Rick Scott Archives - Page 3 of 152 - SaintPetersBlog

Sean Shaw, Darryl Rouson file bill to end Florida’s ban on ex-felon voting rights

Under current Florida law, those who are convicted of any felony lose the right to vote, the right to sit on a jury, the right to hold public office, and the right to possess a firearm, unless they are granted the restoration of their civil rights by the state Office of Executive Clemency.

Legislation sponsored by Tampa Bay-area Democrats Darryl Rouson and Sean Shaw would end the automatic suspension of civil rights for those convicted of a nonviolent felony.

“Even if the sentence has been served, a felony conviction in the State of Florida is a lifelong punishment,” said Shaw, who represents House District 59in a statement released Wednesday by Florida House Democrats. “It is unreasonable to expect someone to fully reintegrate back into society when they are being treated as a second-class citizen. If we are serious about sustaining a fair system of justice, we must send a message that if a person is convicted of a nonviolent crime, their rights won’t be permanently taken away.”

St. Petersburg’s Sen. Rouson is sponsoring an identical bill (SB 848) in the Senate.

The bills are part of a whole series of criminal justice reforms that are being debated this session in the Florida Legislature, but whether they can get GOP buy-in is another story.

Florida is one of just a handful of states that does not automatically restore voting rights once a felon has paid his or her debts to society, a fact of life in the Sunshine State for decades. There are 1.6 million Floridians currently disenfranchised — the highest state total in the nation — and over 10,000 are waiting for a hearing on their restoration applications.

A class-action lawsuit filed earlier this week aims to automatically restore former felons’ voting rights and eliminate Florida’s rights restoration process.

The Fair Elections Legal Network and the law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC filed a lawsuit on behalf of seven former felons. It targets Gov. Rick Scott, all three members of his Cabinet, and six other state officials, including Secretary of State Ken Detzner and Department of Corrections head Julie Jones.

As of March 1, the backlog of applicants for voting rights restoration stood at 10,513, but the suit alleges that the Clemency Board only hears an average of 52 cases per quarter. “At this rate, if no new applications were submitted, it would take the Clemency Board almost 51 years to hear the entire backlog of applicants,” the plaintiffs write.

The suit also says that the number of applications granted has dropped significantly since Scott took office in 2011, with only 2,488 applications having been granted.

There is also an effort to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot 2018 by the group Floridians for a Fair Democracy that would automatically restore voting rights to nonviolent felons.

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Joe Henderson: ‘Shy’ Rick Scott needs to pipe up on Medicaid expansion

Gov. Rick Scott hasn’t been shy about sharing his feelings on the Affordable Care Act. Like any good Republican, he hates it. He wants it to go away.

Now that Republicans have a legitimate proposal on the table to replace Obamacare, though, Scott has gone into stealth mode on the subject. In an Associated Press story, the governor did the Rick Scott Shuffle when asked for his reaction to the plan now being debated intensely in Washington.

Scott said he was glad there is “good conversation” happening on the subject. Not exactly a stop-the-presses comment.

He even met recently with House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is pushing a plan that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said could leave up to 24 million Americans without health insurance.

Would the governor like to let us mere mortals in on what was discussed? People in Florida will be greatly affected by whatever finally becomes law, especially if it has a significant impact on Medicaid.

Florida depends heavily on federal money for Medicaid funding, and under the plan being discussed more than 4 million residents here would see their benefits reduced. That probably suits budget hawks in the state House just fine, but wouldn’t be good for many of the state’s elderly and low-income residents.

That’s where Scott needs to pipe up on this subject. In 2014, remember, he went to war (and lost) with the House over Medicaid expansion. Scott pushed for it; now-Speaker Richard Corcoran was intractably against.

Given his background as a hospital administrator before he went into politics, there are few people in the state better versed on health insurance than Scott. He could help frame the debate if he chose.

He certainly hasn’t been shy about making his opinions known recently on other subjects. He has been outspoken about his trying to save Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. But now that the health care debate has intensified, we get crickets from the governor.

Curious.

 

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Florence Snyder: Ain’t no Sunshine where Scott’s gone

Just in time for Sunshine Week, Tampa Bay Times environmental reporter Craig Pittman reminds us how focused, how ruthless, how relentless Gov. Rick Scott’s flacks are in their taxpayer-financed efforts to keep information out of the hands of taxpayers.

Florida’s Ministries of Disinformation have been around since the Chiles administration, but “paranoia about the press” has ramped up significantly on Scott’s watch. Here’s how Connie Bersok, who devoted 30 years of her life to protecting Florida’s fragile wetlands, described current events at Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to Pittman and Times researcher Caryn Baird:

“When I first started, if the press called, you could talk to the press, you just had to document it for your boss. Then it became: You had to get permission first, but you could still talk.

“Then it became: The press office would approve of anyone talking with a reporter, but they had to be on the line.

“And now that’s changed to: ‘You do not talk to the press.’ As a result, a lot of the information that’s expressed to the press wasn’t much information at all.”

Bersok’s now retired and able to exercise her First Amendment rights on behalf of former colleagues who don’t dare violate the government gag order for fear of joining the hundreds of DEP employees who have been disappeared since Scott took office.

Purges are always drenched in lies, especially when the purges are aimed at nationally respected professionals with decades of dedicated public service. It’s an uphill battle keeping the air fresh and the water clean in the face of relentless pressure to build high-rises and strip malls in places that God did not mean for people to live.

It’s impossible when the scientists and planners are subject to being fired with no notice and for no reason, and no amount of Florida sunshine and DEP spin will take the stench out of Scott’s campaign to make it easier for rich people to get richer creating more and more and more minimum wage, dead end jobs! jobs! jobs!

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Despite lawsuit, Florida Lottery sees record sales; tops $100M for 2nd week

For a second consecutive week, the Florida Lottery broke its own record, with total sales of more than $141 million, the game’s chief announced Tuesday.

This record for the Sunshine State’s 29-year-old lottery comes despite a nasty lawsuit that pitted Florida Gov. Rick Scott against the state’s headstrong House Speaker, Rep. Richard Corcoran.

For the second successive week, the Florida Lottery’s contributions to the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund (EETF) exceeded $19 million from scratch-off sales alone.

Total scratch-off sales for the week reached $103.23 million, with overall sales hitting $141.28 million.

Additionally, this marks the second consecutive week in Florida Lottery history that scratch-off sales exceeded $100 million in a single week.

“The consistent scratch-off sales demonstrated by the Florida Lottery over the past two weeks are integral to our mission to generate as much revenue as possible towards public education,” said Lottery Secretary Tom Delacenserie. “The lottery remains committed to providing Florida’s students with the opportunities they need to be successful in school and in life.”

Over the past 29 years, the Florida Lottery has established itself as a dependable funding source for public education.

For 15 consecutive years, the Lottery has transferred more than $1 billion to education throughout the state while remaining one of the most efficient lotteries in the nation. Additionally, the Lottery has contributed more than $5 billion to the Bright Futures Scholarship Program to send over 750,000 students to college.

Florida Lottery contributions are approximately 6 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.

The Florida Lottery reinvests 98 percent of its revenue back into Florida’s economy through prize payouts, commissions to more than 13,000 Florida retailers and transfers to education. Since 1988, Florida Lottery games have paid more than $52.4 billion in prizes and made more than 1,900 people millionaires.

On March 7, a Leon County Judge Karen Gievers invalidated the Florida Lottery’s $700-million contract for new equipment, agreeing with Corcoran that the agency went on an unauthorized spending bonanza when it made the deal in 2016.

The multiple-year contract involved new equipment for draw and scratch-off tickets. The lottery sold more than $6.2 billion in tickets in 2016, according to records.

“The Florida Lottery continues to make record contributions to our public schools and today’s ruling jeopardizes billions of dollars for Florida students,” Gov. Scott said in a statement March 7. “I strongly disagree with today’s decision, and we will appeal.”

Corcoran, in a statement joined by House Rules Committee Chair Jose Oliva and Judiciary Committee Chair Chris Sprowls, called the decision “a victory for the taxpayer and the rule of law.”

He continued, basking in the much-publicized showdown with the governor: “It reinforces the idea that respecting the separation of powers is not an arcane idea or an out-of-date philosophy,” they said. “In truth, it is one of the bedrock principles of our Republican government and is essential to protecting the liberties and livelihoods of Floridians.

“No branch of government is above the law, and the people’s House will use every power within our means – from the committee room to the courtroom – to ensure those liberties and livelihoods are protected.”

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Senate committee recommends Glenn Sutphin for Veteran Affairs director

The Senate Committee on Military and Veteran’s Affairs, Space and Domestic Security recommended Glenn W. Sutphin, Jr. as the executive director of Florida’s Department of Veteran’s Affairs Tuesday.

Sutphin, a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. and an appointee of Gov. Rick Scott and a retired, was voted to his post unanimously by the committee.

He joined the military June 6, 1969, serving 30 years in the U.S. Army. His family has history of military service. Having served under Gov. Jeb Bush, he helped to foster an environment in Florida for veterans to be welcome, he said at the committee hearing.

“One of my jobs was to get units ready, get them out the door, the wounded back and unfortunately those who we had lost – try to get them back to their families, and get them taken care of,” he told the committee Tuesday. “All my life I’ve either lead troops, trained troops or cared for their families.”

His ethos in his military service, he said, consisted of these three things:  No mission was to be refused; no was not an answer; and failure was not an option.

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Committee confirms Jeffrey Bragg as Secretary of Elder Affairs

After a lengthy question and answer session the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs unanimously confirmed the appointment of Jeffrey Bragg as Florida’s Secretary of Elder Affairs Monday, an office that oversees a quarter of Florida’s 20 million residents.

Last year Bragg was rejected as the state’s insurance commissioner, was peppered with questions by the committee, but overall, the committee supported his appointment by Gov. Rick Scott.

From Palm Harbor in Pinellas County, Bragg, 67, ran the nation’s terrorism risk insurance program from 2003 until 2014, when he retired. He worked under the Reagan Administration in the 1980s, serving in the Federal Emergency Management Agency where he was the administrator for the national flood insurance program.

Between those appointments, Bragg worked in the private sector, including as a senior vice president for Zurich Risk Management from 2001 to 2003 and later for IMSG as its executive vice president in St. Petersburg from 1997 to 2000.

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Rick Scott signs death penalty fix into law

Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation Monday requiring a unanimous jury recommendation before the death penalty can be imposed.

Lawmakers passed the bill out of the House and Senate last week, rushing the measure through the process in hopes of fixing the state’s death penalty law. The House voted 112-3 to approve the measure Friday, one day after the Senate voted unanimously to approve it.

The U.S. Supreme Court in January 2016 declared the state’s death penalty was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges to make the ultimate decision. The ruling was based on a case where a judge issued a death sentence after a 7-5 jury recommendation.

In 2016, the Legislature overhauled the state law to let the death penalty be imposed by a 10-2 jury vote. But in October, the state Supreme Court voted 5-2 to strike down the new law and require unanimous jury decisions.

The change goes into effect immediately.

_The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

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Joe Henderson: After Enterprise Florida fight, Rick Scott has little political capital left

Rick Scott went to Tallahassee in 2011 as an outsider. He often has operated like one as well, and not always in a good way.

In a private company, stubborn employees can get fired for standing up to the boss. In politics, though, defiance can be considered a virtue. Eventually, people who vow to run government like a business learn you can’t just issue orders and expect things to get done.

Real democracy can be a free-for-all.

That brings us to the current state of affairs in the capitol city, a time that has the seen the governor behaving less like a CEO and more like a politician trying to win friends and influence people.

To save his most-favored Enterprise Florida agency, the governor put a public campaign that included visits, robo-calls, videos and a public mocking of House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

It didn’t work, at least not yet.

The House dealt the governor a stinging rebuke last week with by passing HB 7005 – or what Scott calls “job-killing legislation” – by an overwhelming 87-28 vote.

Scott responded with a statement reading in part, “Many politicians who voted for these bills say they are for jobs and tourism. But, I want to be very clear – a vote for these bills was a vote to kill tourism and jobs in Florida.”

Everyone waits now to see what happens in the Senate, where Jeff Brandes has a bill that would keep Enterprise Florida but with much greater state oversight. Scott, meanwhile, is keeping up the pressure.

His office sent out eight news releases Monday within 19 minutes touting job gains in cities around the state. He made sure to credit the embattled jobs agency.

It was easy for Scott to get his way when he arrived in Tallahassee on a populist wave, promising to produce jobs and get Florida out of the Great Recession. He certainly wasn’t the only political leader in the land who favored subsidies to jump-start the economy.

Now that those jobs have been created – Scott claims more than 1.3 million overall so far – the mood in Tallahassee has shifted away from what Corcoran calls “corporate welfare.”

That has forced the governor into a defensive posture that he clearly isn’t used to and hasn’t shown evidence yet of mastering.

Meanwhile, the Commerce and Tourism Committee is set to consider a bill from Republican Sen. Tom Lee of Thonotosassa to repeal a program designed to make it easier for pro sports franchises to get state money for stadium projects.

Scott signed that bill in 2014, although an aide was quick to correct me recently when I called it a “pet project” of the governor’s. But, the governor obviously supported the measure and in a statement at the time said, “This sports development program will allow franchises to expand in Florida, and create more jobs and opportunities for Florida families.”

Times have changed, though, so I doubt the governor will spend any political capital now to save that pot of state money for professional sports franchises.

With all his chips in the middle of the table for Enterprise Florida, he likely won’t have much of an appetite to fight for sports teams. Judging from the way things are going, lawmakers probably wouldn’t listen anyway.

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Florida’s unemployment rate ticks up to 5% in January

Florida’s unemployment rate ticked up in January, reaching 5 percent for the first time in a year.

The January unemployment rate marks a slight uptick from December, when state officials reported an unemployment rate of 4.9 percent. The statewide rate is higher than the national unemployment rate of 4.8 percent.

Despite the increase in the unemployment rate, Gov. Rick Scott lauded private sector employers Monday for creating more than 50,000 jobs in January.

The governor made the monthly jobs announcement at Herc Rentals in Bonita Springs, and used his appearance to once again take aim at lawmakers who voted to support a bill (HB 7005) to eliminate Enterprise Florida and a slew of other economic incentive programs.

“It makes no sense to me,” said Scott. “The House took a vote last week, and they said we don’t need Enterprise Florida anymore. That’s going to absolutely kill jobs. That’s going to kill opportunities.”

On Friday, the Florida House voted 87-28 to approve the measure, with more than half the House Democrats voting for the proposal. All of the House members who represent Lee and Collier counties voted in favor of the bill.

Scott was quick to point out that several of those members who voted for the bill attended a 2013 event announcing rental car giant Hertz would be relocating its offices to Lee County. Scott said that bringing Hertz, and later Herc Rentals, to Southwest Florida likely wouldn’t have been possible without the work of Enterprise Florida.

“We’re on a roll, this state is booming. Why would we mess this up,” said Scott. “I’m going to be out there fighting for jobs every day.”

Scott is scheduled to hold a roundtable with business and economic development leaders in Tallahassee later today, where he’ll talk about Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. The event is expected to be similar to ones he’s held elsewhere across the state, and will likely target lawmakers in the Big Bend region who supported the House measure.

The jobs report showed the professional and business services industry saw the largest year-over-year gains, adding 55,900 jobs between January 2016 and January 2017. The report also showed 23 out of the state’s 24 metro areas saw year-over-year gains, with the Orlando metropolitan area once again leading the state with 54,600 jobs during the one year period.

“With the creation of 51,500 new jobs and the second-highest job demand in the state, Orlando’s economy is booming,” said Scott in a statement. “Across the state, jobs are growing and businesses are succeeding, and we will continue to cut taxes and support initiatives that foster further economic development, so every Floridian can get a great job.”

The Tampa Bay region added 38,200 jobs between January 2016 and January 2017, while Miami metropolitan area added 31,800 jobs in the one-year period.

While the unemployment rate ticked up from December to January, the report shows it is unchanged from January 2016.

The Department of Economic Opportunity is scheduled to release February jobs numbers on March 24.

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Special-interest groups rejoice Enterprise Florida House vote; call for Senate death knell

When the Florida House of Representatives voted Friday to do away with the much-embattled Florida Enterprise – the program Gov. Rick Scott loyally supported and, oppositely, Speaker Richard Corcoran virulently chided – special interest groups who had worked tirelessly for its eradication jumped for joy.

None celebrated more than the Florida branch of Americans for Prosperity (AFP-FL), which bills itself as the leading grassroots advocacy organization campaigning against corporate welfare, which is what Speaker Corcoran had called it in the media battle between he waged with Gov. Scott on the program.

It had become the chief example of government waste in citizen tax dollars.

AFP-FL is still celebrating, long after the vote because their effort to educate legislators – some of whom voted against their own party to pass HB 7005, as the measure is known – constituents and Floridians at large was a sizable effort, according to AFP-FL’s communications director, Andres Malave, who spoke passionately about what he called the common sense aspect of the bill evening the playing field for everyone in the Sunshine State.

“We’ve been hammering on the failures of Enterprise Florida for several years because the taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for financing some billionaire’s football stadium … or their competition’s business across the street,” Malave told FloridaPolitics.com by phone after the vote Friday. “Again, we ask that the Florida Senate push this bill forward to the governor’s desk and make him sign it because, ultimately, this is what’s best for Florida’s taxpayers.”

The spokesman for the group said it took “courage” for members of the Florida House of Representatives to vote in eliminating the quasi-state agency, along with a laundry list of other wasteful spending programs that give private businesses taxpayer dollars.

“It takes courage to do the right thing,” Chris Hudson, AFP-FL’s state director, said. “We applaud the leaders of the Florida House that stood up to enormous outside pressures to keep a rigged system in place. Enterprise Florida sends taxpayers the wrong message:  that government believes it can be a better investor of their dollars and that we should accept our money being plucked from our pockets to be redistributed to the wealthy and well-connected.”

In 2013, AFP-FL and Integrity Florida released a comprehensive study to demonstrate the failures of Enterprise Florida. EFI fell short of their job-creation goals. EFI fell short of securing the level of required private funding support. EFI’s lack of transparency resulted in outlandish executive bonuses or extravagant purchases. Finally, EFI is guilty of promoting a culture of state government favoritism that funneled benefits to companies while not offering those same benefits to competitors or all businesses that existed in the state or that wanted to come to Florida.

“In 2016, AFP-FL advocated against a $250 million allocation request by Governor Rick Scott to EFI,” Malave said. “The 2016 legislative session resulted in an allocation of $0 for EFI after AFP-FL mobilized their grassroots army to make over 350,000 phone calls and over 250,000 contacts by going door-to-door, they launched an aggressive social media effort and an intensive direct mail campaign to educate Floridians about the failures at EFI and what votes lawmakers were taking in Tallahassee.”

Scott’s response to the House vote was passed around by the media quickly.

“Today, politicians in the Florida House passed job-killing legislation,” the governor said in a statement. “We can all agree that VISIT FLORIDA and EFI need to be absolutely accountable and transparent, and both agencies have already taken major steps and implemented reforms to ensure their operations meet our high expectations.

“However, today’s actions by the House curb the mission of VISIT FLORIDA and bury it in more government bureaucracy — along with decimating Florida’s economic tool kit and the very programs which are directly tied to the creation of thousands of jobs for Florida families. … But, I want to be very clear — a vote for these bills was a vote to kill tourism and jobs in Florida.”

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