Gov. Rick Scott Archives - Page 2 of 87 - Florida Politics

Special election ordered to replace Jeff Clemens

A special primary election to replace former Sen. Jeff Clemens will be held Jan. 30, with a special general election April 10, meaning Senate District 31 will have no representation during the 2018 Legislative Session.

Gov. Rick Scott signed an executive order, announced Monday night, calling for the special elections. The 2018 Session is slated to run Jan. 9-March 9.

Clemens, a 47-year-old Lake Worth Democrat, resigned Oct. 27—less than a day after news that he had had an extramarital affair with a South Florida lobbyist.

He was the Senate’s Democratic Leader-designate, having been first elected in 2012 after one term in the House.

The election dates matched a request by Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher, a former Democratic state House member.

Former state Rep. Irv Slosberg has said he will run for the open Senate seat, as has current state Rep. Lori Berman, a Lantana Democrat. 

Other Democrats expressing an interest in the seat include state Rep. David Silvers and Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein.

The winner of the special election would serve the remainder of the term Clemens’ won last year, which runs through Election Day 2020.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.

Supreme Court justices caught on ‘hot mic’—but about what?

“Izzy Reyes is on there, he’ll listen to me.”

That’s what Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga can be heard saying to Justice Barbara Pariente right after Wednesday’s oral argument in a lawsuit over the governor’s judicial appointments power.


A lawyer named Israel U. Reyes is a member of the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC). The panel vets and recommends appointees for Supreme Court justice to the governor.

In a videotape provided to Florida Politics on Friday, some puzzling “hot mic” cross-talk can be heard between the two jurists, sitting on the bench as the attorneys were leaving the courtroom.

The exchange also was noted by some viewers as they watched the live argument; it’s not captured in The Florida Channel‘s archived video on its website.

“I heard what sounded like two JNC members’ names being mentioned,” said Jason Unger, a GrayRobinson lawyer-lobbyist in Tallahassee and the Supreme Court JNC’s chair.


Further, “it looks like Justice Pariente has a piece of paper she is referring to,” added Unger, who also has been a special counsel to the Florida House of Representatives. “I would like to see that document as that may provide some context, since the case has nothing to do with the JNC.”

Unger said he filed a public records request for the document with the Supreme Court: “I may have some more thoughts thereafter.”

In the tape, Labarga can first be heard saying what sounds like, “…anything on there, Panuccio.”

Jesse Panuccio, once Gov. Rick Scott‘s general counsel and a former head of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, is also a member of the Supreme Court JNC.

Pariente then can be heard saying what sounds like, “…crazy…”


That’s followed by Labarga: “Izzy Reyes is on there, he’ll listen to me.” JNC member Reyes is founder of The Reyes Law Firm in Coral Gables and a former circuit judge.

Pariente responds, but what she says isn’t clear on the tape.

The case they had heard was brought by the League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVF) and Common Cause, claiming Gov. Rick Scott doesn’t have authority to appoint three new Supreme Court justices on the last day of his term.

The organizations filed a petition for “writ of quo warranto,” a court action against government officials to demand they prove their authority to perform a certain action.

Scott, a Naples Republican, has said he plans to name the replacements for the court’s liberal-leaning trio of Justices R. Fred LewisBarbara Pariente and Peggy A. Quince.

They face mandatory retirement on the same day—Jan. 8, 2019—that is Scott’s last in office as governor. He’s term limited next year.

Scott’s office declined comment on the tape when contacted Friday. A spokeswoman for Thomas D. Hall, one of the attorneys representing the League and Common Cause, said he had no comment because he hadn’t heard the justices’ exchange.

As of Friday evening, requests for comment were pending with Reyes, and with Supreme Court spokesman Craig Waters. 

Coda: Rick Scott’s last stand at AP Day at the Capitol

Talking about the future and reminding the audience of his past, Rick Scott appeared one last time as Florida’s governor at the annual Associated Press planning session at the Capitol.

Scott did not present a proposed state budget Thursday, as he has at previous AP events, but began with a recap of recent hurricane recovery, then a synopsis of his seven years as the state’s chief executive: Employment up, debt down, for example.

“A lot of people forget where we were when I ran in 2010,” he said. Since then, he’s reduced taxes 75 times, he said. He’s term-limited as governor next year.

Scott also teased some details of his state spending proposal for 2018-19, including $10 million for Department of Children and Families abuse investigators and $198 million for adoption subsidies.

He said he was confident the state has enough money without having to dip into any rainy-day funds, even after all the costs associated with Hurricane Irma.

“We have the revenue … It all comes down to how you allocate the dollars,” he said, adding “I will spend every dime I can to protect lives.”

On the environment, he’ll ask for $1.7 billion in funding, including $355 million for the Everglades, $100 million for beach restoration, and $50 million for state parks.

Scott also wants $50 million for repairs to the dike at Lake Okeechobee: “We cannot afford another (Hurricane) Irma coming up” to the lake, he said.

He added, in response to a question, that he will not seek the chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association (he’s vice chair), saying “I’m sure somebody (else) will step up.” Scott, a Naples Republican, is widely expected to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson for his seat in 2018.

Till then, “I will fight every day until I finish this job … I will keeping fighting for families,” Scott said.

Voting restoration amendment has 750,000 signatures

The main backer of a proposed constitutional amendment that would automatically restore some felons’ voting rights after they complete their sentences says his group now has collected over 750,000 signatures.

Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, also said on Wednesday that he’s confident the amendment will have a million signatures by year’s end.

“The needle is moving,” he said in a phone interview.

The Florida Division of Elections website showed as of the end of Wednesday that the citizen ballot initiative, known as “The Voting Restoration Amendment,” has 301,064 verified signatures.

Initiatives need 766,200 valid signatures for ballot placement. Signatures must be spread across Florida’s 27 congressional districts, with the total number due pegged to voter turnout in the most recent presidential election.

According to the ballot summary, “This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation.

“The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis.”

Former state Senate Democratic Leaders Arthenia Joyner of Tampa and Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale separately filed the proposal with the Constitution Revision Commission, which has the power to put it directly on the ballot.

During his term as Florida governor, then-Republican Charlie Crist worked with Cabinet members Alex Sink and Charles Bronson to push through restoration of rights for more than 150,000 non-violent felons. That process was quickly halted by Gov. Rick Scott when he took office in 2011.

Current law requires Florida convicts to wait years after they complete their sentences to apply for rights restoration through the Board of Executive Clemency, made up of Scott and members of the Cabinet.

• Additional reporting by Peter Schorsch •


Al Lawson, Darren Soto urge Rick Scott to seek suspension of food stamps time limit

Democratic U.S. Reps. Al Lawson and Darren Soto are urging Florida Gov. Rick Scott to extend a time-limit extension he imposed following Hurricane Irma so that food stamp recipients can continue to receive benefits without risking their 90-day deadline.

Lawson, of Jacksonville, and Soto, of Orlando, said in a letter to Scott that Hurricane Irma has created economic conditions that leave too many people needing benefits of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [formerly known as food stamps] to get by, and that at least 36 counties and eight cities are eligible for a time-table waiver that Scott should extend.

Without the governor’s consent before the beginning of November, SNAP recipients in Florida between the ages of 18 and 50 who are not disabled and do not have dependents will be limited to SNAP benefits for 3 months in any 3-year period when not employed or in a work or training program, they argued in the letter.

“In response to the devastation of Hurricane Irma, your administration ceased enforcement of this time limit for the months of September and October in the 48 FEMA declared disaster counties throughout the state,” Lawson said in a news release issued by both his and Soto’s offices Tuesday. “This move allowed the most vulnerable of Floridians to rebuild their lives without the worry of losing their SNAP benefit, and this policy must be continued.”

Both Soto and Lawson sit on the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee and the Nutrition Subcommittee.

They asked Scott to continue this policy for all 48 FEMA declared disaster counties, in addition to areas that qualify based on excessive unemployment.

“Many Floridians are still incurring disaster-related expenses, from repairing property or loss of income,” Soto said. “While recovering and making ends meet, families should first and foremost be food secured. SNAP provides a gap in income for Floridians to feed their families and we must continue to provide this essential benefit for all affected.”

Rick Scott’s generator emergency order struck down by administrative judge

An administrative judge has struck down Gov. Rick Scott‘s emergency order that would have forced Florida’s nursing homes to install emergency generators immediately.

Administrative Law Judge Garnett Chisenhall ruled Friday that Scott’s administration failed to demonstrate that an emergency exists that would require an emergency order for the immediate installation of generators that could power at least some air conditioning in nursing homes.

Scott’s emergency order, which he signed on Sept. 16, came in response to the horrific news that 14 people died in the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in the days following Hurricane Irma’s Sept. 10-11 blitz across Florida, which knocked out power for days for much of the state. Those Hollywood Hills residents apparently died because there was no power in the nursing home, and indoor temperatures climbed so high that residents literally baked to death. Two people died immediately inside the home; others died in hospitals. Multiple investigations and lawsuits are underway.

Scott’s order had required Florida’s 683 licensed nursing homes and 3,109 licensed assisted-living facilities to come up with a plan by the end of October to provide emergency backup power to keep at least critical living areas chilled during extended power outages, and to be able to maintain an interior temperature of 80 degrees for 96 hours. It gave a mid-November deadline to get the equipment installed, up and running.

LeadingAge Florida, a not-for-profit company with 350 communities for senior citizens, challenged the emergency order, contending the timetables were not realistic.

Chisenhall agreed with LeadingAge Florida, concluding that there was no dire emergency.

“It’s disappointing that DOAH issued a shortsighted ruling against protecting lives and elderly Floridians,” McKinley Lewis, Scott’s deputy communications director, said in a news release. “This ruling is in stark contrast with the favorable ruling the First District Court of Appeal issued last week that affirmed these rules were justified by the emergency circumstances. We will file an immediate appeal to the First DCA.”

Meanwhile, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, assisted by the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, is pursuing more traditional rule-making that could end up with the same or similar rules, just not on an emergency basis. The traditional process could take many months. The Florida Legislature also is considering several bills that would do the same thing.

Steve Bahmer, president of LeadingAge Florida, said that would be fine. Bahmer stressed that his organization and its members, and most other critics’ of Scott’s emergency order, were not opposed to the goal of making sure a Hollywood Hills tragedy never happens again. Nor were they opposed to new rulemaking that might require generators. The issue, he said, was the real-world practicality of every nursing home in the state getting plans together and equipment installed and operating on such short notice.

Bahmer and others testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services earlier this month that, among other factors, the generator manufacturing industry simply couldn’t supply the machines in time, given that the triple crises of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria wiped out inventories and backlogged orders.

“Our primary concern with the emergency order from the beginning was that the timeline provided was just unrealistic,” Bahmer said.

“We agree with the spirit of what the governor was trying to do,” he added.

Lewis indicated the governor and the administration would not back down.

“AHCA will continue the public rulemaking process, and we will also continue our work with the Florida Legislature to make these critical rules permanent. We will not let special interests get in the way of these life-saving measures,” he said.

Proposal would assure governor’s power to name justices

A proposed constitutional amendment would ensure that future governors could appoint new judges and justices up to their last day in office.

But John Stemberger, the member of the Constitution Revision Commission who filed the amendment Thursday, said he was temporarily withdrawing the proposal to correct a drafting error. 

The amendment would make certain that judicial terms end the day before a new governor takes over from a sitting one.

“The proposal should have had an effective date of 2020, well beyond the current legal dilemma that potentially presents itself in January of 2019 when the new Governor is sworn in,” he wrote in an email early Friday.

Attorneys are set to argue a related case against Gov. Rick Scott before the Florida Supreme Court next Wednesday.

“I am not seeking to interfere with the circumstances of legal battles for the judges currently set to retire in 2019, but merely to avoid this miniature constitutional crisis into the future by simply changing the dates so they do not coincide together,” he added.

Progressive groups have challenged Scott’s authority to appoint three new Supreme Court justices on the last day of his term in 2019.

Stemberger, an Orlando attorney and president of the conservative Florida Family Policy Council, aims to “revise the date on which the term of office begins for judicial offices subject to election for retention.”

The amendment aims “to avoid the ambiguity and litigation that may result by having the terms of judicial officers and the Governor end and begin on the same day.”

It would change the start and end dates of judicial terms from “the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January” following the general election, to “the first Monday in January.” 

The League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVF) and Common Cause sued Scott this summer. They seek a “writ of quo warranto,” a court action against government officials to demand they prove their authority to perform a certain action.

Liza McClenaghan, state chair of Common Cause of Florida, said Stemberger’s amendment “thwarts the will of the people and makes government less accountable.” Oral argument in their action is set for next Wednesday morning.

The age-required retirements of three justices—R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy A. Quince—occasioned the suit. They are considered the more liberal-leaning contingent of the high court. 

Scott, a Naples Republican, has said he plans to name their replacements the morning of his last day in office—Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019.

His attorneys have argued that the justices’ age-mandated retirements also will become effective that Jan. 8.

The League and Common Cause counter that Scott can’t replace those justices because he’ll be out of office earlier on the same day they retire, and their terms last till midnight.

If the commission eventually decides to place Stemberger’s amendment on the 2018 statewide ballot, it still would have to be approved by 60 percent of voters to be added to the state constitution.

The 37-member board is convened every 20 years to review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document. Stemberger was named to the panel by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican.

Ethics board cites Justin Sayfie, Capitol Group for reporting violations

The Florida Commission on Ethics is moving against lobbyist Justin Sayfie and another firm for problems arising from random audits of their compensation reports, according to a Wednesday press release.

But Sayfie called the problem “a simple math error.” The commission also dropped cases against three other executive-branch lobbying concerns.

The ethics board, which said it “conducted a required investigation of the Sayfie Law Firm based on the findings of a random audit,” found probable cause “to believe that the executive branch lobbying firm under-reported compensation received from a principal for the third and fourth quarters of 2015.”

Probable cause means that an investigative body believes it’s more likely than not that a violation of law has occurred.

Sayfie, the former Jeb Bush policy advisor turned political website whiz, had his own firm before joining Brian Ballard’s Ballard Partners lobbying firm in 2015 as its managing partner in Fort Lauderdale. He’s now in Ballard’s Washington D.C. office.

“There was a computational error, a simple math error,” he told Florida Politics in a phone call. “I amended the reports immediately, but I guess (the commission’s) position is, the error still requires this finding.” Sayfie now has been randomly audited two years in a row, he said.

Under state law, once the commission finds probable cause, that finding is sent to Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet for further action. The firms can request a hearing, or the governor and Cabinet members can decide to call a hearing on their own.

In any case, if they find that a reporting violation occurred, they “may reprimand the violator, censure the violator, or prohibit the violator from lobbying all agencies for a period not to exceed 2 years,” the law says.

No lobbying firm has yet been penalized under the law, although four cases filed this year are still pending review, according to records.

“If the violator is a lobbying firm, lobbyist, or principal, the Governor and Cabinet may also assess a fine of not more than $5,000 to be deposited in the Executive Branch Lobby Registration Trust Fund,” the law says.

“My sense is (that) for transparency purposes it’s good to have these audits, but it’s a lot of reporting to do. There’s a lot of work that goes into them,” Sayfie added. “There should be some understanding that finding math mistakes is not the kind of thing the law was intended to penalize.”

Lawmakers have questioned the audits’ usefulness, going as far as to file a bill for the 2016 Legislative Session that would have repealed the audit requirement. It died before the session’s end.

“I don’t understand how the public’s interest is advanced by this exercise,” Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, said in late 2015.

The commission also found probable cause to believe that The Capitol Group “inaccurately listed a principal for the first quarter of 2015 (and) probable cause also was found to believe the firm filed an inaccurate compensation report for that same reporting period, and for the second, third, and fourth quarters of 2015,” the press release said.

A request for comment is pending with that firm.

No probable cause of lobbying law violations was found after investigations of Shutts & Bowen, Frank Meiners Governmental Consultants, and The Commerce Group, the press release said.

Rick Scott names 8 to CareerSource Florida Board

Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday evening announced five reappointments and three appointments to the CareerSource Florida Board of Directors:

— Rick Matthews, of Viera, is the vice president of global operations of Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation. He is reappointed for a term beginning October 24, 2017 and ending March 21, 2019.

— William Johnson, of Tampa, was the former Vice President of finance shared services at Coca-Cola Refreshments. He is reappointed for a term beginning October 24, 2017 and ending March 21, 2019.

— Elisha Gonzalez Bonnewitz, of Winter Park, is the government and community relations manager for Duke Energy. She is reappointed for a term beginning October 24, 2017 and ending March 21, 2019.

— Rose Conry, of Jacksonville, is the CEO of Stafftime. She is reappointed for a term beginning October 24, 2017 and ending July 6, 2019.

— Tim Center, of Tallahassee, is the founder of Centerfield Strategy and the CEO of Capital Area Community Action Agency. He is reappointed for a term beginningOctober 24, 2017 and ending March 21, 2020.

— Stephanie Smith, of Miami, is the senior public policy manager at Uber Technologies. She is appointed to fill a vacant seat for a term beginning October 24, 2017and ending October 24, 2020.

— Camille Lee-Johnson, of Atlantic Beach, is the chief operating officer at Lee Wesley and Associates. She is appointed to fill a vacant seat for a term beginningOctober 24, 2017 and ending October 24, 2020.

— Tony McGee, of Orlando, is the CEO of HNM Global Logistics. He is appointed to fill a vacant seat for a term beginning October 24, 2017 and ending October 24, 2020.

AFP-FL praises senators for advancing ‘direct primary care’

Americans for Prosperity – Florida thanked the Senate Tuesday for advancing a bill that would allow physicians and patients to strike deals for primary care services without the need for health insurance.

The practice, known as “direct primary care,” has gained in popularity as health insurance premiums have shot up over the past decade.

In the 2018 Legislative Session, lawmakers will consider SB 80 by Brandon Sen. Tom Lee and a similar bill in the House, HB 37 by Pasco County Rep. Danny Burgess, that would add it to the stable of options Floridians have to seek health care.

“Direct Primary Care is one of simplest solutions to ensuring that patients get the care they need. Patients and doctors can enter into flexible healthcare agreements that can help expand access to the sort of reliable and affordable care Floridians need,” said AFP-FL director Chris Hudson.

“We applaud Senator Lee and his colleagues for pushing Direct Primary Care through to the next level of consideration. We encourage the Senate to move on this common-sense solution quickly, get it to the floor and pass it so that Governor [Rick] Scott can sign this bill into law as soon as possible.”

SB 80 picked up the unanimous support of the Senate Health Policy Committee Tuesday, and had previously won bipartisan approval from the chamber’s Banking and Insurance Committee during the first interim committee week ahead of the Legislative Session, which starts in January.

Direct primary care deals would not qualify as “health insurance” under the bill, nor would they be subject to the Florida Insurance Code. Such deals need to be in writing, include terms covering the scope, duration and cost of the agreement as well as give both sides the ability to terminate the deal with a 30-day notice.

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