Gov. Rick Scott Archives - Page 5 of 87 - Florida Politics

Rick Scott says Florida is willing and in good shape to help Puerto Rico

After flying to Puerto Rico, visiting the ports, and touring some of the island by air, Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday evening that Florida is ready and in good position to help, though many of Puerto Rico’s challenges are distinct from Florida’s experiences, being an island with limited roads, many washed out from Hurricane Maria’s devastation last week or which soon could be from rising waters.

Scott said he’s seeking to organize donations to be shipped out through Florida ports, offering “Florida’s playbook” on hurricane recovering, including dealing with the federal government red tape, and preparing Florida for whatever’s necessary to absorb what could be a large influx of long-term evacuees.

“But the whole goal for them is, I want to help Gov. [Ricardo] Rosselló to be successful,” Scott said after flying back and landing at Orlando Sanford International Airport Thursday night. “So my point today with them was, OK, tell me what your needs are and I will do everything we can to help.”

Yet he also cautioned the big challenge at the moment is getting supplies, food, water, fuel, generators and other incoming aid from the Puerto Rico ports to the interior, because of limited diesel, trucks, drivers and passable roads. He said 5 percent of the island has power, and 28 percent of cell phone users have service.

Scott said Florida will be organizing its relief efforts for Puerto Rico by specific problems: “power, education, food and water, whatever can be helpful.” And that would include welcoming longterm evacuees, though he suggested that challenge has not yet been defined.

“We don’t know how many people are going to come here. What we are doing is getting prepared: what we do, how we can take care of those families,” Scott said. “We’re going through all those issues right now and we’ll work with our school districts and the airports and everybody.”

Scott said he’s spoken with Florida Education Secretary Pam Stewart about issues such as waiving class size rules and student counts used to determine state and federal funding.

“All those things we’ll figure out. One thing, we have to watch what’s happening every day and figure out how to respond to it. I have a good team of people and they’ll figure it out. Here’s what’s good about our state: One, we are a welcoming state; and two, we have a good budget. We’re running surpluses now, so we’re in a good position to be able to respond. And I believe the federal government will be a partner.”

environment

Environmental lawsuit over ‘Amendment 1’ funding set for trial

A Tallahassee judge has set a trial week in a lawsuit over the state’s environmental funding under a constitutional amendment passed almost three years ago.

Circuit Judge Charles Dodson scheduled a weeklong bench trial for next July 23-27, with a pretrial conference set for June 15, court records show. Discovery in the case was ordered finished by May 25.

Environmental advocacy groups had filed suit in 2015 over the Water and Land Legacy Amendment, also known as Amendment 1. The constitutional change, approved by voters in 2014, mandates state spending for land and water conservation.

The amendment, which needed a minimum of 60 percent to pass, got a landslide of nearly 75 percent, or more than 4.2 million “yes” votes.

Advocates—including the Florida Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club—sued the state, saying lawmakers wrongly appropriated money for, among other things, “salaries and ordinary expenses of state agencies” tasked with executing the amendment’s mandate.

But the legal action had been put on hold by Dodson earlier this year. He cited a state law that allows litigation to be suspended during and shortly after a Legislative Session.

Amendment 1 requires state officials to set aside 33 percent of the money from the real estate “documentary stamp” tax to protect Florida’s environmentally sensitive areas for 20 years. The mechanism to do so is through the Florida Forever conservation program.

Florida Forever regularly received upward of $300 million annually after it became law in 1999, but those expenditures were dramatically reduced after the recession hit a decade ago.

Later, as the economy recovered and without renewed funding from the Legislature, Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet opted more often to use a preservation method, known as acquiring conservation easements, preferred by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Under conservation easements, land is protected from development, but farmers and ranchers typically can continue to use the property.

The Department of Environmental Protection has asked for $50 million for Florida Forever in next year’s state budget. The current 2017-2018 state budget included nothing for Florida Forever.

Background provided by the News Service of Florida, reprinted with permission. 

DEP seeks $50M for Florida Forever

A request is on the desk of Gov. Rick Scott to replenish the state’s most prominent land-preservation fund.

The Department of Environmental Protection‘s wish list for the 2018-2019 fiscal year—presented to Scott last week as the governor’s office crafts budget recommendations for the Legislature—includes $50 million for the Florida Forever program.

“It’s a bigger number, it’s a different focus than what we’ve had from DEP for six or seven years,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida and a prominent environmental lobbyist.

The department’s proposals also include $50 million for programs to improve water quality and drinking water quantity. Another $50 million would go to support state parks.

Department spokeswoman Lauren Engel said the Florida Forever funding is expected to help the state “acquire rare and sensitive lands that will benefit our communities and environment.”

“We are proud of our recent successful acquisitions, including the Blue Spring and Horn Spring parcels, among others,” Engel said, referring to deals in Gilchrist County and in Leon and Jefferson counties.

Engel also noted that the proposed amount for water projects typically will go up as legislators pitch individual projects.

Already Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Chairman Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, has filed a measure for 2018 (SB 204) that would lead to the state spending at least $75 million a year on springs projects and $50 million annually on projects related to the restoration of the St. Johns River and its tributaries or the Keystone Heights Lake Region.

Scott will recommend his proposed 2018-2019 budget later this year, with the 60-day regular session beginning in January. His office hasn’t given a date for the budget release.

Environmentalists called the proposed Florida Forever funding a “welcome sign” the state agency has a renewed commitment to buying important conservation lands.

But they would like to see a more long-term commitment from lawmakers under a 2014 voter-approved constitutional amendment that requires setting aside a portion of documentary-stamp taxes for land and water conservation. Environmental groups contend that lawmakers have improperly used part of the money for staff salaries and agency expenses rather than conservation, a contention that Republican legislative leaders dispute.

“It is good to see DEP step back into an advocacy role when it comes to Florida Forever. But $50 million isn’t nearly what voters expected when they approved the Water and Land Conservation Amendment in 2014,” said Aliki Moncrief, executive director of Florida Conservation Voters. “I hope the governor and Legislature take this recommendation as a starting point and commit to a comprehensive and dedicated funding stream for the remainder of the amendment.”

Florida Forever in the past offered up to $300 million annually for land preservation but has been scaled back in recent years.

Initially, that occurred during the recession. Later, as the economy recovered and without renewed funding from the Legislature, Scott and the Cabinet opted more often to use a preservation method, known as acquiring conservation easements, preferred by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Under conservation easements, land is protected from development, but farmers and ranchers typically can continue to use the property. Putnam has backed using the state’s Rural and Family Lands Protection Program in acquiring easements.

While the 2014 conservation ballot initiative was successful, some influential legislators continue to question the need for Florida to acquire more land, noting struggles to manage the property already in the state’s inventory.

However, in the past year, Scott and the Cabinet have started to dip into money that has sat for years in the Florida Forever program.

In June, $15 million was used to buy 407 acres in Gilchrist County, preserving a cluster of natural springs, and to protect 6,071 acres of agricultural land in Polk and Hardee counties.

The state also used Florida Forever for a $4.5 million purchase in March of more 465 acres to help protect Silver Springs in Marion County and a $16.1 million deal in October to acquire 11,027 acres of land known as the Horn Spring property in Leon and Jefferson counties.

About $60 million is currently in the fund, and Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein, appointed to the position May 23, has expressed a desire to continue using the money.

With Scott expected to run for U.S. Senate in 2018, Valenstein was an architect of Scott’s conservation platform during the 2014 gubernatorial election. The platform called for a 10-year, $1 billion environmental blueprint that lined up in places with the constitutional amendment approved that year.

Draper said conservationists have been lobbying Valenstein to increase funding levels for land maintenance and preservation.

The 2017-2018 state budget, crafted before Valenstein moved to the Department of Environmental Protection from the Suwannee River Water Management District, includes $10 million for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program and nothing for Florida Forever.

©2017 The News Service of Florida. Reprinted with permission. 

Evacuation Route Sign, photo: AAA

Personnel note: Bryan Koon quits as state emergency management head

With a little more than two months left in the 2017 hurricane season, Florida’s emergency management head is leaving his job “to pursue an opportunity in the private sector,” the Governor’s Office announced Tuesday.

Gov. Rick Scott announced Bryan Koon’s resignation as director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management (DEM), effective next Sunday.

AP/Wilfredo Lee
Koon

“On Sept. 1, Koon notified Gov. Scott of his intention to resign to pursue an opportunity in the private sector,” said a release from Scott’s office. “The Governor asked him to remain in his position throughout the month of September due to potential hurricanes forming in the Atlantic.”

“I appreciate Bryan’s willingness to stay on as we prepared for, responded to and now recover from Hurricane Irma,” he added. “I wish Bryan and his family the very best in this next chapter of their lives.”

Koon has served in the position since 2011 and was one of Scott’s initial appointments as governor. He came into the position having worked as the chief of emergency response for mega retailer Wal-Mart, “where he was responsible for the emergency management operations of over 8,500 facilities worldwide” according to the news release, which also detailed past positions Koon held at the White House Military Office and as a Surface Warfare Officer in the United States Navy.

Prior to his appointment, Koon said his job with Wal-Mart gave him experience coordinating private organization efforts with those of state and local governments. His salary from the state was $141,000 a year.

His tenure coincided with the back half of a decade-long stretch where no hurricanes hit Florida. That streak snapped in 2016 with Hurricane Hermine’s landfall south of Tallahassee followed by Hurricane Matthew’s close pass on the Atlantic Coast. So far, Hurricane Irma is the only major storm to make landfall in Florida this year, but it’s pass through the state earlier this month caused untold billions in damage.

“Under Bryan’s leadership, Florida has been recognized as a national leader in emergency preparedness,” Scott said in a statement. “Since day one, Bryan has done an excellent job ensuring our state is prepared and able to respond to countless weather events including Hurricanes Hermine, Matthew and Irma.

Scott said Wes Maul will serve as interim Director. Maul spent about three years working as a special assistant to Scott, with duties ranging from running the governor’s daily schedule and coordinating his travel, before joining DEM about a year ago. His salary from the state is listed at $116,000 a year.

Before joining Scott’s office, Maul attended law school at the University of Florida and worked as a delivery associate at Mattress Town of Gainesville. According to his LinkedIn profile, he increased “average daily delivery capability by 211% through improved inventory analysis, logistics, and sales operations.”

Hurricane season ends Nov. 30.

Rick Scott: Florida is ready to help Puerto Rico

Gov. Rick Scott has “reaffirmed Florida’s commitment to supporting Puerto Rico following the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria,” according to a Tuesday news release.

Scott “has notified the Florida National Guard and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) to be on standby for deployment following an official request for assistance from Puerto Rico, and the Florida National Guard is already actively assisting Puerto Rico with organizing and submitting relief requests,” it said.

Further, the governor “is asking Florida state colleges and universities to allow students displaced by the storm in Puerto Rico to be offered in-state tuition.”

More than 3.4 million U.S. citizens there still lack adequate food, water and fuel five days after Maria pounded the island as a Category 4 hurricane.

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, a Democratic candidate for governor, has twice called on Scott to “make Florida’s National Guard units not currently assisting in Florida available to help Puerto Rico’s rescue and recovery efforts.”

Hurricane Maria has created a “humanitarian crisis” on the island, said Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello, who asked the federal government to provide more search-and-rescue and other resources. Six Democratic state lawmakers also sent a letter to Scott, asking him to offer more help.

The governor said he spoke with Rossello and FEMA Administrator Brock Long “before the storm made landfall last week to let them know that Florida stands ready to assist in any way possible throughout the recovery process.”

“The heartbreak that our friends in Puerto Rico are enduring following this devastating storm is unimaginable and our prayers are with every family who calls this beautiful island their home,” Scott said in a statement.

“… Last week, I also had the opportunity to meet with Puerto Rican evacuees at Florida International University’s shelter and I was moved by their stories of strength and their determination to quickly return to and repair their homes,” he added. “Their resilience after this tragedy is an inspiration to us all and Florida is proud to stand with Puerto Rico during this challenging time.”

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

Flags at half-staff for St. Lucie County sheriff’s captain

Gov. Rick Scott has ordered flags at half-staff in memory of St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Capt. Charles Scavuzzo, the Governor’s Office said Thursday night.

Flags will be flown at half-staff at the St. Lucie County Courthouse, St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, Port St. Lucie City Hall and the County Administration Building in Fort Pierce from sunrise to sunset on Friday.

Scavuzzo, 49, died suddenly at his Port St. Lucie home last Friday, according to his obituary.

Scavuzzo commanded the Criminal Investigations Division of the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office and was in law enforcement for over 28 years.

He is survived by his wife of 20 years, Tonya; children Sydney, Nicholas, and Lyndsey; his mother Ethel; and siblings Lori and Robert Quist of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“My wife, Ann, and I are saddened by the passing of Capt. Scavuzzo, a father, husband and law enforcement officer with more than two decades of service protecting Florida’s families and communities,” Scott said in a statement. “We honor him and all law enforcement officers for their service.”

Calls for blue-ribbon hurricane panels abound in Capitol

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, and with Hurricane Maria now churning the Atlantic, Florida lawmakers are forming or calling for blue-ribbon panels to improve the state’s readiness to deal with monster storms.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Tuesday announced the creation of a “Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness” to “gather information, solicit ideas for improvement, and make recommendations.”

Separately, state Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, asked Gov. Rick Scott “to form a commission to review the disaster preparedness, response, and recovery of state and local entities involved in Hurricane Irma efforts, as well as critical infrastructure institutions such as public utilities and medical facilities.”

The calls come after Hurricane Irma ravaged the state last week, causing at least $2 billion in damage tallied so far. Evacuees were hampered by gasoline shortages, and eight South Florida nursing home residents died after their air conditioning went out.

Money will be tight this year as the Legislature’s chief economist already warned legislators that next year’s relatively tiny state budget surplus will be erased because of costs from Irma.

Corcoran

In the House, Corcoran wants members to set aside “business as usual,” suggesting that filing local spending projects will be frowned upon, at least officially, during the 2018 Legislative Session.

“We spend a significant portion of money”—more than $630 million this year—”on what are considered ‘pork’ projects,” he said at a Tuesday news conference in the Capitol. “If we took just some of those funds … you’re going to see us make tremendous (progress) toward hurricane hardening throughout our state.

“There is not one single (pork) project … that is worth the health and safety of Floridians,” he added.

But Senate President Joe Negron quickly shot down any self-imposed ban on hometown spending. He told the Tampa Bay Times that senators are “in the best position to know what projects are most important.”

“Let’s keep our constitutional roles straight,” he added. “The Legislature is the appropriating body. The Legislature should always have the prerogative and flexibility to write the budget.”

Among some of the ideas floated by Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican and possible 2018 candidate for governor: Creating a state gasoline reserve, looking at tree management policies, and better coordinating the flow of highway traffic before and after a storm. They would go into a “5- or 10-year plan.”

But when asked whether the panel would look hard at the possibility of human-caused climate change affecting hurricane severity or frequency, Corcoran punted.

“I think that what we should be doing is asking ourselves, ‘What can we do to protect the people of this state in the best way possible?’ ” he said, referring to conflicting government studies on global warming. “… The No. 1 function of government is to protect its citizens.”

Colin Hackley: TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 5/8/17-Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, responds to questions from Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, about funding for Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida executives during what is expected to be the final day of the extended 2017 legislative session Monday at the Capitol in Tallahassee.<br />
Brandes

Brandes, in a press release, thanked Gov. Scott, “emergency management officials, and our first responders,” but said “it is important that we have the appropriate oversight in place to stretch every relief dollar to the maximum benefit of Floridians.”

The commission he suggests would “review after-action reports created by state and local emergency operations centers, utilities, state agencies, medical facilities, and other critical service providers in order to evaluate and oversee recovery projects.

“The commission would ensure that state and county needs are met in a manner that best leverages disaster relief dollars. Additionally, it would make certain that the assessments of the recovery actions taken by both public and private entities become best practices to prepare for future events,” referring to similar oversight commissions for 2010’s BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina.

Later Tuesday, the House released the membership list for the special panel, which will be chaired by Miami-Dade’s Jeanette Nuñez, the House’s Speaker pro tempore. House Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues of Estero will be vice chair.

In alphabetical order: Ben Albritton, a Wauchula Republican; Robert Asencio, a Miami Democrat; Danny Burgess, a Zephyrhills Republican; Cord Byrd, a Neptune Beach Republican; Bob Cortes, an Altamonte Springs Republican; Tracie Davis, a Jacksonville Democrat; Dane Eagle, a Cape Coral Republican; Michael Grant, a Port Charlotte Republican; Kristin Jacobs, a Coconut Creek Democrat; Larry Lee Jr., a Port St. Lucie Democrat; Jared Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat; Elizabeth Porter, a Lake City Republican; Holly Raschein, a Key Largo Republican; Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican; Sean Shaw, a Tampa Democrat; Chris Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican; Richard Stark, a Weston Democrat; Cyndi Stevenson, a St. Johns Republican; and Jay Trumbull, a Panama City Republican.

Jake Owen pitches in after Irma

Florida native and country music artist Jake Owen is helping relief efforts for those affected by Hurricane Irma, Gov. Rick Scott announced Monday. 

Owen

“Jake reached out to the governor to find out the best way to help people in his home state who have been affected by Hurricane Irma,” according to a press release.

“The result is a campaign called ‘Bring Back the Sunshine’ where 100 percent of funds raised will help victims in the Sunshine State. Funds will go toward disaster-related response and recovery through the Florida Disaster Fund,” Florida’s official private fund for disaster relief.

“We are thrilled that Jake Owen is lending a helping hand to Floridians in need,” Scott said. “As a native Floridian, Jake’s generosity and support is especially meaningful as our state continues the recovery process.”

Here are excerpts from the rest of the release:

“I want to help my fellow Floridians any way I can and there is so much work to be done right now,” says Owen … After he spoke to Gov. Scott, he reached out to his fans first via social media in a live video post that included a call to action.

“Please TEXT the word SUNSHINE to 20222 to make a $10 donation. All of your money goes DIRECTLY to the people who need it the most. Florida thrives on tourism and people visiting our state. We aren’t just rebuilding homes. Together, we are rebuilding jobs, schools, infrastructure … we are rebuilding LIVES.”

Watch the video on Instagram here.

Here’s how you can help:

Text to Give: To make a onetime donation of $10, text the word SUNSHINE to 20222. A one-time donation of $10.00 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance. Donor must be age 18+ and all donations must be authorized by the account holder (e.g. parents). By texting YES, the user agrees to the terms and conditions. All charges are billed by and payable to your mobile service provider. Service is available on most carriers. Donations are collected for the benefit of the “Florida Disaster Fund” by the Mobile Giving Foundation and subject to the terms found at www.hmgf.org/t. Message & Data Rates May Apply. You can unsubscribe at any time by texting STOP to short code “20222”; text HELP to “20222” for help. Privacy Policy here

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. 100% of funds raised will go toward disaster-related response and recovery; there are no overhead costs. Donations to the Florida Disaster Fund are made to the Volunteer Florida Foundation, 501(c)(3) charitable organization and are tax deductible.

The Florida Disaster Fund distributes funds to service organizations that will serve individuals within their communities with disaster response and recovery. Individuals seeking financial assistance should register with FEMA at 800-621-FEMA or www.disasterassistance.gov.

To donate by check, include “Florida Disaster Fund” in the memo line:
Please make check out to the Volunteer Florida Foundation and mail to:
Volunteer Florida Foundation
Attn: Florida Disaster Fund
3800 Esplanade Way – Suite 180
Tallahassee, FL 32311

For additional questions about the Florida Disaster Fund, please contact info@volunteerflorida.org or call (850) 414-7400For more information, visit www.jakeowen.net. 

Rick Scott to counties: Prioritize your clean-ups

Gov. Rick Scott is telling counties affected by Hurricane Irma to get their act together, asking them “to submit detailed debris clean-up plans” by Tuesday.

The plans need to go to the Florida Division of Emergency Management (DEM) by noon, the governor said in a statement. 

“Let me be clear – debris removal is a function handled and directed at the local level and following a storm like Irma, it is my expectation that every county immediately and aggressively begins work to clear debris in its communities,” he said. “That is what Florida families and businesses expect.”

Plans turned in “will be posted publicly on the Division’s website,” according to a press release. “All plans must include an estimated date of completion. Any county that plans to request reimbursement for debris removal following Hurricane Irma must submit a plan.”

Scott added: “Every county should already have a debris clean-up plan in place as part of its emergency response plan and it should already be executed. Any county experiencing issues with the vendors involved in debris clean-up should immediately execute an emergency procurement to get a different vendor.

“Today, more than 370,000 homes and businesses in Florida are still without power and while utility companies are working non-stop to turn the lights on, the presence of debris can hinder work and delay restoration which is unacceptable,” he said.

Within seven hours of the storm leaving the state, the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) had cleared all major interstates and turnpikes. DOT has been working around the clock to clear all state and many local roads and assist in recovery efforts. As we all work to recover from Irma, the state stands ready to assist communities in any way possible.”

A copy of Scott’s message was sent to the Florida Association of Counties for comment.

Ritch Workman named to Public Service Commission

Ritch Workman is headed back to Tallahassee.

The former state representative, a Melbourne Republican, was appointed Friday night by Gov. Rick Scott to serve on the Florida Public Service Commission. Workman replaces Ronald Brisé, who had sought a third term on the board.

Scott also re-appointed Art Graham to the commission and filled the seat left open by the departure of Jimmy Patronis with Gary Clark, the Department of Environment Protection‘s deputy secretary of land and recreation.

Patronis left the panel when Scott appointed him in June to take over as the state’s Chief Financial Officer, replacing Jeff Atwater, who took a similar job at Florida Atlantic University.

Workman, a well-liked former chairman of House Rules Committee, lost a bruising primary battle in 2016 to fellow Republican Debbie Mayfield for Senate District 17.

Early in his legislative career, Workman garnered dubious national attention for attempting to repeal part of state law that prohibits recreational activities that exploit people with dwarfism—an issue involving a ban on so-called “dwarf tossing.”

But he went on to earn a place in House leadership and oversaw that chamber’s version of a $500 million cut to taxes and fees in 2014. The package featured a rollback in vehicle registration fees.

Workman now is the director of business development at Keiser University. His term, along with that of Graham’s, will run through Jan. 1, 2022. Clark will serve out the rest of Patronis’ term to Jan. 1, 2019.

Brisé and Graham were initially appointed in 2010 by then-Gov. Charlie Crist and were reappointed four years later by Scott. The two also served as chairs of the commission.

Both Brisé and Graham also had won unanimous support from the Public Service Commission Nominating Council last month. Workman actually had been nominated to fill Patronis’ seat, as had Clark.

Other nominees sent to the governor include Rich Glorioso, a Plant City Republican and retired U.S. Air Force colonel, who served in the House 2004-2012; and former state Rep. Kenneth Littlefield, a Pasco County Republican who once chaired the House Utilities & Telecommunications Committee.

Littlefield is a past PSC member himself, having been put on the commission by former Gov. Jeb Bush in 2006. Crist replaced him the following year.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.

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