Rick Scott Archives - SaintPetersBlog

Rick Scott joining with other governors in D.C.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is joining with the nation’s governors who are scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Scott is leaving Thursday for Washington D.C. where he will attend events connected to the winter meetings of the National Governors Association and the Republican Governors Association. Reports indicate Scott is the favorite to become Vice Chair of the Republican Governors Association, putting him in line to the lead the organization in 2018.

This includes a Friday luncheon with Pence and a visit to the White House on Sunday.

Scott is also scheduled to take part in the “State Solutions Conference” hosted Friday by POLITICO.

The GOP governor, who constantly criticized former President Barack Obama, is friends with Trump and backed his bid for president right after he won Florida’s presidential primary.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Rick Scott’s newest title – lame duck

Gov. Rick Scott has added a new title to his resume in the last few weeks – lame duck.

Sure, he officially retains the job of Florida governor until a successor takes over in 2019, but for all intents, it appears a majority of state House members aren’t waiting until then to stop listening to him.

The House Appropriations Committee euphemistically threw a pie in the governor’s face Tuesday by voting to eliminate Enterprise Florida and eviscerate Visit Florida, the state agency that markets the glory of the Sunshine State to people in the cold, frozen north.

This happened despite perhaps the most aggressive public pitch by Scott in his six years as governor to preserve both entities. It was a stinging rebuke by his own party, and what we can conclude is that it almost certainly is the shape of things to come.

Scott went down swinging.

“(Tuesday’s) vote by politicians in the Florida House is a job killer. I know some politicians who have voted for this job killing bill say they don’t necessarily want to abolish these programs but instead want to advance a ‘conversation.’ This is completely hypocritical and the kind of games I came to Tallahassee to change,” Scott said in a statement that wound up in my mailbox and no doubt hundreds of others.

“Perhaps if these politicians would listen to their constituents, instead of playing politics, they would understand how hurtful this legislation will be to Florida families.”

That’s feisty talk, but the truth is undeniable. The governor has been powerless though in the face of opposition by House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O’Lakes.

Corcoran sees both programs as revenue-sucking wastes of taxpayer money. He has called Enterprise Florida and its job-creation incentives “corporate welfare” and basically a colossal failure.

All Scott has been able to do is complain. He has been unable to summon the political clout to combat this insurgency within his own party, so what does that tell you?

Well, a couple of things.

Most important for the moment is that it says House Republicans have tuned out their Republican governor on an issue he cares passionately about. Once that happens, the disconnect only gets worse.

It also further stamps Corcoran as a legitimate contender to succeed Scott in the governor’s mansion, if future political ambitions take him in that direction. That makes the relative silence lately by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam even more interesting. Putnam is widely considered to be the likely Republican nominee for governor next time around.

Meanwhile, I wouldn’t expect Corcoran to give an inch going forward. When it comes to issues like these, compromise doesn’t seem to be in his playbook.

That’s not good news for Rick Scott after all the effort he has put in to save these programs, but as a lame duck, there’s not much he can do about it.

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Senate Republicans begin targeting Bill Nelson in new digital ad campaign

Bill Nelson isn’t running for re-election for another year, but it’s never too early to start the campaign against him.

That’s what the National Republican Senate Committee is doing this week, unveiling a new digital ad campaign to inform Florida voters of what they call Nelson’s “liberal record” in Washington, comparing his Senate voting record to Massachusetts’s Elizabeth Warren.

“Bill Nelson has positioned himself squarely on the left, voting with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren 92 percent of the time,” said NRSC Communications Director Katie Martin. “Bill Nelson may try to pose as a moderate as the election approaches, but his record shows that he has more in common with Washington liberals than with Florida voters.”

Although progressive Democrats in Florida have occasionally criticized Nelson’s voting record, he was largely in sync with Barack Obama over the past eight years on the main pieces of legislation.

He’s served in the Senate for over 16 years, defeating Bill McCollum, Katherine Harris and Connie Mack IV along the way. Although there are rumors of various Republicans who will challenge him in 2018, most observers believe Governor Rick Scott is the leading contender at this point.

Nelson has said he’s ready and willing for the challenge against Scott, saying“I only know one way to run, and that’s to run as hard as I can as if there’s no tomorrow.”

The digital ads will run on Facebook and are part of a national campaign targeting Senate Democrats representing states won by Donald Trump in November.

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GOP leaders get high marks from their Republican base, new Associated Industries of Florida poll shows

Republicans are getting a good report card from Florida voters according to a new poll conducted by Associated Industries of Florida and obtained by FloridaPolitics.com.

AIF found that 71 percent of likely Republican voters think the state is headed in the right direction, and an astounding 81 percent approve of the job President Donald Trump is doing through his first month in the White House.

The Trump numbers are a far cry from the most recent Gallup national poll on his popularity, which showed him with a 40 percent approval rating on Feb. 17.

Naysayers measured in at 20 percent for the direction of the state and 14 percent for Trump’s job approval, leading to a net 51 percent approval and 67 percent approval, respectively.

Survey participants also had no qualms with Gov. Rick Scott, who garnered 81 percent support compared to 14 percent who said he his performance wasn’t up to snuff.

While Scott and Trump are enjoying glowing reviews from likely Republican voters, second-term U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio isn’t faring as well.

Though 69 percent of those polled said they thought he was doing a good job, the bulk of those supporters stated that they only “somewhat approved” of the Miami Republican, leaving him with a softer approval rating than Scott or Trump.

AIF surveyed 800 likely Republican voters who had voted in at least one of the last three Republican primaries, but not the presidential preference in 2016. The group said 81 percent of those polled were over 50 years old and 90 percent were white.

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For ‘Dem-witted’ Florida Democrats, stop arguing and get to work

In case Democrats haven’t figured it out yet, they are in a position of increasing irrelevance for a couple of big reasons: They consistently have been outworked, and they apparently can’t understand what’s actually happening in Florida and this country.

The election of Donald Trump is just the latest in what has been a series of events that left Democrats dazed and confused (apologies to Led Zeppelin). I was reminded of that Saturday when an enthusiastic and large crowd (yes, Mr. President, it was large) turned out in Melbourne to hear President Trump rail against his favorite targets — chief among them, the media.

Democrats will point to opinion polls that show the president at historic lows after one month in office. Many of them will assume that means Trump’s administration is headed for a thrashing in the 2018 midterms, ultimately to crash on the rocks in 2020 — if he isn’t impeached before then.

They may be right, but I wouldn’t bet the mortgage on it. The disconnect between everyday people and the so-called powerful elite has been widening for a while now. It shows no signs of easing. If anything, the gap is increasing. News flash: The everyday people are winning.

Go back to the 2010 governor’s election in Florida. How many experts gave Rick Scott any chance of winning? After he beat Alex Sink, Democrats disdainfully wrote it off an anomaly that would self-correct.

They argued that Scott had essentially bought the election by pouring millions from his own bank account into the campaign. They grumped that Sink had run a lackluster campaign. And when Scott was later judged to be the least popular governor in the nation, Democrats assumed they would regain power in 2014.

How did that work out?

Take it even closer to home. There was a story Friday on SaintPetersBlog from Mitch Perry about a transportation forum in Tampa. People listened as Sharon Calvert, Tom Rask and Barb Haselden — three local activists who resist labels but sound a lot like Tea Party folks — gave their views on public transportation.

It’s fair to say they oppose big government transportation projects they see as outdated money-losers, and they appear to be quite proud of their roles in scuttling local tax referendums for transportation in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

I have frequently dealt with Sharon Calvert, and while I don’t agree with many of her viewpoints, I respect her and her colleagues for their persistence and willingness to engage. And boy, do they engage.

They attend mind-numbing planning meetings and challenge officials to prove the things they say. They go over news articles and columns word by word to argue points that may seem arcane, but really aren’t. They are relentless on the details.

And here’s the biggest thing: they are convincing. Not to me necessarily and certainly not to many public officials, but they get their word out to the people and convince them to vote. They are the definition of grass roots.

That’s how Trump won, too. I remember driving by the Florida State Fairgrounds late one night shortly before November’s election. The place was packed with people coming to hear Donald Trump, a man who supposedly was lagging hopelessly behind in the polls at that point.

There were scenes like that playing out all over the country. Democrats dismissed it as a bunch of misguided yahoos and didn’t see the sucker punch coming until it knocked them to the floor.

So here’s the deal they better learn. They better stop being so Dem-witted about how election “shockers” like Trump and Rick Scott happen. They need to realize how much ground they need to make up with voters who have tuned them out.

They need to look at crowds like the one President Trump just had in Melbourne and see that for it is: reality. And then, as two-term Gov. Scott might say, get to work.

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Task force would seek to remake Florida’s criminal justice system

Florida’s state lawmakers increasingly are embracing criminal justice reform policies that break with the state’s “tough on crime” past. But a sea change could be in the works.

But a sea change could be in the works.

Last year, Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, and the GOP-controlled legislature approved one of the most far-reaching civil asset forfeiture reforms in the country, repealed a 10-20-life mandatory minimum sentencing law, and expanded health care delivery for mentally ill inmates. Mental health advocates say as much as 40 percent of Florida’s prison population needs treatment.

Dozens of reform-related bills already have been filed ahead this year’s state legislative session.

Now, it’s time to go big.

Seizing on momentum, Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg wants to remake the entire system.

“If you look around the country, many other states are leading on criminal justice reform. It’s a wave that’s just starting to hit Florida,” Brandes told Watchdog.org.

“It’s time to look at a holistic view about how to transform the system,” he said.

Brandes is seeking legislative approval to form a task force to conduct a comprehensive review of Florida’s criminal justice, court and corrections systems.

Ultimately, the task force would submit a report with findings, conclusions and recommendations to be molded into legislation for the 2018 state session.

Overhauling state prisons may be the first priority.

“We have prisons that are in a kind of crisis mode right now. We’re having a tough time hiring guards. Contraband rates are through the roof. Our education of prisoners is at rock bottom, and recidivism is a struggle for the state,” Brandes said.

Membership must reflect the racial, gender, geographic and economic diversity of the state, as well as the diversity and demographics of the state’s prison population, according to the proposal. The 28-member group would include members of the House and Senate, judges, academics, faith leaders, victims’ advocates, public defenders, law enforcement officials and even prison inmates in good standing.

Brandes said he has been in contact with groups such as the Crime and Justice Institute and Pew Research Center to discuss how to approach the issue and what possible outcomes might look like.

The task force would use a data-driven approach to arrive at sentencing and corrections recommendations for the purpose of:

— Reducing the state prison population.

— Decreasing spending by focusing on serious offenses and violent criminals.

— Holding offenders accountable through research-based supervision and sentencing practices.

— Reinvesting savings into strategies known to decrease recidivism, including reentry outcomes.

“We think states like Texas are thought leaders in criminal justice reform. It’s time for Florida to follow Texas’s lead on the criminal justice issue and to get serious about criminal justice reform,” Brandes said.

Florida is often compared to Texas both economically and demographically. In 2007, Texas instituted a nationally recognized reform package, and has added to it ever since.

When asked to describe possible obstacles, Brandes said, “Most arguments in the Legislature are fortress versus frontier arguments. I’m, almost to a fault, with the frontiers.”

According to the proposal, task force members would receive no taxpayer compensation for their work.

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Subliminal message no help in Enterprise Florida fight

I was watching the fascinating video from the Florida House of Representatives in its escalating war with Gov. Rick Scott over state subsidies for private businesses and tourism when an image caught my eye as it streaked by quickly.

It was the logo for Enterprise Florida, the public-private partnership that is supposed to create jobs. Scott loves the concept so much he included $85 million in his budget request for the endeavor. Therein lies the battle line with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who says it’s a waste of taxpayer money.

The House video makes that case emphatically.

Anyway, I rolled the video back to the logo and thought, hey, wait a minute. It looked familiar. One quick Google search later confirmed that EP’s logo looks suspiciously similar to Enron’s, and, well, need I say more?

That’s not a subliminal message an endeavor fighting for its life (and funding) wants to send.

Enron, as we remember, set the gold standard (so to speak) for getting into taxpayers’ wallets in the name of “job creation” and other such gibberish. The Libertarian-leaning Cato Institute in 2012 called Enron “a poster child for the harm of business subsidies,” reporting the company received $3.7 billion through various means through federal government agencies before it collapsed in December 2001.

No one is trying to place Enterprise Florida on the same level as Enron, but the principle Corcoran and his GOP-controlled House members believe is where the connection is valid. Corcoran strongly argues that government (meaning taxpayers) shouldn’t decide business winners and loser by funneling public money to private interests.

And EP certainly has received more than a little bit of public dough since it was founded in 2005. As the Orlando Sentinel reported in December, “A prime example of Florida’s political favoritism is Enterprise Florida, a public-private partnership that promised to create 200,000 jobs by 2005. After $1.7 billion in incentives, it had reached only half its goal. And while the program was intended to be funded equally between public and private funds, an estimated 90 percent of its funding came from the taxpayers.”

Scott is on a public relations offensive to keep the public tap open for Enterprise Florida, since job creation seems to be the sole focus of his administration. He was just in Palm Beach, warning that cutbacks to EP and Visit Florida, the tourism arm that also receives generous taxpayer money, could result in job losses.

WPTV in West Palm Beach reported that Discover the Palm Beaches President and CEO Jorge Pesquera said that eliminating Visit Florida could result in the loss of 3 million tourists to his area. He said that could cause 10 hotels to close with a loss of 31,000 jobs.

Well …

All that taxpayer money didn’t save Enron jobs, did it?

To be fair, it makes sense for the state to market tourism, given its obvious huge impact. But Enterprise Florida is another matter, and the showdown between a governor hungry to create jobs and a House Speaker equally determined to protect the public purse is in full swing.

While that plays out, the folks at Enterprise Florida might want to commission someone to create a new logo. It’s just a thought.

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Court: Florida docs allowed to ask patients about guns

A federal appeals court ruled on Thursday that Florida doctors can talk to patients about gun safety, declaring a law aimed at restricting such discussions a violation of the First Amendment’s right to free speech.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the law does not trespass on patients’ Second Amendment rights to own guns and noted a patient who doesn’t want to be questioned about that can easily find another doctor.

“The Second Amendment right to own and possess firearms does not preclude questions about, commentary on, or criticism for the exercise of that right,” wrote Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan in one of two majority opinions covering 90 pages. “There is no actual conflict between the First Amendment rights of doctors and medical professionals and the Second Amendment rights of patients.”

Circuit Judge William Pryor, who was a finalist in President Donald Trump‘s search for a Supreme Court nominee, said in a separate concurring opinion that the First Amendment must protect all points of view.

“The promise of free speech is that even when one holds an unpopular point of view, the state cannot stifle it,” he wrote. “The price Americans pay for this freedom is that the rule remains unchanged regardless of who is in the majority.”

The law was passed in 2011 and signed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott with strong support from the National Rifle Association. It was the only one of its kind in the nation, although similar laws have been considered in other states.

Supporters in the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature insisted it was necessary because doctors were overstepping their bounds and pushing an anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment agenda.

The law was challenged almost immediately by thousands of physicians, medical organizations and other groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union as a violation of free speech in what became known as the “Docs v. Glocks” case. A legal battle has raged in the courts since then, with several conflicting opinions issued.

“We are thrilled that the court has finally put to bed the nonsensical and dangerous idea that a doctor speaking with a patient about gun safety somehow threatens the right to own a gun,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida.

The 11th Circuit noted that Florida lawmakers appeared to base the law on “six anecdotes” about physicians’ discussions of guns in their examination rooms and little other concrete evidence that there is an actual problem. And doctors who violated the law could face professional discipline, a fine or possibly loss of their medical licenses.

“There was no evidence whatsoever before the Florida Legislature that any doctors or medical professionals have taken away patients’ firearms or otherwise infringed on patients’ Second Amendment rights,” Jordan wrote for the court.

The NRA and Florida attorneys had argued that under the law doctors could ask about firearms if the questions were relevant to a patient’s health or safety, or someone else’s safety, and that the law was aimed at eliminating harassment of gun owners. But the 11th Circuit said there was no evidence of harassment or improper disclosure of gun ownership in health records, as law supporters also claimed.

“There is nothing in the record suggesting that patients who are bothered or offended by such questions are psychologically unable to choose another medical provider, just as they are permitted to do if their doctor asks too many questions about private matters like sexual activity, alcohol consumption, or drug use,” the court ruled.

The ruling did determine that some parts of the law could remain on the books, such as provisions allowing patients to decline to answer questions about guns and prohibiting health insurance companies from denying coverage or increasing premiums for people who lawfully own guns.

The case will return to U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke in Miami for a ruling that follows the 11th Circuit’s direction. The case could, however, also be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Sunshine State has another banner year for tourism

Florida had another record-setting year for tourism despite natural disasters, a virus outbreak and a tragic attack on an Orlando nightclub.

Gov. Rick Scott will announce Thursday at the Brevard Zoo that nearly 113 million tourists visited the state last year. This is the sixth year in a row that the numbers have climbed. Nearly 107 million tourists visited in 2015.

Scott will hail the continued growth during a time when the agency that promotes tourism is coming under fire. House Republicans are backing a proposal to shut down Visit Florida amid questionable contracts, such as one that paid rap star Pitbull $1 million to promote the state.

The governor in a statement noted that Florida still attracted record numbers despite the Zika virus outbreak, two hurricanes and the attack at the Pulse Nightclub that left 49 dead.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Randy Fine letter warns Rick Scott to stop badmouthing his incentives vote

Freshman Republican Rep. Randy Fine warned Gov. Rick Scott not to badmouth him in his district in a sternly written letter sent Wednesday.

The letter comes after Fine and eight other Republicans on the House Careers and Competition Committee voted for a bill that would dismantle Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development arm, and Visit Florida, the agency responsible for promoting tourism in the Sunshine state.

Since then, Scott has made stops in the districts of lawmakers who voted for the bill to publicly call them out for not killing the bill in its infancy.

Fine, however, said he wouldn’t bite after Scott sent him an invite to a “hurriedly-arranged event” in Brevard County.

“Based on media reports I have read, I assume you are visiting to make your case for Enterprise Florida, Visit Florida and incentive programs,” Fine said in the letter. “I appreciate you recognizing how important my part of the state is to the Florida Economy. That said, while I won’t be able to be there and meet with you in person due to being in committee meetings in Tallahassee, I would welcome an invitation to meet one-on-one to discuss your position on economic development.”

Fine went on to say economic development “is not a concept to me, it’s something I’ve spent my career doing.”

The Brevard County businessman also pushed his own legislation, HB 17, which would pre-empt local regulations on businesses, a move Fine said would allow “businesses to grow, thrive and prosper.”

Funding for Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida has been high on Scott’s priority list throughout his tenure as governor, and in the lead up to each Legislative Session, he routinely asks lawmakers to approve large budgets for each.

Last year, Scott asked for $250 million in incentives money as part of his proposed “Florida Enterprise Fund,” but lawmakers only approved $23.5 million for Enterprise Florida. This year, the governor has asked lawmakers for $85 million in incentives money.

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