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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott's net worth climbs $30 million in 2016

Florida Gov. Rick Scott

Associated Press

Florida Gov. Rick Scott

Rick Scott APFlorida Gov. Rick Scott saw his net worth increase by more than $30 million last year as his blind trust rose in value, a reversal of fortunes that had seen him lose $27 million the year before.

Scott, a two-term Republican and former businessman, filed his annual financial disclosure form Friday showing that his net worth was more than $149 million at the end of 2016, a 25 percent increase from the previous year.

Scott, a former hospital executive, has maintained most of his assets in the Gov. Richard L. Scott 2014 Qualified Blind Trust. The law allows public officials to create a blind trust in lieu of revealing their assets on a financial disclosure form. But by shielding the investments from the governor’s direct control, it also shields from the public any information about how the governor increased his wealth.

The governor’s blind trust is managed by a third party — a company that includes the governor’s former personal advisor. The governor reported that in 2016 his blind trust rose in value from $100 million to $130 million, but the governor also drew less income from the trust last year than he did in 2014. …

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Trump's commission awaits Florida's voter information

Trump and Kris Kobach, the vice chairman of the voting commission


Trump and Kris Kobach, the vice chairman of the voting commission

From the Associated Press:

Florida officials say they are considering a request for voter information from President Donald Trump's commission investigating alleged voter fraud in the 2016 election. The letter was from Kris Kobach, the vice chairman of the commission and Kansas' Republican secretary of state.

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday said he has not seen the letter that had been sent to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner on Wednesday. But a spokeswoman for Detzner said the agency was reviewing the request. 

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity asked election officials across the country for voter information, including names, political party affiliation and voter history. The request included asking for the last four digits of voters' Social Security numbers. 

Democratic officials in some states say they will not comply with the request because it's based on false fraud accusations. Trump has claimed — without evidence — that between 3 million and 5 million people voted illegally last year.

Gwen Graham, who is running for governor, made her position clear.




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Paul Renner wins speaker's race for 2022

State Reps. Paul Renner (left) and Chris Sprowls.


State Reps. Paul Renner (left) and Chris Sprowls.

Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, has won the race for speaker of the Florida House in the 2022-2024 term.

Renner, who was elected to the House in a 2014 special election, beat out Tampa Rep. Jamie Grant for the designation as speaker in a first round of voting by their fellow freshman members of the House, the Times-Union's Tia Mitchell reports.

Current House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, confirmed the news on Twitter.

Of course, his speakership depends on Renner remaining in office through the 2022 election and on Republicans retaining their majority in the chamber. He would be speaker during a crucial redistricting session, when House and Senate leaders have the ability to influence the map of districts that elect them.

Renner is slated to follow Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, in the job.

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Mika Brzezinski responds to Trump: 'It is unbelievably alarming that this president is so easily played'

Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski responded Friday to Donald Trump’s Twitter attack, saying, “It's been fascinating and frightening and really sad for our country.”

She surmised Trump’s “face-lift” remark about her at Mar-a-Lago was due to mocking of a fake Time magazine cover.

“It is unbelievably alarming that this president is so easily played, he is easily played by a cable news host," Brzezinski said. "What does that say to our allies? What does that say to our enemies?"

Joe Scarborough said Trump had changed. "The guy who is in the White House now is not the guy we know."

.@morningmika: "It’s been fascinating and frightening and really sad for our country" #morningjoe

Our full discussion with @morningmika & @JoeNBC: #morningjoe

The president's remarks brought widespread condemnation, but some pointed fingers at the media, including Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz.

"Joe and Mika dish it out," he wrote on Twitter. "I know they can take it, too. It's part of the entertainment business they are in, sadly."

And Trump was back on Twitter this morning as well: …

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Jimmy Patronis sworn in as Florida's new chief financial officer

Steve Bousquet - Times

TALLAHASSEE -- Jimmy Patronis took the oath of office Friday morning as Florida's new chief financial officer in Gov. Rick Scott's Capitol office. As Scott looked on, Chief Justice Jorge Labarga of the Florida Supreme Court administered the oath of office.

Calling the appointment "an incredible honor," Patronis, 45, was accompanied by his wife, Katie, and their two sons, Theo and Johnny. A Panama City restaurateur, former Republican state House member and former member of the Public Service Commission, Patronis becomes the state's fourth CFO. He succeeds Jeff Atwater, who resigned after six-and-a-half years in office to take a senior administrative position at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

"I really look forward to being effective and efficient and keeping up the same standards and values that CFO Atwater has brought to the job," Patronis said. "Greater transparency, greater efficiency and attacking fraud in our insurance and just doing what (I) can to ensure that the economy and transparency of our state grows." …

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Here's how much money school districts will have to share with charters under new state law

Florida’s school districts will give up about $96 million next year in limited taxpayer funding for renovations and maintenance projects, because they’ll now be forced to give those dollars to privately managed charter schools.

Miami Herald file photo

Florida’s school districts will give up about $96 million next year in limited taxpayer funding for renovations and maintenance projects, because they’ll now be forced to give those dollars to privately managed charter schools.

Florida’s 650 charter schools will see an extra $96.3 million coming their way in 2017-18, thanks to a controversial provision in a sweeping education bill Gov. Rick Scott signed into law earlier this month that forces school districts to hand over some of their local tax dollars.

An aspect of HB 7069 that most concerned school district administrators and locally elected school boards requires districts to give a cut of their taxpayer funding to privately managed charter schools for use on construction and maintenance projects.

RELATED: “Here’s how the controversial new schools law will impact South Florida”

Data requested by the Herald/Times and provided by the Florida House now provides a look at the statewide impact of that fiscal policy.

The $96 million equates to nearly 7 percent of the $1.4 billion statewide that county school districts would have had in total to spend next year, after accounting for required debt payments off the top.

The state’s most populous school districts — Miami-Dade and Broward counties — will take the biggest hits in terms of pure dollar amounts under the new sharing formula.

Full details here.

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Rick Scott's veto on technology bill: Good policy...or political payback?


Tampa Bay Times


The News Service of Florida had an interesting item about a legislative fight involving Gov. Rick Scott vetoing a House bill pushed by Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill.

Set aside the broader discussion about whether the state's technology should be centralized or managed by the individual agencies. (Scott sided with what seems to be a broader consensus that centralization was a good thing and vetoed a bill that would have made that more difficult). But is it any coincidence that Scott vetoed a bill pushed by Ingoglia?

As everyone knows, there's not too much love between these two. In 2015, Ingoglia became the chair of the Republican Party of Florida, ousting Scott's choice, the then-incumbent chair Leslie Dougher. It was a bruising battle where Scott spent a lot of political capital, to no avail. 

Ingoglia was also part of the House this year that beat up on Scott's prized agency, Enterprise Florida.

"I really, truly think that the governor is underestimating how many people do not like corporate welfare," Ingoglia said during the session. 

Is this bad history a coincidence? Or, was it a hard reminder of what Omar Little once said.

"If you come at the king, you best not miss." …

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Miami Beach mayor mulling run for governor will do bus tour

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

Miami Herald

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

From our friends at the Miami Herald:

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a Democrat seriously considering a run for governor, is about to hop on a bus and scoot around Florida to get to know folks across the state. But the millionaire entrepreneur hasn't formally launched a gubernatorial bid yet.

Consider it a campaign bus tour that he insists is not a campaign bus tour.

Levine's been tapped by Sirius/XM to make a five-part audio documentary called "A Day In The Sun." Billed as an encounter with everyday people who live in the Sunshine State, the documentary will be recorded during Levine's road trip July 10-14. He'll start in Miami and head north, stopping in areas like Tarpon Springs, Orlando, Daytona Beach, St. Augustine and the Panhandle.  

"Along the way he’ll speak with Floridians of diverse backgrounds and interests - from alligator wranglers to farmers to NASA engineers - exploring the rich tapestry of everyday people who help make the state unique," reads a press release from Sirius/XM. …

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Charlie Crist, Stephanie Murphy, Val Demings cross party lines on immigration

WASHINGTON - First-term Florida Reps. Charlie Crist, Stephanie Murphy and Val Demings were among 24 Democrats who voted Thursday for "Kate's Law," which calls for stronger penalties for deportees who re-enter the country.

Crist and Murphy represent swing districts, so a vote could carry re-election calculations. Demings is the former Orlando police chief.

Murphy on Thursday drew a Republican challenger in state Rep. Mike Miller. "This district should no longer be represented by someone whose vote is controlled by Nancy Pelosi and the ultra-left," he said in an announcement.

Background on the legislation here.

Crist in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times said: “Our number one job is to keep the American people safe, to take appropriate actions to prevent tragedies like the death of Kate Steinle. In the same vein, that’s why I also voted this afternoon against legislation punishing law enforcement who believe that being forced to police federal immigration laws would harm their ability to protect the communities they serve. …

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Florida members of Congress tell Trump to back off Atlantic drilling

WASHINGTON - A large, bipartisan contingent of the Florida House delegation has a firm message for President Donald Trump: Lay off plans for oil drilling in the Atlantic.

“Opening the Atlantic to seismic testing and drilling jeopardizes our coastal businesses, fishing communities, tourism, and our national security,” reads a letter signed by the Florida lawmakers and dozens of others. “It harms our coastal economies in the near term and opens the door to even greater risks from offshore oil and gas production down the road. Therefore, we implore you not to issue any permits for seismic airgun surveys for subsea oil and gas deposits in the Atlantic Ocean.”

The letter was sent to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and was signed by Florida Reps. John Rutherford, Darren Soto, Bill Posey, Alcee Hastings, Matt Gaetz, Charlie Crist, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Frederica Wilson, Brian Mast, Dennis Ross, Val Demings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Yoho, Kathy Castor, Francis Rooney, Al  Lawson, Ted Deutch, Ron DeSantis, Lois Frankel, Vern Buchanan and Stephanie Murphy.

The Trump administration announced in April it was exploring opening up the Atlantic for oil and gas exploration.

The letter (see below) was organized by Rutherford, R-Jacksonville, and Rep. Don Beyer, a Virginia Democrat.Full Story

DEO chief of staff appointed to be new Florida Lottery secretary

 Jim Poppell, the chief of staff for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, was appointed Thursday by Gov. Rick Scott to be the next Florida Lottery secretary.

Florida DEO

Jim Poppell, the chief of staff for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, was appointed Thursday by Gov. Rick Scott to be the next Florida Lottery secretary.

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday named a former executive with Florida Power & Light Co. and its parent company NextEra Energy to run the Florida Lottery.

Scott announced his appointment of Jim Poppell with a news release, praising Poppell’s most recent work as chief of staff for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

“During his time at DEO, Jim has helped provide Florida families and businesses with the support they need to succeed,” Scott said in a statement. “I am confident that Jim will continue the Lottery’s focus on fighting for students and achieving record sales to invest in our education system. I look forward to working with him to further support Florida students.”

Poppell will take over over as lottery secretary on July 10, Scott’s office said. He replaces Tom Delacenserie, who announced his resignation in late May to take a higher-paying position as the head of Kentucky’s state lottery.

David Mica, who has served as lottery chief of staff since 2016, has been serving as the interim secretary in the mean time. …

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Trump goes off on MSNBC's 'Psycho Joe' and 'Crazy Mika'

Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, right, host MSNBC's "Morning Joe" at NBC Studios in New York on April 14, 2010. President Donald Trump on Thursday assailed Brzezinski in unusually personal and vulgar terms, the latest of a string of escalating attacks by the president on the national news media.

Michael Nagle | New York Times

Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, right, host MSNBC's "Morning Joe" at NBC Studios in New York on April 14, 2010. President Donald Trump on Thursday assailed Brzezinski in unusually personal and vulgar terms, the latest of a string of escalating attacks by the president on the national news media.

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump this morning lashed out at the Morning Joe crew and worked in a Florida reference, a remarkable personal attack from a man who has been criticized for his treatment of women.

It apparently stems from the Wednesday edition of the cable news show, in which the hosts made fun of Trump's use of a fake Time magazine cover at Mar-a-Lago and his golf resorts. “That’s needy,” Mika Brzezinski said on air.

I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came.. Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!

.@morningmika: "Nothing makes a man feel better than making a fake cover of a mag about himself, lying every day and destroying the country"

Dianne Feinstein tells us Trump's attacks against @morningmika are "sexist," and beneath dignity of the presidency

Please just stop. This isn't normal and it's beneath the dignity of your office.


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Democratic ad: Adam Putnam is 'silent' on GOP health bill

Democrats are trying to attach Adam Putnam to the GOP’s unpopular plans to replace Obamacare.

The Democratic Governors Association has launched digital ads against Putnam, the Republican candidate for governor, accusing him of being silent on the legislation. The ad is shown on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

We've asked Putnam's campaign for a response.

UPDATE 2:30 p.m.: The campaign responds, while avoiding comment on the health care issue.

"Between a racially insensitive Party Chair and FBI investigations into one of their candidates, it's no surprise the Democrats and liberal DGA are desperate to change the story. It hasn't worked. Our campaign headquarters had exactly zero calls about their home cooked video attacking Adam Putnam's conservative values."

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Florida's death row population lower today than it was in 2005

The execution chamber at Florida State Prison

Department of Corrections

The execution chamber at Florida State Prison

With Florida's death penalty laws under sustained attack in the courts, the state has not executed an inmate in 18 months, and the number of inmates on death row keeps dropping.

Florida's death row population is now at its lowest level in more than a decade as courts continue to vacate death sentences and order new sentencings for convicted killers, in most cases as a direct result of the precedent-setting Timothy Hurst case that struck down the state's death penalty sentencing system as unconstitutional.

A total of 367 men and women reside on death row at Florida State Prison and Union Correctional Institution, down from 383 at the start of this year. By comparison, there were 369 death row inmates on June 30, 2005. In March of last year, the death row population was 389.

Since Jan. 1, the state Department of Correction says, 15 inmates have been removed from death row because of court decisions and a 16th, Wydell Evans, died while being transferred to a court hearing in Brevard County.  According to the state, these are among the inmates who have been transferred off death row this year: …

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Adam Putnam to tout lower weapons fee, before tax collectors

Adam Putnam

Octavio Jones - Times

Adam Putnam

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the leading Republican candidate for governor, is in Clearwater on Thursday for a "major announcement" with Pinellas County Tax Collector Charles Thomas.

The news is that Putnam, working with the state Legislature, got a reduction in the fee to apply for a concealed weapons license or a renewal license, and it's a piece of news that Putnam's office wanted to announce first.

Putnam's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services processes permit applications, but Floridians can file them with their local tax collector, who also accepts property tax payments and issues driver's licenses, vehicle registrations and car and truck titles.

Shortly before Putnam's office issued a media alert Wednesday, it alerted tax collectors in an email that said: "We ask that you refrain from sending your releases until after we send our release, as the news should first come from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. We’ll forward you all our release once it has gone out." (Tax collectors had nothing to do with the fee reduction, but they are elected officials, too). …

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