Rick Scott – Page 3 – Florida Politics

Pro-choice group blasts Rick Scott for signing ‘fake clinic’ bill

Pro-choice group Floridians for Reproductive Freedom denounced Gov. Rick Scott Monday for signing a bill to fund “fake clinics” that oppose abortion.

HB 41 requires the Florida Department of Health to contract with the Florida Pregnancy Care Network, a crisis pregnancy network of clinics that offer free “pregnancy support services,” such as counseling and classes on pregnancy, childbirth and parenting.

The clinics “exclusively promote and support childbirth,” meaning they do not provide abortions, nor do they make referrals to alternative clinics that do.

“With this bill, Gov. Scott and his legislative allies are putting politics over women’s health,” said Amy Weintraub, Reproductive Rights Program Director for Progress Florida. “Under no circumstances should taxpayers be forced to pay for these fake clinics that operate with virtually no oversight and judge, shame, and mislead women.”

Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates Executive Director Laura Goodhue added that by signing the bill, Scott “is demonstrating a total disregard for the truth, undermining a woman’s right to make her own informed medical decisions and denying her the respect and dignity she deserves.

“When a woman has decided to seek birth control or an abortion, or to discuss her reproductive health options, she deserves access to a qualified medical provider she can trust to provide her with a full range of options and services without an agenda, judgment or deception.”

The group said misleading practices employed by such clinics include placing advertisements under the “abortion services” heading of phone and online directories and choosing names that are similar to clinics that offer abortion services.

Listings aren’t the only tactic the clinics use.

When the Senate version of the bill was in committee, Democratic Sen. Lauren Book said she had picked up tracts from such clinics that claimed abortion caused breast cancer – a notion that has been rejected by the American Cancer Society.

“To be clear, these fake clinics peddle falsehoods that have been repeatedly discredited by extensive scientific research and the country’s most prominent medical associations,” said Dr. Nicole Fanarjian, a Sarasota-based obstetrician and gynecologist. “And they undermine a woman’s dignity by attempting to shame and pressure her and take away her ability to make her own decisions.”

Rick Scott faces decisions on 14 bills this week

Gov. Rick Scott will act on at least 14 bills this week, including a proposal (HB 67) to create a slavery memorial at the Capitol and a measure (HB 41) dealing with “pregnancy support” services.

Scott faces a Saturday deadline for signing, vetoing or allowing the bills to become law without his signature.

The bills were passed during the Legislative Session that ended March 11. Scott’s office has already said he is expected to sign the slavery-memorial bill, which was sponsored by Democratic Reps. Kionee McGhee of Miami and Rep. Larry Lee Jr. of Port St. Lucie, along with Sen. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat.

It calls for the Department of Management Services to develop a plan and costs for the memorial on the Capitol grounds and to then submit the plan to the Governor and legislative leaders.

The pregnancy support-services bill would put into law a longstanding initiative that provides services to women and encourages carrying pregnancies to term. In the past, the controversial program has been approved annually in the state budget.

The measure was sponsored by Rep. Jackie Toledo, a Tampa Republican, and Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican.

Rick Scott signs bill targeting opioid addiction

Saying it is critical to “stop the addiction in the beginning,” Gov. Rick Scott on Monday signed a high-profile bill designed to prevent patients from getting hooked on powerful opioids.

Flanked by House leaders and law-enforcement officers at the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Scott approved the measure as the state continues grappling with drug overdoses that have surged in recent years. The bill is designed, at least in part, to prevent patients from getting addicted to prescription painkillers and then turning to street drugs such as heroin and fentanyl.

“I’ve met a lot of families all across the state who are dealing with drug abuse,” said Scott, who declared a public-health emergency last year because of the opioid issue. “I have a family member that’s dealt with both alcoholism and drug abuse, and I can tell you it’s very difficult for a family.”

Lawmakers unanimously passed the bill (HB 21) on March 9, the final full day of the annual Legislative Session.

Perhaps the highest-profile part of the bill would place limits on prescriptions that doctors can write for treatment of acute pain. Doctors in many cases would be limited to writing prescriptions for three-day supplies, though they could prescribe up to seven-day supplies of controlled substances if “medically necessary.” Cancer patients, people who are terminally ill, palliative care patients and those who suffer from major trauma would be exempt from the limits.

Some physicians objected during the Legislative Session to such limits. But House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican who took part in Monday’s bill-signing event, defended the approach.

“It (the bill) also says no longer will we prescribe just blanketly 30-day prescriptions. Now we’ll say it’s a three-day prescription, and then you have to come back and warrant (it),” Corcoran said. “Is that an inconvenience? Yes. Is an inconvenience worth saving 50,000 lives nationwide? Absolutely.”

Another high-profile part of the bill will require physicians or their staff members to check with a statewide database before prescribing or dispensing controlled substances. In the past, Florida has not required physicians to use the database, known as the prescription drug monitoring program. The goal of the database is to prevent addicts from visiting multiple doctors or pharmacies to get supplies of drugs.

Opioids have caused thousands of deaths in Florida in recent years. In 2016, for example, fentanyl caused 1,390 deaths, heroin caused 952 deaths, oxycodone caused 723 deaths, and hydrocodone caused 245 deaths, according to a House staff analysis.

House Commerce Chairman Jim Boyd, a Bradenton Republican who sponsored the bill, described it as “another step to curbing this epidemic.”

“I grew passionate about this a couple of years ago because I just saw what it was doing,” Boyd said during the bill-signing event at the sheriff’s office. “There’s not a person in this room who doesn’t have a family member or a friend of a family that hasn’t been affected by this epidemic.”

Bill Nelson targeted by pro tax reform ad campaign

Americans for Prosperity this week announced a national campaign extolling the benefits of the tax reform package passed by the Republican-led Congress last year, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who voted against the plan, is one of the targets.

The Nelson ad features a black and white photo of the Senator and reads “Senator Bill Nelson voted against putting more money in your pocket.”

AFP said its “American Pay Raise” campaign is designed to thank lawmakers who voted for the tax plan and hold accountable those who were against it, though the group so far has only released sample ads it’s running against lawmakers.

“After eight years of a lackluster economy, we are witnessing a new era of growth in which Americans from every walk of life are finding more money in their pockets to save or spend on things they care about most, all thanks to tax reform,” said AFP President Tim Phillips. “Higher take-home pay, more business investments at home and better worker benefits are all part of the great American Pay Raise.”

The group said it has plunked down six figures for digital ad buys, and they will run from March 19 through April 17.

In addition to the print ad, AFP put up a webform to contact Nelson to tell him “it’s not too late to do the right thing.”

The form letter asks the Florida Democrat to oppose special-interest tax breaks, oppose a 25-cents-per-gallon gas tax, eliminate “unnecessary regulations that slow economic growth” and make permanent all of the temporary cuts in the 2017 tax cut package.

“Please protect tax reform’s benefits for hardworking Americans and support policies that increase economic opportunity,” the letter reads in closing.

Nelson is up for re-election in 2018. Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is termed out of his current office, is widely expected to challenge Nelson but has not yet entered the race.

“Typical politicians think about their next job. I’m focused on this job,” Scott told reporters Sunday after the Legislature’s ‘sine die’ ceremony. “I’m glad we had a very successful Session. I’ll think about my future in the next few weeks.”

A copy of the Nelson ad is below.

Nelson AFP ad

Democratic gubernatorial candidates slam Rick Scott for education budget

Democratic gubernatorial candidates Gwen GrahamAndrew GillumPhilip Levine, and Chris King took aim at Florida Gov. Rick Scott Friday afternoon, charging that the state budget he signed fails to adequately fund public education, with Graham declaring, “This will be the last budget… that underfunds Florida’s students.”

“Rick Scott’s education budget includes a measly 47-cent increase for education — it fails to even cover the rate of inflation,” Graham, the former congresswoman from Tallahassee, declared in a statement issue by her gubernatorial campaign Friday. “The governor is so out of touch with Florida families he may actually think that’s enough to fund our schools, but 47 cents won’t even buy Rick Scott a gum ball.

On Friday Scott signed the 2018-’19 state budget with $88.7 billion in spending, and also vetoed $64 million worth of line items. Scott’s office maintains the budget offers a record amount of spending on public schools, but Graham contends it falls far short of what is needed. Earlier, Graham had called for Scott to veto the budget, call the Florida Legislature back to a special session, and demand more money for public schools.

“When Rick Scott leaves the Governor’s Mansion this year, he’ll leave behind a legacy of cutting and underfunding public schools in Florida. This hasn’t just hurt our students — it hurts our economy and the entire state,” she continued. “Budgets, whether they’re made over a kitchen table or in the Capitol, are about priorities. For 20 years, the Republican politicians in Tallahassee have failed to make public education a priority, and, in 2018, voters will hold them accountable for their failures.”

She added this pledge: “As governor, I will pick apart the Republicans’ budget piece by piece to eliminate their wasteful spending and use those tax dollars where families will benefit — in our schools. Mark my words. This will be the last budget for next eight years that underfunds Florida’s students and schools.”

Gillum’s response took a similar tact he posted on Twitter Friday afternoon.

“A failure to properly fund our students education & not just a response to Parkland, is no surprise from @FLGovScott. Teachers & schools do some of the most important work on Earth: educating our kids. This budget falls well short of what our students need to learn and be safe,” Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, tweeted.

 Levine, a businessman and former mayor of Miami Beach, also ripped into Scott over the schools spending, and also criticized the state’s spending for health care.

“Governor Rick Scott is ending his tenure as Governor the same way he started it––short-changing our schools, our teachers and our students,” Levine said in a statement issued by his campaign. As governor, I would never sign this out-of-touch budget. This budget does nothing to improve our state’s back-of-the-pack status in teacher pay, and continues to leave too many Floridians without access to health care. We need leaders that will invest in our education and healthcare, not leave them with pennies on the dollar.”

King, a Winter Park developer of affordable housing and senior housing, noted that any budget is a statement of priorities.

“Rick Scott’s [priorities] are dead wrong,” King said. “Our students and teachers deserve better than a paltry 47-cent increase, but nothing will change in Tallahassee until we change the types of leaders we send there.”

The leading Republican candidates are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Florida Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam.

FHCA gives Rick Scott thumbs up on budget

Gov. Rick Scott got some praise from the Florida Health Care Association on Friday for signing the 2018-19 budget.

Shortly after Scott put pen to paper the group put out a statement lauding the $88.7 billion plan, specifically the funding bumps it will bring to nursing homes, nearly 600 of which are represented by FHCA.

“FHCA appreciates the Governor for signing a budget that makes the quality care of our frailest elders a priority. The nearly $130 million in increased Medicaid funding for nursing homes included in the budget will support facilities as they continue making measurable improvements to residents’ health and well-being,” FHCA said.

“The Budget will also help to continue improving the quality of life for nursing home residents by increasing their personal needs allowance which helps pay for personal items like beauty services, clothing, and other personal items.

“Florida is a national leader in providing long term care services and supports to its senior population. On behalf of the thousands of long term caregivers working in our member centers, we commend Governor Scott for signing a budget that ensure nursing homes can achieve their goals of providing exceptional care and services to our state’s seniors and people with disabilities.”

Last week, the group’s executive director, Emmett Reed, heaped praise on Senate President Joe Negron, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate budget chief Rob Bradley for their role in getting those measures through the Legislature.

Also lauded in last week’s statement was a $10 million appropriation to help support nursing centers as they transition to the Prospective Payment System in October.

That measure also made it through Scott, who vetoed $64 million worth of line items in the spending plan.

Release of tourism numbers delayed again

Gov. Rick Scott’s office said Friday that a planned release of 2017 tourism numbers would again be postponed because of the collapse Thursday of a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University in Miami.

At least six people died in the collapse. Scott had been expected to release the tourism numbers Friday in Naples.

His office did not immediately give a new release date.

Scott also had planned to release the tourism figures last month but put the announcement on hold because of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The shooting killed 17 people.

Rick Scott signs 2018-19 state budget, releases veto list

Gov. Rick Scott signed his final state budget Friday, two days after the Legislature sent it to him to review.

The $88.7 billion fiscal plan – the largest in state history – landed on Scott’s desk Wednesday, but the governor did not approve it all.

He vetoed $64 million worth of line items, the smallest being a $25,000 trust fund appropriation to the Florida Housing Finance Corp. for “affordable housing programs.”

One area targeted by Scott in his vetoes was more than $29 million in local road projects, which Scott said were funded outside the Department of Transportation’s normal evaluation process. The largest veto was $7 million for a road project in Lake County.

The budget (HB 5001) approved by lawmakers included the $400 million school safety plan crafted after the Parkland mass shooting with $67 million for the controversial program that would arm school staff and train them for active shooter situations and $25 million that would go toward a memorial and the demolishing of the building where the massacre occurred.

No funding in that plan was chopped from the 2018-19 blueprint for state spending.

“Following the tragedy in Parkland where 17 died, we came together as a state and I was proud to sign the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which invests nearly $375 million to keep our students and communities safe so this never happens again,” Scott wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

The 452-page budget passed by the Legislature also included $100.8 million for the Florida Forever land preservation program, $130 million in Medicaid funding for nursing homes, and nearly $90 million in last-minute spending that included hurricane-related projects to repair infrastructure at universities and charter schools.

Scott’s $64 million in vetoes was lower than the $69 million he eliminated in 2014, when he was running for re-election. Scott, a Naples Republican, is term limited this year. He’s widely expected to challenge incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

“Typical politicians think about their next job. I’m focused on this job,” Scott told reporters Sunday after the Legislature’s ‘sine die’ ceremony. “I’m glad we had a very successful Session. I’ll think about my future in the next few weeks.”

The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.

Talleyrand Connector money comes to Jacksonville from Tallahassee, survives veto process

$12.5 million for Jacksonville’s Talleyrand Connector, an ambitious reconfiguration of Hart Bridge offramps that would route traffic on surface streets by the stadium and toward the port, escaped Gov. Rick Scott‘s veto pen Friday.

The money is 1/4 of the $50 million Jacksonville anticipates needing for the total project.

Jacksonville is pursuing $25 million in infrastructure money via the Department of Transportation’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program for the project; to that end, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry made another trip to D.C. this week to lobby members of the Donald Trump administration.

If the federal money comes through, Jacksonville will have $37.5 million of outside money for the Talleyrand Connector project, a strong illustration of how Curry leverages relationships throughout government for his administration’s priorities.

The project has been sold for a variety of benefits. Initially pitched to the Duval Delegation in 2016 as a way of activating the property by the sports complex, a burgeoning entertainment district, further studies in 2017 found benefits in terms of routing traffic to and from the port.

Curry credited legislators from outside of Duval County with helping to make the push in an interview earlier this month.

Curry has pitched other benefits also, including public safety and removing outmoded and ugly offramps that the mayor has called a “relic” of bygone design needs.

Other regional priorities, including $25 million for the St. Johns River and Keystone Lakes, $631,000 for 1,924 crosswalk countdown clocks in Jacksonville, and $200,000 for the “Emerald Necklace” project that will revive Hogan’s Creek, all survived the veto pen.

Some regional vetoes of note in the over $64 million of gubernatorial nixes:

The Flagler College Hotel Ponce de Leon disaster recovery saw $1.5 million vetoed because there was no public ROI for renovation of a private facility.

$50,000 for a feasibility study for elderly care for PACE Partners of Northeast Florida was vetoed precisely because it was for a study.

$1.5 million for widening of St. Johns County Road 244 was also cut.

Rick Scott to announce tourism numbers today

Gov. Rick Scott will release the state’s 2017 tourism numbers on Friday, Visit Florida President and CEO Ken Lawson told members of Enterprise Florida on Thursday.

Scott was set to announce the numbers Feb. 15. But he put the announcement on hold because of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Florida attracted a record 112 million visitors in 2016.

State legislators Sunday approved a 2018-2019 budget that includes $76 million for the tourism agency Visit Florida to market the state, matching the current fiscal year’s funding.

Scott, who is reviewing the budget, had sought $100 million for next year. Lawson said Scott will announce the latest tourism numbers in Naples.

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