May 12 2014

Rick Scott: In His Own Words

By Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott answered five questions from reporters today at the Governor’s Hurricane Conference in Orlando. The Q-and-A lasted 2 minutes and 25 seconds, not including Scott’s intro.

How are we better prepared?
RS: Well, we have a very good emergency management team. These hurricane conferences, the governor’s hurricane conference, helps make sure that we do the right things. We learn from every disaster. So that’s a positive. We’ve built a good relationship with FEMA. But the real key is you. So the key is are you going to get prepared. Are you going to make sure that you’ve got food and water, three days of food and water. Are you going to have a first aid kit. Are you going to have flashlights. Are you going to make sure you follow the weather. All of these things are going to be important.

You’ve got a decision to make on the Charlotte’s Web bill. Have you had a chance to read the bill yet? And if you haven’t made a decision yet, just tell me about your thought processes about whether or not to sign that one.
RS: Well, as a parent and a grandparent, I always worry about any family making sure that if they’re suffering from something to make sure that they get the health care they need. So my goal in that is to make sure it’s safe for children. If I don’t sign that bill, I worry about all these children making sure they get the health care they need.

Can you give us an update on the gaming compact negotiations?

RS: Sure. We’re going to take the right amount of time. The Seminole compact expires next year. We’re going to take the right amount of time, make sure we get the right deal for the taxpayers of the state, and that’s what we’re going to do.

Do you plan on signing the hit-and-run bill?
When the bill hits my desk, I’ll review it.

(Last one, guys)
A pretty impassioned plea at the trooper’s funeral on the speed limit bill. Have you made a decision on that one?
RS: First of all, what a great guy. You’re heart goes out to that family, to Chelsea Richard. That’s our 21st, I think, law enforcement that died in the line of duty by car accidents and 16 in violent acts. But there was one of the troopers got up to talk about Chelsea. He was supposed to read a poem, and talked about his concern about speed limits. So I’ll review that bill but…what a…what a…He cared. You know, you could tell he cared. And Trooper Richard’s family, what a wonderful family. We need to really thank our law enforcement. They show up all the time in tough situations. We’ve lost some law enforcement here, right here in the Orlando area. Two this year, and your heart goes out to them.
Thanks everybody.

NOTE TO IHOW FANS: Dear readers, we regret our lapses during the session that just ended. As pledged, we provide a sometimes-not-always transcription of the governor’s gaggles. Hopefully, we’ll be able to be more consistent now that things are quieter in the Capitol.

The News Service of Florida


May 8 2014

The Donald not pleased with Rick Scott

By Dara Kam

DJT_Headshot_V2_biggerA grumpy Donald Trump took to Twitter to air his dissatisfaction with Gov. Rick Scott this morning, blasting Scott for a purported “deal” with the Seminole Tribe of Florida floated a few weeks ago.

“Wow, looks like @FLGovScott wants to hand over the State of Florida to the Seminole Indians w/ the terrible gaming deal in talks! #sayfie,” Trump tweeted to his 2.6 million followers at 9:16 a.m.

“Thought @FLGovScott was a better negotiator—the Seminole Indian gaming deal is a disaster for Florida. #sayfie,” the Donald went on.

Trump’s caustic comments are, um, a bit awkward for lobbyist Brian Ballard, who represents Trump and is heavily involved in Scott’s re-election effort. Trump is one of several out-of-state operators trying to convince lawmakers to open up the state to (non-tribal) casinos.

Scott is renegotiating a portion of a current gambling compact, signed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist in 2010, that gave the Seminoles “exclusive” rights to blackjack at seven of its Florida locations in exchange for a minimum of $1 billion over five years. That part of the 2010 deal expires on Aug. 1, 2015. The Seminoles have so far exceeded their minimum payments to the state.

But Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera’s shuttle diplomacy in the penultimate week of the legislative session that ended on Friday helped blow up a possible agreement with the tribe.

Lopez-Cantera, along with Scott’s general counsel Pete Antonacci and COS Adam Hollingsworth, had floated the idea of a special session in mid-May so lawmakers could sign off on the compact.

But gambling lobbyists and many lawmakers viewed the deal as too friendly to the tribe. Scott had considered allowing the Seminoles to open more casinos — including one on a 50-acre property owned by the tribe in Fort Pierce — and add roulette and craps to some of their existing facilities. The tribe also could have expanded its Broward County operations as well as its facility in Brighton. The price tag? A guarantee of $2.5 billion over seven years, which is higher than the Seminoles’ current $250 million minimum annual obligation.

Word on the street now is that Scott’s given up on sealing a deal with the tribe until after the November election.

The News Service of Florida


May 6 2014

Charlie Crist: I Didn’t Leave the GOP to Dodge Marco Rubio

By Brandon Larrabee

When then-Gov. Charlie Crist decided to bolt the Republican Party is April 2010 — amid a heated GOP primary with Marco Rubio for a U.S. Senate nomination — his remarks included this allusion to the state of the race, where it looked like Crist was headed for defeat:

“I could’ve chosen to stay in the primary. But frankly, for me, it’s your decision,” Crist said. “It’s not one club’s decision or the other. Or even a club within that club … We go straight to November, and it’s your decision to make.”

Now, in an interview with Fusion’s Jorge Ramos, Crist is saying that a likely loss in the GOP primary had nothing to do with the change:

CRIST: When I saw what was happening with the Republican Party, Jeb Bush said it better than anybody could say it, he said it better than I could: They’re perceived now as being anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-minority, anti-gay, anti-education, anti-environment, you know, I just wasn’t comfortable and being honest with myself and my core beliefs, I couldn’t stay.

RAMOS: But that’s not why you left the Republican Party, right?

CRIST: Yes, it is. Yes, it is.

RAMOS: You left the Republican Party because you were going to lose to Marco Rubio.

CRIST: No, I left the Republican Party because Republican leadership went off the cliff. I mean, they’re so hard right now, they won’t cooperate with the president on anything. I mean, it’s very disappointing and very discouraging. But I’m an optimist. It’s going to get better.

RAMOS: I understand, but the moment in which you decided just to leave the Republican Party, it was because you were going to lose to Marco Rubio.

CRIST: No, it was because I couldn’t be consistent with myself and my core beliefs and stay with a party that was so unfriendly toward the African American president, I’ll just go there. Because I was a Republican and I saw the activists and what they were doing; it was intolerable to me. As I told you before, my mother and father taught my three sisters and me to treat everybody well. We’re all children of God. And I saw how the party, some of them, were treating the African-American president. And I couldn’t take it anymore. That’s a big part of what I left the party.

Later in the interview, Ramos asks Crist why he didn’t support in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants as governor. The exchange got testy as Ramos repeatedly pressed Crist on his position change.

CRIST: I support it today, and I’ll tell you why –

RAMOS: But you didn’t before.

CRIST: … I agreed with you [about not supporting it before]. The point is, we have to do what’s right for America and we have to do what’s right for Florida in my case today and going forward. The president had a great slogan in the campaign, right toward the end: Forward. This is about forward. There’s three moments in time, Jorge: The past, the present and the future. This is a race about the future. Most elections are. And that’s what I’m focused on, because I’m an optimist and I’m ready for it.

RAMOS: But what happened then — before. You didn’t support in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, and now you do.

CRIST: It was difficult. I was a Republican. And the Republicans didn’t like it. and I really felt like a square peg –

RAMOS: So you were supporting the party-line?

CRIST: May I? May I?

RAMOS: Sure

CRIST: I really felt like a round peg in a square hole, and so, you know, would try to be a good team player. And it wasn’t always comfortable for me. I’m just being very honest with you. But now that I’m liberated, as a Democrat, my true soul is able to be seen, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

An RPOF spokeswoman quickly shot out a link to the footage (it appeared in this reporter’s inbox before the Fusion press release on the interview). Here’s a clip:

You can view the full interview here, or Tuesday night on “AMERICA with Jorge Ramos, which airs at 10 p.m. ET on Fusion.

The News Service of Florida


Apr 14 2014

Morgan & Morgan: For the People (and Maybe Charlie Crist) [Updated, 6 p.m.]

SEE UPDATE BELOW

Whatever the motivation for Morgan & Morgan offering Charlie Crist a job at the law firm, and whatever the reasons the former Republican governor decided to take the job, there’s no real question that it helped Crist keep his name out there as he decided whether to run for his old job — this time as a Democrat. Crist’s face was on billboards and he was in television commercials — as he was again this weekend in an ad that, according to the Republican Party of Florida, ran on a Tallahassee CBS television station this weekend.

The jaded observer will note that the commercial doesn’t do much to sell the viewer on the services of Morgan & Morgan. Indeed, it consists mostly of Crist speaking to the camera about the dedication of law enforcement officers, firefighters and correctional officers. The lines include this not-so-subtle reminder of Crist’s time as the state’s chief executive: “As your governor, I understood the great work you did for Florida, sometimes at great risk to yourself.”

According to the RPOF, the ad crosses the line between the business and the political. The party announced today that RPOF Executive Director Juston Johnson has filed a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission. According to the RPOF, the ads represent an in-kind contribution to the Crist campaign.

“It appears as though trial lawyer Charlie Crist continues to receive unreported help from his trial lawyer partners at Morgan & Morgan, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise,” Johnson said in a statement released by the party. “Like the Morgan & Morgan billboards featuring Charlie, these TV ads are a clear violation of the law because as a declared candidate they qualify as a reportable contribution. Failing to report the TV ads is a clear breach of the law and a promise to work ‘for the people.’”

It should be noted here that Gov. Rick Scott — the Republican incumbent that Crist aims to knock off — has faced questions about whether he is using his day job to promote his campaign. More than once.

It’s also worth noting that it’s just April. The election is still almost seven months away. The accusations have only begun to fly.

UPDATE, 6 p.m. ET: The Crist campaign released the following statement from spokesman Eric Conrad:

Typical Rick Scott — attacking others — in this case a small business for making an honest mistake,  while he is allowed to plead the 5th 75 times. He is the last person who should be lecturing someone else for a mistake — especially one that was thanking law enforcement officers and firefighters for their work.

The News Service of Florida


Apr 5 2014

Jeb, Jindal team up in TV ad

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal are frequently mentioned as possible Republican presidential candidates in 2016. But at least for now, they are teaming up to try to offer a more positive agenda for the GOP, according to Politico.  Bush and Jindal will appear in a TV ad to promote NewRepublican.org. Here is a link to the Politico report.

The News Service of Florida


Apr 1 2014

Rick Scott: In His Own Words

Here’s the latest installment of “In His Own Words,” where we provide a transcription of Gov. Rick Scott’s gaggles with reporters.

This one lasted two minutes and 48 seconds, and Scott spent more than a minute of that time talking about a GI bill he signed into law yesterday. Scott’s Q-and-A with the press took place Tuesday after a press conference where Scott signed several bills intended to strengthen laws regarding sexual predators.

Governor, why did you feel the need to send off a letter regarding inspections of the VA hospitals?

RS: Sure. Well, yesterday I was proud to sign the GI bill with the leadership of the Senate president and the speaker. We’ve got to take care of our veterans. We care about our veterans. They’ve gone out there and they’ve defended our freedom. So I asked the secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration to do an investigation. They need to look at the processes of these VA facilities. We’ve heard the stories of deaths. We’ve heard the stories of injuries. That’s not right. Our veterans defended our freedom. So I’ve asked them to go in, take immediate action, go do the investigations, give us the information. The federal government has failed us. They’re not telling us what’s happening in these facilities. They should be telling us exactly what’s happening. Where did these injuries and deaths happen? Why did they happen? What are they doing to fix it? So we’re going to do our part. If the federal government’s not going to do their job, we’re going to do our job. We need transparency. It’s not right what they’re doing, what the federal VA is doing. So we’re going to stand up.

Governor, there are about 600,000 people who bought two-year tags from September of ’14 and ’15 who paid a higher price. Should they get a credit?

RS: I want to thank the House and Senate for passing this. $400 million tax cut. It’s a great tax cut. It’s going to be effective in September. It’s doing the right thing for our citizens, giving them money back in their pocket. It’s a tax that was increased in 2009. And they did the right thing this year and it will be effective Sept. 1.

Governor, can you talk a little about in-state tuition? Sen. Latvala said he wants to take the House version of the proposal today? Is that something you would sign, the House version of the proposal?

RS: Sure. I’m very supportive of the bill that was passed through the judiciary. I want to thank the Sen. Latvala for all his work and everybody else who’s worked on getting that done. I want to work with the House and the Senate to make sure we have a bill that lowers tuition for all Floridians.

Governor, some are raising issues about the credibility of lottery winnings. Don’t know if you’re familiar with this serious but wondering if you’re feeling the Lottery needs a deeper investigation at this point.

RS: I know the secretary of the Lottery takes everything seriously, wants to make sure it’s done properly and so they’re clearly working on transparency and working to make sure there’s no fraud.

Governor, about the tuition bill. There are still some concerns, particularly among conservative speakers who spoke today about the provision dealing with undocumented immigrants. Are you comfortable with allowing undocumented immigrants to have in-state tuition?

RS: So what I’ve said is I support the bill that came out of the Senate Judiciary Committee today but I’m going to work with the Senate and the House to make sure that we have a bill that lowers tuition for all Floridians.

Thanks everybody.

 

 

The News Service of Florida


Apr 1 2014

Weinstein to run for public defender

Former state Rep. Mike Weinstein, R-Jacksonville, plans to run for public defender in 2016, challenging incumbent Matt Shirk, The Florida Times-Union reports.

Weinstein in 2012 lost a nasty GOP primary to Aaron Bean for a Northeast Florida Senate seat.  He then planned to run for a seat on the Jacksonville City Council but decided to take on Shirk, who has been embroiled in controversy. The public defender’s job is in the 4th judicial circuit, which includes Duval, Nassau and Clay counties.

Here is a link to the Times-Union story.

The News Service of Florida


Mar 29 2014

‘Vast majority’ of top Romney donors would back Jeb

The Washington Post reports that influential Republican insiders hope to draft former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to run for president in 2016. That includes many of the major donors to Mitt Romney’s unsuccessful 2012 campaign. Here is a link to the Post story.

The News Service of Florida


Mar 22 2014

Race to replace Radel getting nasty

With Southwest Florida one of the most reliably Republican regions of the state, the GOP likely will keep the seat vacated this year by former Congressman Trey Radel. But that doesn’t mean the special election will be pretty. Republicans Lizbeth Benacquisto, Paige Kreegel and Curt Clawson are swamped in negative ads as they seek the GOP nomination for the Congressional District 19 seat, the News-Press reports.

“There is no difference on the issues among the three major candidates, and subsequently the race is a personality contest,” Peter Bergerson, a political science professor at Florida Gulf Coast University, told the newspaper. “The issues are being totally lost in this air war.”

Here is a link to the News-Press story.

The News Service of Florida


Mar 20 2014

Rick Scott: In His Own Words

By Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott answered questions on two topics — taxes and education — this evening after leaving the House chamber. Scott had dropped in to watch representatives pass a vehicle registration tax cut that’s part of the governor’s election-year “It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget.”

Thursday evening’s Q-and-A lasted one minute and 20 seconds.

Q: Why aren’t the cuts in the fees that were raised any larger than they currently are? New registration fees aren’t touched with this. Why not, if you really want to return the money?

Scott: I would love to cut more taxes. Every time we put more money back in families’ hands, it’s a good day. So I would love to cut even more taxes.

Q: What are your thoughts on the Senate…This afternoon, Sen. Galvano pulled the tax credit scholarship bill. It sounds like it might be dead. I just wanted to get your reaction.

Scott: Look, this is a great year for education. Our kids are doing a great job. It’s a historic year in my budget. But it’s an historic, record funding for K-12 education. That’s what I’m focused on.

(Last question!)

Q: The House passed the immigrant tuition bill. What are your thoughts on the House version vs. the Senate?

Scott: I like Sen. Latvala’s bill. I want to thank him again for taking leadership in that bill. I want to reduce tuition for all Floridians. I want to get rid of the 15 percent differential. I want to get rid of the inflationary increase. So I like Sen. Latvala’s bill.

Q: What about the House version?
Scott: I like the House version.

(walking away) Thanks.

The News Service of Florida