Rick Scott Archives - Florida Politics

Rick Scott administration again mishandles individuals’ personal information

The private information of nearly 1,000 individuals was mishandled by the state’s Division of Elections as it responded to a public records request last year, making it the second time in four months that a state agency has compromised the private information of Floridians.

State officials said Friday that the last four digits of the social security number of 945 individuals were sent in error to a member of the public.

The department has notified all the individuals whose confidential information was released by mistake.

While officials say there is no reason to believe their private information has been misused, they are offering those affected a year-long membership to an identity theft protection service.

Earlier this month, officials with the Agency of Health Care Administration confirmed that the medical records and personal information of up to 30,000 people enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program may have been compromised after a data breach.

The incident in that agency stemmed from a state employee opening a malicious phishing email. The data breach exposed the Social Security numbers, dates of birth, Medicaid ID numbers and private health care information of clients.

‘Not a candidate’: Rick Scott coy on Louisiana fundraising question

Gov. Rick Scott made a trip this week to Louisiana, where business development meetings populated his official schedule.

However, the most prominent Democrat in the Pelican State — Gov. John Bel Edwards — thought that there was more to the trip than just pitching Florida relocation to local companies.

“Gov. Scott should call this what it is – a fundraising stop on his yet-to-be announced U.S. Senate campaign. Louisianans would appreciate the honesty and hope that he’ll take his political contributions and leave,” Edwards offered Tuesday.

Louisiana’s Advocate newspaper tried and failed to get Scott to discuss what most believe is a protracted pre-candidacy.

Friday in Ponte Vedra, we covered some of the same territory. Specifically, we wanted to know if Scott had fundraised while in Louisiana on an official jobs “mission.”

Scott spent much of the answer covering familiar ground, talking about job creation (“the four years before I got elected, the state lost 832,000 jobs”).

“My trip to New Orleans was to try to get more companies there. As you know, I have not made a decision as to whether I’m going to run for the Senate or not. I’m not a candidate. I’ve said all along I’ve got to focus on my job as Governor.”

“A lot of politicians are thinking about their next job,” Scott added. “I’m right in the middle of my Legislative Session, and I’m going to focus on that.”

The question remained: was there fundraising or not? We restated it.

“I’m not a candidate,” Scott said.

We reminded Scott of Let’s Get to Work, his political committee, which has robustly fundraised over the years ($57 million since inception). And asked if there may have been Louisiana fundraising for that.

“I’m not a candidate,” Scott repeated. “We weren’t — I didn’t — A.G., I’m not a candidate.”

Florida Democrats blast Rick Scott op-ed supporting Dreamers

With Congress potentially just hours away from a government shutdown in part because of a dispute over whether to include a plan to deal with those affected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, a group of Florida Democrats slammed Gov. Rick Scott Friday for what they called his hypocrisy regarding DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers.

In an op-ed published this week in USA Today, Scott called on Congress to secure the immigration status of those young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. through their parent’s choice. Scott also said policy decisions should be coupled with enhancements for border security.

“Personally, I just don’t see how doing the right thing for these kids, and doing the right thing for our country by securing our borders, are partisan issues,” Scott wrote. “These are just plain common-sense actions for Congress to take.”

Approximately 780,000 Dreamers were given protection from deportation under DACA in 2014, but President Donald Trump announced last year he was dismantling it this March. Democrats want to address the issue this week within a continuing resolution, while Republicans say there is no urgency to do so just yet, and it should not be a barrier to keeping the government up and running.

“In Florida, we pride ourselves on being the gateway to the world,”  Scott added. “Many Dreamers live in our state because they are in search of what we all care about: a good job, a good education and the ability to live in a safe community. It’s time for Washington to secure our borders and to do the right thing for these kids by removing the uncertainty hanging over their future goals and dreams. It’s really not too much for us to ask Congress to get these things done.”

With Scott likely to take on Democrat Bill Nelson in a U.S. Senate race this year, Florida Democrats seized upon Scott’s take on the issue, saying his more sympathetic stance towards Dreamers is an election year conversion, noting his support for a controversial immigration law in Arizona when he first ran in 2010.

That law, SB 1070, required police to determine the immigration status of someone arrested or detained when there is “reasonable suspicion” they are in the U.S. illegally. Arizona ended that policy in 2016.

“Rick Scott can write all of the op-eds he wants, but Dreamers will remember who was on their side over the past 16 years of fighting for the DREAM Act,” said House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in a conference call. “They’ll remember who campaigned on a platform of deporting them and who marched with them. They’ll remember who the real allies of Florida immigrants have been.”

Boca Raton Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch called SB 1070 one of the “most racist, anti-Latino pieces of legislation in recent history.”

“He even paid for TV ads applauding it, and tried very, very hard to bring it to Florida,” Deutch added. “We talk about candidates borrowing from the Trump-playbook of scapegoating immigrants, but it’s possible if you look at the history that our President borrowed from Scott’s playbook.”

Deutsch also referred to Scott’s attempts to purge the voter rolls in 2012, citing a Miami Herald story that found 58 percent of those who would be purged from the rolls where Hispanic. “This Governor cannot hide from his record,” he said. “DREAMers don’t need lip service, they need Republicans who will join with Democrats and step up to pass a clean DREAM Act.”

“When the DREAM Act came before Congress in 2010, Rick Scott made it very clear that he was against it, saying that he ‘does not believe in amnesty,”‘ said Broward County Democratic state Sen. Gary Farmer. “Three years later later Rick Scott opposed Dreamers once again, as he vetoed bipartisan legislation that allowed DACA recipients to receive temporary driver’s licenses. In 2014 Rick Scott refused to oppose a lawsuit led by Donald Trump’s favorite State Attorney General Pam Bondi, which opposed DACA and DAPA, seeking to block as many as 5 million undocumented youth and their parents, including thousands here in Florida, from receiving permits which would protect them from unjust deportation.”

Last fall, Scott said that President Barack Obama was wrong to address the Dreamers issue by Executive Order, and said it should have been done in consultation with Congress.

“I do not favor  punishing children for the actions of their parents,” he said in a statement, adding that “these kids must be allowed to pursue the American Dream, and Congress must act on this immediately.”

“Governor Scott has been clear in his support for DREAMers, including supporting and signing a bill in 2014 that provided in-state tuition for DREAMers in Florida,” spokesperson Kerri Wyland said late Friday. 


Rick Scott: Offshore drilling still ‘off the table’

Gov. Rick Scott scored a political victory earlier this year, when Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told him Florida would not be subject to offshore oil drilling.

Scott asserted that he’d been “clear forever” in his opposition — a point disputed by Democrats, who have painted him as an “election-year environmentalist” who has flip-flopped on the drilling question.

Friday saw fireworks in a U.S. Congressional committeeWalter Cruickshank, acting director of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said Florida is still in play despite Zinke’s assurances.

Zinke’s statement, said Cruickshank, is not a “formal action.”

Florida is still part of the bureau’s analysis, Cruickshank asserted.

Democrats were quick to pounce on this, of course. Meanwhile, Scott — in a gaggle Friday afternoon — told reporters that he wasn’t worried about the gap between Zinke’s assurance and Cruickshank’s testimony.

“Secretary Zinke is a man of his word. He’s a Navy Seal. He promised me that Florida would be off the table, and I believe Florida is off the table,” Scott said.

“Secretary Zinke has made a commitment,” Scott added, “and he’ll live up to his commitments.”

Scott added that he continued to be opposed to members of the Trump administration proposing relaxing restrictions imposed after the Deepwater Horizon spill.

The Governor then attempted to change the subject to the impending shutdown of the federal government (a remarkable feat, given one-party control in Washington).

“…[H]ere is what I find fascinating today – a lot of people want to talk about politics, what they ought to be doing is they ought to be making sure we keep government going. This shouldn’t be a day of politics, this should be a day we keep our government going … we should be happy with what Secretary Zinke did, we should be happy with the fact the he committed to take Florida off the table and this shouldn’t be about politics.”

It’ll be magic if Joe Negron succeeds with new Lake O reservoir land buy

On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations committee heard a presentation from South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Ernie Marks on the status report of the reservoir project authorized by Senate Bill 10.

Following the presentation, Appropriations Chair and Senate Bill 10 sponsor Rob Bradley expressed confidence in the district’s plans. But following the meeting, Senate President Joe Negron told reporters he is still planning to seek another 4,000 to 5,000 acres of land before the end of Session.

Why would the Senate president make these comments when the district says it has the land it needs, the chair is happy, and the project appears to be on schedule?

Negron’s comments come following a picture coming into focus that leaves little room for land buying, particularly taking more agricultural land out of production, which is a pillar of Florida’s economy.

In January of last year, Bradley first filed SB 10 — a bill that (at one point) called for the purchase of nearly 60,000 acres of working farmland south of Lake O.

It didn’t take long for questions to arise about how the state of Florida would buy this private farmland, warning it would adversely affect those living the region.

Among the first sounding the alarm about “eminent domain” was Marco Rubio.

“What about the people that live in those communities? What about Pahokee, what about those cities in the Glades communities that are going to get wiped out,” Florida’s junior senator told a blogger in April 2017. “If you buy up all that farmland, that means there’s no farming, that means these cities collapse, they basically turning ghost towns. Shouldn’t they be at the table? Shouldn’t they be part of this conversation as well?”

Soon afterward, an overwhelming bipartisan Senate majority revised SB 10, stripping the controversial provision that would have bought the 60K acres of privately-held farmland.

The last version of SB 10 — which Gov. Rick Scott signed into law that May, and was applauded by environmentalists such as the Everglades Foundation — prohibited the use of eminent domain.

According to comments today from Marks, more than 80 percent of the large landowners south of Lake Okeechobee are not selling. Glades farmers are steadfastly against losing valuable, productive agricultural land.

Also, the coming budget crunch following Hurricane Irma doesn’t lend itself to land grabs.

And there’s also the fact that this Florida Senate has little appetite for another bruising debate over land buying in an election year.

Finally, any deviation from the district’s schedule could delay the reservoir project — possibly for years.

Bottom line: this ship has sailed.

I have always maintained that President Negron is a true statesman, and this may be a moment showing the Stuart Republican cares more about the people in his district rather than the people in the Florida Senate — an admirable trait in any elected official.

But if Negron has any intentions of squeezing an acre of private land out under these circumstances, he’s more than a statesman. He’s a magician.

AFP-FL says ‘no way’ to Amazon HQ2 incentives

Miami made the cut when Amazon announced its top-20 shortlist for its second headquarters Thursday, but Americans for Prosperity Florida says the retail giant shouldn’t get any state incentives if it chooses to set up shop in South Florida.

“Miami would be a fantastic choice for Amazon’s HQ2, but not if it means having taxpayers fork over hundreds of millions of dollars for the supposed privilege. Instead of focusing on what Florida’s taxpayers have to offer, Amazon should look at what our skilled workforce and pro-growth economic environment can provide,” said AFP-FL Director Chris Hudson.

“Thanks to the leadership of free market champions like Speaker Richard Corcoran, Florida has shown how implementing free-market principles can help our state become more competitive and business-friendly, and we should not stray away from that by enriching private corporations at the expense of taxpayer money. Amazon is a private business that does not deserve taxpayer handouts.”

The AFP-FL statement comes after Corcoran and Gov. Rick Scott gave differing opinions on how the Sunshine State should go about courting the Seattle-based company.

“The way I always look at any incentives we give, we’ve got to get a good return for taxpayers. That’s what I’ve done at the state. I’m going to continue to talk to companies around the world to try to get them to come here,” Scott said Friday.

Corcoran on the other hand, told News Service of Florida the state should focus on other priorities that would improve the state which could also attract companies without the use of incentives money.

“Here’s what we ought to do as a state. I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face,” Corcoran said. “There are five things that site selectors look at. The most important being having a great educational system.”

“If you have low crime, low taxes, low regulation, a good infrastructure and you have, more than anything, a great educational system, we will not have a single problem luring all the businesses and all the people in this country here,” Corcoran added.

Amazon HQ2 will be a complete headquarters for Amazon, not a satellite office, according to the company. The company reported it plans to invest over $5 billion and grow this second headquarters to accommodate as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs. In addition, the company projects that construction and ongoing operation of Amazon HQ2 is expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community.

Amazon said it expects to pick the city for its HQ 2 later this year.

Incentives for Amazon? Richard Corcoran, Rick Scott see it differently

Gov. Rick Scott was in Ponte Vedra Friday as the PGA Tour unveiled plans for a new global headquarters — and 300 jobs to go with that build out.

Yet one of the topics we broached with the Governor in the gaggle had to do with a potentially bigger future job announcement … if Amazon locates its second global headquarters in Miami.

Miami is the sole Florida city being considered still. Jacksonville, Tampa, and Orlando were eliminated.

And many areas are offering deluxe incentives for Amazon — a potentially transformative corporate partner for even the biggest cities in the world. It’s been a top priority for Enterprise Florida, a board that accords with Gov. Scott’s vision.

While specifics of those incentives are not public, it was clear from Scott’s remarks Friday that his position hasn’t changed; incentives are part of the tool kit.

Scott called it “exciting” that Amazon was considering Miami, saying there are “lots of reasons why they should do that.”

“Taxes are low in this state, we have less regulation, a great workforce. U.S. News and World Report says our higher education system is the best higher education system in the country,” Scott said.

But the Governor realizes that’s not the whole story. Incentives, which will be offered elsewhere, are part of the sales pitch.

“The way I always look at any incentives we give, we’ve got to get a good return for taxpayers. That’s what I’ve done at the state. I’m going to continue to talk to companies around the world to try to get them to come here,” Scott said.

Scott’s position diverges from that of Speaker Corcoran, who said that companies pass on Florida for reasons that go beyond incentives.

“Here’s what we ought to do as a state. I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face,” Corcoran told News Service of Florida. “There are five things that site selectors look at. The most important being having a great educational system.”

“If you have low crime, low taxes, low regulation, a good infrastructure and you have, more than anything, a great educational system, we will not have a single problem luring all the businesses and all the people in this country here,” Corcotan added.

With multiple cities offering upwards of a billion dollars in tax breaks, it’s at least debatable that low crime and low regulations will counteract material incentives.

Yet that seems to be a debate Corcoran and Scott will have as each prepares to leave their current offices.

Doanld Trump administration official admits Florida offshore drilling still ‘on the table’

Florida is not yet “off the table” in a federal plan to expand offshore oil drilling, according to an official of the Donald Trump administration.

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) acting director Walter Cruickshank revealed to a congressional committee Friday that Florida could still be included in offshore drilling activities, paving the way for future offshore drilling in Florida.

In attendance at the House Natural Resources Committee meeting was Florida Democratic Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando.

“We have no formal decision yet on what’s in, or out, of the five-year program,” Cruickshank told lawmakers. “We are following the process conducting a full analysis of all areas included in the draft proposed program.”

He added that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s commitment to withdraw Florida from offshore drilling was not a “formal action” and the state “remains subject to the government’s official analysis.”

“So, there’s been no decision to exempt Florida?” California Democrat Jared Huffman asked.

“The secretary’s statement stands for itself,” Cruickshank responded.

The admission stunned many Florida lawmakers, particularly Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who was apprehensive after Zinke made the declaration that the state was exempt from offshore drilling after a brief 20-minute meeting with Gov. Rick Scott.

Nelson blasted the move as nothing more than a “political stunt” and not announcing official policy.

Soon after Cruickshank’s admission that there was no formal action to take Florida off the table, Soto asked the administration official for clarification.

The statement “stands on its own,” Cruickshank responded.

 “By ‘stand on its own,’” Soto pressed, “… it’s not an official action, is that what you mean?”

“It is not a formal action, no,” the official admitted.

 “So there has been no formal action to remove Florida from the five-year drilling plan, as of right now?” Soto questioned.

“We will be including it in the analysis,” Cruickshank responded.

Immediately after Zinke made the announcement last week, Nelson shot off a letter to the secretary demanding specific details on what changes will be made to the agency’s five-year drilling plan.

Zinke has not yet responded.

That day, Nelson filed legislation to permanently ban drilling off Florida’s coast, taking to the Senate floor with a warning to his Florida colleagues that the secretary’s promise to take the state off the table is “just empty words” until taking formal steps to publish a new draft plan.

On Wednesday, Nelson he will place the “hold” on three Interior Department nominees slated to work under Zinke, vowing to keep that hold in place until the Secretary rescinds the current draft five-year drilling plan and replaces it with a new draft that fully protects Florida’s coasts.

Cruickshank’s revelation – despite Zinke’s pronouncement – shows that Florida may still face new offshore drilling, which comes just days after Interior held its first public meeting on the plan.

What’s more, Nelson’s office said maps used by Interior officials as part of the meeting also suggested waters off Florida were still open to drilling.

In a statement, Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo called the incident further proof that Scott and his “close ally” Trump will “say and do anything to further Scott’ political ambitions, while Floridians pay the price.”

“Scott’s long record of backing drilling off our shores and beaches is well documented, and it’s clear his most recent words were nothing more than a dishonest and self-serving political stunt,” Rizzo added. “Once again, Floridians are seeing they can’t trust Scott to look out for anyone but himself.”

Unemployment number ticks up from historic low

The big takeaway from December’s Florida jobs report: the unemployment rate has ticked up, albeit from a historic low.

The December number: 3.7 percent, up from 3.6 percent the month before.

Despite this slight raise in the official unemployment rate, Gov. Rick Scott‘s narrative of being the jobs governor remains as intact as it was.

In December, 30,000 jobs were created. This capped off a year when 205,000 jobs were created, and 1.497 million were created in the last seven years.

“Florida had a great year of job creation in 2017 and we will fight each day to make sure our state remains the best place for new opportunities in 2018, and for years to come,” Scott asserted.

Labor force participation, per the Department of Economic Opportunity, is at 57.1 percent — which trails the overall American figure of 62.7 percent.

A thousand fewer people have jobs compared to November, with 25,000 new people in what is called the “civilian non-institutional population.”

Metro areas are booming, with Orlando, Miami, and Tampa leading the state in job creation.

Earlier this month, Scott addressed the jobs situation in a Jacksonville gaggle.

“We’re going to continue to work both in our large counties and our rural counties to get more jobs,” Scott said.

“What you see in our state is the labor force is growing at multiples of what the rest of the country is. The job market is growing at multiples of what the rest of the country is. People are coming to Florida. Numbers came out last week — over 340,000 people have moved to the state since last June. We’ve had a significant number of people move here from Puerto Rico and they’re getting jobs,” Scott said.

Rick Scott joins PGA to announce new global home

The PGA footprint in St. Johns County has sprawled over the decades, now encompassing 17 buildings.

That will change soon.

Gov. Rick Scott joined PGA Tour officials to announce that the  187,000 sq. foot “new global home” of the PGA Tour will be in northeastern St. Johns.

It is expected to be built by 2020 — a state of the art space with open office plans, natural lighting, and all of the other earmarks of the 21st century workspace.

300 new jobs will be created, adding to the 800 now, via this public private partnership.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said that the collaboration between governments and the PGA Tour was “second to none,” as he credited a phalanx of politicians and entities — everyone from Sen. Travis Hutson and the St. Johns County Commission to Gov. Scott, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, and Enterprise Florida.

The plan started to come together 15 years ago, Monahan said.

 “We are excited for the opportunity to continue to grow here in St. John’s County and believe the PGA TOUR’s new home will become a sense of pride for the entire area and state of Florida while allowing us to become more efficient in the way we communicate, collaborate and operate as an organization,” Monahan added.

“Although we have a growing international presence with offices and tournaments around the world,” Monahan asserted, “the PGA TOUR and our employees are very proud to be locally based and active members of the First Coast and Ponte Vedra Beach community.”

Scott, calling Florida the “golfing capital of the world,” cited tax and regulation cuts as reasons PGA opted to consolidate operations in SJC.

In a statement, Enterprise Florida CEO Peter Antonacci asserted that the “board is enthusiastic about the PGA TOUR expanding their global headquarters in Ponte Vedra,” calling the facility build a “win for Northeast Florida families.”

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