Rick Scott Archives - Page 5 of 172 - SaintPetersBlog

Governor appoints three new Tampa Bay judges

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday announced the appointment of Gregory G. Groger to the 6th Judicial Circuit Court in Pasco and Pinellas counties.

Groger, 38, of Land O’Lakes, has served as an assistant state attorney for the circuit since 2003.

He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Florida and his law degree from Stetson University College of Law. Groger fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Walter L. Schafer, Jr.

Scott also announced the appointments of Darren D. Farfante and Christine Ann Marlewski to the 13th Judicial Circuit Court in Hillsborough County.

Farfante, 46, of Tampa, practices with Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, and previously served as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice Tax Division.

He received his undergraduate, master of laws, master of accountancy, and law degree from the University of Florida. Farfante fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Brenda “Tracy” Sheehan.

Marlewski, 40, of Tampa, is an equity shareholder with the GrayRobinson law firm.

She received her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Florida. Marlewski fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge William P. Levens.

Rick Scott defends record-setting budget vetoes

Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Monday defended his latest round of budget vetoes, which set a modern-day record for a governor but came from a long list of spending projects, including money intended for public universities and compensation for homeowners whose trees were torn down by the state.

Scott late last week vetoed nearly $11.9 billion from the state budget as part of a private deal he worked out with legislative leaders.

Legislators will return to the state Capitol for a three-day special session where they are expected to pass a new budget for public schools that will be higher than the one they adopted in early May.

Scott’s veto total – which was about 14 percent of the entire $82.4 billion budget – included the main state account that goes to public schools. But the governor also vetoed roughly 400 projects worth nearly $410 million that were placed in the budget by Republicans and Democrats.

For weeks, Scott had feuded with legislators because they refused to set aside money for his top priorities, and he had threatened to veto the entire budget. But under the deal, legislators will use money vetoed by Scott to pay for tourism marketing, a new fund aimed at attracting businesses to the state, and to increase school funding by $100 for each student.

But Scott’s vetoes hit hard, especially for the state’s public universities, which lost more than $108 million. Scott also eliminated $37.4 million that was going to go to homeowners in Broward and Lee counties whose healthy citrus trees were torn down in a failed attempt to eradicate citrus canker.

Some counties that are home to top Republican legislators – including Miami-Dade, Pasco and Pinellas counties – had a long list of budget vetoes. Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, who had several projects vetoed, tweeted out that “we won’t stop fighting for the worthy projects Floridians need, want and deserve.”

During a stop in Panama City, Scott maintained that his vetoes did not target any legislators who had upset him this year.

“We look at every line to see whether it’s good for Florida families,” Scott said.

Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, a Miami Republican who had pushed for the canker payments, downplayed the vetoes and said that a lot of other things he pushed escaped Scott’s veto pen.

“I’m an optimist,” said Diaz, who lost nearly $54 million to budget vetoes. “There were a lot of important things for my community that did not get vetoed.”

Republished with the permission of The Associated Press.

Florida leaders react to the shooting in Orlando

A disgruntled former employee opened fire inside a Florida awning manufacturer on Monday, killing five workers there and then killing himself, officials said.

The gunman was armed with a knife and a gun but did not stab anyone, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said during a news conference. Demings said the shooter —  who had been fired in April and had been previously accused of assaulting a co-worker —  was not believed to be connected to any sort of terror organization. Demings characterized the shooting as a likely “workplace violence incident.”

Here is a compilation of reaction from Florida’s elected officials and leaders about the tragedy:

— U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson: “The city of Orlando, which is still healing from the Pulse massacre, has seen too much violence this past year. We must do more to address mental health issues in this country.”

— Gov. Rick Scott: “Over the past year, the Orlando community has been challenged like never before. I have been briefed by our law enforcement officials on this tragic incident and Ann and I are praying for the families who lost loved ones today. I ask all Floridians to pray for the families impacted by this senseless act of violence. I will remain in contact with the Orlando law enforcement community throughout the day as more information is made available.”

— Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam: “In the wake of today’s shooting in Orange County, my prayers are with the victims, their loved ones, first responders and the entire the Central Florida community.”

— U.S. Rep. Darren Soto via Twitter: “Our thoughts & prayers are with the victims of #ForsythShooting. I encourage public to support law enforcement investigation.”

— U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy: “I’m incredibly saddened by the news of this morning’s tragic shooting in Orlando. My heart breaks for the families and co-workers affected, and I join all Floridians in praying for a quick recovery for those injured and for the families who lost a loved one. The Orlando community is also grateful to our first responders for their speed, bravery, and professionalism, especially the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. I am incredibly thankful for their dedicated public service. “Orlando has endured far too much heartbreak over the past year, and it’s especially important we remain united and supportive of one another. This senseless act of violence happened just one week away from the anniversary of the Pulse attack, only adding to our community’s collective grief. In these difficult moments, we must continue to find strength in one another. We are Orlando strong and Orlando united.”

— Sen. Linda Stewart: :Orlando business shooting is not terrorist attack. Mental Health issues more likely, again a continued need for more help.”

— Rep. Jason Brodeur via Twitter: “Hug your family. Be vigilant. Local Family Help Line: 407-679-0100. Ext. 3087.”

— Rep. Chris Sprowls via Twitter: “My heartfelt prayers to the families & victims of the shooting in Orlando. A big thank you to first responders who contained the situation.”

— Rep. Jennifer Sullivan via Twitter: “Praying for the families effected in the Orlando shooting. My heart is grieved at the thought of yet more loss.”

— Rep. Frank White via Twitter: “Thoughts and prayers for those affected in today’s tragic shooting in Orlando.”

— State Attorney Aramis Ayala : “A sad day in Orlando. My most sincere condolences to the families impacted. Much respect and honor to Orange County Sheriff’s Office and first responders.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permissions.

 

Steve Hayes: Tourism industry in jeopardy with House Bill 1A

The Florida House of Representatives has recently espoused a philosophy of not “picking winners and losers,” but House Bill 1A does just that.

As I watched Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, and Speaker Richard Corcoran announce their plans for a special session to discuss tourism funding, I felt hopeful for the fate of Florida’s tourism industry. However, my optimism faded when I read the strict VISIT Florida provisions tucked inside House Bill 1A. Of course, I am deeply appreciative of our lawmakers’ willingness to rethink the issue of VISIT Florida’s funding, but I am concerned the severe restrictions still hinder VISIT Florida’s ability to help smaller communities compete in the increasingly aggressive tourism promotion industry.

VISIT Florida must be able to operate to keep tourists, and revenue, flowing into the Sunshine State. Restoring its funding to $76 million is certainly a critical component to ensuring our tourism industry continues to flourish, but the bureaucratic red tape proposed by HB 1A counteracts the increased budget.

I am a proud member of Pensacola’s tourism industry, so the fund matching provisions found in HB 1A are especially troubling. In its current form, HB 1A could force VISIT Florida to partner only with the larger tourism industry businesses that can match funds, shutting out county destination marketing organization. The small businesses that previously benefited from state tourism promotion efforts by partnering with their local destination marketing organization (DMO), like Visit Pensacola, will no longer be afforded this opportunity — and they are the ones who need tourism promotion the most. Seafood shacks, bed and breakfasts, kayak rentals and numerous other companies do not have a marketing team and therefore rely on their local DMO to partner with VISIT Florida. Similar are the smaller destinations in Northern Florida, without the same brand recognition as some of our state’s larger cities — without cooperation between state and local tourism promotion, many of Florida’s hidden gems would remain a secret.

Like many smaller communities, tourism is Pensacola’s livelihood. The tourism industry employs more than 22,000 residents and relies on Pensacola tourists to feed their families and maintain their way of life. And, those outside of the travel industry benefit from our county tourism promotion efforts as well. For example, every dollar invested in marketing Pensacola creates $3.55 in tax revenue. The money generated by tourism helps improve our roads, maintain our beaches and fund other public projects.

DMO’s, like Visit Pensacola, enable smaller, local tourism businesses to participate in VISIT Florida marketing programs they could not afford without local support. The small businesses could maximize their minimal funds by getting a matching contribution from both the state and their local tax-funded tourism bureau. For example, a water sports attraction on the coast can achieve exposure in magazine advertisements by partnering with their local destination marketing organization, reaching millions of potential customers across the country at a significantly reduced cost. Now, local tourism businesses will be excluded from these types of opportunities.

Recently, Gov. Scott announced Florida welcomed a record 31.1 million visitors in the first three months of 2017. This accomplishment is a direct result of last year’s $76 million allowance for tourism promotion, coupled with each county’s investment in publicizing the Sunshine State. Now that counties and other long-term VISIT Florida partners are unable to help fund state marketing programs, the strength of the Florida brand will surely weaken.

We have proven time and time again that investing in tourism promotion is good public policy, and VISIT Florida’s success has been consistent. Small communities and businesses who have been partners since the beginning should not be punished by a shortsighted decision. HB 1A must be modified so that counties both big and small can continue to benefit from VISIT Florida’s tourism promotion efforts. Tourism must work for the entire state — we cannot leave small communities in the dust.

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Steve Hayes is the vice chairman of the Florida Association of Destination Marketing Organizations (FADMO) and the president of Visit Pensacola.

Joe Henderson: Tallahassee gets Special Session, the public gets the bill

After the budget compromise reached by Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, the biggest question hanging over the Legislature’s three-day special session this week is whether there is enough time for some lawmakers to grow a backbone.

Only one of two things can happen.

There will either be a full-blown party revolt at how this was handled, followed by points, counterpoints, then fire and pestilence raining down on the state capital as rank-and-file members stand up to their leaders. I’m not betting on that one, by the way.

Or … party leaders will tell members how to vote because this compromise is the greatest thing since craft beer was invented.  After some serious harrumphing in private, those legislators will fall into line, lest their future committee assignments reflect the cost of rebellion.

The latter is the smart wager.

Democrats might as well send their “nay” votes in by Skype because Florida’s one-party system of Republican control has rendered them irrelevant.

In the musical Hamilton, there is a scene that could have doubled for what happened in Tallahassee. Corcoran, Scott and Negron were three key figures in the room where it happened. Decisions were happening, and other leaders need not apply. On Friday, they were kind enough to share news of the deal they reached.

Scott got what he wanted. Corcoran got what he wanted.

What everyone else got was a take-it-or-leave-it deal that smacked of smoke-filled rooms and quid pro quos. Even Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, who chairs the Senate’s budget panel on tourism and economic development, was left out of the conversation.

That led to this cynical tweet from Republican state Senator and possible gubernatorial candidate Jack Latvala: “It’s a shame the House wouldn’t negotiate during the regular session. Now we have to spend $60-70k a day on a special session.”

Write that on the tombstone for this Legislative Session.

Scott salvaged his priorities — more money for tourism promotion and incentives (read: taxpayer cash) for businesses to create jobs here. In the wake of the statewide backlash against the controversial HB 7069, which diverts millions from public schools to charters, Scott got a little more cash for public schools. I sense that will be coming to a U.S. Senate campaign ad next year.

Educators were not impressed.

“The gaping flaws in HB 7069 haven’t changed with this suggested increase in funding,” Florida Education Association President Joanne McCall said in a written statement.

“It doesn’t even pay for the massive giveaway to charter schools included in the bill. The governor and the legislative leaders who cooked up these changes and called for a special session are not addressing the needs of the parents and students in this state.”

This is probably a good time to recall that Corcoran called the union “downright evil” last because it opposed his plan for charter schools.

He added that the union’s stance was tantamount to “attempting to destroy the lives of almost 100,000 children, mostly minority, and all of them poor.”

Corcoran really, really wanted more money for those “Schools of Hope” charters that would otherwise have gone to public schools. Assuming lawmakers go along to get along, Corcoran wins.

Scott wins.

And what do we, the people, receive?

As always, we get the bill.

Welcome to Tallahassee.

Aakash Patel becomes first Republican to file for District 1 seat on Hillsborough Commission

Tampa-based entrepreneur and civic activist Aakash Patel has filed to run as a Republican for the Hillsborough County Commission District 1 seat in 2018.

Technically, Patel has filed for 2020. However, incumbent Sandy Murman is expected to step down next year to run for another seat, creating the need for a special election next year.

Patel is founder and president of consulting firm Elevate, Inc. and has been extremely active in Tampa Bay-area civic causes in recent years. He currently serves as the chair of the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County, appointed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2014.

“My story is the American dream,” Patel said in an interview last week. “And that’s one of the reasons I’m running. My parents were of Indian heritage and came to America in the early-70s. They instilled American ideals — such as community service — into me at an early age. And I’m running for the District 1 Commission seat because I want to give back to the city that took me in.”

Patel has graduated from a wide variety of civic programs: The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Tampa, the Citizen’s Academy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Tampa Police Citizen’s Academy, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s Mayor’s Neighborhood University, the Tampa Bay Public Leadership Institute, Leadership Tampa Bay (on the Executive Committee since 2014), Tampa Connection and College Leadership Florida. He is also a current class member in the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership St. Pete program and a member of the Society of International Business Fellows (SIBF) Leadership Academy.

In the early 1970s, Patel’s father arrived in America from Uganda; his mother came from India. Despite neither speaking English at first, the couple later attended graduate school and later opened up their own respective pharmacies.

As a youth, Patel himself grew up in New Jersey before moving with his family to Tampa; he attended Sickles High School and later Florida State University, where he holds degrees in both English Literature and Political Science.

Patel first developed the political bug in 2009, when former District 1 Commissioner Rose Ferlita appointed him to the county’s Citizens Advisory Committee. Later, he was reappointed by Commissioner Victor Crist.

At 33, Patel says if elected, he would bring some much-needed “new blood” to the Board of County Commissioners, whose youngest current member, Chair Stacy White, is 45.

“We need some fresh ideas,” Patel says when asked what he will bring to the board.

District 1 encompasses northwest Hillsborough County, Westshore, South Tampa and most of the southeastern part of the county. Murman has held the seat since 2010, and she was just re-elected to another four-year term November.

However, Murman intends to stick around beyond 2020, which is why she announced recently that she will step down from her seat next year to run for a new four-year term in District 7, a countywide seat vacated when Al Higginbotham departs the scene.

Last week, Tampa City Council Chair Yolie Capin became the first Democrat to file for the seat. Patel is the second candidate to announce.

Undoubtedly, there will be more candidates declaring for the seat over the course of the next year or so.

 

Rick Scott signs bill loosening regulations on cosmetic manufacturers

A bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott Friday would loosen regulations on more than 100 Florida cosmetic manufacturers.

CS/HB 211 removes the requirements for companies to register cosmetic products they manufacture or repackage. The bill conforms by removing registration and renewal requirements for cosmetic products, including the requirements to give registration applications, product labels, and registration and renewal fees. It will allow cosmetic manufacturers in Florida to sell cosmetics without registering such products.

Florida, along with Louisiana and Nevada, were the only states to require cosmetic registration. The law also eliminates the fee to register cosmetics.

Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida reports that as of Fiscal Year 2016, the state had 13,024 active cosmetic product registrations with the Division of Drugs, Devices, and Cosmetics of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Cosmetic manufacturers that are physically located in Florida will still need to have an active cosmetic manufacturer permit.

Rick Scott OKs two memorials for Dozier School abuse deaths, rebury victims

Gov. Rick Scott signed a new law Friday allowing for the creation of memorials for boys who died from abuse at the now-closed Dozier School for Boys as well as abuse survivors.

The bill sets aside $1.2 million to build two memorials regarding the boys who lived and died at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys.

Nearly 100 boys died between 1900 and 1973 at the school located near Marianna, some 60 miles west of Tallahassee.

The bill authorizes the creation of a memorial at the state Capitol and one near Marianna. It also calls for reburying victims of a 1914 fire at the school cemetery in Marianna, and rebury other remains in Tallahassee.

The legislation would also allow portions of the shuttered campus to be turned over to Jackson County.

“Today’s signing, coupled with an official apology led by the House earlier this year, will hopefully bring some closure and healing to all those affected directly or indirectly by the atrocities that occurred at the Arthur Dozier School for Boys,” said House Speaker Richard Corcoran. “I thank Governor Scott for signing this legislation; I thank the many House and Senate Members who passionately took up this cause, and look forward to seeing the construction of a memorial that is a tribute to those lost and a testament to the strength of those who never gave up the fight.”

Kathy Castor: Investigations on Russia, Trump administration are ‘cloud’ over D.C.

While there are many things both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill want to accomplish, Kathy Castor laments the business of Congress has slowed considerably by what she calls a “cloud” over the Trump administration’s possible collusion with Russia during last year’s election.

“What an atmosphere it is,” the Tampa Democratic congresswoman said in opening remarks at the Oxford Exchange Friday morning.

“I hope we can remove this cloud. The economy is better. People are generally hopeful, they want America to be a world leader, and this cloud has got to go away, because I think that everything that we have going for us, as long as that cloud remains over the White House in Washington. We’re not able to reach our full potential.”

For months, Castor had been among Congressional Democrats calling for an independent commission to investigate allegations about members of the Trump administration and the Russian government. She called the recent Justice Department appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller to investigate the situation a positive development.

“I think that broke the fever a little bit,” she said, adding that the constant news revelations about Trump and the Russians have “stalled a lot of the business going on in the Congress.”

“There have been some things going on,” she acknowledged, “but the pace of lawmaking is much slower than I’ve seen over the past ten years.”

The Tampa Representative touched on just a few of those items not being covered in the media that she worries about, such as the president’s signing of a Congressional resolution repealing rules that would have required internet service providers to get customer permission to collect, use and sell information about one’s online habits.

Castor says the role of Congress should now be to do a “broader dive” into recommendations on how to prevent the interference of foreign governments into our elections. In March, former FBI Director James Comey told a congressional panel the FBI was investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination.

No member of Congress has been more active in promoting relations between Cuba and the U.S. than Castor, who represents one of the largest Cuban-American communities in the U.S. She admitted that recent reports of the Trump administration being ready to roll back some of the major pieces of the Obama administration’s opening with Cuba and reinstating limits on travel and commerce, citing human rights abuses by the Castro government as justification for a more punitive approach.

“I’ve been an optimist on these until the last few days,” she confessed, charging Trump with being on a path “just to flex his muscles, notwithstanding logic and facts.”

“I think we are somewhat in risk of President Trump in his pledge to change Cuban policy and that would be a real shame for the families in this community and families across the country,” she added.

Castor’s appearance at the weekly “Cafe Con Tampa” meeting was, in essence, a regular town-hall meeting. It was the type of event she has eschewed in recent years, opting for events where she invites the public to meetings, meeting up on a one-on-one basis.

Traditional town hall meetings haven’t been scheduled very often after an explosive encounter with Tea Party activists during the discussions about the Affordable Care Act back in 2009.

All of the questions were of a friendly nature, including a softball from an official with the Hillsborough County School Board who asked her opinion of HB 7069, a charter-school-friendly $419 million school bill in the Florida Legislature that she had already vocally opposed. Public education officials and organizations vehemently opposed the legislation.

“What the Florida Legislature has been doing to our public schools is criminal, and we have got to stand up and fight for it,” she said, adding that it wasn’t too late to have people contact Gov. Rick Scott to veto the bill.

Florida taxpayers, entrepreneurs winners in new budget deal, says Americans for Prosperity

Florida taxpayers will be the true winners next week as lawmakers return to Tallahassee for a special session on economic incentives and education funding in the state’s budget, says Americans for Prosperity-Florida.

The conservative government watchdog group is applauding Friday’s announcement by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Senate President Joe Negron, and Gov. Rick Scott that they will be meeting for a Special Session to reconcile the state’s nearly $84 billion budget.

As reported by FloridaPolitics.com, Scott called on the Legislature to provide an additional $215 million to K-12 public education, which would increase per student funding by $100. establish an $85 million “Florida Job growth fund” to promote public infrastructure and individual job training. That $85 million price tag was the same as the request Scott made for Enterprise Florida.

The governor also seeks to pass legislation setting aside $76 million for VISIT Florida — the state’s tourism arm — which includes comprehensive transparency and accountability measures.

AFP-FL has long denounced Florida’s “corporate welfare handouts” through incentive programs such as VISIT Florida and Enterprise Florida.

AFP-FL state director Chris Hudson praised the development in a statement:

“While we wait to see the details in writing, we’re cautiously optimist about the move to establish the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund. This new plan will help all jobs creators, not just the well-connected, looking to come to Florida or those investing to expand their homegrown businesses. This is how economic development should have always existed in the state. This is a model for the rest of the country. We are excited that at least for now the war for incentives is over.”

“This is a huge win for taxpayers and a huge win for our organization and the activists that drove the discussion.”

The 2017 Special Legislative Session will be June 7-9.

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