Gov. Rick Scott Archives - Page 4 of 78 - Florida Politics

Personnel note: Kim McDougal joins GrayRobinson lobbying team

Kim McDougal, Gov. Rick Scott‘s former chief of staff, is joining GrayRobinson‘s Tallahassee office as a Senior Director of Government Affairs, the law firm announced Friday.

“Kim brings tremendous insight and invaluable experience to our firm, and will also substantially increase our expertise in the education policy and appropriations areas,” said Jason Unger, managing partner of the Tallahassee office. “The breadth of her governmental experience cannot be underestimated as a resource to our clients.”

She “will advise and lobby for clients in all sectors on both policy and appropriations issues, while she continues her passion by also focusing on education-related issues,” a press release said.

“Her experience at the highest level in state government provided her in-depth knowledge on both policy and appropriation issues as well as how state government functions and how to effectively navigate through Florida’s entire state government.”

McDougal, who was chief of staff from April 2016 to May of this year, was Scott’s fifth chief of staff since he took office in 2011, following, in order: Mike Prendergast, Steve MacNamaraAdam Hollingsworth, and Melissa Sellers (now Stone). Former communications director Jackie Schutz is now chief of staff.

Our story from March 2016 when McDougal was hired is here. Her last reported yearly salary with the state was $170,000.

Here’s the rest of the release:

McDougal began her public service career with the State of Florida in 1989 as a program auditor with the Office of the Auditor General, and she later worked for the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability.

During her 10 years with the Florida Legislature, she worked on a wide array of policy areas, but the majority of her policy work focused on K-20 education policy. McDougal has worked as a senior advisor or in a leadership role for many of Florida’s Education Commissioners.

She also worked for Gov. Jeb Bush in several roles within the Executive Office of the Governor, including the Policy Coordinator for Education in the Office of Planning and Budget.

McDougal served Gov. Scott’s administration for almost four years, beginning as a special advisor on education, then serving as Policy Coordinator for Education in the Office of Planning and Budget, then joining the Senior Leadership Team as Policy Director and subsequently serving as Legislative Affairs Director.

While serving as Scott’s Chief of Staff, McDougal was responsible for directly serving and advising the Governor and regarding the over 100,000 executive branch employees and the administration of an $83 billion state budget.

She graduated from the Louise S. McGehee School, a private all-girls school in New Orleans, then got her bachelor’s degree from Tulane University and her master’s and doctoral degrees from the Florida State University College of Education.

McDougal has resided in Tallahassee since 1984.

John Morgan gets ‘ready to rumble’ on no-smoke medical pot

Orlando attorney and entrepreneur John Morgan says he will make good on his threat to sue the state over this year’s implementation bill for medical marijuana because it doesn’t allow such cannabis to be smoked.

“Heading to Tally in the morning to file suit against the state on behalf of the citizens & patients of Florida!!” he tweeted Wednesday afternoon, adding the hashtag #NoSmokeIsAJoke.

He also included a GIF showing boxing ring announcer Michael Buffer and his trademarked catchphrase, “Let’s get ready to rumble!”

A press conference is planned between 9 and 9:30 a.m. outside the Leon County Courthouse, he added.

Morgan, the main backer of the marijuana amendment that passed last year, has said he would sue because lawmakers would not allow medicinal marijuana to be smoked.

“It was part of my amendment,” he said last month. The amendment refers to allowing cannabis to be smoked only indirectly, however.

It says in one section, for instance, the state can’t “require any accommodation of any on-site medical use of marijuana in any correctional institution or detention facility or place of education or employment, or of smoking medical marijuana in any public place.”

The amendment also uses the state law definition of marijuana that includes “every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant or its seeds or resin,” seeming to suggest smokeable cannabis is allowed. 

The 2017 Legislative Session ended without a bill to implement the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment. An implementing bill gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.

Lawmakers wound up coming up with legislation during a later Special Session.

Gov. Rick Scott approved both a bill (SB 8-A) that implements the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment, passed by voters last year, and a companion measure (SB 6-A) that exempts caregivers’ personal information from public disclosure. Both went into effect immediately.

The medical cannabis constitutional amendment passed with just over 71 percent of statewide voters approving the measure.

Florida Bar will focus on ‘protecting the courts’ during constitutional revision process

The new president of The Florida Bar says the organization is standing by to offer “technical legal” support to the Constitution Revision Commission as it readies to amend the state’s governing document, which could include changes affecting the judicial branch. 

Higer

But Michael J. Higer, a partner in Berger Singerman’s Miami office, won’t say which public proposals already filed he favors—or fears. He assumed the Bar presidency on June 23. 

“It is too early in the process to focus on any one idea proposed by Florida’s citizens,” he said in an email interview. “But changing our Constitution should be done with caution, because once something is added, it is very difficult to repeal.

“That is why it is critical that we as a bar educate our members and the public so that they are fully informed and engaged in the CRC process.”

But a recent poll by Florida TaxWatch showed “77 percent of Florida voters said they haven’t heard about recent Constitution Revision Commission meetings.” Another 13 percent said they only saw, read or heard “a little” about the commission’s activities.

Higer said the Bar will be “working with its members statewide to educate their communities and encourage engagement in the process,” including a public education program in the fall.

My hope is that, if Florida’s citizens understand the issues, the work of the CRC will be beneficial to our state,” he said.

The 37-member commission meets every 20 years to review and offer changes to the state’s constitution. Gov. Rick Scott appointed the bulk of its current board, including chair Carlos Beruff, along with picks by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Senate President Joe Negron and Chief Justice Jorge Labarga. Attorney General Pam Bondi also is a member.

This is the first commission to be appointed by a Republican majority, leading some to fear that amendments it offers will veer too far to the right. Any amendments it offers go straight to the 2018 statewide ballot, but still must pass with 60 percent approval.

The commission’s “focus will not be on strengthening” the judiciary, said Martha Barnett, a former president of the American Bar Association and 1997-98 member of the CRC.

Barnett said she instead expects an effort to “restrict, narrow and weaken the judicial branch.” She spoke at a panel discussion at The Associated Press’ annual Legislative Session planning meeting this January. “And if that happens, it is to the peril of the life and liberty of the people of this state.”

Lawmakers this year filed but did not pass several bills, including ones setting appellate-level judicial term limits and requiring the Supreme Court to report regularly on case delays.

The Florida Bar’s focus will be on protecting the courts, to make sure that they are fair, impartial, adequately funded and preserved as the third, separate branch of government,” Higer said. “Anything that impedes the operation of the courts would be a major concern.”

He added Bar leaders already have met with the CRC executive director Jeff Woodburn and general counsel William Spicola—both former members of Scott’s administration.

“The Bar has offered to assist the commission by providing legal subject matter experts on the various issues coming before the commission who may answer questions or provide analysis,” Higer said.

The CRC already has held nine public hearings across the state; the next hearing has not yet been set.

Jimmy Patronis is sworn in as Chief Financial Officer

Former state Rep. and Public Service Commissioner Jimmy Patronis was sworn in Friday morning as the state’s fourth Chief Financial Officer.

Patronis took the oath of office in the Governor’s office, given by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, and standing next to wife Katie and sons Theo and Johnny.

“Thank you for allowing me to partake in this incredible honor,” the Panama City Republican told them. “I look forward to keeping up the same standards and values that CFO (Jeff) Atwater has brought to the job.”

Patronis was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to replace the departing Atwater, who’s leaving government to become chief financial officer of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

He was guarded on what changes he plans for the Department of Financial Services, which he now oversees as CFO—even deflecting questions on possible staff moves, including whether he “was OK with the current Insurance Commissioner,” David Altmaier.

“That’s something I’ll get up to speed on,” Patronis said. “I’ll weigh … all the facts. Right now, I’m just looking forward to my first Cabinet meeting.”

He also didn’t address whether he plans to run for the elected position in 2018. Atwater served two terms and would have been term limited.

As CFO, Patronis—a Scott loyalist—will be one vote on the Florida Cabinet, in addition to Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

The CFO is head of a roughly 2,600-employee agency that includes the state treasury and insurance regulators, as well as being state fire marshal. The CFO also oversees management of the state’s multi-billion dollar financial portfolio.

The office was created after the 1997-98 Constitution Revision Commission recommended collapsing several state departments into one, including Insurance, Treasury, State Fire Marshal and Banking and Finance.

Personnel note: Jim Poppell named Lottery Secretary

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity chief of staff Jim Poppell will be the next Secretary of the Lottery, Gov. Rick Scott‘s office announced Thursday.

The Lottery’s profits go into the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, which pays for Florida Bright Futures Scholarships, among other things.

“During his time at DEO, Jim has helped provide Florida families and businesses with the support they need to succeed,” Scott said in a statement. “I am confident that Jim will continue the Lottery’s focus on fighting for students and achieving record sales to invest in our education system. I look forward to working with him to further support Florida students.”

Poppell starts July 10, taking over from David Mica Jr., the Lottery‘s chief of staff who was interim secretary. The vacancy was created by the departure of former Secretary Tom Delacenserie, now president and CEO of the Kentucky Lottery.

Poppell, an attorney, also has been DEO’s General Counsel.

He’s held leadership positions at NextEra Energy from 2008-10 and Florida Power & Light from 2006-08, a press release said. Poppell also was a minister for 21 years in the Churches of Christ.

He received his undergraduate degree from Eckerd College, a graduate degree from Spring Arbor University and a law degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

Tropiflora seeks holdup of new medical marijuana implementing bill

A Florida nursery that previously filed a protest over the Department of Health’s award of medical marijuana licenses is back in court this week.

Tropiflora LLC of Sarasota is asking a judge to delay enforcement of part of the state’s new medical marijuana implementing bill, passed during the recent Special Session. The company filed a motion Monday in Leon County Circuit Civil court.

Specifically, it’s asking for a “stay” of the section of the law‘s “medical marijuana treatment center” licensing scheme. The nursery says the department “wrongfully refused” to consider its license application.

The state law, in effect now, grandfathers in seven existing providers, renames them “medical marijuana treatment centers” (MMTCs) and requires the Department of Health to license 10 new providers by October. The bill also allows four new MMTCs for every increase of 100,000 patients prescribed marijuana.

It limits the number of retail locations each MMTC can open to 25 across the state, and divides that cap by region. As the patient count goes up, five more locations can be opened per provider for every new 100,000 patients in the state’s Medical Marijuana Use Registry. The limits expire in 2020.

In late 2015, Tropiflora was one of the first three nurseries to move against the state over the licensing of growers of medical marijuana. San Felasco Nurseries of Gainesville and Perkins Nursery of LaBelle also filed protests.

At that time, only five licenses were awarded to grow medicinal pot, to Hackney Nursery Co. (northwest region), Chestnut Hill Tree Farm (northeast), Knox Nursery (central), Alpha Foliage (southwest), and Costa Nursery Farms (southeast).

TropiFlora objected because four of the five licenses went to nurseries that also sat on the department’s “negotiated rulemaking” committee, records show.

In 2014, lawmakers passed and Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a measure legalizing low-THC, or “non-euphoric,” marijuana to help children with severe seizures and muscle spasms. THC is the chemical that causes the high from pot.

A three-member panel of state officials in DOH was tasked with selecting five approved pot providers out of 28 nurseries that turned in applications.

Since then, state voters approved a constitutional amendment on medicinal cannabis last year. Lawmakers approved and Scott also signed an implementing bill, which gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.

A hearing on Tropiflora’s motion was set for Thursday before Circuit Judge Karen Gievers. Tallahassee attorney Steve Andrews is representing the nursery.

Court grills Aramis Ayala lawyer over avoidance of death penalty

A dubious-sounding Florida Supreme Court shellacked Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala‘s lawyer during oral arguments Wednesday, questioning her prosecutorial “discretion” in not seeking the death penalty.

“I don’t even see a gray area,” Justice R. Fred Lewis said. “It seems to me that ‘discretion’ is not to ignore Florida law.”

Justice Barbara Pariente also raised concerns over “equal enforcement of the death penalty statute,” suggesting that Ayala created a legal oasis in which murderers will never face the ultimate punishment.

Ayala, elected last year, unilaterally took “the death penalty off the table in the 9th (Judicial) Circuit … (and) she didn’t run on that platform.”

Attorneys for Ayala, who attended Wednesday’s hearing in Tallahassee, and lawyers for Gov. Rick Scott debated Ayala’s request that the court order the governor to return capital punishment cases he reassigned to neighboring 5th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brad King.

Ayala is a Democrat; Scott and King are Republicans.

Her attorney, Roy Austin, argued that no law requires her to seek an execution in any given murder case. Austin, who’s been a civil-rights lawyer with the U.S. Justice Department and aide to President Barack Obama, said Scott should be ordered to return the 24 death penalty-eligible cases he took away from her office.

But Justice Charles Canady, a member of the court’s conservative-leaning minority, countered: “That discretion has to be exercised on a case-by-case basis, rather than a blanket policy … It’s a very absolutist position you are taking.”

Florida Solicitor General Amit Agarwal, who argued his case without notes, represented Scott. He told the court there was “no prinicipled (way) to defend a blanket policy.”

The conflict fight began in March when Ayala said her office would no longer seek the death penalty, explaining the process is costly, it’s not a crime deterrent and it drags on for years for the victims’ relatives. House Republicans soon castigated her and moved to strip funding from her office.

She announced her decision as her office was starting to build a case against Markeith Loyd in the fatal shooting of an Orlando police lieutenant and his pregnant ex-girlfriend.

“No one individual has the right … to make a policy judgment that has practical effect of nullifying” the state’s capital punishment scheme, Agarwal said. “… No one has done what the petitioner has done here, to say ‘in my mind, (the death penalty) should never be enforced.’ “

Agarwal also said Scott gave Ayala an opportunity to recuse herself from death penalty cases, which she declined.

“And reassignment doesn’t let the governor tell prosecutors how to pursue a case,” he said, adding that Scott can’t “micromanage” murder prosecutions.

After the hearing, Austin told reporters “the law is very clear here.”

“There’s nothing that requires a case-by-case decision,” he said. “There’s nothing in the law that requires her to seek the death penalty.”

Ayala spoke briefly, defending her decision to abstain from seeking executions as punishment, saying she was never “given a blueprint.”

The justices did not give a timeline on when they will rule.

(This post includes background from The Associated Press, reprinted with permission.)

Personnel note: Jonathan Zachem appointed DBPR secretary

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday appointed Jonathan Zachem as the new Secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).

Matilde Miller, who had been serving as interim secretary since January, has accepted the job of Vice President of Compliance for VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s public-private tourism marketing agency.

“DBPR is often on the front lines of supporting new and existing businesses across our state” Scott said in a statement. “With his leadership experience at DBPR, Jonathan understands the importance of reducing burdensome regulations while helping our job creators and families.

“I know that Jonathan will be a great leader as we continue to work together to make Florida the most business-friendly state in the nation,” the governor added. “I appreciate Matilde Miller’s service to the State of Florida and her dedication to our mission of growing jobs for our families.”

Zachem was the department’s deputy secretary. Before that, he was chief attorney and then director of DBPR’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.

He also worked for the Prosecution Services Unit (PSU) of the Florida Department of Health.

Zachem received his undergraduate degree from the University of Florida, a graduate degree from the University of South Florida and a law degree from the Barry University School of Law, according to the Governor’s Office.

Jimmy Patronis’ move to CFO creates PSC, CRC openings

Now that Jimmy Patronis is leaving the Public Service Commission and Constitution Revision Commission to become the state’s next Chief Financial Officer, Gov. Rick Scott has to replace him on those panels.

The Florida Public Service Commission Nominating Council is charged with “screening and nominating applicants for appointment by the Governor to fill vacancies on the Florida Public Service Commission,” its website says.

(The 12-member council, by the way, has four vacancies, including its vice chair, according to its website.)

Patronis’ term on the commission, which regulated investor-owned utilities, wasn’t up till Jan. 1, 2019. A council spokeswoman couldn’t be immediately reached Tuesday on whether any applications for Patronis’ seat have been filed.

Scott formally named Patronis, a former state legislator, as state CFO on Monday. He replaces Jeff Atwater, whose last day on the job is Friday. He’s becoming chief financial officer for Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

For the empty seat on the Constitution Revision Commission, Scott has three alternates that he already appointed to choose from: Don Eslinger, former Sheriff of Seminole County; Tom Kuntz, chairman of the Board of Governors for the State University System of Florida; and John Stargel, a circuit judge in the 10th Judicial Circuit and husband of state Sen. Kelli Stargel

That body, which already has held several public hearings, is empaneled every 20 years to go over the state constitution and suggest changes that go directly on a statewide ballot. Voters still must OK any amendments with 60 percent approval.

A Scott spokesman said the governor is “reviewing” how to handle that vacancy.

The state constitution says openings “shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointments,” but it’s unclear whether Scott has to pick an existing alternate or can select someone totally new.

Education funding, other bills OK’d by Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott has signed a bill making it easier for parents and residents to challenge school textbooks and school library books.

The legislation, which was one of 29 bills signed on Monday, allows parents and residents to review instructional materials and then challenge them as inappropriate before a hearing officer.

It was one of five education bills signed by Scott, including increasing funding by $100 per student in the state budget.

Scott also signed the bill establishing the $85 million Florida Job Growth Grant Fund along with $50 million in repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee.

That bill “also fully funds VISIT FLORIDA at $76 million and implements new accountability and transparency measures to VISIT FLORIDA and Enterprise Florida (EFI),” the governor’s office said in a statement.

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