Rick Scott – Page 4 – Florida Politics

Is Florida drilling off the table?

Enterprise Florida, the state’s business-recruitment agency, expects waters off the Florida coast won’t be included in the Trump administration’s offshore drilling plans, despite U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s warning that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told members of Congress this week that “Florida is still in the process.”

“The secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, in front of the Senate Energy Committee today (Tuesday), has just said very confusingly — but bottom line — Florida is still on the table for drilling off of the coast of Florida,” Nelson said in a prepared statement. “This is exactly the opposite of what the people of Florida want.”

Zinke flew to Tallahassee on Jan. 9, meeting briefly with Scott and reporters, and announced that currently protected parts of the Atlantic Ocean and eastern Gulf of Mexico off Florida would not be included in a federal five-year offshore oil and gas drilling program.

Nelson, who is expected to face a challenge this fall from Scott for his Senate seat, called Zinke’s announcement in January a “political stunt” to further the governor’s career.

On Wednesday, Amy Gowder, vice president and general manager for Lockheed Martin’s Training and Logistics Solutions and a member of the Enterprise Florida board of directors, said officials expect Zinke to keep his word.

“The department has still not revised their maps yet to reflect that agreement, but we expect a report that is due to Congress by the end of the month,” Gowder told members of an Enterprise Florida committee.

As with Nelson, Enterprise Florida views potential drilling as a threat to military installations and the state’s multibillion-dollar tourism industry.

Rick Scott picks Gators over Seminoles in March Madness bracket

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has picked Florida to win the NCAA March Madness college basketball tournament by beating Florida State in the championship, after the Seminoles oust the Miami Hurricanes in the Final Four.

For the most part, the governor selected favorites in almost every game. That included Florida and Miami in the first round. After that, Florida, Florida State and Miami then win upsets in each round to reach the Final Four, with Florida State defeating top-seed Xavier in the second round; Miami beating top-seed Virginia in the Elite Eight round; and Florida defeating top-seed Villanova in the Elite Eight. Scott’s fourth Final Four team is Duke, which he has upsetting top-seed Kansas in the Elite Eight before losing to the Gators.

Florida, the sixth seed in the East Bracket, is 20-12. Florida State, the ninth seed in the West Bracket, is 20-11. Miami, the sixth seed in the South Bracket, is 22-9.

Jacksonville Bold for 3.16.18 — Bottom line

The 2018 Legislative Session finally wrapped. Now, in front of us, the madcap dash to the 2018 primaries in August is about to hit full stride.

For Jacksonville area voters, especially Democrats, these are exciting times. From competitive races for Congress to state Senate and state House, there are choices on the ballot. And narratives.

The hanky drops; now the post-mortem begins. Photo credit: Hali Tauxe of the Tallahassee Democrat.

We will have them all for you in the coming months.

Speaking of that Legislative Session, Jacksonville did relatively well — $12.5 million, to be precise, for the Talleyrand Connector.

And we even have good news on other topics … including the right to yell DUUUUUUU-VALL … which (apparently) was in doubt.

Northeast Florida among Session’s big winners

Nobody expected a tragedy like Parkland to suck all the oxygen out of the Legislature’s Regular Session. Lobbyists were left scrambling to save their clients’ priorities as lawmakers hustled to rejigger the budget to accommodate hundreds of millions of dollars for school safety and mental health initiatives.

Some survived, many did not; although that’s no different from any other 60-day tumble in the Capitol.

That said, the past year has been an eventful one for Northeast Florida: Rob Bradley became Appropriations Chairman and performed like a seasoned professional. Future House Speaker Paul Renner capably handled his chamber’s tax package. Sen. Travis Hutson took some major steps toward becoming a future presiding officer.

Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley (shown here with Denise Grimsley) is one of the reasons Northeast Florida is in the win column.

And don’t forget Sen. Audrey Gibson, who ascended to the role of Leader-designate of the Senate Democrats.

If only there were a Jacksonville-based lobbying firm that works with them all … oh wait, there is — The Fiorentino Group, as well as Southern Strategy Group’s Matt Brockelman and Deno Hicks.

Lawson talks access to capital in Jacksonville

At the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Monday Morning, Rep. Al Lawson and Rep. James Comer helmed a Congressional field hearing for the Small Business Committee regarding access to capital disparities.

Access to capital disparities disproportionately impact female and minority-owned businesses, and the hearing in Jacksonville was intended to discuss potential remedies to the challenge.

Al Lawson noted these conversations are happening throughout the country.

“Capital is the lifeblood of any business,” Lawson said, noting that the average African-American startup is 18 percent less likely than white business owners to get help from the lending industry.

“Investors are predisposed to a preference to people who are similar to them,” Lawson added, and to that end, Monday’s hearing was intended to help women and minority-owned businesses voice their needs in the marketplace.

Brown appeals conviction

For great moments in ironic ledes, check out this chestnut from Roll Call:

The similarities between former House members and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famers are few. But disgraced former Rep. Corrine Brown of Florida and Jon Bon Jovi are both livin’ on a prayer.

Gotta hold on to what we’ve got …

Last week, Brown’s attorney filed a 76-page appeal to her conviction on fraud and tax evasion charges, saying the judge in the case wrongfully removed a juror who claimed a “higher power” told him Brown was not guilty,

“The district court reversibly erred when it questioned a juror who had voted to acquit Congresswoman Brown,” the appeal states, “and then dismissed the juror over [a] defense objection based on nothing more than the juror having prayed for guidance and [believing] that he received guidance from the Holy Spirit that Congresswoman Brown was not guilty.”

Appeals on these grounds so far have flopped, and this one likely will also. Notable: prosecutors objected to the motion, saying it went over word count.

Fundraisers for Levine, Gillum

Two major Democratic candidates for Governor plan Jacksonville-area stops this week, as fundraising efforts continue for the August primary.

Philip Levine plans a “cocktail party” event Thursday evening, with a nascent host committee including Mark Frisch, Matt Kane and Ted Stein, among others.

The event honoring the Miami Beach Mayor will be at the Beaches Museum in Jacksonville Beach and will kick off at 6 p.m.

Philip Levine and Andrew Gillum will each be passing the hat in Jacksonville.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum will have his own Jacksonville area event as well, from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, at the home of Erica and Colin Connor in Ponte Vedra Beach.

A minimum $50 buy-in is requested to attend the Gillum affair.

Levine and Gillum have had different approaches to campaign finance in this campaign.

Levine has spent over $4.6 million of personal funds on his campaign.

Gillum, without recourse to that kind of personal wealth, has had slower fundraising than other significant candidates and had just under $800,000 cash on hand.

Talleyrand Connector cash leads budget haul

Unless Gov. Rick Scott casts a surprising veto, it looks as if Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry will get state money for the “Talleyrand Connector,” which tears down the current Hart Bridge offramps that would activate Bay Street and help traffic flow to the port.

The Talleyrand Connector: Jacksonville’s big budget win in 2018.

As the Florida Times-Union reported, $12.5 million of state money made it into the budget. Curry had personally lobbied regional and state power brokers and the capital moved from a $1 million placeholder to the full appropriation sought.

Jacksonville still seeks other money — specifically, $25 million from the Feds for an infrastructure grant — but city officials tell us that they could begin the project with the state money regardless.

By far, the Talleyrand money was the most prominent get from the state in this year’s budget.

For a deep dive into how Jacksonville got that money, read more here.

So handy

The Tampa Bay Times took a look at a last-minute move from Sen. Bradley that benefited a client of lobbyist Brian Ballard.

Handy workers: independent contractors after all.

“The amendment created a new chapter of the Florida statutes for online handyman services like Handy. The new statutes make clear that the handymen used by Handy are independent contractors, not employees.”

“Senators approved it after barely 10 minutes of discussion. Immediately after, Sen. Dennis Baxley … walked across the Senate floor to shake Bradley’s hand,” the Times article asserted.

“I don’t think anybody’s rights or responsibilities changed with what we did,” Bradley said. “What we did is ensure that there will not be litigation on these questions.”

Record dings Hutson for last-minute ‘stealth annexation’ try

Sen. Hutson ran afoul of the St. Augustine Record this week for attempting to move some St. Johns County land that is part of the Nocatee land tract to Duval County.

The Record wondered why Travis Hutson was trying to pad Duval tax rolls.

The reason: The owners of the land (the Davises of Winn-Dixie fame) want the property in Duval.

The charge: “Nocatee has been given a pass by County Commissioners over the years to gut the affordable and workforce housing components and to renege on all its plans to put commercial property within the development. Perhaps more correctly, Nocatee is locating nearly all its commercial component into the sliver of land that juts into Duval County. Apparently, Duval might be considerably more zoning and impact fee-affable than we are.”

The plan failed this session … however, the Record vows vigilance.

“Much more likely is they saw that the window for approval was closing too quickly — and word got out. Better to quietly yank if from the bill and find another way to skin that cat next session. We bet they’ll be trying. You can bet we’ll be watching.”

Slow February in legislative fundraising

February offered a unique opportunity for people running against incumbents, who can’t fundraise during the Legislative Session, to make up ground in fundraising.

But — at least in competitive Northeast Florida races — they didn’t take up the gauntlet.

Some examples:

SD 6: Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown raised no money in February, his first month challenging Sen. Audrey Gibson for the Democratic Party nomination. Gibson, who couldn’t raise money, has $121,410 on hand.

Reggie Brown has some ground to make up in SD 6.

HD 12: Republican Clay Yarborough has over $122,000 on hand, despite not being able to fundraise in February. Democrat Tim Yost, who did fundraise in February, brought in $1,429 and had $3,300 cash on hand.

HD 13: Incumbent Democrat Tracie Davis has $35,715 on hand; her intraparty challenger, Roshanda Jackson, was in the race for five days in February and spent not one of them fundraising.

Read more here.

Council fundraising continues

With roughly a year before first elections in 2019 Jacksonville City Council races, now’s a good time to take a look at fundraising in selected races through February.

With $8,400 of new money in February, Matt Carlucci, a former Council Republican running for at-large Group 4, is still the clubhouse leader with just over $221,000 raised. Carlucci’s opponent, fellow former Council Republican Don Redman, has a lot of ground to make up. Word on the street is there will be more candidates in this one.

Can Don Redman make up the cash gap with Matt Carlucci? Doubtful.

As we reported last week, Republican Ron Salem has over $150,000 on hand in at-large Group 2. This number puts him well ahead of former Jacksonville Councilman Bill Bishop. Bishop raised just $2,000 and has just over $13,200 on hand. Democrat Darren Mason only entered the race in March.

In Jacksonville City Council District 14, Democrat Sunny Gettinger showed respectable first-month fundraising numbers in February, bringing in over $34,000. Gettinger still has a way to go to catch Republican Randy DeFoor, who raised $4,350 in March, and has nearly $90,000 on hand.

Read more here.

National attention for New Hope

The Florida Times-Union spotlights one of Jacksonville’s best-known nonprofits, Operation New Hope.

The Donald Trump administration has taken notice. Weeks after CEO Kevin Gay met with Jared Kushner to talk prison re-entry, the Springfield group hosted HUD Secretary Ben Carson doing a roundtable with former inmates who reformed their lives and got jobs with JAXPORT.

Ben Carson was in Jacksonville, all because of prison reform.

“It is the most bipartisan issue that our country has now,” Gay said. “Our country just needs something that we can all come around on. I don’t care where you are on the spectrum. Who can argue with improving public safety?”

As Florida Politics reported last week, Carson’s comments were a breath of fresh air from a Republican administration that postures as a law and order shop. Carson spoke at length about the penal system’s effects on young black men.

“Purely looking at the cost of someone who is incarcerated versus someone who is trying to bolster the economy,” Carson noted, “the difference is night and day. When we start to think about it that way, what it costs to train somebody, what it costs for someone to go to college, it costs more to keep somebody incarcerated.”

“It’s also costing us their own positive contributions and one of the things we need to realize about our young people is that we have so many in our penal system, particularly young black males, is that for every one we can keep from going down that path of self-destruction, it’s one less person we need to be afraid of or protect our family from,” Carson added.

Pinto named ’40 under 40′

This week, the Jacksonville Business Journal named Mark Pinto of the Fiorentino Group among 40 of Northeast Florida’s brightest, most promising professionals under the age of 40.

Congrats to Mark Pinto, one of Jacksonville’s ’40 under 40.’

In 2012, Pinto served as the Special Assistant to then-Republican Party of Florida Chair Curry, where he worked with House and Senate Leadership, members of the Florida Cabinet, and the Governor’s Office.

Pinto began his political career with Florida Senate President-designate Bill Galvano of Bradenton during his tenure as Rules Chair of the Florida House. He worked on Galvano’s first political campaign and served as his aide in the House.

Prior to his service in the House, Pinto worked for former Congressman Dan Miller, also from Bradenton, and has been active in local, state, and national politics, and has volunteered and raised funds for numerous political campaigns. He also recently served on the St. Johns County Chamber Economic Development Council.

Fanatics owner mulls NFL team purchase

Jacksonville’s Fanatics had all but cornered the market on licensed sports apparel. And soon, its owner may be moving from clothing to owning a franchise.

Per the Florida Times-Union: Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin is seriously interested in making a run at owning the Carolina Panthers.

The Carolina Panthers are up for sale, and the new owner may have a local connection.

“Rubin would be entering a somewhat crowded field of bidders for the Panthers, who were put up for sale by owner Jerry Richardson late last year following allegations of inappropriate workplace conduct. According to ESPN, other bidders include a hedge fund billionaire and the founder and CEO of a debt collection firm.”

“Rubin, 45, is worth an estimated $3 billion by Forbes and would be a familiar name to the league’s other owners. Last May, the NFL invested $95 million for a 3 percent stake in Fanatics. That deal boosted Fanatics’ value to more than $3.17 billion at the time.”


Another piece of football news. In March, no less.

First Coast News reports that “The Jaguars, who caught flak from local groups after trademarking the phrase, “Duuuval,” have seemingly dropped the trademark tag from their social media after receiving criticism for the move.”

It belongs to the world now.

From the Jags: “It’s important to note that the Jaguars have not submitted an application to register the wordmark ‘DUUUVAL.’ The only actions taken to date were intended to protect our ability to continue to use this specific wordmark to promote our fan base and our team in the future, given that it became associated with our fans and the team on a national level this past season. In addition, even if we were to seek trademark registration, it would not prohibit any fan from continuing to say or use the word Duval in general.”

Long story short, keep yelling it from the mountaintop.

New state budget lands on Rick Scott’s desk

The clock is now ticking on Gov. Rick Scott to act on his final state budget.

The Legislature sent a newly passed $88.7 billion fiscal plan to the governor’s office Wednesday, giving Scott 15 days to decide the line-by-line fate of how lawmakers want to spend money, from big-ticket items such as education and health care to numerous local projects backed by individual lawmakers.

Asked when Scott might act on the budget, a spokesman responded Wednesday in an email, “We’ll keep you updated on this.”

The budget (HB 5001), which was approved by the House and Senate on Sunday, was among 47 bills formally sent Wednesday to Scott, who cannot seek a third term in November.

The 452-page budget, among other things, would increase public-school funding by $101.50 per student, provide $100.8 million for the Florida Forever land preservation program and offer a $130 million increase in Medicaid funding for nursing homes. The spending plan will take effect July 1, the start of the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

Last year, Scott used his line-item veto pen to slash $410 million in projects across the state, saying they failed to “provide a great return for Florida families.”

Included on the 2017 chopping block were $20.9 million for citrus-canker payments in Broward County and $16.5 million for similar payments in Lee County.

Legislators had agreed to pay the money to compensate residents in a class-action suit who had lost orange, grapefruit and other citrus trees as part of a Florida Department of Agriculture program to stop the spread of deadly citrus-canker disease. Attorneys for the homeowners raised property-rights arguments in challenging the department’s actions, and a judgment was entered in 2008.

Scott wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner that he vetoed the citrus-canker money due to ongoing litigation.

Legislators this year included $22 million for citrus-canker payments in Broward County and $30 million for similar payments in Palm Beach County.

Along with the budget, other bills that reached Scott desk on Wednesday included:

– HB 21, which would take a series of steps to try to curb the state’s opioid crisis. The bill includes limiting opioid prescriptions to three or seven days for many patients.

– HB 1165, which would revamp state laws about approving trauma centers. The bill comes after years of legal and regulatory fights about new trauma centers.

– HB 1011, which would require homeowners’ insurance policies to make clear that they do not cover flood damages and that policyholders might need to consider buying flood insurance.

– HB 7099, which would ratify a rule requiring nursing homes to have generators and 72 hours of fuel. The Scott administration issued the rule after the deaths of Broward County nursing-home residents following Hurricane Irma.

– HB 1013, which would seek to keep Florida on daylight saving time throughout the year.

– HB 155, which would designate Florida cracker cattle as the official state heritage cattle breed.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Prescription price transparency bill gets praise

A bill approved by the lawmakers in the final days of the 2018 Legislative Session could save Floridians some money next time they pick up a prescription.

HB 351, sponsored by Deltona Republican Rep. David Santiago, aims to bring some pricing transparency to the pharmacy by giving customers the right to know if they could shave a few bucks off their tab by switching to a generic medication, even if they’d have to pay out of pocket.

Under current law, pharmacists are sometimes barred from letting customers know whether they’re getting a fair shake when they pick up their scripts due to deals with pharmacy benefit managers – intermediaries that connect drug manufacturers, insurers, pharmacies, and patients.

Santiago’s bill would prohibit PBMs from keeping pharmacists silent about drug pricing information.

HB 351 received unanimous support in both the House and Senate and is ready for a signature from Gov. Rick Scott.

The measure’s passage was celebrated by the Florida Society of Rheumatology, which said that last week that lawmakers “took a strong stand for the millions of Floridians who use prescription medications every year.”

“Floridians deserve the ability to know when they can pay less for a drug that they need, and this legislation is a major victory for patients by removing the gag order that prevented them from saving money on prescription medications to treat their health needs,” said Robert Levin, a physician and president of the group.

“With this legislation, we are essentially lifting the curtain on a complex and costly process where pharmacy benefit managers were in the driver’s seat making treatment decisions and profiting at the expense of patients.”

Levin also urged Scott to sign the bill, calling him a “long-time champion for Florida’s families.”

In addition to ending such “gag orders,” HB 351 would require PBMs to give the Office of Insurance Regulation a copy of their corporate charter, including a list of each officer, and pay a $500 fee to conduct business in the Sunshine State.

Annie Jae Filkowski: Fake women’s health centers deceive women

In March 2014, I was 16 years old and scared because there was a chance I was experiencing an unexpected pregnancy.

Due to a lack of sex education throughout my years in public school and fear of asking my mom about the birds and the bees, I was ignorant about sexual health and forms of contraception. I was anxious, confused and didn’t know where to go.

Every day on my way to school I would pass a Community Pregnancy Center, sometimes called a CPC. I did not know much about this facility, except it advertised on the side of its building: “FREE PREGNANCY TESTING.” I thought maybe this was a legitimate health facility that could help me.

So, after a few days of mustering up the courage, I entered the center with a friend.

I learned quickly this was not a legitimate health care provider — even though the Florida Legislature wants you to think it is. These fake women’s health centers advertise free pregnancy testing and pregnancy-options education, but they oppose abortion and contraception and therefore will not provide comprehensive counseling or referrals.

The Florida Legislature passed House Bill 41, legislation that would permanently send millions in tax dollars to these fake women’s health centers that oppose abortion and judge, shame and intentionally try to trick women.

Their advertising and outward appearances are frequently calculated to deceive women into believing they will be able to access a full range of reproductive health care services, which is exactly why I walked in. I assumed at first the women at the front desk were nurses.

They asked why I was there and responded in an almost sympathetic manner when I shared my story. They then took me to a room that looked more like a therapist’s office than an exam room and included two couches, a tissue box and a Bible.

A woman came in and asked me questions such as: “If you are pregnant, do you know who the father is?” “What’s his full name?” “What’s the extent of your relationship?”

She added, “You aren’t supposed to have sex until marriage, but if you do, you should be in love and in a committed relationship.”

These questions were shaming, and I struggled to understand how a legitimate health care provider could operate like this.

Then, before she would give me back my pregnancy-test results she asked me another question: “What is your religious affiliation?” I was shocked, answered the question, reminded her why I was there and asked her for the result of my pregnancy test.

It was negative.

After, she began a lesson on abstinence and shared how I still can be “saved” despite the “mistakes” I have made. She gave me brochures about abstinence, Christianity, adoption and medically inaccurate information about abortion.

At the end of it all, she reminded me that she had all of my private information and would be notifying my family of my visit. So much for patient confidentiality.

I oppose HB 41 because I care deeply about women and feel no person should be lied to or feel judged or shamed when accessing health care. When faced with the possibility of an unintended pregnancy, women deserve unbiased, medically accurate information about all of their options.

We should not be judged, shamed and threatened. Our elected officials should not be legitimizing these fake clinics, nor should they be sending them millions in tax dollars, a scheme HB 41 makes permanent in law.

The best way to prevent unintended pregnancies is with contraception and medically accurate information around sexual health. However, this legislation denies women the full range of reproductive health care, is politically motivated and hurtful to women and families.

If Gov. Rick Scott cares about being a good steward of our tax dollars and supports deception-free, comprehensive, medically accurate women’s health care, he will veto HB 41.


Annie Jae Filkowski is a student at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg, where she majors in political science and law studies.

Rick Scott non-committal on whether he’ll veto Jacksonville Talleyrand Connector funds

Jacksonville’s biggest priority in the 2018 state budget came through in the form of $12.5 million for the Talleyrand Connector.

The money, which is a full 25 percent of that needed for a project that would include tearing down Hart Bridge offramps to both route traffic onto Bay Street and facilitate truck traffic to the Jacksonville port, was something for which Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry lobbied both state lawmakers and the Governor in late January.

Yet, despite Curry having made the case to him personally, Scott wouldn’t commit Tuesday to not vetoing the money from the budget.

“So the budget came out on Sunday. We’re starting the process to review the budget. I look through it line by line. There’s about 4,000 lines to the budget, and my goal is to make sure all taxpayers get a return on those investments,” Scott said before wrapping the gaggle.

Scott was in Jacksonville signing a couple of bills that would benefit veterans.

The other highlight of the Tuesday gaggle was the Governor’s defense of a gun control bill he signed Sunday, one that now sees the state sued by the National Rifle Association.

University money could help draw top researchers

Florida universities will share $151 million in funding next academic year that will allow them to recruit top-level researchers and improve professional and graduate schools.

The Legislature, in a budget passed Sunday, increased funding for the World Class Faculty and Scholar Program by $20 million to a total of $91 million and the State University Professional and Graduate Degree Excellence Program by $10 million to a total of $60 million.

At the same time, Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation (SB 4) that will make the world-class faculty and professional-degree programs a permanent part of the funding formula for the 12 state universities.

Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican who made the “Excellence in Higher Education Act” one of his priorities, said codifying the new programs and other provisions in the law, including using four-year graduation rates to measure university performance, give “the universities tools they need to better serve students and increase their accountability.”

“I believe Florida taxpayers will see a return worthy of their investment as more Florida students attend our own universities, complete degree programs on-time and then graduate with job opportunities in high-demand fields needed in our growing communities,” Negron said in a statement when Scott signed the bill on Sunday.

Funding in the world-class faculty program is targeted toward the recruitment and retention of top professors and researchers, including making “cluster hires” of key research groups. The money can also be used to increase the commercialization of university research, support undergraduate research and pay for postdoctoral fellowships.

Under the law, universities must report annually on their use of the funding and its results.

The $20 million increase in the program will boost funding at each school, ranging from $3.45 million at the University of Florida to $201,000 at Florida Polytechnic University, the state’s newest school.

With the increase, funding for the schools is expected to total: UF, $16.8 million; Florida State University, $15 million; the University of Central Florida, $14.6 million; the University of South Florida, $13.45 million; Florida International University, $9.3 million; Florida Atlantic University, $5.7 million; the University of North Florida, $4.1 million; Florida Gulf Coast University, $3.2 million; New College of Florida, $2.7 million; Florida A&M University, $2.6 million; the University of West Florida, $2.6 million; and Florida Polytechnic, $860,000.

The professional degree program is aimed at boosting the quality of Florida’s medical, law and graduate business schools. The money can be used to hire faculty, recruit students, increase research and “other strategic endeavors to elevate the national and global prominence” of the schools.

The schools must also report on the use of the funds and the outcomes annually.

The $10 million increase in the professional degree program will boost funding for the schools next year, ranging from $2.8 million at UF to $125,000 at the University of West Florida. Florida Polytechnic and New College, which have limited graduate offerings, do not participate in the program.

With the increase, funding for the schools is expected to total: UF, $16.7 million; Florida State, $11.3 million; Florida International, $10.9 million; the University of South Florida, $6.9 million; the University of Central Florida, $5.2 million; Florida Atlantic, $2.7 million; Florida A&M, $2.3 million; the University of North Florida, $1.8 million; Florida Gulf Coast, $1.6 million; and the University of West Florida, $750,000.

In the face of NRA lawsuit, Rick Scott proud of gun control bill

The Legislative Session ended with a flourish from the National Rifle Association: a lawsuit against the state for the newly-passed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.

The law bars most groups of people under 21 from buying guns, mandates a three-day waiting period before buying a firearm, bans bump stocks, could arm some school personnel, mandates a law enforcement presence in schools, and allows police to confiscate guns from people perceived to be a threat.

Gov. Rick Scott, up until the bill passed, enjoyed NRA acclamation; in the wake of the bill signing, Scott has been criticized from the right for what is perceived to be gun control legislation.

In Jacksonville on Tuesday, Scott stood his ground.

“I’m proud of what the Legislature did,” Scott told reporters. “I worked with the Legislature to pass a bill that would improve school safety. I asked them to come back with a bill that is going to increase the amount of law enforcement officers at schools. All schools will have law enforcement officers. They did that.”

“I said I need a bill that’s going to increase hardening in our schools, safety in our schools; they did that. I said I need a bill that’s going to say we’re going to have more mental health counselors to help the individuals struggling with mental illness in our schools. They did that,” Scott said.

“I also said that if you are an individual struggling with mental illness, or you threatened others or yourself, you shouldn’t have access to a gun. They did that,” Scott added.

“I’m an NRA member. I’m going to continue to be an NRA member. I believe in the Second Amendment,” Scott continued. “There’s three branches of government. I’m going to continue to fight for this legislation.”

In addition to fighting for the legislation despite the NRA legal challenge, Scott is also attempting to get help from U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee members today regarding inaction on tips about Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz.

“The Governor spoke to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to urge them to push for answers from the FBI on their inaction after receiving multiple, credible tips regarding Nikolas Cruz. The FBI has failed to hold anyone accountable. The Governor strongly believes that victims and their families deserve answers,” said McKinley P. Lewis, Scott’s Deputy Communications Director

Also on hand at the Jacksonville event: Rep. Jay Fant, a candidate for Attorney General who opposed the bill in the Legislature.

Fant said the bill presents a “true constitutional question.”

“As Attorney General, my policy would be to see that portion of the law rescinded,” Fant said.

The age restrictions strike Fant as the most “inflammatory” part of the legislation.

“From a leadership standpoint, I’ve not been a big fan of that aspect of the school safety bill. We’ll have to see what happens,” Fant said,

Fant noted that, as opposed to his position on the legislation, the current Attorney General was “quite favorable toward the bill” before it became law.

“These are true constitutional issues. These aren’t regular bills. These are the Bill of Rights. So it’s a different stratosphere for analysis,” Fant added.

Workers’ comp, health care bills go to Rick Scott

Three health care-related bills, including one to expand workers’ compensation insurance benefits for injured first responders, were sent Monday to Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott will have until March 27 to sign, veto or allow the bills to become law without his signature. The bills passed during the Legislative Session that ended Sunday.

One of the measures (SB 376) would expand benefits for police officers, firefighters, emergency-medical technicians and paramedics who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder because they have witnessed the death of a minor or witnessed a death that involved “grievous bodily harm of a nature that shocks the conscience.”

State Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, a Scott appointee and supporter of the bill, said last week that Scott would sign it into law.

Scott also received a bill (SB 660), which would broaden a law that exempts health-care sharing ministries from Florida’s insurance codes. The bill, if signed by Scott, would benefit some large health-care ministries, including Melbourne-based Christian Care Ministries and its health care cost-sharing program known as Medi-Share.

Last year, Medi-Share, which promotes itself as “God-honoring healthcare” served 300,000 members nationwide who agreed to attest to a “statement of faith” that, among other things, said the Bible is “God’s written revelation to man and is verbally inspired.”

The Legislature also sent to Scott an Agency for Health Care Administration bill (SB 622), that would change how the state regulates hospitals, assisted living facilities and clinical laboratories.

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