Gov. Rick Scott Archives - Page 6 of 91 - Florida Politics

Rick Scott wants millions for active-duty military, vets

Gov. Rick Scott announced that he will propose $178 million to support active military, veterans and their families in Florida as part of his 2018-2019 recommended budget, according to a Monday press release.

“He also announced his support for a proposal being considered by the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) to provide free tuition to the families of fallen first responders, state law enforcement officers and military members who have lost their lives in the line of duty,” it said.

If passed by the CRC, the proposal will be on the ballot in 2018 and would require approval of 60 percent of Florida voters.

The proposal was filed by Commissioner Emery Gainey, a 25-year veteran of the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office and now Attorney General Pam Bondi‘s Director of Law Enforcement Relations, Victim Services & Criminal Justice Programs.

Scott said, “We will never be able to repay our fallen officers or service members who have bravely given their lives, but it is our duty to ensure that their families are supported as if they were our own.”

His $178 million investment for Florida’s active military, veterans and their families includes:

— $200,000 for search and rescue vessels and protective equipment for our National Guardsmen to use during deployment;

— Nearly $8 million to begin operations at the Lake Baldwin State Veteran Nursing Home, which will allow this facility to serve more than 110 veterans in the coming year;

— $2 million for Building Homes for Heroes to build and modify homes for veterans who were severely injured while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan;

— $2 million for the Florida Defense Support Task Force, which helps support our military and defense communities and the many families who rely on them; and

— $2.7 million to support veterans looking to obtain employment, start their own businesses and make Florida their home, including $1 million for Veterans Florida to continue their mission of helping veterans find great jobs at Florida businesses.

For the full press release, click here. The governor is expected to release his proposed 2018-19 state budget in Jacksonville on Tuesday morning.

Nursing home group denounces proposed residents’ ‘bill of rights’

In an acutely personal attack, the head of a nursing-home advocacy group slammed a proposed constitutional amendment that would create a “nursing home and assisted living facility residents’ bill of rights.”

The Florida Health Care Association’s Emmett Reed, this week called the amendment, filed by Constitution Revision Commissioner Brecht Heuchan, “glaringly bad.”

Reed’s organization advocates for nursing homes, assisted living facilities and others who care for the elderly and people with disabilities, especially regarding getting paid by Medicaid, the joint federal-state program. It pays for nursing home care that Medicare does not.

Heuchan’s proposal comes after a South Florida nursing home lost air conditioning during Hurricane Irma. Up to 14 residents later died, though not all those deaths have been conclusively linked to the lack of the building’s climate control.

The proposed bill of rights would “wipe out more than 30 years of meaningful and thoughtful progress designed to ensure that nursing home residents have the right to quality care and the services they need,” said Reed, the association’s executive director, in a statement.

He then focused on Heuchan, saying he had “lost sight of the fact that the select members of this august body have a profound duty not just to those in their workday lives, but indeed to all Floridians.”

The proposal would create a “right to access courts and a jury system that allows for a speedy trial and relief and remedies, without limitations, for loss, injury, and damages caused to residents and their families by the abuse, negligence, neglect, exploitation, or violation of residents’ rights by the facilities’ owners, operators, employees, professionals, and others who care for residents at such facilities.”

“A professional lobbyist representing trial attorneys has ignored his broader obligations in order to serve the narrow interest of his clients,” Reed said. “The proposed amendment is an egregious governmental overstep, one that overreaches to a monumental extent.”

Heuchan, an appointee and ally of Gov. Rick Scott, is a political consultant and lobbyist, and founder of Contribution Link, a political data analytics firm.

“I am focused on the welfare of residents in long-term care facilities,” he said in an email. “Given recent events, it’s obvious Florida can do more to safeguard them.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues, resident advocates and the industry to find ways to accomplish that objective.”

The amendment has not yet been assigned to any committees for consideration.

The Constitution Revision Commission is formed every 20 years to review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document. Any amendments it places directly on the 2018 statewide ballot still must be OK’d by 60 percent of voters to be added to the constitution.

Rick Scott won’t say if he’ll seek recusals over Supreme Court ‘hot mic’ incident

An attorney for Gov. Rick Scott has filed a public records request with the state Supreme Court over last week’s ambiguous “hot mic” conversation between Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and Justice Barbara Pariente.

Scott

But Scott stopped short Tuesday of saying whether he will ask the two justices to recuse themselves from further involvement in a case over his judicial appointment power.

The request, filed Monday, seeks “any and all documents reviewed or discussed” by the two jurists after Wednesday’s oral argument and “raw, native, uncompressed audio” of the conversation.

With a microphone cutting in and out, the justices had seemed to be referring to a piece of paper and discussing membership of the Supreme Court’s Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC), which vets and recommends appointees for Supreme Court justice to the governor.

This week’s record request was signed by Scott’s general counsel Dan Nordby, who also argued the case on Wednesday.

“Let’s find out what was going on,” Scott said, speaking with reporters after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. “We expect judges to be impartial. We expect them to simply do their job.

“What document were they talking about? What were they talking about?” he added. “It’s incumbent on everybody to understand what was being discussed.”

Labarga

When asked if he were interested in pursuing recusals of Labarga and Pariente from his case, the governor said, “I think we have to find out. Let’s put the facts on the table. Then we can make a decision of how we should go forward.”

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

Scott, a Naples Republican, has said he plans to name the replacements for the court’s liberal-leaning trio of Justices R. Fred Lewis, Pariente and Peggy A. Quince. They face mandatory retirement on the same day—Jan. 8, 2019—that is Scott’s last in office as governor. He’s term limited next year.

Moments after the argument ended, Labarga can first be heard on a recording from the courtroom saying what sounds like, “…anything on there, Panuccio.” Jesse Panuccio, once Gov. Rick Scott‘s general counsel and a former head of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, is a member of the Supreme Court JNC.

Pariente

Pariente then can be heard saying what sounds like, “…crazy…” That’s followed by Labarga: “Izzy Reyes is on there, he’ll listen to me.”

JNC member Israel U. Reyes is founder of The Reyes Law Firm in Coral Gables and a former circuit judge. Pariente responds, but what she says isn’t clear.

Requests for comment have been left with League President Pamela Goodman, its attorney John S. Mills, and Supreme Court spokesman Craig Waters. Reyes has not responded to a previous request for comment.

Updated Tuesday night: Waters wrote in an email to Florida Politics, “We have responded to the Governor’s public record request. Attached is that response.”

The piece of paper on the bench that Pariente and Labarga were ostensibly referring to was a current membership list of the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Committee. That document was not “in the record” for the judicial appointments case being argued.

A video of the exchange is now posted on YouTube here.

State will file federal suit against Valeant Pharmaceuticals

The state will file a federal lawsuit against Valeant Pharmaceuticals International over the $62 million it lost when it purchased company shares while Valeant allegedly ran a scheme that shielded it from competition and aggressively increased drug prices.

The Cabinet voted to pursue direct action against the drug company on Tuesday.

The State Board of Administration (SBA), which oversees the state’s investments, is looking to recover millions of dollars from the company that were lost in trading.

If the state opted to join a class action suit, instead of filing its own lawsuit, the estimate recovery would have been much less — about $390,000, according to staff analysis.

Special election ordered to replace Jeff Clemens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reyes

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

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

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

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

Pariente

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

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

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

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

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

Labarga

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voting restoration amendment has 750,000 signatures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Additional reporting by Peter Schorsch •

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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