When Gov. Rick Scott appeared in Tampa Monday with his newly appointed chief financial officer, Jimmy Patronis, the crowd welcoming them included Republican Sen. Tom Lee, whose interest in a possible second candidacy for the Cabinet post has been well-known for a long time.
"I got a chance to congratulate him, which is something I thought I should do," Lee told the Times/Herald. "I'm happy for him. It's a real honor to be appointed by the governor. But as to all of the speculation, I'm going to defer to another day."...
06/28/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Orlando prosecutor Aramis Ayala on Wednesday defended her "absolute discretion" to never seek the death penalty in murder cases, as skeptical justices of the Florida Supreme Court bombarded her lawyer with sharp questions.
Ayala claims that Gov. Rick Scott violated state law when he transferred two dozen murder cases to another prosecutor, and she wants the court to return the cases to her office....
Gov. Rick Scott and Orlando prosecutor Aramis Ayala square off Wednesday before the Florida Supreme Court in a high-profile case being watched nationally that could have implications for the 2018 elections.
Ayala demands that Scott show by what authority he stripped the elected Orange-Osceola state attorney of nearly two dozen felony cases after she said she would not seek the death penalty for an accused cop killer. Scott argues in court papers that under state law, he can reassign cases for any "good and sufficient reason (that) he determines that the ends of justice would be best served."...
06/26/17 State Roundup
PANAMA CITY — Gov. Rick Scott on Monday picked close friend and supporter Jimmy Patronis to be Florida's next chief financial officer, a lucrative prize for loyalty that casts new light on Patronis' pro-business votes as a legislator and his support for higher electricity costs as a regulator.
Patronis, 45, is a former Republican House member from Panama City with deep Panhandle roots who has been a Scott appointee to the Public Service Commission for the past 18 months. Scott also gave Patronis a plum position on the Constitution Revision Commission, but the new CFO will leave both of those posts....
Gov. Rick Scott on Monday appointed a long-time friend and political supporter, Jimmy Patronis, to replace Jeff Atwater as Florida's next chief financial officer, making him one of three members of the Cabinet that sets state policy on a wide range of issues. He'll take over Friday.
Scott made the announcement before a crowd of about 100 family friends and local business and political leaders at Captain Anderson's, a prominent local seafood restaurant run by the Patronis family that's marking its 50th anniversary this year. ...
Two years in the making, Florida's new online voter registration system is on pace for an official launch on Oct. 1, as the Legislature directed in the 2015 session.
It's the most significant change in voter registration in years in Florida, and most county election supervisors got their first close-up look at the system Wednesday at their statewide conference in Davenport. Reviews were generally favorable, but growing concerns about cybersecurity were also heard....
06/20/17 State Roundup
DAVENPORT — Voting experts in Florida, the national epicenter of electoral suspense, have one concern above all others as they prepare for the 2018 election.
Efforts by Russian hackers to attack computers in Florida last fall failed, but shed light on potential vulnerabilities of an election system managed locally and in mostly small counties with limited technological resources....
As Florida's 67 election supervisors gather for their annual mid-year conference near Orlando, they learned Tuesday that a state fund to pay the costs for special elections is temporarily tapped out -- until a new fiscal year begins.
The state Legislature appropriated $478,000 for the fund last year to pay for special legislative races and there's $276 left in the account, supervisors were told by the state Division of Elections. Lawmakers have no way of knowing how many special elections might be needed. When the new fiscal year begins July 1, there will be more money available, the state said....
Florida's fickle state-run driver database had more service interruptions Monday, and county tax collectors said they couldn't give motorists the service they deserve as taxpayers. But the system was in full working order on Tuesday morning.
Monday was the first day that the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles migrated to a new cloud-based solution as part of a long-term modernization of its decades-old databases. The agency said "slowdowns" in its system affected only vehicle registrations. Driver licenses, license renewals and vehicle titles were not affected and police had full access to its data, spokeswoman Beth Frady said....
Gov. Rick Scott returned to Connecticut Monday, reviving his long-dormant strategy of trying to raid jobs from high-tax states that are led by Democratic governors.
It's a return engagement for Scott, a former resident of Stamford, who visited Connecticut two years ago in search of jobs. Last year, the governor attracted a burst of attention for suggesting that Yale University relocate from New Haven to Florida. Scott has made similar trips to California, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland and Minnesota....
Gov. Rick Scott is considering appointing Public Service Commissioner Jimmy Patronis to be Florida's next chief financial officer, the Times/Herald has learned. CFO Jeff Atwater will resign June 30 so the governor must fill the powerful elected Cabinet post within 15 days.
Patronis, 45, of Panama City, is a former Republican state House member who was one of Scott's earliest and most loyal supporters, and he already has been richly rewarded by Scott for his support. The governor appointed Patronis to the five-member PSC in January 2015 and to the Constitution Revision Commission in March. A source with knowledge of the governor's thinking said Patronis is a leading contender for the job....
The problem was obvious. Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran had wildly different goals. To make things worse, they really didn't seem to like each other.
They wouldn't talk to each other, and that makes it hard to get results. But a deal quickly got done in days between the carefully scripted governor and a speaker who stays up late smoking cigars and sipping red wine. Nobody has explained who dragged the governor and speaker out of their corners to craft a deal that could enhance both of their political futures in 2018....
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican candidate for governor, said Wednesday that he remains troubled by HB 7069, the controversial expansion of charter schools that's awaiting action by Gov. Rick Scott, possibly on Thursday.
"It was formed and created at the very end of the session without a lot of sunshine or input, and that's concerning," Putnam said. "But there are certainly some things in there that are positive and some things in there that are less so, so he (Scott) has got a big decision to make."...
Gov. Rick Scott signed a state worker pay raise into law Wednesday, marking the first time in over a decade that employees are getting an across-the-board raise. All employees who earn $40,000 a year or less will get a $1,400 raise, and employees who earn more than $40,000 a year will get a $1,000 raise.
Most state law enforcement officers will get a 5 percent raise and most correctional officers will get a $2,500 raise, and judges, elected state attorneys and public defenders will get 10 percent pay hikes. The pay raise bill makes mandatory changes to state workers' benefits that prompted some Democratic legislators to vote against the measure (SB 7022)....
TAMPA — Gov. Rick Scott flew around the state on a five-city "victory tour" Tuesday to promote last week's special legislative session, and leading the cheers was a man who was once his biggest critic: House Speaker Richard Corcoran.
The two Republicans fought bitterly for months, but became fast friends in recent days as their political agendas finally converged. Each man traded support for the other's priorities and both declared victory after a round of dealing in private....