11/26/14 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott's top environmental adviser, Herschel Vinyard Jr., resigned Wednesday, ending a four-year run of controversy over protecting Florida's fragile water and land resources.
Vinyard leaves the Department of Environmental Protection at a critical juncture: The agency will guide Scott and the Legislature through implementing Amendment 1, which had overwhelming support from voters and requires a $20 billion investment to protect water and land over the next 20 years....
After a four-year tenure punctuated by considerable controversy, Herschel Vinyard announced his retirement Wednesday as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection.
Gov. Rick Scott issued a statement praising Vinyard's record and announced that his interim replacement will be Cliff Wilson, deputy secretary for regulatory programs at DEP.
"Secretary Vinyard was instrumental in helping us protect Florida's environment for future generations," Scott said. "Cliff Wilson has helped lead DEP's efforts to protect Florida's natural treasures. With his knowledge and experience, Wilson will ensure that the department continues to support Florida's environment."...
Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday announced Monica Russell as his new director of Cabinet affairs and made more changes to his communications shop in advance of his second term in January.
Russell, 31, is a University of Florida graduate who was communications director at the state Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) before leaving to work as surrogates director for the Scott re-election campaign....
Gov. Rick Scott on Monday signed the death warrant for Johnny Shane Kormondy, who killed a Pensacola banker and repeatedly raped his wife as the couple returned home from her 20th high school reunion in 1993. Kormondy is set to die on Jan. 15, 2015.
In a summary of the case, the governor's office said that Kormondy shot Gary McAdams in the back of the head, killing him, and was the leader of the attack on the McAdamses, having recruited accomplices, provided transportation and cased the neighborhood prior to the crime. Kormondy also threatened to kill witnesses who testified at his trial -- including Cecilia McAdams -- if he were released from prison....
Jorge Labarga added another first to his resume Monday.
He's the first member of his family to attend law school. He's the first Cuban-American chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court.
Labarga's latest first: He signed an order creating the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice to address a "crisis" in Florida: Working families and poor people who need legal help often can't get it because they can't afford it....
11/24/14 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Michael Crews, the embattled secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections, on Monday announced he would step down, following months of scrutiny involving abusive corrections officers, suspicious inmate deaths and a poor record of inmate healthcare delivered by private contractors.
Crews' exit had been rumored for weeks. It comes amid allegations of widespread agency corruption and the failure of Crews' top law enforcement officer, Inspector General Jeffery Beasley, to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing in the prison system....
11/21/14 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — In the same room where students once jeered his claim to the presidency of Florida State University, John Thrasher won praise Friday for providing reassurance in the aftermath of Thursday's campus library shooting.
Thrasher attended his first meeting with his new bosses, the FSU trustees who hired him. Weeks ago, they were criticized by students and faculty members for hiring a veteran legislator, former lobbyist and leader of conservative causes at odds with liberal academia....
In the same room where he was jeered and heckled by Florida State students as a candidate for university president, John Thrasher drew widespread praise Friday for being a reassuring presence in the aftermath of Thursday's shooting at the campus library.
Only 10 days on the job, Thrasher attended his first meeting of FSU's board of trustees Friday, a day after troubled gunman Myron May shot and wounded three students, one critically, before being shot and killed by university police. Thrasher has met numerous times with FSU students, attended a candlelight vigil and personally reopened Robert Manning Strozier Library Friday morning as 100 students waited to get inside to study for pre-holiday exams....
State Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, knew Myron May, the man identified by police as the gunman in the FSU shootings, from their days working together in student government at Florida State.
May was a member of the Student Senate and Gaetz was president of the Insight political party on campus. The Insight party was focused on community outreach programs, and May got involved in the party’s community service committee....
Florida State University President John Thrasher, who started the job only earlier this month, was in New York at the time of the shootings and immediately returned to Tallahassee.
As a state senator three years ago, Thrasher was instrumental in blocking legislation that would have allowed guns on campus in some cases. He called it "beyond personal." Here is an excerpt from the March 9, 2011, story from the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau:...
11/20/14 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Florida State University President John Thrasher, who started the job only earlier this month, was in New York at the time of the shootings and immediately returned to Tallahassee.
As a state senator three years ago, Thrasher was instrumental in blocking legislation that would have allowed guns on campus in some cases. He called it "beyond personal." Here is the March 9, 2011, story from the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau:...
11/19/14 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Two Florida inmates — one a deaf man from Tampa and the other a mentally ill man who is the focus of a searing documentary film — sought mercy from the state Wednesday. Both got a flicker of hope that they might one day see freedom.
Mark DeFriest, 54, who grew up in rural Gadsden County, has been in prison since 1979 for stealing his father's tools. He became a serial escape artist, gained the nickname "Houdini of Florida" and is the subject of a film, The Life and Mind of Mark DeFriest. He has spent 35 years in prison, mostly in solitary confinement, and is due for release in 2085, when he would be 125....
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott's second inaugural celebration will be much more low-key than his first one and a lot less expensive, too.
The black-tie ball is gone, replaced by no-frills barbecues around the state. The inaugural parade is history, replaced by a tribute to military veterans.
Scott appears determined to set a serious, no-nonsense tone at the start of his second term, without the over-the-top trappings of his first one four years ago....