distract people from Rick Scott’s decision to flip-flop on doing business with Goldman Sachs, which is currently doing business with an arm of the Maduro regime.”

Yet the radio ad, which plays like a radio news report, notes that Florida’s senior senator has taken other steps that suggest support.

“In the past, he has aligned himself with communists and dictators. Look at him with Cuba. He supported [President Barack] Obama when he negotiated with the other terrorists, the Castro brothers,” the narrator states in Spanish, with a sound effect that sounds like him flipping pages of notes on a desk.

“When Nelson supports the Castros, that only reinforces and encourages others, like it did with Chavez and now with Maduro. In 2005, Bill Nelson even visited Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. Here it says Nelson went to Venezuela to admire Chavez’s revolution,” the narrator continues.

“If Bill Nelson supports murderers, I can’t support Bill Nelson,” the ad concludes.

Adam Putnam: Nobody knows Florida better than I

Adam Putnam assured the 200 or so delegates to his breakfast at the Republican Party of Florida quarterly meeting in Orlando Saturday that he knows their towns, he knows their roads, he knows their barbecue places, and he knows their hopes, dreams, and struggles of living somewhere that’s not on an Interstate exit.

The Florida agriculture commissioner and former state lawmaker and former U.S. Congressman running for governor spun his theme of Florida being the greatest state, where everyone wants to visit or live, while pressing conservatism, urging that Florida must be “the launching pad of the American dream,” and warning of liberal uprisings, with “The left is coming for us!”

And, most of all, the candidate turned on his folksy side, reminded everyone he’s a fifth-generation Floridian with a ranch outside of Bartow, and strove to connect with Republicans in too-often-ignored rural areas and small towns from the Keys to the western panhandle.

Putnam, alone in the Republican race for governor until Friday, now has serious competition for the Republican primary nomination. State Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater filed to run Friday and addressed the Republican convention Friday night. Potential candidate U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach was to address the crowd Saturday afternoon. House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O’ Lakes also is a real prospect.

On Saturday morning, Putnam was positioning himself as the grassroots candidate.

He spoke of how two-thirds of Floridians don’t have college degrees so the state must put more emphasis on technical training and less on trying to get everyone to go to college. He spoke of making sure everyone has the chance to start their own businesses, and don’t dismiss someone starting out with a lawn-care business.

“I know our state,” Putnam said. “I know every corner of our state. I’ve been down every four-lane, every dirt road. I know all the barbecue restaurants. If you need a tip I can tell you where the best pulled-pork meal is, where the best brisket is, who’s got the best chicken. I know our state like the back of my hand. I am dedicated to the future of our state.”

From there, he appeared to respond to Latvala’s comments Friday night, when the House Appropriations Committee chairman lashed out at other candidates, whom he didn’t name, whom he accused of forgetting the needs of the Republican Party of Florida while they pursued their own careers, and of raising money for their own causes, without contributing to the party.

“We’re going to bring this state together. And this party is a part of that. It’s an integral part of that,” Putnam said to the party loyalists at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort. “It’s not us against them. It’s not Bradford versus Highlands. It’s not the party versus the electeds. You have seen me at your meetings and in your Lincoln Days…. I can’t succeed as a governor if we don’t succeed as a party.”


Jack Latvala: ‘I have never forgotten the party, I will never forget the party’

It’s got to be tough trying to explain why you are running for governor when you don’t actually want to say that you’re running for governor.

Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater tried that out Friday night at a dessert reception he hosted for about 200 people at the Republican Party of Florida’s quarterly meeting in Orlando. Earlier in the day he had filed his paperwork to run for governor, so that he might begin spending money to prepare for an announcement, but he’s holding off actually announcing his run until next week.

Yet these people wanted to hear from him, and there was a stage, microphone and public address system set up, so the longtime party loyalist and current powerful chairman of the Florida Senate Appropriations Committee took his place there, and then railed against elected Republicans who forget the party and don’t contribute money or time to the party.

“I have never forgotten the party. I will never forget the party,” he declared to the gathering in a five minute address.

“That’s one of the reason I’m looking so hard at doing what I’m doing,” he said.

On Friday Latvala joined Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam as a major Republican filing to run for governor. Putnam gets his turn to talk to the state Republicans gathered at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort Saturday morning, hosting a breakfast meeting. Two other major Republicans assumed to be mulling runs are House Speaker Richard Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis. Corcoran will not be attending the weekend meeting. There were mixed reports about DeSantis’s plans.

In his remarks, Latvala also went after elected officials and candidates who’ve spent their whole careers in public office, saying they don’t know what it’s like to deal with real-world business problems, a reference to the printing business he founded. He praised President Donald Trump as someone like him who came to government after running a business.

“We nominated a candidate who was an outsider who had good business experience instead of people that had been life-long politicians,” he elaborated later with reporters. “I thought Republican primary voters are going to want to continue that same trend.

“I’m like Donald Trump in that I have run a business, a successful business, I have signed both sides of paychecks, I have paid worker’s comp premiums, I have real-life experience. I haven’t always just gotten a government paycheck. That’s the similar area. There probably are some things that aren’t similar.”

Latvala intends to formally announce his candidacy next Wednesday in Hialeah. When asked why he didn’t just go ahead and explicitly talk about running for governor Friday night, he replied:

“I might want people to show up on Wednesday.”

Jennifer Sullivan pulls in $5K on July 31 to defend her HD 31 seat

Republican Jennifer Sullivan pulled in five $1,000 checks on the last day of July to give her re-election campaign a fresh shot of money in House District 31 in northwest Orange County and northeast Lake County.

Sullivan, a two-term representative from Mount Dora, has done little fundraising this year, having transferred $5,000 from her previous campaign fund and brought in $4,500 in March. Like almost all her previous funds in this election cycle, the $5,000 she raised in July came almost entirely from political committees and lobbying firms, mostly from Tallahassee. She has not yet raised any money in the district in this cycle.

She finished the month with about $13,700 in the bank.

Sullivan faces a challenge from Democrat Debra Kaplan, a business consultant and former journalist from Eustis, who has done little campaign fundraising herself. Kaplan brought in about $650 in July, giving her a total, including a $200 loan she made to her campaign, of about $2,620 in total income for her campaign. She finished the month with about $2,300 in the bank.

Loan helps Jeffrey Ramsey make financial progress in HD 51 race

Republican Jeffrey Ramsey posted his second consecutive $4,000-plus month in fundraising and lent his campaign $10,000 in July, giving his candidacy a boost in the race to replace outgoing state Rep. Tom Goodson in House District 41 in Brevard County.

Ramsey, a Merritt Island teacher and retired Air Force officer, reported raising $4,550 in July and lending his campaign $10,000, after he raised $4,900 in his initial month of campaigning, June. Expenses left him with $15,387 in the bank at the end of July.

His main rival is Republican Tyler Sirois of Merritt Island, executive director of the 18th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office, who started his campaign fast with $26,000 in April and more than $18,000 combined in May and June, but who reported raising just $550 in July. Sirois reported having $58,762 in hand at the end of July.

Republican Thomas Patrick O’Neill reported raising $750 in July, giving him a total of contributions and loans of $5,200. He had about $5,150 left at the end of July.

Another candidate, Tim S. Tumulty of Cocoa Beach, has withdrawn.

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