Gov. Rick Scott Archives - Page 7 of 61 - Florida Politics

James E. Billie ousted as head of state’s Seminole Tribe

With less than a week before a trial over their blackjack games begins, the Seminole Tribe of Florida has removed James E. Billie as tribal chairman.

Billie was ousted Wednesday in a 4-0 vote of the tribe’s governing council, Law 360 reported, citing “various issues with policies and procedures of the chairman’s office.”

Gary Bitner, spokesman for the tribe, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Sun-Sentinel reported a special election will be held in the next month to elect a new chairman for the Hollywood-based tribe, “which operates a business empire that began with the sale of tax-free cigarettes in the 1970s and expanded to include hotels, citrus groves, tourist attractions, and Seminole Hard Rock casinos throughout South Florida.”

A federal trial is set to begin Monday in Tallahassee in a dispute over whether the Seminoles’ casinos can continue to have blackjack tables, including at its casinos located in Tampa and in South Florida.

The U.S. Supreme Court already dealt a financial blow to the tribe, declining to consider a lower-court decision that it has to pay tax on its electric and other utility bills.

But the outcome of next week’s trial could determine the future of the tribe’s finances. Bitner has said card games generate just under 20 percent of the tribe’s total gambling revenue, which is up to $1 billion yearly just at the Tampa location.

A portion of a five-year gambling deal with the state expired last year. It granted the tribe exclusive rights to blackjack in return for revenue sharing with the state.

Gov. Rick Scott in December reached a new $3 billion deal with the tribe that would let them keep blackjack and add table games, such as craps and roulette.

But the deal was never considered by the Florida Legislature as various gambling interests, including the state’s pari-mutuels, complained they had been shorted in the deal.

The Sun-Sentinel story, which has a recap of Billie’s history and various tenures as head of the tribe, is here.


Dozens apply to Rick Scott for Constitution Revision Commission

Nearly 60 people already have applied to Gov. Rick Scott for a seat on the panel that reviews the state’s constitution every two decades.

According to a list the governor’s office released Wednesday, among those seeking to be on the Constitution Revision Commission are:

Frederick Brummer, a Republican former lawmaker and past Orange County commissioner.

Kurt Browning, a former secretary of state and currently Pasco schools superintendent.

Rich Crotty, a veteran Republican politico from Orange County who was in the Legislature and served as Orange County mayor for 10 years.

Rick Dantzler, a former lawmaker and one-time Democratic lieutenant-governor candidate.

Don Eslinger, who is set to retire next year as Seminole County Sheriff.

Sally Heyman, a Democratic former legislator now on the Miami-Dade Commission.

Joseph Little, a professor emeritus of constitutional law at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law.

Bernie McCabe, the longtime state attorney for Pasco and Pinellas counties.

William Schifino, a Tampa attorney and president of The Florida Bar.

The Florida Constitution allows for a “revision commission” to meet every 20 years to “examine the constitution, hold public hearings and … file its proposal, if any, of a revision of this constitution or any part of it.”

As governor, Scott will choose 15 of the 37 commissioners and selects its chairperson. That means the Naples Republican will indirectly influence the retooling of the state’s chief governing document for an entire generation.

In addition to Scott, the House speaker and Senate president each get nine picks. Assuming they win re-election in November, GOP state Rep. Richard Corcoran of Land O’ Lakes will be speaker in 2017 and state Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican, will be president.

Republican Pam Bondi is automatically a member as attorney general, and Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga gets three picks. He announced earlier this week he had begun taking applications.

Under law, the next commission is scheduled to meet 30 days before the beginning of the Legislature’s 2017 regular session.

Any changes it proposes would be in the form of constitutional amendments, which would have to be approved by 60 percent of voters on a statewide ballot.

Scott’s application is here. His “appointments will be made no later than March 6, 2017,” his office said.

The full alphabetical list of applicants as released by the governor’s office is below.


Avalon, Victoria

Baade, David

Barbee, Donald

Belgard, Tildon

Beltran, Michael

Browning, Kurt

Brummer, Frederick

Carlock, Margaret

Clayton, Robert

Crotty, Richard

Cullen, Lisa

Dantzler, Rick

Dillinger, Robert

Eslinger, Donald

Foster, Brett

Furst, Jr, William

Gillis, Laurence

Goiran, Barbara

Goldstein, Stuart

Gosney, Steven

Handin, Jason

Harding, Nicholas

Haynie, Susan

Heyman, Sally

Kinch, Abby

Little, Joseph

Maier, Christopher

Marsh, James

Mason III, Scott

Matthews, Joseph

Maymon, David

McCabe, Bernie

Mellen III, Robert

Millert, Wayne

Monahan Jr., Gerald

Moore, Edwin

Moriarty, Mark

Patterson Jr, Ralph “Pat”

Primrose, Nicholas

Puig, Diego

Rainka, Michael

Ramswell, Prebble

Robinson IV, Grover

Rosenblatt, Howard

Runcie, Robert

Schifino, William

Simovitch, Audra

Smiley, Judge Elijah

Smith, Daniel

Stelzl, Henry

Svechin, Larisa

Tuck, Andy

Upthagrove, Brett

VanValkenburgh, Jessica

Wigder, Marc

Zilaitis, Frank

Zoes, Caroline

Personnel note: Capital City Consulting hires Andrew Ketchel

Updated Thursday: Ketchel’s hiring has been announced in a news release. This post has been updated.

Andrew Ketchel, a veteran of Gov. Rick Scott‘s administration, is joining Capital City Consulting, has learned.


Ketchel’s first day will be Oct. 17.

He most recently was legislative affairs director for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. His coming on board signals that CCC aims to be a player next session as the state continues to struggle with water use and conservation issues.

Firm co-founder Nick Iarossi also wasted no time in re-staffing his influence shop after the departure of star lobbyist Jen Gaviria.

She left for Clewiston with new husband Eric Edwards, as he starts a new in-house lobbying job with U.S. Sugar.

Iarossi said in a statement, “With experience in the public sector, including government affairs, Andrew boasts a deep understanding of policy issues impacting our state. Having spent several years with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Governor Scott’s administration, we know Andrew will be a great addition in helping our clients achieve success.”

Ketchel also was in legislative affairs for the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. He first came to Tallahassee as part of the Gubernatorial Fellows Program, working in the Executive Office of the Governor during Scott’s first term.

The Fort Walton Beach native was a four-year letterman in football at the University of South Florida. He also was named a Big East Academic All-American.

Ketchel has an undergraduate degree in political science and a graduate degree in public administration.

“I am proud to be joining such an esteemed firm,” he said in a statement. “Capital City Consulting is known for their great team of consultants who work together to provide high-quality representation for their clients.  I am excited to have the opportunity to bring my background and insight to the firm as we navigate our clients through the legislative process to reach their goals.”

He can be reached at

Kathleen Peters plans to file transparency legislation

State Rep. Kathleen Peters on Monday said she’ll sponsor legislation next session to require public notification “of contamination to our environment within 24 hours.”

“The public deserves notification when there are pollutants being introduced to our environment,” she said in a statement. “Our water is one of our most precious resources; it is life. I remain committed to holding institutions accountable for their actions, be they public or private.”

Peters’ announcement comes after the Mosaic sinkhole disaster in Polk County, in which a retention pond holding over 100 million gallons of contaminated water from fertilizer processing collapsed and drained into the underlying groundwater supply.

The sinkhole opened Aug. 27 but the public wasn’t told for another three weeks. Among the contaminants is phosphogypsum, which contains “minute traces of radioactive byproducts of uranium,” according to Florida State University.

Peters, a Treasure Island Republican, also called for a special meeting of Pinellas County’s legislative delegation after recent storm surges from Hermine, a Category 1 hurricane.

She had said she was concerned about “municipalities across Pinellas County (being) forced to dump partially treated sewage into local waterways.”

Gov. Rick Scott earlier Monday called on his Department of Environmental Protection to create an emergency rule that would require notification of severe environmental damages within 24 hours.

The rule, when completed, will require public notice of any potential effects on health or safety.

Scott said he would be at the Mosaic facility outside New Wales on Tuesday to get a briefing from company officials and view the sinkhole.


Dept of Corrections, Bridges of America battling again over inmate programs

The state’s Department of Corrections and Bridges of America, an Orlando-based nonprofit, are once more warring over transitional programs for the state’s inmates.

On Monday morning, Bridges representatives and supporters say they will rally at the organization’s Orlando Transition Center “to respond to (DOC’s) plans to shut the center down,” the group said.

Lori Constantino-Brown, president and CEO of Bridges, explained in an open letter that the prisons agency wants “to move 688 community-based substance abuse beds from community facilities back behind prison walls.”

The Orlando Transition Center “houses and treats 136 transitioning and community release inmates.”

“Moving these beds back into prisons not only results in increased costs to Florida taxpayers, but also impacts the transitional process of those non-violent inmates participating,” she wrote.

This isn’t the first time that Brown and Corrections Secretary Julie Jones had a high-profile scuffle.

A similar battle broke out earlier this year over Broward Bridge, a residential program offering transitional counseling, drug treatment and other services to inmates on work release.

The state wanted to pull the plug; Bridges waged a PR battle to keep the facility open.

The organization said 89 percent of men who start the Broward program successfully complete it, and only 10 percent of men and 5 percent of women who graduate from such “community transition centers” get in trouble with the law again.

Several state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle opposed that proposed shutdown, including state Sen. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat, and House Republican Leader Dana Young of Tampa.

State Sen. Greg Evers – a Baker Republican whose Criminal Justice Committee oversees state prisons – went as far as to say DOC officials had “lied” to him after promising they wouldn’t interfere with such programs.

That tussle ended when DOC agreed to place inmates then using Broward Bridge in other treatment centers around the state.

The department also said future inmates needing help in Broward County could go to another “community release center’ in Pompano Beach, also run by Bridges.

For Monday, Bridges has invited former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings, a Democrat now running for Florida’s 10th Congressional District in west Orange County, as well as state Reps. Vic Torres, an Orlando Democrat; Rene “Coach P” Plasencia, an Orlando Republican; and Bob Cortes, an Altamonte Springs Republican.

Brown asked supporters to write to Jones and her boss, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, to object to further closures.

“Explain that secure facility beds should be reserved for violent offenders, not the low level offenders in need of substance abuse treatment,” she said in the letter. “And share our belief that this service is most effective when conducted in the community in partnership with the inmate’s family or significant others.”

Secretary Liz Dudek to retire from AHCA

Liz Dudek, who moved up the ranks at Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration to become its leader, is retiring from the agency effective Oct. 3.  

“Liz has been a part of my team since my first year in office and has spent over four decades serving Florida families,” Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement.


“Under her leadership, we have worked to make hospitals more transparent and accomplished historic Medicaid reform,” he said. “She helped champion quality health services for children in our state and worked hard on our Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding where she fought to protect patients from being price gouged at hospitals.

“She has done an outstanding job making sure all Floridians have the opportunity to lead a healthy and safe life and I wish her the best in her retirement.”

Justin Senior, now Deputy Secretary of the Division of Medicaid, will serve as Interim Secretary as of Oct. 3.

Dudek departs in the wake of the discovery of the agency’s years-long $377 million billing error, in which it systematically – and apparently unknowingly – underpaid the state’s Medicaid health maintenance organizations, or HMOs.

The HMOs have been paid back fees of about $180 million, but lawmakers still need to approve money to pay the rest of what’s owed.

Scott first appointed Dudek secretary of AHCA – which has a roughly $20 billion yearly budget – in March 2011, according to the agency’s website.

She was renominated by Scott for the job and again confirmed by the Senate this February.

Among other things, the agency administers the state’s Medicaid program and oversees licensing of Florida’s 45,000 health care facilities.

She was first hired by the state Dec. 1, 1974, records show.

Since then, she’s served in a succession of top positions: Bureau Chief of Certificate of Need/Budget Review, Bureau Chief of Health Facility Compliance, Assistant Deputy Secretary of Managed Care and Health Quality, and Deputy Secretary for the Division of Health Quality Assurance.

As secretary, she was paid $141,000, according to the state’s salary database.

With her vast knowledge of the federal-state health care system, she could likely move to a lucrative consulting job, though she is subject to the state’s 2-year ban on lobbying by former state agency employees.

“She’s a great friend and mentor, someone who knows how to lead from a position of fairness and mutual respect,” said Jennifer Ungru, Dudek’s former chief of staff, now with Jones Walker. “I can’t see her staying home … she’ll do whatever interests her and challenges her.”


Governor, Florida Cabinet to receive agency budget requests

It’s that time of year when state agencies start asking what they want lawmakers to pony up.

Agencies that report to Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet – Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Attorney General Pam Bondi, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam – will formally turn in their legislative budget requests Tuesday at the September Cabinet meeting.

The wish lists for the 2017-18 fiscal year were available Monday on the Cabinet’s website as part of the meeting material.

State government is funded with a mix of general revenue (tax money available for any use), trust fund (can only be used for specific purposes) and federal dollars.

Also, money can be “recurring” (expected to be needed over future years) or “non-recurring” (requested only once and then used).

The Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR), for instance, is asking for $31.6 million, up from the current year’s $30.9 million budget. That includes a $1.5 million increase from the current year in salaries and benefits because of a “reclassification of positions.”

The request points out OIR is “exclusively funded by the Insurance Regulatory Trust Fund – no General Revenue is utilized for the Office’s budget.”

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will ask for $41.3 million next year. Its top priorities are the continued modernization of its driver license, registrations and other documents issuance technology, about $14 million.

The Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) seeks $20.4 million, including $785,984 to pay for the continued work on reducing the backlog of untested rape kits.

The Department of Revenue is asking for $551.8 million. “Of this amount, $550,386,870 is recurring,” the request says. “This represents a .2% increase in total recurring funding for all funds over the FY 2016-2017 recurring appropriation.”

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs seeks $59 million, with nearly $48 million for construction and renovation of the state’s veterans’ nursing homes.

But typical state veterans’ home construction has a “65/35” split, with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs picking up 65 percent of the development and construction costs and the state picking up the remaining 35 percent, a spokesman explained.

The Cabinet meeting starts at 9 a.m.

vending machine sticker

Dep’t of Revenue: Get rid of vending machine stickers

The Florida Department of Revenue now wants to eliminate what one critic called a “hilariously absurd regulation”: The state’s vending machine sticker requirement.

The department included the recommendation in its yearly list of suggestions for new laws. The list will go before Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet at their next meeting.

State law requires each machine to be registered for sales tax purposes, and carry a notice — almost always a sticker —with the following language:


“Florida law imposes a $250 penalty on each vending machine that does not display the notice,” according to the department.

Of course, as Revenue points out in its recommendation, people do exactly what the sticker asks them not to do.

“The notice requirement has not increased tax compliance and most calls received on the toll-free number are to report machine malfunctions and problems with the vending machine items,” the department says.

Moreover, as Radley Balko once pointed out on his The Agitator blog, the sticker’s purpose — to signal users that a given machine is registered — is kind of a Catch-22.

“… If a vending machine is in violation of the notice requirement, there’s no notice to notify the consumer that the machine is in violation,” he wrote back in 2012. “And there’s no number posted for the consumer to call.

“The only way this serves any purpose whatsoever is if you have a consumer who sees the notice on a compliant machine, then goes to the effort of writing it down and keeping it on his person at all times, in case he happens upon a non-compliant machine,” he wrote.

Put another way, Balko said, the law is about “requiring the (vending machine) owner to post a notice about the requirement to post a notice.”

The governor and Cabinet meet Tuesday, starting at 9 a.m.

Enterprise Florida president search down to five names

The presidential search committee for Enterprise Florida (EFI) on Friday decided on five finalists to lead the state’s public-private economic development organization.

They are:

— Christine L. Adamow, formerly with the Ringling College of Art & Design’s Department of Business and Art Design.

— Richard M. Biter, a retired assistant secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation.

— Reid Dulberger, economic development officer for the mayors of Memphis and Shelby County, Tennessee.

— Michael Finney, former chief executive officer, Michigan Economic Development Corp.

— Michael L. McGee, senior commercial officer, U.S. Department of Commerce; Bogota, Colombia.

The committee, chaired by Gulf Power Company chief Stan Connally, plans on holding phone interviews and paring that list down some more.

Enterprise Florida board members then will make their pick at their board meeting on Sept. 28-29.

Alan Becker, EFI board vice chair, earlier this week said he expects only a handful of applicants will meet the agency’s needs: knowledge of economic development, organizational leadership, and experience working with the Legislature.

Bill Johnson, the agency’s immediate past leader, had taken hits over his people skills as the agency’s proposed $250 million incentives fund crashed and burned during the 2016 Legislative Session.

Johnson also was questioned over his hiring and expenses. He left the organization in late June.

Gov. Rick Scott and the EFI board have since agreed to streamline operations of the 20-year-old agency, including eliminating jobs, closing international offices, and canceling contracts with outside consultants.

The next president will be paid $175,000-$200,000 per year, down from Johnson’s salary of $265,000. The agency’s head also serves as Florida’s Secretary of Commerce.

Rick Scott won’t say whether he lobbied against Don Gaetz as UWF prez

A spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Scott wouldn’t confirm or deny the governor had urged University of West Florida trustees not to pick state Sen. Don Gaetz as the school’s next president.

UWF Board of Trustees Chair Lewis Bear said during Thursday’s meeting his board had been “interfered with,” that certain people in “high office” had tried to intimidate them not to vote for a particular candidate.

Sources across Tallahassee speculated that was Scott, whose relationship with the Niceville Republican and former Senate president has been rocky the last couple of years.

Jackie Schutz, the governor’s communications director, didn’t exactly quash the rumor Thursday evening.

“Gov. Scott frequently talks with trustees on key issues at our universities,” she said in an email. “He is thankful for their service to the state and the many hours they volunteer to make our higher education system more affordable and accountable.

“Gov. Scott appreciates all of the candidates who put their names forward to serve as president of UWF and looks forward to working with president-elect Martha Saunders as she meets with the Board of Governors to outline her vision for UWF’s future.”

Saunders wound up getting nine votes to Gaetz’s four. Her appointment still must be OK’d by the State University System Board of Governors.

Gaetz told the Pensacola News-Journal he has considered himself to be the “underdog” throughout the selection process.

“I was surprised and gratified that I was able to make it to the finals. Just to be considered was a great compliment to me,” Gaetz told the newspaper. “I believe that Dr. Saunders is an excellent choice for president. I fully believe she’ll do a good job.”

His son, state Rep. Matt Gaetz, and likely the next congressman for Northwest Florida, later tweeted there would no hard feelings.

“There has been more than enough score-settling,” he said. “We love @UWF & will always stand in full support … #GoArgos

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons