09/23/14 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Voting rights groups say Floridians face persistent barriers to vote that could result in more ballots not counting in November.
The groups say Florida should encourage more people to register to vote, that voters are inconvenienced by changes in polling places and that voters are not always told about a new law that gives them a second chance to fix their absentee ballots when they forget to sign them....
Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet voted Tuesday to locate the state's seventh nursing home for veterans on the Treasure Coast in Port St. Lucie. A site selection committee ranked St. Lucie the best of nine possible sites for the new 120-bed skilled nursing facility, and elected leaders mounted a months-long lobbying effort to close the deal.
Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, and Rep. Larry Lee, D-Port St. Lucie, led a delegation of two dozen residents who drove for six hours to attend a Cabinet meeting in favor of the site, near an acute care hospital. Negron said the home would fill a "gap in service" between Daytona Beach and Pembroke Pines in Broward County where the two closest vets nursing homes are based....
Florida's 67 election supervisors released a report Tuesday that calls on the Legislature to create a new system of online voter registration next year. But the report cautioned that the system should be implemented cautiously and after the next presidential election in 2016.
The report, released on National Voter Registration Day, was produced at the request of Sen. Andy Gardiner, the Orlando Republican who will be Senate president in November. The full report can be found here....
Gov. Rick Scott signed a death warrant Monday for Chadwick Banks, who fatally shot his wife Cassandra and then raped and shot to death his 10-year-old stepdaughter in Gadsden County near Tallahassee in 1992. Banks pleaded no contest to both killings and a jury recommended a death sentence by a vote of 9 to 3.
The Florida Supreme Court upheld Banks' death sentence in 2003, and rejected defense claims of ineffective legal counsel and that he should have been allowed to present evidence relating to his mental health....
09/22/14 State Roundup
When Republican Rick Scott ran for governor in 2010, he carried 52 of Florida's 67 counties, yet he barely beat Democrat Alex Sink.
How could that happen?
If you know your country, it's simple: A lot more people in suburbs, small cities and towns vote Republican and a lot more people in big cities vote Democrat.
Those numbers from 2010 are more revealing if you drill a little deeper....
TALLAHASSEE — Just more than six weeks before Election Day, some voters are already casting ballots and helping to elect Florida's next governor.
County elections supervisors have until today to mail hundreds of thousands of ballots to Floridians living overseas, many of whom are active-duty military personnel.
Those far-flung voters in Europe, Asia and elsewhere can't see the constant barrage of TV ads in the race between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist. But they represent the first wave of voters in a general election in which more than half of all participating voters likely will have voted by the time polls open Nov. 4....
09/19/14 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — A state elections panel has tossed out a highly publicized complaint filed against Florida Gov. Rick Scott over the presence of on-duty police at a July campaign event in Tampa.
Without conducting an investigation, the Florida Elections Commission dismissed the complaint and called it hearsay because the person who filed the complaint had no direct knowledge of what happened....
The Florida Elections Commission has thrown out a highly-publicized complaint that was filed against Gov. Rick Scott in July, calling it "hearsay."
The complaint accused Scott of illegally coercing uniformed law enforcement officers from the Hillsborough County sheriff's office and other agencies to attend a campaign event in Tampa. Widely reported by Florida TV stations, the incident was a distraction for Scott's campaign for at least a week and it attracted national news coverage....
Gov. Rick Scott was in Texas Thursday, meeting with Texas Gov. Rick Perry and raising money in Dallas. Scott attended law school at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and worked there as a mergers and acquisitions lawyer. Perry appeared on the Fox Business Network's' Opening Bell Friday where he talked up Scott's record. The Dallas Morning News has a story on Scott's visit....
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam went shopping Friday to promote the state's latest tax holiday for consumers: a first-of-its-kind three-day break from sales tax for purchases of energy-efficient and water-efficient appliances.
Through Sunday, retailers will waive state and local sales taxes on products that carry an Energy Star or WaterSense logo up to the first $1,500 of the purchase price. Putnam picked up a new shower head and some light bulbs at a Lowe's store in Tallahassee....
Gov. Rick Scott chose Republican state Rep. Jimmy Patronis Thursday for one of two openings on the Public Service Commission, the five-member panel that regulates public utilities in the state. Scott also reappointed Commissioner Julie Brown to a second four-year term on the PSC.
Patronis is a consummate political insider and a Florida State University graduate who last year abandoned a planned 2016 race against Rep. Matt Gaetz for a Panhandle state Senate seat held by Senate President Don Gaetz. ...
Funeral services are scheduled Thursday for Ron Villella, a long-time Tallahassee lobbyist who served as an aide to former Democratic Gov. Bob Graham and former Democratic Attorney General Bob Butterworth.
The News Service of Florida reports that Villella, 70, died of cancer last Saturday. Villella helped manage Graham's two successful campaigns for governor in 1978 and 1982 and he ran Butterworth's first and most difficult race for attorney general in 1986. He also held a variety of positions in the two Democrats' administrations before he became a lobbyist....
09/17/14 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — A decorated combat veteran of war in Iraq and Afghanistan sued Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday, claiming the state illegally eliminated his state job while he was serving his country overseas.
Walter Kreitlow III is a master sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve who was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge and Bronze Star during two tours of duty in Iraq. He's a Republican who said he voted for Scott in 2010 and denied that his filing of a lawsuit seven weeks before the election is politically motivated....
A decorated veteran of three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and a registered Republican -- sued Gov. Rick Scott and the state Wednesday, claiming the Scott administration used his overseas deployment to eliminate his job in violation of state law.
The suit was filed by Walter Kreitlow, who works as an undercover agent in the Department of Business & Professional Regulation's division of alcoholic beverages and tobacco and earns about $50,000 a year....
09/16/14 State Roundup
The race for Florida governor is shaping up to be one of the closest and costliest in the nation this year, as the Washington money pours in.
The Democratic Governors Association just gave Charlie Crist another $1.5 million, bringing the total it has invested in the Florida governor's race to about $5.6 million. The breakdown: $3.5 million for Charlie Crist for Florida, $1.15 million for the Florida Democratic Party and nearly $1 million to a political committee called Florida For All....