Gov. Rick Scott Archives - Page 7 of 91 - Florida Politics

Proposal would assure governor’s power to name justices

A proposed constitutional amendment would ensure that future governors could appoint new judges and justices up to their last day in office.

But John Stemberger, the member of the Constitution Revision Commission who filed the amendment Thursday, said he was temporarily withdrawing the proposal to correct a drafting error. 

The amendment would make certain that judicial terms end the day before a new governor takes over from a sitting one.

“The proposal should have had an effective date of 2020, well beyond the current legal dilemma that potentially presents itself in January of 2019 when the new Governor is sworn in,” he wrote in an email early Friday.

Attorneys are set to argue a related case against Gov. Rick Scott before the Florida Supreme Court next Wednesday.

“I am not seeking to interfere with the circumstances of legal battles for the judges currently set to retire in 2019, but merely to avoid this miniature constitutional crisis into the future by simply changing the dates so they do not coincide together,” he added.

Progressive groups have challenged Scott’s authority to appoint three new Supreme Court justices on the last day of his term in 2019.

Stemberger, an Orlando attorney and president of the conservative Florida Family Policy Council, aims to “revise the date on which the term of office begins for judicial offices subject to election for retention.”

The amendment aims “to avoid the ambiguity and litigation that may result by having the terms of judicial officers and the Governor end and begin on the same day.”

It would change the start and end dates of judicial terms from “the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January” following the general election, to “the first Monday in January.” 

The League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVF) and Common Cause sued Scott this summer. They seek a “writ of quo warranto,” a court action against government officials to demand they prove their authority to perform a certain action.

Liza McClenaghan, state chair of Common Cause of Florida, said Stemberger’s amendment “thwarts the will of the people and makes government less accountable.” Oral argument in their action is set for next Wednesday morning.

The age-required retirements of three justices—R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy A. Quince—occasioned the suit. They are considered the more liberal-leaning contingent of the high court. 

Scott, a Naples Republican, has said he plans to name their replacements the morning of his last day in office—Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019.

His attorneys have argued that the justices’ age-mandated retirements also will become effective that Jan. 8.

The League 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 terms last till midnight.

If the commission eventually decides to place Stemberger’s amendment on the 2018 statewide ballot, it still would have to be approved by 60 percent of voters to be added to the state constitution.

The 37-member board is convened every 20 years to review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document. Stemberger was named to the panel by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican.

Ethics board cites Justin Sayfie, Capitol Group for reporting violations

The Florida Commission on Ethics is moving against lobbyist Justin Sayfie and another firm for problems arising from random audits of their compensation reports, according to a Wednesday press release.

But Sayfie called the problem “a simple math error.” The commission also dropped cases against three other executive-branch lobbying concerns.

The ethics board, which said it “conducted a required investigation of the Sayfie Law Firm based on the findings of a random audit,” found probable cause “to believe that the executive branch lobbying firm under-reported compensation received from a principal for the third and fourth quarters of 2015.”

Probable cause means that an investigative body believes it’s more likely than not that a violation of law has occurred.

Sayfie, the former Jeb Bush policy advisor turned political website whiz, had his own firm before joining Brian Ballard’s Ballard Partners lobbying firm in 2015 as its managing partner in Fort Lauderdale. He’s now in Ballard’s Washington D.C. office.

“There was a computational error, a simple math error,” he told Florida Politics in a phone call. “I amended the reports immediately, but I guess (the commission’s) position is, the error still requires this finding.” Sayfie now has been randomly audited two years in a row, he said.

Under state law, once the commission finds probable cause, that finding is sent to Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet for further action. The firms can request a hearing, or the governor and Cabinet members can decide to call a hearing on their own.

In any case, if they find that a reporting violation occurred, they “may reprimand the violator, censure the violator, or prohibit the violator from lobbying all agencies for a period not to exceed 2 years,” the law says.

No lobbying firm has yet been penalized under the law, although four cases filed this year are still pending review, according to records.

“If the violator is a lobbying firm, lobbyist, or principal, the Governor and Cabinet may also assess a fine of not more than $5,000 to be deposited in the Executive Branch Lobby Registration Trust Fund,” the law says.

“My sense is (that) for transparency purposes it’s good to have these audits, but it’s a lot of reporting to do. There’s a lot of work that goes into them,” Sayfie added. “There should be some understanding that finding math mistakes is not the kind of thing the law was intended to penalize.”

Lawmakers have questioned the audits’ usefulness, going as far as to file a bill for the 2016 Legislative Session that would have repealed the audit requirement. It died before the session’s end.

“I don’t understand how the public’s interest is advanced by this exercise,” Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, said in late 2015.

The commission also found probable cause to believe that The Capitol Group “inaccurately listed a principal for the first quarter of 2015 (and) probable cause also was found to believe the firm filed an inaccurate compensation report for that same reporting period, and for the second, third, and fourth quarters of 2015,” the press release said.

A request for comment is pending with that firm.

No probable cause of lobbying law violations was found after investigations of Shutts & Bowen, Frank Meiners Governmental Consultants, and The Commerce Group, the press release said.

Rick Scott names 8 to CareerSource Florida Board

Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday evening announced five reappointments and three appointments to the CareerSource Florida Board of Directors:

— Rick Matthews, of Viera, is the vice president of global operations of Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation. He is reappointed for a term beginning October 24, 2017 and ending March 21, 2019.

— William Johnson, of Tampa, was the former Vice President of finance shared services at Coca-Cola Refreshments. He is reappointed for a term beginning October 24, 2017 and ending March 21, 2019.

— Elisha Gonzalez Bonnewitz, of Winter Park, is the government and community relations manager for Duke Energy. She is reappointed for a term beginning October 24, 2017 and ending March 21, 2019.

— Rose Conry, of Jacksonville, is the CEO of Stafftime. She is reappointed for a term beginning October 24, 2017 and ending July 6, 2019.

— Tim Center, of Tallahassee, is the founder of Centerfield Strategy and the CEO of Capital Area Community Action Agency. He is reappointed for a term beginningOctober 24, 2017 and ending March 21, 2020.

— Stephanie Smith, of Miami, is the senior public policy manager at Uber Technologies. She is appointed to fill a vacant seat for a term beginning October 24, 2017and ending October 24, 2020.

— Camille Lee-Johnson, of Atlantic Beach, is the chief operating officer at Lee Wesley and Associates. She is appointed to fill a vacant seat for a term beginningOctober 24, 2017 and ending October 24, 2020.

— Tony McGee, of Orlando, is the CEO of HNM Global Logistics. He is appointed to fill a vacant seat for a term beginning October 24, 2017 and ending October 24, 2020.

AFP-FL praises senators for advancing ‘direct primary care’

Americans for Prosperity – Florida thanked the Senate Tuesday for advancing a bill that would allow physicians and patients to strike deals for primary care services without the need for health insurance.

The practice, known as “direct primary care,” has gained in popularity as health insurance premiums have shot up over the past decade.

In the 2018 Legislative Session, lawmakers will consider SB 80 by Brandon Sen. Tom Lee and a similar bill in the House, HB 37 by Pasco County Rep. Danny Burgess, that would add it to the stable of options Floridians have to seek health care.

“Direct Primary Care is one of simplest solutions to ensuring that patients get the care they need. Patients and doctors can enter into flexible healthcare agreements that can help expand access to the sort of reliable and affordable care Floridians need,” said AFP-FL director Chris Hudson.

“We applaud Senator Lee and his colleagues for pushing Direct Primary Care through to the next level of consideration. We encourage the Senate to move on this common-sense solution quickly, get it to the floor and pass it so that Governor [Rick] Scott can sign this bill into law as soon as possible.”

SB 80 picked up the unanimous support of the Senate Health Policy Committee Tuesday, and had previously won bipartisan approval from the chamber’s Banking and Insurance Committee during the first interim committee week ahead of the Legislative Session, which starts in January.

Direct primary care deals would not qualify as “health insurance” under the bill, nor would they be subject to the Florida Insurance Code. Such deals need to be in writing, include terms covering the scope, duration and cost of the agreement as well as give both sides the ability to terminate the deal with a 30-day notice.

Lock and load: Rick Scott to take on Chicago

Gov. Rick Scott announced Tuesday he will be “leading an economic development mission to Chicago this week to share why businesses in Chicago should consider moving their operations to Florida.”

In a news release, Scott said: “Over the past seven years, we have cut taxes more than 75 times in Florida, saving our taxpayers more than $7 billion, and leading to the creation of more than 1.3 million private sector jobs.

“Florida’s success story is in stark contrast to the anti-business policies that have overburdened Chicago families and companies for far too long,” he added. “That is why I will be leading an economic development mission to Chicago to meet with site selectors and job creators and encourage them to move to and invest in Florida.”

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is a Republican; Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a Democrat.

“While Gov. Rauner has tried to grow Illinois’ economy, Chicago leaders and state legislators have for years been passing shortsighted policies and overwhelming increases of taxes and fees,” Scott went on.

“In fact, the average Chicago family today pays nearly $1,700 more in taxes and fees every year than they paid only seven years ago,” he said. “While Florida has been able to pay down $7.6 billion in state debt and increase general revenues by more than 30 percent without raising taxes, Chicago Mayor Emanuel and city leaders announced yet another proposed round of burdensome tax and fee increases just last week.

“This follows the state legislature passing an increase to the state income tax earlier this summer, overriding Gov. Rauner’s veto and strict opposition to such a burdensome tax increase. The entire nation needs to follow Florida’s lead, but until then, we will keep calling on businesses to move to Florida.”

The governor has long targeted states or regions with Democratic leadership for “domestic business development missions.”

For example, this summer he set his aim on Connecticut, led by Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy.

And in 2015, he targeted Pennsylvania, whose governor is Democrat Tom Wolf. That trip resulted in news that the Pennsylvania-based Wawa convenience-store chain was expanding into the Fort Myers market, as well as Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Bill Galvano questions relief centers for displaced Puerto Ricans

Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano on Tuesday questioned whether Gov. Rick Scott overstepped his constitutional bounds in opening “disaster relief centers” for Puerto Rican residents displaced by Hurricane Maria.

“I think the governor is acting in good faith,” said Galvano, who was designated the 2018-20 Senate President to succeed current president Joe Negron. “But that’s something the Legislature needs to deal with.”

A spokesman for Scott later Tuesday told Florida Politics “the federal government has agreed to pay 100 percent of the emergency management costs of the state’s three disaster relief centers.”

Nonetheless, the Bradenton Republican added he was “not convinced the executive (branch) has the authority” to open such centers by executive order.

Earlier this month, Scott announced he was opening the centers “at Orlando International Airport, Miami International Airport and the Port of Miami” to “ensure those entering Florida are provided with all available resources from the state.”

State colleges and universities also waived out-of-state tuition and fees for students from Puerto Rico.

“We will continue to work collaboratively with our state, local and federal partners to support Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts and do everything we can to help those coming to Florida,” Scott said in an Oct. 2 statement.

The number of deaths in Puerto Rico blamed on Maria increased to 51 this week after officials said two more people died from bacterial infections.

Nearly 30 percent of people across the island nation remain without water after Maria hit the island on Sept. 20 as a Category 4 storm with 155 mph winds.

The need to open the centers was not from an “absolute direct impact” on the state, Galvano said. “I would like to see us slow down and have that discussion.

“I would like to have some more analysis of the centers and their effectiveness, and how they should be prioritized,” he added.

Gov. Scott “will continue to do everything within his executive authority to protect lives and help those recovering from these terrible disasters,” spokesman McKinley P. Lewis said in an email Tuesday afternoon.

“This includes appropriating emergency funds to help Florida families recover from Hurricane Irma and aid our neighbors in Puerto Rico as they recover from Hurricane Maria,” he said. “Through the Host State Agreement granted by FEMA at the Governor’s request, the federal government has agreed to pay 100 percent of the emergency management costs of the state’s three Disaster Relief Centers.

“We are glad to provide additional information to the Florida Senate on the great work being done to aid these families.”

Background from The Associated Press, republished with permission. 

Anguish, relief, fear, hope: Relief efforts serving thousands of Puerto Rico storm refugees

Rene Plasencia sees it in the faces of countless Puerto Rican Hurricane Maria refugees when he or someone else says, “we’re here to help you.”

A mixture of anguish, relief, pain, joy, fear, confidence, hopelessness, hope — all the emotions of losing everything and traveling to a strange, new place with almost nothing, and then encountering someone who at least is there to hold a hand, if not help.

It’s happening hundreds of times a day at Florida’s Puerto Rico Disaster Relief Centers at the Orlando and Miami airports, the Port of Miami, and at LatinoLeadership as well as other local nonprofits reaching out to help people arriving from Puerto Rican homes who are not necessarily looking for a fresh start, but just for a place to live.

Sometimes when home-cooked hot meals are brought in by volunteers, it’s the first home-cooked hot meal people have eaten in a month or more, he said.

“It would blow you away,” said Plasencia, a Republican state Representative from Orlando with Puerto Rican roots. His family runs LatinoLeadership, a social services center in Orlando that is helping about 150 Puerto Ricans walking in each day seeking help, and taking hundreds of calls a day. He’s spending a couple of hours a day there himself, and helping at Orlando International Airport, in the state’s official Disaster Relief Center there.

“It gives me both a sense of hope in humanity, and it also gives me a sense of despair,” he said, “because people have so much need for help.”

It was a month ago, on Sept. 20, that Hurricane Maria completely wiped out much of that island’s housing, power, water supply, hospitals, schools, businesses, and infrastructure,

Since Florida’s official Puerto Rico Disaster Relief Centers opened Oct. 3, at least 60,000 people from the island have arrived in Florida on airplanes and ships. It’s unknown how many of them are actual storm refugees, and how many are relief workers and others shuttling from the island.

But the vast majority are people leaving their beloved, but devastated, homeland.

The three Florida Disaster Relief Centers have directly met with more than 12,000 displaced Puerto Ricans, many representing families or groups sitting outside in the airports or Port of Miami waiting for news on where they can go, and what they can do. Some days, centers assist more than 900 people.

About 4,000-6,000 more people from Puerto Rico are getting off planes in Orlando or Miami every day, said Alberto Moscoso, communications director for the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

“Folks coming off the planes are hopeful. Many are intending to return to Puerto Rico when the situation improves, and they’re grateful that the resources are there and the airport has helped them out,” Moscoso said.

Most, he said, are arriving with some sort of plan, and with family in Florida. Yet not all, and housing remains the highest immediate need.

At the centers, they meet with officials from FEMA and the U.S. Veterans Benefits Administration; nine state agencies, including health, children and families, elder affairs, and economic opportunity; a handful of local agencies; and a number of private organizations.

Among those at Orlando International Airport include LatinoLeadership, American Red Cross, United Way, Catholic Charities, Salvation Army, Health Insurance Story, Calvario City Church, Aspire Health Partners, Shepard’s Hope, Halo Office, and the Second Harvest Food Bank.

Puerto Rico relief effort is among  Gov. Rick Scott‘s highest priorities right now,  press secretary Lauren Schenone said.

Plasencia said it shows, not just with the services at the airport, but with the several times a day he said he’s personally calling the governor’s office looking for specific points of help, and getting it.

“The airport is a great service,” he said. “The biggest problem at this point is a lot of the passengers who get off the planes aren’t going to the receiving centers; they’re going off property, and meeting with family, and then maybe a couple days later they’re going back to the receiving center.”

Plasencia, however, was highly critical of the assistance from local governments, particularly Orlando and Orange County.

Two weeks ago Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs declined a request from three county commissioners, Emily Bonilla, Pete Clarke, and Jennifer Thompson, for the county to set up its own Puerto Rico relief efforts, saying it was the state’s role. Last week Plasencia, at a meeting of the Orange County Legislative Delegation, implored her to reconsider.

He said the local efforts are nothing compared with the overwhelming way that Orange County and Orlando responded to the horrific nightclub massacre at Pulse on June 12, 2016.

The county has provided a representative from its Department of Family Services. Orlando has provided a representative from its Hispanic Office for Local Assistance office. The Orange County School Board has provided a representative, as has the Osceola County School Board, and Lynx, the regional public bus system.

What’s most missing is shelter, Plasencia said. He said the governor’s office said the state could not set up any temporary emergent shelters because that was a local responsibility.

“The sad part of this is the lack of support and even the lack of acknowledgment by our local government,” he said. “Where has Teresa Jacobs been, or [Orlando Mayor] Buddy Dyer throughout this whole process?”

Other groups are stepping in. A coalition of churches is finding some housing. Others are providing job leads, notably Eddy Dominguez‘s human resources company Resource Employment Solutions, and the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association.

Plasencia fears the needs will get more acute.

“Most of the people who come so far are living with family. They are people who have come here, typically have a little more means,” Plasencia said. “The next group of people who come may not be that way.”

Tampa Tiger Bay Club debates charter schools

A debate on traditional public schools vs. charter schools took front and center Friday at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club.

For 68 minutes, a group of education leaders of various backgrounds discussed the issue at the Ferguson Law Center.

Speaking out most prominently for charters was Doug Tuthill, the president of Step Up For Students, the nonprofit group that administers most of the tax credit and Gardiner scholarships in Florida.

He said when it comes to charter schools, the public is voting with its feet, referring to the explosive growth of his program, where there were 28,000 students on Step Up for Student scholarships in 2008, and 115,000 in 2017.

Leading the argument for traditional public schools was Melissa Erickson, the executive director of the Alliance for Public Schools.

She said that she did not fault a single parent for making the choice to attend any school that is available to them. What bothered her, she said, was that the vast majority chose.

“What bothers me is that the majority of parents choose public schools,” she said. “And in these debates and in these conversations, those 86-90 percent of parents’ choice is discounted, and I think that is a problem.”

It’s been a contentious issue for years in Florida, ever since the GOP-led Legislature and former Gov. Jeb Bush put the state on the leading edge of a national movement to offer parents alternatives to their neighborhood schools.

The intense acrimony increased this summer after the Florida Legislature’s passed and Gov. Rick Scott signed HB 7069, which included the controversial ‘Schools of Hope’ provision that allows those charter schools to move into areas where traditional public schools have long records of low state test scores.

Tuthill frequently referred to himself as a progressive Democrat who has broken out of an ideological silo to realize that school choice is the best venue to offer a quality education to students who may live in an area where the public schools are poor. He accused critics of suffering from “confirmation bias” and Erickson specifically of having a “myopic” definition of public education.

“I think we need a more pluralistic understanding of public education,” Tuthill said, adding that someone who works for public radio could still serve the public good, just as someone can work for Academy Prep of Tampa and also serve the public good.

“It’s not a criticism of public schools,” he said. “We need to develop a public education system that embraces diversity.”

“We should be partners, not opponents, because we all want the same thing,” said Hillsborough County School Board member Melissa Snively, trying to defuse the animosity between the two camps. “The public schools need to get their game on, and we can do that. Competition is in the educational marketplace.”

Snively told the audience that when advocates for a new charter school apply to the Hillsborough County School District, they need to go through a rigorous process.

“Once it comes to the board for approval or not, we know that it’s been vetted and every ‘t’ has been crossed and every ‘i’ has been dotted,” she said, adding that if the board rejects the application, they can go to Tallahassee to appeal.

Erickson disputed how much local control school boards have in making that determination, saying as long as the ” ‘i’s are dotted and the ‘t’s are crossed, they have to say yes.” She went on to say that charter schools don’t need to show a certificate of need to be built, but public schools do in order to get capital outlay dollars.

There were two people on the dais directly linked to charter schools: Lincoln Tamayo, head of school at Academy Prep of Tampa, and Monika Perez, principal of Pepin Academy in Tampa, both critically acclaimed institutions.

Tamayo boasted about the fact that his school is made up completely of students of color—82 percent black and 18 percent Latino, with all of them having qualified for the federal free and reduced meals.

Nearly all the students live miles away from the Ybor City located campus where parents have to find transportation for the kids, yet the 98 percent attendance rate is the greatest of any middle school in Hillsborough County.

Erickson said Academy Prep’s success illustrated part of the perception problem that public schools face in 2017.

“We hold up a few shining examples of charter schools and use them to justify the entire system, and then we hold up a few failing examples of public schools and use them to condemn an entire system,” she said.

The Orange County School Board on Monday joined 12 others in Florida in a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of HB 7069.

The suit argues that the bill unconstitutionally forces local school districts to share some local property taxes with charter schools, which are sometimes run by private, for-profit firms, and allows “schools of hope” charter schools to open without oversight from local school boards, among other issues.

Jacksonville area sees lower unemployment in September

Friday saw Gov. Rick Scott‘s Department of Economic Opportunity release September job numbers for Northeast Florida, a mixed bag in the wake of Irma.

The good news, via the DEO: the Jacksonville area’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.4 percent in September, down 1.4 points from September 2016.

Unemployment rates ranged from 2.7 percent in St. Johns County to 4.5 percent in rural Putnam County.

The governor’s office prefers year-over-year comparisons, and to that end some results are interesting.

Two industries that have lost jobs over the year augur a potential economic slowdown: leisure and hospitality (-3,800 jobs) and mining, logging, and construction (‐500 jobs).

All told, non-agricultural employment in the Jacksonville MSA was 677,000, an increase of 2,900 jobs (+0.4 percent) over the year.

‘Wicked hatred’: Jewish lawmakers condemn Richard Spencer

The Florida Legislative Jewish Caucus on Thursday called white nationalist Richard Spencer, set to speak at the University of Florida later today, a “a vile, racist, carnival barker.”

Spencer’s “traveling circus of ignorance-fueled hatred is inhabited by insecure clowns unable to come to terms with a changing world,” according to a statement. “His ideology is that of a cowardly, small man, based on discredited nonsense and abject fear of those different from himself.”

It added: “Nothing less than total condemnation of this bigotry will do, as the perils of fascism are well documented in our history. For that reason, it is incumbent upon those in a position of leadership to denounce all forms of white nationalism and any belief systems that rely upon racial or ethnic superiority as their basis for existence.

The statement was signed by Rep. Richard Stark, the caucus chair, and by Rep. Lori Berman, a Lantana Democrat; Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat; Rep. Ben Diamond, a St. Petersburg Democrat; Rep. Katie Edwards, a Plantation Democrat; Rep. Joseph Geller, an Aventura Democrat; Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat; Sen. Kevin Rader, a Delray Beach Democrat; Rep. Emily Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat; and Sen. Annette Taddeo, a Miami-Dade Democrat.

“While respect for our Constitution should always be of paramount concern, we do commend Gov. (Rick) Scott for his commitment to ensuring the safety of all those in Gainesville tonight,” the statement said.

“Those who seek to counter this wicked hatred deserve to know they will be free to express their views peacefully without fear of suffering violence at the hands of white supremacists like those who were attacked in Charlottesville.

“As Elie Weisel said, ‘The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.’ So let no one among us be indifferent.”

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