12/21/14 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Civil rights and voting rights groups have quietly launched a grass roots petition drive in Florida to make it easier for ex-felons to regain the right to vote.
Their goal is to ask voters in 2016 to change the Florida Constitution so that people who broke the law can vote again after completing their sentences, including probation.
"When you do wrong, you should pay," said Lashanna Tyson of Orlando. "I have paid. I've paid in full."...
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott's transition to a second term suddenly turned rocky Tuesday when he forced the resignation of the longtime leader of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Gerald Bailey, commissioner for nearly a decade, was replaced on an interim basis without explanation by Rick Swearingen, director of the Capitol Police.
Bailey's resignation followed a mid-morning visit to FDLE headquarters by Scott's general counsel, Pete Antonacci, who did not respond to a request for comment....
One week after addressing the governor and Cabinet, Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday abruptly replaced Commissioner Gerald Bailey of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement with Rick Swearingen, director of the Capitol police.
No explanation was given for Bailey's departure and the news came as a shock to others in the law enforcement community.
Bailey is a respected professional with a 35-year career in law enforcement who has been FDLE commissioner since 2006 when Jeb Bush was governor. A terse announcement from the governor's office cited Swearingen's interim appointment and thanked Bailey for his service to the state. Scott's chief of staff, Melissa Sellers, declined to elaborate beyond the news release....
Gov. Rick Scott appointed leaders of two more state agencies Tuesday, naming Chad Poppell as the new secretary of the Department of Management Services and reappointing Ken Lawson as secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Poppell has been chief of staff to Secretary Jesse Panuccio at the Department of Economic Opportunity for the past two years. Before that, he worked for the city of Jacksonville, first as director of human resources under Mayor John Peyton and later as director of employee services for JEA, the city-owned utility. Poppell replaces Craig Nichols at DMS....
Gov. Rick Scott on Monday appointed as his new general counsel Tim Cerio, a shareholder at the GrayRobinson law firm that was the home of his departing counsel, Pete Antonacci. Cerio takes over for Antonacci on Jan. 5.
Cerio was chief of staff and general counsel at the Department of Health in the final two years of former Gov. Jeb Bush's administration. He's president-elect of the University of Florida Alumni Association and is a Scott appointee to the Judicial Nominating Commission for the First District Court of Appeal. Scott has appointed at least four GrayRobinson lawyers to JNCs. The law firm contributed $20,000 to the Republican Party of Florida during the latest campaign cycle and gave $2,500 to Scott's re-election campaign committee, Let's Get to Work....
Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday named Jon Steverson, executive director of the Northwest Florida Water Management District, to be the new secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). It's Scott's second new agency hire in two days, following Wednesday's appointment of Julie Jones to head the state prison system.
Steverson, an attorney, previously worked in DEP's legal unit before he went to the water district in 2012, where he oversaw a "restructuring of the agency and its budget," according to a DEP announcement. In his first year in office, Scott successfully advocated for a reduction of more than $200 million of the amount of money the five regional water management districts could collect from property taxes....
12/10/14 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday chose career law enforcement officer Julie Jones to take over the Department of Corrections, making her the fourth boss in four years at an agency grappling with massive problems.
The first woman to run the troubled agency, she has spent her career in state government, but has no experience in corrections.
The nation's third-largest prison system has been wracked by suspicious inmate deaths, physical abuse of inmates by guards, complaints over privatized inmate health care, systemic failings by the agency's in-house watchdog and a persistent budget deficit that has prevented rank-and-file officers from getting a pay raise for six years....
TALLAHASSEE — A Florida prison inmate serving a life term for lending his car to friends who committed murder during a burglary lost his bid for immediate release Wednesday.
After an emotional debate at a clemency hearing, Gov. Rick Scott and three Cabinet members took no action in the case of Ryan Holle, 32, of Pensacola, despite evident sympathy from Scott and a favorable recommendation from state investigators. "He had no knowledge or participation in the murder,'' wrote investigators who reviewed the case....
Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday will appoint a new chief of the troubled Florida prison system: Julie Jones, the former executive director of the state highway safety agency.
The surprise appointment of Jones, 57, makes her the first woman to head the Department of Corrections in the agency's history. Her appointment comes at a time when the agency has been reeling from revelations of violent inmate deaths, abuses of inmates by correctional officers and a chronic budget deficit....
12/09/14 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Ryan Holle did not kill anyone with his own hands. But he lent his car to friends, who later killed a young woman in her home, and that was enough to convict Holle of first-degree murder.
Gov. Rick Scott and the three elected Cabinet members today will consider whether to release him from his life sentence without parole.
More than 2,000 supporters have signed an online petition that calls his conviction a "travesty'' and seeks his release from prison. His case has drawn national media attention, from the New York Times, the Nation, and TV talk show hosts including Star Jones and Judge Jeanine Pirro....
Gov. Rick Scott, first lady Ann Scott and three Cabinet members gathered Tuesday morning for a holiday tradition in Tallahassee: the lighting of the official Christmas tree outside the governor's office. This year's tree is a locally-grown Virginia pine from the Havana Christmas Tree Farm in the town of Havana in Gadsden County, north of Tallahassee.
Scott used the event to promote the importance of holiday tourism to Florida's economy. "Christmas is a great season for our state," Scott said. "We're going to have a lot of people coming down here over the holidays … South Florida is just packed." The governor said he's looking forward to a special Christmas with his oldest grandson having turned three....
Nearly eight months after appointing him, Gov. Rick Scott on Monday announced that Mike Carroll will be the permanent secretary of the Department of Children and Families. Carroll is a long-time Pinellas County resident who was named DCF's interim secretary last April....
Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, announced the complete lineup of new Senate committee chairs and members Wednesday, and it has a very familiar look.
Like his predecessor, Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, Gardiner gave chairmanships to three Democrats: Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, at Agriculture; Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, at Governmental Oversight and Accountability; and Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, at Children, Families, and Elder Affairs. Those three Democrats chaired those committees for the past two years....
Gov. Rick Scott accepted the resignation Tuesday of state transportation secretary Ananth Prasad, whose departure has been expected for weeks. His last day on the job will be Friday, Jan. 2, 2015. The Florida Transportation Commission will convene after the new year to seek applicants for the post. Prasad's spokesman at FDOT, Dick Kane, said Tuesday that Prasad did not say what his next step will be. "He hasn't made any announcement," Kane said....