04/16/15 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott's elections chief faced open hostility from Senate Republicans for a second time Thursday for opposing a bipartisan bill to allow online voter registration by 2017.
Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Secretary of State Ken Detzner said he doesn't have a plan to implement the change. He's worried about having to coordinate with 67 counties while his agency and the state highway safety department are both upgrading their databases — the backbone of the system used to verify voters' identities....
Gov. Rick Scott's elections chief got roughed up again Thursday in the Senate as he continues to oppose a bipartisan bill for an online system of voter registration by 2017, which already exists in 20 states.
Appearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Secretary of State Ken Detzner said his agency has no plan to implement the change and he's worried about having to work with 67 county supervisors of election, 67 tax collectors and the state highway safety agency. He raised a flurry of potential problems, including "distractions" from the 2016 presidential election and the "high risk" of computer hacking, cyber-attacks and "the forces of evil" that seek to disrupt Florida elections....
04/16/15 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Republican Gov. Rick Scott announced Thursday he will sue the federal government for allegedly coercing Florida to expand Medicaid.
"It is appalling that President (Barack) Obama would cut off federal health care dollars to Florida in an effort to force our state further into Obamacare," Scott said in a statement.
The legal maneuver, which comes amid a tense standoff between the House and Senate over Medicaid expansion, was simultaneously lauded and lambasted. It also complicates negotiations over this year's budget....
Remember Mel Martinez?
He's the last Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Florida who won in a presidential election year. Democrats have won three of the past four Senate races that took place on the presidential cycle -- a fact that's giving pause to some little-known potential GOP hopefuls as they eye the seat being vacated by Sen. Marco Rubio.
The possibility that favorite-son Rubio or Jeb Bush will be the standard-bearer atop the Florida GOP ticket in 2016 obviously would boost the prospects of the party's Senate nominee. But it's not lost on Republicans that President Obama captured Florida in 2008 and 2012 and, at this early juncture, the GOP lacks a marquee candidate who can blow away a crowded primary field....
Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, had a phone conversation with Gov. Rick Scott Wednesday about the session's budget stalemate, and the $2 billion hole in money for the state's safety net hospitals that care for the poor.
"They had a cordial conversation," said Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, who was listening in Gardiner's office. "The president indicated that we're anxious to get a budget and we'd like to do it on time, and we're anxious to get a budget that responds to the (health care) issues -- and we've got the tax cuts on the shelf. We're also supportive of the education funding that the governor wants to do. But before we decide how to do it, we've got to get this big elephant tamed. There's a $2 billion elephant in the room."...
Gov. Rick Scott's administration and the Legislature remain at odds over a bill to create an online voter registration system in Florida by October 2017. But the House took a step Wednesday that elections officials say is designed to prevent Scott from vetoing the bill, which has broad bipartisan support and is expected to pass.
The House sponsor, Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Fort Myers, added an amendment to his bill that sets aside $1.8 million in next year's budget for "the Department of State to implement this act." The bill (HB 7143) awaits a final House floor vote....
04/15/15 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — After weeks of behind-the-scenes legal combat, Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet members will dispatch their lawyers to mediate differences with Florida news outlets in a lawsuit accusing all four officials of violating the Sunshine Law.
The closed-door mediation session Wednesday in Tallahassee postpones a scheduled videotaped deposition of Gerald Bailey, the ousted commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Bailey's secretly hatched dismissal triggered the lawsuit and has led to a series of reforms designed to improve Cabinet oversight of state agencies....
After two months of behind-the-scenes legal combat, the attorneys for Gov. Rick Scott, all three Cabinet members and most major Florida news outlets will try to mediate their differences in a lawsuit that accuses the four state officials of violating the Sunshine Law.
The April 22 mediation session in Tallahassee will mean that a scheduled videotaped deposition of former FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey will be rescheduled. Bailey was forced to retire in December by Scott's general counsel, with no public vote or discussion, even though by law the FDLE chief also reports to all three elected Cabinet members....
A land deal at the heart of an ambitious plan to bring the largest mall in America to northwest Miami-Dade County got the green light on Tuesday from Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet members.
In a unanimous vote in Tallahassee, the four-member Cabinet approved 82 acres of state land to Miami-Dade for $12.3 million. The county will then sell it for the same amount to American Dream Miami developer Triple Five....
04/14/15 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet members voted Tuesday to bolster the state's catastrophic insurance fund with $2.2 billion of added coverage in advance of what forecasters predict will be another quiet hurricane season in Florida.
State financial experts say the cost to a typical policyholder will be "minimal," or a premium increase of two-thirds of 1 percent or $13.75 a year, including homeowners covered by the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. But they say the timing is ideal because reinsurance rates are at all-time lows. ...
Republican Sen. Don Gaetz of Niceville said Tuesday he's considering entering Florida's wide-open 2016 U.S. Senate race as a self-funding candidate. He said his wife Victoria is totally on board with him leaping into the void created by CFO Jeff Atwater's unexpected decision to not seek the seat held by Sen. Marco Rubio.
"With Jeff Atwater out, that just shows how much the eggs have been scrambled in Florida, that I have people calling me and offering substantial commitments of support," Gaetz said....
As Florida legislators made their way back to the Capitol Monday for the seventh week of the session, Gov. Rick Scott was about as far from Tallahassee as he could get.
The question is, did anyone notice?
Scott was in California dreaming of more jobs.
He made a 48-hour foray to Los Angeles on yet another mission to poach jobs from a state with a Democratic governor.
This time, Scott's target was California Gov. Jerry Brown, whom Scott calls a tax-and-spend liberal, but whose enduring popularity resulted in him winning a state-record fourth term in the fall with 58 percent of the vote....
As Florida's legislative session enters Week 7, some Republican lawmakers are increasingly frustrated with what they describe as a lack of engagement by Gov. Rick Scott on key policy issues.
Take Sen. Greg Evers. The Crestview Republican, who chairs the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, is helping to shepherd an overhaul of the state prison system that includes creation of a new oversight board that would provided additional scrutiny to the Department of Corrections....
TALLAHASSEE -- Crickets control the Capitol Friday.
It's the 39th day of the Florida legislative session and all is quiet.
Lawmakers and lobbyists have left town for the weekend to rest up for the stretch run of the final three weeks. Here are three things to watch:
* First Lady Ann Scott will host the Florida Book Awards at the Governor's Mansion. Historian and author Gary Mormino of USF St. Petersburg will be honored at a luncheon as winner of the Florida Humanities Council's 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing....
From The News Service of Florida:
The Florida Supreme Court said Thursday that a circuit judge in Seminole County should be publicly reprimanded for not being candid about a speeding ticket she received on the way to an interview with a judicial nominating commission.
In announcing the decision, theccourt approved an agreement between Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler and the Judicial Qualifications Commission. The Supreme Court said Recksiedler was questioned about her driving record in March 2013 when she was interviewed by the 5th District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission. A year later, as she drove to another interview with the same JNC, Recksiedler was stopped by the Florida Highway Patrol and was issued a speeding ticket that caused her to be late for the interview....