Gov. Rick Scott Archives - Page 3 of 87 - Florida Politics

Lock and load: Rick Scott to take on Chicago

Gov. Rick Scott announced Tuesday he will be “leading an economic development mission to Chicago this week to share why businesses in Chicago should consider moving their operations to Florida.”

In a news release, Scott said: “Over the past seven years, we have cut taxes more than 75 times in Florida, saving our taxpayers more than $7 billion, and leading to the creation of more than 1.3 million private sector jobs.

“Florida’s success story is in stark contrast to the anti-business policies that have overburdened Chicago families and companies for far too long,” he added. “That is why I will be leading an economic development mission to Chicago to meet with site selectors and job creators and encourage them to move to and invest in Florida.”

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is a Republican; Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a Democrat.

“While Gov. Rauner has tried to grow Illinois’ economy, Chicago leaders and state legislators have for years been passing shortsighted policies and overwhelming increases of taxes and fees,” Scott went on.

“In fact, the average Chicago family today pays nearly $1,700 more in taxes and fees every year than they paid only seven years ago,” he said. “While Florida has been able to pay down $7.6 billion in state debt and increase general revenues by more than 30 percent without raising taxes, Chicago Mayor Emanuel and city leaders announced yet another proposed round of burdensome tax and fee increases just last week.

“This follows the state legislature passing an increase to the state income tax earlier this summer, overriding Gov. Rauner’s veto and strict opposition to such a burdensome tax increase. The entire nation needs to follow Florida’s lead, but until then, we will keep calling on businesses to move to Florida.”

The governor has long targeted states or regions with Democratic leadership for “domestic business development missions.”

For example, this summer he set his aim on Connecticut, led by Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy.

And in 2015, he targeted Pennsylvania, whose governor is Democrat Tom Wolf. That trip resulted in news that the Pennsylvania-based Wawa convenience-store chain was expanding into the Fort Myers market, as well as Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Bill Galvano questions relief centers for displaced Puerto Ricans

Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano on Tuesday questioned whether Gov. Rick Scott overstepped his constitutional bounds in opening “disaster relief centers” for Puerto Rican residents displaced by Hurricane Maria.

“I think the governor is acting in good faith,” said Galvano, who was designated the 2018-20 Senate President to succeed current president Joe Negron. “But that’s something the Legislature needs to deal with.”

A spokesman for Scott later Tuesday told Florida Politics “the federal government has agreed to pay 100 percent of the emergency management costs of the state’s three disaster relief centers.”

Nonetheless, the Bradenton Republican added he was “not convinced the executive (branch) has the authority” to open such centers by executive order.

Earlier this month, Scott announced he was opening the centers “at Orlando International Airport, Miami International Airport and the Port of Miami” to “ensure those entering Florida are provided with all available resources from the state.”

State colleges and universities also waived out-of-state tuition and fees for students from Puerto Rico.

“We will continue to work collaboratively with our state, local and federal partners to support Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts and do everything we can to help those coming to Florida,” Scott said in an Oct. 2 statement.

The number of deaths in Puerto Rico blamed on Maria increased to 51 this week after officials said two more people died from bacterial infections.

Nearly 30 percent of people across the island nation remain without water after Maria hit the island on Sept. 20 as a Category 4 storm with 155 mph winds.

The need to open the centers was not from an “absolute direct impact” on the state, Galvano said. “I would like to see us slow down and have that discussion.

“I would like to have some more analysis of the centers and their effectiveness, and how they should be prioritized,” he added.

Gov. Scott “will continue to do everything within his executive authority to protect lives and help those recovering from these terrible disasters,” spokesman McKinley P. Lewis said in an email Tuesday afternoon.

“This includes appropriating emergency funds to help Florida families recover from Hurricane Irma and aid our neighbors in Puerto Rico as they recover from Hurricane Maria,” he said. “Through the Host State Agreement granted by FEMA at the Governor’s request, the federal government has agreed to pay 100 percent of the emergency management costs of the state’s three Disaster Relief Centers.

“We are glad to provide additional information to the Florida Senate on the great work being done to aid these families.”

Background from The Associated Press, republished with permission. 

Anguish, relief, fear, hope: Relief efforts serving thousands of Puerto Rico storm refugees

Rene Plasencia sees it in the faces of countless Puerto Rican Hurricane Maria refugees when he or someone else says, “we’re here to help you.”

A mixture of anguish, relief, pain, joy, fear, confidence, hopelessness, hope — all the emotions of losing everything and traveling to a strange, new place with almost nothing, and then encountering someone who at least is there to hold a hand, if not help.

It’s happening hundreds of times a day at Florida’s Puerto Rico Disaster Relief Centers at the Orlando and Miami airports, the Port of Miami, and at LatinoLeadership as well as other local nonprofits reaching out to help people arriving from Puerto Rican homes who are not necessarily looking for a fresh start, but just for a place to live.

Sometimes when home-cooked hot meals are brought in by volunteers, it’s the first home-cooked hot meal people have eaten in a month or more, he said.

“It would blow you away,” said Plasencia, a Republican state Representative from Orlando with Puerto Rican roots. His family runs LatinoLeadership, a social services center in Orlando that is helping about 150 Puerto Ricans walking in each day seeking help, and taking hundreds of calls a day. He’s spending a couple of hours a day there himself, and helping at Orlando International Airport, in the state’s official Disaster Relief Center there.

“It gives me both a sense of hope in humanity, and it also gives me a sense of despair,” he said, “because people have so much need for help.”

It was a month ago, on Sept. 20, that Hurricane Maria completely wiped out much of that island’s housing, power, water supply, hospitals, schools, businesses, and infrastructure,

Since Florida’s official Puerto Rico Disaster Relief Centers opened Oct. 3, at least 60,000 people from the island have arrived in Florida on airplanes and ships. It’s unknown how many of them are actual storm refugees, and how many are relief workers and others shuttling from the island.

But the vast majority are people leaving their beloved, but devastated, homeland.

The three Florida Disaster Relief Centers have directly met with more than 12,000 displaced Puerto Ricans, many representing families or groups sitting outside in the airports or Port of Miami waiting for news on where they can go, and what they can do. Some days, centers assist more than 900 people.

About 4,000-6,000 more people from Puerto Rico are getting off planes in Orlando or Miami every day, said Alberto Moscoso, communications director for the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

“Folks coming off the planes are hopeful. Many are intending to return to Puerto Rico when the situation improves, and they’re grateful that the resources are there and the airport has helped them out,” Moscoso said.

Most, he said, are arriving with some sort of plan, and with family in Florida. Yet not all, and housing remains the highest immediate need.

At the centers, they meet with officials from FEMA and the U.S. Veterans Benefits Administration; nine state agencies, including health, children and families, elder affairs, and economic opportunity; a handful of local agencies; and a number of private organizations.

Among those at Orlando International Airport include LatinoLeadership, American Red Cross, United Way, Catholic Charities, Salvation Army, Health Insurance Story, Calvario City Church, Aspire Health Partners, Shepard’s Hope, Halo Office, and the Second Harvest Food Bank.

Puerto Rico relief effort is among  Gov. Rick Scott‘s highest priorities right now,  press secretary Lauren Schenone said.

Plasencia said it shows, not just with the services at the airport, but with the several times a day he said he’s personally calling the governor’s office looking for specific points of help, and getting it.

“The airport is a great service,” he said. “The biggest problem at this point is a lot of the passengers who get off the planes aren’t going to the receiving centers; they’re going off property, and meeting with family, and then maybe a couple days later they’re going back to the receiving center.”

Plasencia, however, was highly critical of the assistance from local governments, particularly Orlando and Orange County.

Two weeks ago Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs declined a request from three county commissioners, Emily Bonilla, Pete Clarke, and Jennifer Thompson, for the county to set up its own Puerto Rico relief efforts, saying it was the state’s role. Last week Plasencia, at a meeting of the Orange County Legislative Delegation, implored her to reconsider.

He said the local efforts are nothing compared with the overwhelming way that Orange County and Orlando responded to the horrific nightclub massacre at Pulse on June 12, 2016.

The county has provided a representative from its Department of Family Services. Orlando has provided a representative from its Hispanic Office for Local Assistance office. The Orange County School Board has provided a representative, as has the Osceola County School Board, and Lynx, the regional public bus system.

What’s most missing is shelter, Plasencia said. He said the governor’s office said the state could not set up any temporary emergent shelters because that was a local responsibility.

“The sad part of this is the lack of support and even the lack of acknowledgment by our local government,” he said. “Where has Teresa Jacobs been, or [Orlando Mayor] Buddy Dyer throughout this whole process?”

Other groups are stepping in. A coalition of churches is finding some housing. Others are providing job leads, notably Eddy Dominguez‘s human resources company Resource Employment Solutions, and the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association.

Plasencia fears the needs will get more acute.

“Most of the people who come so far are living with family. They are people who have come here, typically have a little more means,” Plasencia said. “The next group of people who come may not be that way.”

Tampa Tiger Bay Club debates charter schools

A debate on traditional public schools vs. charter schools took front and center Friday at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club.

For 68 minutes, a group of education leaders of various backgrounds discussed the issue at the Ferguson Law Center.

Speaking out most prominently for charters was Doug Tuthill, the president of Step Up For Students, the nonprofit group that administers most of the tax credit and Gardiner scholarships in Florida.

He said when it comes to charter schools, the public is voting with its feet, referring to the explosive growth of his program, where there were 28,000 students on Step Up for Student scholarships in 2008, and 115,000 in 2017.

Leading the argument for traditional public schools was Melissa Erickson, the executive director of the Alliance for Public Schools.

She said that she did not fault a single parent for making the choice to attend any school that is available to them. What bothered her, she said, was that the vast majority chose.

“What bothers me is that the majority of parents choose public schools,” she said. “And in these debates and in these conversations, those 86-90 percent of parents’ choice is discounted, and I think that is a problem.”

It’s been a contentious issue for years in Florida, ever since the GOP-led Legislature and former Gov. Jeb Bush put the state on the leading edge of a national movement to offer parents alternatives to their neighborhood schools.

The intense acrimony increased this summer after the Florida Legislature’s passed and Gov. Rick Scott signed HB 7069, which included the controversial ‘Schools of Hope’ provision that allows those charter schools to move into areas where traditional public schools have long records of low state test scores.

Tuthill frequently referred to himself as a progressive Democrat who has broken out of an ideological silo to realize that school choice is the best venue to offer a quality education to students who may live in an area where the public schools are poor. He accused critics of suffering from “confirmation bias” and Erickson specifically of having a “myopic” definition of public education.

“I think we need a more pluralistic understanding of public education,” Tuthill said, adding that someone who works for public radio could still serve the public good, just as someone can work for Academy Prep of Tampa and also serve the public good.

“It’s not a criticism of public schools,” he said. “We need to develop a public education system that embraces diversity.”

“We should be partners, not opponents, because we all want the same thing,” said Hillsborough County School Board member Melissa Snively, trying to defuse the animosity between the two camps. “The public schools need to get their game on, and we can do that. Competition is in the educational marketplace.”

Snively told the audience that when advocates for a new charter school apply to the Hillsborough County School District, they need to go through a rigorous process.

“Once it comes to the board for approval or not, we know that it’s been vetted and every ‘t’ has been crossed and every ‘i’ has been dotted,” she said, adding that if the board rejects the application, they can go to Tallahassee to appeal.

Erickson disputed how much local control school boards have in making that determination, saying as long as the ” ‘i’s are dotted and the ‘t’s are crossed, they have to say yes.” She went on to say that charter schools don’t need to show a certificate of need to be built, but public schools do in order to get capital outlay dollars.

There were two people on the dais directly linked to charter schools: Lincoln Tamayo, head of school at Academy Prep of Tampa, and Monika Perez, principal of Pepin Academy in Tampa, both critically acclaimed institutions.

Tamayo boasted about the fact that his school is made up completely of students of color—82 percent black and 18 percent Latino, with all of them having qualified for the federal free and reduced meals.

Nearly all the students live miles away from the Ybor City located campus where parents have to find transportation for the kids, yet the 98 percent attendance rate is the greatest of any middle school in Hillsborough County.

Erickson said Academy Prep’s success illustrated part of the perception problem that public schools face in 2017.

“We hold up a few shining examples of charter schools and use them to justify the entire system, and then we hold up a few failing examples of public schools and use them to condemn an entire system,” she said.

The Orange County School Board on Monday joined 12 others in Florida in a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of HB 7069.

The suit argues that the bill unconstitutionally forces local school districts to share some local property taxes with charter schools, which are sometimes run by private, for-profit firms, and allows “schools of hope” charter schools to open without oversight from local school boards, among other issues.

Jacksonville area sees lower unemployment in September

Friday saw Gov. Rick Scott‘s Department of Economic Opportunity release September job numbers for Northeast Florida, a mixed bag in the wake of Irma.

The good news, via the DEO: the Jacksonville area’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.4 percent in September, down 1.4 points from September 2016.

Unemployment rates ranged from 2.7 percent in St. Johns County to 4.5 percent in rural Putnam County.

The governor’s office prefers year-over-year comparisons, and to that end some results are interesting.

Two industries that have lost jobs over the year augur a potential economic slowdown: leisure and hospitality (-3,800 jobs) and mining, logging, and construction (‐500 jobs).

All told, non-agricultural employment in the Jacksonville MSA was 677,000, an increase of 2,900 jobs (+0.4 percent) over the year.

‘Wicked hatred’: Jewish lawmakers condemn Richard Spencer

The Florida Legislative Jewish Caucus on Thursday called white nationalist Richard Spencer, set to speak at the University of Florida later today, a “a vile, racist, carnival barker.”

Spencer’s “traveling circus of ignorance-fueled hatred is inhabited by insecure clowns unable to come to terms with a changing world,” according to a statement. “His ideology is that of a cowardly, small man, based on discredited nonsense and abject fear of those different from himself.”

It added: “Nothing less than total condemnation of this bigotry will do, as the perils of fascism are well documented in our history. For that reason, it is incumbent upon those in a position of leadership to denounce all forms of white nationalism and any belief systems that rely upon racial or ethnic superiority as their basis for existence.

The statement was signed by Rep. Richard Stark, the caucus chair, and by Rep. Lori Berman, a Lantana Democrat; Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat; Rep. Ben Diamond, a St. Petersburg Democrat; Rep. Katie Edwards, a Plantation Democrat; Rep. Joseph Geller, an Aventura Democrat; Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat; Sen. Kevin Rader, a Delray Beach Democrat; Rep. Emily Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat; and Sen. Annette Taddeo, a Miami-Dade Democrat.

“While respect for our Constitution should always be of paramount concern, we do commend Gov. (Rick) Scott for his commitment to ensuring the safety of all those in Gainesville tonight,” the statement said.

“Those who seek to counter this wicked hatred deserve to know they will be free to express their views peacefully without fear of suffering violence at the hands of white supremacists like those who were attacked in Charlottesville.

“As Elie Weisel said, ‘The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.’ So let no one among us be indifferent.”

Florida Disaster Fund grants awarded

Gov. Rick Scott and Volunteer Florida on Wednesday announced the first round of Florida Disaster Fund grant awards for organizations providing disaster relief following Hurricane Irma, according to a press release.

Each recipient organization is receiving $25,000 for disaster response activities. 

Examples include financial assistance with rent, mortgage and utilities; food, clothing and replacement of household items; sheltering for those who have experienced loss of their homes; individual case management; crisis intervention counseling and hotline services to assist those experiencing psychological distress; assistance for displaced families with pets; muck-out for flooded homes, and removal of dangerous debris.

The awards go to:

Branches, Inc. – Miami-Dade County: Branches, Inc. will provide food distribution, case work services, and financial assistance, as well as help with applications for disaster assistance programs. They will also provide assistance, space, and opportunities for program partners to offer services, and will provide financial education and coaching about services provided by Branches, Inc., the United Way Center for Financial Stability, and other service providers.

Centro Campesino – Miami-Dade County: Centro Campesino will provide food and water, financial assistance, and case work services.

Coalition of Florida Farmworker Organizations – Collier County: Coalition of Florida Farmworker Organizations will provide support for distribution of food and water, help with financial assistance, and provide case work services for migrant populations.

Crisis Clean-up – Statewide: Crisis Clean-Up will connect relief organizations and volunteers with the nearly 10,000 work orders and requests for assistance that have been submitted by Floridians affected by Hurricane Irma via their online database software.

Crossroads Alliance – Statewide: Crossroads Alliance will provide ice, water, supplemental groceries, personal care items, and other necessities, manage distribution sites, and coordinate volunteers to distribute goods.

Farm Share – Miami-Dade County: Farm Share will package and distribute food to those in need. They will also advocate for residents applying for federal relief and assistance.

Florida Baptist Disaster Relief – Statewide: Florida Baptist Disaster Relief will provide feeding services, clean-up and debris removal services, and around-the-clock care for children of emergency personnel.

Hope Animal Assisted Crisis Response – Statewide: Hope Animal Assisted Crisis Response will help connect lost animals with their families and non-kill shelters. They will also provide comfort dogs at shelters, disaster recovery centers, and emergency operations centers.

Habitat for Humanity of Florida – Statewide: Habitat for Humanity of Florida will provide low-cost housing solutions in the Florida Keys, work with residents to find alternative solutions for ineligible Habitat programs, assist existing Habitat homeowners with disaster repairs, and coordinate volunteers in building programs.

Heart of Florida United Way – Orange County: The Heart of Florid United Way will provide information and assistance to clients and callers through United Way 2-1-1, help clients apply for FEMA assistance, and provide services such as direct case management, client assessment, case planning, and financial assistance.

International Orthodox Christian Charities – Northeast Florida: International Orthodox Christian Charities will facilitate food and water distribution, provide cleanup buckets and hygiene kits, and provide home muck-outs, repair, and rebuilding. IOCC will also provide tarping for roofs and partner with Volunteer Florida AmeriCorps partners to utilize spontaneous volunteers unaffiliated with disaster relief organizations.

Lake and Sumter Emergency Recovery – Lake and Sumter counties: Lake and Sumter Emergency Recovery will provide case management services as an advocate for residents in Lake and Sumter Counties.

Mennonite Disaster Service – Statewide: Mennonite Disaster Service will repair and rebuild homes affected by Hurricane Irma. They will also provide cleanup and debris removal services.

Metropolitan Ministries – Hillsborough and Pasco counties: Metropolitan Ministries will provide financial assistance, shelter, and transportation for displaced and homeless families. They will also provide necessary items such as food, water, and diapers.

NAACP – Statewide: The NAACP will provide advocacy services, help with appeal letters, and assist with applications for federal assistance.

NECHAMA – Statewide: NECHAMA will provide cleanup and debris removal services and will repair and rebuild homes affected by Hurricane Irma.

Neighbors 4 Neighbors – Miami-Dade County: Neighbors 4 Neighbors will provide food, shelter, clothing and financial assistance, connect residents to local programs for disaster recovery assistance, and provide advocacy services for residents.

Peacemaker’s Family Center – Miami-Dade County: Peacemaker’s Family Center will provide case management services and will support urgent human needs.

Rebuilding Together – Statewide: Rebuilding Together will assist with debris removal, tarping, and muck out services to low-income residents, repair minor disaster damage, and assist homeowners to preserve home ownership and revitalize neighborhoods.

Feeding Florida – Statewide: Feeding Florida will support local feeding operations in impacted areas, including staging food and food banks.

Save the Children – Statewide: Save the Children will provide child care services in shelters and disaster recovery centers, advocate for children, and help access non-disaster federal program s for survivors on behalf of children.

Star of the Sea Outreach Mission – Monroe County: Star of the Sea Outreach Mission will operate food pantries in the Florida Keys where they will sort, warehouse, and distribute unsolicited donated goods. They will also provide case work services and local transportation for residents.

Team Rubicon – Statewide: Team Rubicon will repair and rebuild homes affected by Hurricane Irma. They will also provide cleanup and debris removal services.

The Humane Society of the United States – Statewide: The Humane Society of the United States will provide non-skill shelter services for lost pets, reconnect them with owners whenever possible, and place animals up for adoption.

The Salvation Army – Statewide: The Salvation Army will assist with warehousing and distribution of donated goods, coordinate with local offices to identify unmet needs, and provide a Salvation Army designated Volunteer and Donations Hotline as needed for current disaster services information.

Tool Bank Disaster Services – Statewide: Tool Bank Disaster Services will mobilize to disaster locations with semi-trailers of tools and will provide lending or specialized tools for voluntary agencies.

United Way of Brevard County – Brevard County: The United Way of Brevard County will provide debris removal, tarping, muck outs, and case work services. They will also provide supplies needed for response and recovery efforts and shelter to low-income residents whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Irma.

United Way of Broward County- Broward Cares – Broward County: The United Way of Broward County – Broward Cares will coordinate with Florida’s United Ways, the Florida Association for Volunteer Resource Management and 2-1-1 providers throughout Florida to ensure proper utilization of volunteers.

United Way of Central Florida – Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties: The United Way of Central Florida will with Florida’s United Ways, the Florida Association for Volunteer Resource Management and 2-1-1 providers throughout Florida to ensure proper utilization of volunteers.

United Way of Charlotte County – Charlotte County: The United Way of Charlotte County will provide water and snacks as well as funds for food, housing, gas, and other needs. They will also help complete FEMA assistance request and will support their partner agency, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Charlotte County, who are engaged in response activities.

United Way of Collier County – Collier County: The United Way of Collier County will help residents complete FEMA applications, launch short and long-term direct assistance programs for impacted residents, and support partner agencies, volunteer projects, and case work services. They will also help run the United Way 2-1-1 information and referral helpline as well as the Volunteer Collier community-wide volunteer center.

United Way of the Florida Keys – Monroe County: The United Way of the Florida Keys will distribute direct relief supplies and provide food distribution, medical assistance, child care, and case management services. They will also issue emergency mini-grants to local non-profit partners, create a disaster response team and coordinate volunteers to assist and direct affected residents to appropriate relief organizations for help, and will assist in distributing other supplies and emergency gift cards to residents in need.

United Way of Lake and Sumter Counties – Lake and Sumter counties: The United Way of Lake and Sumter Counties will provide tree removal services and assist residents with rent and utility, prescription medications, food, minor home repairs, and lost wages. They will also assist with other United Way 2-1-1 services.

United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee – Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee counties: The United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee will facilitate debris removal services, coordinate and distribute supplies, provide support for urgent human needs such as food and shelter, provide public information outreach events, and support partner agencies engaged in hurricane recovery activities. They will also recruit, train, and place volunteers, purchase supplies needed for volunteer projects, and help operate the United Way 2-1-1 hotline.

United Way of Miami-Dade – Helping Hands – Miami-Dade County: United Way of Miami-Dade – Helping Hands will distribute meals ready to eat (MREs) and hygiene kits to shelters and assisted living facilities, provide financial assistance, and assist Miami-Dade County’s Emergency Operations Center. They will also recruit and place volunteers in disaster relief efforts, including medically-trained volunteers for the Florida Department of Health.

United Way of North Central Florida – Alachua, Bradford, Dixie, Gilchrist, Levy, Union counties: Coordinate with Florida’s United Ways, the Florida Association for Volunteer Resource Management and 2-1-1 providers throughout Florida to ensure proper utilization of volunteers.

United Way of Palm Beach County – Palm Beach County: The United Way of Palm Beach County will serve as the focal point to which all volunteers report, where their skills are verified, and from which they are reassigned to areas where they are needed. They will also coordinate staff and equip different distribution points throughout the county with volunteers, organize, inventory, package, and redistribute all donations arriving in the county, and support local non-profit organizations engaged is hurricane response activities.

United Way of NE FL – Duval, Nassau, Putman, and Clay counties: The United Way of NE FL will help provide debris removal services and other necessities such as food, water, shelter, clothing, utilities, and housing to residents in need. Additionally, they will support area nonprofits to deliver services to those in need and will help operate the United Way 2-1-1 for the Northeast Florida region.

United Way of Suncoast – Desoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties: The United Way of Suncoast will staff shelters with volunteers, help manage both affiliated and non-affiliated volunteers through the Volunteer Reception Centers, and will invest in community partners to help those affected by the hurricane.

United Way of Volusia-Flagler Counties – Volusia and Flagler counties: Coordinate with Florida’s United Ways, the Florida Association for Volunteer Resource Management and 2-1-1 providers throughout Florida to ensure proper utilization of volunteers.

Scott activated the Florida Disaster Fund last month to provide financial support to organizations serving those impacted by Hurricane Irma. The Florida Disaster Fund is the State of Florida’s official private fund established to assist Florida’s communities as they respond to and recover during times of emergency or disaster. In partnership with the public sector, private sector and other non-governmental organizations, the Florida Disaster Fund supports response and recovery activities. 

 

State of emergency declared for white nationalist speech

Citing past clashes and protests, Gov. Rick Scott on Monday declared a state of emergency in advance of a speech white nationalist Richard Spencer is scheduled to give at the University of Florida.

The state’s Republican governor warned in an executive order Monday that a “threat of a potential emergency is imminent” in Alachua County, in north Florida. Spencer is slated to speak at the campus on Thursday and his pending appearance has already sparked protests in the university town.

Spencer participated in a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that led to deadly violence in August.

Scott’s executive order will allow local law-enforcement authorities to partner with state and other law-enforcement agencies to provide security for the event. The university has already said it expects to spend $500,000 on security.

The governor is also activating the Florida National Guard to help with security if it is needed. Scott said he declared the emergency after discussing Spencer’s speech with Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell.

“We live in a country where everyone has the right to voice their opinion, however, we have zero tolerance for violence and public safety is always our number one priority,” Scott said in a statement. “This executive order is an additional step to ensure that the University of Florida and the entire community is prepared so everyone can stay safe.”

Spencer said the emergency declaration was “flattering” but “most likely overkill.”

“I’m not a hurricane or an invading army, at least not literally,” he said during a telephone interview Monday.

However, Spencer expressed concern that the emergency declaration could be used as a pretext for blocking his speech. He noted that Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe had declared a state of emergency on the day of the Charlottesville rally before Spencer and others could speak.

“That was basically a means for suppressing the rally,” Spencer claimed.

When he issued the declaration, McAuliffe had said via his Twitter account that he did it in order “to aid state response to violence” at the Charlottesville rally.

University of Florida officials said it was the violence in Virginia that led them to reject a request from Spencer and his National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank, to allow him to speak in September. After they threatened to sue, school officials said they would try to accommodate Spencer if he renewed his request for a different date.

University of Florida President Kent Fuchs earlier this month asked students to stay away from the campus event. He wrote in an email that Spencer and his group seek only “to provoke a reaction.”

Darnell said Scott’s executive order was not intended to “alarm anyone,” but to make sure that her office has the “resources and equipment to help us prepare for violence or widespread property damage.” Darnell said currently they are expecting both protesters and counterprotesters to show up in connection to Spencer’s appearance.

“We are hoping this is a nonevent,” Darnell said. “We are hoping this will go very smoothly and peacefully. But in the reality of this world we have to be well prepared.”

Flags at half-staff for late Tallahassee mayor

Gov. Rick Scott ordered the U.S. and state flags at half-staff for the late James Ford, Tallahassee’s first African-American mayor.

Flags will be lowered at the Tallahassee City Hall and at the Capitol in Tallahassee, from sunrise to sunset on Monday. Ford died Wednesday. He was 91.  

Ford

Ford became Tallahassee’s first black mayor in 1972, serving three terms, according to a news release. At that time, the mayor’s position rotated among city commissioners; the city now separately elects a “leadership” mayor.

Ford was a Tallahassee native, earning an undergraduate and master’s degrees from Florida A&M University. He was a veteran of World War II and Korea, serving in the U.S. Navy and Army.

Before his election to the Tallahassee City Commission, Ford spent 37 years as a school teacher, administrator, and principal in the Leon County Schools. He was later the first black elected to office in Leon County since Reconstruction.

“Ford was instrumental in helping progress Tallahassee’s government,” the release said. “His efforts helped establish the Minority Business Department, the Frenchtown Development Authority, the Affirmative Action Office and the first community center on the south side. Today, that community center bears his name – the Walker-Ford Community Center.”

Senators sound skeptical of new state jobs fund

Lawmakers asked lots of questions but didn’t get the answers they wanted Wednesday as a Senate panel tried to get a handle on the state’s new $85 million jobs fund.

The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee heard from Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) head Cissy Proctor on the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund.

In a Special Legislative Session earlier this year for economic development, tourism and education funding, Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders agreed to create the fund.

It’s aimed at creating employment by enticing businesses to relocate to the state. The fund promotes job training and public infrastructure projects.

Proctor said her department already has received 179 proposals, which include 96 infrastructure projects from local governments and 83 workforce projects, worth a combined $642 million in requested funding.

Senators soon started peppering Proctor with questions: “It’s a lot of money … we want to understand what the parameters are,” explained subcommittee chair Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican.

Sen. Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat, wanted to know if any preference would be given to “depressed or deprived” areas.

All proposals “stand on their own,” Proctor said: “Almost all represent incredible needs of the communities. We want the proposals to shine, to show us how deep the need is.”

When will Gov. Scott make a decision on what gets money? Bradley asked.

“I can’t tell you a timeline,” Proctor said. “We are reviewing them as they come in.”

Bradley pressed on, asking if there were any “objective standards” that the governor and staff will judge by?

“We are looking at each proposal on its own,” Proctor said. 

What about the process of how the governor will be presented with, say, staff picks of top proposals?

“We are working right now on what that will look like,” Proctor said.

Gibson later said she didn’t like what she heard: “I’m really concerned what could be done won’t reach the people who really need it.”

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Fort Myers Republican, added that because demand exceeds supply, “it sets the stage for so many projects to get left behind.”

And she worried that there was no way to make sure money gets spread equally across the state.

In a statement, DEO called the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund “a critical tool for economic development in Florida,” adding it was “committed to accountability and transparency in this process.”

The department “has posted every proposal on a dedicated website, along with frequently asked questions and direct contact information for entities to call or email with any questions. Strong contracts with entities that receive these funds will ensure that each project has a strong, verifiable return on investment and taxpayer dollars are protected.”

DEO, “along with our partners at Enterprise Florida, the Florida Department of Transportation and CareerSource Florida, are working diligently to review more than 170 proposals from communities across the state,” the statement said.

“As outlined in legislation overwhelmingly passed during a special session earlier this year, projects will be approved that meet statutory criteria and promote economic opportunity in these local communities.”

By the meeting’s end, Bradley told colleagues that DEO was “asking for $85 million (next year for the fund) and they haven’t spent the first $85 million. This is the new world we’re working in.”

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