Rick Scott Archives - Page 4 of 232 - Florida Politics

Sean Shaw and Darryl Rouson attempt to deal with Florida’s ban on voting rights for ex-felons on the front end

Under current Florida law, those who are convicted of any felony lose the right to vote, the right to sit on a jury, the right to hold public office, and the right to possess a firearm, unless they are granted the restoration of their civil rights by the state Office of Executive Clemency.

Legislation being sponsored by Tampa Bay area Democrats Darryl Rouson and Sean Shaw would end the automatic suspension of civil rights for those convicted of a non-violent felony.

“Even if the sentence has been served, a felony conviction in the State of Florida is a lifelong punishment,” says House District 59 Representative Sean Shaw in a statement released by the Florida House Democrats on Wednesday. “It is unreasonable to expect someone to fully reintegrate back into society when they are being treated as a second class citizen. If we are serious about sustaining a fair system of justice, we must send a message that if a person is convicted of a non-violent crime, their rights won’t be permanently taken away.”

St. Petersburg’s Daryl Rouson is sponsoring an identical bill (SB 848) in the Senate.

The bills are part of a whole series of criminal justice reforms that are being debated this session in the Florida Legislature, but whether they can get GOP buy-in is another story.

Florida is one of just a handful of states that does not automatically restore voting rights once a felon has paid his or her debts to society, a fact of life in the Sunshine State for decades. There are 1.6 million Floridians currently disenfranchised — the highest state total in the nation — and over 10,000 are waiting for a hearing on their restoration applications.

A class-action lawsuit filed earlier this week aims to automatically restore former felons’ voting rights and eliminate Florida’s rights restoration process.

The Fair Elections Legal Network and the law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC filed the lawsuit on behalf of seven former felons. It targets all four members of the Cabinet, and six other state officials, including Secretary of State Ken Detzner and Department of Corrections head Julie Jones.

As of March 1, the backlog of applicants for voting rights restoration stood at 10,513, but the suit alleges that the Clemency Board only hears an average of 52 cases per quarter. “At this rate, if no new applications were submitted, it would take the Clemency Board almost 51 years to hear the entire backlog of applicants,” the plaintiffs write.

The suit also says that the number of applications granted has dropped significantly since Scott took office in 2011, with only 2,488 applications having been granted.

There is also an effort to get a constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot by the group Floridians for a Fair Democracy that would automatically restore voting rights to nonviolent felons.

Joe Henderson: ‘Shy’ Rick Scott needs to pipe up on Medicaid expansion

Gov. Rick Scott hasn’t been shy about sharing his feelings on the Affordable Care Act. Like any good Republican, he hates it. He wants it to go away.

Now that Republicans have a legitimate proposal on the table to replace Obamacare, though, Scott has gone into stealth mode on the subject. In an Associated Press story, the governor did the Rick Scott Shuffle when asked for his reaction to the plan now being debated intensely in Washington.

Scott said he was glad there is “good conversation” happening on the subject. Not exactly a stop-the-presses comment.

He even met recently with House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is pushing a plan that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said could leave up to 24 million Americans without health insurance.

Would the governor like to let us mere mortals in on what was discussed? People in Florida will be greatly affected by whatever finally becomes law, especially if it has a significant impact on Medicaid.

Florida depends heavily on federal money for Medicaid funding, and under the plan being discussed more than 4 million residents here would see their benefits reduced. That probably suits budget hawks in the state House just fine, but wouldn’t be good for many of the state’s elderly and low-income residents.

That’s where Scott needs to pipe up on this subject. In 2014, remember, he went to war (and lost) with the House over Medicaid expansion. Scott pushed for it; now-Speaker Richard Corcoran was intractably against.

Given his background as a hospital administrator before he went into politics, there are few people in the state better versed on health insurance than Scott. He could help frame the debate if he chose.

He certainly hasn’t been shy about making his opinions known recently on other subjects. He has been outspoken about his trying to save Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. But now that the health care debate has intensified, we get crickets from the governor.

Curious.

Florence Snyder: Ain’t no Sunshine where Scott’s gone

Just in time for Sunshine Week, Tampa Bay Times environmental reporter Craig Pittman reminds us how focused, how ruthless, how relentless Gov. Rick Scott’s flacks are in their taxpayer-financed efforts to keep information out of the hands of taxpayers.

Florida’s Ministries of Disinformation have been around since the Chiles administration, but “paranoia about the press” has ramped up significantly on Scott’s watch. Here’s how Connie Bersok, who devoted 30 years of her life to protecting Florida’s fragile wetlands, described current events at Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to Pittman and Times researcher Caryn Baird:

“When I first started, if the press called, you could talk to the press, you just had to document it for your boss. Then it became: You had to get permission first, but you could still talk.

“Then it became: The press office would approve of anyone talking with a reporter, but they had to be on the line.

“And now that’s changed to: ‘You do not talk to the press.’ As a result, a lot of the information that’s expressed to the press wasn’t much information at all.”

Bersok’s now retired and able to exercise her First Amendment rights on behalf of former colleagues who don’t dare violate the government gag order for fear of joining the hundreds of DEP employees who have been disappeared since Scott took office.

Purges are always drenched in lies, especially when the purges are aimed at nationally respected professionals with decades of dedicated public service. It’s an uphill battle keeping the air fresh and the water clean in the face of relentless pressure to build high-rises and strip malls in places that God did not mean for people to live.

It’s impossible when the scientists and planners are subject to being fired with no notice and for no reason, and no amount of Florida sunshine and DEP spin will take the stench out of Scott’s campaign to make it easier for rich people to get richer creating more and more and more minimum wage, dead end jobs! jobs! jobs!

Despite lawsuit, Florida Lottery sees record sales; tops $100M for 2nd week

For a second consecutive week, the Florida Lottery broke its own record, with total sales of more than $141 million, the game’s chief announced Tuesday.

This record for the Sunshine State’s 29-year-old lottery comes despite a nasty lawsuit that pitted Florida Gov. Rick Scott against the state’s headstrong House Speaker, Rep. Richard Corcoran.

For the second successive week, the Florida Lottery’s contributions to the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund (EETF) exceeded $19 million from scratch-off sales alone.

Total scratch-off sales for the week reached $103.23 million, with overall sales hitting $141.28 million.

Additionally, this marks the second consecutive week in Florida Lottery history that scratch-off sales exceeded $100 million in a single week.

“The consistent scratch-off sales demonstrated by the Florida Lottery over the past two weeks are integral to our mission to generate as much revenue as possible towards public education,” said Lottery Secretary Tom Delacenserie. “The lottery remains committed to providing Florida’s students with the opportunities they need to be successful in school and in life.”

Over the past 29 years, the Florida Lottery has established itself as a dependable funding source for public education.

For 15 consecutive years, the Lottery has transferred more than $1 billion to education throughout the state while remaining one of the most efficient lotteries in the nation. Additionally, the Lottery has contributed more than $5 billion to the Bright Futures Scholarship Program to send over 750,000 students to college.

Florida Lottery contributions are approximately 6 percent of the state’s total education budget. Lottery funds are appropriated by the Florida Legislature and are administered by the Florida Department of Education.

The Florida Lottery reinvests 98 percent of its revenue back into Florida’s economy through prize payouts, commissions to more than 13,000 Florida retailers and transfers to education. Since 1988, Florida Lottery games have paid more than $52.4 billion in prizes and made more than 1,900 people millionaires.

On March 7, a Leon County Judge Karen Gievers invalidated the Florida Lottery’s $700-million contract for new equipment, agreeing with Corcoran that the agency went on an unauthorized spending bonanza when it made the deal in 2016.

The multiple-year contract involved new equipment for draw and scratch-off tickets. The lottery sold more than $6.2 billion in tickets in 2016, according to records.

“The Florida Lottery continues to make record contributions to our public schools and today’s ruling jeopardizes billions of dollars for Florida students,” Gov. Scott said in a statement March 7. “I strongly disagree with today’s decision, and we will appeal.”

Corcoran, in a statement joined by House Rules Committee Chair Jose Oliva and Judiciary Committee Chair Chris Sprowls, called the decision “a victory for the taxpayer and the rule of law.”

He continued, basking in the much-publicized showdown with the governor: “It reinforces the idea that respecting the separation of powers is not an arcane idea or an out-of-date philosophy,” they said. “In truth, it is one of the bedrock principles of our Republican government and is essential to protecting the liberties and livelihoods of Floridians.

“No branch of government is above the law, and the people’s House will use every power within our means – from the committee room to the courtroom – to ensure those liberties and livelihoods are protected.”

Senate committee recommends Glenn Sutphin for Veteran Affairs director

The Senate Committee on Military and Veteran’s Affairs, Space and Domestic Security recommended Glenn W. Sutphin, Jr. as the executive director of Florida’s Department of Veteran’s Affairs Tuesday.

Sutphin, a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. and an appointee of Gov. Rick Scott and a retired, was voted to his post unanimously by the committee.

He joined the military June 6, 1969, serving 30 years in the U.S. Army. His family has history of military service. Having served under Gov. Jeb Bush, he helped to foster an environment in Florida for veterans to be welcome, he said at the committee hearing.

“One of my jobs was to get units ready, get them out the door, the wounded back and unfortunately those who we had lost – try to get them back to their families, and get them taken care of,” he told the committee Tuesday. “All my life I’ve either lead troops, trained troops or cared for their families.”

His ethos in his military service, he said, consisted of these three things:  No mission was to be refused; no was not an answer; and failure was not an option.

Committee recommends Jeffrey Bragg for Secretary of Elder Affairs

After a lengthy question and answer session, a Senate panel unanimously recommended to confirm Jeffrey Bragg as Florida’s Secretary of Elder Affairs Monday, an office that oversees a quarter of Florida’s 20 million residents.

The recommendation by the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs will next go to the full chamber for a confirmation vote.

Last year Bragg was rejected as the state’s insurance commissioner. He was peppered with questions by the committee, but overall, the committee supported his appointment by Gov. Rick Scott.

From Palm Harbor in Pinellas County, the 67-year-old Bragg ran the nation’s terrorism risk insurance program from 2003 until 2014, when he retired.

He worked under the Reagan Administration in the 1980s, serving in the Federal Emergency Management Agency where he was the administrator for the national flood insurance program.

Between those appointments, Bragg worked in the private sector, including as a senior vice president for Zurich Risk Management from 2001 to 2003 and later for IMSG as its executive vice president in St. Petersburg from 1997 to 2000.

Rick Scott signs death penalty fix into law

Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation Monday requiring a unanimous jury recommendation before the death penalty can be imposed.

Lawmakers passed the bill out of the House and Senate last week, rushing the measure through the process in hopes of fixing the state’s death penalty law. The House voted 112-3 to approve the measure Friday, one day after the Senate voted unanimously to approve it.

The U.S. Supreme Court in January 2016 declared the state’s death penalty was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges to make the ultimate decision. The ruling was based on a case where a judge issued a death sentence after a 7-5 jury recommendation.

In 2016, the Legislature overhauled the state law to let the death penalty be imposed by a 10-2 jury vote. But in October, the state Supreme Court voted 5-2 to strike down the new law and require unanimous jury decisions.

The change goes into effect immediately.

_The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

Lawsuit against Rick Scott and clemency board seeks to restore former felons’ voting rights

A class-action lawsuit filed Monday aims to automatically restore former felons’ voting rights and eliminate Florida’s rights restoration process, considered one of the most onerous in the nation.

The Fair Elections Legal Network and the law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC filed the lawsuit on behalf of seven former felons. It targets all four members of the Cabinet, and six other state officials, including Secretary of State Ken Detzner and Department of Corrections head Julie Jones.

Florida is one of just a handful of states that does not automatically restore voting rights once a felon has paid his or her debts to society. There are 1.6 million Floridians currently disenfranchised — the highest state total in the nation — and over 10,000 are waiting for a hearing on their restoration applications.

There is currently an effort to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot 2018 by the group Floridians for a Fair Democracy that would automatically restore voting rights to nonviolent felons.

The lawsuit cites the lack of any rules governing the Executive Clemency Board’s decisions to grant or deny applications. Without any rules, the system and the applicants are prone to arbitrary treatment, violating the 1st and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, according to the lawsuit.

“Unlike the overwhelming majority of states, Florida simply has no law that tells ex-felons when their voting rights are restored. Instead, they must beg state officials to give them their rights back, and this setup violates our Constitution,” said Jon Sherman, Senior Counsel for the Fair Elections Legal Network. “The right to vote should be automatically restored to ex-felons at a specific point in time — the completion of a sentence — not whenever a politician decides you’ve earned it.”

Giving government officials unfettered discretion, according to the complaint, leads to unequal treatment of people in similar circumstances. The lawsuit quotes Gov. Rick Scott speaking of the process at last month’s Cabinet meeting, when he said, “Clemency is … is — there’s no standard.  We can do whatever we want.

The current voting rights restoration process requires former felons who have completed their full sentences to petition the Executive Clemency Board, which consists of the Governor, Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer and Commissioner of Agriculture. Once they have applied, they must wait an indeterminate amount of time to be placed on the Board’s quarterly meeting agenda. The suit says this can take as long as 10 years for some applicants or months for others. The lawsuit also challenges both the lack of any time limits for making decisions on restoration applications — which the plaintiffs contends is another violation of the 1st Amendment — and the 5- and 7-year post-sentence waiting periods Gov. Scott imposed.

“Our most precious right is the right to vote. Ex-felons should not be denied the opportunity to have their rights restored nor to participate in fair and free elections. Yet, the Florida Clemency Board’s obstruction of restoring voting rights runs counter to everything we as Americans stand for.  This important class action lawsuit will fight to restore these citizens’ right to vote,” stated Theodore Leopold, partner with Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll.

About 1.6 million Floridians are disenfranchised because they were convicted of a felony and have not had their voting rights restored. This includes men and women of all different political parties, races, ethnicities, ages, from cities and rural areas, as well as veterans, small business owners and others.

As of March 1, the backlog of applicants for voting rights restoration stood at 10,513, but the suit alleges that the Clemency Board only hears an average of 52 cases per quarter. “At this rate, if no new applications were submitted, it would take the Clemency Board almost 51 years to hear the entire backlog of applicants,” the plaintiffs write.

The suit also says that the number of applications granted has dropped significantly since Scott took office in 2011, with only 2,488 applications having been granted. Scott’s predecessor, Charlie Crist,  issued revised rules of executive clemency, resulting in 155,133 applications being granted.

Michael Carlson: Don’t trade a tax cut for a tax increase – preserve the salary tax credits for insurers

Michael Carlson

For three decades, Florida has offered insurance companies a highly effective, performance-based tax credit that has resulted in tens of thousands of good jobs being created or imported to our state. Not only does this credit bolster our state’s economy in a transparent, accountable way, it also helps ensure insurance rates for Floridians stay as affordable as possible.

Senate Bill 378 by Sen. Anitere Flores would bring that to an unfortunate end. It would repeal tax credits available to insurers as a way to lower the communications services tax currently levied on telecommunications, video, cable and satellite television and other related services.

Cutting one tax but increasing another is a bad trade that would do more harm than good. It would eliminate tax credits that have been working exactly as intended and sets a bad precedent for other businesses considering a move to Florida based on the availability of similar tax credits. Importantly to consumers and businesses, it would amount to a $300 million tax increase that could translate to higher insurance rates for everyone.

The insurance premium tax credits allow insurers to deduct 15 percent of the employee salary for each job they create or import to Florida from the premium tax they pay each year to the state. For taxpayers, the essential fact is this: Insurers only get the credit if they actually create or import a job. They don’t get a credit for a mere promise of creating jobs. And if the insurance company eliminates the job, they lose the credit.

An independent evaluation of the tax credit in 2013 found it had led to the creation of 40,000 insurance industry-related jobs since 2008 – a tremendous return on the state’s investment. In other words, while many industries were being hit hard and laying off workers during the Great Recession, the insurance industry in Florida was able to create good-paying jobs for Floridians.

Since the recession, Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature have strongly focused on job creation and strategies that promote economic growth in the state. Unquestionably, this credit has contributed to the insurance industry’s considerable investment in Florida. In fact, the insurance industry today touts more than 200,000 jobs that collectively pay about $12 billion in total salaries to workers in Florida.

It’s important to consider that if this successful tax credit is repealed, Florida will be sending a conflicting message to all industries that are thinking about relocating to Florida under the promise of a tax credit like this one, only to watch it get repealed years later. Even worse, eliminating it could send companies out of Florida to a competing state to plant their headquarters or call centers and, quite possibly, to a location that offers the tax credits they thought they would be able to maintain here in Florida.

While periodic review of corporate incentives is reasonable, it would be a mistake to repeal tax credits that have created jobs in Florida and contributed to the economy. We urge lawmakers to reject SB 378 as a shortsighted move that would swap one tax for another and result in higher premiums for all purchasers of insurance.

___

Michael Carlson is the president of the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida, a trade association of insurance companies that provide automobile and homeowners’ property insurance.

Joe Henderson: After Enterprise Florida fight, Rick Scott has little political capital left

Rick Scott went to Tallahassee in 2011 as an outsider. He often has operated like one as well, and not always in a good way.

In a private company, stubborn employees can get fired for standing up to the boss. In politics, though, defiance can be considered a virtue. Eventually, people who vow to run government like a business learn you can’t just issue orders and expect things to get done.

Real democracy can be a free-for-all.

That brings us to the current state of affairs in the capitol city, a time that has the seen the governor behaving less like a CEO and more like a politician trying to win friends and influence people.

To save his most-favored Enterprise Florida agency, the governor put a public campaign that included visits, robo-calls, videos and a public mocking of House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

It didn’t work, at least not yet.

The House dealt the governor a stinging rebuke last week with by passing HB 7005 – or what Scott calls “job-killing legislation” – by an overwhelming 87-28 vote.

Scott responded with a statement reading in part, “Many politicians who voted for these bills say they are for jobs and tourism. But, I want to be very clear – a vote for these bills was a vote to kill tourism and jobs in Florida.”

Everyone waits now to see what happens in the Senate, where Jeff Brandes has a bill that would keep Enterprise Florida but with much greater state oversight. Scott, meanwhile, is keeping up the pressure.

His office sent out eight news releases Monday within 19 minutes touting job gains in cities around the state. He made sure to credit the embattled jobs agency.

It was easy for Scott to get his way when he arrived in Tallahassee on a populist wave, promising to produce jobs and get Florida out of the Great Recession. He certainly wasn’t the only political leader in the land who favored subsidies to jump-start the economy.

Now that those jobs have been created – Scott claims more than 1.3 million overall so far – the mood in Tallahassee has shifted away from what Corcoran calls “corporate welfare.”

That has forced the governor into a defensive posture that he clearly isn’t used to and hasn’t shown evidence yet of mastering.

Meanwhile, the Commerce and Tourism Committee is set to consider a bill from Republican Sen. Tom Lee of Thonotosassa to repeal a program designed to make it easier for pro sports franchises to get state money for stadium projects.

Scott signed that bill in 2014, although an aide was quick to correct me recently when I called it a “pet project” of the governor’s. But, the governor obviously supported the measure and in a statement at the time said, “This sports development program will allow franchises to expand in Florida, and create more jobs and opportunities for Florida families.”

Times have changed, though, so I doubt the governor will spend any political capital now to save that pot of state money for professional sports franchises.

With all his chips in the middle of the table for Enterprise Florida, he likely won’t have much of an appetite to fight for sports teams. Judging from the way things are going, lawmakers probably wouldn’t listen anyway.

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