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7 posts from August 7, 2013

August 07, 2013

Who will last longer: Gov. Scott or the Dream Defenders?


When the Florida Department of Law Enforcement agreed to let a group of student activists spend the night in the Capitol last month, nobody expected they would stay long.

But three weeks later, the young protesters are still there, with the tacit approval of Gov. Rick Scott. Scott doesn’t support the protesters’ calls for a special session on the Stand Your Ground law, and has met with them only once. But he has allowed them to stay in the Capitol for an unprecedented length of time.

It’s a distinctly different approach than the one taken by former Gov. Jeb Bush, who quickly grew impatient when two lawmakers refused to leave the lieutenant governor’s office in 2000. Bush famously instructed his staff to “kick their asses out,” a quote he later said was directed at the reporters covering the protest.

Scott isn’t a fan of confrontation. He is also hamstrung by social media in a way his predecessors weren’t. The protesters currently in the Capitol are documenting their stay in real time on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Any attempt to kick them out would almost certainly go viral — and resurface when Scott runs for reelection in 2014.

“The governor is in a tricky spot,” said Florida State University sociologist Deana Rohlinger, who studies mass media and social movements. “He doesn’t want to address [the protesters’] issues, but he also wants to come across as a consensus builder.”

Read more here.

Enterprise Florida's plan for bonuses stirs criticism

Enterprise Florida Inc., the public-private economic development arm chaired by Gov. Rick Scott, is holding a two-day meeting at a resort in Sandestin to unveil a new marketing campaign for the state of Florida.

But the event has been overshadowed by the group's proposal to parcel out generous raises to staffers, including a $70,000 bonus to CEO Gray Swoope.

Swoope, recruited from Mississippi shortly after Scott was elected in 2010, draws a salary of $225,000 a year and is Scott's point man in recruiting new jobs to the state -- the cornerstone of Scott's agenda as governor.

The Associated Press first reported the bonus plan, which totals $630,000 for about 80 EFI employees, and would come from private funds. But several private organizations are questioning the raises and cite audit reports that say too much of Enterprise Florida's money is coming from state taxpayers, not private sources.

Integrity Florida, the Tea Party Network and Progress Florida sent Scott a letter calling for a halt to the executive bonuses and calling for greater transparency by the organization, whose board is comprised of leading business executives in the state.

"We encourage the Enterprise Florida board of directors to be more transparent about its practices by posting online complete agendas of all meetings of the board and board committees at least a week in advance, posting online minutes immediately following meetings and providing online access to audio or video recordings of all committee and board meetings in a timely manner online," the letter said.

Sean Helton, a spokesman for Enterprise Florida, said bonuses helped Enterprise Florida "attract and retain highly qualified professionals and maintain a high-performance culture," the AP reported. Helton said the bonuses were based on "stellar" performance and pointed out that Enterprise Florida employees do not get "merit pay." He defended using projected jobs as criteria for bonuses since the projects will take years to fully ramp up.

Alan Becker, a prominent South Florida attorney, former Democratic legislator and chairman of the Enterprise Florida finance and compensation committee, said during a Wednesday meeting it was "demoralizing" for Enterprise Florida employees to hear criticisms from legislators.Becker warned other committee members that Scott was concerned Swoope would leave his job because of the criticism he was facing from the Legislature.

-- Steve Bousquet

Atwater wants answer: why aren't property insurance rates dropping?

Property insurance imageIn a letter to Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater asks why it is that as re-insurance costs for property insurers are dropping, they are not lowering premiums for Florida customers. 

He doesn't ask McCarty to do anything about it. He doesn't suggest he is going to do anything about it, but he is raising the point. Here's his letter:  Download 8.7.2013 Letter to Commissioner McCarty

It's official: Mike Fasano to leave legislature to collect taxes

Mike fasanoIn a ceremony that was part tribute and part celebrity-style roast, Mike Fasano was officially named Wednesday morning as Pasco County’s tax collector.

Fasano called Gov. Rick Scott’s appointment an honor and joked that he was “moving from constituent service to customer service” by replacing longtime tax collector Mike Olson, a Democrat who died June 26 after more than 32 years at the agency.

Scott called Fasano a “tireless worker” in the Legislature who will bring that same energy to the tax collector’s office handling tax bills, driver’s licenses and auto tags.

“You know where he stands,” Scott said.

“You don’t always agree with him, but you know where he stands,” he quickly added, garnering laughs from the crowd at New Port Richey City Hall, where the mood alternated several times between serious and festive.

Story here.

After Mayor Maroño's fraud-bust, Rick Scott is disappointed but mum on friendship

@MarcACaputo Whenever Gov. Rick Scott had a Miami-Dade public event, chances were high that his earliest of supporters was there, Sweetwater Mayor Manny Maroño.

Scott frequently gave him a shout-out. Now he's mum about their relationship.

After Maroño's FBI arrest Tuesday in a federal grant-fraud scheme, Scott has to suspend his friend from office and distance himself from his supporter who worked on his transition team and one-time appointee.

"It's a disappointment," Scott told The Tampa Bay Times. "All elected officials should live up to the highest standards and it's always a disappointment when anybody does something that's not living up to that standard."

Asked about his friendship with Maroño, Scott didn't directly respond.

"Here's what's important: If you're an elected official do the right thing," Scott said. "Any elected official that doesn't do the right thing, all of us are disappointed."

Senate President won't convene a select committee on Stand Your Ground

Senate President Don Gaetz won't be following Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith's recommendation to convene a select committee on the Stand Your Ground law.

"I will not accede to your request because the charge of the select committee you seek to create would duplicate the work of the Governor’s Task Force," Gaetz wrote in a letter to Smith late Tuesday, referencing the Task Force on Citizens Safety and Prottection assembled by Gov. Rick Scott last year.

Gaetz also noted that under Senate rules, a select committee could not vote on bills.

"While I understand your frustration with the outcome of legislation you sponsored last year, a select committee does not provide you with either an appropriate or practical remedy," he wrote.

Smith called for a select committee to be created following George Zimmerman's recent acquittal in the shooting death of Travyon Martin, an unarmed black teenager from Miami. 

Brogan to depart Florida, tapped to head Pennsylvania university system

From the Associated Press: The board that oversees Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities has named university executive and former Florida lieutenant governor Frank Brogan as the new chancellor of the State System of Higher Education.

The system's Board of Governors made the selection of Brogan, who was Florida's lieutenant governor for two terms and led that state's university system since 2009, over two other finalists on Wednesday after a secretive search process,

Brogan will be the fourth chancellor to lead the nation's 13th largest public university system, enrolling about 115,000 students.

It is the highest-paid job in state government. The previous chancellor, John Cavanaugh, was earning $327,500 when he stepped down in February. Story here.