Rick Scott – Page 4 – Florida Politics

Back to the beach: Rick Scott issues order protecting public access

Thursday saw Gov. Rick Scott issue an executive order protecting the public’s access to the beaches, days after two women left a Fort Walton Beach after law enforcement invoked a beach-access restriction bill, HB 631to ask them to leave.

The theory behind the enforcement action: that parts of what were formerly considered public beaches by customary use were equivalent to homeowners’ backyards.

Scott’s executive order effectively negates the controversial bill.

“Last session, HB631 was passed with overwhelming support from both Democrats and Republicans. Unfortunately, the legislation has now created considerable confusion and some have even interpreted it as restricting beach access,” Scott lamented.

“Today, I am ordering the Department of Environmental Protection to do everything in their power to advocate to keep our beaches open and public. Also, I am putting a moratorium on any new state regulation that could inhibit public beach access and also urging local government officials to take similar steps to protect Floridians’ access to the beach,” Scott added.

State Attorneys are also compelled, by the order, to protect public access to the beach.

The move was instantly snarked by the Florida Democratic Party.

“While it is welcome news that Floridians could now be able to access their beaches without fear of prosecution, this is yet another example of how Rick Scott will say and do anything to get elected,” snarked spox Nate Evans.

“Scott literally just signed the law that allowed residents to restrict beach access. These election year actions remind Floridians that Rick Scott has spent the past seven years as governor looking out for himself at the expense of Florida,” Evans added.

Lake O releases to resume Friday

Freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries as a means of managing regional flood risks will resume Friday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Jacksonville announced.

The anticipated announcement comes as politicians continue to blame each other for the toxic algae outbreaks in the estuaries.

After touring impacted waters in Southwest Florida on Monday, Gov. Rick Scott issued an emergency order for Glades, Hendry, Lee, Martin, Okeechobee, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties over the reemergence of toxic algae outbreaks on both coasts, which residents believe are caused by the releases.

“We acknowledge the multiple challenges in this system including this summer’s extensive algal blooms,” Col. Jason Kirk, Jacksonville District commander with the Army Corps of Engineers, said in a press release Thursday. “Through our federal-state dike rehabilitation and Everglades restoration efforts, along with the state and local community investments to control nutrients from the lake and adjacent waterways, we are collective on the path to remedying these multiple challenges.”

In response to Scott’s order, the South Florida Water Management District on Thursday announced it had started to lower water levels in conservation areas as a way to send more water south from the lake.

“These pumps will increase the capacity of water that can be moved out of Water Conservation Area 3B into Shark River Slough and into Everglades National Park by up to 200 cubic feet per second,” a release from the district stated. “Additionally, numerous other permanent and temporary pumps are currently being operated by the District 24 hours a day to move more water out of the conservation areas.”

In addition to increasing the flow into Everglades National Park, which will also start Friday, the water management district will slow flows into the lake from the Kissimmee River and other points north of the river, while moving as much water as possible into other storage areas on the south side of the lake.

The Army Corps had suspended releases into the St. Lucie Estuary on June 30 and into the Caloosahatchee Estuaries on Sunday so a full assessment of system conditions could be undertaken.

The lake level neared 14.5 feet on Thursday, the third highest for this date in 11 years. The lake level has increased more than a foot-and-a-half since May 13 due to record rainfalls. Rain over the past two weeks has caused the lake level to rise just over two inches.

Kirk said the discharges will operate below the limits allowed in the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule for the next two weeks.

“We will implement pulse releases with variable flows that simulate rainfall events in an effort to reduce some of the environmental impacts,” he said in the release.

The Army Corps’ move to limit water levels in the lake is intended to reduce the chance of a major breach of the Herbert Hoover Dike, which is basically a 30-foot-high earthen structure that surrounds the lake. Last week, the corps said that $514.2 million is heading toward repairs of the dike.

The toxic blooms have sparked a political firestorm and erupted into major finger pointing by local, state and federal officials operatives.

Palm Beach real estate magnate Jeff Greene, who is running as a Democrat for governor, called the latest algae outbreak “a direct result of the system collapsing after 20 years of Republican leadership” after taking his own tour of the waters on Wednesday.

Scott, who is trying to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, has blamed his opponent for failing to push Congress to act on water issues affecting South Florida.

New Senate Majority PAC ad targets Rick Scott’s health care record

A new ad by Senate Majority PAC (SMP) is hammering Gov. Rick Scott‘s record on health care, while claiming incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is the right choice in the 2018 race for U.S. Senate.

SMP is a partisan group that aims to elect Democrats to the Senate. Its 30-second ad features Dr. David Woolsey, identified in the ad as a Florida ER doctor. Online records show he’s an internist affiliated with Miami Veterans Affairs Healthcare System.

“We’ve got an opioid crisis, a doctor shortage, seniors struggling to pay for care,” Woolsey says.

“But even with all that, Rick Scott vetoed millions in healthcare funds and refused federal funds that would’ve covered 750,000 Floridians.”

Woolsey then praises Nelson’s efforts, advocating for the Democrat to hold his Senate seat.

“Bill Nelson took on insurance companies, forcing them to cover people with pre-existing conditions. And he’s working to lower costs and get more people covered – not less.”

Woolsey adds, “That’s the difference. Scott puts insurance companies first. Bill Nelson puts Florida first.”

The Rick Scott campaign hit back at the ad in a statement. “Outside democratic groups can keep trying to paint a picture of Bill Nelson as a champion for healthcare in Florida, but ultimately, Nelson’s actions speak louder than words,” said Scott campaign Press Secretary Lauren Schenone.

“Bill Nelson continues to talk a lot about the issues without taking real action to fix anything. This misleading ad is only the latest disappointing example of Bill Nelson caring more about what he says than what he actually does for our state.”

The ad will be aired statewide. Chris Hayden, spokesperson for SMP, also added a statement criticizing Scott’s record.

“A governor who badly managed Florida’s health care system cannot be trusted to represent Florida in the United States Senate,” said Hayden.

“The only candidate in this race who has continuously stood up to the insurance companies and fought for coverage for all Floridians is Bill Nelson, and he is the only candidate that will always put Florida first.”

It’s no surprise a PAC designed to support Democrats is supporting the Democrat in this race. Voters have been more conflicted, with polls showing the two candidates switching spots in the lead.

RealClearPolitics, a site which aggregates available polling, gives Scott a two-point edge in the race overall.

Hope scholarships begin with funding delay

The Florida Board of Education next week is expected to approve a rule outlining how a new scholarship program for bullied students will work.

But while the Hope Scholarship program, approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott earlier this year, begins with the new school year, there will not be any funds for the program until sometime after Oct. 1.

The delayed funding for the scholarships may lead to an uneven start for the program, which will allow students who are victims of bullying or other types of harassment to use the scholarships to attend private schools or to transfer to another public school.

A preliminary estimate by state analysts projects 7,302 Hope scholarships will be awarded in the 2018-19 school year, with some $27 million in funding. As dictated by the new law, the scholarships will be handed out on a “first-come, first-served” basis.

But the first key question is how much scholarship money will be available.

The program will be funded by voluntary contributions made by Floridians when they buy new or used vehicles. Beginning Oct. 1, motorists will be able shift up to $105 from the sales tax they would normally pay on the vehicle transactions to the Hope scholarship program.

However, state analysts and officials with Step Up For Students, the nonprofit organization that will handle the scholarship program, said the initial sales tax money may not be available until Nov. 20. That’s because car dealers, like other businesses that collect the state sales tax, have 20 days to submit their prior month tax collections.

“We really have no idea,” said Ron Matus, a spokesman for Step Up For Students, referring to the number of Hope scholarships that could be awarded this school year. “This is a brand-new program. I don’t think anybody really knows what the demand is going to be.”

Matus said a variety of factors will have an impact on the start of the new scholarship program, including the amount of the voluntary tax donations as well as the number of students and their parents who want to use the scholarships.

The law identifies more than a dozen incidents, including bullying, harassment, fighting, assault, robbery and intimidation, which would make students eligible for the Hope scholarships.

Once an incident is reported to a school principal, the school district must notify the student’s parents within 15 days or upon the completion of the investigation, whichever occurs first, about the scholarship opportunity.

Those reports may start coming in next month, when Florida’s 2.8 million students in the kindergarten-through-high-school system return to their classrooms.

But Matus said, given the delay in the funding, it may be some time before Step Up For Students starts taking applications for the scholarships.

“We haven’t determined yet when we will start taking applications,” Matus said. “It probably won’t be for a few months when we get closer to that time when we can actually start raising money.”

However, he said his organization was already getting inquiries from parents about the program.

“We started keeping an interest list because we have had parents ask about it,” Matus said.

The scholarships, which are based on the statewide per-student funding level, would be worth more than $7,112 for high school students for a full year, $6,816 for middle school and $6,519 for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

But since the funding is not expected to be available until Nov. 20 or later, state analysts project some 14 weeks of the new school year will be completed, leaving 22 weeks for the scholarships. The delay would reduce the amounts in the first year to $4,346 for the high school students, $4,165 for middle school and $3,984 for the elementary school students.

In addition to using the state-funded scholarships to attend a private school, the Hope program would also let students attend another public school, providing up to $750 in transportation costs. That amount would be reduced to $458 in the first year because of the delayed funding.

The state projects 6,858 Hope scholarships will be awarded in the 2019-20 academic year, which would be the first full year for the program, including more than $40 million in funding.

Democratic legislators weigh in on #AbolishICE

At least one Democrat between the state House and Senate is calling for the abolishment of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE. Other Democrats, meanwhile, are hesitant to say ‘abolish,’ but seem to agree that the scope of the agency’s work should be revisited and narrowed.

Calls to stop the agency began as a distant battle cry of the far left, but amid recent turmoil sparked by reports of the Trump administration’s embrace of the practice of separating detained immigrants from their children and fueled by reports of ICE raids across the country, pushes to disband the agency have gained somewhat-mainstream traction among staunch opponents of the country’s immigration laws.

Florida Politics reached out to several Democrats in the state Legislature, including both minority offices, for their takes.

Orlando Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith said he supports “the abolishment and restructuring of ICE in its current form” — the strongest statement against the agency provided to Florida Politics.

He said ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have “become police and child separation agencies, known for terrorizing our communities and tearing families apart.” That’s a departure and a deterrent from what Smith claims even the employees acknowledge as their primary responsibilities: tracking down “drug cartel leaders, child pornographers and human traffickers.”

“Border security and compassion are not mutually exclusive, which is why I support the abolishment and restructuring of ICE in its current form,” concluded Smith.

Smith’s statement echoed that of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s notice earlier this week that he supports a “comprehensive immigration overhaul that includes abolishment of ICE in its current form to be replaced with a more compassionate and focused agency that actually keeps us safer.”

Gillum, a Democratic candidate for governor, has attempted to stake claim to being the progressive option for primary Democratic voters. Smith, who helped found and led the first-ever Progressive Legislative Caucus, has backed Gillum in his quest for the governor’s mansion.

So as it stands, progressive leaders in the state seem to have no problem throwing the term ‘abolish’ around. Other Democrats, however, have had more hesitation.

House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, who’s competing against incumbent Republican state Sen. Dana Young for the District 18 seat, said, “ICE, under [Donald] Trump‘s direction, has been an absolute disaster — separating children from their parents and criminalizing personhood. This needs to be fixed immediately through reforms at ICE or by other means that keep our borders both secure and humane.”

While not stated outright, the aforementioned “other means” could include abolishing the agency.

State Sen. Linda Stewart, also of Orlando, criticized the agency’s current state, but stopped short of calling for its abolishment.

“[ICE] needs to confiscate drugs, arrest drug traffickers, identify human trafficking and gang members,” Stewart said. She added that the current mission “has been redefined” and claimed agents “should not be involved with legal asylum seekers.”

In the House, Rep. Nicholas Duran, a Miami Democrat, also stopped short of calling to abolish the agency. He instead suggested Congress suspend ICE’s non-essential activities — like its widely-criticized raids — “until ICE’s policies are reviewed and a new framework can be put in place.”

“ICE should focus on actual, imminent threats – drug dealers, gangs, terrorist cells – not the father and grandfather with a misdemeanor from a decade ago, not the mom who calls the cops when her husband’s been beating her, only to be threatened with deportation, not rounding up DREAMers around college campuses,” Duran explained.

He pointed to President Donald Trump as the reason for the agency going awry.

“ICE is a government agency and like all government agencies, it takes its cues from the top,” Duran said. “And at the top, we have a demagogue who is using immigrant families to distract from his failure of a presidency.”

Both Duran’s and Stewart’s comments reflect what some higher-ticket Florida Democrats have been saying.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who faces tough reelection this year against Republican Gov. Rick Scott, wouldn’t support the abolition of the agency when asked by a Tampa Bay Times reporter. And in a statement, Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy shied away from calling for an end to ICE as well. Murphy, like Nelson, faces a tough reelection in her Orlando district.

Jacksonville officials: Rick Scott’s City Council appointee poised to meet residency requirements

As we reported this morning, Republican Terrance Freeman was selected by Gov. Rick Scott to represent Jacksonville City Council District 10.

District 10 is just 19 percent Republican, which suggests that an appointment (in the wake of the suspension of the incumbent) would be the only way a GOP member would get seated.

But Freeman, an agreeable pick to the Jacksonville business community, looked to have some logistical blocks going forward, with seeming doubts as to whether he could even serve due to residency issues.

District 10 is in Northwest Jacksonville, a world away from Freeman’s homestead residence, which is in deep Mandarin near Julington Creek. As of Tuesday morning, that was also the address listed on his voter registration.

This residency issue looked to create some potential problems for Freeman, whose last campaign was for a state House seat in the Arlington area of Jacksonville’s Southside.

However, Freeman told us late Tuesday that he has “taken all the steps necessary to be sworn in.”

The Mandarin house will have a “for sale” sign on it soon, Freeman said, and the family will move to a newly-leased residence in District 10.

Freeman, confident the issues have been resolved, is looking forward to serving District 10. He believes his experience on the council will allow him to be effective in addressing district needs.

And he intends to have a town hall soon, where he will be able to hear from his new constituents. But, as of now, he’s not committing to run — or not to run — in the 2019 election.

Gov. Rick Scott‘s office offered a statement affirming the legality of the move: “Mr. Brown was suspended from office by the Governor following very serious felony charges. Mr. Freeman was appointed to serve in his seat on an interim basis due to the suspension. This temporary appointment complied with the law. Any questions regarding the city’s charter should be directed to the city.”

Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan also expressed confidence that Freeman resolved the issue.

The candidate updated on Tuesday his voter registration with an address in the district, technically establishing residency in time to run for election to the seat.

The deadline to establish residency is 183 days before qualifying (which starts Jan. 7 and ends Jan. 11).

This date (per a document from the SOE) appeared to have been July 8. But it is in fact July 12, per Hogan.

That would put Freeman in ahead of the statutory deadline; Scott officially appointed Freeman to the council July 10.

As well, Freeman (as he is not sworn in yet) is eligible to serve as a newly-minted resident of District 10.

General Counsel Jason Gabriel noted that the threshold for eligibility to serve, per Gabriel, is when Freeman is sworn in. The governor’s appointment is not the time marker, per Gabriel’s interpretation.

Municipal code explains it this way: “Every member of the council shall be continuously throughout his or her term of office, a resident and qualified elector of Duval County, and of his or her district or residence area,” per Section 5.04.

Residency questions have emerged before in Jacksonville politics: Jay Jabour, a former councilman, resigned after not meeting residency requirements for an at-large seat.

Council President Aaron Bowman, who employed Freeman as a council assistant earlier in his term, asserted earlier that Freeman meets requirements.

“It is my understanding that as long as he has residency prior to swearing in, he is good,” Bowman texted.

Bowman followed up with a confirmation from the Office of General Counsel. Freeman, asserted Bowman, simply “needs residency prior to swearing in.”

As well, per Bowman, Freeman “needs residency by tomorrow for the 2019 election.”

Mayor Lenny Curry seems fine with the appointment.

Duval Democrats, meanwhile, are already making waves: “We applaud Governor Scott for appointing a resident Democrat to represent Council District 8, a overwhelming majority Democratic district. However, it flies in the face of reason why Scott would appoint a Mandarin Republican who lives 20 miles away in District 6, to Democratic Council District 10 on the city’s Northside. Its hard to find the connection between the needs of the constituents of District 10 with this appointment.”

The Duval Democrats amplified this statement Tuesday afternoon.

“The Party’s position is that Freeman is not eligible to serve as District 10’s Councilman because he does not live within the District. The city charter is clear: ‘Every member of the Council shall be continuously throughout his or her term of office, a resident and qualified elector of Duval County, and of his or her district.'”

“Every elected official in Duval County is legally bound to follow this standard. Freeman should be no exception. Additionally, he would not be eligible to run for District 10 because he has not been an elector in the district for 183 days before qualifying (Section 5.04),” the Democrats assert. “The fact Governor Scott choose to appoint Freeman in spite of these obstacles defies reason.”

A legal challenge to the appointment seems possible, in this context. But city officials seem to agree that Freeman is eligible to serve.

The other Council appointee, Democrat Ju’Coby Pittman, has two residences in her District 8, and faces no such concerns regarding eligibility

Nursing home records ruling put on hold

 A state appeals court has stepped in and at least temporarily halted the release of thousands of death records to an embattled Broward County nursing home.

The 1st District Court of Appeal on Monday extended a stay of a lower-court ruling that would require the Florida Department of Health to quickly turn over death certificates from across the state to attorneys for The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills.

The one-page order was largely procedural and did not explain the court’s reasoning. But it was the latest twist in a months-long records battle between the Florida Department of Health and the nursing home, which the state moved to shut down after residents died following Hurricane Irma.

The nursing home has been in a series of legal fights with Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, including about a state attempt to revoke the facility’s license. As part of those disputes, the nursing home filed a public-records lawsuit Jan. 31, alleging that the Department of Health had improperly refused to provide copies of death certificates for people across the state from Sept. 9 through Sept. 16 — a period that included Hurricane Irma and its immediate aftermath.

An attorney for the nursing home indicated last month that the facility is seeking the addresses of locations where other people died during and after the massive storm.

Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled in favor of the nursing home in April and last month, with a June 19 decision saying, in part, that the department is “specifically ordered to immediately (within 24 hours of receipt of this order) produce to petitioner electronic copies (e.g. via email, drop box, a flash drive, or other appropriate medium) all of the approximate 5,907 death certificate records that petitioner has requested.”

The Department of Health appealed the June decision to the Tallahassee-based appeals court, creating a short stay. Lewis issued another order June 29, rejecting a department request to extend the stay of his ruling until all appeals are finished — though he approved a 15-day stay to give the department time to quickly go back to the appeals court.

The appeals court Monday, however, quashed Lewis’ June 29 order and said a stay “shall remain in effect pending final disposition of the merits of this appeal.” The appeals court also said it will handle the case in an “expedited” fashion, though a schedule for filing briefs indicates a decision would not be issued until at least mid-August.

A key point of contention in the records dispute is the Department of Health’s position that it needs to review and redact information from death certificates before turning them over to the nursing home. In a document filed last month in circuit court, the department said release of the records poses a threat to private health information.

“The release of the private information belonging to individuals on each of the 5,907 death (records) constitutes irreparable harm, as each individual could be contacted by attorneys, press or other individuals seeking information regarding this high-profile matter,” the department argued in the document. “Once released, there is no effective way to retract this sensitive information.”

But attorneys for the nursing home say the death certificates are already public information and that Lewis correctly ruled that the department should turn them over.

“DOH’s speculative arguments ignore that anybody can walk into a vital statistics office anywhere in Florida and request this information, unredacted, and receive it the same day,” attorneys for the nursing home wrote in a court document last month. “DOH’s own website allows, through a third-party vendor, anyone in the world to request these records without even being physically present in Florida (or the United States). … The only difference is that Hollywood Hills is requesting these records by a date range, not by name.”

The Scott administration suspended the facility’s license — and moved to revoke the license — after the nursing home lost its air-conditioning system Sept. 10 as Hurricane Irma pounded the state. The outage created sweltering conditions that resulted in the facility being evacuated Sept. 13. Authorities have attributed 12 deaths to problems at the nursing home after the storm.

Terrance Freeman, Ju’Coby Pittman are Rick Scott’s picks for Jacksonville City Council

Gov. Rick Scott chose on Tuesday a Republican and a Democrat to replace indicted and suspended Jacksonville City Council members Katrina and Reggie Brown.

The news was first reported by the Jacksonville Daily Record,

The Republican: Terrance Freeman. He is connected, has deep Chamber ties and equally deep political ambition, reportedly replacing Reggie Brown in District 10.

The Democrat: Ju’Coby Pittman. Liked on both sides of the aisle, the Democrat will reportedly take over District 8.

What’s interesting: Scott’s office would not confirm the picks when we asked. Monday night saw the Governor’s office assert that they have “not made any announcements regarding these appointments.”

They waited until Tuesday to make the announcement official.

It is still a mystery where the Daily Record story came from, if not from the Scott administration. Also mysterious is the precise amount of collaboration between the Curry and Scott teams on the selections.

Mayor Lenny Curry told Florida Politics in June that, if needed, his team would provide “advice” on the picks. Asked weeks later, Scott said that while he didn’t talk to Curry’s team, someone in his office might have.

It’s hard to imagine picks more agreeable to the Mayor’s Office.

Freeman is a very careful politician, mindful of the need to preserve relationships with the donor class. Pittman, meanwhile, is not going to be inclined to rock the boat rhetorically. The periodic tempests caused by the Browns, in other words, will calm down just in time for election year.

Both were easy picks (if delayed in the rollout), particularly in the case of Freeman. The Republican didn’t apply for the process until weeks after the openings were made public.

Freeman, a former Council aide to President Aaron Bowman, was backed by the business community in an unsuccessful run for the state House in 2016.

Pittman, who runs the Clara White Mission, lost a nail-biter in 2015 to Republican at-large Councilman Sam Newby. She has a stellar reputation in City Hall and worked closely with Newby after the election.

Ahead of the selection, Freeman told us he “would consider [the appointment] the opportunity of a lifetime.”

If appointed, he vows to offer “a strong voice in local government” and to “work collaboratively with the Mayor’s Office and Council leadership to represent the District with honesty, integrity, and honor, ensuring that I’m leading discussions that are beneficial for the district and the City of Jacksonville as a whole.”

If these candidates should run for re-election, they will face crowded fields, though the fields are full of relatively unmonied candidates.

In District 8, seven Democrats and an NPA candidate are filed. The leading fundraiser through the May reports is Tameka Gaines Holly, who has just over $20,000 on hand.

Katrina Brown, with her legal case still pending, is still an active candidate for re-election.

In District 10, two Republicans and seven Democrats filed. If Freeman (currently living in Mandarin, and ran for state House in Arlington) wants in on the battle in Northwest Jacksonville, the leading fundraiser is Kevin Monroe, who nonetheless has under $2,000 on hand.

Outside organization attacks Bill Nelson’s budget history in new TV ad

Floridians will soon see yet another television ad attacking their Democratic U.S. Senator, Bill Nelson, as he vies to keep his seat in November against challenger Rick Scott.

In the ad, Nelson, a longtime federal lawmaker, is criticized for failing to pass federal budgets, which has happened eight times during his tenure in Congress, according to the ad. It also attacks the Senator for not preventing six separate government shutdowns and for voting for “trillions in spending and billions in higher taxes.” 

“Most Americans know how important it is that Washington stay within its budget. After all, our families have one,” the voice-over says in the ad. “But Washington has its own way and seems to ignore their responsibility to pass a budget.”

The 30-second spot ends by prompting Floridians to call Nelson and “tell him it’s time for him to finally do his job and pass a responsible budget.”

The ad follows a barrage of negativity flowing from the Scott campaign, the latest instance depicting Nelson as “toeing the party line” over judicial nominations.

The latest affront, however, isn’t funded by the Republican governor, or any committee attached to his Senate campaign. It’s backed by America Next, a conservative organization that claims to be uninterested in winning elections, instead focused on “winning the war of ideas,” according to the organization’s mission statement.

Still, the Scott campaign likely doesn’t mind the outside intervention; the Governor’s depicted himself as a Washington outsider who’s ready to change things up. And just last month he unveiled a campaign promise to push a proposal that would stem paychecks to members of Congress when they fail to pass a budget, a platform point complemented by America Next’s latest ad.

Scott has also promised to fight for term limits, supermajority approval for tax and fee increases, and a presidential line-item veto.

Watch the ad here or below:

Banning the beach? Locals start enforcing new access law

“It is so confusing.”

That’s the takeaway of Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson Jr., regarding the state of public access to private beaches following the enactment of HB 631.

Adkinson spoke with Florida Politics after a Facebook posting over the weekend appeared to show a confrontation resulting from the new law in Walton County’s Santa Rosa Beach area.

According to Ryan Nesset, who authored the post and appears to oppose the law actively, “The two ladies were told they were trespassing on a private beach in Walton County, Florida today.

“They were told if they did not move they would be arrested, all thanks to the new private beach law that went into effect on July 1. The law removed the customary use ordinance that the county had that said all the beaches are for the public.”

His post had nearly two thousand shares at the time of this article’s publishing.

Adkinson, however, says the characterization is overblown, noting the women agreed to leave before ever being threatened with arrest.

In the past, the public has been allowed to use certain portions of these private beaches under what’s known as “customary use.”

The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that private beachside property owners cannot restrict access to the beach for people who have used the area for years, so long as that use had been “ancient, reasonable, without interruption and free from dispute.”

Many feared HB 631 would change that reality. The bill went into effect on July 1 after being signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott back in March.

The law aimed to change the process by which local governments could ensure public access to privately-owned beaches.

Previously, city and county governments were able just to pass an ordinance granting public access to those privately-owned beaches.

But HB 631 pre-empted local governments from taking that action the future. Instead, if a local government wanted to make those beaches available to the public, it would must first to sue the private landowners and obtain approval for a new ordinance from a judge.

To be clear, this law did not affect publicly-owned beaches. Examples include Miami Beach, which is owned by the city, or any beaches which are part of Florida’s state parks system. Those beaches have always been, and will remain, open to the public.

But access to private beaches has changed, according to Adkinson: “You can’t be on these beaches without permission.”

He says under HB 631, beaches that are part of private property are now equivalent to a person’s backyard. “There’s absolutely no difference between a neighborhood home in the middle of somewhere, and walking on the beach.”

That stands in stark contrast to statements from some supporters of the bill.

“Our right to enjoy the beaches is protected by the Florida Constitution,” wrote GOP state Rep. Paul Renner of Flagler County, a supporter of HB 631. “Neither the Legislature nor the county can interfere, period.” Renner also is slated to be House Speaker in 2022-24.

He made those comments in a guest article for the Palm Coast Observer. In it, he argued public access to these beaches would remain.

“The new law does not change Florida law relating to customary use, so the outcome is the same; but it does streamline the process to save time and money for everyone involved, including the government and the taxpayers who fund it.”

The only changes, he argued, would be the process by which local governments could enact “customary use” ordinances.

“Through the courts, Florida law has recognized our right to the ‘customary use’ of that private property because we have been using it for years. Those rights are completely preserved under the law just passed. Stated differently, your rights and mine to use the beach have not changed one bit.”

Scott’s Communications Director John Tupps also issued a statement to Florida Politics disputing the law’s effect. “This law does not ‘ban’ or privatize in any beach in Florida. If a local government wants to expand the public beach area, this bill simply outlines the legal process to accomplish that.”

Tupps also noted the bill received support from Democrats as well, including state Rep. Katie Edwards-Walpole. “We’re not talking about privatizing beaches,” she said to the House Judiciary Committee, in comments reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

Not so, Adkinson says. And he warns other counties may be dealing with this issue in the future.

“Anybody that is saying this doesn’t affect them, or ‘we don’t have this problem,’ simply does not understand the issue.”

Further complicating matters, there remain areas on private beaches where public access is still allowed, even under the new law. Regions undergoing nourishment are one such exception, and Adkinson says this was the source of the confusion regarding the women from Nesset’s Facebook post.

“They were saying where they were was re-nourished. And it actually was not.” The sheriff says after the women were informed they were not in a nourishment area, they voluntarily left.

But Adkinson also says he hopes Walton County settles this issue soon, even if that means going to court to secure the ability to pass a new ordinance.

He made clear he’s not taking a public position on the law, and is there to enforce the rules either way. But he says the public should be spared from such confusing changes regarding what is and isn’t allowed.

Case in point, the 1st Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office, which covers Walton County, reversed positions in a week over whether to prosecute trespassing on private beaches.

After originally saying prosecuting such offenses would be unfair before a court’s decision on a new ordinance, the office changed course and said decisions would be made on a case-by-case basis to “determine if criminal charges are appropriate.”

Nevertheless, Adkinson says his sheriffs aren’t looking to arrest anyone outright.

“We are not going to be actively arresting people for trespassing. We are going to mediate, and we are going to find ways to mitigate this issue and balance the best interests of the public and the rights of the private property owner.”

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