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Rick Scott sets date for next Florida execution

Gov. Rick Scott set the execution of Michael Lambrix, who’s been on Death Row for 33 years, for 6 p.m. Oct. 5, the Governor’s Office announced Friday. 

The Florida Supreme Court last February delayed his execution after attorneys argued that the state should first determine how to apply a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the state’s death penalty system is unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court found Florida’s death penalty system flawed because it allows judges, not juries, to decide death sentences.

Lambrix (Photo: Florida Dep’t of Corrections)

This March, the state’s high court said Lambrix was entitled to no further legal relief and lifted its stay of execution.

Attorney General Pam Bondi‘s office, also Friday, asked the court to dismiss Lambrix’s Thursday request for habeas corpus, calling it over long and an “untimely … abuse of process.”

“Lambrix’s latest habeas petition presents a misleading potpourri of previously presented and rejected claims,” Senior Assistant Attorney General Scott Browne wrote. “The petition … inappropriately seeks duplicative review of a decision of this Court that has been final for years.”

That was after Bondi wrote to Scott earlier Friday, saying that “the record is legally sufficient to set a new execution date.”

Lambrix was sentenced for the 1983 tire-iron and strangling slayings of two people he met at a bar, Aleisha Bryant and Clarence Moore Jr. Prosecutors said he killed them after inviting them home for dinner.

(Background material provided by The Associated Press, reprinted with permission.)

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Updated 5 p.m. — In a docket entry, the state Supreme Court said that “because the governor has reset the execution … , we direct that all further proceedings in this case be expedited.”

Trial court proceedings, if any, were ordered completed, with orders entered by Sept. 11.

The court also set the following briefing schedule: Notice of appeal by Sept. 12; initial brief on the merits by Sept. 14; answer brief on the merits by Sept. 15; Reply brief on the merits by Sept. 18.

“Oral argument, if necessary, will be scheduled at a later date,” according to the docket.

Joe Negron: Army Corps will speed up Lake O work

Senate President Joe Negron on Friday said progress on a southern reservoir outlined in legislation passed this year, addressing South Florida’s water quality, is getting a kick-start.

“…The Army Corps of Engineers intends to expedite the federal approval process … The Corps has determined the best option for achieving southern storage is not to seek new federal authority, but to use existing authority to pursue a modification to the current (project),” Negron said in a Friday statement.

Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation this year pledging $800 million in bonds toward Negron’s signature project (SB 10), a $1.5 billion plan to restore Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades by building a reservoir south of the lake. The governor called Everglades restoration “a top priority.”

“This development is entirely consistent with the options and timeline outlined in Senate Bill 10 and achieves the Legislature’s goal of moving forward on southern storage as expeditiously as possible,” added Negron, a Stuart Republican.

“I appreciate the Corps’ shared interest in promptly achieving our goal of reducing harmful discharges into our communities, and I look forward to continuing an efficient state and federal partnership on this important effort.”

The project is designed to stop discharges of toxic algae-infused overflow into streams and estuaries to the east and west by storing 78 billion gallons of water in a reservoir to the south, with treatment and ultimate discharge into the Everglades and Florida Bay.

The law forbids use of eminent domain, relying on land the state already owns or can swap with private landowners.

Jimmy Patronis will decide on 2018 run in ‘next 30 days’

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis has told his hometown television station he will decide “in the next 30 days” whether to run for a full term in 2018.

Patronis, a former state representative, stepped down from the Public Service Commission (PSC) when Gov. Rick Scott appointed him two months ago to serve the remainder of former CFO Jeff Atwater‘s second term. Atwater left early to become the CFO of Florida Atlantic University.

Patronis, in a Wednesday interview with Panama City’s WJHG Newschannel 7, said his “intention is to make a decision soon.”

“I would say I would make up my mind in the next 30 days,” the 45-year-old Republican told the station. His spokeswoman was not immediately available Thursday morning for further comment.

Patronis has opened a new political committee, Treasure Florida, and Scott is hosting a fundraiser for it Sept. 28 in Orlando.

“You know, it’s humbling. He’s a mentor. Gov. Scott has found a friend in me; I know I have found a larger-than-life friend in my world, from him,” he told WJHG.

Patronis was one of Scott’s earliest and most vocal backers when he ran for his first term as governor. Scott repaid that loyalty with appointments to the PSC—a $131,000 yearly position—and the volunteer Constitution Revision Commission, which convenes every 20 years to review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document.

Upon his June appointment, Patronis stepped down from both positions. He’s paid nearly $129,000 a year as CFO.

Scott has said he would do everything he could to help Patronis win, even if he has to compete with state Sen. Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican and former Senate President, for the GOP nomination. Lee, who is term-limited in the Senate next year, has said he is considering filing to run for CFO later this year.

Patronis will “have about a year and a half to be in office,” Scott said. “I know he’s considering whether he’s going to run or not. If he runs, I’m going to be a big supporter.”

Former state Sen. Jeremy Ring, a Broward County Democrat and former Yahoo executive, is currently the only declared candidate for CFO.

(Florida Politics correspondent Drew Wilson contributed to this post.)

Rick Scott: Flags at half-staff for Greg Evers

Gov. Rick Scott has ordered flags at half-staff to commemorate the passing of former state Sen. Greg Evers.

Evers, 62, a strawberry farmer and Republican who represented Senate District 2 from 2010-16, died last week in a one-car accident near his home in unincorporated Baker, Okaloosa County. He previously served in the House 2000-10.

“As a symbol of respect” for Evers, Scott on Monday ordered the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff at the Santa Rosa County Courthouse in Milton, Milton City Hall, and at the Capitol in Tallahassee, from sunrise to sunset on Tuesday. Evers was born in Milton in 1955. 

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Lori, and their entire family during this terribly difficult time,” Scott said in a statement.

“A dedicated public servant, Senator Evers truly loved Florida and devoted his life to serving his community – not only on his family farm, but during 15 years representing the people of North Florida in the state House and Senate,” he added.

“He will be remembered and missed by all who knew him as the kind, hardworking farmer from Milton who tirelessly fought for Florida families.”

Rick Scott sends more help to Texas

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday said he’s sending more Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officers and resources to Houston to help Houston after its soaking by Hurricane Harvey.

“These officers and resources will be assisting with ongoing search and rescue and disaster response efforts,” a press release said. “Gov. Scott spoke with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and reached out this morning to FWC Maj. Andy Krause, who will be leading the response.”

“Hurricane Harvey was the largest storm to impact Texas in more than fifty years and it is crucial that we continue to work together to help our fellow Gulf Coast state during their time of need,” Scott said in a statement.

“I was glad to speak with Gov. Abbott this morning to let him know Florida is sending more resources and we stand ready to offer Texas our continued support,” Scott added. “We will keep Texas families in our thoughts and prayers.”

More than 60 officers and nearly 20 boats are being staged and will deploy today, the release said. This weekend, 25 FWC officers, 17 high water vehicles, two Mobile Command Centers, eight shallow draft vessels and four patrol boats arrived in Houston.

Rick Scott makes picks for Florida Women’s Hall of Fame

Mary Lou Baker, Kathleen “Scotty” Robertson Culp, and Katherine Fernandez Rundle will be the next inductees for the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame, Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday.

Baker, who lived 1915 to 1965 and was formerly of Pinellas County, was a lawyer and the second woman elected to the Florida House of Representatives, serving 1942-45.

She wrote the “Women’s Emancipation Bill” to provide women “the right to conduct business while their husbands served in World War II,” a press release said. She also argued for co-education, “helping pave the way for the 1947 decision to admit women to the University of Florida and create a co-ed Florida State University.”

Culp, who lived 1921 to 2013 and was formerly of Satellite Beach, was one of the first women to enlist in the U.S. Navy after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, according to the release.

“Culp made military history when she was approved to parachute jump along with her male counterparts and became the first woman in the armed forces to make a premeditated free-fall parachute jump in 1944,” it said.

At the age of 75, Culp helped carry the Olympic Torch down A1A in Satellite Beach and was named Brevard County Woman of the Year in 2009.

Fernandez Rundle, 57, of Miami-Dade County, was elected the first female Hispanic State Attorney in the State of Florida in 1993 and continues to serve in the role.

In 1997, she was the first and only Hispanic member appointed to the 1997-98 Florida Constitution Revision Commission by Gov. Lawton Chiles. Fernandez Rundle is a “dedicated advocate in the fight against human trafficking and serves her community in several organizations.”

Scott chose the three from a group of ten nominees selected by the Florida Commission on the Status of Women. ‘They were considered for their work to make significant improvements in life for women and all citizens of Florida,” the release said.

Personnel note: Vivian Myrtetus named new CEO of Volunteer Florida

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday named Vivian Myrtetus as the next CEO of Volunteer Florida.

Myrtetus will assume the role of CEO beginning Sept. 1, the Governor’s Office said in a news release.

The previous CEO, Chester Spellman, left Volunteer Florida effective Friday to become Director of AmeriCorps for the Corporation for National and Community Service in Washington, D.C.

“Her nearly two decades of experience serving in various leadership positions in state government and the private sector will make her a valuable leader for Volunteer Florida,” Scott said of Myrtetus in a statement.

“I am confident that Vivian’s strong commitment to helping others will inspire volunteerism across our state and I look forward to working with her.”

Here’s more from the release:

Myrtetus currently serves as Regional Manager for Pondera Solutions. Prior to this role, Myrtetus served as Founding Board Chairperson of the Florida Technology Council from 2015 to 2016.

From 1998 to 2012, Myrtetus served in various leadership roles in Florida state government including Chief of Staff at the Florida Department of Children and Families, Communications Director at the Executive Office of the Governor and Deputy Communications Director at the Florida Office of the Attorney General.

She also served as Deputy Chief of Staff for U.S. Sen. George LeMieux. Myrtetus received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Broadcast Communications from San Francisco State University.

Supreme Court orders argument in judicial appointments case

The Florida Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the case against Gov. Rick Scott over whether he has the authority to appoint three new justices on the last day of his term.

The court on Friday set argument for 9 a.m. Nov. 1.

For now, the matter will be heard by the court’s seven justices, including the three—R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy A. Quince—whose age-required retirements occasioned the suit.

Court spokesman Craig Waters said any process for justices to recuse themselves would begin with motions to the court. “Then the justices would consider the reasons given,” he added.

“A maximum of twenty minutes to the side is allowed for the argument, but counsel is expected to use only so much of that time as is necessary,” the court’s docket said. “No continuances will be granted except upon a showing of extreme hardship.”

Progressive groups are battling Scott over whether he can replace the three liberal-leaning justices, who will be retiring in early 2019.

Scott has said he plans to name their replacements the morning of his last day in office, Jan. 8. His attorneys have argued that their age-mandated retirements also will become effective Jan. 8.

The League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVF) and Common Cause counter that Scott can’t replace those justices because he’ll be out of office earlier on the same day they retire, and their final judicial terms last till midnight.

They seek a “writ of quo warranto,” a court action against government officials to demand they prove their authority to perform a certain action.

Associated Press announces pre-session meeting lineup

The Associated Press’ annual pre-Legislative Session planning meeting and preview will be Nov. 2, with Gov. Rick Scott again the lead speaker, the news service announced Friday.

Scott has used the meeting to release his yearly proposed state budget.

Other speakers who have confirmed their attendance are, in order:

— Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican.

— Agriculture Commissioner and Republican candidate for governor Adam Putnam of Bartow.

— Winter Park businessman and Democratic candidate for governor Chris King.

— House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa.

— Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O’ Lakes.

— Senate Appropriations Chairman and Republican candidate for governor Jack Latvala of Clearwater.

— Former Tallahassee congresswoman and Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham.

— Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic candidate for governor Andrew Gillum.

— Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon II of Miami Gardens.

The meeting will be held on the 22nd floor of the Capitol.

Email insights: Jimmy Patronis may not be running for CFO…

…but he sure does seem to like people talking about whether he’ll run.

Patronis was appointed state Chief Financial Officer by Gov. Rick Scott to complete the rest of Jeff Atwater‘s last term. Atwater stepped down early to become CFO of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

Patronis’ political committee, Treasure Florida, sent an “in case you missed it” email to supporters this week, highlighting a news story that Scott would back Patronis if he runs in 2018.

“If he is going to run … if he runs, I’m going to be a big supporter,” Scott said after an event in Tampa last Friday. “I’ll do everything I can to make sure he wins.”

The committee is chaired by Tim Cerio, Scott’s former general counsel and now ‘of counsel‘ to GrayRobinson’s Tallahassee office. He also is one of Scott’s appointments to the Florida Constitution Revision Commission.

At the bottom of the email was, of course, a “Contribute Online” button.

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