Gov. Rick Scott Archives - Page 4 of 84 - Florida Politics

Florida Keys still closed; ‘different kind of lifestyle for a while’

The lower Florida Keys were hammered in special ways by Hurricane Irma and remain closed to residents, visitors and even more volunteer cleanup workers as authorities try to get them livable, officials said Friday.

An estimated 65 percent of the housing was damaged to the point of being uninhabitable, according to authorities, but residents will not be allowed to cross the bridges to get back in to find out for themselves for the time being.

Water, sewer, electricity and housing stock are in short supply throughout the Keys, particularly in the lower Keys, official said during a meeting with Gov. Rick Scott, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and other local, state and federal disaster response authorities in Marathon. The main port is closed, and numerous boats and other vessels are adrift, clogging channels.

The Florida Department of Transportation has finished its inspections of all 26 bridges leading into the Keys and found them sound and safe. But that’s no longer the overriding issue.

Teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Florida Division of Emergency Management, various other state and federal agencies, even the U.S. Navy, are on the scene. And they’ve pretty much filled every available hotel and motel room, said Martin Senterfitt, Monroe County’s director of emergency management.

That means authorities even are turning away some volunteer relief workers, because there’s no place to put them.

“As much as we want help, as much as we need help, we have to  moderate that,” Senterfitt said.

And, he added, the Keys will remain closed until there is confidence residents and others will not come in to find no where to stay, nothing to drink, and no other services.

“Do they have the ability to boil water? Do they have the ability to flush a toilet? It’s that basic,” he said.

Many of the damaged homes appear to have only roof damage, but enough to keep them from being occupied. Yet FEMA and the Florida Division of Emergency Management have challenges in setting up temporary housing, because there is so limited available open land.

The main waterline survived, but most of the feeder lines into the islands were damaged, and they’re being inspected and repaired, but the process is time consuming, officials said.

The sewer lines appear to be fine, but most operate with pumps and lift stations, and with no electricity, most are not operating.

“The biggest need after we get water, power and fuel back, for the Keys, is housing,” Scott said.

Once the gates are opened and everyone is allowed back, a second wave of crisis is expected as each resident and business owner discovers his or her challenges, Senterfitt said

“It’s going to be a little bit different lifestyle for a long time,” he said.

Scott and other state and federal officials assured all attention possible is being focused on recovery in the Keys, which the governor said presents unique challenges.

“I think everybody’s goal is to get everybody back in the Keys the first day we can,” Scott said. “The day everybody can come back and enjoy the Keys again will be a good day for the state.

“The people evacuated out of the Keys, they want to get back.  But the most important thing is to keep everybody safe,” Scott said.

 

Flags at half-staff for law enforcement deaths before Irma

Gov. Rick Scott has ordered flags at half-staff to honor Hardee County Sheriff’s Deputy Julie Ann Bridges and Florida Department of Corrections Sgt. Joseph Ossman.

The two were killed Sunday in a two-car head-on collision. Bridges was on her way home after helping at a local hurricane shelter, reports said. Ossman was headed to work at a state prison.

The AP reported that officials said the area was affected by wind and rain from Hurricane Irma when the crash happened, but the official cause was under investigation.

Scott directed the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff at the Hardee County Sheriff’s Office, the Hardee Correctional Institution in Bowling Green, the Florida Department of Corrections headquarters in Tallahassee, the Hardee County Courthouse, and Wauchula City Hall from sunrise to sunset this Saturday.

“I am heartbroken to learn of the loss of these two individuals,” Scott said in a statement.

“Our law enforcement and correctional officers work every day to keep Floridians safe. It is because of their work we are able to live in a state where people can raise their families safely. My heart goes out to their families and the entire law enforcement and correctional officer community.”

Rick Scott takes action against nursing home where eight died

After eight South Florida nursing home residents died when Hurricane Irma knocked out their power, Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday directed the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to block the facility from receiving Medicaid payments.

Hollywood Police Chief Tom Sanchez said investigators believe the deaths at Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills were heat-related, adding that a criminal investigation is underway.

The chief said authorities have not ruled anything out in the deaths, including carbon monoxide poisoning from generators.

“This facility was responsible to provide their patients a safe environment and they failed to do so,” Scott’s office said in a statement. “The state has had multiple points of contact with this facility prior to the tragedy, and at no time did the facility communicate any imminent threats to their patients’ life or safety.”

The home “is currently undergoing a criminal investigation from the local authorities, and open investigations from both AHCA and DCF (Department of Children and Families).  It is clear that this facility cannot be responsible for Florida’s vulnerable patients, and therefore the state will stop them from providing care.”

All of the center’s patients and residents have been evacuated, the release said.

The Associated Press contributed to this post, republished with permission. 

Rick Scott: SD 40 election will be held as planned

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday rejected a request from Florida Democratic Party chair Stephen Bittel, asking the governor to postpone the Sept. 26 special election for Senate District 40.

Scott’s position suggests he may not heed a similar request from a coalition of progressive groups that asked him “to postpone municipal and statehouse elections scheduled in the coming weeks due to the devastating impact of Hurricane Irma.”

Common Cause Florida, State Voices Florida, the League of Women Voters of Florida and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law sent a separate letter to Scott on Thursday.

Bittel wrote to Scott on Wednesday, noting Irma’s devastation of South Florida.

“Our community is focused on rebuilding and recovery, not voting,” he wrote. “I urge you to delay the SD 40 Sept. 26 special general election, for a period of two weeks, until Oct. 11, when our community has had the necessary time to heal.”

Scott’s spokesman said the governor would not change the date.

“We rely on the independent supervisors of elections to guide decision-making on elections in their counties,” Deputy Communications Director McKinley Lewis said in an email.

Miami-Dade “Supervisor of Elections Christina White has requested to move forward with this election, and we will accept her guidance,” he added. 

White had separately written to state Division of Elections director Maria Matthews this week, saying “all three early voting sites are fine and have power.” 

We are assessing Election Day polling places. No major damage to our knowledge. And it’s helpful to know that power will be restored countywide by Sunday and schools open Monday,” White told Matthews. “I do not have any information that would prevent us from moving forward as planned.”

Democrat Annette Taddeo is running against Republican Jose Felix Diaz and independent Christian “He-Man” Schlaerth for the seat, vacated by former GOP Sen. Frank Artiles.

Seniors group calls on feds to investigate nursing home deaths

The group that calls itself the conservative alternative to AARP is calling on the federal government to investigate the deaths of eight South Florida nursing home residents who died after Hurricane Irma knocked out their power.

Dan Weber, founder and CEO of the Association of Mature American Citizens, sent a letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long asking the agency “to offer any and all assistance in the (state) investigations and, if necessary, conduct an investigation of its own,” according to a Thursday press release.

Weber

“We strongly urge that an official federal inquiry be launched to investigate why senior citizens are dying and at risk in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma,” Weber wrote. “We urge FEMA to assist in state’s investigations in every way possible.

“… (W)e must make sure that the safety of our most vulnerable citizens remain a top priority. We know you share these concerns, and we urge you to act to make sure they are promptly and fully addressed,” he added.

“It is unconscionable that in the 21st century and in Florida—a state where one in five people are 65 and older—America’s seniors are still apparently not given priority after natural disasters, especially in the wake of one as significant and highly-anticipated as Hurricane Irma. This appears to have been an entirely avoidable tragedy.”

The eight deaths happened at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, which shocked Florida’s top leaders even as they surveyed destruction from a storm that spread its punishing effects across the entire state.

Hollywood Police Chief Tom Sanchez said investigators believe the deaths were heat-related, adding that a criminal investigation is underway. The chief said authorities have not ruled anything out in the deaths, including carbon monoxide poisoning from generators.

Gov. Rick Scott announced in a news release Wednesday night that he’s directed the Agency for Health Care Administration to issue an emergency moratorium for the facility, preventing it from admitting new patients indefinitely.

Firefighters also helped relocate 122 people late Wednesday from two assisted living centers near Orlando that had been without power since Hurricane Irma.

In Coral Gables, an apartment building was evacuated after authorities said its lack of power made it unsafe for elderly tenants. And at the 15,000-resident Century Village retirement community in Pembroke Pines, where there were also widespread outages, rescue workers went door to door in the 94-degree heat checking on residents and bringing ice, water and meals.

Weber’s group bills itself as “the largest conservative due-paying member association in the United States with a membership of over one million seniors.” Weber founded the organization in 2007 as an alternative to AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons.

The Associated Press contributed to this post, reprinted with permission. 

Rick Scott blocks insurance premium hikes, cancellations during Irma recovery

Gov. Rick Scott has ordered a three-month freeze on insurance rate increases for homeowners struggling to recover from Hurricane Irma — plus a three-month grace period for policyholders who received non-renewal or cancellation notices just before the storm hit.

“Due to the devastating effects of Hurricane Irma, Floridians should be focused on getting back to their normal lives without their insurance premiums being increased,” Scott said in a written statement.

Additionally, Scott directed that insurers grant policyholders 90 days to document losses.

“Many Floridians were displaced during this dangerous storm, and providing additional time to submit information to insurance companies gives them needed flexibility,” Scott said.

The governor issued his directive to the Office of Insurance Regulation. He cited his authority under Executive Order 17-235, the emergency declaration he signed on Sept. 4 as Irma approached.

On Aug. 23, the insurance office conducted a public hearing into a proposed 10 percent premium increase for about half of Citizens Property Insurance Corp.’s 453,000 policyholders — mostly affecting those in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. The state’s insurer of last resort cited a 100 percent increase in the average cost of water claims in the Tri-County region.

“Hurricane Irma was a storm unlike anything we have seen before, and as residents across the state travel home to assess damages to their homes and businesses, we stand ready to help with any insurance issues that arise,” Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, whose office oversees the insurance regulators, said.

“Insurance can be complicated, and I’ll do everything in my power to protect policyholders throughout the entire recovery process,” Patronis said. ”Our team of insurance experts are standing by to take Floridians’ calls at 1-877-693-5236.”

The governor’s office directed policyholders to an Irma resources webpage, www.myfloridacfo.com, and to additional storm-related materials on the insurance office’s webpage here.

Rick Scott: ‘Fuel and power Florida’s top priorities’

Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday night said he’s “made it clear” that getting gasoline to the pumps and turning the lights back on are tied for his No. 1 priority.

Scott “will continue to aggressively work until every Floridian can return to work and their kids can go back to school,” his office said in a press release.

“Florida is an incredibly resilient state and now it is time that we come together and rebuild,” he said in a statement. “After visiting shelters this week and talking to people who evacuated due to Hurricane Irma, the number one thing I heard from families is that they want their power back on.

“We must make sure Floridians have the fuel they need to get home and back to work, and the electricity they need to live their lives,” he added. “We are making progress on both fronts, but I will not rest until we are 100 percent recovered.

“While power has been restored to nearly two million homes and businesses so far, there is much more work that needs to be done. I have directed every state resource to help with these issues, and we are working with local officials, public and private utility companies and the federal government to fill gas tanks and turn on the lights.”

Highlights of the release are below:

— The current power outage as of 6 p.m. Tuesday is more than 4.7 million accounts. Since Monday afternoon, nearly 2 million accounts have been restored. 

— All three of Florida’s major fuel ports are open and operational: Port Tampa, Port Everglades and Port Canaveral. Port of Panama City is also open and operational. Each is prioritizing fuel shipments and FHP is escorting fuel resupply trucks to gas stations.

— Scott has directed Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) cut and toss crews to work alongside utility crews across the state to clear road debris so power can be restored quickly.

— He also waived the taxes on fuel trucks entering the state and held daily calls with all fuel supply stakeholders, including Florida ports.

Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday announced that the federal government has waived the Jones Act upon Scott’s request, which lifts additional rules and regulations to allow more fuel to get into Florida.

Also, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has approved an emergency fuel waiver which allows more fuel to enter the state.

Joe Henderson: Hopefully we learned Irma’s lessons

The winds have died and the mopping up has begun. Businesses are reopening as people head back to work while dealing, at least for now, with their new realities.

I know people whose homes were badly damaged by this storm, while others – myself luckily included – had only minor inconveniences. No matter whether Irma dealt you a mighty blow or a glancing scratch, we’re all in this together.

That’s why the most important questions in Irma’s wake is what we learned about the experience, and whether those lessons will stay with us as we go forward into what seems increasingly to be an era of super storms.

They had better.

HAVE A PLAN: You know all those TV people who start preaching in June about the necessity of having a hurricane plan? Maybe everyone ought to listen.

When the news of Irma’s impending arrival became real, there was a rush on water, batteries, flashlights, and necessities like canned goods. Those things are a lot more available in June than they are 48 hours before a Category 5 hurricane is predicted to strike.

Water doesn’t spoil.

If you have bought supplies in the past, you might want to update the inventory. On Saturday, after shelves had been cleared out and stores started to close, we confidently pulled out the giant plastic container that kept the supply of size “C” and “D” batteries. They were right where we left them.

They also had expired in 2011.

CUT FORECASTERS A BREAK: I actually heard some people complain weather forecasters were totally wrong on this one because Irma didn’t follow the initial projected paths. That’s crazy.

They routinely warned viewers that even the slightest change in conditions could send the hurricane off in many directions. They emphasized everyone was in danger, and everyone had to prepare like they were going to be directly in the damage path.

Even with the advanced and other equipment, plotting an exact course of these storms can be an inexact science. They get it right more often than not, though.

I remember hearing Steve Jerve of WFLA-TV in Tampa say last Friday that the eye of Irma likely would pass just east of the city, which is exactly what it did.

SHELTER FROM THE STORM: People seem to have this one down. Shelters filled early as people wisely took no chances, Hillsborough County had to open more.

I wonder, though, if the story would have been the same had Irma stayed on the original east-coast track. Given the size of the storm, that could have been catastrophic here. Some people in Miami probably thought they were safe when Irma moved west.

How did that work out?

A POLITICAL MODEL: Future leaders take note: Gov. Rick Scott again provided a blueprint for how someone in his position is supposed to lead during a threat like this.

Like last year with Hurricane Matthew, Scott was here, there and everywhere, sounding the warning early, often and loudly.

As someone noted, when you see Rick Scott wearing the Navy ballcap, you know it’s getting real.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was all over TV, radio and Twitter with similar warnings. He gets the quote of the week with his one about how after 90 years of avoiding, Tampa was about to “get punched in the mouth.”

DO YOUR HOMEWORK: Remember the lessons from this adventure because there will be a test. Just look at 2004 after Hurricane Charley left devastation in its path. Three more storms followed.

Wanna bet this won’t happen again?

I don’t.

After Irma, Florida’s evacuees contemplate return trip

Thanks to reconnaissance by a neighbor who stayed behind, Pam Szymanksi knows Hurricane Irma blew out the living room window of her southwest Florida home, but she isn’t sure when she’ll get to see the damage for herself.

“All I know is we have to check out of here tomorrow, because they’re booked,” she said Monday, sitting in the lobby of a downtown Atlanta hotel where she arrived with her mother, two children and two dogs. A hotel reservation in Valdosta, Georgia, is next, Szymanksi said, but that’s still 350 miles from their home in Fort Myers.

“I don’t want to run into closed roads,” she said, “but I want to get home and start cleaning up.”

Szymanski’s family helped make up one of the largest storm evacuation efforts in U.S. history, after Gov. Rick Scott urged more than 6.5 million residents, one out of four of his constituents, to leave.

Now, with Irma advancing inland, a potential reverse migration from across the Southeast raises new worries of jammed roadways amid uncertain gasoline supplies, empty grocery store shelves, standing water and widespread power outages that in heavily damaged areas could last for weeks.

Scott cautioned evacuees not to rush back home.

“Storm impacts can continue well after the center passes,” the governor said from his official Twitter account, asking residents to follow local officials’ advice on when to return. He later retweeted FEMA’s warning that Irma involves “disruptions to daily activities” long after it passes.

That’s not necessarily a message Floridians want to hear, even as they contemplate reliving the day-long and overnight drives they endured just days ago.

In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Rea Argonza was worried about money as she mapped out her return plans.

“Staying here, it’s been like a financial strain,” said Argonza, who traveled with her husband and five children from St. Augustine, Florida, to two hotel rooms 500 miles away near the Wake Forest University campus. “We’re up to almost a thousand dollars now. I do believe this whole expedition is going to be almost $3,000.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press

Rick Scott focused on Irma recovery

Gov. Rick Scott can’t stop, won’t stop as the state mops up from Hurricane Irma.

Scott, who’s in Jacksonville this Tuesday morning, was all about preparedness as the storm approached. Now he’s focused on recovery, his daily schedule shows, with a media interview thrown in:

“7:20 a.m. — Call With Florida Power And Light President And CEO Eric Silagy Regarding Hurricane Irma Response

“7:35 a.m. — Call With Tampa Electric President And CEO Gordon Gillette Regarding Hurricane Irma Response

“7:45 a.m. — Call With U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers District Commander Jason Kirk Regarding Hurricane Irma Response

“7:50 a.m. — Call With Port Tampa Bay President And CEO Paul Anderson Regarding Hurricane Irma Response

“8:00 a.m. — Interview On CBS This Morning (Via Phone)

“9:00 a.m. —  Aerial Tour Of Hurricane Irma Impacts In Jacksonville”

We’ll update the schedule as the Governor’s communications office releases more details throughout the day.

Updated 9:30 a.m. — Scott will join Maj. Gen. Michael Calhoun, the state’s Adjutant General, and “Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and members of the National Guard on an aerial tour to assess damage from Hurricane Irma in Jacksonville,” his office said.

Then he’ll brief the media after the tour, around 10:15 this morning, at Jacksonville International SHELTAIR, 14600 Whirlwind Ave.

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