Gov. Rick Scott Archives - Page 4 of 28 - SaintPetersBlog

Rick Scott: Florida GDP continues to outpace national growth rate

Florida’s gross domestic product grew by 3 percent last year, outpacing both the national rate of 1.5 percent and the other large states, Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday.

“This great news is further proof that our economy is booming and we must stay focused on continuing this growth so Florida can out compete other locations for jobs wins,” Scott said.

“While it is disappointing that the Legislature did not fully fund Florida’s economic development programs, we will keep fighting to make sure Florida businesses keep growing,” he said.

Florida lagged only behind Nevada and Utah in overall GDP growth. But the state has exceeded national growth for 61 consecutive months, Scott said.

The state added 36,600 jobs last year in the trade, transportation, and utilities sectors, more than any other state. It ranked second in construction, manufacturing, financial activities, and professional and business services.

Florida’s real GDP was $815.1 billion.

“Florida’s focus on business-friendly policies has allowed the state to soar past our competitor states’ job growth rates,” said Cissy Proctor, executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity.

The hangover: Rick Scott vetoes ‘whiskey & Wheaties’ bill

Saying it could hurt job creation, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a contentious bill that would have removed the ‘wall of separation’ between hard liquor and other goods.

Scott filed his veto letter of the measure (SB 106) on Wednesday night, his deadline to act on the bill. It’s the first veto of a bill from the 2017 Legislative Session.

It would have removed the 82-year-old requirement, enacted in Florida after Prohibition, that hard liquor be sold in a separate store. Beer and wine already are sold in grocery aisles in the Sunshine State.

But independent liquor store owners and other opponents flooded the Governor’s Office with thousands of emails and petitions against the bill.

Scott was careful to explain his position in his veto letter, balancing his concerns over jobs with the desires of big businesses that sorely wanted him to approve the legislation.

“Since becoming governor in 2011, I have repealed almost 5,000 regulations to reduce unnecessary burdens on Floridians,” he wrote. “From the day I took office, I have been committed to eliminating regulations that impose duplicative and unnecessary requirements on Florida’s citizens and businesses.

“I carefully reviewed this bill and I have met with stakeholders on both sides,” the governor added. “I listened closely to what they had to say and I understand that both positions have merit.

“Nevertheless, I have heard concerns as to how this bill could affect many small businesses across Florida. I was a small business owner and many locally owned businesses have told me this bill will impact their families and their ability to create jobs.”

For example, Kiran Patel, who owns liquor stores in Melbourne and Palm Bay, told lawmakers earlier this year that if the proposal became law, “we are finished … There’s no way we can even compete with” big box stores, which will “put pallets and pallets” of booze out in the open.

Amit Dashondi, who owns liquor stores in Brevard County, said his customers had been rooting for a veto.

“They love their independent liquor stores,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday night. “We know our customers by name. That’s not going to happen in big, corporate stores. They know how to take your money, and that’s it.”

Most recently, Costco had joined Wal-Mart, Target and others in one last push to get Scott to sign the bill, known by the nickname “whiskey and Wheaties.”

“Requiring retailers to segregate spirits into a separate store is outdated, discriminatory and unnecessary in a modern marketplace,” said Jay Hibbard, vice president of the Distilled Spirits Council, which supported the bill. “Florida consumers want the same convenience of one-stop shopping that consumers in most states enjoy. We encourage the Legislature to make this a priority in the next session.” 

Whole Foods Market and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association also were for the bill. But the Publix supermarket chain was against it because of its investment in its many separate liquor stores.

The veto effort was a rare effort by rivals: Florida’s own ABC Fine Wines & Spirits opposed the measure, as did the Florida Independent Spirits Association, representing smaller, independent liquor stores. Both were led by lobbyist Scott Dick, who fought against the proposal every year since it was filed in 2014.

There was last-minute lobbying on the measure: Scott’s public schedule for Tuesday shows he had taken a call with Wal-Mart U.S. President and CEO Greg Foran, and met in Tallahassee with ABC’s CEO and Chairman Charles Bailes III. 

“Thanks to Gov. Scott, we now have the opportunity to keep our doors open and keep our Florida workforce going strong,” said Rory Eggers, president of the Florida Independent Spirits Association, in a statement.

Added Bailes: “We believe he made his decision based on what is best for the State of Florida. We applaud the governor for saving hundreds of Florida small businesses that employ thousands of Floridians, while at the same time keeping safeguards in place for minors.”

The bill passed both chambers on close margins: 21-17 in the Senate and a razor thin 58-57 in the House. Also, five House members who missed the vote voted ‘no’ after the roll call.

Among other things, the bill would have required miniature bottles to be sold behind a counter and allowed for a 5-year phase-in. It further called for employees over 18 to check customers’ ID and approve sales of spirits by cashiers under 18.

Time growing short for Rick Scott to decide ‘whiskey & Wheaties’ bill’s fate

A history of alcoholism in Gov. Rick Scott’s family will inform his decision about whether to sign the “whiskey & Wheaties” bill, which would tear down the wall of separation between hard liquor and other goods.

“I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on that bill,” Scott told reporters.

“I’ve had family members who have had the challenge of alcoholism,” he said when asked about that history. “It concerns me. As I review the bill — I think I have to be finished sometime tomorrow on it — I take all those things into consideration.”

Scott said he was scheduled to talk to representatives of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. — one of the big-box stores supporting the bill — and ABC Fine Wines & Spirits — which is opposed.

Scott still wasn’t prepared to say whether he would veto the state budget approved by the Legislature during an extended session this month. “I’m going to review my options,” he said.

“One thing the governor doesn’t have the opportunity to do is put more money into the budget,” he said.

“I’m going to continue to fight for making sure that we do everything we can to fully fund Visit Florida and fully fund Enterprise Florida. If we don’t, it’s more difficult to believe we’re going to continue to see the job growth rate that we’ve seen.”

The Legislature took away Enterprise Florida’s economic incentives budget, and gave Visit Florida about one-quarter of the $100 million Scott requested.

Meanwhile, Scott took at least some of the credit for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s six-month extension of temporary protected status for Haitian refugees, announced Monday.

Scott said he’d pleaded their case to Secretary John Kelly.

“I brought up the issue that our Haitian community is dealing with,” Scott said. “He was receptive.”

Noah Valenstein hired as DEP’s new secretary

Noah Valenstein got the job as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday, after a unanimous vote by Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet.

Valenstein

He will take the helm on June 5, with a salary of $150,000 per year, Scott said.

“Noah has 15 years of environmental policy experience and I’m confident will continue to be a strong leader and advocate for preserving the future of our state’s beautiful and pristine environment,” Scott said.

Valenstein, now the executive director of the Suwannee River Water Management District, is closely tied to Scott, having served in the administration and the 2014 re-election campaign.

During a short job interview, Valenstein said he believed in giving the various stakeholders — including environmentalists, agricultural interests and local governments — a seat at the table.

“If we’re getting input from all the parties that depend on our natural resources, we get a better product at the end of the day,” he told reporters.

His first priority is “getting up to speed on all the issues the department is currently dealing with, getting to know the dedicated staff and helping to bring the philosophy I’ve had at Suwannee River over to the department.”

He was the only candidate interviewed for the job.

Valenstein replaces interim secretary Ryan Matthews, who had taken over from former secretary Jon Steverson. He quit in January to join the legal-lobbying firm of Foley & Lardner.

Rick Scott claims $24 million gain from his Argentina trade mission

Gov. Rick Scott’s trade mission to Argentina has resulted in $24 million in sales to companies that participated, the governor’s office announced Monday.

“Enterprise Florida led this mission, and they do important work to connect Florida small business with opportunities in international markets,” Scott said in a written statement, referencing the state’s embattled economic development arm.

“We are competing in a global economy, and many of these businesses would not have the resources or opportunities to market themselves across the world if not for Enterprise Florida. It is disappointing that the Legislature chose to disregard the impact not fully funding EFI could have on our job creators and families,” Scott said.  

Scott led the mission last month. Also participating were the U.S. Commercial Service, the U.S. Embassy in Argentina, the American Chamber of Commerce in Argentina, and the Florida Ports Council.

Since then, the Ports Council has signed a memorandum of understanding to develop direct sea routes between Argentina and Florida, Scott’s office said.

“This was a successful mission. I believe we will build some great business relationships here in Buenos Aires,” said Arley Bedillion, industrial sales manager for the Mastry Engine Center in St. Petersburg, which participated under an Enterprise Florida trade grand.

“Our success is a direct reflection of the efforts and hard work of Enterprise Florida,” Bedillon said.

Tom Delacenserie stepping down as Florida Lottery secretary

Florida Lottery Secretary Tom Delacenserie is resigning effective the beginning of June, sources told FloridaPolitics.com on Friday.

The move was confirmed by the Governor’s Office, which provided a copy of his resignation letter. The letter did not mention his future plans but Delacenserie wrote that he “enjoyed all of my 17 years with the Florida Lottery but none more than the time spent under your leadership.”

Delacenserie has been in the top job since November 2015, when he replaced former Secretary Cynthia O’Connell. A spokeswoman for the Lottery was in a meeting Friday afternoon and unavailable, an assistant said.

Delacenserie has overseen the growth and escalating sales of Lottery products, leading to the “strongest start ever to the final quarter of the fiscal year, with record sales for the month of April totaling more than $528 million,” a recent press release said.

The Lottery’s profits go into the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, which among other things pays for Florida Bright Futures Scholarships.

“I am extremely proud of our Florida Lottery team and retailers as we continue to shatter previous records,” Delacenserie said in the release. “In addition to their winning experiences, our players should take pride in knowing that with the purchase of every Lottery ticket, they are making a difference in the lives of Florida’s students.”

There have been stumbles, however.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran sued the agency in February, saying it went on an illegal spending spree last year when it inked a $700 million deal with IGT (International Game Technology) for new equipment. The next month, a Tallahassee judge sided with Corcoran and invalidated the contract.

Judge Karen Gievers faulted the agency for, among other things, not first seeking the Legislature’s permission to enter into a deal that committed the state to as much as two decades’ worth of funding.

Moreover, lawmakers this Session passed a bill requiring lottery ticket warning labels after removing a requirement that warnings also be displayed at counters where tickets are sold. It has not yet been sent to Gov. Rick Scott.

The bill mandates six rotating warnings on lottery tickets and advertisements. They include “WARNING: GAMBLING CAN BE ADDICTIVE” and “WARNING: YOUR ODDS OF WINNING THE TOP PRIZE ARE EXTREMELY LOW.”

A press release sent later Friday said “further announcements on agency leadership will be made at a later date.”

“Tom has done a great job and under his leadership, the Lottery has seen record sales and made historic contributions to Florida’s education system,” Scott said in a statement.

“Tom has been a valued member of my team since the start of my administration and I am proud of the great work he has done for Florida’s students,” he added. “I wish Tom and his family the very best in their future endeavors.”

Delacenserie began with the Lottery in 2000 as the Fort Myers district manager, later promoted in 2005 to the Lottery’s Director of Sales. In 2013, he became the Lottery’s Deputy Secretary of Sales and Marketing, then served as interim secretary after O’Connell’s departure.

She quit after four years as secretary amid questions about her work habits, travel schedule and spending.

Her abrupt resignation came shortly after POLITICO Florida reported that she had taken nearly nine weeks of vacation and racked up nearly $30,000 in travel bills.

Big-box chains, others make one last push for ‘whiskey & Wheaties’

Costco now is joining Wal-Mart, Target and others in one last push to get Gov. Rick Scott to sign a bill to remove the ‘wall of separation’ between hard liquor and other goods.

Their Floridians For Fair Business Practices coalition on Friday released a tranche of letters sent to Scott encouraging him to OK the legislation (SB 106) known by the nickname “whiskey and Wheaties.”

They also include representatives of Whole Foods Market, the Distilled Spirits Council and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association.

It could be an uphill fight—as of Wednesday, the Governor’s Office reported 2,649 emails opposed to the bill and 315 supporting, as well as 3,245 people who signed a petition against the bill.

The office also took 177 calls against and 123 for, and 569 printed letters opposed and seven letters in favor—all from pro-bill coalition members, spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said.

The governor has till May 24 to sign the bill into law, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature. His office has said Scott will “review” the legislation.

It remain whether the “jobs” governor will be swayed by opponents—including independent liquor stores—who are calling the proposal a job-killer and asking Scott to nix it.

The bill passed both chambers on close margins: 21-17 in the Senate and a razor thin 58-57 in the House. Also, five House members who missed the vote voted ‘no’ after the roll call.

Filed every year since 2014, it removes the 82-year-old ‘wall of separation’ between hard liquor and other items enacted in Florida after Prohibition. Beer and wine already are sold in grocery aisles.

Among other things, the bill requires miniature bottles to be sold behind a counter and allows for a 5-year phase-in. It further calls for employees over 18 to check customers’ ID and approve sales of spirits by cashiers under 18.

Florida’s own ABC Fine Wines & Spirits also opposes the measure, as does the Publix supermarket chain, because of its investment in its many separate liquor stores.

Carlos Guillermo Smith, Amy Mercado say special session needed to end cannabis legal limbo

Saying that the current limbo of law is bad for doctors and patients, Democratic state Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Amy Mercado pleaded with Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Legislature leaders to call a special session to deal with medical marijuana.

“We are here because 71 percent of Florida voters approved the constitutional right to medical cannabis. But we also are here because unfortunately once again Tallahassee politicians have thwarted the will of the people and they have refused to implement Amendment 2, medical cannabis,” said Smith, of Orlando. “They should be ashamed.

“While the out-of-touch, old-fashioned conservative majority in Tallahassee continues its hand-wringing over whether or not cannabis is actual medicine… or whether they can actually get over themselves and listen to the voters, qualified patients are dying, qualified patients are waiting,” he continued. “And there is no question that the governor, the Senate president of the senate and the speaker of the House need to be leaders and officially call for a special session and demand that the Legislature implement the will of the voters immediately.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has called for a special session to pass implementing legislation to fill out the laws for the Amendment 2 medical marijuana initiative approved by 71 percent of the voters in November. Senate President Joe Negron and Gov. Rick Scott have not. The Florida Legislature failed to pass the implementing bill on the last day of Session earlier this month.

Cannabis activist and author Gary Stein argued that the lack of implementing laws means that the qualifying patients – and the doctors who assist them – are caught in legal “fog” between what should be authorized under Amendment 2 and what little cannabis law and regulation exists based on the 2014 “Charlotte’s Web” bill the Florida Legislature approve.

Mercado, also of Orlando, talked about how her grandmother went through chemical and radiation therapy for stage 4 cancer, and she and the family wanted to try everything and anything. “Had medical cannabis been available, I’m pretty sure we’d have tried that too,” she said. “So we need to make sure, and ensure, that no one gets the way of patient access to medication that makes them feel better.”

Smith and Mercado also called on the Florida Department of Health to lift rules that would not be allowed under Amendment 2, but which slow down or prevent people from using medicines derived from cannabis.

Among them, they called for Florida to:

– Waive the 90-day waiting period for patients to access the medicines after they have been certified as qualified patients.

– “Stay out of the sacred patient-doctor relationship.”

– Stop rules that prevent qualified patients from getting access.

– Protect employees who can be legally fired from their jobs for using medicines derived from cannabis in their homes.

– Expand qualified conditions to include non-malignant chronic pain.

– Open the market to allow more competition, including to minority-owned businesses.

– Allow for smokable cannabis.

Despite lack of deal, Seminole Tribe still paying state millions

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has given the state of Florida another multi-million dollar payday.

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation reported that the tribe paid $19.5 million in gambling revenue share on Monday. The department regulates gambling.

That money includes revenue share from banked card games, specifically blackjack. The tribe also offers slots.

It has Vegas-style and other gambling at seven casinos around the state, including Tampa’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, but has blackjack only in Tampa and Hollywood.

Monday’s deposit brings the total amount paid by the Seminoles this year to $97.5 million, DBPR spokesman Stephen Lawson said.

The cut of the money from blackjack, however, is being “administratively segregated” in the General Revenue Fund until the Tribe and state come to agreement on renewed rights to offer blackjack in Florida.

A blackjack provision in a prior agreement from 2010, known as the Seminole Compact, expired in 2015. In December of that year, Gov. Rick Scott had negotiated a new blackjack deal in return for $3 billion to state coffers over seven years. Lawmakers did not approve it.

The original 2010 deal actually wound up being worth more than $200 million per year in revenue share to state coffers. Blackjack and other gambling, including slots, has brought in billions for the tribe.

A year later, a federal judge ruled that the state—in allowing other card games that played too much like blackjack at pari-mutuel cardrooms—broke the original deal and let the Tribe have blackjack till 2030.

The tribe is no longer obligated to pay revenue share from blackjack games but has been doing so out of good faith in the hopes of brokering a deal. Tribe spokesman Gary Bitner declined comment when reached Tuesday.

This Legislative Session, lawmakers couldn’t pass a comprehensive gambling bill after failing to agree on whether to expand slot machines in the state. What also died, once again, was the renewed agreement with the Tribe, which had been rolled into the legislation.

Kim McDougal to depart as Rick Scott’s chief of staff

Kim McDougal is leaving as Gov. Rick Scott‘s chief of staff effective July 1, according to a Monday press release.

McDougal

McDougal, who’s been in the position since April 2016, “will be pursuing opportunities in the private sector,” the release said.

“Over the last year, Florida had its fair share of tragic events including two hurricanes, the terrorist attack at Pulse Nightclub, and the shooting at Ft. Lauderdale Airport,” Scott said in a statement. “During these tough events, Kim has led my team through crisis and helped ensure we did all we could to help Florida families during these dark hours.

“Despite these challenges, we have also had great success this year, and she has worked every day to make sure Florida remains the top place for families to succeed and live their dreams,” he said. “Kim is a statewide leader in education policy and has played a tremendous role in guiding the education policies I have fought for while in office, including providing record funding for our students, keeping higher education affordable and expanding school choice options.

“Kim has proudly served Florida families for nearly three decades and her years of experience will be missed in my office. I know she will continue to do great things for our state.”

In the same statement, McDougal said, “It has been my absolute pleasure serving Florida families for almost three decades. It truly has been an honor to wake up every day and fight for policies that will make a difference in our families’ lives.

“Governor Scott is focused on making Florida the top place to get a great job and education, and I was honored to help work on policies to make Florida number one in the nation for families.”

McDougal was Scott’s fifth chief of staff since he took office in 2011, following, in order: Mike Prendergast, Steve MacNamaraAdam Hollingsworth, and Melissa Sellers (now Stone).

Our story from March 2016 when McDougal was hired is here.

Here’s more from the release:

McDougal, 54, began her public service with the State of Florida in 1989 and served in each role as an at-will state employee. McDougal has served as Chief of Staff since April 2016 and prior to that, she served as Governor Scott’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Legislative Affairs Director and Education Policy Coordinator. McDougal also served on his successful reelection campaign as a policy advisor.

McDougal has previously served in numerous leadership roles at the Department of Education, including Governmental Relations Director and Senior Policy Advisor for several Commissioners of Education. McDougal also served Governor Jeb Bush and in the Office of Program Policy and Government Accountability in the Florida Legislature.

She earned her bachelor’s degree from Tulane University and her master’s and doctorate degrees from the Florida State University College of Education. She graduated from the Louise S. McGehee High School in New Orleans, Louisiana. She has resided in Tallahassee since 1984.

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