10/09/15 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Thousands of motorists paid $27 to the state of Florida to update the address on their drivers' licenses, only to be sent replacement licenses with the old address.
The problem happened to 8,576 people over five days from Sept. 27 to Oct. 1. Some may not yet be aware because their new licenses haven't arrived.
"I went online to add my new address," said Nicole Johnsen of Port Richey, whose license arrived at her new address days later. "But when I looked at it, it still had the old address on it."...
TALLAHASSEE — People in Florida want real change in 2016, but that takes a lot of time, effort and money.
Across the state, activists are busy collecting voters' signatures in an effort to get on the next general election ballot. Fed up with a Legislature that they say won't hear their concerns, they are using a form of direct democracy known as the ballot initiative....
Four months later, he remains baffled by Gov. Rick Scott's budget vetoes, and the political atmosphere is tense. But Republican Sen. Aaron Bean of Fernandina Beach made a solo mission this week in what he called an effort to "melt the ice" between the Senate and the governor's office.
"It's as tense as it's ever been," Bean said. So the gregarious lawmaker decided to pay a brief call Monday on Melissa Sellers, Scott's chief of staff....
10/07/15 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott's jobs expert was blasted in the Senate on Wednesday for "arrogance" as he faced new criticism for problems with the state's online system to file for unemployment benefits.
Executive director Jesse Panuccio of the state Department of Economic Opportunity never got to ask a Senate budget panel for $3.5 million to combat benefits fraud by creating a new police unit, an idea that received a chilly reception in the House a day earlier....
After a controversial late-night barrage of dozens of member projects last spring, followed by sweeping vetoes by Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida Senate is fine-tuning its handling of project requests.
For the first time, senators must attach their names to specific projects. All groups seeking money will be asked to complete a two-page form and provide supporting documentation. The Florida House already requires members to disclose in writing the projects they are sponsoring. The forms are public records....
Gov. Rick Scott's jobs guru, Jesse Panuccio, never got a chance Wednesday to make his pitch for $3.5 million to fight benefits fraud in the Department of Economic Opportunity. Instead, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, took the DEO chief to the woodshed, criticizing his "arrogance" toward a union lobbyist and telling Panuccio, a Scott favorite: "I frankly don't like your attitude."...
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott's jobs guru, Jesse Panuccio, wants more money from the state Legislature to create a police unit in his Department of Economic Opportunity to fight what he calls a "crisis" in unemployment assistance fraud.
The DEO's budget proposal includes $3.5 million for fraud prevention and detection, including a "fraud criminal investigation unit" with three sworn officers and three investigators to start....
Gov. Rick Scott's jobs guru, Jesse Panuccio, wants more money from the Legislature to create a police unit in his Department of Economic Opportunity to fight what he calls a "crisis" in unemployment assistance fraud in Florida. DEO's budget proposal includes $3.5 million for fraud prevention and detection including a "fraud criminal investigation unit" with three sworn officers and three investigators to start....
From The News Service of Florida:
In a rare move, the Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday immediately suspended a Brevard County judge who interrupted court proceedings last year to scuffle with an assistant public defender after threatening to "beat your ass" in a video that went viral. The court also gave Judge John C. Murphy until Oct. 26 to show why he should not be permanently removed from the bench....
Gov. Rick Scott has issued a brief statement on his decision to deny mercy for a Polk County man serving 20 years for firing a warning shot in his home, but it sheds little new light on why Orville "Lee" Wollard, 60, must stay in prison until 2028.
Wollard fired a single shot, claiming his daughter's boyfriend was being abusive and making threats against his family. After he rejected a plea deal for five years of probation and no prison time, he was convicted of aggravated assault with a firearm, a crime that in 2008 carried a minimum mandatory 20-year prison term under Florida's 10-20-Life law. Several national groups have cited Wollard's case as a symbol of why minimum mandatory sentences are wrong, but the prosecutor in the case, Jerry Hill, urged Scott not to set Wollard free....
State Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Fort Myers, chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, is working on legislation that would change the timetable for city elections across Florida so that they are held only in November.
He said the pathetically low voter turnouts for city elections may be a result of the fact that they are held at various times of the year from city to city....
10/02/15 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — One is the governor and one wants to be.
That's about the extent of the common ground between Gov. Rick Scott and state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the odd couple in Florida politics.
As one of three elected Cabinet members, Putnam works with Scott to shape policy and supervise state agencies. While Scott fervently sticks to his message of more jobs, Putnam insists the state's greatest long-term need is more water....
A cranky Florida Legislature returns to Tallahassee next week for a full schedule of committee meetings, including a closer look at budget requests by the state agencies under Gov. Rick Scott's control.
What better time for the jobs governor to hit the road?
Scott announced Thursday that he will travel to New York City on Oct. 6-8 to meet with prospective employers, including hedge funds and financial institutions, and give a luncheon speech on Florida's resurgent economy to the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research on Oct. 7....
Republican Sen. Alan Hays of Umatilla, a candidate for the presidency of his hometown state college, also is said to have his eye on the high-paying job of Lake County supervisor of elections. Contacted Wednesday, Hays didn't deny it.
"I'm keeping my options open. I'm not ruling out anything. That's all I need to say," Hays told the Times/Herald....
09/30/15 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Orville "Lee" Wollard fired a single warning shot in self-defense that hurt no one but sent him to prison for 20 years, and on Wednesday, Gov. Rick Scott rejected his plea to get out early.
At a clemency board hearing, Scott quickly denied Wollard's request that he be set free after serving about seven years in prison, even though Scott last year signed a law expanding Florida's "stand your ground" protections that was inspired in part by Wollard's case....