Rick Scott – Florida Politics

Rick Scott signs death warrant in 1992 murder

Nearly 26 years after a woman was beaten and stabbed to death in her Miami-Dade County home, Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday said her murderer should die by lethal injection on Aug. 14.

Scott signed a death warrant for inmate Jose Antonio Jimenez, who was convicted in the October 1992 killing of 63-year-old Phyllis Minas, whose neighbors heard her shout, “Oh God! Oh my God!” during the attack, according to court documents.

Jimenez, now 54, would be the first inmate put to death by lethal injection in Florida since Feb. 22, when Eric Branch was executed in the 1993 murder and sexual assault of University of West Florida student Susan Morris. Jimenez also would be the 28th inmate executed since Scott took office in 2011 — the most of any Florida governor since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, a state Department of Corrections list shows.

Scott signed the death warrant after the Florida Supreme Court on June 28 rejected an appeal by Jimenez, who was convicted of the murder in 1994.

The appeal was rooted, at least in part, in a January 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case known as Hurst v. Florida and subsequent Florida Supreme Court decisions. The 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling found Florida’s death-penalty sentencing system was unconstitutional because it gave too much authority to judges, instead of juries. The Florida Supreme Court subsequently said juries must unanimously agree on critical findings before judges can impose death sentences and must unanimously recommend the death penalty.

In Jimenez’s case, a jury unanimously recommended to the trial judge that he should be sentenced to death. But Jimenez’s attorney argued in a May brief that the jury was not required to make critical findings “beyond a reasonable doubt” and that, as a result, the death sentence was invalid.

The Supreme Court, however, has rejected numerous similar arguments from longtime Death Row inmates. Justices have said the new sentencing requirements that resulted from the Hurst decision apply to cases since June 2002 — and not to earlier cases. The U.S. Supreme Court in June 2002 issued a ruling known as Ring v. Arizona that was a premise for striking down Florida’s death-penalty sentencing system in 2016.

“Jimenez was sentenced to death following a jury’s unanimous recommendation for death,” the Florida Supreme Court wrote in the June 28 decision. “His sentence of death became final in 1998 (after an earlier appeal). Thus, Hurst does not apply retroactively to Jimenez’s sentence of death.”

Jimenez was accused of killing Minas during a burglary. Neighbors tried to enter the home through an unlocked front door after hearing Minas’ cries, but Jimenez slammed the door shut, locked it and fled by going onto a bedroom balcony, according to court documents.

Donald Trump Jr.: Ron DeSantis was with us from the start

Rising rapidly in the Republican gubernatorial primary polls under President Donald Trump‘s balloon, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis brought a little of the president’s family mojo to Orlando Tuesday, as Donald Trump Jr. reminded an appreciative crowd that DeSantis had been with his father from the start.

“Ron DeSantis was there from Day 1. He got it. He saw it. He went on TV. He was with us when it wasn’t cool to be with us,” Trump declared to several hundred exuberant people packing the B.B. King‘s Blues Club in Orlando.

In a Republican Party in which President Trump rewards loyalty, DeSantis is soaking it up, shooting well past Republican rival Adam Putnam in the polls and using that chip to draw large, loud crowds dedicated to Trump, fueled by every attack on him, and convinced that he is making America great again.

Trump Jr. was there on International Drive Wednesday to drive those points home.

“There is not a single matrix in existence, economic or otherwise, where we are not better off than we were four years ago under the previous administration. Not a one,” Trump Jr. told the crowd. “So what I see the Democrats running on: doing everything against Donald Trump.”

For his part, DeSantis provided much of the speech he’s been using since taking his campaign on the road three weeks ago. He railed against crony capitalism in Tallahassee, against illegal immigrants, against the sugar industry’s influence over water and natural resources, against Common Core curriculum guidelines in schools, pushing for creating a curriculum to study the U.S. Constitution, and taking shots at Putnam on every issue, including declaring him to be “in the pocket of big sugar.”

Putnam’s name drew boos in this crowd.

“Adam Putnam, though I respect him, he is somebody who is a career politician. He’s been in office since he was 22 years old. He’s a transactional Republican. And he is the choice of every insider in Tallahassee. He is the crown prince of crony capitalism. He’s the toast of Tallahassee,” DeSantis said.

“I, on the other hand, am an Iraq veteran,” DeSantis declared, drawing a huge cheer. “I am a principled, proven conservative leader. And I am endorsed by the president of the United States.”

That drew show-stopping applause.

DeSantis also appears to have found a winning issue with conservatives with his talk of adding U.S. Constitution curriculum to the schools; this crowd thundered when he spoke of it.

“We gotta get the Constitution back in the classroom. It can’t be a day or a week. I think it really needs to be a comprehensive study about the principles that make our country unique,” DeSantis said. “Because when you think about it, we have different religious denominations. We have different ethnic ancestries. But the thing that’s supposed to unite us is the belief that we serve enduring truths and fundamental principles. We need to be teaching the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. If you don’t have that foundation, then I don’t think you are fully prepared for citizenship.

“So we’re going to make that something that is an emphasis. And if there are teachers that excel in that, let’s pay them more,” he said.

DeSantis also praised Gov. Rick Scott, saying “We have a chance to build off what Rick Scott has done,” and then painted Scott’s predecessor, Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat Charlie Crist as the king of cronyism, and implying that Putnam was the same.

“None of that is possible if we go back to the days of Charlie Crist, when the good old boys ran the show,” DeSantis said.

Rick Scott pressures lawmakers to OK citrus grant

Ahead of Thursday’s state Legislative Budget Commission meeting, Gov. Rick Scott is making it clear that he wants the panel to approve a $340 million federal block grant designed to help Florida citrus growers get back on their feet.

“I look forward to the legislature approving these important funds tomorrow so we can get this money to our growers,” Scott said in a statement released Wednesday. 

Sonny Perdue, U.S Secretary of Agriculture, announced the grant in May. Unlike other federal remedies made available to farmers across the country this year, the grant is exclusive to Florida growers. The money will be used to cover damages caused by Hurricane Irma, including the buying and replanting of trees, grove rehabilitation, and repairs to irrigation systems. 

While the state tentatively accepted the federal grant, the dollars require approval from the Legislative Budget Commission before dispersal.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam also expressed his support for the grant’s approval.

“Thanks to the hard work of so many, this much-needed piece of disaster assistance is finally on the way and will go a long way to help Florida’s citrus industry rebuild,” Putnam said. 

The sizeable grant, if approved on Thursday, will be a victory for Scott’s administration. The term-limited Republican governor cited a December meeting with Perdue on Thursday, during which he discussed “Florida’s iconic citrus industry.” The grant also appears to stem from Scott’s relationship with President Donald Trump. In announcing the grant in May, Perdue said he was instructed by Trump to work with Scott and Putnam to “put a process in place that will ensure the Florida citrus industry maintains its infrastructure and can continue to be the signature crop for the state.”

If approved, the news will be favorable to Florida growers, who this year experienced one of the worst citrus seasons in decades. They also await $2.36 billion worth of federal disaster-relief funding. The USDA plans to distribute that money through the 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program. The program’s signup period began Monday and expires November 16.

Outlier or not, new poll gives Ron DeSantis a 20 point lead(!) over Adam Putnam

If the Republican primary for Governor were today, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis would win in a blowout.

A new survey conducted by St. Pete Polls found the Ponte Vedra Republican pulling a full 50 percent of likely GOP primary voters while the heretofore frontrunner, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, is registering at 30 percent.

About one in six Republican primary voters said they were undecided.

The new poll more than corroborates a measure from Fabrizio-Lee released earlier Tuesday that found DeSantis up 42-30 over Putnam, not to mention the many internal polls Team DeSantis has touted in recent weeks.

There is no bright spot for Putnam in this poll.

While the Bartow Republican was seen as favorable by 49 percent of those polled, his otherwise enviable plus-27 rating pales in comparison to DeSantis, who came in at 61-11 on the fave/unfave question.

Perhaps more noteworthy is the towing capacity of President Donald Trump’s endorsement, which is undoubtedly DeSantis’ biggest asset in the race to replace Gov. Rick Scott.

When asked if they would be more likely to support a candidate who was endorsed by Trump, Republican primary voters answered resoundingly in the affirmative — nearly two-thirds said yes, while only 21 percent said no and 14 percent were undecided.

DeSantis leads among every slice and subset of Republican voter.

White Republicans prefer him 50-31, and that lead expands to 50-17 among black Republicans. He leads 52-30 among Republican men and 48-30 among Republican women. By age, the youngest voters swing plus-14 for DeSantis and that’s the closest it gets — among the 70-plus crowd DeSantis laps Putnam 52-26.

Despite Putnam spending millions on TV ads since he rolled out his first in late April, DeSantis also holds a double-digit lead in every region from Pensacola to Palm Beach barring Tallahassee, which preferred Putnam 48-38.

The automated phone poll was conducted July 16 and 17 and took responses from 1,709 Republican primary voters who said they planned to vote in the Aug. 28 primary election. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

More candidates emerge for OFR post

Twenty more applications have come in from candidates seeking to replace former top financial regulator Drew Breakspear, after Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet deferred selection of a replacement last month.

Scott and the Cabinet agreed June 27 to name Pam Epting, the deputy commissioner of the state Office of Financial Regulation, as interim commissioner. They also agreed to continued accepting applications for commissioner, a job that has paid $135,158 a year. The latest deadline to apply was Sunday. Epting has not applied for the job.

Breakspear announced his resignation as commissioner this spring under pressure from state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. A more-permanent replacement is now expected to be named at the Aug. 14 Cabinet meeting.

Scott and the Cabinet interviewed five applicants — from 38 who initially applied — at the June meeting. Those interviewed were state Rep. Jay Fant, a Jacksonville Republican; banking lobbyist Scott Jenkins, who most recently was with Wells Fargo in Tallahassee; Linda Charity, a former official with the Office of Financial Regulation who twice served as the interim commissioner; William Jannace, a Bayside, N.Y., resident who has held positions at the American and New York stock exchanges and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which is a private, self-regulatory organization; and Kevin Rosen, a partner with Shutts & Bowen in West Palm Beach.

None of those interviewed was publicly dropped from consideration.

Among the recent applicants was Steve Petty, a former chief economist for Florida TaxWatch. Also applying recently was Monica Rutkowski, who is a principal with Mer/Risk & Regulatory Compliance Solutions in Tallahassee. She served as director of life and health product review for the Office of Insurance Regulation from 2005 to 2008 and before that was a legislative liaison for the Florida Department of Health.

Not all of the recent applicants may understand the position, which oversees a regulatory agency that employs about 360 people. One applicant from Tallahassee noted a high-school education and professional experience of a job at Steak ‘n Shake.

Jacksonville files to intervene in Terrance Freeman appointment challenge

On Tuesday, the city of Jacksonville filed a motion to intervene in a legal challenge of a Jacksonville City Councilman appointed by Gov. Rick Scott.

Brenda Priestly-Jackson, a Democrat and former Duval County School Board chair who was passed up for the appointment to fill the unexpired term of suspended incumbent Democrat Reggie Brown, charged that Freeman, who established residency in the district by renting two rooms in a private home the day he was appointed last week, was not a legitimate pick because he moved to Northwest Jacksonville solely to serve on the Council.

The city contends that it has leeway to determine residency, and that the suit actually names Freeman as a defendant in his official capacity.

“However, the City contends the controlling law clearly establishes that City Councilmembers’ terms in office do not commence until they have sworn the required oath, among other things. As such, application of City laws, policies and procedures will be a critical component of this litigation,” the filing contends.

“While Plaintiff purports to bring her allegations against Councilmember Freeman in his individual capacity, by alleging that he assumed his mantle as an active member of the City Council immediately upon appointment, Plaintiff has actually sued Councilmember Freeman as an active, sitting member of the City Council in his official capacity,” the filing adds.

Jacksonville has, per the filing, an “important governmental interest in participating in discussions, analysis and arguments over the application of its own laws.”

Mike Miller launching his first TV ad in CD 7 race

State Rep. Mike Miller is taking to the airwaves in the hotly-contested Republican primary race for Florida’s 7th Congressional District with a television commercial featuring Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio praising him.

The 30-second TV spot, “They Both Like Mike,” is essentially a mashup of some video highlights from two internet ads that Miller’s campaign released this spring. It features Scott talking about Miller at an event the governor held in Orlando earlier this year, and then Rubio talking about Miller at a Miller campaign fundraiser.

Rubio has endorsed Miller. Scott has not.

Miller, of Winter Park, faces two other Republicans, Sanford businessman Scott Sturgill and Orlando lawyer Vennia Francois in the Aug. 28 primary for CD 7, which covers Seminole County and north and central Orange County.

Neither of them nor the Democratic frontrunner, incumbent U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, have launched any TV commercials yet. She has a primary opponent in Chardo Richardson.

The commercial begins with a narrator declaring, “Marco Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott are saying the same thing about conservative Mike Miller: I Like Mike.”

It then cuts to Scott saying, “I want to thank Mike Miller for all that he’s done. He’s making sure our taxes are low.”

It then moves to Rubio declaring, “That individual liberty is something we value and cherish.”

Scott continues, “That we have a great education system, and that people are safe.”

And Rubio finishes, “Mike will make a difference. And I look forward to working with him in making that difference.”

Text also notes him as “100 percent pro-life.”

“It is an exciting time for our campaign,” Miller’s campaign manager Alex Bolton stated in a news release. “Momentum is building with voters and this ad further illustrates the fact that Mike is the only conservative in this race. Voters should not be tricked by false claims about Mike,” continued Bolton. “Sen. Rubio and Gov. Scott know Mike will protect the Trump tax cuts and is 100 percent pro-life.”

Bill Nelson worries Russians will hack November election, have hacked Donald Trump

Sen. Bill Nelson is in for the fight of his political career against Gov. Rick Scott in November, but Scott for Florida isn’t his only concern.

On CNN Tuesday afternoon, the third-term Democrat expressed worries of Russian hacking playing a factor.

“It was a year and a half ago that unanimous report of the American intelligence community, that Russia interfered in the election,” Nelson said. “They are in the election records of 21 states, including my state.”

“And I have to worry in my election upcoming. Now I not only have to be concerned about my opponent,” Nelson added, “I have to be concerned about the Russians trying to influence the election against me.”

Later in the interview, Nelson joined what is now a chorus of Democrats suggesting that Moscow has something incriminating on President Donald Trump.

Nelson wondered “whatever it is that Putin has hanging over the head of Donald Trump.”

“Why does Donald Trump continue to defer, to curtsy, to bow, and will never say an unkind word toward Vladimir Putin? What is it going on with the U.S. President that he believes Putin instead of our own U.S. intelligence community?”

Gov. Scott has struggled to distance himself from the President in the wake of Trump’s kowtow to the Kremlin on Monday, preemptively asserting in Jacksonville that the Russians meddled in Florida elections.

“Putin is not our friend. Putin is not our ally. I don’t trust Putin. It clearly appears that Russia tried to meddle in our election,” Scott said.

“That’s why I’ve added more counter-terrorism experts at Secretary of State. Why I’ve made sure the federal money that came down, that could go to our Supervisors of Elections, got out as quickly as we can,” Scott said.

In response to that, Nelson noted Scott couldn’t name Trump, thus demonstrating political cowardice.

“Rick Scott has refused to stand up to his pal, Donald Trump – now on an issue that puts our national security at risk. Floridians need a senator who will stand up to Trump, especially when our democracy is under attack, and Rick Scott’s refusal is just another reminder that he’s only looking out for himself,” Nelson asserted.

Rick Scott fights financial disclosure lawsuit

A lawyer for Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday asked a state appellate court to block a lawsuit seeking to force the governor to disclose more of his financial assets.

A Leon County circuit judge in February rejected Scott’s request to dismiss the case, which was filed by a Tallahassee attorney seeking to require Scott to provide more disclosure, including details of a blind trust. Scott is the richest governor in state history and had a December 2017 net worth of $232 million, with $215 million in the blind trust.

Scott asked the 1st District Court of Appeal to overturn the circuit judge’s decision and issue a “writ of prohibition,” blocking the lawsuit filed by Donald Hinkle, a lawyer and Democratic fundraiser.

Daniel Nordby, a lawyer for Scott, said compliance with the state’s financial-disclosure laws should be decided by the Florida Commission on Ethics and not by the circuit court. Hinkle has filed complaints with the ethics panel alleging Scott is not making a full disclosure of his financial assets, but the complaints have been dismissed.

“This court should issue a writ of prohibition because the circuit court is attempting to exercise jurisdiction that the law assigns to the Commission on Ethics,” Nordby told a three-member panel of the appellate court.

But Hinkle said there needs to be “mechanism” to appeal financial-disclosure decisions by the ethics commission.

“It was dismissed. We cannot appeal. That’s the end of the road,” Hinkle said. “Is there to be no opportunity to review the disclosures of any elected official, every constitutional officer in this state?”

Hinkle has alleged that Scott should be disclosing more of his blind-trust assets and assets in a revocable trust under First Lady Ann Scott, because the governor has knowledge or control over some of those assets. Under state law, public officials do not have to disclose assets owned by their spouses in annual financial-disclosure filings.

financial-disclosure report filed late last month showed Scott’s net worth rose $83 million in 2017, but the disclosure provided few details. The disclosure showed his blind trust rose from $130.5 million in 2016 to $215 million and produced $120 million in income last year.

The joint Tallahassee bureau of the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times reported the rise was related to an $825 million sale in 2017 of a Michigan-based plastics components company in which the Scott family had a major ownership interest.

Hinkle said more of those details need to be disclosed to the public under the state’s “Sunshine Amendment,” which was passed overwhelmingly by voters in 1976.

“I urge the court not to allow the Commission on Ethics to say we’re not considering this and that be the end of the road,” Hinkle said.

Nordby said the ethics commission reviewed Hinkle’s allegations “and concluded that the disclosures filed by the governor reflected, quote, compliance by the governor with the financial disclosure requirements of the Constitution and related statutes.”

“So the suggestion the ethics commission said we’re not going to look at it is simply belied by the record in this case,” he said.

The appellate court did not rule Tuesday. But regardless of its decision, the debate over Scott’s financial disclosures will continue later this month when he must file another report as part of his campaign for the U.S. Senate. Federal disclosure laws are broader than the Florida requirements, meaning Scott will have to provide more details on his finances.

Appellate Judge Ross Bilbrey asked whether the fact that Scott would be making those federal disclosures would cause a decision in the state litigation to be “moot.”

“I don’t think it’s moot at all,” Hinkle said. “This applies to every office-holder, not just the governor.”

Rick Scott calls Bill Nelson ‘a hypocrite’ over tax, health care for staff

Republican Gov. Rick Scott blasted his U.S. senate election opponent Bill Nelson on Tuesday, calling the Democratic U.S. senator a hypocrite for not paying payroll taxes or health care benefits for campaign staffers while railing against tax cuts and Republican opposition to health care programs in Washington.

Scott was responding to reports that Nelson’s campaign finance report details show that his campaign was not paying the matching Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment taxes for those laboring in his re-election campaign this year, and also was not offering any health care benefits.

“Here’s a guy who likes to raise our taxes all the time, Bill Nelson, and at the same time we got a report last week that for his campaign, he’s not even paying his payroll taxes. … And on top of that he likes all these big government health care mandates and he’s not even paying his own employees’ health care,” Scott said.

“He’s been a hypocrite,” Scott added.

Nelson’s campaign responded by insisting that Scott’s criticisms are based partly on out-of-date information, and partly on the fact that the Nelson campaign followed a very common start-up model: For the first few months the campaign was run and staffed significantly by consultants – independent contractors who get paid a contract amount and are on their own for dealing with taxes and benefits.

That has largely changed, starting July 1, as the Nelson campaign has gotten established, replacing many contractors with full-time employees. For them, the campaign does pay payroll taxes, and negotiates salaries to provide that the employees can be able to afford to purchase health insurance, Nelson’s campaign contended.

Scott said his campaign pays payroll taxes and provides health care benefits.

Scott’s campaign also uses contractors and consultants, but his staff argued it’s a different matter, because his are not used in lieu of full-time staff members.  The Scott for Florida team has more than 30 full-time employees. Full-time staffers are salaried with health insurance and the campaign pays payroll taxes.

Scott declined to speak to whether any of his businesses do not pay payroll taxes or health care benefits, saying they’re all in a blind trust.

He was in Orlando Tuesday, at Restaurant Supply World, a longtime supporter of his, to announce the endorsement from the National Federation of Independment Businesses of Florida, and the formation of his campaign’s Small Business Coalition, made up of more than 400 endorsing businesses spread across all 67 of Florida’s counties.

He argued Nelson is no friend of small business, and, worse, doesn’t pay the taxes and health care mandates he helped create for those small businesses.

“I think it’s absolutely hypocritical for Bill Nelson to sit there and vote for all these tax increases but he doesn’t want to pay his own taxes,” Scott said. “Can you imagine? He’s not paying his fair share of payroll taxes and he’s not providing his workers health care, but he wants to go raise all these taxes on us and have all these big government health care mandates.”

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