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6 posts from June 13, 2013

June 13, 2013

Scott announces deal to bring Amazon jobs -- and online taxes -- to Florida

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday announced a deal with online retail giant Amazon to bring 3,000 jobs to Florida by the end of 2016.

The company is prepared to spend more than $300 million on new warehouses, The Associated Press reported. Earlier, Scott had nixed a deal to bring Amazon to Florida out of concerns that such a deal would result in higher taxes for Floridians because it would make online purchases through Amazon subject to Florida sales tax, which they are not now.

Online purchases by Florida consumers are not subject to the state's 6 percent statewide sales tax, but they would be if Amazon has a presence in that state. In his announcement, Scott said Amazon would begin collecting state sales taxes from residents when it is required by Florida law.

Scott's announcement did not say where Amazon's Florida jobs would be located -- but early speculation is that some will be in Hillsborough County. The announcement also said that Amazon would collect Florida sales tax "at such time as it is required under current Florida law. To make the proposed job creation and investments economically viable, the availability of ecobomic development incentives will be a material factor in any final location decisions."

-- Steve Bousquet

Release of prescription drug database records raises privacy concerns

Criticism is mounting over Florida's fledgling prescription drug database since the medication history for 3,300 people was released as part of a prescription fraud investigation in Volusia County.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported this month that the records were given to federal and state agencies as part of this investigation, and eventually fell in the hands of five defense attorneys connected to the case. One man whose records were among those released has filed suit and is trying to keep the 3,300 records private.

The drug monitoring database launched in 2011 and is intended to combat abuse by monitoring how often doctors and individuals are turning in prescriptions for pain killers, anxiety medication and other commonly abused prescription drugs.

Today, state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, fired off a letter to Surgeon General John Armstrong demanding answers about the Volusia case. 

"While I acknowledge that Florida law permits the release of records involved in an active investigation, I am concerned about this release of private health records and the precedent that it may establish," Brandes wrote. "Therefore I ask the Department to also provide to the Legislature any plans or policies that ensure such a release of private records does not happen without proper cause and without attention to preserving the privacy rights of patients."

The man who filed the initial suit to stop the records from being released has asked Gov. Rick Scott to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Volusia's state attorney and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, the News-Journal reported.

Continue reading "Release of prescription drug database records raises privacy concerns" »

Scott signs bill to enforce federal cell phone ban for interstate truckers, bus drivers

Starting July 1, Florida’s  law enforcement officers can start ticketing interstate truck or bus drivers who will face hefty fines if they talk or text on hand-held devices.

Gov. Rick Scott has signed legislation (HB 7125) that gives officers the  power to enforce federal regulations that went into effect January 2012.

The law makes using hand-held devices a primary offense, which means officers can stop drivers who are texting or talking, a stronger violation than the state’s new texting while driving law for all motorists. The broader texting bill is a secondary offense, which means a driver has to be stopped for another violation first, and then will receive two tickets -- one for the initial offense, like careless driving, and the second for texting.

Continue reading "Scott signs bill to enforce federal cell phone ban for interstate truckers, bus drivers" »

Scott stays mum about his position on Congressional immigration reform

Gov. Rick Scott recently angered some Hispanics when he vetoed a bill that would have allowed children of immigrants to get temporary Florida driver licenses. Scott said he vetoed the bill because it was based on a policy change by President Obama, not a specific act of Congress -- a move that could cost him support among Hispanic voters in Florida in 2014.

The veto, and the ferocious reaction by Democrats, was a sign that immigration is re-emerging as a political issue in Florida.

At the same time, some leading Florida Republicans have publicly endorsed the immigration reform package moving through the U.S. Senate. A print advertisement  paid for by Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS lists dozens of business and political leaders, including former Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida CFO Jeff Atwater, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

Scott isn't listed, but neither is any other sitting governor. When questioned Thursday, he wouldn't say definitively whether he favors the Senate bill or not.

"I think Senator Rubio has really done a great job, focusing on the discussion, making sure we have an immigration policy that works. I'm happy that he's really focused on securing our borders and having a policy that we all understand," Scott said.

Meanwhile, a new poll shows that the bi-partisan immigration reform proposal may not be as polarizing for politicians like Scott as it seems.

Three years ago, when he ran for governor, Scott promised to being an "Arizona-style" anti-immigration law to Florida to placate hard-liners demanding stricter border security. That never happened, as Scott moderated his tone to appeal to general election voters in 2010.

-- Steve Bousquet


Another Miami ballot-fraud scandal: Cops raid home of operative for Commissioner Francis Suarez mayoral campaign


Law enforcement officers investigating absentee ballot fraud raided the home early Thursday of Juan Pablo Baggini, the operations director for Miami Commissioner Francis Suarez’s mayoral campaign.

Suarez justed posted on Facebook that it was a misunderstanding:

"I was informed this morning that law enforcement officials went to the home of a worker from my ECO regarding approximately 20 absentee ballot request forms that were transmitted to the division of elections by electronic means. It should be emphasized that each and every one of the requests were voluntarily and duly signed by a registered voter. I have instructed my campaign to fully cooperate with law enforcement officials regarding this matter and I have all confidence that once the investigation is concluded the facts will reflect that no willful violations of the law occurred."

That might be true, that it wasn't a "willful" violation. But it's still a violation. Florida law says you can't request the absentee ballot of a non-immediate family member.

"The law is clear: You can't do it," said Mark Herron, a Tallahassee-based state election-law lawyer who has represented hundreds of political clients across the political spectrum.

Detectives searched Baggini’s Southwest Miami-Dade residence after the Miami-Dade Elections Department reported a series of online applications for 20 absentee ballots submitted last month. The requests were flagged as suspicious because they were generated from the same computer. The absentee ballots were not mailed out to the voters.

Investigators traced the computer’s internet protocol address to Baggini’s home.

Suarez, who has been on the dais for a Miami City Commission meeting Thursday, told the Miami Herald that he was notified about the raid early in the morning, and is confident that his campaign will be cleared of any wrongdoing.

“We’re cooperating fully with any investigation that any agency wants to do into our campaign,’’ said Suarez, who is challenging Mayor Tomas Regalado in the November election. “We feel confident that once they investigate the circumstances fully, it will be apparent nothing was done to purposely violate the law. They will conclude that everything was done legally.’’

Suarez, whose campaign has been courting young professionals, said he hired Baggini to handle social media and media relations activities.

The campaign had held several events targeting younger voters, and has helped them sign up for absentee ballots.

More here

Bipartisan poll's good news for Marco Rubio: 7 in 10 FL voters (71% of GOP!?) back immigration reform


More than 7 in 10 Florida voters favor the concept of the bipartisan immigration-reform plans proposed in Congress, according to a new survey that indicates the issue might not be as politically polarizing as many say.

The results from Republican-leaning Harper Polling and Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling could be a big boost to Florida’s Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a potential presidential candidate in 2016. Rubio helped craft his chamber’s compromise plan only to face a fierce blowback from the conservative media elite and immigration hardliners.

But Florida Republicans overwhelmingly back the proposal: 71-22 percent, with 43 percent saying they “strongly support,” the poll of 500 voters says.

By an even bigger spread of 82-14 percent, Florida Republicans said their senator should support the plan.

Continue reading "Bipartisan poll's good news for Marco Rubio: 7 in 10 FL voters (71% of GOP!?) back immigration reform" »