On a Friday in February 2013, Gov. Rick Scott stepped aboard a Texas-bound plane to take part in a secret ritual for Florida's power elite.
As other politicians had done before and would do after, Scott was departing for historic King Ranch, one of North America's premier hunting grounds. The trips, records indicate, were financed all or in part with contributions from Florida's sugar industry, right down to the hunting licenses.
Scott won't answer questions about his trip. After weeks of requests from the Times/Herald, his campaign staff released a one-paragraph statement on Friday saying he had gone to King Ranch "in support of his political fundraising efforts."
Also keeping mum: state House leaders who have accepted similar trips in the past three years, ever since U.S. Sugar leased 30,000 acres at the ranch and built a hunting lodge amid its rolling hills.
Read story here.Full Story
Winner of the week
Adrian Wyllie. The Libertarian gubernatorial candidate from Palm Harbor has nearly zero chance of being elected governor in November, but now it looks like he won't be ignored either. A Quinnipiac University poll last week showed Wyllie emerging as a potential spoiler, pulling 9 percent support and helping Gov. Rick Scott narrow Charlie Crist's lead to a virtual dead heat.
Loser of the week
Curt Clawson. Um, congressman, we're Americans. The newly installed Republican from Bonita Springs mistook two U.S. government officials testifying at a Foreign Affairs hearing as Indian, apparently sizing them up by their skin color and names. "I'm familiar with your country; I love your country," Clawson said. Awkward.Full Story
Another gauntlet thrown --- the Rick Scott 100 Days Out campaign memo:
DATE: July 27, 2014
TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Melissa Sellers, Campaign Manager and Tim Saler, Deputy Campaign Manager
SUBJECT: 100 Days Out, Gov. Scott Campaign is Poised to Win
Today marks 100 days until Election Day on November 4. Though we have worked hard from the beginning, today kicks off the final stretch of our campaign to re-elect Governor Scott. As we enter the sprint to the finish line, the Scott campaign has outpaced, outworked, and outmatched Charlie Crist in every measurable way. Make no mistake – no one works harder than Rick Scott, and that is exactly why he is poised to win a second term in office and keep Florida growing. …Full Story
Thirty-six hours before he was gunned down in his Tallahassee home, law professor Dan Markel was pondering the death penalty.
On that night, July 16, his thoughts drifted to the number of Death Row inmates whose sentences had been vacated in California. He posted an essay on the subject to his widely read legal blog before going to bed.
Around 11 a.m. on July 18, Markel, 41, was shot in the head. He died the following day.
Investigators say Markel was targeted by his shooter. He was killed in his garage, according to a police report released Friday. Markel’s black Honda Accord was being processed by the forensics unit, the keys still inside.
But police haven’t said much more about the crime, which happened in a quiet, upscale neighborhood known as Betton Hills. The mystery has rocked the legal community and spurred scores of blog posts and online tributes. …Full Story
Democrat Charlie Crist flew to an environmental press event Thursday on the private jet of a developer fined for pollution.
Almost as soon Crist stepped off the 2005 Cessna 560XL, Gov. Rick Scott's campaign had photographed its tail number and traced its ownership to developer James Finch, whose company Phoenix Construction was fined at least twice for violating environmental rules (more here, here and here).
Scott's campaign quickly informed reporters awaiting Crist at his press conference concerning climate change.
Crist, not commenting about the irony of flying to an environmental press conference on the plane of someone busted for violating environmental rules, partly blamed his troubles on the remoteness and difficulty of traveling to Tallahassee. …Full Story
By Steve Rothaus, Miami Herald
MIAMI — For the second time in eight days, a South Florida circuit judge has declared the state's gay marriage ban unconstitutional and ordered that same-sex couples be allowed to marry.
Late Friday afternoon, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel ordered that six same-sex couples who sued Miami-Dade County Clerk Harvey Ruvin for marriage licenses in January should be allowed to wed.
There will be no weddings yet: In her ruling, Zabel ordered an immediate stay until after the case is appealed.
"To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the ... classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law," Zabel wrote in her order, citing a 1967 Supreme Court ruling that overturned a state ban on interracial marriage. …Full Story
Democrat Charlie Crist said he's already a "believer" in climate change but said he listened to a scientific presentation Friday partly to highlight the differences between him and Gov. Rick Scott.
The presentation took place during a press conference as Jeff Chanton, a Florida State University oceanography professor, showed slide after slide showing the impact of global warming on Florida and the world. Chanton was one of 10 scientists who last week sent a letter to Scott requesting a sit-down to discuss climate change since the governor has often said he's not a scientist when asked about global warming.
Scott's response was that he'd have someone from his administration meet with the scientists who sent him the letter. On Friday, Crist said he'd personally meet with them. And Scott's campaign later released a statement the governor would be "happy to meet with them."
Chanton said he hasn't personally been contacted by Scott, but the governor's campaign spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said an appointment would be set up.
The so-called climate wars has created an opportunity for Crist who said he not only wanted to "meet with Chanton to learn "but also to indicate there's a distinction between the two of us running for governor this year.
Attorney General Pam Bondi works for her party and its ideology, not the people, Democratic attorney general candidate Perry Thurston told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board Friday.
Thurston, the House minority leader who is term-limited this year, said he would focus on consumer protection, expansion of individual rights, and government oversight -- in short, “an alternative to someone who caters to special interests and the right-wing agenda of the Republican Party.”
He said Bondi has a track record of blocking legislation that would actually benefit constituents, citing Bondi’s lawsuit challenging Obamacare and her opposition to restoring the civil rights of felons. And he said her positions against legalizing medical marijuana and same-sex marriage prove that she’s against the will of the people and against progress.
“There would have been a time when she would have defended the fact that I couldn’t get married to (some women) because we’re not of the same race,” he said. …Full Story
Nearly eight in 10 likely Florida voters want limits on power-plants’ carbon pollution and as many as 71 percent say they’re concerned about climate change, according to a new poll conducted for an environmental group during the hotly contested governor’s race.
“The takeaway from this poll is simple: People think carbon pollution is a problem, and they think our political leaders should take action and fight pollution,” said Susan Glickman, a spokeswoman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which chartered the 1,005-likely voter poll by SurveyUSA.
The survey’s timing has both a policy and political dynamic:
* It gauges voter sentiment on a range of environmental issues, including opinions about a draft U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule limiting carbon emissions, which the poll says 59 percent strongly favor.
* It’s an election year in which Republican Gov. Rick Scott faces former Gov. Charlie Crist, a believer in man-made climate change due to carbon emissions. A separate SurveyUSA poll this week indicated Crist leads by as much as 5 percentage points, but a Quinnipiac University survey at the same time found the race essentially tied. …Full Story
Curt Clawson celebrates along with a cheering crowd at his election party at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point in Bonita Springs, Fla., after officially winning the special election in the Congressional District 19 Republican primary in April.
Rookie Florida Rep. Curt Clawson made a major faux pas at a Foreign Affairs hearing on Thursday, mistaking two U.S. government officials for Indian government representatives.
Foreign Policy called it "intensely awkward." From the FP blog:
The two officials, Nisha Biswal and Arun Kumar, are Americans who hold senior positions at the State Department and Commerce Department, respectively. Although both Biswal and Kumar were introduced as U.S. officials by the chairman of the Asia and Pacific subcommittee, Clawson repeatedly asked them questions about "your country" and "your government," in reference to the state of India
"I'm familiar with your country; I love your country," the Florida Republican said. "Anything I can do to make the relationship with India better, I'm willing and enthusiastic about doing so."
Apparently confused by their Indian surnames and skin color, Clawson also asked if "their" government could loosen restrictions on U.S. capital investments in India. …Full Story
Former Gov. Charlie Crist continued his attacks on Gov. Rick Scott's education funding record in a TV ad set at St. Petersburg High School, Crist's alma mater.
"This isn't just a doorway to a school. It was my doorway as a public school kid to opportunity. And I want to make sure every child has that same chance for a better life," Crist says in the ad. "But Rick Scott's education cuts are closing that door on Florida's kids, spending almost $200 less per student than when I was governor and cutting Bright Futures scholarships in half."
Did Scott cut Bright Futures scholarships in half? Turn to PolitiFact Florida to see our rating.
Attorney General Pam Bondi is turning to emergency medical workers to help fight human trafficking in Florida, which is the third highest ranked state for the crime.
Emergency medical providers are at the "front line to help to identify possible victims of human trafficking," Beth Brunner, CEO of the Emergency Medicine Learning and Resource Center in Orlando, said in a press release.
But the emergency workers don't always recognize the signs, according to healthcare officials.
A study from the Family Violence Prevention Fund found that "28 percent of trafficking survivors said they came into contact with a healthcare provider during the trafficking situation, and were not recognized."
Bondi, joined by health officials, announced the plan to partner with emergency workers in Orlando.
"Medical treatment during an emergency may be one of the few opportunities that emergency medical personnel have a chance to help save a human trafficking victim," Bondi said in a statement.
Working with experts, the Attorney General's Office has compiled numerous indicators of sex and labor trafficking, examples of appropriate questions and recommended courses of action in suspected cases of trafficking. …Full Story
Gubernatorial candidate Nan Rich spoke with Pinellas County Democratic Party supporters in a St. Petersburg hotel conference room Thursdsay night to remind them that she is the only lifelong Democrat running for the office.
She also called out her primary opponent, Charlie Crist, for not accepting any of her challenges to a public debate.
About 80 members and supporters of the Pinellas County Democratic Executive Committee listened to her at the St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater hotel, just off Roosevelt Boulevard.
"Your record is the best indicator of what you will do," Rich said, referring to Crist's past as a Republican.
Rich said she has always maintained the same position on LGBT rights, child welfare and off-shore drilling. She also touted her own bad rating with the National Rifle Association.
Rich is running out of her home base in Broward County. She was elected to the state Senate in 2004 and previously served two terms in the Florida House of Representatives. She has vigorously crossed the state for the past two years, and her campaign workers say she has covered 160,000 miles and attended more than 325 campaign events. But she is little-known outside of south Florida. …Full Story
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is scheduled to formally endorse state Rep. Perry Thurston in the Democratic primary for attorney general tomorrow. Kriseman served with Thurston in the legislature.The endorsement will take place at Democratic headquarters in St. Pete at 10 a.m., and the Thurston campaign said Kriseman is the first mayor representing a city of at least 200,000 to endorse in his primary against George Sheldon.Full Story
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio called Thursday for an end to President Barack Obama's deferred action program granting legal status to immigrant youth brought to the United States by their parents.
"The U.S. must also make clear that the Deferred Action program, or any law or policy for that matter, does not and will not apply to any recent arrivals," read a statement Rubio issued after a meeting with Central American presidents. "Furthermore, because the recent wave from Central America spiked after (Deferred Action) was announced, it is in our interest to wind down this program. If you are not currently in it, you should not be eligible for it. For President Obama to raise hopes it may actually be unilaterally expanded is irresponsible and threatens to make this problem even worse."
On the surface, it is not surprising as Rubio has joined Republican bashing of the president over the problem of migrant children showing up at the southern border. Except Rubio pursued the same idea that Obama executed in 2012, protecting hundreds of thousands of "Dreamers" from the threat of deportation. …Full Story