Rick Scott

Bill analysis, NSF-style

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The 2017 regular session yielded a pretty typical performance by Gov. Rick Scott’s veto pen when it came to House and Senate bills.

Scott vetoed 11 of the 241 bills passed in the session, above his seven-year average of 7.9 vetoed bills per regular session. In four of the seven years he has been in office, Scott has reached double-digit bill vetoes, with his high of 12 vetoed bills following the 2012 session.

His low was one bill vetoed following the 2014 session, when Scott was seeking re-election, and the Legislature passed 255 bills. The lone victim of his veto pen was a controversial bill that would have raised the speed limit to 75 mph on interstate highways and would have made speed-limit adjustments to other major roadways.

The 241 bills passed by the Legislature this year in the regular session is a dip in the 262 average during Scott’s tenure. The passed bills have ranged from a low of 227 bills in 2015, when the Legislature had a procedural meltdown in the final week, to a high of 283 passed bills in the 2013 session.

Posted by Lloyd Dunkelberger

Scott in Washington to lobby for health care changes

Screen Shot 2017-06-20 at 7.38.28 AMGov. Rick Scott is in Washington, D.C. today, meeting with Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, as he crusades to cut taxes from the Affordable Care Act.

Scott is to meet “with Congressional leaders to provide input on how to make the Senate’s healthcare bill better for Floridians,” the governor’s office announced Tuesday morning.

Scott will appear on FoxNews at 10:30 a.m., before holding a press conference in the Russell Senate Office Building at 12:40 p.m. today.

Scott, a former hospital executive who is expected to run for the U.S. Senate next year, announced Friday he intended to make the rounds in Washington to provide input on how to make the bill better.

“There seems to be a lot of people advocating for more government and higher costs in Washington and not a lot of people advocating on behalf of taxpayers,” Scott said in a release.

Congressional leaders seeking to replace President Barack Obama’s signature health care law want to repeal taxes imposed to pay for the plan. The Senate plan, as with a House proposal, would provide about $1 trillion in tax cuts that would go to corporations and high earners.

A report from the Congressional Budget Office released on Monday estimated the Republican-crafted U.S. Senate plan released last Thursday would leave 22 million individuals without health coverage by 2026.

Will Florida’s new CFO put down the seating chart?

patronis Florida’s next chief financial officer may not be seating the next table of four.

An emotional Jimmy Patronis — a former state lawmaker from Panama City who resigned his post on the Public Service Commission Gov. Rick Scott tapped him for the $128,972-a-year spot as Florida’s banker-in-chief — said Monday his phone has blown up as news of the appointment spread.

“I’ve gotten probably about 200 text messages over the last 24 hours,” Patronis said after Scott formally announced the appointment at Patronis’s Captain Anderson‘s Restaurant and Waterfront Market in Panama City. “And probably the most popular one is, ‘Does that mean I can’t contact you anymore to get a table at the restaurant?’ ”

Patronis, who will be sworn in Friday to replace Jeff Atwater, was an early political supporter of Scott’s in 2010.

That fact wasn’t missed by the Florida Democratic Party, which quickly blasted Scott’s selection of Patronis to replace Atwater, who stepped down to take a post at Florida Atlantic University, as “cronyism.”

Scott has used the dockside restaurant for a number of political events, including one of his “work days” back in 2011, when the governor was trying to personalize the issue of unemployment.

“He made me work really hard,” Scott said of Patronis on Monday. “He didn’t let me off the hook. He made sure I sold a dessert to everyone that was here.”

The Patronis family has deep ties in Panama City, where they have owned the popular Captain Anderson’s for five decades. The name is affixed throughout the community, including an elementary school on land donated by the family down the road from the restaurant.

Posted by Jim Turner

Play ball! Scott meets with MLB commish

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Gov. Rick Scott tweeted this picture from his meeting with Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred yesterday, prompting this response from @TimBoylesPhoto:

“he looks happy to be with you as the Pope was to be with @realDonaldTrump #ouch #sad.”

Scott’s tete-a-tete with the MLB commish comes as the Miami Marlins scout for new owners and the Tampa Bay Rays continue a drawn-out quest for a new stadium.

Meanwhile, Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby and All-Star Game will be held in Miami next month.

Scott’s meeting with Manfred was part of the governor’s economic development trip to the Northeast, which an “I-want-to-poach-your-jobs” stop in Connecticut.

What was on the major-league menu at yesterday’s meeting?

The governor’s office had this to say when The News Service of Florida asked if the talks involved the future of the Marlins and Rays:

“While in New York, Governor Scott had the opportunity to meet with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred about their commitment to Florida and baseball’s large impact on Florida’s economy.”

On June 13, Manfred expressed some optimism about the Tampa Bay stadium search during an interview on Siriius XM Fantasy Sports Radio.

“Hats off to the governments in St. Pete and Tampa. They have given Stu Sternberg, the owner of the Rays, the ability to look on either side of the causeway to find the site that’s best for the team,” Manfred said. “They have not been parochial in terms of whether it was going to be on the St. Pete side or the Tampa side. Again, I take that as a really positive development in terms of trying to move things forward in Tampa.”

— Jim Turner contributed to this post.

Morgan ready to sue state over smokable pot

budOrlando trial lawyer John Morgan appears prepared to make good on threats to sue the state over implementation of the constitutional amendment, which he bankrolled, that legalized marijuana for patients with debilitating medical conditions.

“Great Scott!! I’ll be filing my lawsuit for smoke as soon as it goes into law. Independence Day 🇺🇸 #NoSmokeIsAJoke,” Morgan (@JohnMorganESQ) promised on Twitter today.

Morgan’s tweet references a quote from Gov. Rick Scott, who pledged to sign into law a measure (SB 8A), passed by lawmakers during the special session earlier this month, that lays out the framework for the constitutional amendment, approved by more than 71 percent of voters in November.

Morgan has vowed to sue over the issue of whether patients should be able to smoke the marijuana treatment.

Despite Morgan’s threats, the proposal now awaiting Scott’s signature bans smoking of marijuana, but it does allow patients to vape marijuana products.

In a recent interview, Morgan said that’s not good enough.

“(Smoking) clearly was called for in the amendment, and so what they’ve done for me is allowed me to step back up on my soapbox and go get what the people of Florida wanted when they passed this bill with 71 percent,” Morgan, who is mulling a bid for governor next year, told The News Service of Florida  after the Legislature signed off on the proposal on June 9.

Scott gleeful about Georgia election as referendum on fellow Florida-man Trump

All of those who are completely over the Georgia special election can stop reading here.

But for the rest of us, here’s what Florida Gov. Rick Scott had to say about the face-off that was viewed by many to be a referendum on Scott’s pal, President Donald Trump.

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Appearing on FOX Business show Varney & Co. Wednesday, Scott echoed those hyping Republican Karen Handel’s victory in the most expensive congressional race in history.

Watch the latest video at video.foxbusiness.com

Handel’s 6th Congressional District win was a victory for Trump, Scott crowed.

“It shows you that it doesn’t matter how much money you have. If you have a bad message, you lose,” Scott, who spent at least $70 million of his own money in his 2010 gubernatorial bid, said.

 Trump’s message of “jobs and repealing and replacing Obamacare” — themes the Florida governor, mulling a run for the U.S. Senate next year, has hammered on — resonated with voters, Scott indicated.

Scott also tried to slip this week’s job-poaching trip to Connecticut into the conversation focused on national politics. And he also addressed the New Republic super-PAC, which he chairs, that seeks to rebrand the Republican Party in Trump’s image.

 “If you look at what we should be talking about, we ought to talk how Americans talk,” Scott said. “They’re not talking about liberal vs. conservative. They’re talking about, ‘I want an open government. I want choices. I want choices in my education. I want choices in my health care.’ That’s how Trump talked.”

 New Republican’s focus is on cutting regulations, targeting young voters and winning Hispanic voters.

Referring to the latter, Scott told FOX that Cubans in South Florida are “all on board” with the president’s Cuban policy introduced Friday in Miami. The new policy aims to reverse many of the actions of former President Barack Obama designed to open up thaw relations with the island country.

“The Cuban people know that you can’t help the Castro regime,” Scott said Wednesday. “It doesn’t work. There is nothing that Obama did that helped give freedom, democracy.”

Sunshine State boosts Moody’s bond rating for Seminoles

Moody’s has upgraded the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s bond ratings, thanks in part to improvements at its two Florida casinos and also to the tribe’s continued payments to the state for banked card games, including blackjack.

Guitar-Marquee-672x372The Seminoles have continued to make the payments even after a federal judge ruled last year that the state had breached a provision in a 2010 agreement that gave the tribe “exclusive” rights to offer the card games. State gambling regulators breached the exclusivity provision in the agreement, called a “compact,” by allowing pari-mutuel operators to conduct controversial “designated player” games, also known as “banked player” games.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled last fall that the tribe is entitled to continue running the games for the remainder of the 20-year compact. The provision allowing the banked card games expired in 2015, but the compact included language permitting the tribe to continue to operate the games if the Seminoles lost exclusivity.

Last week, Moody’s Investor Services upgraded the tribe’s existing term debt and bonds to Baa2 from Baa3, and its Special Obligation Bonds to Baa3 from Ba1.

The upgrade was based in part on the Seminoles’ investments in the tribe’s two biggest casinos — both in Florida — and its continued payments to the state, according to a press release issued by Moody’s Thursday.

“The one-notch upgrade of the Tribe’s ratings reflect Moody’s expectation of continued exceptionally strong credit metrics along with further and substantial investment in the Tribe’s two largest casinos that will help the Tribe maintain its dominant market position over the long-term,” Keith Foley, a Senior Vice President at Moody’s, said in a press release Thursday. “Even with the significant planned capital investment, the Tribe will be able to maintain very low leverage, at less than 2.0 times,” added Foley.

The tribe’s two “largest casinos” are the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, in Broward County, and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa, on the other side of the state.

The revamped bond rating also takes into consideration the tribe’s continued payments to the state — in excess of $150 million — for the card games, according to the press release.

“The upgrade also considers Moody’s favorable view of the Tribe’s decision to continue to make revenue payments to the State of Florida despite a ruling in the Tribe’s favor that entitles the Tribe under the existing compact, which expires in 2030, to withhold revenue share payments. The ruling is related to the State’s decision to allow others (other than another Indian tribe) to conduct banked card games. As a result of that lack of exclusivity, the Tribe is entitled under the existing compact to conduct banked card games at all of its 7 casinos through 2030 without having to share revenue with the State. Despite the ruling, the Tribe continues to make revenue payments to the State and has not offered banked card games beyond the original 5 facilities allowed by the compact,” the June 15 release reads.

The tribe was unable to strike a new deal with lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott during the regular session that ended in May. Scott and tribal leaders inked an agreement late in 2015, but the Legislature failed to give it the requisite approval.

Fitch Ratings also affirmed the Seminoles BBB rating last week.

The Seminoles’ “gaming division continues to experience steady, positive operating trends compared to more flat growth seen in other U.S. gaming markets,” Fitch noted in Thursday’s statement.

The Tribe and Seminole Gaming hailed the financial market news.

“The ratings upgrades, affirmations and strong new ratings are great news for the Seminole Tribe of Florida as we look toward a solid, stable future for the Tribe,” Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr. said in a statement. “It means our Tribal members, employees, customers, vendor partners and community residents can count on many good years ahead.”

Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen said, “These improved and renewed investment-grade ratings will save millions of dollars by helping to keep borrowing costs low. They will help Seminole Gaming to continue as one of the world’s most profitable gaming enterprises.”