Rick Scott Archives - Page 6 of 141 - SaintPetersBlog

Implementation of medical marijuana amendment brings together unlikely allies

With establishment lobbyists now representing it, the medical marijuana cause appears to have become—grab your pearls—respectable.

Florida for Care, the nonprofit organization that is advocating for “well-regulated” medicinal pot in the state, has hired Brecht Heuchan and The Mayernick Group to advocate for its interests.

Heuchan, who says he voted against the medical marijuana constitutional amendment this November, has worked for Gov. Rick Scott’s Let’s Get to Work PAC. He’ll lobby the executive agencies.

“I didn’t want Florida to be like California but my vote was an ignorant one, as it turns out,” he said. “The amendment … will change thousands and thousands of Floridians’ lives and this can be done in a responsible way.”

The Mayernicks, GOP loyalists and experts in appropriations, have the legislative end.

Florida voters approved the initiative by 71 percent, well over the required 60 percent needed. That was two years after it missed passage by roughly 2 ½ percent.

“It’s rare you get to work on an issue that helps people cope with their medical condition and is supported by an overwhelming mandate of the voters,” Frank Mayernick said.

Now the work lies in how the amendment will work in practice.

State Sen. Dana Young, a Tampa Republican, will hold a workshop next Tuesday in her Senate Health Policy committee on “Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions,” a Senate schedule shows.

“There are many competing interests on the implementation (of medical marijuana),” lobbyist Tracy Mayernick said.

“We will be advocating for reasonable implementation that allows for adequate access, patient safety and affordability to the expanded patient population as well as a strong regulatory structure that meets the needs of law enforcement and communities across Florida.”

Just as important, cannabis as medicine is about to become big, even huge, business. 

A recent report says Florida will rack up over $1 billion in medical marijuana sales in the next three years. Soon, the Sunshine State could be behind only California in the size of its medical pot revenues.

It’s used as a “critical therapy by millions of patients to alleviate symptoms of epilepsy, chemotherapy, HIV/AIDS, chronic pain, and more,” according to Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access.

Here, the amendment grants a right to people with debilitating medical conditions, as determined by a licensed Florida physician, to use medical marijuana. The amendment defines a debilitating condition as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other things.

In Florida, the “non-euphoric” version is already approved for children with severe seizures and muscle spasms. The state later passed a law allowing terminally ill patients to use a stronger form of marijuana during their final days.

Florida and other states have operated under a kind of salutary neglect when it comes to marijuana, the sale of which is still a federal crime.

The Obama administration has directed federal prosecutors not to charge those, particularly “the seriously ill and their caregivers,” who distribute and use medical marijuana under a state law.

President-elect Donald Trump “has said he supports medical marijuana and that states should handle the question of whether to legalize,” according to TIME magazine.

“I think there’s an axis between the message the voters sent, the desire of the legislature to regulate this law in a lowercase ‘c’-conservative way, and the wants of the nascent medical marijuana industry,” Heuchan said.

“I agreed to join Florida for Care because they’re taking an approach to implementation that acknowledges this balancing act, and are seeking to be productive and reasonable in the process.”


Ed. Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that John Morgan chairs Florida for Care. Morgan chairs United for Care, a separate entity.

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Seminoles still paying state blackjack money—for now

Seminole Tribe of Florida spokesman Thursday declined comment on whether the tribe would stop payment to the state from its blackjack revenue.

A source close to the tribe told FloridaPolitics.com on Wednesday that it’s considering not paying “one more dollar” to the state treasury without a new gambling agreement. According to a federal judge, it doesn’t have to.

Coincidentally, Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen, the tribe’s general counsel Jim Shore and others were in Tallahassee Monday for meetings, including a sit-down with Gov. Rick Scott.

Spokesman Gary Bitner said the meeting was “part of their ongoing effort and continuing desire to finalize a new gaming compact with the state of Florida.”

“As further evidence of its positive approach, the Tribe is continuing to make monthly payments to the state that will total $306 million this year,” he said.

When asked whether those payments would end if no new agreement is approved this year, Bitner said, “As has been noted many times, it is the Tribe’s policy to not discuss the specific content of its compact negotiations with the state.”

A representative for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which regulates gambling in the state, has not yet responded to a request for comment.

The state and tribe struck a long-term deal—the 2010 Seminole Compact—that included a provision, expired last year, giving the Seminoles exclusive rights to offer blackjack in return for revenue share to the state. That meant more than $200 million per year.

Scott and tribal representatives agreed on a new deal for continued rights to blackjack in exchange for $3 billion over seven years.

That agreement couldn’t get to either floor for a vote last Legislative Session. It contained provisions that would have allowed the tribe to also offer craps and roulette—that is, more games. And lawmakers with dog and horse tracks in their districts tacked on legislation that would have expanded gambling at those facilities.

Since then, the Seminoles won a federal case allowing the tribe to offer blackjack and other “banked card games” at the Tampa Hard Rock and other casinos. And it allows them to not pay the state through 2030, the end of the original compact.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron have recently said they support an attempt to approve the renewed deal again in the 2017 Legislative Session.

But while Negron supports county initiatives to allow slot machines, for example, Corcoran said any package up this year has to mean “a reduction in gambling.”

On Tuesday, Scott told reporters he’ll “be looking at what we do next” when asked about opening the most recent proposed compact up for more changes.

“The Legislature didn’t pass it last year,” Scott said. “So we’ll continue to work with legislators, and see what their interests are.”

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Rick Scott won’t give state workers extra day off

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is ending a holiday tradition this year: Giving state workers an extra day off.

A spokeswoman for Scott said Tuesday that the governor will not be closing state offices an additional day around the Christmas holiday.

Scott for five straight years had ordered state offices to be closed an extra day in recognition of the hard work of state employees.

Three times Scott had given state workers Christmas Eve off when it fell on a weekday. Employees had the day after Christmas off in 2014 and in 2011 state employees received Dec. 23 off since Christmas Eve fell on a weekend.

Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, so the observed holiday is Dec. 26.

In the past, state workers who perform essential functions still have to work. But state offices aren’t open.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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John Morgan torn on possible governor run, in no hurry

John Morgan has powerful split emotions about the prospect of running for governor in 2018 as a Democrat, and figures he has at least a year to decide.

Morgan, the 60-year-old Orlando trial attorney who championed Florida’s Amendment 2 medical marijuana initiative this year, said others – not he – are pushing for him to run for governor. And while flattered, he insisted it’s not his idea, and he’s not giving it any serious thought yet.

“I don’t think I have to do anything this year, 2017,” Morgan said in an interview with FloridaPolitics.com.

But that doesn’t mean he’s not thinking about it now, if only when he’s driving around, kicking it around in his head.

“The advantage I have, for better worse, is they [any other candidates for governor in 2018] are going to have to spend $25 million at a bare-bones minimum to have any name ID. To me that’s a starting number,” he continued. “And so for better or worse, except for Miami and Fort Lauderdale, I[his Morgan & Morgan law firm featuring him in TV and billboard advertising] am in all those markets, and have been for 30 years or so. I also have the advantage of four years of [campaigning statewide for medical] marijuana, and a very big following. When people come up to me, they thank me for marijuana.”

A group of south Florida politicos, led by Democratic operative Ben Pollara, have put together “For The Governor,” a campaign pushing a petition drive to draft John Morgan for governor, through social media and other communications. Pollara was Morgan’s former campaign manager for United For Care, which ran the successful Amendment 2 campaign this year

Pollara said he’s in the process of formally incorporating a For The Governor Political Committee and expects to begin raising money.

He and Morgan both stated that they had not discussed the initiative with each other, though Morgan hasn’t dismissed it.

“You’ve got to be careful because our egos can really get us into trouble,” Morgan said. “Everybody says, ‘I like you. I like you. I like you. I want you to do it.’ All of the sudden you like what you are hearing, and all of the sudden you go off on a venture you shouldn’t go off on, for a lot of reasons.”I’ve got a great life.”

“I’ve got a great life.”

In the interview, Morgan quickly explored several reasons why he wouldn’t dream of running for governor.

* He professes no clear Florida governing platform at this point, other than a strong conviction that something must be done about low wages in Florida. And he’s not convinced that his being governor would be the most effective way for him to address that; he’s exploring another constitutional amendment initiative to do so.

“I would only want to do it [run for governor] if there was something that I thought that I could make a difference in. And what I worry about is, even if I defy all odds, and win, could I even get anything done with a Republican senate and house?” he said.

* He’s very close to U.S. Rep. Gwen Grahamthe most likely Democratic candidate for governor so far, and particularly close with her father, former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham. And he expressed admiration for other potential Democratic candidates, including Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn,  and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

* He even likes some potential Republican gubernatorial candidates, citing Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran and former Speaker of the House Will Weatherford, among others.

“If I find someone who inspired me, then I would go, ‘You now what? the state would be in good hands with this person.’ It doesn’t matter if they’re a Republican or Democrat,” Morgan said.

* His business interests are complex on a level approaching Donald Trump’s, and he’s not sure he wants to unwind, disengage or liquify anything. Besides his law firm, which is in 18 Florida cities and eight other states, his business interests including hotels, real estate, shopping centers, and attractions.

* Finally, he’s not crazy about enduring personal attacks and knows his profession and lifestyle leave him and his family wide open to ugly anti-Morgan campaign smears.

“I’ve been on TV for 30 years, so I’ve had people writing mean things to me, calling me with mean things, discussing my fat face, my, you know, whatever, so I’m used to mean things. But with this [draft John Morgan campaign] out there, the meanness out there ramps up a little. So I’m like, ‘Who wants this?'” Morgan said. “I’m used to the one-offs. I’m used to people writing me: ‘You’re an ambulance chaser.’ But I’m not used to this where everybody can weigh in. That’s been kind of unnerving.

“It seems like in politics people believe they have a special license to be meaner than usual. That’s what I’ve found these last few weeks,” he said, adding it bothers him, “Because I like to be liked.”

But Morgan does see reasons to run.

He’s not convinced Graham or the other Democrats can actually win. He’s at a point in his life when he’s contemplating the difference between being “successful” and being “significant.” He takes his victory with the medical marijuana initiative to heart on a humanitarian level. He likes that feeling. And he thinks more must and can be done.

“You know, there are things I believe very fervently. I believe that the real issue out there in America is people are not paid fair wages for a fair day’s work,” he said. “Now I don’t know what the number is. I don’t know what the number is. But I believe peoples’ frustration is, they go out, they do everything right, they put on a uniform, and at the end of the day they’re further behind than they were before.”

Perhaps the answer is another constitutional amendment initiative, one aimed at creating a living wage in Florida, Morgan said.

“I’ve already started researching what that language would look like. It may be that my best bet to do what I want to do would be to have a constitutional amendment. I now know how to navigate that world, after making lots of mistakes the first time around,” Morgan said. “But is $15 too much? Would that pass? What’s the magic number? I don’t know.”

The lessons Morgan draws from 2016 political victors is that voters are rejecting career politicians and the status quo, whether it’s Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica of Winter Park. Morgan is certain he fits the outsider identity. If he ran and won, he said he’d pledge a one-term tenure and donate the governor’s salary to charity.

He believes voters want someone who’s less partisan and more practical. Morgan has backed Republicans in the past and said he certainly would in the future. He even praised Gov. Rick Scott for being single-minded on jobs, and for delivering on that.

But mostly, Morgan said, voters deserve someone with compassion for them, and that’s a mark he believes he has.

“What I think is missing in politics today is compassion. I think it’s too much not about what’s for us but what’s for them,” Morgan said. “I don’t believe somebody should be a non-violent felon, go to jail, and not have their civil rights restored. That’s a crime. I don’t believe drug addiction is a crime. The leader I’m looking for is someone who is compassionate and thinks about people first. And I think that includes the minimum wage.”

Pollara and others pushing the draft-Morgan campaign have many of the same concerns about a Morgan run that Morgan himself expressed. Yet they also have his same concerns about the Democrats’ prospects without Morgan. The next governor will oversee another redistricting, which could lock a party’s power in Florida for another decade, Pollara cautioned.

The draft Morgan effort, he said, is “a product of anxiety we Democrats feel about this upcoming governor’s race. Now we’re looking at 2020 redistricting,” which could lead to a “generation of irrelevance” for Democrats.

Morgan also expressed a clear, proud sense of accomplishment, having pushed medical marijuana into Florida’s constitution.

“I got beat with the marijuana the first go around [in a failed 2014 campaign.] I learned my lessons,” Morgan said. “And I think the people who are supporting e the fact I didn’t quit, and I won, and I didn’t just win, I won in a big way.

“And what I did in four years was more than any legislator has done in the last 40 years.”

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Rick Scott mum on meeting with Seminole Tribe

Gov. Rick Scott Tuesday held his cards close to his vest about the future of a gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen, general counsel Jim Shore and others were in Tallahassee Monday for meetings.  

Scott, who spoke with reporters after a Florida Cabinet meeting, didn’t get into specifics of his meeting with them.

“We’ll continue to look at what the right thing is for the state of Florida,” Scott said. “We’ll be looking at what we do next. The Legislature didn’t pass it last year. So we’ll continue to work with legislators, and see what their interests are.”

The state and tribe struck a long-term deal in 2010—the Seminole Compact—that included a provision, expired last year, giving the Seminoles exclusive rights to offer blackjack for five years in return for revenue share to the state. That meant more than $200 million per year.

Scott and tribal representatives then agreed on a new deal for continued rights to blackjack in exchange for $3 billion over seven years. But that agreement couldn’t get to either floor for a vote last Legislative Session; it contained provisions that would have allowed the tribe to also offer craps and roulette—that is, more games.

Senate President Joe Negron recently said he backs its passage, but added he was comfortable with related initiatives seen as an expansion of gambling, such as local initiatives to allow slot machines.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, on the other hand, has said “we’re a very conservative chamber, and if something is going to pass it will have to be conservative. It’s going to have to be a reduction in gambling.”

Negron countered: “I’m optimistic that we can work together with our colleagues in the House and ratify a compact so the state has predictability in revenue.”

But the state’s leverage went down after a federal judge ruled the tribe can continue to offer blackjack and other “banked card games” without having to pay the state a dime.

Judge Robert Hinkle found that the state reneged on the original deal by allowing blackjack-like card games at certain cardrooms, meaning the tribe can have blackjack until 2030 at its Hard Rock Casinos across the state, including its Tampa location.

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Will Pam Bondi stay or will she go now?

Attorney General Pam Bondi played coy with the press Tuesday over continued questions about whether she would be joining President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.

Bondi, an adviser to Trump’s presidential transition team, met with him Friday at Trump Tower in New York.

After that meeting, she told the press, “I’m very happy being the Attorney General of the state of Florida right now.”

Asked again after the Florida Cabinet meeting, she joked with a reporter, “I knew you were going to be asking that question today!”

“And I’m not prepared to answer anything,” she quickly added. “I’m not going to confirm or deny anything right now.

“I went to New York at the request of the President of the United States-elect, and frankly I don’t think anyone should come out of those meetings and talk about anything that was said. I think all of that is and should remain confidential until the appropriate time.”

Bondi was an early Trump supporter, and a possible pick for U.S. Attorney General or White House counsel.

Trump instead named Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions and Don McGahn, former chief counsel to the National Republican Congressional Committee, for those posts.

She’s still being talked about to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy because of her work against pill mills and designer drugs. Its head is referred to as the nation’s “drug czar.”

But it’s still unclear what taint a contribution she accepted from Trump might have.

Trump ponied up a $2,500 penalty to the IRS after his charitable foundation broke the law by giving a contribution to one of Bondi’s political fundraising panels. The $25,000 contribution came from Trump’s charitable foundation on Sept. 17, 2013.

If Bondi does leaves for Washington, it would fall to Gov. Rick Scott to name a replacement, who would serve the remaining two years of her term.

If Scott had anyone in mind, he wasn’t saying Tuesday. Asked repeatedly, the governor told reporters: “I’m hoping she doesn’t leave.”

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Mitch Perry Report for 12.6.16 – “Run, Joe, Run” was so 2015, wasn’t it?

One of my favorite sections of Bernie Sanders interview with Matt Taibbi in the current Rolling Stone is when the curmudgeonly Vermont Senator bitches about the corporate establishment media.

“They live in a bubble, talk about their world, worry about who’s going to be running 18 years from now for office,” he says. “Meanwhile, people can’t feed their kids. That’s something I knew.”

I write that as a prelude to the stories that floated yesterday that Joe Biden made some offhanded remark about perhaps running for president in 2020.

Really?

“I’m going to run in 2020. For president. So, uh, what the hell, man,” the departing vice president told reporters Monday with only a slight smile on his face. He then took it back. Slightly.

Asked if he was joking, he said: “I’m not committing not to run. I’m not committing to anything. I learned a long time ago, fate has a strange way of intervening.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that, “based on those remarks, Jon Cooper, who was national finance chairman for last year’s Draft Biden effort to coax the vice president into the 2016 presidential campaign, purchased a series of web domains including draftbiden2020.com, biden2020.net and runjoerun2020.com.”

Is this the time we mention that the 74-year-old VP will be 78 in 2020?

The obsession in this country with who will be president is so complete that when Donald J. Trump actually takes the oath of office in January 20, there will be some (maybe even the President) who are bored with the fact that there will be at least a year’s moratorium on speculating on who is running in 2020 – unless issues of impeachment come up.

We can’t forget that, since there were certainly Republicans hinting that they would go after Hillary Clinton if she were elected in the ugliest presidential election of our lifetime.

Look, from all the reports, Biden though hard of running for office as last as September of last year. There was considerable concern in Democratic circles that the FBI investigation into Clinton could result in an indictment, and then who’s your backup? But not only was Barack Obama firmly “with her,” but so was the entire Democratic Party establishment -embodied by the leadership of Debbie Wasserman Schultz at the DNC. There was no path for Biden, as much as he wanted to pursue the presidency for a third time.

So we should let Biden spout off – it’s something he’s done a lot in his professional career, which spans 46 years. But let’s not take it too seriously. There’s enough going on in the world today.

Meanwhile, Democrats at a local level are having their issues. We were at last night’s Hillsborough Democratic Executive Committee meeting – and our story on that event will be up by 8:30 a.m. today. Check it out.

In other news..

Rick Scott is staying mum about the proposal that would repeal the law he signed in 2014 that allows for undocumented immigrant students qualify for in-state tuition for Florida colleges and universities.

The Governor was in Tampa on Monday, championing the men and women who work in state law enforcement and hyping his proposal to give them a raise.

Early and voting by mail totals favors Democrats in the Tampa City Council District 7 race taking place tonight.

North Carolina GOP Governor Pat McCrory finally gave up his month-long quest to save his job, and Equality Florida couldn’t be happier.

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Rick Scott declines to comment on proposal to repeal immigration bill he signed in 2014

Rick Scott is declining to comment on a proposal filed for the 2017 Florida Legislative Session that would repeal a major immigration policy change that he signed into law two years ago.

Last week, Sarasota state Senator Greg Steube filed a bill (SB 82) that would repeal legislation approved by the GOP-led Legislature in 2014 that offers lower in-state tuition rates in Florida state colleges and universities for undocumented immigrants. Passage of that bill was uncertain until the end of that year’s session, but was strongly supported by then-House Speaker Will Weatherford and Clearwater state Senator Jack Latvala.

“I haven’t seen it,” Scott told this reporter about the bill as he took questions after hosting a press conference at the Florida Highway Patrol offices in Tampa on Monday.

“I think there are about 2,000 bill that are being proposed during the session, so as I go through the process if they get to my desk, I’ll review,” he added. “I need to look at the bill.”

The legislation is a political power keg, as are most items concerning immigration. Scott campaigned as a tough on immigration candidate in 2010 when first running for governor, getting behind what was then known as an “Arizona style” immigration proposal that asked suspects stopped by the authorities for proof of their citizenship, similar in nature to the conversion SB 1070 immigration law passed earlier that year in Arizona.

“We need to come up with an immigration policy that works for the country,’’ Scott told the Miami Herald back in late 2010. “If you’re stopped in our state — no different than if you’re asked for your ID — you should be able to be asked if you’re legal or not,” he told the Miami Herald.

But the Legislature failed to pass that proposal, along with other major immigration bills in the spring of 2011, including a much discussed E-Verify bill that was killed by Lake Wales Republican J.D. Alexander.

In addition to giving the undocumented a break on their college tuition payments,  the Legislature in 2014 also passed a bill that would allow some undocumented immigrants to obtain law licenses from the Florida Bar.

There has been no companion bill filed in the House, but there is plenty of time for that to happen, with the 2017 Legislative session not commencing until next March. House District 60 Republican Jackie Toledo campaigned during her primary race on a platform to repeal both measures, but has not publicly commented on Steube’s bill.

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In Tampa, Rick Scott lays out why FHP officers deserve a pay raise

Speaking in the parking lot of the Tampa office of the Florida Dept. of Highway Patrol with about a dozen FHP officers standing behind him, Rick Scott made the case for the Legislature to get behind his proposal to give all sworn law enforcement officers a five percent pay raise in his 2017-2018 budget.

“The brave men and women who serve Florida as members of our state law enforcement agencies work hard everyday to make Florida the safest place to live and raise a family, and they deserve to be rewarded with their live saving work,” said Scott.

The Governor first announced his proposal to allocate $11.7 million for a pay raise for law enforcement officers in a statement issued last Thursday, but this was his first time to speak directly to reporters about it.

Approximately half of the 4,000 officers who would receive the pay hike for Florida Highway Patrol officers who currently have a starting salary of $33,977 a year.

“For us to be able to retain and recruit the best of the best, which is what the citizens of this state deserve, this is going to go a long way in helping this,” said Gene Spaulding, the director of the FHP. “Most of these state officers aren’t doing this job for the money. But we do have a responsibility as administrators for them to be able to take care of their famiiles in a way that they can do so effectively.”

“The governor’s proposal will allow the Fish & Wildlife Commission to more effectively recruit law enforcement and retain those same law enforcement officers to serve the citizens of Florida,” echoed FWC law enforcement director Colonel Curtis Brown.

“This is a very dangerous job. “We’re at an all-time high nationwide for law enforcement officers deaths” said Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen. “The Governor is always shoulder to shoulder with us, whether it’s a fire emergency, a hurricane response, or an incident like Pulse, he has always been there for us.”

The one law enforcement agency that isn’t included in the pay raise proposal are officers working with the Dept. of Corrections. Scott acknowledged that omission, saying that he’ll continue to look at the budget and “we’ll have additional announcements.”

But he said that he had no qualms that the Legislature should be able to find the money for the pay increases.

“Let’s look at the numbers,” he told reporters after his formal remarks. “We have about 350,000 people move here every year. We have added 1,233,000 jobs in five years and 7 months. We have record tourism numbers so, it’s incumbent upon us to have the legislature allocate those dollars to…focus on keeping people safe and giving them a good education, and then provide the safety nets that are citizens expect.”

At the event, Scott also singled out attention to Trooper Robert Ducker, giving him the Governor’s Medal of Heroism for his “outstanding courage in the face of grave danger.”

While assisting a disabled vehicle, Ducker was notified by a passerby of an accident that had occurred off I-275. Upon arriving at the scene, Trooper Ducker found a single vehicle had crashed into a tree, knocking the driver unconscious and causing the vehicle to catch fire. After unsuccessfully attempting to break the window of the car with a window punch, Ducker

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Company praised by Rick Scott hasn’t lived up to promises

A company Gov. Rick Scott was praising more than a year ago for creating jobs is now delinquent in its property taxes and has never met its hiring goals.

The Fort Myers News-Press reported Sunday that Altair Training Solutions was supposed to be a multi-million dollar enterprise with facilities in Hendry and Collier counties where it would offer training for law enforcement and military combat personnel.

Altair’s owners, Michelle and Brian Jones, said they would bring 150 jobs, with an average annual salary of more than $62,000, to Hendry County. Back in May 2015, Scott himself visited a company location in Immokalee to highlight the job growth promised by the company.

The newspaper reported the state and county overlooked signs that the company was little more than a pipe dream. They also overlooked the owners’ troubling financial history and that they had no secured contracts necessary to meet $4.5 million in loan obligations.

The Joneses’ short history in Southwest Florida is mired by lawsuits, liens, judgments, several defunct businesses, foreclosures and a bankruptcy. Brian Jones’ military career was embellished in published reports, marketing materials and even by state and local officials, inferring experience in special operations that he lacked.

Altair, which turned to the state and county for incentives, brings in $275,000 a year in revenue and has 20 employees. The newspaper reported that lenders had foreclosed on a $3.7 million property purchased by the company in Hendry County and that the state terminated Altair from a tax incentive program in late 2015.

If Altair met certain goals it was supposed to get refunds from the state for money it paid in income tax, sales tax, property taxes and workers’ compensation insurance premiums. In all, Altair could have qualified for $806,000 in refund payments from the state.

But the Joneses didn’t meet hiring goals and never received tax refunds from the state program, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Michelle Jones paints a different picture of what happened with the state. She said Altair voluntarily left the program because it realized it couldn’t meet the hiring goals

“Not everything goes according to plan,” Michelle Jones told the News-Press.

The Joneses thought they would need employees, but the organizations that use the property for tactical training “bring their own personnel,” she said. “We shifted the business plan a bit. We didn’t want to be in the program.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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