Monday, July 16, 2018
Politics

Don't blame me for election law, Rick Scott tells black lawmakers

TALLAHASSEE — Facing a highly critical group of black legislators, Gov. Rick Scott largely defended his record Tuesday but distanced himself from a controversial election law that led to fewer early-voting days and long lines.

Scott agreed with black lawmakers that the 2011 election law contributed to the chaos at the polls in November, including long lines all over the state and up to seven-hour waits in Miami-Dade. But Scott, who is seeking re-election in 2014, said it was largely a decision of the Legislature.

"It was not my bill," Scott said. "We've got to make changes, I agree. … The Legislature passed it. I didn't have anything to do with passing it."

Scott signed the bill into law in 2011. His administration spent more than $500,000 in legal fees in a largely successful defense of the law, though a federal judge struck down new restrictions on groups that register voters.

The governor's hourlong meeting with the Legislative Black Caucus was contentious. He sat at times with his arms tightly crossed, sipping from a bottle of sparkling water, and took notes on a yellow pad as his Democratic critics, seated around a large square table, dissected his record on a range of issues.

On a series of issues, Scott was unmoving. Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, the House minority leader, could not persuade Scott to ease restrictions on ex-felons, who must wait at least five years after leaving prison before they can seek restoration of their civil rights. Scott said the law is partly why Florida's crime rate is at a 41-year low.

"Once you're out as a felon, you should spend time making sure you're doing the right thing before you get those rights back," Scott said.

Pressed to reconsider his position, Scott said: "Okay. I'd be glad to." Two years ago, Scott and his fellow Republicans on the Cabinet reversed the policy under former Gov. Charlie Crist that allowed many ex-felons to regain their civil rights without a hearing.

Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, assailed Scott for appointing so few African-Americans to judgeships: six out of 91 in the past two years, or 6.6 percent.

"Your record of appointments to the judiciary is appalling to us," Rouson told Scott, challenging the governor to at least double the number of minority applicants to judgeships.

Scott said he's limited in his appointments to the names provided to him by regional judicial nominating panels (though the law allows the governor to request more names). He added: "If an applicant — I don't care who they are — believes in judicial activism, I'm not going to appoint them."

When Rouson persisted, Scott noted that he appointed Rouson's wife, Angela, to the Children's Services Council of Pinellas County, as well as Ava Parker, wife of another black caucus member, Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach, to the State University System Board of Governors.

Rouson criticized Scott for his 2012 veto of an inmate re-entry bill designed to help nonviolent drug offenders adjust to society faster. Scott said law enforcement experts across the state urged a veto because it would undercut the requirement that prison inmates serve 85 percent of their sentences.

To Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, Scott was insistent that President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act will be a financial burden to Florida, and he said he remains unsure whether the federal government will pay its share.

Other lawmakers criticized Scott for seeking to privatize the state Office of Supplier Diversity, which tracks the number of state contracts with minority-owned businesses.

As the session ended, Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, said Scott's inflexibility is frustrating.

"It's deja vu all over again from last year," Joyner said. "He's still stuck on judicial activism. He wants everyone to think like him. He runs this state like a corporation — like it's Florida Inc. He's not flexible on a lot of things."

Steve Bousquet can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

Comments
Trump questions US intel, not Putin, on Russia 2016 meddling

Trump questions US intel, not Putin, on Russia 2016 meddling

HELSINKI — Standing next to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump openly questioned his own intelligence agencies’ conclusions that Moscow was to blame for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election to Trump’s benefit and seemed to accept Putin’s i...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Pasco Political Notebook

Hunter, Murphy speak to Democratic ClubThe Trinity Democratic Club will host candidates Chris Hunter (running for U.S. Congress in District 12) and Amanda Murphy (running for state Senate in District 16) as guest speakers at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Giant pork pile awaits Americans as trade wars risk exports

Giant pork pile awaits Americans as trade wars risk exports

Donald Trump’s trade wars are making pork a bargain.American production is poised to reach an all-time high this year, and output is forecast to surge again in 2019. The supply boom comes as tariffs from China and Mexico threaten to curb export deman...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Sacha Baron Cohen still knows how to punk America, but his new show erodes what little trust we have left

Sacha Baron Cohen still knows how to punk America, but his new show erodes what little trust we have left

Sacha Baron Cohen’s return to incognito trickery is, in current conditions, a little like pouring rubbing alcohol into the nation’s open wounds.Employing the same ingenious commitment and subterfuge that made him famous in the guise of Ali G., Borat ...
Published: 07/15/18
Trump tweets, hits links before high-stakes Putin meeting

Trump tweets, hits links before high-stakes Putin meeting

TURNBERRY, Scotland — Two days before a high-stakes summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump played golf and tweeted Saturday from one of his namesake resorts, blaming his predecessor for Russian election meddling and lash...
Published: 07/14/18
March column: Transit petition has

March column: Transit petition has "steep hill"

Leaders of an effort to put a Hillsborough County transportation sales tax referendum on the November ballot say they’re confident they’ll gather enough petition signatures in time.But they may have to work fast. As of Thursday, All for Transportatio...
Published: 07/13/18
Updated: 07/15/18
Scott taps former Pinellas GOP chair to fill commission vacancy left by late John Morroni

Scott taps former Pinellas GOP chair to fill commission vacancy left by late John Morroni

Gov. Rick Scott appointed real estate investor and former Redington Shores Mayor Jay Beyrouti to the Pinellas County Commission on Friday, filling the vacancy created when Commissioner John Morroni died of cancer in May.In a short news release, the G...
Published: 07/13/18
His Ph.D is from a diploma mill. But candidate stands by his work

His Ph.D is from a diploma mill. But candidate stands by his work

The three letters were displayed prominently on George Buck’s campaign website, right after his name: Ph.D. Check his campaign finance records and those, too, display his doctorate. There’s no question that Buck, a Republican primary ca...
Published: 07/13/18

Fiat workers call for strike after owner buys Cristiano Ronaldo

Fiat factory workers in Italy can think of a few things they’d rather see their owner spend $130 million on than Cristiano Ronaldo.A Fiat Chrysler Automobiles union in the south of the country called for a strike to protest the purchase of star playe...
Published: 07/12/18
Carlton: Forget politics — we’ve got a mayor-governor bromance going here!

Carlton: Forget politics — we’ve got a mayor-governor bromance going here!

There’s a difference between Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.And no, I don’t mean the fact that Buckhorn is a Democrat who stuffed envelopes in the fourth grade for Robert Kennedy and later stumped for both Bill and Hillary. And ...
Published: 07/10/18
Updated: 07/11/18