Scott Powers, Author at Florida Politics - Page 4 of 125

Scott Powers

Orbital ATK, United Launch Alliance to try again for space station resupply launch

After multiple delays last month, last on March 23, Orbital ATK and United Launch Alliance are now shooting for next Tuesday for launch of a resupply mission to the International Space Station.

Orbital ATK, one of NASA’s two companies under contract to ship equipment, food and other supplies to astronauts in space, will be launching its Cygnus capsule atop a ULA Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, with a 30-minute launch window that opens at 11:11 a.m.

NASA commercial cargo provider Orbital ATK is targeting its seventh commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station for 11:11 a.m. EDT Tuesday, April 18, the start of a 30-minute launch window. The blastoff is set to occur from ULA’s Launch Complex 41.

This would be Orbital ATK’s seventh commercial resupply mission to the space station, and the third launched with a ULA rocket from Cape Canaveral. The others have gone up on Orbital ATK’s own Antares rockets, which launch from NASA’s Wallops Island launch complex in Virginia.

This one will be carrying 7,600 pounds of science research, crew supplies and hardware to the space station.

Rick Scott brings Visit Florida, Enterprise Florida pitch to Lake Nona

Surrounded by what’s billed as the world’s new center for tennis but yet also almost in the shadow of a failed medical research center, Gov. Rick Scott brought his plea for salvation for Enterprise Florida and VISIT Florida to Orlando’s Lake Nona community Wednesday – urging pressure on the mostly-Republican group of lawmakers set to bring them down.

“When we think about what the state’s doing now with regard to Enterprise Florida and VISIT Florida, we’re missing opportunities, if we’re not in the right place at the right time to make things happen,” Scott said.

Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, Scott’s prize economic development and marketing organizations, are the targets of fellow-Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran and others in the Florida Legislature who are convinced the organizations have grown fat and sloppy for years dolling out tax and other financial incentives and marketing efforts without sufficient accountability. Corcoran and other House Republicans are on a path to defund Enterprise Florida and severely restrict VISIT Florida.

So Scott and his economic team including Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Cissy Proctor and VISIT Florida President Ken Lawson are on and extended tour of Florida preaching for the organizations’ salvations. They’re meeting with largely bipartisan gatherings of local political and business supporters who also want to keep the state business incentive, recruitment and marketing efforts available, extolling the successes, warning of dire drop-offs in business opportunities without them, and seeking to rally broader support.

This pitch came at the new $70 million USTA National Campus at Lake Nona, home to the United States Tennis Association headquarters and more than 100 pristine courts. The freshly-opened complex has become an Orlando poster child for the kinds of state and local efforts, including financial incentives and marketing and promotion that Enterprise Florida and Visit Orlando use.

The complex, said USTA Executive Director Gordon Smith, was “courted all over the country. The team that came together here including [Orange County] Mayor [Teresa] Jacobs, [Orlando] Mayor [Buddy] Dyer, the city, Visit Orlando, Visit Florida, the governor, worked together in a way that was unique.

“So, we’re bringing tens of thousands of visitors here every year,” Smith added.

For Scott, the facility is a perfect location to warn of the risks of not having an Enterprise Florida or VISIT Florida.

“USTA, they’re a class act. And it’s a significant deal to get USTA here. Let’s all think about this for a second. They’re not going to make a decision like this five times. They’re going to make a decision once,” Scott said. “So we had one opportunity to put our best foot forward… This is not the only place they could go.”

Scott’s latest pitch, however, also came less than two miles directly up Lake Nona Boulevard from the former Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute, which has become a poster child for the occasional failure and overblown promises of public and private financial incentives. Sanford Burnham pulled out last year despite receiving about $350 million in incentives, and never achieved the levels of job generation, economic development, and technology prestige promised when Florida won a bidding war for it in 2006.

Scott’s voting rallies also include targeting a bipartisan collection of area House members who are voting with Corcoran.

“Here’s who I would like you to reach out to: Bruce Antone, Bob Cortes, Jennifer Sullivan, voted to eliminate Enterprise Florida, eliminate the Florida Defense Alliance, and on top of that to severely restrict the ability for Visit Florida to market our state,” he said. “Jason Brodeur did the same thing. Now, who voted the right way? Kamia Brown, Eric Eisnaugle, Amy Mercado, and Rene Plasencia. Now Mike Miller voted to keep Enterprise Florida but he didn’t vote to support Visit Florida. Carlos Guillermo Smith voted against Enterprise Florida and for Visit Florida.”

Antone, Brown, Mercado and Smith are Democrats; Cortes, Sullivan, Eisnaugle, Plasencia and Miller, Republicans.

Baseball has been very, very good to Airbnb

Apparently there’s nothing like a home-away-from-home for baseball fans wanting to take in Florida spring training.

Airbnb, the leader in marketing vacation rental home, announced Wednesday that all 12 Florida cities that host spring training camps and stadiums for Major League Baseball teams saw remarkable spikes in bookings during the baseball spring training that ended last week.

And the company’s surveys show most of that spike was due to baseball fans, coming down to catch a few spring training games and to watch big-league players and prospects work out and train.

All the cities saw significant increases in Airbnb vacation home rental bookings during the five-week spring training, Feb. 23-March 31, compared with the previous five weeks.

Smaller cities such as Jupiter (64 percent Airbnb spike), Lakeland (82 percent), Port St. Lucie (95 percent), Dunedin (205 percent) and Port Charlotte (78 percent all benefitted significantly from local Airbnb hosts helping to expand lodging capacity and welcome more visitors during spring training, the company claimed in a press release.

Yet bigger cities with large, year-round tourist industries such as Sarasota and Kissimmee also saw considerable spikes, the company noted. Sarasota’s Airbnb bookings were up 91 percent, and Kissimmee’s 46 percent.

In 10 of the 12 Florida cities, residents of the MLB team’s home state accounted for the top supply of Airbnb guests during spring training. For example, Dunedin, home of the Toronto Blue Jays, saw a 1,860 percent increase in guests from Ontario, Canada, while Jupiter, home to the St. Louis Cardinals, saw a 3,400 percent increase in guests from Missouri.

“Spring Training represents a foundational component of the local economies for these 12 Florida cities,” Tom Martinelli, public policy director for Airbnb Florida, stated in the release. “By expanding lodging capacity for regions with limited hotel inventory, Airbnb hosts helped welcome more families and baseball fans to their cities while serving as ambassadors for their local communities.”

Former lobbyist, Apopka official Richard Anderson gets probation in hit-and-run case

Former lobbyist and Apopka official Richard Anderson was given three years probation and a suspended driver’s license in a plea deal filed Tuesday that ended prosecution of the hit-and-run case against him in Lake County.

Anderson, 62, agreed to a deal Circuit Court in Lake County in which prosecutors dropped three counts against him and he plead no contest to counts of leaving the scene of an accident and leaving the scene of an accident with injuries.

Prosecutors in Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit agreed to drop charges of reckless driving, reckless driving causing injuries, and tampering with physical evidence.

Anderson agreed to punishment of three years probation and three years of a suspended driver’s license for the count of leaving the scene of an accident with injuries, and six months probation for leaving the scene of an accident. The sentences will run concurrently, according to Lake County court records.

Anderson is a former city administrator for Apopka who was working on a two-year, $22,000-per-month consultant contract with that city, as well as serving as city manager for the city of Belle Isle. He also was a lobbyist for Ballard Partners.

According to the FHP, shortly before 1:30 a.m. April 5, a 2014 Dodge Ram pickup truck owned by Anderson crossed into the opposite lane on State Road 46 and slammed head-on into a Toyota Corolla driven by a Michael Falcon of Grand Island. Falcon suffered debilitating injuries and was airlifted to a hospital.

On that morning of April 5, passers-by quickly stopped and later told the highway patrol they encountered Falcon laying on the ground and another man talking on a cellphone, according to an arrest warrant affidavit filed by the investigating officer, FHP Trooper Joshua Evans. The second man had left before the highway patrol arrived. Two of the passers-by later identified Anderson, the owner of the abandoned truck, from photo lineups, according to the arrest warrant affidavit filed by Evans.

The tampering with physical evidence charge may come from a post-crash situation that involved arrangements made by others to retrieving some things, including three laptop computers, from Anderson’s truck after it had been towed to an impound lot.

Randolph Bracy, Jack Latvala reach compromise on Senate cut to Aramis Ayala’s office

Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala‘s office would take a much smaller budget hit this year under a compromise worked out by state Sen. Randolph Bracy and Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala Tuesday.

Both the Florida Senate and the Florida House of Representatives have been pursuing budget proposals that would have cut at least $1.3 million from the budget of Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s office, though for different stated reasons.

Ayala is the embattled state attorney there, whose decision in March to not pursue death penalty prosecutions has led to a political firestorm. That has included some retaliatory responses, including from Gov. Rick Scott and several Central Florida House members, and proposed cuts in funding to her office.

Scott stripped 23 first-degree murder cases from her office and reassigned them to the 5th Judicial Circuit. State Rep. Scott Plakon of Altamonte Springs engineered the House cut of about $1.3 million, to transfer that money to the the 5th Judicial Circuit, which is set to get the cases Scott reassigned from Ayala.

Bracy, of Oakland, is one of the few Democrats who have actively come to Ayala’s aid

Under the arrangement agreed to by Bracy and Latvala, $569,000 of the proposed Senate cut would be restored, while $622,000 would be transferred to the office of the 5th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brad King.

“It’s what Latvala and I agreed to,” Bracy stated in a text to “It’s 45 percent of the $1.3 million that was cut will go to the 9th Circuit. 55 percent will go to the 5th.”

In another text, Latvala, the Republican from Clearwater, confirmed the deal and that he would support it on the floor.

Expect no such deal on the House side, so the matter is likely to head to conference committee.

“My team recommended the $1.3 million because we thought that was the right number,” Plakon said. “Anything different from that will have to be worked out in conference.”

And he said he stood by the validity of the $1.3 million cut for several reasons. First, it’s approximately what the office got as extra money in a special appropriation awarded last year, so Plakon said it would make sense to roll that back. He also argued that the $1.3 million is being identified as money needed to prosecute death penalty cases, which are typically extremely expensive, and which Ayala has announced she would not do. So the House proposal would authorize the Judicial Administration Commission to decide which state attorneys most need the money. And third, Ayala’s office still has a number of open positions – Plakon cited references to 60, while Ayala’s office said last week the number was 33 and dropping.

Plakon said he believes the 60 to be accurate, but noted that either number is greater than the 21 positions in the proposed cut, “So she wouldn’t need those funds.”

Governor’s office affirmed prosecutorial discretion, state attorneys’ independence, in letter last year

Among material filed Tuesday with Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala‘s Florida Supreme Court challenge of Gov. Rick Scott‘s executive orders stripping cases from her is a year-old letter from his office affirming her position – that her prosecutorial decisions cannot be overridden.

Ayala’s attorneys Roy Austin Jr. of Washington D.C. and Marcos Hasbun of Tampa included the letter as an appendix to their writ of quo warranto, which asks the Florida Supreme Court to vacate Scott’s 23 executive orders used to strip cases from Ayala.

The governor issued those orders reassigning first-degree murder cases from her to 5th Ocala’s State Attorney Brad King because the governor believed she overstepped her authority when she claimed prosecutorial discretion and refused to pursue death penalties.

Yet almost exactly a year ago, April 21, 2016, Scott’s office wrote to support the prosecutorial discretion exercised by Ayala’s predecessor, then-9th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Jeff Ashton, whom Ayala beat in the election last year. The letter came from Warren Davis in Scott’s Office of Citizen Services.

The governor’s office issued the following response Tuesday:

“Governor Scott stands by his decision to assign State Attorney Brad King to prosecute Markeith Loyd after State Attorney Ayala refused to recuse herself. Markeith Loyd is accused of executing Lt. Debra Clayton, a brave law enforcement hero who was on the ground fighting for her life, and murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon. Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy Norman Lewis was also killed while actively searching for Loyd. As Governor Scott has continued to say, these families deserve a state attorney who will aggressively prosecute Loyd to the fullest extent of the law and justice must be served.”

The response, however, did not specifically address the Davis letter.

“Although we appreciate your concerns,” Davis wrote to concerned citizen in the 9th Judicial Circuit, “each state attorney is an elected official charged with certain discretionary duties, including the duty to determine whether or not to prosecute any particular crime committed within his or her jurisdiction. This decision is based on the quality and the quantity of the evidence of guilt shown, and in the best interest of justice.

“The state attorneys operate independently, and as elected officials, they answer only to the voters of their individual jurisdictions,” Davis’s letter continued.

Ayala’s petition for a writ, filed Tuesday by Austin and Hasbun, cites amendments to Article V, Section 17, to the Florida Constitution, adopted in 1972 and 1986 saying they “expressly required for the first time that ‘the state attorney shall be the prosecuting officer of all trial courts’ in his or her judicial circuit and made it clear that any exception to this must be ‘provided in this constitution.’

“Until the last few weeks,” the writ continues, “the Office of Governor Scott agreed that the Ninth Circuit State Attorney had discretion over the cases in his judicial circuit.” It then cites the April 21, 2016 letter.


Republicans put up billboard targeting Stephanie Murphy

The Republican National Congressional Committee is targeting Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy‘s Affordable Care Act support with a billboard in her hometown of Winter Park.

The digital billboard message has gone up on Fairbanks Avenue, diagonally facing both westbound Fairbanks traffic and eastbound [really northbound at that point] I-4 traffic, including those coming down the off-ramp at one of the most traffic-congested points in all of Central Florida.

“Tell Stephanie Murphy No To ObamaCare! No to Single-Health Care!” the billboard reads, with a picture of the freshman Congressional District 7 congresswoman. It then provides her office number.

“Stephanie Murphy supports ObamaCare, yet her constituents are suffering under it,” NRCC Spokesperson Maddie Anderson stated in a press release from the organization. “The voters of Florida’s 7th Congressional District need to know that their representative is a supporter of the failed law, and is doing nothing to fix the problems they are experiencing because of it.”

“Now, the Democrats are moving even further left to a push for single payer,” Anderson continued. “Murphy’s constituents should make sure she is not in favor of implementing this radical, costly, and sure to fail system.”

Aramis Ayala files challenges of Rick Scott with Florida Supreme Court, federal court

Arguing Gov. Rick Scott had no legal basis to strip murder cases from her jurisdiction, Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala filed challenges Tuesday morning in both the Florida Supreme Court and federal court.

In complaints filed by her attorney, Roy Austin Jr. of Washington D.C., Ayala contends that she legally exercised prosecutorial discretion in deciding not to pursue death penalty prosecutions in the 9th Judicial Circuit. Ayala was not found by guilty of any misconduct.

Consequently, Ayala argues that Scott’s executive orders stripping 23 first-degree murder cases from her and reassigning them to another state attorney were only because he disagreed with her determination not to pursue death penalties.

The state action, seeking a writ of quo warranto, asks the Florida Supreme Court to vacate Scott’s 23 executive orders. Ayala’s petition cites Article V, Section 17, of the Florida Constitution, which declares that “the state attorney shall be the prosecuting officer of all trial courts in that circuit,” and contends that Scott has no legitimate grounds to overcome that.

Ayala’s federal suit, filed in Florida’s Middle District of U.S. District Court, seeks injunctive and declaratory relief against Scott in his official capacity as Governor of Florida and in his individual capacity, as well as against Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brad King in his official capacity.

It argues that Scott denied both the will of the voters of the 9th Judicial Circuit and the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“This is about justice and it’s about fairness,” Austin said in an interview with “Ms. Ayala was elected to ensure the fair administration of justice in the 9th Judicial Circuit. That is what she plans and is going to fight for. That involves everybody, the people in her office, the families of victims, the community she represents.”

The moves set forth the anticipated monumental showdown that will determine both the breadth of the power of the governor and breadth of prosecutorial discretion of Florida prosecutors.

The federal suit asks the federal court to defer for now to the Florida Supreme Court, so the state will get the first crack at the issues, based on state law and the Florida Constitution.

Scott said he hadn’t seen the filing, but when Ayala declined to seek the death penalty for alleged cop-killer Markeith Loyd, also charged with killing his pregnant girlfriend, “it bothered me, personally.”

He recounted the grisly details of the crimes of which Loyd stands accused.

“I’m going to continue to look at cases. I’ve moved other cases there,” Scott said.

“I’m going to think about the victim, and I’m going to think about the victim’s family. What she’s filed, I don’t know.

“But I want to thank Brad King for his willingness to take on this responsibility — to do the job that all citizens expect our state attorneys to do, and that is prosecute individuals to the full extent of the law.”

There is no question that Ayala’s decision to not pursue death penalties ignited a political firestorm, with Scott, State Attorney General Pam Bondi, many other Republicans and many police representatives expressing angry disagreement, while a number of Civil Rights, faith-based and legal organizations and a handful of Democrats have sided with Ayala, a Democrat.

The key questions are: how far can a state attorney take the long-standing legal concept of “prosecutorial discretion,” which essentially holds that the prosecutor can decide how to prosecute cases; and how much power does the governor have to manage the affairs of state and local officials whom the governor determines have overstepped their authorities.

The federal suit stands ready to test the issues on a bigger scale.

The complaint charges: “Scott violated the Constitution of the United States, usurped Ayala’s authority, and deprived voters in the 9th Judicial Circuit of their chosen State Attorney when, under color of law, he removed Ayala from 23 pending homicide cases in her circuit and replaced her with King, a State Attorney who was not elected by voters from Orange and Osceola Counties.”

For the first time, the federal case argues Ayala did indeed consider the facts of the case of Loyd, the alleged Orlando cop-killer who is also charged with killing his pregnant girlfriend.

Loyd’s first-up on her agenda, and it was her refusal to pursue a death penalty that led Scott’s first action, taking that case from Ayala and reassigning it to King.

“After extensively researching the relevant law, as well as the facts of the Loyd case, Ayala determined that she would seek a sentence of life without the possibility of parole in Loyd’s case, not a sentence of death,” the suit states.

“Separately from building her case against Loyd, Ayala began formulating her office’s policy for handling death-eligible cases generally. She reviewed research showing that the death penalty: has no positive impact on public safety; is racially discriminatory; discriminates against the poor; is enormously expensive; leaves victims’ families in a state of uncertainty, and is imposed on innocent people too often

“She also met with victims’ families, reviewed files from other cases, and spoke with other people involved with the criminal justice system,” the suit contends.

Orlando to bid on 2020 NBA All Star Game

Still fresh of hosting the 2012 NBA All Star Game and its weekend of festivities, Orlando is preparing to bid to host the 2020 game as well.

Orlando Magic Chief Executive Officer Alex Martins on Tuesday outlined the franchises plans for the bid for the Orange County Commission, seeking the county’s support.
“As you know, we had great success in hosting this event in 1992 and in 2012,” Martins said.

The NBA has put out a request for bids, due April 24, for both the 2020 and 2021 festivities. Orlando will only be bidding for 2020 because in 2021 there would be a conflict with the huge Homebuilders Association convention, which would fill much of the convention center and many hotels.

Martins outlined plans that would include the Amway Center, the convention center and new facilities at the Walt Disney World Wide World of Sport. Martins estimated the event would require 24,000 hotel room nights and over 6,500 hotel rooms overall.

The 2020 NBA All Star Weekend takes place Feb 14-16, 2020.

There will be plenty of competition for the bid. Martins said he expects a record 15 NBA franchise cities to bid for it. Only three bid on the 2012 NBA All Star Weekend, which Orlando hosted.

PPP poll finds Orange, Osceola counties prefer life punishment to death sentence

A new poll by Public Policy Polling finds that a strong majority of voters in State Attorney Aramis Ayala‘s Orange and Osceola counties prefer some form of life-in-prison sentence for first-degree murderers rather than the death penalty.

The poll, commissioned by the Center for Capital Representation at the Florida International University College of Law, finds results that support Ayala and her controversial position to not pursue death penalties in Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit, which includes Orange and Osceola.

PPP did not specifically ask voters in the 9th JC whether they would or could support the death penalty. Rather it asked whether they prefer that punishment or some form of life imprisonment for people convicted of first degree murder.

Thirty-three percent of those surveyed said they preferred a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole, with the convict also required to provide some form of restitution to the victim’s family. Another 17 percent said they preferred a straight life in prison without possibility of parole, and another 12 percent said they preferred life in prison with a chance of parole after at least 40 years. That meant 62 percent overall preferred some form of life in prison.

Just 31 percent said they preferred a death penalty for first-degree murderers.

Broken down by party preference, a huge majority of Democrats, 76 percent, and a plurality of Republicans, 49 percent, said they preferred one of the life sentences over the death penalty.

“These results clearly show that Orange and Osceola voters strongly prefer life sentences over the death penalty,” Kenneth B. Nunn, a professor of law at University of Florida’s Levin College of Law., stated in a news release issued PPP. “State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s position on the death penalty is very much in line with the position of her constituents.”

Stephen K. Harper, director of the FIU Center for Capital Representation, said the Orange and Osceola poll results are consistent with what he has seen in statewide polling.

“We run a death penalty project in the law school. One of the things we try to find out is, OK, where is the Florida public on this issue?” Harper said. “Obviously there is a lot of emotion on both sides.”

The PPP survey was conducted April 5-7 of 567 registered voters in Orange and Osceola counties. The pollsters say they have a margin of error of 4.1 percent for the broad-survey questions.

In another question, 52 percent said they thought state attorneys should consider factor such as impact on victims’ families, cost and public safety when deciding whether to pursue the death penalty, and 36 percent did not.


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