09/02/15 State Roundup
In the high-stakes gamble for control of the Florida Senate, Sen. Joe Negron has the better hand, but plenty of people in Pinellas County are still betting on Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater.
Latvala said he raised $250,000 at a Tuesday luncheon for the Florida Leadership Committee, his fundraising machine to elect fellow Republicans to the Senate. Donations ranged from $200 to $10,000, and 400 people showed up, including much of the Pinellas power structure that supports Latvala's bid to become Senate president in 2016....
Gov. Rick Scott and Florida's three elected Cabinet members are going back to school next month.
They have agreed to give themselves a refresher course in public records and open meetings laws after months of controversy involving multiple allegations that the laws were skirted or violated, resulting in the payment of more than $1.3 million in taxpayer money to settle several cases, mostly against the governor. The "sunshine" training will be given at a Cabinet meeting in Tallahassee on Oct. 27 by Assistant Attorney General Pat Gleason. ...
Yesterday we noted some of the Democrats seen as contenders to succeed Pam Bondi as attorney general in 2018. What about the Republicans, you ask?
Well, the Florida GOP has a deeper bench than the Democratic party, and quite a few credible Republicans are in the mix for a potentially crowded primary. Among them: State Rep. Richard Corcoran of Wesley Chapel; state Sen. Joe Negron of Stuart; State Sen. Rob Bradley of Fleming Island; state Rep. Dana Young of Tampa; and U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney of Okeechobee....
09/01/15 State Roundup
ST. AUGUSTINE — Two skeptical Cabinet members urged caution Tuesday on a controversial state plan to mail drivers' licenses to motorists like other states do, rather than issuing them over the counter the way Florida does now.
Under the proposal, motorists could wait up to two weeks to get their licenses in the mail.
As state officials met in this historic city in the week of its 450th birthday, Cabinet members recalled more recent history — and its effect on millions of Floridians who get or renew their licenses every year. ...
Two influential members of the Florida Cabinet on Tuesday sided with critics of a proposed revamping of the state system of issuing driver's licenses from a county-by-county over-the-counter system to a centralized issuance system by mail that's used in most states.
Under the current system, drivers get their licenses immediately. Under a revamped system, they could wait up to two weeks to get them in the mail....
America's oldest city welcomes the Gang of Four Tuesday.
Gov. Rick Scott and the three Cabinet members gather in St. Augustine in conjunction with the city's 450th anniversary that begins Friday and runs through Labor Day weekend. The top state officials will adopt measures to evaluate the job performances of FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen and Terry Rhodes, executive director of the highway safety agency, and a five-year plan for land acquisition under the Florida Forever program....
TALLAHASSEE — Florida motorists enjoy getting their shiny new driver licenses on the spot, but the state is studying a possible change to a new system that's stirring warnings of a possible "disaster" with drivers waiting up to two weeks for their cards.
The state's top highway safety official says no decision has been made and won't be without a statewide consensus.
Florida prints five million licenses each year and most are issued by county tax collectors, elected officials with local clout whose re-election depends on good over-the-counter service....
You can't get completely away from politics in Florida. One of many things that make the state such a unique place is that the person who renews your driver's license and provides your license tags is likely to be an elected official.
Yes, a politician. Your county tax collectors, and their front-line employees. (The licenses and tags are produced using equipment owned by a vendor under contract to the state). State highway safety officials are quietly studying a possible change to a new system of issuing driver licenses. No decision has been made, and wouldn't be without the approval of Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet. But just the idea of changing things has stirred up a lot of controversy. More here. ...
08/28/15 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Florida Lottery Secretary Cynthia O'Connell, one of Gov. Rick Scott's original agency heads, has resigned in the wake of media reports of questionable travel expenses and absenteeism.
O'Connell's resignation via a letter dated Friday came as she also faced internal questions about her use of her state credit card for personal items, although those issues were resolved....
A little more "sunshine" in state government is proving tough to accomplish.
It has been nearly six months since Gov. Rick Scott and the three elected Cabinet members agreed that they needed a refresher course in Florida's public records and open meeting laws. They agreed to do it by the end of the year at a public Cabinet meeting but the training has not been scheduled and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam's office calls the foot-dragging "alarming."...
State Sen. Thad Altman, R-Rockledge, may prove to be the decisive vote to break the deadlock for Senate president in 2016 between Sens. Joe Negron of Stuart and Jack Latvala of Clearwater. But tensions continue to simmer.
It was an open secret in the 2015 session that Altman had flipped his support from Latvala to Negron, but it wasn't official until Negron issued a statement Wednesday listing the senators (including himself) who make up his 14 supporters in the 26-member Senate Republican caucus....
After a prolonged period of hurricane-free weather in Florida, some residents may be rusty about the need to make plans for an approaching storm. The state appeared to be rusty, too, but officials promise to quickly correct the oversight.
At Thursday morning's first statewide TV briefing on Tropical Storm Erika after his return from a Colorado vacation, Gov. Rick Scott stayed on message ("Stay prepared!") and was responsive to most questions. But a fixture for decades of these televised briefings was missing: a signer-interpreter from the Department of Education to provide the governor's message to Floridians who are hearing-impaired....
Gov. Rick Scott cut short his Colorado vacation and flew home late Wednesday night as Tropical Storm Erika slowly gained strength in the Caribbean. Scott's temporary base of operations will be the state Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Tallahassee, the statewide command post for hurricane preparations.
In Florida, the threat of severe weather is always a crucial moment that tests every governor's leadership skills. Floridians rely on the state's elected leader to provide calm reassurance, provide accurate information, help people prepare for the worst and direct all recovery efforts....
08/26/15 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — The drama in Florida's Capitol intensified Wednesday as Sen. Joe Negron of Stuart declared victory in his marathon battle with Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater to become Senate president next year.
Latvala scoffed at the claim and said the fight is far from settled.
Negron released the names of 14 of 26 Republican senators, including himself, to form a majority that would secure the powerful two-year post, and Senate President Andy Gardiner scheduled a caucus vote in early December to seal Negron's long climb to power....
As Tropical Storm Erika moves on a path toward the Florida peninsula, state, county and city emergency planners are watching closely, especially in South Florida. Gov. Rick Scott is still on vacation in Colorado, and his office says he will be briefed twice Wednesday by phone from Bryan Koon, the state director of emergency management, at 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Below is the detail for the first briefing as it appears on Scott's official state schedule....