Rick Scott Archives - Page 2 of 232 - Florida Politics

Puerto Rico governor asks Rick Scott for help addressing health care crisis

The governor of Puerto Rico has asked Gov. Rick Scott for his help in addressing the nation’s healthcare crisis.

In a letter to Scott dated March 17, Gov. Ricardo Rossello said his administration is working hard to stabilize the current fiscal fiscal and economic crisis and to “put the island back on a path of fiscal responsibility and economic growth.” However, he said the so-called Medicaid cliff that will come into effect before the end of 2017 threatens to derail Puerto Rico’s fiscal and economic efforts.

“This could lead to a full-blown collapse of our healthcare system,” he wrote. “Moreover, if this issue is not addressed by Congress in the very near future the fallout will be felt not only in Puerto Rico but also in the states, because the already high rate of migration of the U.S. citizens moving from Puerto Rico to the states will likely increase significantly, affecting Florida in particular.”

More than 440,000 residents of Puerto Rico have moved stateside between 2006 and 2015, driven mostly by better economic opportunities. The loss in population, he wrote to Scott, is “devastating because it decreases our tax base, erodes our consumer base, and diminishes our workforce, which all make our economic recovery more difficult.”

Rossello said he developed a fiscal plan approved by the Financial Oversight and Management Board, created under PROMESA, that reduces spending and spurs economic growth. But federal legislators need to address the Medicaid cliff and “ensure the success of these reforms.”

He asked for Scott’s help in “activating Florida’s congressional delegation as a voice of reason in Congress on this avoidable issue.”

“We are willing to do our part to provide greater accountability, increased spending controls, and prosecute any fraud, waste and abuse tied to federal healthcare dollars,” he wrote. “However, Congress must find a way to include Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico at current levels until ACA replacement comes into effect and must also help Puerto Rico obtain more equitable and fiscally sustainable federal healthcare funding going forward.”

Aramis Ayala files stay to keep Markeith Loyd case

State Attorney Aramis Ayala has filed for a stay of Gov. Rick Scott‘s order reassigning the Markeith Loyd police slaying case to neighboring State Attorney Brad King.

Scott responded Monday afternoon saying he believes he has the authority to do so through executive order. That sets up a court battle over the powers of the governor and an elected state attorney.

“The State Attorney filed a Motion to Stay Proceedings in the Markeith Loyd case because Ms. Ayala does not believe the Governor has the authority to remove her from this case,” Ayala’s office stated in a release issued Monday afternoon. “However, Ms. Ayala does not want to hold up the process and further impact the families.

“This is a time sensitive case and Ms. Ayala would like to see the successful prosecution of Markeith Loyd,” the statement concluded.

Scott stripped the Markeith Loyd case from Ayala on Thursday after the state attorney for Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit, covering Orange and Osceola counties, announced Thursday she had concluded the death penalty was unjust of all and she would not pursue it in the Loyd case or any other case in her circuit.

Loyd is charged with murdering his pregnant girlfriend Sade Dixon and Orlando Police Master Sergeant Debra Clayton.

Ayala’s decision to seek life in prison without possibility of parole set off a firestorm of political protest against and in support of her decision. Scott expressed on Thursday that she was failing to do her job and used an executive order to remove the Loyd case from her and reassign it to 5th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brad King.

On Monday both King and Ayala attended a pretrial hearing for Loyd, and Ayala stated she intended to fight Scott on the reassignment.

“I’m very comfortable with that,” he said of his reassignment order. “I made the right decision. I had the authority to do it.”

“Last week she said she was fine with that. Today she has changed her position and so this case has been assigned to Brad King which I think is the right decision,” Scott said. I

Scott would not comment on whether he has considered taking steps to remove Ayala from office. He said he was keeping all options open.

He also said, “I’ll deal with that at the time,” when asked what he might do with future cases.

 

Rick Scott is ‘committed’ to JAXPORT dredging

After making the case for Enterprise Florida in Jacksonville Monday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott addressed other issues in a gaggle, including JAXPORT.

Scott’s new budget has $176 million for ports, and — crucially — $31M for the long-delayed dredging of the river to deepen the channel for bigger PANAMAX ships.

In Jacksonville, Scott addressed the near-term future of the port and when money might be dispersed for the project.

“Let’s just think about JAXPORT for a minute. When I came into this job, we’d hardly invested anything into our ports. We’ve invested $1.2 billion into ports, and JAXPORT has gotten some of that. We had to fix Mile Point first,” Scott said.

“I’m committed to make sure we get the dredge done. Here’s the difference,” Scott said, “we have the money to do it.”

“When I came in, we didn’t have it,” Scott said — but job creation has helped.

“250,000 trade jobs in the state since I got elected. How did we do it? We have a good economy, so we’ve got the revenues now. And a budget where we can invest these dollars.”

“I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that we have the state funding. I’ve already been talking to the federal government — the Trump administration about the federal funding. So as long as we have the local funding, which I think Lenny Curry is very supportive of that, I think we’re going to get a lot of good things done at JAXPORT,” Scott said.

“It’s a lot of jobs,” Scott said, telling a story about how he’d met a woman recently at an event who thanked him for helping her husband have a “great paying job at JAXPORT.”

“I was out there the week after that, but he was way up there in the crane, and I had no interest in going that high,” the governor quipped.

The JAXPORT  board this month approved the purchase of 53 acres of land needed for that project.

Rick Scott harangues Duval Delegation, pushes incentives in Jacksonville

When Gov. Rick Scott comes to your town to hold a “Fighting for Florida’s Jobs” round table, that means your GOP State Representatives crossed him on an incentive vote.

Scott started off March in Rep. Travis Cummings‘ district, where he repeatedly jabbed at Cummings and Rep. Paul Renner for opposing Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.

Cummings was just one of many Republican votes against the Scott agenda, however. In Duval County, a few Republicans voted against Enterprise Florida on the House floor.

Reps. Cord ByrdClay Yarborough, and Jason Fischer all voted against incentives, as did Democrats Tracie Davis and Kim Daniels.

They knew they faced a no-win choice. As someone familiar with the thinking of one of the legislators but it, the choice was between Scott’s veto pen and the Speaker’s opprobrium.

They got the speaker’s approval. But in Jacksonville, they got the governor’s opprobrium, with locals on hand as well, including Jacksonville City Councilors, FSCJ President Cindy Bioteau, Jacksonville OED head Kirk Wendland, former State Rep. Lake Ray (head of the First Coast Manufacturers Association) and Karen Bowling, Scott’s former business partner who was CAO for former Mayor Alvin Brown.

Also on hand: people from Nassau and St. Johns County, likewise ringing the alarm for incentives.

Companies like MacQuarie, GE Oil and Gas, and Johnson and Johnson Vision Care all came to Jacksonville because of state incentives. However, the five members of the Florida House who voted against Enterprise Florida were not in office then.

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Scott, battling a cold, discussed the long-term success of Enterprise Florida, including the guarantee of 5X ROI on the state investment.

“We’ve done over 900 projects around the state,” Scott said, “and we don’t put the money out unless the jobs are created.

“There are no expendable jobs,” Scott said, discussing the impact of Enterprise Florida on ports and global trade.

Scott discussed tourism, of course, in the context of Visit Florida.

“In our state, one out of six jobs comes from tourism,” Scott noted. “For every dollar we spend, we get three dollars back on taxes … if we lost all our tourists, taxes would go up $1,500” per household.

“Here’s what’s frustrating to me: we have politicians in Florida turning their backs on jobs,” Scott said, including locally.

“We’ve added 1.3 million jobs in the last six years. Enterprise Florida: it’s transparent. You get a great return on investment. Visit Florida: one in every six jobs in the state comes down to tourism.”

“You’ve got House members in this part of the state that said they want to completely shut down Enterprise Florida. Jason Fischer, Clay Yarborough, Kimberly Daniels, Cord Byrd, Tracie Davis — they want to shut down Enterprise Florida after all that success. And all those members — except Tracie Davis — want to change Visit Florida so it doesn’t work, tie its hands,” Scott said.

“I want to thank Jay Fant: he was passionate, understands the importance of a job, understands the importance of Enterprise Florida. Jay completely supports job creation and I want to thank him for that,” Scott said.

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Scott described the current House position re: Visit Florida as “making it more difficult to operate.”

“When people ran for office,” Scott said, “did you see any ads saying they wanted to get rid of Enterprise Florida?”

“We had one House member vote the right way, and that’s Jay Fant,” Scott said.

“I’ve never met a person who got out of high school and said ‘I’m interested in unemployment. Food stamps are for me’,” Scott said.

Scott also called out Rep. Paul Renner during a part of the discussion related to St. Johns County.

“He’s the leader,” Scott said, of the resistance to incentives.

And a Flagler County leader noted the importance of incentives in her county, saying that for smaller counties, incentives can make the difference.

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Locals, such as Jacksonville councilor Jim Love, noted that “we’re going to go right to the bottom of the list of the site finders” if Enterprise Florida is scuttled.

“Jobs aren’t going to grow themselves. We’re going to have to go out and get them,” Love said.

Councilor Aaron Bowman, who also is Senior VP of JAXUSA, noted that 2,500 Amazon.com jobs wouldn’t have come to Jacksonville without incentives.

“This is crazy that we’re going to let all this slip away,” Bowman said.

And consultants are telling Bowman “when it’s over, call us.”

Councilor Danny Becton, whose district houses Johnson and Johnson, noted that “it was close” between Jacksonville and Ireland — and incentives make the difference.

Johnson and Johnson is looking to expand, Becton said. But without incentives, that very well may not happen.

“What I can hear them saying is that … this would definitely set it back in terms of when we go against Ireland again,” Becton said.

Becton’s district has seen Deutsche Bank and City Refrigeration move in, among others, and he adds that every deal has measures to “make sure we’re getting the bang for our buck.”

Benefits of incentives go beyond Duval. In Nassau County, the Lignotech deal — trumpeted months back as a source of high-wage skilled jobs — may be an anomaly, if incentive money dries up.

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Scott noted that the end of the Quick Action Closing Fund last year has caused a regular stream of job creation to dry up since July.

“Corporate offices — they don’t have to be here. If we don’t have the money to compete, we’re not going to get them.”

The case for Florida, Scott said, is made in “telling our story.”

In that context, incentive programs offer the megaphone.

Rick Scott comes to Jacksonville Monday with message for Duval Delegation

The best political theater in this state so far this year: arguably, Gov. Rick Scott‘s “Fighting for Florida Jobs” roundtables.

Jacksonville gets its version of the roadshow Monday morning at Harbinger Signs in Mandarin.

Scott started off March in Rep. Travis Cummings‘ district, where he repeatedly jabbed at Cummings and Rep. Paul Renner for opposing Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.

Cummings was just one of many Republican votes against the Scott agenda, however. In Duval County, a few Republicans voted against Enterprise Florida on the House floor.

Reps. Cord ByrdClay Yarborough, and Jason Fischer all voted against incentives.

They knew they faced a no-win choice. As someone familiar with the thinking of one of the legislators but it, the choice was between Scott’s veto pen and the Speaker’s opprobrium.

The one Jacksonville Republican supporting Enterprise Florida, Jay Fant, filed no appropriations bills this session. And there are strong indications he may not even want to return to the Florida House in 2018.

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Scott typically counts on Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry to be by his side at Jacksonville events, such as the job creation events in the past.

Curry won’t be there in this instance; he is on a spring break trip with his family.

Scott and Curry were together at VP Mike Pence‘s business roundtable and rally Saturday in Jacksonville, where both sang from the same hymn book about the Obamacare “death spiral.”

Though it clearly didn’t move the Duval Delegation, Curry issued an extended endorsement of Enterprise Florida a few weeks back.

“Without the state funding,” Curry said, “we would have had trouble closing some of the big deals that we closed.”

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Curry is far from alone in Jacksonville’s city hall when it comes to enthusiasm for incentives.

Jacksonville OED head Kirk Wendland explained it this way: “Just the discussion of Enterprise Florida not being there, and not having a state economic development agency, has absolutely affected the deal flow that we have seen over the past couple of months.”

Local leaders note that Jacksonville especially needs incentives, with cross-border competition and not having the unique value adds of Tampa, Miami, and Orlando.

Gov. Scott is making a strategic move: a stand in Jacksonville, an attempt to rally support in a place that relies on these programs, the rare big city with a GOP mayor — and one who is a political ally of longstanding.

It will be interesting to see if this helps more than the one in Clay County did.

At gathering of progressives in Tampa, Andrew Gillum says Democrats won’t win in 2018 by being ‘Republican lite’

In his first appearance in Tampa since officially declaring his candidacy for Governor, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum said the Democratic Party can win back the Governor’s Mansion next year if it convinces the voters of Florida that it can make an impact in changing their lives for the better.

“What we have to do is convince them that voting for us will make a difference in our lives,” he told the member of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida in Tampa on Saturday. “That we have an agenda that can actually impact that and impact that for the better, and I believe we can do that. As a matter of fact, I believe I can do that, if you all allow me to be the Democratic nominee for governor for the state of Florida,” as the crowd cheered.

Elected as mayor in August of 2014 at the age of 35, Gillum has been making decisions in office of late that would undoubtedly appeal to the progressive wing of the party. He successfully defended Tallahassee’s gun laws in court after two gun rights group sued the city to try to expand firearms in public parks, and has declared Tallahassee a “sanctuary city,” a move not many other Florida communities are embracing under the current administration in Washington.

Gillum used the first part of his half-hour speech to give a quick biography to the progressives who are gathering this weekend at the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association building in West Tampa. In referring to his public school upbringing (including the fact that he was the first in his family not only to graduate from college, but also high school), he gave a major shoutout to public school teachers, saying that what they do is “the most difficult work that happens on Planet Earth.”

He ultimately warmed up to  tossed some choice red meat for the liberal audience. Rick Scott? “Trump before Trump was Trump.”

Gillum savaged the Governor for his stance on climate change, declining Medicaid expansion and stimulus money for high-speed rail, and for his reluctance to accept Syrian refugees into the state.

“Never mind that the Governor has no right to say who’s welcome and who isn’t in the state of Florida, but since he took liberties, I took liberties,” he said to titters of laughter. “I said, come to the Capitol City, where you’re welcome,” adding, “Remember, these are people being forced out of their homes. Their lives are being threatened. Persecuted.”

On making Tallahassee a sanctuary city, he chided the use of the term “illegal aliens,” saying, “Illegal is not a noun. You don’t call people illegals,” he said, saying the term was a way of stripping away someone’s humanity.

He said Florida should be the capital of solar energy production, adding that if the private sector was too reluctant to be a leader in solar, municipal electric authorities should take the lead, and made sure to mention that his city is currently building a 200-acre solar farm.

Gillum is also against the construction of the $3 billion, 515-mile Sabal Trail Pipeline planned to run from Alabama through Georgia to Osceola County.

“I had to make a public statement against it. I thought it was a no-brainer, I didn’t know that you had to do that, but apparently you do,” he said, as the audience gave him a hearty round of applause. And he promised to put “the teeth” back into the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

Regarding the governor’s race, he spoke to the progressive caucus’ language by saying that the Democrats wouldn’t win in 2018 by being “Republican lite.”

“When our issues on the ballot, absent the candidate’s name, people agree with us! They stand with us! So what is the disconnect?” he asked. “I believe we can win by leaning into our values and not running away from them.”

“Whether you are a working class white voter or a working class black voter or a working class Latino voter, if this economy isn’t working for you, you’re pissed off! We have to lean into that. This debate about whether we double down on our base or talk to working class white people is ridiculous. You have to go everywhere. We have to go everywhere and we have to talk to everybody.”

As proof that he’s not just all talk, Gillum mentioned his visit to The Villages last weekend, where he said he spoke to a crowd of 500 people (the Villages Democratic website reported it “overflowed the 350-seat recreation center)

Referring to the fact that Democrats suffer tremendously from a lack of participation in “off-year” elections which happen to coincide for when the state votes for governor and other cabinet positions, Gillum said one reason might be that the party hasn’t given voters sufficient motivation to turn out, before quickly emphasizing that he wasn’t attacking any recent Democratic statewide candidates.

Gillum is the first major party candidate to enter the race, and has since been joined by Central Florida businessman Chris King. Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine seems likely to announce his candidacy soon, as does former Tallahassee based Congresswoman Gwen Graham. The jury is still out on what Orlando attorney and fundraiser John Morgan will end up doing.

Mike Pence: ‘Florida can’t afford Obamacare anymore’

Saturday saw United States Vice-President Mike Pence and Florida Governor Rick Scott talking about what Pence called “the Obamacare nightmare” with small business owners in Jacksonville.

Scott, who closed out the news week reprising a familiar call to allow the states to administer Medicaid via block grants, has worked closely with President Donald Trump and his administration on possible alternatives to the Affordable Care Act.

While the GOP line is “repeal and replace Obamacare,” finding bill language that offers comfort to moderate Republicans in the Senate and the Freedom Caucus in the House has proven challenging, making promotional media stops like this one for the vice-president a necessity as the Trump administration sets the stage for a House vote on health care next week.

Though support for the current bill may be shaky elsewhere in Florida, in Northeast Florida “repeal and replace” are the watchwords.

After a roundtable event with selected small-business leaders, the show for cameras and media commenced: the highlight, of course, was VP Pence, who Gov. Scott introduced as having stood with him in the health care battle since 2009.

Pence hyped the crowd for a couple of minutes, thanking the other speakers and extolling the virtues of Florida, pivotal on “the path to make America great again.”

“It was quite a campaign, wasn’t it? And it’s been quite an administration.”

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After discussing Trump’s “broad shoulders” and other crowd-pleasing ephemera, including his first job as a gas station attendant in his family’s store, Pence eventually pivoted to policy

“We know that when small business is strong, America is strong,” Pence said, describing the president’s “roll back of reams of red tape” and his work to “end illegal immigration – once and for all.”

“Businesses are already responding to President Trump’s ‘buy American, hire American’ vision,” Pence said, vowing tax cuts “across the board” and restraint of “unelected bureaucrats” and other talking points.

Pence pivoted from the crowdpopping lines to reference the Pulse attack last year, a function of “radical Islamic terrorism in this country.”

The wall will be built. And illegal immigrant criminals will be “off the streets of this country.” And “we will rebuild our military,” Pence said.

From there, Pence assured the crowd that “the Obamacare nightmare is about to end.”

Obamacare, said Pence, is a minefield of broken promises, and the VP has heard heartrending stories about the “hard choices” small businesses have made.

“It was a heartbreaking conversation,” Pence said.

Premiums: up 25 percent across the country.

A third of the country has one company available from which to choose.

And, said Pence, enrollment is down year over year.

“Florida’s actually a textbook example of what’s wrong with Obamacare,” Pence said, citing premiums up 19 percent year over year.

“Florida can’t afford Obamacare anymore,” Pence said to applause.

Referring to the business hosting the event, Pence noted that hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have been spent otherwise have been spent attempting to comply with this “failed” law.

“The core flaw of Obamacare was this notion that you could order every American to buy health insurance whether they need it or not,” Pence said.

The Trump alternative: “individual responsibility” and reform targeted to the state level, including expanded Health Savings Accounts and tax credits to facilitate buying private insurance.

Those with pre-existent conditions and kids under the age of 26, meanwhile, will be protected under the American Health Care Act, Pence said.

Pence spent some time talking about “engagement with Congress” to improve the bill, a seeming acknowledgement of issues.

As well, Pence vowed to allow “states like Florida” the ability to have a block grant to administer their plans, and a “work requirement” for coverage.

“President Trump supports the bill 100 percent, and we all do,” Pence said. “A new era for federal/state Medicaid partnership has begun.”

“State solutions,” Pence said, are the best way forward for Florida.

As well, Pence added that Americans will “have the freedom to buy health insurance across state lines,” via “dynamic marketplace.”

“It won’t be long until you see Flo and that little lizard on TV ads,” Pence quipped.

While “it’s going to be a battle in Washington,” Pence called for “every Republican in Florida” to support the administration’s moves to “repeal and replace Obamacare.”

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The VP had local and state support on hand.

U.S. Congressman John Rutherford, who flew down from D.C. with VP Pence, opined that “the American dream is being damaged by Obamacare … a policy that drives up costs and strangles small businesses.”

“We need a better way … we must repeal and replace Obamacare with a market-based health care policy that will reduce costs and increase consumer access to health care.”

CMS Administrator Seema Verna, introduced by Rutherford, likewise described the “burden of health care costs and overregulation” on “small businesses.”

“With the support of President Trump, we’re going to undo the damage done by Obamacare,” Verna said, also vowing to let states handle administering Medicare and have “freedom from Washington’s one-size-fits-all approach” – echoing Gov. Scott.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, introduced by Verna, said “this is really simple. The President and Vice President told us they’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare and that’s what happens now.”

Gov. Scott, introduced by Curry, noted that “Obamacare was sold on a lie. A complete lie … choices have gone down, prices have gone up.”

“We’re going to change that,” Scott said. “Obamacare’s on a death spiral. Prices have just gone out of control.”

“We had to sue the Obama Administration for our low-income pool because we didn’t expand Medicaid,” Scott noted.

 

Rick Scott to Feds: Give us a Medicaid block grant

Florida Gov. Rick Scott appears in Jacksonville with Vice-President Mike Pence Saturday, and the governor set up that meeting with some direct words about the future of Medicaid in the state.

“Today, the State of Florida is requesting greater flexibility from the federal government in running our statewide Medicaid program so we can deliver high-quality care without layers of government bureaucracy,” Scott said.

“My goal is to turn the top-down, Washington-knows-best approach of the Obama administration on its head by requesting flexibilities from the Trump Administration to manage our own Medicaid program based on the needs of Florida families. It is important to me that we have these flexibilities while not removing anyone from our current Medicaid program,” the governor added.

Scott, to the consternation of former President Barack Obama, resisted Medicaid expansion, contending that the state could handle administering low-income health care better than the federal government.

On Friday, Scott reiterated that stance.

“I firmly believe states can administer Medicaid far more efficiently than the federal government and that health care decisions made at the state level will be more successful than decisions made in Washington,” Scott said, vowing “to fight to get rid of the burdensome, duplicative and costly federal requirements put in place by the Obama administration.”

“Unfortunately, the previous administration was determined to micromanage every aspect of our health care system from Washington, which led to the high costs and limitations of services we currently see across the nation. Their excessive strong-arming put politics before the needs of families in our state,” Scott said.

The governor’s requests include a block grant of federal funds to replace supplemental payment programs, “flexibility regarding retroactive eligibility,” assistance with strengthening ties between primary care providers and Medicaid enrollees, streamlining the process to eliminate duplicative bureaucracy and administrative burdens.

The news release from the governor’s office was intended to amplify a letter from ACHA Secretary Justin Senior letter to HHS Secretary Tom Price that went out Friday.

Senior reiterated Scott’s optimism that Florida can provide “the best Medicaid services without removing anyone from our current program.

Julianne Holt expresses concerns about Rick Scott’s move on Aramis Ayala

After Rick Scott removed Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala from the case of accused cop killer Markeith Loyd after she announced she would not pursue the death penalty in his or any other case during her tenure.

Later, Dover House Republican Ross Spano called on Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren to condemn Ayala’s actions. 

Warren refused, saying that he would seek out the death penalty only in “rare cases that are so heinous, atrocious, and undeserving of mercy as to be considered the worst of the worst in our society.”

At the Tampa Tiger Bay Club Friday, Warren was asked again about his thoughts on the case. He responded with essentially the same thing — the issue was between the governor and Ayala.

Warren did acknowledge “prosecutors have the discretion to make charging decisions or the decision not to charge, the sentences that we seek, within each municipality, locality and jurisdiction. and the exercise of that discretion is critical to having a well-functioning criminal justice system.”

That prompted a more provocative reaction from Hillsborough County Public Defender Julianne Holt, a Democrat like Warren.

“As an elected constitutional officer, I am given broad discretion on how I  run my office,” she began. “If I abuse that discretion, if I do things that are illegal, unethical immoral, things of that sort that rise to a certain level, then the governor has the ability to remove me, suspend me. If I’m charged with a criminal offense, the governor can take action.

“But it is extremely scary to me to think that if one person is unhappy with the decision that Mr. Warren makes in our community, decides to hold a news conference and be critical of him, that the next thing he would get is a message saying you’re removed from that case, somebody else is going to come in to my community and take that case.

“The next time he’s in a similar position, is he going to exercise his discretion, or is he going to be doing because he’s fearful of what may come from Tallahassee?” she asked. “I want him to keep his discretion.”

Her response was met with loud cheers from the Tiger Bay audience.

House seeks to end controversial state employee charity program

Florida lawmakers are looking to shut down a charitable program funded for decades by state employees.

A bill to end the Florida State Employees’ Charitable Campaign comes after a yearslong slump due partly to a drop in participation and controversy surrounding its management, according to a new bill proposed by a House lawmaker and unanimously favored in committee Thursday.

The bill, CS/HB 1141, is sponsored by Rep. Clay Yarborough through the House Government Accountability Committee.

The measure would end the FSECC, which offers a way for employees on Florida’s payroll to give to charities of their choice. If they choose to take part in the program, they are encouraged to authorize payroll deductions divided incrementally from their annual salary.

The FSECC is the only authorized form of workplace solicitation of state employees permitted during work hours, according to the of the Florida Department of Management Services (DMS), which administers and channels the funds collected from employees to a third party for distribution to the actual charities.

Participation in the program is voluntary.

“At its peak in 2005 the program raised $4.9 million,” Yarborough told the House Government Accountability Committee Thursday. “However, since then … the campaign has experienced an ongoing and significant decline in employee contributions — so much so that in 2016 employees pledged a historic low of $282,000, which was a decrease of more than 94 percent.”

The FSECC was enacted by the legislature in 1980 and allows workers to choose among a wide range of “eligible charitable organizations that meet human or environmental needs,” and are inclusive of domestic or international causes.

Channeling the money through the FSECC reduces the expense and effort that arise from multiple charity drives cropping up throughout a calendar year that had the potential to disrupt workplace efficiency.

“The bill basically removes government as the middleman and supports state employees giving directly to the charity of their choice, and we all know that with today’s ability to donate to charities — from computers to and hand-held devices — direct giving is easier than ever,” Rep. Yarborough said.

During its 36-year history, the FSECC raised more than $94 million, according to a house House of Representatives staff analysis of the campaign.

The FSECC was run by the United Way for years and took in roughly $4 million a year from 1999 to 2009, when donations began to dip.

However, in 2013 the fund took a nose-dive after the state outsourced the charitable drive in 2012 “to Solix, Inc., a New-Jersey-based company with close ties to Gov. Rick Scott through its well-connected lobbyists,” according to a 2015 article in The Tallahassee Democrat newspaper.

The newspaper further noted a partisan investigation by Statehouse Democrats found Solix took 47 percent of the campaign’s proceeds in 2013 and more than half last year to cover its overhead. This year — in part because donations continued to tank — Solix could walk away with a bigger chunk, nearly two-thirds of the contributions.

DMS renewed the contract with Solix last year even though there were grumblings from state employees once the Democrats’ investigation was made public and there was a dispute in the percentages taken in for overhead between numbers given by DMS and United Way, the previous steward of the campaign, and the percentages taken in by Solix for overhead.

Florida statutes dictating the rules and ethics for the FSECC do not allow the agency to do business with a third party if the overhead exceeds 25 percent, except in rare circumstances.

Turns out the New Jersey company was getting $0.71 for every dollar Florida state employees were contributing to the FSECC. Still, DMS defended their choice of Solix.

Lawmakers apparently do not agree with the FSECC. The governor’s been mum on the issue, but in a hint of the fracas behind the scenes, DMS Secretary Chad Poppell resigned Thursday.

Mentioning nothing of HB 1141, Scott said, “Chad Poppell has done an outstanding job as Secretary of DMS and I want to thank him for his hard work to improve efficiency and foster innovation in state government. Under his leadership, Florida has remained a leader in government efficiency and provided the critical support to our state agencies to ensure Florida families and businesses receive the services and support they need.”

The Thursday introduction of the bill Thursday was its second hearing. The House Oversight, Transparency and Administration Committee also voted unanimously in favor Monday.

 

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