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....
TALLAHASSEE — Avoiding the political spotlight in the Capitol is doing wonders for Gov. Rick Scott's poll numbers.
For the first time since shortly after he took office in 2011, a new statewide poll shows that Scott's job approval is more good than bad, by the barest of margins: a single point.
But that's real progress for the least-popular governor in the modern history of Florida, especially when he has been feuding with Senate Republicans, spending tax dollars to settle public records lawsuits and generally staying away from the Capitol, most recently with trips to Colorado and France this month....
A new statewide poll in Florida by Quinnipiac University largely comes up empty by finding that every major candidate for U.S. Senate in both parties is so unknown that "none has achieved enough voter recognition for a valid measure of their favorability."
And in a small sign of progress for Republican Gov. Rick Scott, his job approval edged upward, with a divided electorate approving of his performance by 45 to 44 percent. That's hardly a ringing endorsement, but it marks the first time since February 2011, one month after Scott took office, that he scored a positive approval rating with voters. The previous Q-poll in late June had Scott underwater, with 39 percent approving of his job performance and 49 percent disapproving....
Imagine fleeing Tallahassee in late August when the "real feel" is a balmy 99 degrees!
Gov. Rick Scott will spend most of this week on a family vacation in Colorado, the governor's office said Monday. Scott, First Lady Ann Scott, their two daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren took a leisurely family trip to France earlier in the month. ...
08/24/15 State Roundup
The Florida Legislature is wading deeper and deeper into uncharted territory, and there's simply no telling how it will end.
The breakdown of last week's special session on congressional redistricting was only the beginning.
The courts now will seize control of redrawing the maps from the state's elected leaders, raising new doubts about the credibility of the Legislature do to its job....
Several Tampa Bay area legislators are featured prominently in a new TV and digital ad by Americans for Prosperity, "thanking" them for blocking Medicaid expansion during the 2015 session.
One version of the spot shows the faces and names of Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg; House Majority Leader Dana Young, R-Tampa; Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes; Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater; Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor; Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole; and Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa....
08/23/15 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — As Florida legislators dissolved their two-week redistricting session Friday without agreement on a congressional map, they acknowledged they were ready to repeat something they had done only once before in state history — turning over the complicated task of drawing maps to the courts.
The year was 1992, when Bill Clinton and Ross Perot dominated national politics, Florida voters imposed term limits on politicians and Hurricane Andrew devastated Miami-Dade County....
Gov. Rick Scott appointed two new supervisors of election Friday. Scott appointed Chet Huddleston of Wauchula as supervisor in Hardee County to replace Jeff Ussery, who resigned due to health reasons in May. The governor also appointed Pinki Jackel as supervisor in Franklin County, replacing Ida Elliott, who resigned June 30 due to health concerns.
Huddleston, 32, according to a release from Scott's office, "has been involved with Hardee County public servie organizations including the Hardee County Economic Development Council and the local Kiwanis Club." Jackel, 57, of St. George Island, has been a Franklin County commissioner since 2008. ...
Sen. Rob Bradley of Fleming Island became the first leading Republican to urge Gov. Rick Scott to order a dysfunctional Legislature back into session.
As senators disbanded at noon Friday, Bradley, a lawyer and member of the Senate Reapportionment Committee, said: "I'm an eternal optimist. The deadline has not passed. The governor has a special place in our constitutional system and I, for one, would welcome his leadership in this matter to bring this in for a landing and to preserve our delicate balance of separation of powers."...