Gov. Rick Scott Archives - Page 7 of 84 - Florida Politics

Rick Scott hosting fundraiser for Jimmy Patronis’s political committee

If there was ever a doubt about sitting CFO Jimmy Patronis running for election in 2018, this latest development should probably eliminate it.

The former lawmaker and Public Service Commission member started a political committee for a possible run last week, and Tuesday an invite was sent out for a fundraiser hosted by Gov. Rick Scott benefiting the committee, “Treasure Florida.”

The fundraiser is set for 5:30 p.m. Sept. 28 at Universal Citywalk, the dining and retail district around the Universal theme parks in Orlando.

To attend, send an RSVP to Debbie Aleksander via deborah@aleksandergroup.com or (850) 339-8116.

Patronis was appointed by Scott earlier this year after Jeff Atwater stepped down to take the CFO position at Florida Atlantic University. Since his appointment in June, Patronis has been taciturn about his 2018 plans, but Scott may have let slip the news last week after Republican state Sen. Tom Lee indicated he would enter the race later this year.

Patronis was one of Scott’s earliest and most vocal backers when he ran for his first term as governor and that loyalty looks like it will bear even more fruit. Scott said last week he would do everything he could to help Patronis win, even if he has to compete with Lee for the GOP nomination.

“He’ll 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.”

So far, former Democratic state Sen. Jeremy Ring is the only candidate who has filed for the race. Since May, he has raised about $70,000 for his campaign account and has about $32,000 on hand. He has another $100,000 on hand in his committee, “Florida Action Fund PC.”

The invite is below:

Richard Corcoran: House is ‘right’ in office complex suit

Speaker Richard Corcoran says “we are right” about the House of Representatives’ demand for a jury trial in a dispute between the owners of a Tallahassee office complex and several state agencies who bolted on the master lease.

As detailed in Wednesday night’s “Last Call,” the House intervened in the pending lawsuit by Northwood Associates, owners of Tallahassee’s Northwood Centre, against the state. The former shopping mall-turned-office complex had been home to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and others.

“The House is confident we are right and we will always move swiftly and forcefully to protect the health of state employees,” Corcoran said in a statement Thursday. “In addition, we will protect taxpayers from corporations that feel entitled to taxpayer money even when they don’t do what was promised.”

Critics called the complex a “biological hot zone” after inspectors found 10 pounds of bat feces in the ceiling above the desk of then-DBPR Secretary Ken Lawson. Mold and more animal droppings were also discovered.

The company has denied the allegations, saying it “performed air quality testing” and contracted with “two expert consulting firms to address all issues.”

But Gov. Rick Scott approved stopping rent payments in the 2016-17 state budget, and the state relocated some 1,500 workers. Northwood Associates filed suit. The court allowed the House into the case to defend the budget proviso language nixing the lease payments.

In a filing by general counsel Adam Tanenbaum, the House wants a jury to decide if there was a “constructive eviction,” meaning that a landlord did or failed to do something, making a property “unsafe, unfit, and unsuitable for occupancy.”

 

Smoke this: John Morgan adds plaintiffs to marijuana lawsuit

Medical marijuana advocate John Morgan has added three more plaintiffs to his lawsuit against the state, filed after lawmakers refused to allow marijuana to be smoked, according to court filings accessed Wednesday.

Diana Dodson of Levy County, a cancer patient; Catherine Jordan of Manatee County, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease; and Roberto Pickering of Leon County, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder; all qualify to use medicinal cannabis under a constitutional amendment passed last year.

Their names were added to the action this week. Also, Circuit Judge Karen Gievers allowed Morgan an extra 30 days to file an amended complaint in the case, first lodged in July by People United for Medical Marijuana, the political committee behind the amendment.

The suit seeks a declaratory judgment that the smoking ban runs counter to the amendment’s language.

Lawmakers recently approved and Gov. Rick Scott signed into law an implementing bill (SB 8-A) for the amendment that does not allow medicinal marijuana to be smoked.

House Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues, who sponsored the implementing bill during both the Regular Session and Special Session, has said “we don’t believe you smoke medicine.” Edibles and “vaping” are permitted, however.

“We believe that smoking causes as much harm as the benefits, particularly when we’re offering vaping, which provides all of the benefits and none of the harm,” Rodrigues has said.

“The people of Florida knew exactly what they were voting on,” Morgan told reporters after he filed the suit in Tallahassee. “(T)he vast majority, if not 100 percent, knew that smoke was included … I’m right, and 71 percent of the people of Florida know I’m right.”

Morgan, the Orlando-based attorney and entrepreneur, backed the amendment that was OK’d by 71 percent of voters last year on the statewide ballot.

The lawsuit says the legislative intent of the bill clashes with voter intent expressed in the amendment. For example, a doctor may determine that smoking marijuana gives a particular patient the best benefit of the drug, Morgan said.

By “redefining the constitutionally defined term ‘medical use’ to exclude smoking, the Legislature substitutes its medical judgment for that of a licensed Florida physician and is in direct conflict with the specifically articulated Constitutional process,” the suit says.

Moreover, since the amendment “does not require that the smoking of medical marijuana be allowed in public,” that means “that smoking medical marijuana in a private place in compliance with the provisions of the amendment is legal.”

Morgan also has cited a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2012 that “despite decades of marijuana being … smok(ed) in the United States, there have been no reported medical cases of lung cancer or emphysema attributed to marijuana.”

The suit names as defendants the state, the Department of Health, state Health Secretary and Surgeon General Celeste Philip, Office of Medical Marijuana Use Director Christian Bax, the state Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine, and their respective chairs, James Orr and Anna Hayden.

Philip Levine: State should identify, protect pedestrian terrorism targets

Faced with the growing worldwide trend of terrorists using vehicles to mow down pedestrians, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is asking Gov. Rick Scott to identify and help protect high-volume pedestrian corridors in Florida’s cities and towns.

“In the past year, vehicular attacks by terrorists and extremists have been on the rise in major metropolitan areas around the world, in Nice, Berlin, Stockholm, Westminster and most recently, in Barcelona,” Levine wrote in his letter to Scott, citing the most recent attack last weekend in Spain. “In light of last week’s tragic events, I would like to submit an idea for your consideration that may help to protect citizens and tourists in cities throughout Florida.”

Levine recommended the state identify “any and all high-traffic pedestrian walking areas” that are possible targets; consider partially or fully funding the purchase and placement of anti-vehicle barriers at key access points; and, in conjunction with the federal government, help fund security and assistance expertise for local police forces.

Levine is contemplating a run for governor himself, as either a Democrat or independent candidate. As a Democrat, he would take on Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Winter Park developer Chris King and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee. The Republican candidates include state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Among possible examples of pedestrian targets for terrorism is Lincoln Road Pedestrian Mall in Levine’s Miami Beach. It covers ten blocks of street, full of stores, bars and restaurants, which has been closed off largely for pedestrians only. The city bills Lincoln Road Mall as South Florida’s “premier outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment destination.”

Yet such pedestrian-oriented stretches are throughout the state, from beaches to revitalized small town downtowns, and from college campuses to major tourist corridors such as Orlando’s International Drive.

In a note to Miami Beach citizens, Levine pointed out a citywide assessment of potential terrorist targets is underway, and in the meantime, temporary concrete barriers are being placed on two streets intersecting Lincoln Road.

“The barriers will be temporary until a more permanent and aesthetically pleasing option can be implemented as part of the eventual redesign of Lincoln Road,” he wrote.

 

CNN reports political favors led to 13K kids losing coverage; Chris King calls for probe

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King is calling for an independent investigation after CNN report Friday alleging the Florida Department of Health used faulty processes and political motives to kick 13,000 chronically sick children out of the state’s Children’s Medical Services program.

“I’m calling for an independent investigation into the Florida Department of Health and the administrative actions that led to this systematic decision to rip CMS health coverage away from more than 13,000 sick children and what influenced this decision,” King said in a news release issued by his campaign.

The Florida Department of Health responded Friday by contending the cable news network used misunderstanding and outdated information to inaccurately characterize the program, and that the claims that politics  played any role “is 100 percent false.”

“CNN’s reporting demonstrates a misunderstanding of Florida’s Medicaid system, the health insurance industry and the ethical standards of the State of Florida,” the DoH statement said.

Yet the department’s response largely defends what has happened since 2015, not responding much to what happened in 2015. What appears to not be at issue is that in 2015 Florida removed more than 13,000 children from the Children’s Medical Services program, a state-run Medicaid program set up for chronically-sick children, and referred them to other, private, Medicaid insurers.

The CNN report contends that the CMS program was nationally respected and designed to handle the sickest of kids, but claims those transferred off included many children with serious health problems including birth defects, heart disease, diabetes and blindness. It network reports that many of them were unable to find services under the new insurance plans which did not specialize in severe and chronically-sick children, which and which were not accepted by certain pediatric specialists.

CNN then cited experts and researchers in children’s health programs who said the data analysis, screening tools, and processes the Florida Department of Health used to decide which children would be dropped from CMS were deeply flawed, “completely invalid” and “a perversion of science,” in two comments.

The report then cites experts, including Dr. Louis St. Petery, former executive vice president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, who allege the children were switched to the private Medicaid insurers to reward Republican contributors. CNN also breaks down campaign contributions from the private insurance carriers to the Republican Party of Florida and other Republican political committees.

“Local and national experts in the medical field have expressed concern that this may have been done for political reasons, which, if true, would be deeply troubling,” King stated, first on Facebook, and then in a news release from his campaign. “The bottom line is that these children went without critical and oftentimes life-saving medical treatments and services because the state of Florida dropped them from CMS.”

King, a Winter Park developer, faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahasse and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for the Democratic nomination to run for governor in 2018. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow and state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater are running for the Republicans.

The Department of Health addressed CNN’s allegations one-by-one, dismissing them all. Yet the DoH’s overriding concern is the argument that the processes and tools used in 2015 were discarded and in 2016 new and better tools were used. The department said all of the families of children removed from the program in 2015 were sent letters encouraging them to re-screen their kids for possible re-enrollment in CMS.

The department argued there would be no benefit to the private insurers to pick up the chronically sick children, so it clearly was no reward for anything.

“According to the state’s Medicaid agency [Agency for Health Care Administration,] it is not true that health insurers benefit from having higher risk patients on their plans,” the DoH statement said. “This is a claim CNN makes and then contradicts with the fact that sick children are costlier for insurance companies because of the care they need. There was no financial impact or plan profit from any change. Plans do not receive an individual rate for each enrollee, but rather one overall rate for the entire plan.”

At least since early 2016, the screening tools CNN reported on, which were used for about two years, were no longer in use, the department stated.

“Beginning on January 11, 2016, the department resumed clinical eligibility screening using the process defined by Rule 64C-2.002, Florida Administrative Code. The process includes a two-part approach to clinical eligibility screening – a physician-based, auto-eligibility process using diagnostic codes for chronic and serious conditions and a parent-based survey to ensure that all financially eligible children with special health care needs are given the option to enroll in the CMS Plan,” the DoH reported. “At any time, a parent or physician can request that a child be screened or rescreened for the CMS plan – a fact CNN omits from their story.”

And finally, the department contended, “Since the time CNN is speaking of, more than two years ago, there have been multiple changes in department and CMS Plan leadership.”

Rick Scott: Florida unemployment down to 4.1 percent

Gov. Rick Scott announced the creation of more than 26,000 private-sector jobs in July, with the unemployment rate remaining at “the lowest rate in a decade, 4.1 percent.”

“Over the past six and a half years, we have worked relentlessly to cut taxes, reduce burdensome regulations and completely turn around Florida’s economy,” Scott said in a statement. “Our goal was to create 700,000 jobs in seven years and while we were proud to reach that ambitious goal three years early, we did not slow down.

“I am proud to announce today that after cutting taxes more than 75 times, Florida businesses have created more than 1.4 million new jobs, officially doubling our promise to create 700,000 jobs in seven years.”

Scott, who released the latest jobs numbers at Morgan Auto Group’s Brandon Honda location, also plugged his latest priority: A constitutional amendment “to require a supermajority vote by future state legislatures to raise any taxes or fees.”

“Together, we can make sure future generations are not burdened with unfair taxes and that our state remains a national leader in job creation and opportunity,” Scott said.

 

Andrew Gillum: Get rid of Capitol’s Confederate memorial

Ed. Note — This story, originally published Wednesday, was updated Thursday night.


Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic candidate for governor Andrew Gillum has called for the removal of a Confederate monument in front of the Historic Capitol.

“In the wake of Charlottesville, people all around the country are grappling with how we deal with our nation’s history and its uglier elements, including slavery, racism and the Confederacy,” he said in a Wednesday statement.

“Floridians must be a part of this work because our own history is checkered, and today I am calling on Gov. Rick Scott to immediately remove the Confederate monument … It is long past time. If he refuses, and I sincerely hope that he does act, I will do so on my first day as Governor.”

But a spokeswoman for the Department of Management Services, which reports to Scott and acts as the state’s real estate manager, said it’s not the governor’s decision to make.

“This monument is listed as a permanent exhibit of the Florida Historic Capitol Museum, which is managed by the Florida Legislature,” spokeswoman Maggie Mickler said late Thursday. “The Department of Management Services would not take any action regarding the Florida Historic Capitol Museum or any of its monuments or exhibits without Legislative approval.”

Records show the memorial was dedicated in 1882, and was moved to its current location near Monroe Street in 1923. It honors “the heroic patriotism of the men of Leon County who perished in the Civil War….”

“We owe it to our children and grandchildren to acknowledge that while we cannot change history, we do not have to glorify its ugliest moments with displays on public lands,” Gillum added. “And most certainly not in our state’s capital, and not in front of our historic statehouse. This weekend’s tragedy calls all decent people to act with courage, and I hope the Governor will do so.”

The Florida Senate has already removed a Confederate flag from its official seal and took down a mural outside the entrance to its public and press galleries that included a depiction of a Confederate general.

But with lawmakers taking no action last session, a bronze statue of a Confederate general representing Florida remains in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall.

Two competing bills died in the 2017 Legislative Session. One called for a likeness of educator and civil-rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune to replace the statue of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith. Another proposed a statue of environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, author of “The Everglades: River of Grass,” to take Smith’s place.

Art Graham, Ronald Brisé win nominations to be returned to PSC

Art Graham and Ronald Brisé on Thursday won nominations to be returned to their seats on the Public Service Commission, which regulates investor-owned utilities in the state.

If selected, both men would serve third terms; each was first appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2010.

The Public Service Commission Nominating Council also decided on six people to fill the unexpired term of former Commissioner Jimmy Patronis, who stepped down to replace Jeff Atwater as state Chief Financial Officer. Patronis’ term is up at the end of 2018. Those candidates are:

— Bill Conrad, former mayor of Newberry in Alachua County.

— Associate Public Counsel Erik Sayler. The Office of Public Counsel represents the interests of ratepayers before the commission.

— Ted Schrader, a former Pasco County commissioner and Tampa Bay Water board member.

Rich Glorioso, a Plant City Republican and retired U.S. Air Force colonel, who served in the House 2004-2012.

Gary Clark, the Department of Environmental Protection’s deputy secretary for land and recreation.

— Ritch Workman, a former state representative. The Melbourne Republican lost a bruising primary battle last year to fellow GOP Rep. Debbie Mayfield for Senate District 17.

The council also recommended another four for Graham’s and Brisé’s seats; their terms are up at year’s end. Those candidates include Conrad and:

— Former state Rep. Kenneth Littlefield, a Pasco County Republican who once chaired the House Utilities & Telecommunications Committee. Littlefield is a former PSC member himself, having been put on the commission by former Gov. Jeb Bush in 2006. Then-Gov. Charlie Crist replaced him the following year.

— Anibal Taboas, an Illinois-based consultant and former U.S. Department of Energy official.

— Jody Ann Newman, who chairs the Florida Board of Nursing.

Taboas and Newman won their nominations in a runoff vote, after initially not capturing the required seven votes.

Losing candidates include Greg Evers, a Baker Republican who left the Senate to run last year for northwest Florida’s Congressional seat, losing to Matt Gaetz; and current state Rep. Tom Goodson, a Brevard County Republican who chairs the House Agriculture and Property Rights subcommittee and is term-limited next year.

Another noteworthy applicant, former state Comptroller and retired Marine general Bob Milligan, was shut out early in the process, receiving no votes to move forward when the council met in Tampa last week.

The council will forward its recommendations to Gov. Rick Scott, who will decide on the appointments, subject to final approval by the Florida Senate.

Rick Scott, Cabinet members OK Venezuela investment ban

With no discussion, Gov. Rick Scott and members of the Florida Cabinet Wednesday approved a policy to forbid any investments benefiting the Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela.

Scott, state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Attorney General Pam Bondi sit as Trustees of the State Board of Administration, which oversees state investments.

The state currently has no investments that involve Venezuela, Ash Williams, the SBA’s executive director & chief investment officer, told reporters.

Scott, widely expected to run for U.S. Senate next year, has championed opposition to President Maduro, calling out the government for placing opposition leader Leopoldo López under house arrest after he was released from prison following a 3-year sentence for leading anti-government protests.

“It’s disgusting what’s happening down there,” Scott said Tuesday. “Maduro needs to step down; he needs to release all political prisoners; we need democracy again.”

The policy bans any investments by the state’s $193 billion pension plan that would benefit the government of Venezuela, including “any securities issued by the government of Venezuela or any company that is majority-owned by the government of Venezuela.”

It will last “until such time as the SBA determines it is otherwise prudent to do so,” it says. Legislation (SB 70) also has been filed for the 2018 Session that would ban the state from doing business with the Maduro government or companies financially tied to it, including Goldman Sachs.

Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, the Miami-Dade Democrat who filed the bill, released a statement later Wednesday that, as of June, “the SBA holds 687,581 shares of Goldman Sachs stock worth $147,135,458 and $171,071,885 in Goldman Sachs bonds/paper and the SBA has several agreements with Goldman Sachs to manage funds.”

“The people of Venezuela need us to side with them not just in word, but also in deed,” Rodríguez said in the statement. “I welcome the SBA’s initial step and look forward to continuing to work with them on taking concrete steps to support the Venezuelan people during a deepening political and economic crisis of Maduro’s making.”

Williams said the pension plan is roughly 85 percent funded; the “unfunded liability” is the difference between the money it has and the money it needs to cover current and expected future payouts.

But financial experts generally call pension plans healthy if they’re at least 80 percent funded. That’s because employees retire at different times, making a virtual ‘run on the bank’ unlikely.

The latest guidance will be incorporated into the state’s Investment Policy Statement, Williams added. “It doesn’t have to be there, but we think it’s better that it be there,” he said.

“I think what we have done today, based on an analysis of the facts, the law and our fiduciary obligations, is completely appropriate,” Williams told reporters.

Cost to protect Rick Scott now up to nearly $3 million

Protecting Gov. Rick Scott, First Lady Ann Scott, their family, and the Governor’s Mansion and grounds cost the state nearly $3 million last fiscal year, up from $2.6 million the year before.

The annual Report of Transportation and Protective Services, issued Tuesday by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, showed the cost to safeguard the governor alone rose roughly $218,000 from 2015-16, to almost $2.3 million in 2016-17.

Also last year, 75 “protective details were performed” at a cost of $304,000, the report says. All costs include agents’ and officers’ salary and any overtime, plus the cost of transportations and other expenses.

Those include “dignitary protection” details at the Republican Governors Association Policy Summit in Miami this May ($33,578), the Republican Governors Association Annual Conference in Orlando last November ($63,674) and a visit to Jacksonville that same month by former President Bill Clinton ($402).

Another $137,000 was spent to protect individual governors, their wives and other family members who attended the Orlando conference, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ($5,646, who came without wife Mary Pat).

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