Jeb Bush Archives - Florida Politics

Report: Brenda Snipes resigns as Broward elections supervisor

Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes submitted her resignation, according to a report in the Sun-Sentinel.

The departure comes after a contentious recount that drew national scrutiny on the office, and after a number of leaders called her for removal from office.

The Sun-Sentinel sources Burnadette Norris-Weeks, counsel for the Supervisor of Elections Office, who told the newspaper she had seen a draft of Snipes resignation letter. The paper could not confirm when Snipes planned to leave office but said she will likely stay no longer than early January.

Snipes already indicated earlier in the week she likely would not seek re-election.

She originally took office after an appointment by then-Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003, coincidentally after the Republican Governor removed Miriam Oliphant from the post following the mishandling of a midterm election.

Now Snipes has come under sustained fire for irregularities this year. Earlier this week, Bush joined a chorus of critics of the elections supervisor.

“There is no question that Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes failed to comply with Florida law on multiple counts, undermining Floridians’ confidence in our electoral process,” Bush tweeted on Monday. “Supervisor Snipes should be removed from her office following the recounts.”

But she suffered heavy criticism from all sides.

With a recount concluded and Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson conceding in the U.S. Senate race to Gov. Rick Scott, Democrats think poor ballot design may have contributed to an unusually high number of undervotes in the contest in Broward County. Nearly 25,000 fewer voters bubbled in that race than the Governor’s contest or even some constitutional amendments. The Senate race came down to 10,033 votes.

And after a machine recount on three statewide races this year, Snipes realized her staff had misplaced more than 2,000 ballots, prompting the office to leave in place original tabulations over the objection of Republican candidates.

The entire recount process became fraught with tension from the start when protracted vote counts in Broward and Palm Beach counties, both Democratic strongholds, dramatically tightened the margins in this year’s U.S. Senate and Governor’s races, and completely erased a lead Republican Matt Caldwell appeared to hold in the Agriculture Commissioner race on Election Day.

Caldwell declared victory on Nov. 6, he said, based on a belief his 40,000-vote lead over Democrat Nikki Fried at the time exceeded the number of outstanding votes left in the race. Then Broward County continued to add an additional 80,000 ballots into state totals over the next two days. Fried took the lead in Thursday and kept it through a statewide recount process.

Fried today declared victory herself after a manual recount that left her with a 6,753-vote lead. Caldwell, meanwhile, has sued Snipes office, his attorneys alleging elections officials logged in 6,873 vote-by-mail ballots accepted after polls closed on Election Day.

Personnel note: Jose Oliva names Carol Gormley as chief of staff

Carol Gormley, a veteran legislative staffer, will be chief of staff to incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva, according to an email sent to members by the Speaker’s Office on Wednesday.

Gormley is a highly-regarded health care policy expert who has worked for both Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.

She’s not a household name outside of Tallahassee, but Gormley is regarded as one of the most influential legislative bureaucrats in the Capitol.

As a House staff director, she has played an influential role in health issues such as Medicaid.

In 2012, she jumped to the Senate to be a senior policy advisor to then-Senate President Don Gaetz. More recently, she was a senior policy staffer to immediate past House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

The news upends conventional wisdom that Jason Rojas had been on track to be Oliva’s chief of staff when the Miami Lakes Republican takes over as Speaker for 2018-20.

Rojas, who also has been a House staff director, moved to the Republican Party of Florida last year to serve in a policy development role that was considered a stepping stone to the Speaker’s Office.

Businesses to see drop in workers’ comp rates

Florida businesses will get a break on their insurance bills starting in January.

The state Office of Insurance Regulation announced late Friday that it has decided to approve an overall 13.8 percent decrease in workers’ compensation insurance rates for 2019. That is a slightly larger cut than a 13.4 percent decrease proposed in August by the National Council on Compensation Insurance, an organization that makes rate proposals for the insurance industry.

Regulators gave the organization, commonly known as NCCI, until Wednesday to take a formal step of amending its filing. But when the 13.8 decrease is finalized, it will follow a 9.5 percent rate decrease that took effect this year.

In an overview of the August filing, NCCI said its proposed double-digit rate decrease was in line with trends in other states. It pointed to issues such as a long-term decline in the frequency of claims — an issue also cited in a 10-page order released Friday by the Office of Insurance Regulation.

“NCCI provided testimony at a prior hearing that claim frequency decline for workers’ compensation is not unique to Florida and that for a number of years frequency has been declining countrywide similar to Florida,” said the order, signed by Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier. “NCCI also testified that claim frequency decline is due, in part, to safer workplaces, enhanced efficiencies in the workplace and increased use of automation and innovative technologies. According to NCCI’s testimony, the decline is expected to continue in the future.”

Regulators look at numerous factors in setting rates. Friday’s order included a slightly larger rate decrease than proposed by NCCI, at least in part, because of a difference in what is known as a “profit and contingencies provision” for insurers.

Workers’ compensation rates have long been closely watched in Tallahassee. The Legislature and then-Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003 approved an overhaul of the workers’ compensation system that drove down rates — but drew protests from plaintiffs’ attorneys and labor unions that argued the changes reduced benefits for injured workers and improperly took away legal rights.

A major question during the past two years has been how a pair of Florida Supreme Court rulings would affect rates. In one of those cases, known as Castellanos v. Next Door Company, justices ruled that limits on attorneys’ fees in workers’ compensation cases were unconstitutional. The other case, known as Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg, sided with an injured firefighter in a dispute over benefits.

Business groups argued that the Castellanos decision would dramatically increase litigation and drive up costs. While lawmakers have not made changes sought by the business groups, insurance regulators in 2016 approved a 14.5 percent rate hike that was heavily focused on the Castellanos decision.

The NCCI filing in August and the Office of Insurance Regulation order Friday, however, were based on what are known as “policy years” 2015 and 2016, which means the data doesn’t fully take into account the effects of the Supreme Court decisions.

In the order, the Office of Insurance Regulation directed NCCI to provide analysis in future rate filings about the Castellanos decision.

“To ensure workers’ compensation rates are not excessive, inadequate or unfairly discriminatory … it is imperative that additional quantitative analysis be conducted to determine the effect the Castellanos decision is having on the Florida workers’ compensation market and the data used to support future rate filings,” the order said.

Bill Herrle, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business in Florida, said the decrease in workers’ compensation rates isn’t a surprise and attributed the reduction to a “hot economy” with “record employment.”

“It’s insurance principle No. 1,” Herrle said. “Premiums are flooding into the workers’ compensation system, and the risk is being spread around.”

However, Herrle maintains that the Supreme Court decision removing caps on attorneys’ fees is problematic, and his group will seek legislation next year to restrict what attorneys can charge.

“We still think uncapped attorneys’ fees in the workers’ comp system is a bad policy,” Herrle said.

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Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Order in the (Supreme) Court: Suit aims to short-circuit nominating process

Progressive groups now are suing to stop a state nominating panel from recommending candidates to the Florida Supreme Court, saying it “lacks the authority to make its nominations before the vacancies occur.”

The League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause filed Friday evening to halt the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC).

Earlier Friday, that panel announced it still plans to interview 59 lawyers and judges who applied to be the next three justices on the state’s highest court.

That’s after the court itself, in an unsigned order earlier this month, said outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Scott cannot appoint the replacements for Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, and Peggy A. Quince. Scott, who favors conservative jurists, said he would name their replacements; the groups challenged him and won.

Here’s what’s at stake: The next justices will likely determine the ideological balance of the court. Pariente, Lewis, and Quince are regarded as the liberal-leaning contingent; Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justices Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson are the conservatives. Justice Jorge Labarga is sometimes a swing vote.

The organizations argued Scott shouldn’t be able to replace the outgoing justices because their terms don’t expire till the last minute of his last day in office, but the new governor will be sworn in earlier.

And the court’s order came with similar provisos, that “the justices do not leave prior to the expiration of their terms at midnight between January 7 and January 8, 2019, and provided that the (new) governor takes office immediately upon the beginning of his term.”

As it stands now, the next governor — almost certainly either Republican Ron DeSantis or Democrat Andrew Gillum — will have to pick from the JNC’s list of nominees.

The “proceedings underway create, at the very least, sufficient appearance of a tainted process that (Scott and the JNC) should be prohibited from any further actions other than alerting the public that applications will continue to be received at least through January 8,” according to Friday’s filing by attorney John S. Mills of Tallahassee.

It asks the court “to order the Commission to accept new applications … no earlier than January 8, 2019, prohibit the Commission from taking any other action on these vacancies until January 8, 2019, and prohibit Gov. Scott from taking any further action related to the Commission or its membership other than preserving all records related to the proceedings of the Commission generated at any time during his administration.”

The JNC “begins interviewing applicants November 3, and it is clearly poised to make its nominations by November 9,” the filing said. “The dispute will not become moot once interviews begin or even if nominations are made, but it would be far better to decide these issues before the Commission announced nominees.”

Of the 59 applicants, it added, “only 11 women applied, only 6 applicants identify as black, and only 6 identify as Hispanic. The list of applicants has been described in the press as including a ‘who’s who of conservative judges.’ ”

Jason Unger, who chairs the Supreme Court JNC, could not be reached Friday night.

In recent weeks, Scott tried to defuse the litigation by offering to confer with his successor on candidates, taking a page from the late Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles, who reached a similar accord with incoming Republican Jeb Bush in 1998. Quince is the last justice appointed through such consultations.

Geoff Burgan, then the campaign communications director for Gillum, spurned the offer, saying: “In our understanding of the Constitution, the next Governor will appoint the next three Supreme Court justices.”

Jeb Bush: We have to do what countries like The Netherlands do

Former Gov. Jeb Bush offered some long-term leadership perspective for Florida to consider with hurricane preparation on television Wednesday morning, saying the state needs to look at expanding its toughest building codes, do more to discourage development in flood zones, and adopt “adaptive policies for land use.”

The latter point, made during Bush’s telephone appearance on the “Morning Joe” show on MSNBC, is a reference to the comprehensive systems of flood protection and disaster resiliance infrastructure in use elsewhere.

Bush also took a shot at the political advertisements that played across Florida television Wednesday afternoon and evening as Hurricane Michael devastated the central Panhandle. He said politicians need to “put their arms down.”

The two-term governor who oversaw the state’s responses to Hurricanes Charley, Francis, Ivan, and Jeanne, among others, primarily offered longer-term vision for Florida as hurricanes appear to be increasing in size, speed, intensity, and numbers. That’s especially true because the state’s population now tops 20 million and population growth is unlikely to slow, he offered.

“We need more adaptive policies for land use. If there’s going to be more storms, then we have to do what countries like The Netherlands do. We’re not going to go back to ‘wild Florida’. We have 22 million people,” Bush said.

He also spoke of the state’s tough building codes, adopted while he was Governor from 1999-2007, and how the state needs to look at how some buildings dating from those codes survive while others do not, and consider making changes. And he said it is time, nationally, to stop building in flood zones, and that lenders and insurance companies need to make that clear.

Bush then referred to charts shown earlier on the show that tracked dramatic increaeses in the dollar amounts of property damage due to hurricanes in recent years.

“The reason why all those charts y’all showed earlier this morning that there’s more properety damage is because there’s more property,” Bush said. “It’s a fact that we have this situation and the need to create adaptive policies over the long haul to deal with them.”

Bush also expressed some disgust for the political ads showing in spite of the disaster.

“My only hope is that in the midst of a campaign season, people need to put their arms down and stop the advertising, stop the campaigning, at least in these afffected areas, and help their fellow man,” Bush said.

Rick Scott’s coordination with justice nominating panel unconstitutional, groups argue

Gov. Rick Scott may have acted beyond his constitutional authority last week when he jump-started the Judicial Nominating Commission’s process of vetting potential justices to fill three soon-to-be vacancies on the state Supreme Court, new legal action contends. 

In a writ of quo warranto filed with the Supreme Court on Thursday, Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of Florida challenge Scott’s power to coordinate with the JNC and to require the nine-member panel submit three to six candidates for the high court by Nov. 10.

The Supreme Court later on Thursday asked Scott to respond to the petition no later than Sept. 26.

The groups had earlier challenged Scott’s authority to nominate three new justices before his term ends in January. At stake in the new year is the potential to swing the court’s political leanings. The three justices with expiring terms are Fred LewisPeggy Quince and Barbara Pariente — considered the liberal wing of the high court.

The Nov. 10 deadline, the petition argues, is outside of a constitutional provision that “nominations shall be made within thirty days from the occurrence of a vacancy unless the period is extended by the governor for a time not to exceed thirty days.”

The lawyers representing Common Cause and the League interpret the 30-day clause as meaning no potential replacements can be considered before a vacancy on the bench occurs.

The petition later reads, “Governor Scott’s attempt to require the [JNC]  to convene and, more importantly, to set a deadline for nominations is unquestionably beyond his authority.” 

The legal action comes after the Supreme Court in a 6-1 decision refused to rule on a lawsuit requesting the court block Scott from appointing three new justices on the day his term ends, Jan. 7. Then, the court agreed that Scott hadn’t made an official move regarding the nomination of new justices outside of comments to the press, and therefore it couldn’t weigh in.

When Scott corralled the JNC last week, the petition claims, he took “official action.”

But John Tupps, Scott’s communications director, pointed to precedent as justification for beginning the nomination process.

“The Governor is following precedent set by Governor [Lawton Chiles] and has said in good faith that his expectation is that he and the governor-elect will agree on the selection of three new justices,” Tupps said in a prepared statement. Chiles reached an agreement on a new high court pick with then-Gov.-elect Jeb Bush in 1998.

“It’s disappointing that these partisan groups filed a politically-motivated lawsuit that would create three prolonged vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court, contrary to all historical practice,” added Tupps.

Regardless of history, a lawyer handling the litigation told Florida Politics, Scott is still acting outside of his delegated powers.

“What politicians do in the past cannot possibly change the meaning of the Constitution,” Tallahassee-based attorney John Mills, who’s handling the litigation, said. “This is not an olive branch it’s a power grab.”

The petition requests the court consider the matter promptly, as the nomination process launched by Scott already is underway.

Jeb Bush, Richard Corcoran laud Ron DeSantis’ education policy

Republican nominee for Governor Ron DeSantis rolled out an education policy this week that wasn’t too different from that of dispatched primary rival Adam Putnam, with emphasis on school choice (charter schools) and vocational training.

As yet another signal of DeSantis being embraced by establishment Republicans, his campaign on Thursday rolled out a list of endorsements for his education policy.

Primary among them are former Gov. Jeb Bush, whose eight years in Tallahassee stressed educational reform and who was the last conservative defender of Common Core, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who abandoned his own gubernatorial ambitions and backed Putnam in the primary.

Bush said “DeSantis’ education policies will prepare Florida students to succeed in the competitive 21st century global economy. He understands that transforming our schools into a world-class education system requires bold reforms, and he is the only candidate with a plan to ensure Florida continues to lead the nation in raising student achievement.”

He added: “Ron is a fighter who will work tirelessly to ensure every student has access to a high quality education, and I am proud to endorse his education plan.”

The Bush imprimatur is interesting here, given the former Governor spent a good portion of his 2016 presidential run explaining away his own backing of Common Core. DeSantis, of course, wants to end Common Core.

No less interesting is Corcoran’s full-throated endorsement of the DeSantis plan. Corcoran, who called DeSantis “visionless” just this summer, now believes DeSantis offers “bold education policy.”

“Ron DeSantis will work to ensure that our tax dollars will be prioritized to reduce teacher shortages and reward great teachers with great salaries, not to funding wasteful education bureaucracy,” Corcoran vowed.

Corcoran’s wife is on a charter board, according to the Tampa Bay Times, as is Erika Donalds, the wife of state Rep. Byron Donalds, who also lauded the plan.

Rep. Donalds, a Naples Republican, asserts that DeSantis’ plan shows he is “committed to ensuring that the children of Florida have the best education in the country.”

“His policy will expand vocational and technical programs to teach real-world skills to students and help them prepare for the jobs of the 21st century,” DeSantis said. “I have always supported school choice and increasing opportunities for all Florida’s students and I am proud to stand by Ron DeSantis for Governor.”

Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr., running in a tough race for state Senate in Miami-Dade, likewise lauded the plan. Diaz, the chief operating officer of charter school-affiliated Doral College, claimed DeSantis would work “to expand school choice in our state.”

The DeSantis plan also is endorsed by incoming GOP House Speaker Jose Oliva, who did not mention charter schools explicitly. Oliva endorsed DeSantis back in June.

“He has made it clear that he will always stand with students and their parents over bureaucracy and special interests when it comes to the education of Florida’s children,” Oliva said. “Ron DeSantis is committed to ensuring that every student has the opportunity to get a quality education, regardless of their circumstance. I have no doubt that Ron DeSantis will work tirelessly to make Florida’s education system the very best it can be.”

Jeb Bush: Bill Nelson ‘will always vote for more taxes’

Former Gov. Jeb Bush hit the campaign trail this weekend and leveled heavy criticism at U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, saying the Democrat voted “for every liberal idea” when party leadership asked.

Bush stumped Saturday on behalf of one of his successors, Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican nominee challenging Nelson’s re-election this year. And while Bush’s governorship overlapped with Nelson’s first term, Bush did not express much nostalgia from the podium.

“With all due respect to the current incumbent, the United States senator, what has he done?” Bush asked. “I’ve been waiting. I can’t think of anything. He must have done something.”

Then he answered his own question.

“Yes he has,” Bush said. “He has voted for every liberal idea that has made it harder for us to progress as a nation.”

Bush said Nelson sometimes would hedge and “dance” on hard or unpopular decisions during his three terms in the Senate but always buckled when pressured from the left.

“When he is forced to by the leadership of his party, he will always vote for more taxes, more regulation, more government, a weaker national defense.”

That led into a full-throated endorsement for Scott.

Bush rode on Scott’s bus tour, making stops along the way in Miami and optimistically referencing the South Florida region as Scott country on Twitter.

He also showed himself on Scott’s campaign bus with Republican U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, members of another South Florida political family.

The event came a day after former President George W. Bush, Jeb’s older brother, appeared at a Tampa fundraiser supporting Scott, according to News Channel 8 WFLA.

Of note, Jeb Bush did not originally back Scott’s ambitions when the Naples executive first ran for governor, instead preferring then-Attorney General Bill McCollum. Of course, the governor quickly backed Scott after his surprise primary win in 2010.

Scott has remained a figure with an outsider mythos, becoming an ally of President Donald Trump, while the Bushes remain the mascots of the establishment (and not such allies of Trump).

But Bush’s arrival on the campaign trail for Scott shows that in the Senate race the sometimes disparate factions of the GOP share an enthusiasm for the current governor’s Senate ambitions.

Incidentally, Bush himself rebuffed efforts to recruit him to a Senate race after his time in Tallahassee drew to a close. He rebuffed calls to run in 2010.

Jeb Bush gets post at University of Pennsylvania

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will be spending time with students at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Ivy League school in Philadelphia announced that Bush has been named a non-resident Presidential Professor of Practice for the 2018-2019 academic year.

“At a time when our politics and culture can be polarizing and coarse, there is a tremendous need to foster civil discourse on the most pressing challenges and opportunities facing our country,” Bush said in a statement released by the university.

His affiliation will be with the university’s Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy in the School of Arts and Sciences. The position requires Bush to participate in classes, lectures and campus events. He will be on campus about one to two days a month, the university said.

University President Amy Gutmann highlighted Bush’s efforts to “stimulate economic growth and create jobs, lower government spending, transform education, and dramatically expand conservation of the Everglades.”

After Bush’s unsuccessful run for president in 2016, he served a semester as a visiting fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and taught a short course at Texas A&M University’s school of public affairs in early 2017.

George P. Bush raising campaign cash in Tampa this month

Though he won’t be on a Florida ballot — at least not for the foreseeable future — George P. Bush will be raising money in the Sunshine State this month for his campaign for another term as Texas Land Commissioner.

The fundraising reception will get underway at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 25 at the American Social. 601 S Harbour Island, in Tampa. The invitation lists a minimum contribution of $100 to attend, though those looking to provide more help to former Gov. Jeb Bush’s son can chip in $500 to become a co-chair for the event or $1,000 to become a chair.

Those who RSVP with Ally Schmeiser, either with an email to Ally@SentinelStrategic.com or by calling 202-748-7600, will get to rub elbows with a number of Florida politicians who are marked down as event hosts, including Attorney General Pam Bondi, former House Speaker Will Weatherford.

Weatherford’s brother, business partner and former FSU quarterback Drew Weatherford will also attend, as will lobbyist Slayter Bayliss of the Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners, Franklin Sreet COO Tyler Cathey and attorney Andy Gazitua.

George P. Bush, the grandson of President George H. W. Bush and nephew of President George W. Bush, recently scored a resounding victory in the Republican primary. Per Claire Allbright of the Texas Tribune, he earned over 58 percent of the vote in the four-way race, with the second-place finisher, former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, earning just under 30 percent.

Bush will face Democrat Miguel Suazo, an energy and natural resources attorney, in the November general election. In the 2014 cycle, Bush defeated Democratic nominee John Cook 61-35 percent with Libertarian Justin Knight and Green Party candidate Valerie Alessi splitting the remainder.

The fundraising invitation is below.

 

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