Gov. Rick Scott Archives - Page 6 of 25 - SaintPetersBlog

Lottery says it’s generated $1 billion for education this year

The Florida Lottery, now being sued by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Monday said it had reached “another record – $1 billion in contributions to education for the 15th consecutive year.”

On Friday, Corcoran – a Land O’ Lakes Republican – filed suit against the state agency for “wasteful and improper spending” for signing a multiyear, $700 million deal for new equipment.

The Lottery reports to Gov. Rick Scott.

In a press release, it said it had “reached the $1 billion mark for this fiscal year earlier than any other year in Florida Lottery history. This brings the Lottery’s life-to-date education contributions to more than $31 billion.”

The state’s fiscal year runs July 1-June 30. Lottery proceeds go into the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, which helps pay for public education.

“This milestone would not have been possible without the support of our loyal players, dedicated retailers and hardworking Lottery staff,” Lottery Secretary Tom Delacenserie said in a statement.

“The Lottery will continue working hard every day to advance our mission of maximizing contributions to education in a manner that is consistent with the dignity and integrity of the state.”

The release added: “Florida Lottery contributions represent approximately six percent of the state’s total education budget. Lottery funds are appropriated by the Florida Legislature and are administered by the Florida Department of Education.”

Corcoran sued the Lottery “for signing a contract that spends beyond existing budget limitations.” The deal, with International Game Technology (IGT), will provide the Lottery with new retailer terminals, in-store signage, self-service lottery vending machines, self-service ticket checkers and an upgraded communications network.

In a press release last September, the company said the contract is for an initial 10-year period, and the Florida Lottery “simultaneously exercised the first of its three available three-year renewal options.”

But Corcoran’s suit asserts “there is insufficient budget authority for the contract to be paid under the current appropriation assuming current conference estimates of ticket sales,” according to a press release from his office.

Carol Dover still fighting for tourism marketing money

When it comes to supporting the state’s hospitality industry, Carol Dover won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

Despite the Florida House’s opposition to spending money on tourism marketing in the state budget, her Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association is seeking $1 million to do just that.

And the funding request is being sponsored by GOP state Rep. Jay Trumbull of Panama City, who already voted for a bill to kill VISIT FLORIDA, the public-private tourism marketing agency.

On Feb. 7, Dover – the association’s president & CEO since 1995 – asked for the money for an “In-State Marketing Program to Promote Florida Tourism.” Trumbull, first elected in 2014, is listed as the House sponsor.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran requires requests for project money in the budget to be filed separately and publicly; the submission is on the House’s website. He is also crusading against incentives as “corporate welfare” that should be stopped.

“Funds are transferred from the Hotels and Restaurants Trust Fund to contract with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Inc., to develop a coordinated marketing, media and events program to promote Florida tourism to residents of the state,” the request explains.

“This campaign requires a private matching program and is conducted throughout the state, as approved by and monitored by (the Department of Business and Professional Regulation) and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Inc., for the purpose of promoting tourism.”

One day later, the House Careers & Competition Subcommittee, of which Trumbull is vice-chair, cleared a measure to eliminate VISIT FLORIDA, as well as the Enterprise Florida economic development organization, and a bevy of business incentive programs.

Dover – who had broken her leg the weekend before – attended the hearing on crutches to oppose the bill, saying it would “destroy our tourism industry.”

She’s known as a tenacious fighter; Dover is a breast cancer survivor who first learned of her diagnosis on the opening day of the 2003 Legislative Session.

By Feb. 14, Gov. Rick Scott‘s statewide tour to promote his proposed 2017-18 budget made a stop in Trumbull’s district. According to MyPanhandle.com, Scott “wasted no time criticizing those who voted … to defund the agencies.”

“In Tallahassee, there (are) some politicians that don’t understand the importance of a job,” Scott said. “I am shocked that Rep. Jay Trumbull voted to abolish Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.”

Trumbull later “said his vote was not an attempt to limit jobs, but to start a conversation about transparency and accountability within the agencies,” the site reported.

The next day, Trumbull filed the 1-page bill (HB 3343) that goes along with Dover’s tourism funding request.

Trumbull could not be reached by mobile phone: His voicemail was full and he did not respond to a text message.

Dover was unavailable Monday and a request for comment is pending with the association’s communications director.

On Friday, Fred Piccolo, Corcoran’s spokesman, said the speaker was unaware of the FRLA’s request and had no comment.

The bill to kill the agencies and incentive plans has a second stop in the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday.

Oscar Braynon calls for emergency declaration on heroin

Citing reports that heroin and fentanyl overdose deaths and public health costs are exploding in numbers in Florida, Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon called Monday for Florida to declare a public health emergency.

In a letter, Braynon urged Gov. Rick Scott to have Florida Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip to declare the public health emergency, which would give state agencies wider latitude to address the growing problem.

His call was made on behalf of the entire Florida Senate Democratic Caucus.

Braynon’s call echoes one made by Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay two weeks ago. And that call follows media reports in the Palm Beach Post, the Miami Herald and elsewhere detailing the impacts, including 77 percent or better increases in deaths. Earlier this month The Post estimated the heroin epidemic is costing $1.1 billion a year in Florida hospital charges.

“No longer confined to small urban enclaves, heroin and fentanyl have become the scourge of communities throughout Florida, wreaking widespread devastation not only from the ravages of addiction, but the resurgence of deadly diseases associated with drug abuse,” Braynon wrote. “There is no family, no race, no ethnicity, no income level this epidemic cannot touch, and no effective state bulwark in place to stop it.”

Braynon noted that public health emergencies were declared in 2011 during the height of the pill mill epidemic and the Zika outbreak in South Florida last year.

“This letter is to request that you issue a similar order urgently needed to address the growing threat and rising body count arising from Florida’s opioid-addiction crisis,” he wrote.

Florida House, Rick Scott again at loggerheads over VISIT FLORIDA

House Speaker Richard Corcoran offered a compromise Monday in his plan to kill the public-private VISIT FLORIDA tourism marketing agency, but Gov. Rick Scott rejected it as a “massive cut.”

One day before a bill (HB 7005) aimed at eliminating the organization gets its second and final committee review, an amendment to be offered by GOP state Rep. Paul Renner would save the agency, but slash its budget to $25 million. Its latest budget is nearly $80 million.

The amendment also would require the agency submit to a list of demands, including making it “submit a detailed operating budget each year,” having its CEO be confirmed by the Senate, and “remov(ing) the public records exemption for marketing projects and research.”

Moreover, the bill would still get rid of the public-private Enterprise Florida economic development organization.

“The Florida House is proposing a 67 percent cut to tourism marketing,” Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said in a statement. “More than a million Florida families rely on jobs in our tourism industry and are threatened with this massive cut.

“Unfortunately, some politicians in the Florida House think fighting for jobs is simply hysteria and don’t understand that jobs are not expendable to families who have to put food on the table,” she said.

Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, is out to kill VISIT FLORIDA, Enterprise Florida, and most of state government’s business incentive programs – what he calls “corporate welfare.” Scott, a Naples Republican, says they all help create jobs.

Earlier Monday, Corcoran called defenders of VISIT FLORIDA “increasingly hysterical, complete with their ‘Chicken Little’ predictions of economic collapse, state income taxes, and tens of thousands out of work.”

The agency faced criticism for keeping secret a promotional contract it negotiated with South Florida rapper Pitbull. Corcoran sued to get the contract released to the public, but Pitbull himself published a copy of the contract via Twitter, revealing he was promised a maximum of $1 million.

“The burden is now on the defenders of VISIT FLORIDA to decide if they are willing to accept accountability and transparency or if they are looking only to return to the good old days of operating in the shadows,” Corcoran said in a statement. “… Rest assured, the House will not spend another penny on VISIT FLORIDA should accountability and transparency measures be rejected.”

Schutz responded, “Gov. Scott believes in transparency and accountability for any taxpayer dollars used and that is why he has demanded changes and brought in new leadership at VISIT FLORIDA.”

CEO Will Seccombe stepped down after Scott called for his resignation, and Ken Lawson moved from being secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to now head the tourism agency.

Meantime, GOP state Rep. Joe Gruters of Sarasota, a Scott ally, has filed legislation to overhaul the agencies, not abolish them.

The bill will next be heard 1 p.m. Tuesday by the House Appropriations Committee.

In op-ed, Rick Scott still swinging against GOP opposition to incentives

Gov. Rick Scott has released an opinion column on the “Florida House playing politics with Florida jobs” one day before a House panel discusses killing Enterprise Florida, VISIT FLORIDA and many business incentive programs.

Scott’s office emailed the Op-Ed to news media Monday afternoon. The House Appropriations Committee meets Tuesday to consider  a bill that would eliminate the agencies.

The email calls out by name Republican House members “who just last year supported Gov. Scott’s efforts to increase funding at Enterprise Florida,” including Jason Brodeur, Travis Cummings, Bill Hager, Larry Metz, Holly Raschein, and Charlie Stone.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has called such use of public money “corporate welfare.”

The op-ed as released is below:


The Florida House of Representatives has decided to push legislation to undo economic development funding in Florida and defund our state’s tourism agency.  A House panel voted for this job killing legislation two weeks ago and the House Appropriations Committee will be voting on it tomorrow.

That’s correct, many of your elected members of the Florida House have decided their top priority this year is to eliminate funding for Florida’s economy.  They want to eliminate Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida.

They say that they don’t want government intrusion in the free market. Of course, there is government financing in the areas of healthcare, transportation, education, housing, and social services. But, they have decided to try to totally eliminate funding for the one area where we can easily show a major return on the investment of your tax dollars – jobs are being created by more companies moving to our state, and our tourism industry has recruited a record-breaking number of visitors over the last few years.

Even more absurd, the politicians in the Florida House who already voted for this bill say they don’t necessarily want to abolish these programs but instead want to advance a “conversation” …meaning they voted for something they don’t support. This is hypocrisy at its best, and these are the kind of games I came to Tallahassee to change.

I ran for Governor to fight this sort of politics and bring common sense from the business world to our government.  The plan has worked, as Florida has added more than 1.26 million new jobs.

Many politicians spend a lifetime in government, and they simply don’t have any understanding of how business actually works. These are the facts that confirm the negligence of eliminating our jobs and tourism agencies generating jobs:

— Before I came into office, state incentives were often awarded before goals, like job creation, were met.

— But, today Florida companies only receive economic incentives after an independent third-party audit proves stringent requirements are met, including proven job growth and wage requirements to ensure a great return on investment for Florida families.

— This means NO MONEY is given as “corporate welfare” because no money can be awarded until contract requirements like jobs are created.

— Because of our economic development programs, several companies like Hertz, Northrup Grumman, and Blue Origin — to name a few — have located or expanded in our state to create thousands of jobs.

The Florida House likes to rely on inaccurate information to push their narrative of “corporate welfare,” by highlighting the failed deal of Digital Domain.

Let’s look at the facts: EFI recommended that the state not fund Digital Domain.  Ironically, politicians in the Florida Legislature chose to ignore EFI’s recommendation and circumvented EFI’s strict process in 2009 by funding the failed project FROM THE LEGISLATURE.

Both Visit Florida and EFI have made mistakes over the years.  In both cases, we have made changes to ensure transparency of taxpayer dollars and brought in new leadership.  That is what you do in business; you make changes and get it right.   But what you do not do is close up shop.

If the House were to succeed with ending economic development and tourism programs in Florida, the small and rural communities in our state would be hurt the most. Canceling our statewide program would hurt those areas in Florida that would truly be revitalized by a new job creator in their community.

Just last week I traveled the state and met with business owners who are devastated that there is even talk of abolishing these programs.  Many job creators rely on EFI and Visit Florida and said they would not be able to keep their doors open if it weren’t for their help.  No job is expendable to the families they employ.

Coming into this job after a lifetime in business, I knew I would have to learn to tolerate some aspects of politics, and I would have to endure lectures from people who do not know the first thing about creating jobs. But, I cannot allow thousands of Floridians to be denied jobs and opportunities in our state just so a few in elected office can get headlines for their campaign for higher office.

Our economy is booming. Our economic development and tourism programs are some of the best in the nation when it comes to getting a positive return on investment. I will continue to set the record straight on the politics the Florida House is playing and fight for the Florida families who expect their government officials to bring them more opportunity, not less.

This is no time to stand still. In business, you are either moving forward or you are moving backward.  The Florida House is currently planning to take our state backward.  I will fight to stop them, and so should you.

It’s official: Jason Allison resigns as state CIO to join Foley & Lardner

Jason Allison, Florida’s Chief Information Officer, has told Gov. Rick Scott he is resigning.

Allison

Allison’s letter, dated Monday, was released Friday by the Agency for State Technology, which Allison heads. News of his departure was exclusively in Friday’s edition of SUNBURN.

“My years directing the Agency … and my prior service as your Technology Policy Coordinator have been some of the best in my life,” he wrote. “I cannot thank you enough for all of the opportunities and experiences you have provided me during my time in your administration.”

Allison’s letter says he is resigning effective March 7 – the first day of the 2017 Legislative Session. A news release sent Friday from Foley & Lardner says he is starting with the law firm the next day as a “director of public affairs in the Tallahassee office.”

A number of former Scott appointees now work at the firm, including Jon Steverson, former secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, and his predecessor at the department, Herschel Vinyard.

Others who have recently worked for Foley are former Department of Economic Opportunity head Jesse Panuccio, now at the U.S. Department of Justice under President Donald Trump, and Karen Bowling, who co-founded the Solantic walk-in urgent care centers with Scott. She was a Foley lobbyist before becoming CEO of a Jacksonville-based health care tech company.

“Jason is highly skilled at managing the creation, implementation and maintenance of information systems in highly structured and unstructured environments. His deep understanding of government operations and IT issues, combined with his years of experience in the public and private sectors, will tremendously benefit our clients,” David Ralston, chair of the firm’s Government & Public Policy Practice Group, said in a statement.

Allison added: “After spending most of my career dedicated to public service in the technology sector, I am eager to return to private practice with an esteemed group of professionals … Foley’s Government & Public Policy Practice is well known for its outstanding advocacy and counsel to clients, and I look forward to helping advance that effort.”

Under state law, he would not be able to lobby his own agency for two years after leaving. “No … appointed state officer … shall personally represent another person or entity for compensation before the government body or agency of which the individual was an officer or member for a period of 2 years following vacation of office,” the law says.

The Agency for State Technology, which replaced the predecessor Agency for Enterprise Information Technology, was created by lawmakers in 2014. Allison was appointed its head that Dec. 9. He is paid $130,000 a year.

“The Chief Information Officer sets information technology (IT) policy and direction for the State of Florida,” the agency’s website says. “The State CIO is an advisor to the Governor on technology issues.”

In a statement, Scott said Allison “has done an outstanding job.”

“Under his leadership, Florida has made impressive strides to enhancing state IT operations,” Scott said. “I want to thank Jason for his dedication to the State of Florida and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

Eric Larson, now the state’s Chief Technology Officer and AST’s Chief Operations Officer, will become Interim Executive Director and Chief Information Officer, according to a statement from the Governor’s Office. Larson has been with the agency since 2014.

Allison also has been Chief Information Officer for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, his online bio says. “Jason has more than 13 years’ experience in various facets of information technology and holds many industry certifications in areas such as IT process management, project management, security, and network administration,” it says.

He received an undergraduate degree in international affairs from Florida State University.

Allison leaves a month after his agency was dinged in a report by Florida Auditor General Sherrill F. Norman’s office that found security and record-keeping lapses.

Ed. Note: An earlier version of this post relied on a previous press release that mistakenly said Allison would start next Monday. The date is now correct in this version.

Supreme Court rejects evidence standard supported by Rick Scott, lawmakers

In yet another rejection of a policy backed by conservative lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida Supreme Court Thursday “declined” to change the state’s expert evidence rule to one used by federal courts and most states.

“We decline to adopt the Daubert Amendment to the extent that it is procedural, due to the constitutional concerns raised, which must be left for a proper case or controversy,” said the majority opinion by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy A. Quince.

Those concerns include “undermining the right to a jury trial and denying access to courts.”

Florida uses the Frye standard, generally considered easier for plaintiffs to get damaging expert testimony before a jury, while it’s much harder to do so under Daubert.

That’s why Frye is preferred by plaintiffs’ attorneys, and Daubert became a favorite of the defense bar and its big business clients. The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors last year voted to recommend to the court against the change.

Justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston, the court’s conservative minority, disagreed with their colleagues. The newest justice, conservative C. Alan Lawson, did not participate in the decision.

Polston, in a dissent in which Canady joined, questioned the majority’s concerns.

“Has the entire federal court system for the last 23 years as well as 36 states denied parties’ rights to a jury trial and access to courts? Do only Florida and a few other states have a constitutionally sound standard for the admissibility of expert testimony? Of course not,” he wrote.

In 2013, the Legislature approved and Scott signed into law the changing of Florida’s expert evidence rule to the Daubert standard, but the courts did not immediately follow suit.

The judicial branch avoided having to follow the change because of a question over whether switching the expert testimony rule is substantive or procedural. Generally under the state constitution, the Legislature has authority over the “substance” of court operations and the courts decide matters purely of “procedure.”

State Rep. Larry Metz, who sponsored the law that included the Frye-to-Daubert swap, had argued before the court last year that the change “gets to the fundamental purpose of courts,” having “a greater standard of reliability so we can get to the truth in cases.”

On Thursday, he said the court ignored the fact that his legislation passed in both chambers with comfortable majorities: “And we are representing the people of Florida in doing that.”

The court noted it had received 56 comments in favor of keeping Frye and 131 comments in favor of switching to Daubert.

Of those, 77 were “form emails from ‘small business owners’ repeating the same request that the court (move to) ‘the Daubert expert witness standard that the Florida legislature passed in 2013,’ ” a footnote in the majority opinion said.

The Frye standard asks whether expert testimony is “generally accepted” in a particular scientific community. Daubert is stricter scientifically and can often require a kind of “mini-trial” even before an expert can appear in front of jurors. Both are named after court cases.

Oral argument in the case last year added the wrinkle of criminal cases, where advocates said Daubert might help defendants’ lawyers hold police crime labs more accountable, in cases involving drug-sniffing dogs and testing for arson, for example.

The full court Thursday also turned down two other proposed evidence changes.

One would require “a standard-of-care expert witness in a medical malpractice action to specialize in the same specialty as the health care provider against whom or on whose behalf the testimony is offered.”

The other would change “the hearsay exception relating to reports of abuse by elderly persons or disabled adults.”

State could wed whiskey and Wheaties, but at what cost?

Lost in the rush to get the “whiskey and Wheaties” bill over the finish line this year is the incredible toll it might take on independently-owned liquor stores.

The Senate bill (SB 106) that would tear down the “wall of separation” between hard liquor and other retail goods already zoomed through its committees and is now ready to be considered by the full chamber when the 2017 Legislative Session kicks off on March 7.

The House bill (HB 81) is teed up to be discussed by the Careers & Competition Subcommittee today (Wednesday).

A version of the bill has been filed for four years running, aiming to repeal the Prohibition-era state law requiring businesses, such as grocery chains and big-box retailers, to have separate stores to sell liquor. Beer and wine already are sold in grocery aisles in Florida.

Maybe it’s time to hit the brakes.

Take the story of Chuck Kelley, whose family owns four locations of Beach Liquors in Fort Walton Beach, Panama City Beach, Destin and Crestview in the state’s Panhandle.

The business started out as grocery stores, then added liquor stores next to the groceries, as required by current law.

“We got out of the grocery business because we saw Wal-Mart and others going into groceries and thought we just could not compete,” Kelley said.

But now three of the four Beach Liquors are in strip malls that have an “anchor tenant,” the big-box chain stores behind the push to remove the separation requirement.

“If this bill passes, those anchors can put liquor inside their stores, and all of a sudden, they have the traffic that will buy that liquor,” Kelley said. “Our business will be cut. I may not have the sales to justify staying open.”

That means the employees who work for Kelley will be out of jobs. Hmm, and here I thought we were all about “jobs, jobs, jobs” here in Florida.

Rory Eggers, president of the Florida Independent Spirits Association, adds that anchor tenants – the Wal-marts, Targets and others that are behind the push – almost always have a no-compete clause in their lease regarding certain items for sale.

That may include booze. And that means they very well could have the muscle to force out smaller liquor stores in their same shopping centers.

Eggers estimates there are about 260 independently owned stores in just such a situation, putting over 900 jobs at risk.

I’m all for competition and increased business, but at what cost? If I were Gov. Rick Scott, with his almighty veto pen, seems like snuffing out family-owned small businesses is a cost I wouldn’t want to bear.

Ken Lawson “will continue to fight” for VISIT FLORIDA

Ken Lawson, the new head of VISIT FLORIDA, is telling supporters he won’t give up the fight for the state’s embattled tourism marketing agency.

Lawson, Ken (DBPR secretary)
Lawson

In an email, Lawson thanked the tourism industry for showing up to a House hearing this week where the Careers and Competition Subcommittee cleared a measure to eliminate the agency, the Enterprise Florida economic development organization and dozens of state incentive programs.

“You showed up to help and your voice was heard,” Lawson said. “… I could not be prouder of the way the industry has rallied to make a difference.

“I want to assure you that VISIT FLORIDA will continue to fight,” Lawson added. “I have already begun meeting with each and every legislator to ensure they know that VISIT FLORIDA serves a vital role in marketing destinations large and small in every community of this great state, and that a reduction in our public funding would mean the loss of tax revenue and jobs that benefit their constituents. Constituents just like you.”

Lawson, who was tapped to lead the agency by Gov. Rick Scott after his time as secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, asked supporters to “call or email your legislators to let them know you support VISIT FLORIDA and oppose the bill.”

“Be sure to tell them how you and your business benefit from working with VISIT FLORIDA – those personal and local examples are what really make the difference,” he said. “We are in this fight together.”

Robert J. Luck elevated to appeals court judge

Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday appointed Circuit Judge Robert J. Luck to the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami.

Luck, 37, of North Miami Beach, has served as a circuit judge for the 11th Judicial Circuit since 2013.

He previously was an Assistant U.S. Attorney and Deputy Chief at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

Luck received both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Florida. He fills the vacancy created by the Jan. 3 retirement of Judge Frank A. Shepherd.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons