The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Jolly explains his position on gay marriage

Ripped by some for supporting same-sex marriage, Rep. David Jolly of Pinellas County has issued this letter to constituents:

Dear Friend:

Thank you for sharing with me your concerns regarding a recent statement I issued on marriage and the state’s recognition of marriage.

I fully recognize that this is a difficult issue for many people.  More importantly, for some on both sides of the debate, it is not a difficult issue – their beliefs are very strongly held.  I understand that as well.  I have pledged from the time I entered into electoral politics in October 2013 to not shy from difficult issues, to not dodge hard questions, and to serve with a spirit that I believe we need more of in politics – honesty.  If an issue is difficult or challenging, I acknowledge it as such but I am forthcoming and explain where I stand, I ask others where they stand, I identify ways to find common ground, and where we can’t I always pledge to work together constructively, respectfully and with a spirit of inclusiveness. …

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Sen. Chris Smith wants Scott to examine deals beyond Digital Domain

Almost as soon as Gov. Rick Scott's administration announced it would sue a firm to recoup $20 million in a Charlie Crist-era deal, the leader of the Senate Democrats, Fort Lauderdale's Chris Smith, said Florida should broaden its focus. Here's Smith's email and letter:

Dear Governor Scott:

Last week, you announced your intention to file suit against Digital Domain Media Group over its failure to comply with the terms of a $20 million agreement signed by the State of Florida to encourage the company’s relocation to the state and create 500 jobs. The litigation is also reportedly going to include the former governor for his role in the incentives’ approval.

While I wholeheartedly applaud holding companies, their owners, and government officials accountable when a deal risking ta payers’ money fails to materialize, I am very concerned about the prospects of committing an additional $100,000 of tax dollars to pursue one incident while ignoring the growing body of evidence that Digital Domain is hardly an isolated case. …

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Rick Scott pollster shows he's up, Crist and Obama down

Normally, you can readily dismiss a campaign's polling memo because it's so self-serving. So read the following internal memo from Gov. Rick Scott's pollster, Tony Fabrizio, with caution.

The survey shows Scott beating Democrat Charlie Crist by 5 percentage points in a head-to-head match, while SurveyUSA yesterday found Crist up by 6 points and Quinnipiac University reported today that Crist is winning by 5 points head to head (but up by an inside-the-error margin of only 2 points with Libertarian Adrian Wyllie in the race).

But also remember, it's Fabrizio.

He helped mastermind the mechanics and message of Scott's improbable 2010 primary and general-elections wins. Also, he was one of the few pollsters to get the margin right in the March special congressional election between Democrat Alex Sink and U.S. Rep. David Jolly, who bested her by 2 points.

Another bit of history: Fabrizio was a top advisor for Tim Pawlenty's successful 2002 race for Minnesota governor. It was a three-way contest, and Fabrizio helped perfect the art of getting someone elected with less than 44 percent of the vote. …

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Movers & Shakers

Legislative director leave

A longtime presence in state government, Darrick McGhee has left his job as director of legislative affairs for Gov. Rick Scott, and will be starting a new position as vice president of government relations for the lobbying firm, Johnson & Blanton, on Aug. 4th

Darrick is "an outstanding human being, a really good guy," said Travis Blanton. "He's very knowledgeable of the (state) agencies because he's worked in several and he's very knowledgeable about how Florida government works."

McGhee's 17 months as director of legislative affairs included two legislative sessions. His other state posts included interim executive director, and also chief of staff, of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity; director of the Office of Legislative and Cabinet Affairs; and director of the Office of Governmental Relations among other positions.

A graduate of Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, McGhee is also an ordained minister and pastor of the Bible Based Church in Tallahassee.

New human trafficking council taking shape

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle is among the four members appointed to the newly created Statewide Council on Human Trafficking by Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Bondi, who will chair the 15-member council, also appointed Martin County Sheriff William Snyder; Terry Coonan, executive director of the Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights; and Dotti Groover-Skipper, chairwoman of the Community Campaign Against Human Trafficking.

The council's purpose, said Jennifer Meale, communications director for the Attorney General's office, is to "bring everyone to the table who may be able to assist in the effort to end human trafficking in the state and build on the state and local efforts that are already underway."

Mike Carroll, interim secretary of the state Department of Children and Families, will serve as vice chairman. Also on the council: State Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong; Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Elizabeth Dudek; Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey; Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Interim Secretary Christina Daly; and Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

Other members to be announced will be a senator, appointed by Senate President Don Gaetz; one representative, appointed by House Speaker Will Weatherford; and two members appointed by Scott.

The council is expected to start meeting at the end of August.

Gaetz appoints new Citizens board member

Jim Henderson, a 35-year veteran of the insurance industry, has been appointed by Gaetz to the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation Board of Governors. Gaetz, R-Niceville, said the Senate appointee will support ongoing action to reduce Florida residents' liability for losses sustained by Citizens in a major storm.

Henderson is the founder and CEO of Lake Mary-based AssuredPartners, which acquires and invests in insurance brokerage businesses. He began his career as an audit supervisor in the health insurance practice at Ernst & Whinney. Henderson has also held posts as CFO, Senior Vice President, and treasurer of Ormond Reinsurance Group and vice chairman and COO of Brown & Brown.

Former Supreme Court Justice joins Gunster law firm

Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Kenneth B. Bell has joined the Gunster business law firm as a shareholder in its Tallahassee office.

At Gunster, Bell will focus his civil litigation practice on trials and appeals, including mediation, arbitration and trial support. Bell was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court in 2002 by then-governor Jeb Bush and served until 2008. He was previously a circuit court judge in Northwest Florida's 1st Judicial Circuit. He most recently worked in the law firm of Clark, Partington, Hart, Larry, Bond & Stackhouse.

New faces on councils, boards and on the bench

Lucas Boyce, director of business development and legislative affairs for the Orlando Magic, has been appointed by the governor to the Florida A&M University Board of Trustees.

Boyce, 35, serves as a member of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute and the Orange County Library Board of Trustees. The Orlando resident, who fills a vacant seat, is appointed for a term that ends Jan. 6, 2018.

Scott announced two appointments to the Florida Gateway College District Board of Trustees: Carolyn "Renae" Allen and Leonard Davis.

Allen, 53, of Lake Butler, is a science instructor at Union County High School and previously served as the mayor of the City of Lake Butler. She succeeds Thomas Riherd II on the board for a term ending May 31, 2015.

Davis, 67, of Macclenny, is a retired electronic tech and fleet scheduler with the United States Department of Defense. He previously served as county fire chief for the Baker County Board of County Commissioners. Davis succeeds Julia Richardson and serves until May 31, 2017.

Thomas Burke and Enrique Miguez have been appointed to the Board of Pilot Commissioners.

Burke, 45, of Miami, the vice president of risk management for Royal Caribbean, fills a vacant seat. His term will end Oct. 31, 2015.

Miguez, 49, of Coral Gables, the vice president and deputy general counsel for Carnival Corporation, fills a vacant seat. His term expires Oct. 31, 2017.

Pieter Bockweg, 39, of Miami, is a new member of the Florida Film and Entertainment Advisory Council. The executive director of the Miami Omni & Midtown Community Redevelopment Agency succeeds Neil Crilly. He's appointed for a term ending Aug. 19, 2017.

Samad "Sam" Rashid is now on the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority. Rashid, 52, of Valrico, is the CEO of Holtec USA Corporation. He fills a vacant seat, with a term ending July 1, 2017.

The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Polk County Court Judge J. Kevin Abdoney has been appointed to the Tenth Judicial Circuit Court, which includes Hardee, Highlands and Polk counties. Prior to his appointment to the county court bench in 2008, Aboney, 43, of Lakeland, served as an assistant public defender in Tampa and later as an assistant state attorney in the Tenth Circuit.

He fills a vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Beth Harlan.

Scott has made three appointments and one reappointment to the State Council for Interstate Adult Offender Supervision.

State Sen. Rob Bradley, 43, R-Fleming Island, fills a vacant seat, with his term ending June 30, 2015. Bradley, an attorney, represents District 7, which covers Alachua, Bradford and Clay counties.

Hamilton County Sheriff J. Harrell Reid, 67, of Jasper, succeeds Lance Day. His term ends June 30, 2017.

Bonnie Rogers, 51, of Tallahassee, is the policy coordinator for public safety for the Executive Office of the Governor. She succeeds James Ruth, with her term ending June 30, 2017.

Patricia Tuthill, 65, of Tallahassee, an operations analyst with the Department of Juvenile Justice and the founder of the Peyton Tuthill Foundation, is reappointed for a term ending June 30, 2017.

 

 

Legislative director leaves

A longtime presence in state government, Darrick McGhee has left his job as director of legislative affairs for Gov. Rick Scott, and will be starting a new position as vice president of government relations for the lobbying firm, Johnson & Blanton, on Aug. 4th.

Darrick is “an outstanding human being, a really good guy,” said Travis Blanton. “He’s very knowledgeable of the (state) agencies because he’s worked in several and he’s very knowledgeable about how Florida government works.”

McGhee’s 17 months as director of legislative affairs included two legislative sessions. His other state posts included interim executive director, and also chief of staff, of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity; director of the Office of Legislative and Cabinet Affairs; and director of the Office of Governmental Relations among other positions.

A graduate of Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, McGhee is also an ordained minister and pastor of the Bible Based Church in Tallahassee.

New human trafficking council taking shape

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle is among the four members appointed to the newly created Statewide Council on Human Trafficking by Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Bondi, who will chair the 15-member council, also appointed Martin County Sheriff William SnyderTerry Coonan, executive director of the Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights; and Dotti Groover-Skipper, chairwoman of the Community Campaign Against Human Trafficking.

The council’s purpose, said Jennifer Meale, communications director for the Attorney General’s office, is to “bring everyone to the table who may be able to assist in the effort to end human trafficking in the state and build on the state and local efforts that are already underway.”

Mike Carroll, interim secretary of the state Department of Children and Families, will serve as vice chairman. Also on the council: State Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong; Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Elizabeth Dudek; Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey; Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Interim Secretary Christina Daly; and Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

Other members to be announced will be a senator, appointed by Senate President Don Gaetz; one representative, appointed by House Speaker Will Weatherford; and two members appointed by Scott.

The council is expected to start meeting at the end of August.

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David Jolly backers: You betrayed us by flipping on gay marriage

U.S. Rep. David Jolly's position on same sex marriage wasn't always entirely clear to people listening to him during his primary campaign against Kathleen Peters and general election campaign against Alex Sink, but some of his supporters say he could not have been clearer to them: He supported Florida's ban on same-sex marriage. Now that Jolly clarified his position to say he personally believes marriage should be between a man and woman but believes Florida should allow same-sex marriages, some of these supporters are "profoundly disappointed" and calling on the Indian Shores Republican to apologize.

Here's an open letter they have written to the congressman, who faces no primary challenger and only a Libertarian challenger in the general election: …

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Crist's second ad buy attacks Scott on school spending

A day after the Republican Party released a Spanish-language ad touting Gov. Rick Scott's school-spending recording, Democrat Charlie Crist hit back by announcing his second English-language spot that draws attention to the education budget on Scott's watch.

Overall, the spot -- like the RPOF ad -- appears accurate. The education budget was reduced $1.3 billion under Scott (because of the federal stimulus money flameout) and PolitiFact Florida found that per-student education spending was slightly higher under Crist when adjusted for inflation.

But then Crist veers into hyperbole.

"Rick Scott's education cuts are closing that door on Florida's kids," Crist says. Then he pivots from talking per-pupil spending to higher-education scholarships called "Bright Futures," which Crist says were "cut in half."

But not on a per-student spending basis. Based on each recipient, Bright Future awards are about 2,086, which is an increase from Scott's first 2011-12 budget but a decrease of $2,364 under Crist's last budget in 2010-11. …

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DOH schedules second workshop on medical pot rules

The second workshop on the state's proposed rule to implement new medical marijuana laws will be held Aug. 1.

The rule carries out Senate Bill 1030, the so-called "Charlotte's Web" bill, passed by the Legislature and approved by Gov. Rick Scott this spring. A second draft addressing issues raised at the first standing-room only workshop will be publicized by the end of the week.

The law the Legislature approved authorizes five nurseries in Florida to cultivate and distribute marijuana for a limited number of ailments and medical issues. The Department of Health has proposed a lottery system in each region to give all eligible participants -- including at least 41 growers that have operated consistently for 30 years -- equal opportunity to win.

Critics at the first rule hearing said a lottery would ignore the quality of services and experiences offered by various nurseries and urged the DOH to rethink that portion of the rule. …

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Q-Poll FL: Crist-Scott is 39-37% race with Libertarian Wyllie at 9%

From Quinnipiac University's press release about its latest poll:

Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott trails former Gov. Charlie Crist, running as a Democrat, by a narrow 45 – 40 percent margin in a two-way race. When Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie is added to the mix, the race is too close to call, with 39 percent for Crist, 37 percent for Scott and 9 percent for Wyllie, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

This compares to a 48 – 38 percent Crist lead in a head-to-head matchup without Wyllie in an April 30 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University.

Today, Scott leads former State Sen. Nan Rich 41 – 34 percent in a two-way race.

Wyllie gets his strongest support from independent voters who back Crist over Scott 45 – 38 percent in a two-way matchup, but split with 36 percent for Crist and 34 percent for Scott, with 12 percent for Wyllie, in the three-way race.

Republicans back Scott 79 – 12 percent in the two-way, and 74 – 9 percent, with 5 percent for Wyllie, in the three-way. Democrats go from 78 – 10 percent for Crist in the two-way to 73 – 9 percent, with 6 percent for Wyllie. …

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Crist up by 6 in SurveyUSA/WFLA poll

Democrat Charlie Crist has jumped ahead of Gov. Rick Scott, leading the Republican 46-40 percent among likely voters in the SurveyUSA latests governor's race tracking poll conducted for WFLA.

Crist's 6 percentage point lead is the largest he has had in the firm's poll track and represents a significant 8-point shift in the race since SurveyUSA's last poll released July 3. Then, Scott led by an inside-the-error margin amount of 2 percentage points.

Three factors are at play: Scott's horrendous week, where numerous TV stations featured Scott ducking the most-basic of questions; new ad buys from Crist and Democrats promoting him and tearing at Scott; and Crist's decision to pick Miami-Dade Democratic Party Chair Annette Taddeo as his running mate on Thursday -- which just happened to coincide with the first day of the five-day poll, said Jay Leve, SurveyUSA's editor.

"The news after-glow for Crist has continued for about five days," Leve said.

Essentially, the race has reset in SurveyUSA's poll track. It's first poll for WFLA, on April 15, had Crist leading Scott 46-41. See the chart below. …

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Scott administration sues Digital Domain over Crist-era deal

Associated Press:

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The state of Florida has filed a lawsuit seeking to recoup millions of taxpayer dollars provided to the failed Digital Domain film visual effects company.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by the Department of Economic Opportunity in St. Lucie County Circuit Court against Digital Domain Media Group and a number of other entities. Digital Domain had promised to create about 500 jobs at a Port St. Lucie animation studio and a West Palm Beach film school, but it filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

The lawsuit contends Digital Domain defrauded the state out of $20 million in seed money by misrepresenting its debt problems and other allegedly fraudulent acts. The company also got $62 million in funding from St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties.

Its shutdown resulted in 280 layoffs.

Here's the lawsuit, which mentions Gov. Rick Scott's Democratic opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist, repeatedly because the deal was allegedly approved with the Democrat's knowledge:  Download Digital-Domain-Complaint

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Rubio remains opposed to gay marriage but seeks balance in his words

WASHINGTON - Sen. Marco Rubio, who has not commented since a judge overturned Florida’s gay marriage ban, will address the issue during a speech at Catholic University today.

“He will defend states’ right to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman,” according to an aide.

That’s not new, but it does reflect the kind of nuance Rubio, sounding more like a presidential candidate, has sought on delicate issues. He’s not for gay marriage but he’s also not laying down a hard line. Rubio has previously said he does not support a federal constitutional ban.

Last year, when the Supreme Court invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act, Rubio said the court “made a serious mistake.” But he went on to say: “I appreciate that many Americans’ attitude towards same-sex marriage have changed in recent years. I respect the rights of states to allow same-sex marriages, even though I disagree with them. … …

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Bobby Jindal to headline Florida GOP 'victory' dinner

Fundraiser invite

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Fundraiser invite

Gov. Bobby Jindal, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, will headline the Republican Party of Florida's "victory" dinner in September, according to an invite that went out today.

The event will feature a VIP photo op with Jindal and Gov. Rick Scott.

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The ABCs of RPOF's new Spanish-language Scott ad

The Republican Party of Florida's newest ad is straight out of public-opinion polling heaven, featuring Spanish-speaking female teachers who laud Gov. Rick Scott's education record and the teacher raises he secured.

“Florida students are better off due to Scott,” says one of the women in the ad, identified only as a teacher named “Betty.”

The GOP announced the $300,000 ad buy, which includes online and TV spots, just days after Crist tapped the Spanish-speaking head of Miami-Dade’s Democratic Party, Annette Taddeo. 

Though polls indicate Scott is competitive with Crist in courting the Hispanic vote, the Democrat bests him in support from women, who comprise a bigger segment of the likely-voter electorate.

 Scott's lieutenant governor and running mate, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, is also Hispanic and hails from Miami-Dade. And the governor invested early in Spanish-language ads, running about $1 million worth, mostly in Miami’s media market. RPOF has announced three Spanish-language and two English-language ads and has spent at least $1 million.

Gender and ethnicity aside, both campaigns are focusing heavily on education. …

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$1-mil in matching money coming to Charlie Crist

Democrat Charlie Crist says he can't raise nearly as much money as Republican Gov. Rick Scott, but he can close the gap thanks to a big subsidy from Florida taxpayers.

Crist soon will get his first infusion of millions in campaign cash under the state's public campaign financing program, created to help low-budget candidates counter big-money opponents as long as they abide by a self-imposed spending cap of about $25 million.

Candidates for governor and three Cabinet offices who agree to limit spending by their own campaigns are eligible for matching money. The state matches contributions of $250 or less from Florida residents, and Crist has far more small donors than Scott.

Story here

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Dem video: Even under oath Rick Scott dodges questions

This new web ad from the Florida Democratic party might inflict real damage on Rick Scott's re-election campaign if the party had enough money to air it on actual TV.

From the Democrats: "Scott’s failure to answer questions is shameful and disrespectful to voters trying to understand where their governor stands on the issues facing Florida. This is exactly why Floridians have never trusted Rick Scott, and why they will fire him in November.

"We’re launching a new web ad today, featuring footage of Rick Scott’s infamous 1995 deposition. The ad is backed by paid digital advertising, including on Facebook and YouTube."

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