Gov. Rick Scott Archives - Page 6 of 22 - SaintPetersBlog

David Wilkins consulting at struggling VISIT FLORIDA

David Wilkins, who led the state’s perennially troubled child welfare agency, is now helping new CEO Ken Lawson right the ship at VISIT FLORIDA.

An internal email sent Wednesday and shared with FloridaPolitics.com says Wilkins, secretary of the Department of Children and Families under Gov. Rick Scott in 2011-13, is “assisting VISIT FLORIDA in the review of some of our contracts, processes and procedures.”

The email was sent to staff by Meredith DaSilva, the state tourism agency’s director of executive operations. Wilkins couldn’t be immediately reached Thursday.

Scott also used Wilkins earlier this year to review the budget of Enterprise Florida, the public-private economic development organization, to suggest cuts and savings.

Wilkins resigned from DCF “amid an escalating scandal over the deaths of four small children who had a history of involvement with child-abuse investigators,” the Miami Herald’s Carol Marbin Miller reported in 2013.

Lawson, most recently secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, was brought over after Scott had called on former VISIT FLORIDA CEO Will Seccombe to quit, continuing a shake-up at the organization that saw two other top executives shown the door.

That was from the fallout over how it handled a secret marketing contract worth up to $1 million with Miami rapper superstar Pitbull that was vehemently criticized by House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

Scott then called for an overhaul of how VISIT FLORIDA does business.

divorce alimony

Alimony reform bill filed for 2017

State Rep. Colleen Burton will try again to overhaul the state’s alimony law, filing a bill on Wednesday.

The Lakeland Republican still aims to toughen the standards by which alimony is granted and changed, after last year’s measure was vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott.

“I believe it is the right thing to do,” Burton said in a phone interview. “It costs families a lot of money to go through a process that has no starting point. This gives judges a starting point, the same in Miami as in Pensacola, and gives predictability to former spouses who are trying to determine alimony.

“I have nothing personal invested in this,” she added. “This is just worth trying again.”

The latest bill (HB 283), however, does not contain child custody provisions that garnered Scott’s disfavor in 2016.

He disapproved of that legislation because it had the potential to put the “wants of a parent before the child’s best interest by creating a premise of equal time-sharing,” his veto letter said.

Family-law related bills have had trouble getting Scott’s signature even as lawmakers have tried for years to change the way Florida’s courts award alimony.

In 2013, Scott vetoed a previous attempt to modify alimony law because, he said, “it applies retroactively and thus tampers with the settled economic expectations of many Floridians who have experienced divorce.”

He added that the “retroactive adjustment of alimony could result in unfair, unanticipated results.”

On one side, former spouses who wrote the checks have said permanent alimony in particular, or “forever alimony,” wasn’t fair to them.

Their exes shot back that they shouldn’t be penalized, for example, after staying home to raise the children and then having trouble re-entering the workplace.

But Burton’s 26-page bill, among other things, contains a guideline that says judges should consider an ex-spouse’s “services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party” when calculating an award.

A judge can go outside the suggested alimony amount under the bill “only if the court considers all of the factors … and makes specific written findings concerning the relevant factors that justify” the deviation.

A message for Burton seeking comment was left at her Lakeland district office.

But her Senate counterpart last year, Republican Kelli Stargel also of Lakeland, said in a text message she will not file a companion measure.

“I don’t know that I’m willing to take this on again next year,” she told FloridaPolitics.com in April. “Then again, a lot can happen between now and the next legislative session. But we need to discuss the merits of a bill and not get into heated rhetoric.”

The legislation eventually caused “a hollering battle” between about 100 advocates and opponents of the bill outside Scott’s office days before the veto.


Update: State Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples Republican, on Friday filed the Senate companion to the House bill, which she says is identical save for  “a few punctuation differences.”

half staff

Rick Scott orders flags at half-staff for Central Florida officers

Gov. Rick Scott has ordered flags at half-staff to honor two first responders killed in Central Florida.

The governor issued the directive Thursday.

“My wife Ann and I join Floridians across the state in praying for these officers and their families during this unimaginable time,” he said. “We ask that God provide them with much needed healing, comfort and hope.”

The U.S. and Florida flags will be flown at half-staff at the County Courthouse in Orange County, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in Orlando, and at Orlando City Hall from sunrise to sunset this Friday and Saturday.

Authorities said Master Sergeant Debra Clayton of the Orlando Police Department died Monday in a shootout with Markeith Loyd, who is wanted on a murder charge related to the death of his pregnant girlfriend in December.

An Orange County sheriff’s deputy, Norman Lewis, later died from a car crash while he was traveling to the scene on a motorcycle.

“Any act of violence against our heroes is cowardly and shameful and our state will not stand for it,” Scott said. “I know the entire Orlando Police Department, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are working diligently to bring justice and ensure the Orlando community is safe and secure.”

In the past year, “our officers have faced challenges like never before,” he added. “But even after the terrorist attack at Pulse nightclub last summer and the attack at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport last week, our law enforcement officers still wake up each day and choose to put their lives on the line in order to protect our state.”

The deaths of Clayton and Lewis serve “as a sobering reminder of how important it is for each one of us to take every opportunity to thank these heroes for their service and sacrifice,” Scott said.

Florida Chamber head still bullish on incentives (with an explanation)

The head of the Florida Chamber of Commerce Thursday defended the state’s handout of economic incentives, but said they were only ever meant to stoke job creation in a targeted way.

“In very, very limited cases, incentives are in play,” said Mark Wilson, the organization’s president and CEO. “We shouldn’t be using incentives for every job we create. In fact, they should rarely be used.”

Wilson and others, including dozens of former and current lawmakers, spoke at a press conference in the Capitol.

The organization rolled out its 2017 Competitiveness Agenda, “a blueprint of legislative priorities built on jobs, growth and opportunity for Florida families and small businesses.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Americans for Prosperity-Florida, a free market advocacy organization, have inveighed against them as “corporate welfare.”

In questions and answers after the press conference, Wilson explained incentives are best used for targeted industries, such as advanced manufacturing and life sciences.

“When we can compete for those kinds of high-skill, high-wage jobs … in those very limited cases, incentives make sense,” he said. “Incentives and marketing dollars are incredibly important and when they’re used, they’re the difference maker.”

Corcoran has said, however, he expects requests for taxpayer-financed economic incentives to move through his chamber despite his personal objections to them.

This year, Gov. Rick Scott is requesting $85 million in incentives for a broad range of business deals to attract businesses to Florida.

The governor had last year proposed a “Florida Enterprise Fund” of $250 million for business incentives, a proposal that didn’t get funded in the 2016-17 state budget.

Could Ken Lawson next be tapped to head VISIT FLORIDA?

Is Ken Lawson the right man to right the state’s beleaguered tourism agency?

Lawson, Ken (DBPR secretary)
Lawson

The smart money in Tallahassee now is betting on Gov. Rick Scott to move Lawson, his secretary of Business and Professional Regulation, to head VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s “official tourism marketing corporation.”

As you’ll recall, Scott called on former CEO Will Seccombe to quit, continuing a bloodbath at the organization that saw two other top executives fired. That was from the fallout over how it handled a secret marketing contract with Miami rapper superstar Pitbull.

The Governor still believes in its mission, even as House Speaker Richard Corcoran questions its continued existence.

At a November event in Jacksonville, Scott lauded the agency for helping drive up Florida’s tourism and creating jobs.

“That would not be happening,” Scott said, were it not for “Visit Florida, Visit Jacksonville, and great attractions like the Jacksonville Zoo,” according to an Associated Press article.

But Scott also has called for an overhaul of how VISIT FLORIDA does business—and Lawson, a former federal prosecutor and Marine Corps captain, just might be the man for the job.

First, he’s a loyal Scott soldier, and has “has held numerous regulatory positions within the private sector and federal government,” according to his official bio.

He also knows how to take hits: Bulldog reporter Gary Fineout of the AP shellacked him with questions in October on the last day of trial on whether the Seminole Tribe of Florida should keep offering blackjack at its casinos.

Lawson, who had been in the courtroom, was even asked if he planned to resign should the judge rule for the tribe. (The department also regulates gambling.) He smiled but didn’t answer. The state lost—and Lawson’s still in his job.

All that said, Lawson—a lawyer by trade—seemingly has no experience in tourism or marketing.

He’s been Assistant Secretary of Enforcement for the U.S. Department of Treasury, and Assistant Chief Counsel for Field Operations at the Transportation Security Administration, his bio says.

Lawson also was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Criminal Division for the Middle District of Florida in Tampa.

“In the private sector, he spent two years with Booz Allen Hamilton as a consultant, including a year as Chief of Party for the Financial Crimes Prevention Project in Jakarta, Indonesia, where he directed international anti-money laundering, anticorruption, and counterterrorist financing projects,” according to the bio.

And he was vice president for compliance at nFinanSe Inc., a financial services company in Tampa.

Lawson is paid $141,000 a year as DBPR secretary; Seccombe was paid $293,000 a year, plus bonuses, records show.

Capital correspondent Jim Rosica contributed to this post.

Is Rick Scott co-opting Florida’s judicial nominating process?

Christian D. Searcy doesn’t consider himself “the most political person” but suggests you don’t need a weatherman to see which way the wind is blowing on Florida’s judicial nominating panels.

Searcy, president of the Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart & Shipley personal-injury law firm, reacted to Tuesday’s news about the state’s Judicial Nominating Commissions (JNCs).

Gov. Rick Scott had summarily rejected all suggestions from The Florida Bar to fill vacancies in several JNCs, the panels that recommend lawyers for judgeships.

Searcy once was on a slate of three people recommended by the Bar to serve on West Palm Beach’s 4th District Court of Appeal nominating commission.

He and Kathryn S. Pecko of Hollywood and Glenn J. Waldman of Fort Lauderdale were rejected by Scott in November 2015, according to Bar records. He was never given a reason why, Searcy said.

“It would seem to any fair-minded person (that) what’s happening to these slates is just plain wrong,” he said. “It seems as though this governor aims to make the judiciary just another branch of the Governor’s Office.”

Scott and fellow conservatives have long complained of judicial activism, and the governor has said he wants “judges (who) say what the law is, rather than what it should be.” But often, that’s in response to a decision that just happens to go against a policy they favor.

In the Florida House, for instance, “the GOP leadership has been sore at the Supreme Court for a while now, mostly over forced legislative redistricting rules and use of public funds for school tuition vouchers,” writes Tallahassee Democrat columnist Bill Cotterell, referring to recently filed measures that could allow lawmakers to override court decisions they don’t like.

When Scott presented C. Alan Lawson last month as his first choice for the Florida Supreme Court, the governor said Lawson “clearly believes in following the rule of law. He is going to do a good job … and he’s not going to legislate from the bench.”

Scott “appoints JNC members who share his vision that judges will follow the law and serve humbly,” spokeswoman Lauren Schenone told FloridaPolitics.com. “The voters that elected him expect that.”

*          *          *

The nine-member Judicial Nominating Commissions, made up of lawyers and non-lawyers, hold great sway over who becomes a judge in Florida.

When a vacancy occurs that must be filled by appointment, a JNC “submit(s) three to six names of the most highly qualified applicants to the Governor, who must make a final selection from the list.”

The system, known as judicial merit selection, is supposed to ensure a nonpartisan way “to locate, recruit, investigate, and evaluate applicants for judicial office.”

Nominating commissions’ “structure and composition must provide a climate that fosters public confidence in the process,” wrote retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in a 2014 white paper. “They must not be a political or partisan entity.”

Getting onto a commission under Scott hasn’t been easy.

“Five members are appointed directly by the Governor, and the (Florida) Bar sends nominations to the Governor to fill the remaining four spots,” according to the Bar’s website.

But state law allows the governor to “reject all of the nominees recommended for a position and request that the (Bar) submit a new list.” In that way, a governor can simply turn down the Bar until he gets the names he wants.

Bar records show that Scott has rejected approximately 90 names put forth by the Bar for JNC openings since he took office in 2011. Of those, Searcy was the only person contacted by FloridaPolitics.com who would speak on the record.

Florida’s system “used to be held up as a model,” Searcy said. “But now it just allows (nominating panels) to be stacked by a governor.”

Rick Scott rejects Bar’s nominees for state’s judicial panels

Gov. Rick Scott has rejected all suggestions from The Florida Bar to fill vacancies in several of the state’s Judicial Nominating Commissions (JNC), the panels that recommend lawyers for judgeships.

The latest rejections now add up to at least 90 of the Bar’s recommendations for JNC openings that Scott has turned down since taking office in 2011, according to Bar records.

Other names that Scott rejected over the years include Vero Beach lawyer Erin Grall, now a Republican state representative, and nationally known civil-rights attorney Ben Crump of Tallahassee.

On Dec. 27, William Spicola, Scott’s general counsel, wrote a letter to Bar President William J. Schifino Jr., saying the governor wanted the Bar to start over and offer different recommendations for all the current openings. He did not give a reason.

“The Governor understands and appreciates The Bar’s time and effort in vetting and selecting nominees for appointment,” Spicola wrote. “Thank you for your important work, and we look forward to receiving additional names for consideration.”

A judicial nominating commission has nine members. “Five members are appointed directly by the Governor, and the Bar sends nominations to the Governor to fill the remaining four spots,” the Bar’s website explains.

The governor must select from the Bar’s recommendations, but state law allows for the governor to “reject all of the nominees recommended for a position and request that the (Bar) submit a new list.”

There is now one “lawyer vacancy” in each of five JNCs: the ones for the 2nd District Court of Appeal, the 3rd District Court of Appeal, and the 6th, 7th, and 20th Judicial Circuits.

The 15 rejected nominees are:

  • Thomas H. Dart, Sarasota
  • Amy S. Farrior, Tampa
  • Natalie P. Thomas, Tampa
  • Debora A. Diaz, Tarpon Springs
  • Robert H. Dillinger, St. Petersburg
  • Hugh C. Umsted, New Port Richey
  • Sonia M. Diaz, Naples
  • Kelley G. Price, Naples
  • Jamie B. Schwinghamer, Estero
  • Elliott B. Kula, Surfside
  • Lisa Lehner, Miami
  • Effie D. Silva, Miami
  • Aaron Delgado, Daytona Beach
  • Erum S. Kistemaker, Daytona Beach
  • Horace Smith Jr., Ormond Beach

The Bar is now taking applications, due Feb. 6, for the next set of nominations.

Judge invalidates pollution notification rule

A Florida administrative law judge says a rule requiring companies to notify the public of pollution events within 24 hours is invalid.

The new rule was pushed by Gov. Rick Scott after it took weeks for the public to be notified about a giant sinkhole at a fertilizer plant that sent millions of gallons of polluted water into the state’s main drinking water aquifer.

Administrative law judge Bram Canter on Friday ruled that the new rule, which would result in fines for companies who failed to report pollution within a day, was “an invalid exercise of delegated legislative authority.”

Five business groups – Associated Industries of Florida, Florida Farm Bureau Federation, Florida Retail Federation, Florida Trucking Association and the National Federation of Independent Business – challenged the rule in court, saying it would create excessive regulatory costs.

Scott’s office says he is reviewing the ruling and that he still believes the current rules are outdated and need to change.

Rick Scott appoints 24 to Judicial Nominating Commissions

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday announced thirteen appointments and eleven reappointments to many of the state’s Judicial Nominating Commissions, the panels charged with making recommendations for judgeships.

They “submit three to six names of the most highly qualified applicants to the Governor, who must make a final selection from the list,” according to The Florida Bar. “Each Judicial Nominating Commission has nine members. Five members are appointed directly by the Governor, and the Bar sends nominations to the Governor to fill the remaining four spots.”

The latest names are below:

First District Court of Appeal JNC

Christa Calamas, 45, of Tallahassee, is the staff director for the Florida House of Representatives’ Health & Human Services Committee. Calamas previously served as the secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration. She is reappointed for a term beginning December 30, 2016, and ending July 1, 2020.

Heather Stearns, 39, of Tallahassee, is an attorney with the Office of the Chief Inspector General. She succeeds Steven Yablonski and is appointed for a term beginning December 30, 2016, and ending July 1, 2020.

Christine Graves, 39, of Tallahassee, is an appellate attorney and shareholder with Carlton Fields. She succeeds Jerome Novey and is appointed for a term beginning December 30, 2016, and ending July 1, 2019.

Gary Hunter Jr., 49, of Tallahassee, is an attorney for Hopping Green & Sams, P.A. He is reappointed for a term beginning December 30, 2016, and ending July 1, 2020.

Second District Court of Appeal JNC

Charbel Barakat, 36, of Tampa, is the vice president and chief counsel of the Florida region for D.R. Horton, Inc. He succeeds Peter Meros and is appointed for a term beginning December 30, 2016, and ending July 1, 2020.

Hunter Chamberlin, 44, of Tampa, is an attorney and the owner of Chamberlin Law Firm, P.A. He is reappointed for a term beginning December 30, 2016, and ending July 1, 2020.

Fifth District Court of Appeal JNC

Amanda Carl, 35, of Deltona, is a corporate attorney for A. Duda & Sons, Inc. She succeeds Isaac Lidsky and is appointed for a term beginning December 30, 2016, and ending July 1, 2020.

Brett Renton, 34, of Orlando, is an attorney and partner with Shutts & Bowen, LLP. He succeeds Richard Mitchell and is appointed for a term beginning December 30, 2016, and ending July 1, 2020.

Michael C. Sasso, 64, of Oviedo, is an attorney and partner with Sasso & Sasso, P.A. He is reappointed for a term beginning December 30, 2016, and ending July 1, 2020.

Second Circuit JNC

J. Andrew Atkinson, 43, of Tallahassee, is the general counsel for the Department of Management Services. He is reappointed for a term beginning December 30, 2016, and ending July 1, 2020.

Stuart Williams, 46, of Tallahassee, is the general counsel for the Agency for Health Care Administration. He is reappointed for a term beginning December 30, 2016, and ending July 1, 2020.

Robert Clarke Jr., 59, of Tallahassee, is an attorney with Ausley McMullen. He is reappointed for a term beginning December 30, 2016, and ending July 1, 2020.

Sixth Circuit JNC

Bill Bunting, 76, of Hudson, succeeds Kevin Brennan and is appointed for a term beginning December 30, 2016, and ending July 1, 2020.

Todd Jennings, 35, of Belleair, is an attorney with Macfarlane, Ferguson, and McMullen. He is reappointed for a term beginning December 30, 2016, and ending July 1, 2020.

Kara Hardin, 40, of Zephyrhills, is an attorney with Kara Hardin, P.L. She succeeds Hugh Umsted and is appointed for a term beginning December 30, 2016, and ending July 1, 2019.

Ninth Circuit JNC

Paetra Brownlee, 34, of Orlando, is an attorney with Charles M. Greene, P.A. She is reappointed for a term beginning December 30, 2016, and ending July 1, 2020.

Matthew Klein, 34, of Orlando, is an attorney with Jackson Lewis, P.C. He succeeds Joshua Grosshans and is appointed for a term beginning December 30, 2016, and ending July 1, 2020.

Joshua Grosshans, 33, of Winter Garden, is an attorney with Latham, Shuker, Eden & Beaudine, LLP. He succeeds William Vose and is appointed for a term beginning December 30, 2016, and ending July 1, 2020.

William Vose, 72, of Orlando, is a former assistant state attorney for the Ninth Circuit. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning December 30, 2016, and ending July 1, 2018.

Eleventh Circuit JNC

Paul Huck Jr., 50, of Pinecrest, is an attorney with Jones Day. He is reappointed for a term beginningDecember 30, 2016, and ending July 1, 2020.

Hayden O’Byrne, 35, of Coral Gables, is an associate attorney with K&L Gates, LLP. He succeeds Daniel Schwartz and is appointed for a term beginning December 30, 2016, and ending July 1, 2020.

Walter Harvey, 51, of Miami Shores, is an attorney for the Miami-Dade County School Board. He succeeds Melanie Damian and is appointed for a term beginning December 30, 2016, and ending July 1, 2020.

Thirteenth Circuit JNC

Michael Beltran, 32, of Tampa, is a sole practitioner with Beltran Litigation, P.A. He succeeds C. Howard Hunter, III, and is appointed for a term beginning December 30, 2016, and ending July 1, 2020.

Gilbert Singer, 61, of Tampa, is an attorney and partner with Marcadis Singer, P.A. He is reappointed for a term beginning December 30, 2016, and ending July 1, 2020.

Closing statement: Florida Supreme Court justice steps down

Florida Supreme Court Justice James E.C. Perry has reached his final day in office.

Perry

Perry is stepping down Friday because he reached the mandatory retirement age for justices.

Perry was appointed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist to the court in 2009. He was the fourth black justice appointed to the court.

During his tenure, he was part of a group of justices that has issued rulings that angered the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott.

Perry last week issued a lengthy dissent that asserted the state had applied the death penalty in a “biased and discriminatory fashion” and that there was no way it could be carried out in a constitutional manner.

Scott earlier this month appointed C. Alan Lawson, the chief judge of the 5th District Court of Appeal, to replace Perry.

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