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While Dems sense political theater, Scott takes stage to fight for immigrant tuition

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 by John Kennedy

A few hours after the Senate Appropriations Committee refused to hear an amendment granting in-state tuition to children of undocumented immigrants, Gov. Rick Scott turned to the media Tuesday to keep the issue alive.

The legislation has already cleared the House. But it has hit a roadblock in the Florida Senate where Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and Senate Budget Chair Joe Negron, R-Stuart, say they will refuse to schedule it.

On Tuesday, Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, ruled the in-state amendment out of order.

But since Thrasher doubles as Scott’s campaign chairman, the move fed Democratic suspicions that the standoff is mostly political theater — orchestrated to make Scott look heroic among Hispanic voters, with whom polls show he is far behind Democratic rival Charlie Crist.

“This looks like an election year ploy, and that’s pathetic,” House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale earlier told the Palm Beach Post.

Meeting with reporters outside his Capitol office, Scott blamed Crist both for increasing state tuition and for opposing the in-state tuition provision when he was the state’s Republican governor.

“We’re cleaning up his mess,” Scott said. “I call on the Florida Senate…this is the right thing for the students of our state. We have had a dramatic turnaround in our state. We’ve got to give these children the same opportunity as all children. Whatever country you were born in, whatever family or zip code, you have the chance to live the dream. Part of that dream is being able to afford education.”

As a candidate in 2010, Scott vowed to enact tough, Arizona-style sanctions against illegal immigration to Florida, a promise he later abandoned as governor. Tea party groups remain opposed to the in-state tuition bill, seeing it as rewarding those who are in Florida illegally.

Gaetz said last week that he only recently learned of Scott’s support for the tuition bill, and that the governor had not sought to lobby him. But last week, Scott was joined by former Govs. Jeb Bush and Bob Martinez in calling for action on the bill, a day after Negron said he would not hear the measure in Tuesday’s  Appropriations Committee.

Democrats chide Scott even after state drops plans for voter purge

Thursday, March 27th, 2014 by John Kennedy

The Gov. Rick Scott administration’s decision Thursday to drop a controversial plan to remove noncitizens and other ineligible voters from state rolls drew revived attacks from Democrats who had long opposed the effort dubbed Project Integrity.

“This was a mistake from the beginning, and part of a pattern of throwing up roadblocks for Floridians attempting to hold government accountable,” said Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor turned Democrat, who is Scott’s leading re-election rival.

Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant said, “”While this move is clearly an act of damage-control from a campaign in chaos, this represents a major victory for the people of Florida who have suffered so many voter suppression efforts under the Rick Scott administration.”

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said Thursday that he was delaying plans to conduct the voter review before this year’s election because of technical issues  involving the U.S. Department of Homeland Security SAVE list — the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements.

Minority organizations and voter rights groups for months have been urging Scott’s office to drop the review, accusing the governor of trying to shed black- and Hispanic-voters from state rolls.

Detzner, though, said the decision was only made after Homeland Security officials began revamping the data base in an effort not expected to be finished until next year.



Tributes to Askew recall his legacy, tone of leadership

Thursday, March 13th, 2014 by John Kennedy


Former Florida Gov. Reubin Askew, dead at 85

Tributes have been pouring in following the death early Thursday of former Florida Gov. Reubin Askew, remembered for having brought what one termed “moral leadership” to the state during his years in office.

Askew, a Democrat who served from 1971 to 1979, was 85. He died in Tallahassee.

“Gov. Askew served our nation as a veteran, he served Florida’s families as an elected officeholder, and he served our children as an educator,” said Gov. Rick Scott. “He helped lead Florida to enormous growth and was a trailblazer for good government. His advocacy for Florida’s sunshine laws was a landmark moment for ethics and transparency in government, and that legacy continues to endure.”

Scott ordered flags at public buildings to be placed at half-staff Thursday in Askew’s honor.

Florida Democratic Chair Allison Tant called Askew “a giant of Florida history, whose unparalleled accomplishments for the people of Florida set the example all Floridians elected to public office strive to meet. We will miss his wisdom, his friendship, and his leadership in difficult times.”

Former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, now a Democrat challenging Scott, said, “Gov. Askew opened up government to the people, allowing our state to be progressive on critical issues like civil rights, education, and ethics. He was a public servant, a teacher of students, and now a lesson of hope and progress forever sketched into the history of our beautiful state. “

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, also said that Askew set a tone that still resonates for today’s state leaders.

“In Governor Askew, Florida has lost a leader who embodied what it means to be a true public servant,” Weatherford said. “Governor Askew leaves behind a legacy of public service that has set the standard for all individuals in elected office today. His tenure includes opening up government and creating new reporting standards for elected officials, which still serve Florida well.”

Florida Republican Chairman Lenny Curry added, “Gov. Askew was an outstanding public servant, upon whose shoulders others have stood to carry on his legacy of good and transparent government.

“He was a family man, an educator, a veteran of our armed forces, and a man of unmatched integrity. We mourn the passing of this great leader, but more importantly, celebrate his life and the way in which he committed it to public service,” Curry said.



Scott up with first TV spot in re-elect campaign

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Rick Scott is up with his first TV ad in his re-election campaign, a $2.2 million buy that attempts to show the governor’s softer side and the emphasizes the personal themes he unleashed in his State of the State address last week.

The spot uses a slightly blurred focus and takes side-angle shots of Scott talking about his father having his car repossessed, his adoptive father having a 6th grade education and his struggles coming up from a hardscrabble boyhood. Scott says those experiences now influence his push for getting jobs for all Floridians.

He concludes the spot saying, “I want people to have the same shot I had.”

No surprise, the Florida Democratic Party isn’t buying the Republican governor’s opening salvo.

“Rick Scott wants Floridians to think he’s on their side, when in fact he has spent his whole career rigging the system so that only he and his special interest friends will profit,” said Florida Democratic Party spokesman Joshua Karp.

Scott’s ad is here:



Awake the State plans opening-day rallies around Florida

Friday, February 28th, 2014 by John Kennedy

While Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers open the 2014 Legislature on Tuesday, rallies are planned for more than a dozen cities across the state, with Democratic-leaning groups blasting Republican leaders for the priorities set in Tallahassee.

Lake Worth’s John Prince Park is the site of the Palm Beach County “Awake the State” rally, planned to begin at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

“Average Floridians are fed up with Tallahassee politicians balancing the budget on the backs of hard-working families,” said Mark Ferrulo of Progress Florida, a St. Petersburg-based activist organization. “We will continue to fight Rick Scott and the tea party until we see these anti-middle class policies changed.”

A day before the session begins, similar themes are expected to be sounded at a “Moral Monday” demonstration planned at the state Capitol and led by the NAACP of Florida, unions and other groups.

The Awake the State movement has been around a few years. In 2011, organizers held two demonstrations, before and after Scott’s inaugural session that was marked by changes to the state’s public pension fund, tougher abortion laws, and a reduction in the days available for early voting, reversed last year by lawmakers.

Florida justices approve medical marijuana amendment for ballot

Monday, January 27th, 2014 by John Kennedy

The Florida Supreme Court in a split decision ruled Monday that voters can decide this fall on whether to legalize medical marijuana, rejecting arguments from the state’s Republican leaders that the proposed ballot measure is unconstitutionally flawed.

The 4-3 ruling also has implications for the governor’s race this fall. Republican Gov. Rick Scott opposes allowing Floridians to obtain prescriptions for pot use while Democrats Charlie Crist and Nan Rich are supporting the proposed amendment.

Justices were asked to rule whether the proposed language of the citizens’ initiative meets constitutional standards. Opponents, who included most of the state’s Republican leadership, argued that the proposal involved more than one subject, confused voters, or made them think they are endorsing something they’re not.

Justices said the measure passed muster.

“We conclude that the proposed amendment has a logical and natural oneness of purpose—namely, whether Floridians want a provision in the state constitution authorizing the medical use of marijuana, as determined by a licensed Florida physician, under Florida law,” the court majority wrote.

Justices Barbara Pariente, Fred Lewis, Peggy Quince and James Perry ruled in favor of the amendment. Chief Justice Ricky Polston and Justices Charles Canady and Jorge Labarga wrote the measure should be struck from the ballot.

Twenty states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the use of marijuana for treatment of a variety of medical conditions, including cancer, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease and epilepsy.

Eleven of the states have enacted such laws through ballot measures, similar to that promoted in Florida by the organization, United for Care.

Fla Dem chief says Scott “tone deaf” on jobless website woes

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 by John Kennedy

Florida Democrats lashed out Thursday at Rick Scott over continuing problems with the state’s website for unemployment benefits, saying the governor has ducked responsibility for getting needed dollars to out-of-work Floridians.

The U.S. Labor Department interceded last weekend, ordering the state to pay benefits to anyone whose case has been under review for more than a week. But Democrats said it was a shame that it took federal action to ease problems that have occurred since the CONNECT website was launched in mid-October.

“Gov. Scott is tone deaf to the needs of Floridians,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant in a conference call with reporters.

House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale said, “If these were people writing $3,000 campaign checks, I’m sure their needs would not go unmet.”

The Scott administration has blamed web designer, Deloitte Consulting LLP for most of the problems with the $63 million system. Deloitte has crafted similar systems in Massachusetts and California that were plagued by similar foul-ups and delays.

Another vendor, Capgemini, has been brought in to help resolve Florida’s problems. Last week, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity executive director Jesse Panuccio told a Senate panel that as many as 60,000 Floridians may be in the “adjudication” status now subject to the longest delays but who could now get relief following the federal action.

“We are encouraged by this progress,’ Panuccio said late Wednesday of the go-ahead for payments. “However, DEO remains committed to holding Deloitte accountable and needs the vendor to deliver the technical fixes.”


Crist says Lopez-Cantera’s problem as LG: “He’s with the wrong guy”

Thursday, January 16th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Crist works crowd at Tallahassee fund-raiser

Democrat Charlie Crist said Thursday that Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s selection of Carlos Lopez-Cantera as running mate will do little to change voters’ perception of his rival.

“Carlos is a fine fellow, but he’s with the wrong guy,” Crist said, standing on the steps of the Parks & Crump law firm in Tallahassee, before ducking indoors for a fund-raiser in his honor.

“This race is about Gov. Scott and Gov. Scott has disappointed Floridians with education, the environment, with ethics, with so many things,” Crist added. “He’s the top of the ticket and that at the end of the day is what the race is all about.”

Crist answered reporters’ questions for about 15 minutes outside the firm, which drew national recognition for representing the family of Trayvon Martin, the black teenager shot in 2012 by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Sanford.

Daryl Parks, one of the firm’s principals, said he had been a Crist supporter even when the former governor was a Republican. Among the two-dozen Tallahasseeans mingling at the fund-raiser: Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant.

Crist on Thursday said Floridians are ready for a change at the top. While Scott is poised to launch a campaign that could top $100 million, Crist said he has a more modest strategy.

“To me it’s one person at a time, looking people in the eye and saying I’m running for governor to try to serve you again because I’m disappointed,” Crist said. “My  heart is broken for educators, for people who care about the environment, the economy and the great job opportunities we should be having in the Sunshine State. That’s what this is really about. The future.”

Crist also dismissed the steady drumbeat coming from the state GOP, which casts Scott as the architect of an economic turnaround needed because of his predecessor’s disastrous leadership.

“It was a global economic meltdown and the notion that anyone person, let alone any one governor brought that on is absurd,” Crist said. “It’s laughable.”


In Crist v. Scott contest, fund-raising so far is no contest

Monday, December 2nd, 2013 by John Kennedy

A key money-raiser from Charlie Crist’s Republican days tipped his hat last week after a political committee backing Crist’s Democratic bid for governor topped $1.2 million in contributions in its first month.

“I think Charlie’s done very, very well in a short period of time,” Tallahassee lobbyist and Republican fundraiser Brian Ballard said of Crist.

“I think the realities are, though, that he is up against probably the best fundraiser in Florida history in Rick Scott,” Ballard added.

Indeed, while the Charlie Crist For Florida committee had an impressive November debut, the committee supporting Republican Gov. Scott’s re-election, called Let’s Get To Work, collected more than $5.8 million during the month.

Scott spent $73 million of his family’s money to get elected in 2010, but he’s been raising money from others this time around. The nearly $25 million that Let’s Get To Work has raised since Scott took office does not include any money from Scott or his wife’s trust fund, which were the main suppliers of his 2010 cash.

Scott’s November haul came from more than 400 contributors. The Crist committee had 45 donors in its first month.

Full story here:


Sheldon challenging Bondi for Attorney General on “character” issue

Monday, October 21st, 2013 by John Kennedy

A former top deputy under Bob Butterworth, Florida’s last Democratic attorney general, announced Monday that he will challenge Republican Pam Bondi next year.

George Sheldon, who recently stepped down as an assistant secretary in the Obama administrations’ Health and Human Services Dept., said he plans to return “character” to the attorney general’s office.

“Taking on predatory lenders, human traffickers, and those who engage in deceptive practices is the job of the Attorney General…not working full time trying to deny health insurance to children and anyone with preexisting conditions,” Sheldon said.

“This race is about character.  Who has the experience and character to use the office of attorney general for general good rather than as a personal, political, partisan platform,” he added.

Bondi spearheaded the lawsuit brought by two-dozen states unsuccessfully seeking to have the Affordable Care Act declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.  She also recently caught heat for rescheduling a planned execution because it conflicted with a fund-raiser heralding the kickoff of her re-election campaign.

Sheldon served as Florida’s Department of Children & Families secretary under then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist. Crist, now a Democrat, is likely to run for governor and share next year’s ballot with Sheldon.

Sheldon earlier was deputy attorney general under Butterworth and is a former state representative. He sought the nomination for attorney general in 2002, finishing third behind current Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. Dyer lost to Crist that year.

Bondi’s campaign said the incumbent was ready for the challenge.

“As Florida’s Attorney General, Pam Bondi has fought hard to defend and protect the people by making Florida a zero tolerance state for pill mills, taking on human trafficking, and pursuing consumer relief from both, mortgage and Medicaid fraud, ” said Pablo Diaz, Bondi’s campaign manager.

“Pam Bondi and George Sheldon have very different credentials and points of view, and we welcome the opportunity to show the voters in Florida that they will have a clear choice between two distinctly different candidates.,” he added.


Dems blister Scott on first day of huddles with elections chiefs

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013 by John Kennedy

Florida Democrats marked the opening of discussions between state officials and county elections supervisors Thursday by condemning Gov. Rick Scott and fellow Republicans for what they call their latest attempt at voter suppression.

“They are going to use every tool at their disposal,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, who is chair of the Democratic National Committee. “It’s another example of how Rick Scott and his Republican friends can’t win elections on their merits.”

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner was scheduled to meet Thursday in Panama City with elections supervisors from the Panhandle as part of the agency’s revived effort to remove noncitizens and other ineligible voters from the state’s elections rolls. The state has called the review, Project Integrity.

Detzner has scheduled roundtables with county supervisors today through Oct. 9 to draw input on how to proceed. The Oct. 9 hearing is expected to draw supervisors from South Florida and is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. at the Broward County Governmental Center.

Democrats, though, say the administration’s pre-election year push unfairly targets minority voters who tend to vote for Democratic candidates. Wasserman Schultz pointed out that President Obama carried 71 percent of the Hispanic vote and 95 percent of the black vote in Florida in last year’s election.

Minority and voting rights groups earlier this month called on Scott to drop the review of voter rolls, saying the database the state intends to use is flawed.

Scott plans to use the U.S. Department of Homeland Security SAVE list — the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements — list to conduct the review. Several county election supervisors already have raised concerns about the accuracy of the database, saying it may not accurately reflect the voting eligibility of many recent immigrants.

Relying on another database, Scott last year attempted to remove noncitizens, initially disclosing a pool of 182,000 names of potential noncitizens later reduced to a list of 2,600. Those named were sent to election supervisors, who found many were in fact eligible voters.

In the end, the list of possible noncitizen voters shrank to 198. Elections officials found that about 40 had voted illegally.

A Public Policy Polling survey released this week showed Scott drawing his lowest approval ratings in Florida from Hispanic and black voters. The poll showed expected Florida Democratic candidate Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor, leading Scott by a 12-point margin if they faced off next year.

Crist draws overwhelming support from black voters and tops Scott by 12 percentage points among Hispanic voters, the poll showed.

Pafford looks a lock on Democratic leadership post

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013 by John Kennedy

West Palm Beach Democrat Mark Pafford looks certain to be elected incoming leader of Florida’s House Democrats after a one-time contender for the post announced Tuesday that she was no longer a candidate.

Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, said in a statement that, “I believe it is in the best interest of the caucus,” that Pafford be chosen when Democrats reconvene Wednesday to select a leader for the 2014-16 term.

Democrats voted 24-17, with three members absent, last night to remove Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, as incoming leader.

Rouson defeated Jones by two votes in February for the leadership post, after the first round of balloting ended in a tie. Rouson, however, ran afoul of a majority of his colleagues and state party officials by establishing a fund-raising committee without the knowledge of Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant, a move many viewed as deceptive.

Pafford submitted a letter to the House Clerk’s Office early Wednesday declaring his candidacy for the top post. With Jones throwing her support his way, Pafford has risen as a consensus candidate.

Justices to decide whether lawmakers must talk about redistricting

Monday, September 16th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Florida’s ruling Republican legislators should be required to testify about whether they violated state law by secretly getting advice from party consultants before drawing new political boundaries, the Supreme Court was told Monday.

Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte, attorney for the League of Women Voters of Florida, said that there is no “legislative privilege” which shields lawmakers from giving depositions in lawsuits looking to overturn at least portions of the state’s congressional and state Senate maps approved during last year’s redistricting.

“We have great pride in being an open government state,” D’Alemberte told reporters after an almost hourlong argument before the high court. “If you now can’t get to what the Legislature did…what does that do to the core of our principles about open government. I see this as important on several different levels.”

But Raoul Cantero, a former state Supreme Court justice now representing the Legislature in the case, said that Florida, like all states across the country, protect lawmakers from being forced to testify about the subjective thought process that went into passing legislation.

While Republican leaders have surrendered more than 30,000 documents as public records in the lawsuits underway, the court should not now demand that legislators testify about their actions, Cantero said.

“No court in the country has ever ordered that a legislator testify about the legislative process,” Cantero said following arguments. “If the court were to order depositions in this case, they’d be the first court in this country to do so. We just want (justices) to do what every other state has done.”


Scott touts Fla’s turnaround, but his inbox tells another tale

Monday, August 26th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Rick Scott’s early-stage reelection campaign is pivoting almost exclusively around Florida’s economy, with the governor finding ways big and small this summer to tout what he calls the state’s “turnaround.”

Scott last week promoted job growth before corporate titans, addressing a Wal-Mart manufacturing summit in Orlando and later, business leaders gathered at The Breakers in Palm Beach.

But while he was out stumping, Scott’s email in-box told another story.

Several voters sent terse replies to the thousands of electronic newsletters his office blasts out highlighting the state’s economy under the theme, “It’s Working.”

“Really? I’m not. Thanks to you,” wrote Angela Hawkes, 40, of Brandon, who last year lost her $73,000-a-year job as an account executive for a credit union and is still looking for work.

Hawkes later told The Palm Beach Post that anger and frustration finally prompted her to write the governor.

“I think the rebound is overplayed,” she said. “Things are getting slightly better. But too many people are still underemployed and underpaid.”

Long plagued by lousy approval ratings, Scott will win re-election only if, unlike Hawkes, Floridians feel warmed by the state’s recovering economy and credit him with providing the spark, analysts said.

Mileposts like the state’s monthly consumer-confidence survey point to a wary public. The latest report is due Tuesday.

Full story here:


Dems launch digital blast of Scott

Thursday, July 25th, 2013 by John Kennedy

The Florida Democratic Party has launched a low-budget, online campaign against Gov. Rick Scott — slapping at his performance and policies in newspaper web ads and on social media sites.

The centerpiece of the effort is a website, that blisters Scott for cuts in public education, rising university tuition, immigration and alleged cronyism at Citizens Insurance Corp., the state-run insurer.

“It’s a way for us to reach millions of grassroots activists across the state,”  said Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arceneaux in a conference call Thursday with reporters. “It gets the real word out about Rick Scott.”

The summer-before-election-year effort has a partisan parallel.  The Florida Republican Party’s relentless, ‘This Day in Crist-ory’ effort features daily e-mails which highlight the then-and-now policy stances of Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor turned Democrat who is now seen as an almost certain Scott re-election rival.

Republicans also have a website to ridicule Crist:



Scott finishes with a flourish — vetoing final bills before him

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott vetoed Tuesday the final three bills sent to him by the 2013 Florida Legislature, rejecting proposals that would have expanded the authority of obscure special districts, including one in Palm Beach County.

The South Indian River Water Control District measure (HB 855),  sponsored by fellow Republican Rep. Pat Rooney of West Palm Beach, ran afoul of Scott because it would have let district managers spend tax dollars on playground equipment. Scott said that’s a role usually played by cities or counties.

“The bill’s expansion of the district’s authority allows multiple local governments to provide the same or similar services, resulting in duplicative taxation and an increased cost of living for families in Palm Beach County,” Scott said in his veto message.

The other measures vetoed by Scott (HBs 1009, 1281) involved giving more authority to local districts serving Indian River County, Hendry and Lee counties.

Scott’s action was reminiscent of his veto of the only explicit fee increase approved by the Republican-led Legislature: a $10 boost in the cost of buying the $15 wildflower specialty license tag.  Scott, who is seeking re-election next year, clearly is wary of being accused by Democratic opponents of waffling on taxes.

“Although buying a specialty license plate is voluntary, Floridians wishing to demonstrate their support for our state’s natural beauty would be subjected to the cost increases sought by this bill,” Scott said in stamping out the tag hike.

Democrats use new Kids Count data against Scott

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Florida Democrats are using the newly released 2013 Kids Count report as a weapon against Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

The data from 2011 contained in the report compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation showed that despite an economy then beginning to show signs of recovery, Florida still hovered near the bottom of state rankings for child welfare.

The state ranked 38th for overall child well-being, with its highest nationwide mark being 35th in education.

In economic well-being, Florida thudded to 45th place in the annual rankings.

Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant used the numbers — and his improving, but still struggling job approval ratings in a new Quinnipiac University poll — against Florida’s governor.

“He campaigned as a businessman who would use his experience as a CEO to govern,”  Tant said. “Well, what corporation would
rehire a CEO whose performance places him in the bottom 10 percent?”

At the state level, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts rank highest for overall child well-being, while Nevada, Mississippi and New Mexico rank lowest.

Democrats stinging Scott for ‘shell game’ on tuition

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Florida Democrats are taking a swipe at Republican Rick Scott over the governor’s opposition to college and university tuition increases — coming after two years of tuition hikes and higher education budget cuts on his watch.

With a little bit of PhotoShop, Democrats are mocking Scott as attempting to play a shell game with voters. For his part, Scott is looking to become the first Florida governor in two decades to claim he stopped rising tuition. But a 1.7 percent automatic cost-of-living, tuition increase set to go into effect stands in his way.

Next week, the State University System’s Board of Governors is set to approve budgets for the state’s 12 public universities.

Whether the board, whose membership includes a majority of Scott appointees for the first time, insists that schools’ offset the increase by reducing current tuition, will be one of the critical subtexts of the meeting.

Florida Dems continue to bring heat on Scott over driver’s license veto

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Florida Democrats continued Wednesday to bring the heat on Gov. Rick Scott for vetoing legislation aimed at making it easier for children of undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers’ licenses.

Several Orlando-area House and Senate Democrats gathered outside the county courthouse to blast the Republican governor for what they see as a backward step on immigration.

“This bill would have helped the diverse communities of Central Florida,” said Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando. “The governor missed an opportunity to embrace the Floridians of today.”

Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, also said that Scott’s action was in sharp contrast to the approach of the Obama administration with its support for the so-called Dream Act aimed at creating an eventual path to citizenship for undocumented residents.

“The Dream Act driver’s license bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support,” Soto said, of the measure approved 115-2 in the House and 36-0 in the Senate. “It passed because we as a legislature understand these young Floridians receiving deferred action require a driver’s license to pursue the American Dream.

“Scott’s veto yesterday flew in the face of this fundamental belief, and has effectively denied this opportunity for thousands of young Hispanics, Haitians, and other immigrants legally here in our great state,” Soto said.

Scott is likely to draw strongest support for his action from conservative groups already wary of federal efforts to ease sanctions against illegal immigrants. The 2012 elections, marked by the Republican Party’s struggle to attract minority voters, seemed to soften the GOP-ruled Legislature’s stance on the issue.

But Scott held firm.

In his veto, Scott said the bill’s reliance on an untested federal policy was alarming. In June 2012, the Obama administration said children brought illegally to the country would not be subject to deportation under most circumstances. But Scott said standard that doesn’t carry the authority of law.

Florida already allows immigrants legally allowed to work the opportunity to receive temporary drivers’ licenses. For now, Scott said that was enough.

In his veto letter, Scott wrote, “Although the Legislature may have been well-intentioned in seeking to expedite the process to obtain a temporary driver license, it should not have been done by relying on a federal government policy adopted without legal basis.”



Scott steps into immigration debate with veto

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Rick Scott vetoed legislation Tuesday that would have allowed children of undocumented immigrants to get Florida drivers’ licenses, a move likely to rattle the governor’s support within the state’s Hispanic community while bolstering his backing from conservative groups.

The measure (HB 235) had sailed easily through a Republican-controlled Legislature, which in previous years had opposed similar steps toward embracing children of those in the country illegally.

The House approved the bill this spring 115-2; the Senate 36-0, a sign to many that Florida Republicans were looking to distance themselves from the hardline themes of the 2012 elections.

Scott, however, said the bill’s reliance on a newly adopted policy of the Obama administration was alarming.

In June 2012, the administration said children brought illegally to the country would not be subject to deportation under most circumstances.

Florida already allows immigrants legally allowed to work the opportunity to receive temporary drivers’ licenses. For now, Scott said that was enough.

In his veto letter, Scott wrote, “Although the Legislature may have been well intentioned in seeking to expedite the process to obtain a temporary driver license, it should not have been done by relying on a federal government policy adopted without legal basis.”

Florida Democrats lashed out at Scott.

“Rick Scott continues to alienate and discriminate against thousands of undocumented immigrants,” said Florida Democratic Party spokesman Joshua Karp. “Instead of joining the legislature’s near-unanmous consensus around HB 235, Gov. Scott imposed his rigid ideology on Floridians — to the detriment of the young immigrants who are Florida’s future.”

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