Rick Scott Archives - Page 5 of 158 - SaintPetersBlog

Aramis Ayala asks Pam Bondi to initiate challenge of Rick Scott’s murder case orders

An attorney representing embattled Orlando State Attorney Aramis Ayala has initiated the process to challenge Gov. Rick Scott‘s murder case reassignment orders by asking State Attorney General Pam Bondi to petition the court on Ayala’s behalf.

Ayala intends to challenge the legality of Scott’s now 23 and counting executive orders stripping 9th Judicial Circuit first-degree murder cases from Ayala’s jurisdiction and reassigning them to be prosecuted by 5th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brad King.

The governor did so after Ayala announced she had concluded that death sentences were unjust for all involved and that she would not pursue them. That angered Scott — and Bondi — leading Scott to reassign all of Ayala’s first-degree murder cases.

Bondi has supported Scott. But in this request, she may have no choice but to comply, as a perfunctory obligation, said Ayala’s attorney, Roy L. Austin Jr., of the Washington law firm of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis.

Specifically, the letter asks Bondi to petition a court for a writ quo warranto against Scott and King.

Florida law requires state attorneys to go through the attorney general for such actions, Austin said.

“We have to ask her,” Austin said of Bondi. “But what it’s meant to signal is that Ms. Ayala is definitely going to be responding to the governor, making it clear that his actions were unconstitutional.”

“We’re going to do so next week, early next week,” Austin added.

Austin asked Bondi to notify him no later than 5 p.m. Monday on whether she would file for the writ. “If you do not intend to file such an action, state Attorney Ayala will file a petition for a writ quote warrant soon thereafter,” Austin wrote.

In the letter, he summarized Ayala’s position this way: “As the duly elected state attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, state Attorney Ayala cannot be forcibly removed as the prosecuting officer for trial courts in the Ninth Judicial Circuit absent a finding that she has violated the law. By unconstitutional and unlawful executive orders issued by Gov. Rick Scott, State Attorney Brad King is wrongfully purporting to exercise the right of state Attorney Ayala to prosecute a number of cases in the Ninth Judicial Circuit.”

Rick Scott: ‘About time’ for Syria strike

Taking an unusual step of weighing in on a foreign military incursion, Florida Gov. Rick Scott released a statement Friday morning supporting Thursday night’s U.S. military airstrikes on Syria.

“President Trump took the right action and acted decisively. The Assad regime is responsible for the horrendous killings of innocent men, women and children. These chemical attacks against innocent Syrian people are sickening, and it’s about time someone stood up for them. I appreciate our brave military heroes who conducted this mission,” Scott said.

The next decision by this president that Scott opposes will be the first.

U.S. military action, meanwhile, is something almost all Florida Republicans can support.

Yet, Scott’s statement stopped short of the measures, advanced by Sen. Marco Rubio in one of his many media appearances since Thursday night’s airstrikes.

“We need to now move forward through a combination of diplomacy and, quite frankly, the support of groups on ground, particularly non-jihadist Sunni groups, to create alternatives to the Assad regime,” Rubio said Friday morning.

Citing rising poll numbers, Florida congressional Dems urge Rick Scott to expand Medicaid

When Congressional Republicans last month attempted to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, they heard from several GOP governors, who warned them not to go ahead with a plan to cut more than $800 billion from Medicaid, saying it would have a deleterious effect on voters.

Now, with new polling indicating that Medicaid has never been more popular, Florida Congressional Democrats are finding the inspiration to ask Gov. Rick Scott to again consider expanding Medicaid.

“A number of states that had not previously expanded Medicaid are now considering expansion and we strongly urge you and the Florida Legislature to do so too,” begins the letter penned by Sen. Bill Nelson, and Congress members Charlie Crist, Kathy Castor, Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Lois Frankel, Fredericka Wilson, Al Lawson, Stephanie Murphy and Darren Soto.

The letter comes on the same that a new poll conducted by the University of Miami shows that two-thirds of Floridians, or 67 percent, say they favor Medicaid expansion.

Infamously, Scott said in 2013 that he initially supported expanding Medicaid in Florida, but then quickly reversed course and every year since has steadfastly maintained his opposition, despite the business community rallying behind such a move.

In 2015, the Florida Senate approved a hybrid version of Medicaid expansion; the House overwhelmingly rejected the proposal.

State officials said that plan would have covered as many as 650,000 residents.

Here’s the text of the letter sent to Scott:

Dear Governor Scott:

A number of states that had not previously expanded Medicaid are now considering expansion and we strongly urge you and the Florida Legislature to do so too. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia already have expanded Medicaid to provide affordable health care to working families and students. Floridians should not be placed at a disadvantage compared to other states. Indeed, a survey published today by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation found that 67 percent of Floridians support moving forward with expansion to bring $66 billion in federal funding between the years of 2013-2022 to our state. Medicaid expansion will boost jobs and enable Florida to move to a more efficient health care delivery model. In fact, it is estimated that the state would have seen $8.9 billion in increased economic activity and more than 71,000 new jobs in 2016 alone. It not too late to chart a better course for the State of Florida.

Now that Speaker Ryan has declared, “[the Affordable Care Act] is the law of the land,” we should all be doing our part to expand coverage to the uninsured, improve the quality of health plans, and lower costs for everyone. Expanding eligibility to all Floridians with annual income below 138 percent of the federal poverty level–less than $30,000 per year for a family of three–is the fiscally-responsible thing to do not only for a huge number of Floridians, but also for consumers who use Healthcare.gov, for businesses who provide coverage to their employees, and for hospitals who are charged with providing care without regard to a patient’s coverage status. Insurance premiums for Americans who have private insurance are generally lower in states that have expanded Medicaid. Private insurance costs are higher in states that did not expand Medicaid because of costs of sick and uninsured are transferred to the private insurance pool according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Coverage is key, rather than costly and inefficient emergency room care and delayed treatment.

With years of Medicaid expansion already underway in other parts of the country, we have seen that other hard working Americans have benefited from improvements in health care quality and affordability through expansion. Medicaid expansion in Florida would provide over 800,000 of our fellow Floridians with access to primary care. Preventive services like screening for HIV, cancer, and heart disease will save lives, help keep our state’s residents healthier, and improve management of their chronic conditions. Providing access to Medicaid will also improve risk pools in the private market, a shift that has saved consumers in expansion states seven percent on their monthly premiums. Floridians deserve these benefits just like any other American.

Medicaid expansion also will reduce the unpaid medical bills owed to hospitals that put pressure on the state budget and our safety net hospitals funded with taxpayer dollars. Refusing to cover working Floridians through Medicaid expansion does not reduce our state’s health care costs, it just passes them on through rising premiums and tax hikes. With a third of our state’s resources already devoted to health care, the influx of $50 billion in federal funding would safeguard services from the draconian cuts currently under consideration by the state legislature. Medicaid expansion would help the state avoid the rising costs brought by Zika, the opioid crisis and mental health needs.

Throughout your time as the chief executive of our state, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has shown a willingness to work with you to find a path forward that will expand coverage to hard-working, able-bodied adults in our state. States with conservative governors around the nation have arrived at solutions that expanded Medicaid while upholding their conservative principles. If you miss this opportunity, you will chart a fiscally-irresponsible path that will cost our state billions, cost our state jobs and sacrifice the health and well-being of all Floridians.

Thankfully, Republicans in Congress abandoned their recent proposal to rip coverage away from millions of Americans including children, the disabled, and our neighbors with Alzheimer’s in skilled nursing. Like most Floridians, we realized that this was not an honest attempt at improving health care in America. Rather than continuing political games over the Affordable Care Act, we ask that you move to develop a plan for Medicaid expansion in our state to benefit the health, financial security, and well-being of all Floridians.



Tampa Bay Partnership hails House passage of ride-sharing bill

Heading into the 2017 Legislative Session, the Tampa Bay Partnership listed the creation of a regional transit agency connecting four Tampa Bay-area counties as its top priority.

Another priority was the desire to see a bill passed regulating ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft. It’s closer to achieving success on the latter, with the Florida House voting unanimously Wednesday for a bill sponsored by Republicans Chris Sprowls and Jamie Grant.

“Ride-sharing is an integral component of a multi-modal regional transportation system and a cost-effective, private sector option to enhance regional connectivity,” said Rhea Law, chair of the Tampa Bay Partnership. “It also shows strong promise as a solution to the ‘first mile, last mile’ concerns associated with moving people between their homes and a core transit system.”

Until last fall, the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission had been at war with Uber and Lyft, with both companies taking the PTC to court to challenge their rulemaking ability That tension was something that the Tampa Bay area political establishment, as personified by the Partnership, wanted to cease this year, something alluded to by Law in her statement.

“The previously inconsistent regulations throughout the state, and particularly within the Tampa Bay region, created an environment that negatively impacted both rideshare companies and their customers,” she said. “With the passage of this legislation, we’re closer to achieving consistent, and legal, policies to guide this growing industry, and ensuring that technology and innovation can continue to play a role in addressing our transportation challenges. We thank the bill sponsor, Rep. Chris Sprowls, and the other members of the Bay Area Legislative Delegation for their support and leadership on this issue.”

The PTC did finally make peace with Uber and Lyft last fall, coming to terms on a temporary agreement last November.

Despite the enthusiasm for Wednesday’s vote, the bill hasn’t gone to Governor Rick Scott’s desk just yet. That’s because its Senate companion, SB 340 sponsored by St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes, still has another committee to get through before making it to the Senate floor.

That vote is scheduled to take place Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the bill creating a regional transit agency in the Tampa Bay area will come before the House Government Accountability Committee on Thursday.

Rick Scott, Titus O’Neil to join area students at construction job fair

Gov. Rick Scott and WWE wrestler Titus O’Neil will be the top-billed guests at the second annual Build Tampa Bay Tradeshow and Job Fair at the Port of Tampa Thursday.

In addition to Scott and O’Neil, organizers expect other state leaders and 900 students from across the Tampa Bay region to come to the event promoting careers in the area’s construction industry. The job fair is scheduled to go from 9 am to 1 pm at the port’s cruise terminal.

“Build Tampa Bay is proud to host the second annual event to educate area county students about the many professional opportunities available in the construction industry,” said Associated Builders and Contractors CEO Steve Cona. “As the Tampa Bay area is primed for tremendous growth with many development projects taking place across the region, students have a unique opportunity to put their stamp on this community by pursuing an enriching career in the building sector.”

The Gulf Coast chapter of ABC teamed up with Hillsborough County Public Schools, Pasco County Schools and the School District of Manatee County to put on the event, which will give students the chance to network with more than 50 employers in the Tampa Bay region.

The first Build Tampa Bay brought in about 700 students and had 40 employers on-site, alongside Tampa Bay Lighting owner Jeff Vinik and Mayor Bob Buckhorn who encouraged students to pursue trade careers.

ABC said it’s putting on the event to help curb the deficit in trade workers. The group said four out of five of its member companies are not bringing in enough skilled workers despite an annual investment of $1.1 billion in apprenticeships and workforce training.

Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show the skilled worker shortage in the construction industry is expected to grow to 1.6 million workers by 2022.

Bob Buckhorn looks forward (and back) in 2017 State of the City address

With less than two years before being term-limited, Bob Buckhorn fought off the temptation to wallow on his accomplishments as Tampa mayor, versus what’s left to come, during his State of the City address.

Speaking Tuesday morning for exactly half an hour at Kiley Park (after a 23-minute pregame show featuring a performance by the Tampa City Choir, as well as an appearance by City Councilman Guido Maniscalco), the speech was vintage Buckhorn — down to the passages adapted from his stump speech about how the city has come clawing back furiously from the depths of the Great Depression of the late aughts to flourish under his regime.

“Together we brought this city back from rock bottom,” he intoned. “Together we rose up from the ashes of an economic apocalypse.”

There were plenty of statistics thrown into the mix to illustrate how the city has progressed since he defeated Rose Ferlita in a runoff election for mayor just over six years ago: employment up 24 percent; over $11 billion in construction projects; $24 million invested in computing infrastructure and upgrades to the city’s technology dept.

And there was more. More than a million square feet of new commercial development in Ybor City; More than 6,000 residential units in downtown, nearly 300 hotel rooms, and 800,000 new square feet of commercial space in the Westshore business district.

More than 92 miles of new bike lanes, 45 miles of new sidewalks, 400 acres of new green space, including 10 new parks and over 9,000 new trees planted.

The lure to spend more time looking backward than forwards is something Buckhorn will increasingly be called to stave off over the next 24 months.

At a news conference last month announcing he would not run for governor, the mayor bristled slightly when a reporter asked him to look back at his achievements, joking he still had plenty of fuel left in his tank.

Buckhorn did use the speech to introduce a new program called Autism Friendly Tampa, in association with USF’s CARD program (Center for Autism and Related Disabilities) to make Tampa one of America’s most inclusive cities.

“One in every 68 individuals are diagnosed with Autism,” he said. “And each one of those impacted have their own unique challenges. A seemingly simple trip to the pool or downtown event can be complicated. Finding a summer program could be impossible. As Mayor, I am committed to making our public spaces, city facilities, parks, and programs more friendly for those touched by Autism and related disabilities.”

He also talked about the future, and how autonomous vehicles will be a part of that equation. The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway is working on a “Connected Vehicle” projects on the Selmon Expressway that would allow cars to talk to each other and the infrastructure.

“This technology will improve pedestrian safety, address traffic congestion, improve transportation operations and prevent wrong-way crashes, and Tampa — our Tampa — is the test bed,” he said.

City government is much leaner over the past decade since the wheels came off both Florida and America’s economy; Buckhorn noted how much less property revenue is coming into the city, due in part to that state’s three percent cap on property tax hikes.

In 2007, the city generated over $166.2 million in property tax revenue. That’s more than $12 million than the $153 million the fiscal year 2017 budget submitted to the City Council.

Buckhorn said the city won’t get back to 2007 levels until the fiscal year 2019.

Buckhorn also took shots at the Rick Scott and Richard Corcoran led state government, and Donald Trump‘s federal government, saying their policies are more of a burden for cities like Tampa.

“Sources of revenue that are reduced or eliminated, partnerships eviscerated, and programs decimated are potentially looming, all of which have potentially have an impact on our bottom line,” Buckhorn said.

“This is a different city than it was six years ago,” he said in conclusion. “And its last chapter has yet to be written … We have work to do, because our future begins today.”

No doubt, Buckhorn was also talking about his own tenure.

Rick Scott says decisions related to Aramis Ayala ‘nothing to do with politics’

In Jacksonville Tuesday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott discussed his ongoing war with State Attorney Aramis Ayala.

In March, Scott took the Markeith Loyd murder case away from Ayala, due to her reluctance to pursue the death penalty for the cop killer.

In April, Scott scored another pre-emptive strike: reassigning 21 first-degree murder cases that “represent a horrific loss of life.”

“State Attorney Ayala’s complete refusal to consider capital punishment for the entirety of her term sends an unacceptable message that she is not interested in considering every available option in the fight for justice,” Scott stated Monday.

While those are salient points, there is also a counternarrative emerging from some quarters: namely, that Scott, being hit from the right by the Richard Corcoran wing of the Florida Republican Party, is taking such an aggressive position to shore up his base.

Meanwhile, there is also the question of subverting the mandate of the people who voted Ayala in last year.

When asked these questions, Gov. Scott had the following response.

“First off, this has nothing to do with politics. It has all to do with — think about the victims. This was about three weeks ago now when the State Attorney in Orlando said that she wouldn’t pursue the Markeith Loyd case to the fullest extent of the law. It just personally bothered me,” Scott related.

“Loyd’s accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend. He’s accused of shooting Officer Debra Clayton, a wonderful young lady, and then walking up to her when she’s on the ground, when he could have just driven off, and shooting her multiple times,” Scott added.

“And then the State Attorney says that she’s not going to pursue the case to the fullest extent of the law — that’s wrong,” Scott continued.

“What bothers me is that’s her job. Think about the victims: these are horrendous crimes. Think about the families: how do they feel when somebody says ‘I’m not going to prosecute somebody to the fullest extent of the law’.”

“We sent to Brad King, but there’s no politics in this. This is — what’s the right thing to do,” Scott said.

We asked Scott the question: is it death penalty or nothing for Loyd?

“Brad King will pursue the case to the fullest extent of the law. Whatever happens — you don’t just say you’re not going to pursue things to the fullest extent of the law. It’s the law of the state! Follow the law!”

Scott continued describing Loyd’s murder of Clayton, including using the phrase “pummeling her with bullets.”

We then asked Scott about the concept that the State Attorney has discretion to pursue charges as she sees fit — including not pursuing capital punishment.

“No, they have — it goes to Brad King, and he’ll review it and make the right decision.”

Florida Poll: Bill Nelson 52%, Rick Scott 37% in hypothetical 2018 U.S. Senate race

Sen. Bill Nelson holds a significant lead over Gov. Rick Scott in a hypothetical 2018 match-up, according to a new poll.

The survey — conducted March 28 through March 29 by Gravis Marketing for The Orlando Political Observer — found Nelson leads Scott, 52 percent to 37 percent. According to the poll, 12 percent of respondents said they were unsure who they would pick.

The poll of 1,453 registered voters, which was conducted using automated phone calls and web responses of cell phone users, has a margin of error of 2.6 percent.

That 15-point margin represents the largest spread Nelson has enjoyed in early polling. A recent Public Opinion Strategies poll conducted on behalf of the Florida Hospital Association showed a much closer race between the two men come 2018, with Nelson at 46 percent to Scott’s 44 percent.

Meanwhile, a poll from the Florida Chamber of Commerce released in March showed Nelson had a 6-point lead over Scott, 48 percent to 42 percent.

That margin was similar to one predicted in a UNF Public Opinion Research Laboratory survey released earlier in the month that found Nelson would take 44 percent to Scott’s 38 percent. A Mason-Dixon survey showed Nelson with a 5-point edge over Scott, 46 percent to 41 percent.

Scott, who was elected in 2010, can’t run for governor in 2018 because of term-limits. He’s been boosting his national profile in recent months, and is widely believed to be considering a U.S. Senate run.

Janet Cruz’s ‘tough haul,’ frustrations of the Democratic House caucus

In Tampa, Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel waxed optimistically last month about the Democrats’ chance of winning back the state Senate in 2020.

Notably, he didn’t say anything about the House, where Republicans outnumber Democrats, 79-41.

Tampa Rep. Janet Cruz, serving the first year of a two-year stint as Minority Leader and four weeks into the 2017 Session, admits it’s been a tough haul.

“I feel like we’re spending so much time on bills that in caucus meetings, we’ve grown to call them ‘dead bills walking,'” she says of how Session is going so far.

“These are bills that are simply shots across the bow,” she says, specifically referring to Speaker Richard Corcoran and his campaign to kill Enterprise Florida.

The Speaker’s effort comes much to the consternation of Gov. Rick Scott, who continues to travel the state to call out individual Republicans who have voted in support of the proposal to date.

“They’re one executive branch taking shots at the other executive branch,” Cruz says. “And in my opinion, it’s all posturing to run for higher office.”

While both Corcoran and the governor are considered to have ambitious to run for higher office next year, their battle regarding tax incentives to recruit businesses to Florida has become visceral. Meanwhile, the passage this past week of Longwood Republican Scott Plakon‘s bill that would require unions to disclose information on it’s membership or be forced to re-certify appeared to devastate Democrats.

What both bills have in common — neither has a Senate companion.

“We are hearing bills that don’t have a chance of going anywhere,” Cruz laments.

“These are just bills that they want to send a message with more union busting. Further intimidation,” she says, adding, “Thank God for the Senate.”

There has also been legislation preemption local governments, such as St. Cloud Republican Mike LaRosa‘s proposal to bar cities from regulating vacation rentals of private homes, angering many mayors.

Cruz mused that the plan seemed something scripted from ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council known to offer model legislation to Republicans.

“They realize that most cities and led by Democrats and those from the urban core,” she notes. “This is just an overreach of local control, and it’s wrong.”

House speaker’s ‘corporate welfare’ crackdown runs into Senate roadblock

Enterprise Florida Inc. could survive 2017 after all.

Established in 1996, the taxpayer-funded organization has awarded nearly $2 billion in economic incentives to private businesses to create jobs and boost the state economy.

Its record is mixed, and its reputation has been scarred by exorbitant executive pay, high-profile taxpayer losses and a failure to match private funding with public appropriations — a statutory requirement.

As a result, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, is spearheading an effort to put the controversial business recruitment agency out of business permanently.

Earlier this month, the House passed a bill that would eliminate Enterprise Florida and nearly two dozen tax incentive programs. The House passed an additional “corporate welfare” bill that would subject Visit Florida, the state’s taxpayer-funded tourism marketing corporation, to the same accountability standards as state government agencies while cutting its annual funding from $76 million to $25 million.

The Senate apparently didn’t get the memo.

Both reforms ran into a roadblock this week when the Senate unveiled its 2017-18 budget proposal. It includes more than $80 million for Enterprise Florida programs and $76 million for Visit Florida. The funding totals align with what Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, has requested.

Scott, an unabashed proponent of incentives, issued a statement Wednesday endorsing the Senate proposal.

“I want to thank the Florida Senate for listening to our families and job creators by proposing to fully fund Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida,” said Scott, who serves as chairman of Enterprise Florida’s board of directors.

“Unfortunately, at this time the Florida House has chosen to continue ignoring the Floridians they serve. The House’s decision to severely cut the budget of Visit Florida is especially shocking when we look at how disastrous this has been in other states,” Scott said.

Corcoran has yet to release a statement, but has continued to make his case publicly since both House reform bills passed during the first week of the annual legislative session.

“Instead of picking winners and losers in the marketplace, which does more on its own to lift people out of poverty, they ought to be using that money for education, for infrastructure, for giving back taxes to the people or broad-based, fair tax cuts in the business marketplace, which is why people move here more than any other reason,” Corcoran told the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club.

Amy Baker, the Legislature’s top economist, told lawmakers in January that 70 percent of the state’s incentive programs fail to deliver a positive return on investment.

Scott and other incentive advocates contend that taxpayer resources are necessary to entice businesses from going to other states.

“Over and over again, politicians in the House have failed to understand that Florida is competing for job creation projects against other states and countries across the globe. Eliminating Enterprise Florida means we will not be able to effectively compete for new opportunities,” Scott said Wednesday.

The Legislature is constitutionally required to pass an annual budget. Corcoran said in his Tiger Bay remarks that he’s ready for a special session beyond the May 5 regular session deadline if the Senate is unwilling to abolish Enterprise Florida, which he referred to as an “absolute cesspool.”

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