Apr 14 2014

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


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

Mar 18 2014

Rick Scott: In His Own Words

Here’s the latest installment of “Rick Scott: In His Own Words,” where we transcribe the governor’s Q-and-A’s with reporters.

Today’s post-Cabinet gaggle lasted one minute and 45 seconds.

Q: On the fee roll back, governor, the way it’s structured, a lot of people will not initially see this benefit until maybe next year because it doesn’t begin until Sept. 1. Are you concerned there are going to be some mixed messages? People will think this is about to go down, when in reality, especially when they’ve already renewed their tag, they’ve got another year?

Scott: I like to get these fees reduced as fast as we can. I want to get the money back in Floridians’ hands. We have a budget surplus. We’ve had a big turnaround in our economy. Our budget’s grown now. After this we’re going to have a big surplus, so the faster we can get it back to them, I’d like to get it back to them. But I’m glad the Senate, I want to thank President Gaetz, Sen. Negron, Speaker Weatherford, for all their help.

Q: Do you have thoughts on the Senate bill that passed Senate committee this morning, the tuition bill?

Scott: I want to thank Sen. Latvala for taking leadership in this area. He like I is worried about the cost of tuition. Tuition, I want it to come down as much as we can. He’s doing the right thing, we’ve got to roll back this 15 percent inflation rate increase that was added a few years ago, the 15 percent differential. I support his bill.

Q: That vote was close this morning, are you talking to other senators in other committees to be in support of this?

Scott: I know Sen. Latvala is very focused on this and I like what he’s doing. I like the lead he’s taking, and it’s the right thing to do for our state. All right, have a great day. Bye-bye.

The News Service of Florida

Mar 17 2014

Latvala pulls controversial elections bill

By Dara Kam

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee won’t take up an elections bill this afternoon, committee Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, told The News Service about two hours before the committee meeting is supposed to begin.

The committee approved a preliminary version of the measure last week, but by yanking SB 1660 today, Latvala avoided a possible clash with Democrats.

Latvala wants to limit early voting absentee ballot drop-off to supervisors’ offices and early voting locales, in part an attempt to rein in his own Pinellas County elections supervisor Deborah Clark. Clark butted heads with Gov. Rick Scott’s administration after Secretary of State Ken Detzner essentially ordered her and other supervisors to stop taking absentee ballots at locations other than the supervisors’ offices. Clark threatened to defy that order in a set of elections to choose a successor for the late Congressman C.W. Bill Young, and eventually Detzner backed down. Democrats are backing Clark and say it’s another example of the Scott administration trying to suppress the vote.

Latvala’s proposal also includes a sweetener for Democrats that would require the state to create an online voter registration system, something Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, has pushed for a while.

By postponing a vote on the bill, Democrats will have to hold off on amendments addressing a flap over early voting locales in a Gainesville municipal election.

Scott’s administration refused to sign off on the use of Reitz Union at the University of Florida as an early-voting location for municipal elections. Democrats are trying to change the law to add university and college campuses to other government buildings allowed as early voting locations.


The News Service of Florida

Mar 12 2014

Rick Scott: In His Own Words

By Dara Kam

After handing out awards to veterans on Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott fielded a few questions from reporters in the Capitol courtyard.

Here’s a transcript, one in a continuing series of Scott’s “gaggles,” of the 2 minute and 18 seconds Q-and-A.

Q: There is legislation going up before the Senate, Charlotte’s Web, a medical marijuana derivative. What’s your thoughts on that? You’ve come out against the medical marijuana amendments, but what about Charlotte’s Web?’

Scott: First off, any time anybody believes anything is going to help them, you feel sorry for their families, because you know anybody who has a disease you worry about them.  I know the FDA is looking at that.  I’ll review whatever I get.

Q: Governor, the Senate has passed what is dubbed the Florida GI Bill today, and the House has passed it. It’s headed to your desk.  Your thoughts on that legislation?  Is it something you’re going to sign?

Scott: I’m excited that we care about our military.  I’m excited that the House and Senate, they care to make sure that our military can continue their education at a price they can afford.  It’s a great bill and I look forward to signing it.

Q: The Tampa Bay Times just published an investigation regarding the fees that trauma centers can charge patients the moment they arrive. It can go up to $33,000 before any procedure is done. Is this proper in your mind? And what should the government’s role be to monitor these fees?

Scott: What I’ve always believed in healthcare is people need to know what it’s going to cost. You know, let’s create competition so patients have an option. Let’s make sure people can afford to buy the insurance they want to buy, at least make sure to reward people for taking care of themselves so in the case of health care I want to make sure that it’s transparent people know what it’s going to cost them.

Q: With trauma centers, you can’t determine which you are going to and usually there is an accident that you can’t control to become a trauma patient, so what should government’s role be in regulating these fees?

Scott: I believe in transparency. I think people ought to know what things are going to cost.

Q:  You did launch an ad, your people are launching an ad, and I just wanted to get your thoughts, that you feel you have to get with an ad now this early because you are concerned about those poll numbers?

Scott: It’s exciting. What the ad does is talk about my background, why I care so much about jobs.  Look, I grew up in public housing.  I know what it’s like to have parents lose their car. I know that the most important thing to do is create an environment where every family can get a job.   People need jobs.  And we’ve had a big turnaround in our state, but there are still people who need to work and I want to work at that every day.

The News Service of Florida