Peter Schorsch: The five biggest stories out of Tallahassee last week

They seemed like fair enough questions, but Pam Bondi never met a controversy that she couldn’t answer with strident responses to questions that weren’t asked.

The second-term Attorney General was besieged by reporters after last week’s Cabinet meeting, wanting to know about a $25,000 political contribution made in error to her by Donald Trump’s charitable foundation three years ago. Such charities are prohibited under federal tax law from making political contributions.

She did answer “of course not” to a question about whether she knew it was an improper donation. Then, when asked whether she would consider returning the money to the foundation, she balked: “I’m going to let the accountants correct it.”

Bondi was further asked whether she herself solicited the contribution. “I haven’t heard that at all,” she said, her smile starting to fade. “I’m going to let the accountants handle this. I’ve done nothing wrong.”

Nobody asked her, however, whether she thought she had done anything wrong. For the record, her active political committee, “Justice for All,” still reports more than $160,000 in cash on hand.

Now, here are the “Takeaway 5” – the Top 5 stories from last week in Tallahassee:

1. Signed, sealed, delivered — Elections chiefs are getting pay raises. The Dozier families are getting compensated. And there are several new records exemptions. Gov. Rick Scott signed more than a dozen bills into law last week. Among them was one that would bump up the salaries of the county supervisors of elections. The increase will cost $1.2 million statewide.

The Naples Republican signed into law a measure that would pay up to $7,500 to families for funeral and reburial expenses. The governor also signed new exemptions to the state’s public record laws to shield the addresses of paramedics.

2. Come to Florida — Scott has a reputation of reaching out to businesses in other states to convince them to come to Florida. But this week, he went really big. When Scott made a pitch to Connecticut businesses to move to the Sunshine State, he had his sights set on Yale University. Scott suggested the centuries-old university pick up and move to Florida.

Once university officials stopped chuckling, they said they’re perfectly fine in Connecticut. He also suggested ESPN, LEGO and the WNBA pack up and head south.

3. Deadlocked — After an hours-long meeting this week, Scott and the Cabinet couldn’t agree on a candidate to be the state’s next Insurance Commissioner. They decided to keep taking applications for the position. The deadline was extended until April 15. Scott and CFO Jeff Atwater must agree on a candidate.

4. Visit Florida review — Scott announced his office is reviewing Visit Florida’s finances, days after the Orlando Sentinel reported about a lack of transparency concerning spending at the organization. The newspaper found contracts that were kept secret under trade secret exemptions; salaries for Visit Florida workers that weren’t available online; and a junket for Chinese journalists to vacation in the state that cost the agency $14,000. The governor also announced that Space Florida is also under review.

5. Enterprise Florida audit — Visit Florida isn’t the only private-public organization under review. The governor also announced he plans to audit Enterprise Florida to find millions in savings. Former DCF Secretary David Wilkins will conduct the review. The announcement came on the same day that Enterprise Florida CEO Bill Johnson announced he’s stepping down.

Lawmakers representing the Capital City assembled last week to debrief at a Leadership Tallahassee-sponsored event, as the dust begins to settle after the 2016 Legislative Session.

The Tallahassee delegation composed of Sen. Bill Montford, Rep. Alan Williams, and Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda gathered in the Old Capitol’s Senate chamber for an hour-long panel moderated by Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Cissy Proctor.

Montford began by saying Proctor’s father, who is a cardiovascular surgeon, once literally saved his life when he performed a successful open-heart surgery on the 68-year-old senator.

He also recalled how Proctor “sailed” through her confirmation process, saying, “She must be good. Even [Sen.] Jack Latvala liked her.”

The remarks set the generally warm and fuzzy tone of the event, where the three lawmakers – all minority-party Democrats – praised the budget recently signed by Scott and sounded optimistic about life under Speaker-to-be Rep. Richard Corcoran.


Peter Schorsch is a new media publisher and political consultant based in St. Petersburg, Florida. Column courtesy of Context Florida.   

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


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