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Scott’s longtime spokesman heads to Fla GOP

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 by John Kennedy

One of Gov. Rick Scott’s longest-serving advisers — communications chief Brian Burgess — is heading across town to the Florida Republican Party.

Burgess will be replaced by Melissa Sellers, a former spokeswoman for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Scott and Burgess go way back — working together on Conservatives for Patients Rights, the political committee the governor set up as a private citizen to work unsuccessfully on derailing the Affordable Care Act.  Burgess was by Scott’s side as the former health care executive became a longshot candidate for governor in Florida in 2010.

After Scott spent $72 million of his own money pursuing his first elected office, Burgess emerged as prime spokesman for the governor.

The Burgess move to the party has been talked of for months.

But while marking the end of an era — albeit brief — on the Capitol’s first floor, it also likely carries some larger symbolism, as well.  Scott and the party are now effectively one as he heads toward a 2014 re-election campaign.

Scott acknowledged as much in his parting comments about Burgess.

“From the very beginning, Brian has been by my side as a strategic and political adviser, a trusted aide, and loyal member of my team,” Scott said.  “His strong work ethic, strategic advice and leadership will be missed inside the administration, but he isn’t going far.  In his new role, he will continue to help tell the story to Floridians and the nation about what we’re accomplishing every day.”  

For her part, Sellers already began spinning in Florida last week — directing communication for regional media at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Before that, she was Jindal’s press secretary during his gubernatorial campaign and played the same role in the governor’s office – leaving last December.

Seller’s move across the Gulf shouldn’t be that much of a scenery change. After all, she was around Jindal for a couple hurricanes, the BP oil spill in 2010, and several budget shortfalls, according to Scott’s announcement on her hiring.

Scott welcomed her arrival. “We have an ambitious agenda to create more jobs and opportunity for the hard working people of Florida and while we have made important progress already, there is a lot of work still ahead of us,” Scott said.

 

Analysts puzzle over jobless claims from BP spill

Thursday, July 14th, 2011 by John Kennedy

When the Florida Panhandle was staggered by the effects of last summer’s BP oil spill, hotels, restaurants and other employers along the coast laid-off workers and braced for economic calamity.

But state analysts looking to put a price on how much financial damage Florida absorbed remained puzzled Thursday by a recurring number. The state’s employment office, the Agency for Workforce Innovation, reports that only 735 unemployment claims have been directly linked to the oil spill.

Tom Clendenning, AWI’s chief-of-staff, told the state’s revenue estimating conference that 7,778 workers also were let go last year by the same employers who laid-off the 778. A survey is now being conducted to learn whether the 778 lost jobs should be increased — with the bill going to BP. 

Clendenning said that $2.3 million in unemployment benefits have been paid out related to the oil spill. Estimators are trying to determine how much in taxes and fees Florida taxpayers lost last year, in addition to benefit payouts.

One item estimators took off the table Thursday was lost revenue in traffic tickets, due to lost traffic. Estimators seemed to think that was too tough to quantify.

BP last week asked the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, which oversees claims, to reduce damage payments because the British oil giant said the region’s tourist economy has recovered and fisheries are back to work.

Florida U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, and Republican Marco Rubio are among officials disputing BP’s stance, saying there is too much uncertainty to claim the spill poses no future financial risk for coastal communities.

BP said it has paid Florida cities and counties about $10.6 million for revenue losses, in addition to millions more for cleanup, expenses and tourist promotion.

Scott review of BP claims czar mixed

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Eight months after BP claims czar Ken Feinberg took over the $20 billion victim claim fund, reviews are mixed as to how the brash Boston lawyer is handling the process.

Gov. Rick Scott, in Destin to pitch tourism in the region hammered by last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig blast that sparked the nation’s worst oil spill in history, said he met with Feinberg last week while in Washington.

“The positive is he’s opened up more claims offices here and more feet on the ground and more people here talking to them. The negative is there’s a lot of people that still haven’t been paid,” Scott said standing outside the Lucky Snapper restaurant in Destin.

Feinberg, who’s paid out $3.8 billion to businesses and individuals in the Gulf States since taking over the Gulf Coast Claims Facility in August. That includes $1.5 billion to Florida victims.

Feinberg’s processed about 70 percent of the more than 500,000 claims filed. But many of those claims have yet to be paid.

Scott said he and Attorney General Pam Bondi set March 31 goals for Feinberg’s processing of Florida claims.

But nearly a month later, Scott couldn’t say whether Feinberg met his benchmarks.

“He’s given us how he thinks he’s doing,” Scott said .

Scott said he and Bondi’s staff are reviewing Feinberg’s results “to see what improvements he needs to make to make sure that we get everyone paid.”

Scott said he believes Feinberg is open to suggestions.

“He doesn’t want pressure from either attorney general or me. So what we’ve got to do is keep telling him what our needs are and just make sure he does the right thing,” Scott said.

The governor refrained from giving Feinberg a grade yet but promised “I’ll be telling him exactly how I think he’s doing.”

Bondi, Scott mulling oil rig lawsuit as deadline nears

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi are still undecided about whether to join a federal lawsuit against the owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig as next week’s April 20 deadline to file approaches.

“What we’re doing is we’re looking at our options. We’ll make the right decision. We’re exploring our options. We’re looking at it,” Scott said this morning.

“Right now we’re reviewing all of our options,” Bondi echoed.

Alabama has already joined the lawsuit, as have some Florida school districts and other local governments, along with businesses and individuals impacted by last year’s massive oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Lawyers involved in the case say the state has nothing to lose by joining in except the possibility of big bucks from Transocean, the rig owner, and other companies involved in the disaster, including BP.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in Louisiana is overseeing the case to determine how much fault BP, Halliburton and the other companies involved in the oil disaster are liable for. A trial is set for late February.

Read BP exec’s Facebook Q and A

Friday, March 18th, 2011 by Dara Kam

BP exec Dave Rainey, head of the oil giant’s Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, held his third Facebook chat yesterday.

Rainey’s fielded questions ranging from whether the dispersants used after the April 20th Deepwater Horizon blow-out caused acid rain (he says no), what’s up with tar mats still found on beaches, including Pensacola, and oil on the Gulf of Mexico ocean floor.

The first question dealt with dozens of dead infant dolphins who washed ashore along the Gulf Coast – a six-fold increase from previous years.

“Why are the dolphins dead?” Down Hiller, who asked the first question, wanted to know.

Read Rainey’s response after the jump and the entire transcript here. (more…)

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