Rick Scott Archives - Page 3 of 146 - SaintPetersBlog

Palm Beach County Commissioner has great advice for Rick Scott

The Very Best Idea in Florida Right This Minute comes from Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, who is asking Gov. Rick Scott to call Florida’s heroin epidemic by its right name: a public health crisis.

This should be a no-brainer for Scott. With heroin-related hospital bills running at close to a billion a year in Florida, a governor who made millions as a hospital executive and reportedly aspires to higher office should take the state’s opioid addiction problem at least as seriously as McKinlay’s hometown newspaper.

For over two years, The Palm Beach Post has relentlessly pursued the hydra-headed heroin story. The Post has a disproportionate share of Florida’s best print, database, digital and visual journalists, and just about all of them have been deployed to expose the dark underside of the county’s booming medical tourism industry.

Fraudsters figured out how easy it was to get hapless insurance companies to pay tens of thousands of dollars for unnecessary urine testing in the county’s burgeoning “sober home” industry.

It was a short hop from insurance fraud to illegal patient brokering. It was only a matter of time before addicts who had come to Florida in good faith with a hope of getting well were forced into prostitution and dying of overdoses.

Florida politicians and policymakers are locked into a 14th century “understanding” of addiction, and The Post continues to pour its heart and soul into shifting the paradigm. Day by day and document by document, the paper pursues the bad guys and educates the public and public officials.

The Post’s reporting provided a wake-up call and a road map for police and prosecutors. State Attorney David Aronberg‘s Sober Home Task Force has made 21 arrests, and more are on the way.

In 2015, your chances of sudden death by heroin-related overdose in Palm Beach County was higher than the risk of death by homicide or traffic accident. Post reporters studied the autopsies, spoke with brokenhearted survivors of Palm Beach County’s 216 heroin victims, and issued a riveting special report called Heroin: Killer of a Generation.

Scott should read it as he considers McKinlay’s request. Bodies are piling up in the morgue located just eight minutes away from the winter White House; some have families and friends who read newspapers and vote.

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Rick Scott salutes Jeff Atwater’s work as CFO

Gov. Rick Scott praised the work of Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who announced Friday he will be joining Florida Atlantic University after the 2017 Legislative Session.

“I got to know CFO Jeff Atwater well in 2010 on the campaign trail, and like me, he has been laser-focused on keeping the cost of living low for all Floridians,” Scott said in a statement. “I am proud that the state has paid down over $7.6 billion in debt since 2011,” adding that Atwater “aggressively helped us achieve that goal.”

Scott noted Atwater’s fight “to reduce burdensome regulations that hinder job growth, protect families from financial fraud” and as well as his efforts to return $1 billion in unclaimed property to the rightful owners.

Calling Atwater “a proud Floridian, father, husband and friend,” the governor said he will “truly miss” working with him.

“The role of the CFO is incredibly important to our state,” Scott said, “and I will begin the process to appoint someone to serve Florida families.”

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Francis Rooney says he’s not considering 2018 gubernatorial bid

Rep. Francis Rooney dismissed rumors he is considering gubernatorial bid, saying he is focused on “being the best congressman” he can be for Southwest Florida.

Rooney, a freshman congressman and the former ambassador to the Holy See, said he was not considering a run for governor in 2018.

“I am considering one thing — being the best congressman I can be for Southwest Florida,” he said. “I’m thankful to have the opportunity to represent Southwest Florida, and I’m not intending to do anything else other than do the best possible job I can.”

Rooney replaced Rep. Curt Clawson in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. The Naples Republican was backed by Gov. Rick Scott, who endorsed Rooney during the primary.

Scott has made no secret that he’d like to see another businessman in the Governor’s Mansion, and is believed to have approached Rooney about throwing his hat in the race. The two men are friends, and live just a few minutes away from each other in the same Naples community.

“The example of Gov. Scott and another businessperson in politics, Vern Buchanan, is part of what inspired me to run for this,” said Rooney. “I think we need business people in the government. I think if you look at the good they’ve been able to do with their experience and their track record with their decisions and things, it’s been very positive.”

But Rooney says he’s not interested in running for governor, saying he’s has “said it a lot, no way.”

“I’m sure there’s a lot of good business people that would make excellent governors in Florida, and congressmen and senators as well,” he said. “I just want to be the best congressman I can be.”

The race to replace Scott, who can’t run for re-election because of term limits, is expected to be a crowded one. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is widely expected to run, while House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Sen. Jack Latvala are believed to be considering their options.

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Politics, food and fun: Florida State Fair kicks off

With a mix of old and new, the annual Florida State Fair kicks off Thursday.

In addition to obligatory references to artery-clogging fair fare by local reporters (Deep-fried butter! Spaghetti Ice Cream!), Opening Day of the Fair is the setting for the yearly Governors Day Luncheon, where every man and women in Hillsborough County who is even thinking of running for office in 2018 already have their ticket.

All Cabinet members are expected to appear, with Gov. Rick Scott scheduled to give the keynote speech, as will Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, already considered to be looking ahead to succeeding Scott in the governor’s mansion in 2018.

For the second consecutive year, there will be no formal Cabinet meeting, formerly part and parcel of activities of the Fair’s first day.

Last year, the meeting was canceled outright because of a lack of urgent business with state agencies.

The last time the Cabinet did meet at the Fair was in February 2015, with plenty of drama as it was the first time that Scott had to answer to Putnam, Pam Bondi and Jeff Atwater over the ousting of former FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey.

After a one-year absence, what has returned this year is a new super slide; in the past, both Putnam and Bondi have slid down in a post-luncheon tradition/photo-op.

Originally called “The Super Bowl Toboggan,” the mega slide was first unveiled in Times Square in the lead up to the 2014 Super Bowl. The Italian-made slide is 60 feet tall and 180 feet long and contains an LED package that gives off a light show at night.

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On Rick Scott/Richard Corcoran feud; ‘incentives’ not needed to draw business to Florida

In 2012, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan went on a personal crusade to convince Bass Pro Shops to build a store in Brandon.

Hagan’s aim was to create jobs as the county struggled to recover from the Great Recession. He proposed an “incentive” package that was about $15 million of taxpayer money, arguing that it was the cost of doing business with a company like that.

Many people disagreed. They screamed. They howled. They complained that giving a Death Star-like Bass Pro public money to open shop forced small outdoor businesses to subsidize a multibillion-dollar corporation that could run them into bankruptcy.

Eventually, the incentive package was winnowed way down to some infrastructure improvements. Bass Pro came anyway. It seems to be thriving in its Brandon location.

I mention this in the context of the now-public feud between Gov. Rick Scott and Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran over the governor’s signature issue — jobs.

Scott has repeatedly shown he is a true believer in offering tax and other incentives to lure business to Florida. Corcoran guards the public bank account like a hungry pit bull, which is apropos because one of Corcoran’s targets was Visit Florida — the state’s tourism promotional arm that paid rapper Pitbull $1 million to tout our glory.

Scott built $85 million into his budget proposal for business incentives. Corcoran has dismissed that as corporate welfare and will have none of it.

I think Corcoran’s aim is more on target. Hillsborough’s experience with Bass Pro is proof.

Big businesses do create jobs, yes, but they also exist to make money. They will go to places where they can do that. Florida, now the third-largest state in the nation, is fertile ground for any company that wants to turn a profit.

But with the assumption that Scott will run for the U.S. Senate in 2018, the ability to “create” jobs seems to be his singular mission. There are about 1 million more jobs now in the state than when Scott took office in 2010. When you peel back the layers, though, the picture isn’t quite as bright.

As FloridaPolitics.com reported, the nonpartisan Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability studied eight state incentive programs and found that most of the money went to existing Florida companies that have more than 1,000 employees.

It also found that many of the companies receiving grants from the Innovation Incentive Program failed to hit their marks.

That underscores the notion that these are little more than giveaways that companies that shouldn’t be receiving tax dollars.

Scott tried to turn the tables from his own ambition, questioning what Corcoran has to gain politically. While the Speaker has been quiet about his plans, many wonder if a run for governor in 2018 could be part of his game plan.

“What else could it be,” Scott told reporters during a gaggle Tuesday in Tallahassee.

Well, just spit-balling here, it could be the idea that giving millions of tax dollars to companies who, like Bass Pro, might come here anyway is ethically and morally wrong. From what I can tell by watching and listening to Corcoran, this is not a position he adopted last week because it looks good politically. He really believes that spending needs to be scrutinized and minimized.

I would add that any company needing an “incentive” beyond Florida’s obvious strengths to do business here is probably not a company we need. But that’s just me.

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Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber ready to fight for VISIT FLORIDA

For beaches in the Tampa Bay region, tourism matters.

That’s why the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce is getting ready to fight, calling its members Tuesday to push back against proposed legislation to shut down VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism arm.

Last week, House leadership introduced committee bill (PCB CCS 17-01) to kill both VISIT FLORIDA and Enterprise Florida, the state’s job incentive program.

As part of the $83.5 billion “Fighting for Florida’s Future” budget for 2017-18, Gov. Rick Scott is proposing $76 million for Visit Florida, the agency tasked with marketing Florida to domestic and international visitors. Nevertheless, House leaders have threatened to pull funding after some questionable deals with racing car teams, British soccer teams and Miami-based pop star Pitbull.

But the Chamber sees VISIT FLORIDA as a vital tool to bring tourists to region’s beaches.

“VISIT FLORIDA is essential in bringing visitors to our state who generate 23 percent of our sales tax revenue, create over 1.4 million jobs, support small business and boost our local economy with $108.8 billion in economic impact,” the Chamber statement says. “It is critical to renew the focus on the value of marketing the Sunshine State.”

The Chamber wants all industry members to contact legislators and “remind them of the benefits tourism generates and how VISIT FLORIDA helps small businesses and communities reach new markets that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to capitalize on.”

The House Careers & Competition Subcommittee is set to take up the bill Wednesday at 1 p.m. in the State Capitol, Knott Building, Room 212.

For further steps to help save VISIT FLORIDA – with letter templates, talking points and contact information — is at tampabaybeaches.com.

 

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Former prosecutor, young GOP leader Berny Jacques contemplating run for House District 66

Former Pinellas County Assistant State Attorney Berny Jacques is seriously considering a run for the state House District 66 seat next year, which will become an open seat with Republican Larry Ahern term-limited out.

The 29-year-old Haitian native has been active with the Pinellas County GOP since he arrived in the community in 2009 to attend Stetson Law School in Gulfport. That’s when he says he was drawn into the grassroots aspects of state government.

In many ways Jacques and his family are the embodiment of the American dream. His parents worked two and sometimes three jobs concurrently when they moved to the states in the mid-1990’s.

“They had to work hard to put their children in a better position,” he says. “And to see me go to college and graduate and become an attorney all within their lifetime, I mean, that’s a strong testament to what this nation has to offer, and I think that’s made possible by a free enterprise system that capitalizes on people’s desire to work hard.”

Jacques’ father currently teaches English as a second language in Naples, Florida, while his mother works as a registered nurse at a nursing home. He says they always stressed the power of education when he was growing up.

“They said if you take your schooling seriously and you apply yourself, you can stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone.  I’ve always taken that with me and ran with it.”

Jacques was president of the Pinellas County Young Republican club in late 2013 when longtime U.S. Representative Bill Young died, igniting what would ultimately be one of the most expensive congressional campaigns ever. He got behind David Jolly’s candidacy early on. He also assisted on the campaigns of Chris Latvala and Chris Sprowls in 2014.

If he pulls the trigger and announces later this spring for 2018, he says his platform will center around three main tenets – public safety, education and job creation.

Regarding education, he says you can expect him to be a strong advocate for school choice. On business, he talks about the importance of government creating “the environment” for businesses to grow.

Now working at the St. Petersburg law firm of Berkowitz and Myer, Jacques considers himself “very pro Second Amendment,” saying that he wants to put individuals in the position too protect themselves as much as possible.

On the battle between House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Governor Rick Scott regarding whether or not it’s a good thing to offer tax incentives to lure businesses to Florida, Jacques doesn’t take sides, saying  that “it’s important to understand that they both have the same goals, and that’s to create jobs for the state of Florida.” He does state that the doesn’t want government to choose between winners and losers.

On transportation, Jacques adamantly opposed the 2014 Greenlight Pinellas transit tax. Yet he also says that he wouldn’t oppose changing state law to allow big cities like St. Pete or Tampa to hold their own referendums. Current law only allows counties to do that.

For the past several years, both Rick Kriseman and Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn have unsuccessfully lobbied Bay area legislators to give them the power to tax themselves to pay for rail projects in recent years. Jacques says as a legislator he wants to hear what the people say, and if they want the right to tax themselves, he says he wouldn’t stop them.

“I’m all for empowering voters to make decisions, so  if the people of St. Pete feel it’s appropriate, and it’s clearly stated that here’s the funding structure, and here’s what you’re going to be on the hook for, if they decide then they decide that,” he says, adding that his baseline philosophy is to err on the side of empowering the people to make the decision themselves. “I would probably vote no if you asked me to raise taxes, but my fellow citizen might feel otherwise.”

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Certificate of Need program in Senate’s crosshairs

On Friday, Florida State Sen. Rob Bradley filed a bill to repeal the state’s controversial Certificate of Need program. And Gov. Rick Scott supports the measure.

Senate Bill 676 would eliminate the Certificate of Need (CON) Program at the Agency for Health Care Administration.

Currently, health care providers require a certificate of need prior before building or converting hospitals, nursing homes, and hospices.

Under Bradley’s bill, the Agency for Health Care Administration would develop licensure rules for new providers, and sets guidelines for the licensure of hospitals and hospice facilities.

Bradley, a traditional free-market conservative, believes that competition will help reduce health care costs for consumers.

“By eliminating the state’s restrictive CON process we’ll increase competition and drive down the cost of health care for Floridians,” said Senator Bradley. “For years, this cumbersome process has been used to block the expansion of facilities and restrict competition. So, in addition to driving costs, we should also see a significant economic impact in terms of the creation of new jobs by removing this barrier.”

Gov. Scott, who has been focused on health care cost reform throughout his tenure, backs this play.

“I’ve traveled across our state and spoken with Floridians who have been charged unconscionable prices for procedures. This session, I want to fight to make the healthcare system fair for families and ensure health care works for patients and not for hospitals’ bottom lines. I look forward to working with Senator Bradley to champion this legislation as we continue to help bring greater access, quality, transparency and fairness to patients,” Gov. Scott asserted.

Steering policy in this model: local health councils, which would be selected regionally and would have carve out membership requirements ensuring that all counties in a given area have a say, and ensuring that seniors are represented on the councils.

These panels would provide guidance, and serve as an intermediary between local and state governmental concerns.

These councils would be paid for via assessments on licensed medical facilities, including such as hospices and abortion clinics.

Hospitals, nursing homes, and hospices would pay a fee per bed; other facilities would get a flat rate cost of $150 per annum.

Bradley is making a number of strategic, big picture plays that speak to a larger understanding of collaboration this session.

An example of such: his introduction of a bill Senate President Joe Negron backs, to bond out $1.2 million (a number matched by federal funds) for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, right around the time he requested $45 million of Amendment 1 funds for the Keystone Lakes and the St. Johns River.

With the governor’s backing and a powerful sponsor moving against it in the Florida Senate, this may be the year the Certificate of Need program finally goes away.

.

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Dana Young decries the ‘shrill tone’ coming out of Tallahassee this winter

The clash between Rick Scott and the leaders of the Florida House and Senate have dominated the front pages of several Florida newspapers this week.

Dana Young doesn’t like it one bit.

“There is this angry, shrill tone coming out of Tallahassee, and I truly don’t understand why,” the GOP District 18 state Senator told a crowd of over 50 people at the Oxford Exchange in Tampa Friday morning.

“I kind of feel that we’re on the same team and we should be working together to get a budget passed, but this shrill screaming is discouraging,” she continued. “So it could take awhile.”

The biggest public clash has been the different budget proposals unveiled from the governor and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. The House plan would eliminate the state’s economic development agency Enterprise Florida, and the state’s tourism marketing arm Visit Florida, angering Scott.

The House would also eliminate any public subsidies for film incentives and sports stadiums. When asked where she came down regarding the issue of giving incentives to recruit businesses to Florida, Young said she saw validity to both arguments, but said she didn’t believe it is necessary to get rid of state agencies.

“It’s an interesting argument,” she said, adding that there was no right answer about whether economic incentives are good or bad. But she did come out strongly in support of Visit Florida, saying their advertising efforts have been the fuel that has led to record tourism numbers in the state the past couple of years.

“Why completely do away with an agency that by all appearances is doing a decent job of bringing people here?”

Young represented South Tampa and western Hillsborough County in the Florida House for the past six years before graduating to the Senate representing roughly the same geography last fall. That’s when she defeated Democrat Bob Buesing and independent candidates Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove in a bruising campaign that led to bitter feelings on all sides.

Third-party environmental groups also ganged up on trying to bring Young down, attacking her specifically for her vote in the House on a controversial bill regarding fracking. Young denied the claims that her support for the bill in the 2016 legislative session was a vote of support for fracking, and she’s delighted many of those same groups by introducing a bill (SB 442) that would eliminate fracking in Florida with bipartisan support.

She isn’t ready to say that it will get clear sailing this year, contending that there will be fierce opposition to the bill, and asked that her constituents have her back when the bill gets debated this spring in Tallahassee.

Young did support Amendment 2, the medical marijuana constitutional amendment that was overwhelmingly supported by the public last fall. However, she’s urging a cautious approach to implementing it, co-sponsoring a bill with Orange Park Republican Rob Bradley (SB 406) that limits the number of marijuana producers to seven, though it could expand to as many as 20 or more medical marijuana producers once the number of patients registered for that treatment reaches 500,000.

A competing bill by St. Petersburg’s Jeff Brandes (SB 614) eliminates the cap on how many marijuana producers there can be in the state and sets up four new types of licenses so companies can be licensed to grow, process, transport or dispense.

Bradley and Young’s proposed legislation would also eliminate the current requirement that doctors treat patients for at least 90 days before being allowed to order marijuana for them. It also would expand to 90 days from 45 days, the amount of marijuana supplies patients can purchase.

Young says she prefers to maintain the concept of vertical integration, which keeps the same company that grows the plant also processes it and dispenses it.

The Senator also discussed her just-introduced bill that would allow small craft breweries the opportunity to self-distribute their product to other establishments, saying it demonstrated her support for “the little guy.”

A member of the audience questioned her on why she didn’t embrace that same concept when it came to medical marijuana?

“If we let this genie out of the bottle, there is no putting it back in,” Young responded, acknowledging that there was an inconsistency in her philosophy regarding the two issues.

Like several of her GOP colleagues in the Tampa Bay Area, Young has been a big supporter of ride-sharing companies, and a huge critic of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, which the local delegation has already voted to eliminate later this year. But Young did take up for the taxicab industry on Friday, saying it is unfair that they have to pay a premium fee to be legally allowed to pick up fares at Tampa International Airport, while Uber and Lyft are doing so without paying anything.

Regarding the upcoming gun debate in the Legislature, Young declined to speak specifically about pending legislation, and instead posited the question as being simply whether more guns or fewer guns make the public safer.

Referring to the fall of 2015 mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, she decried the fact that school was a gun-free zone.

“How would you feel if you were that Chancellor and you opted not to allow students who were adults with guns, to carry guns on campus when that shooter came in, and they could have killed him,” she said. “But there was nobody there to respond.”

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Rick Scott heading to Argentina for trade mission

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is heading off to Argentina for another trade mission.

Scott is scheduled to take a five-day trip in late April to Buenos Aires.

This is Scott’s 13th trip abroad since he became governor in January 2011. Former Gov. Jeb Bush took 16 trade missions during his eight years in office.

Scott has defended the trips as a way to open doors for Florida-based companies seeking business abroad. The Republican governor has made job creation the main focus during his time in office.

He has taken previous economic development trips to the South American countries of Brazil, Colombia and Chile, as well as Japan, Israel, England, France, Spain, Canada and Panama.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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