TALLAHASSEE — The 2018 race for Florida governor will be about power — not just political power, but electric power.
The consensus front-runner for the Republican nomination for governor, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, has raised nearly $17 million so far, thanks in part to generous support from the state's biggest utility companies, including Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy....
10/16/17 Public Safety
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Monday declared a state of emergency in Alachua County, three days ahead of a scheduled speech at the University of Florida campus by the white nationalist Richard Spencer.
Scott has issued such declarations ahead of hurricanes and after tragedies, but this is thought to be the first time he has taken such an action ahead of a planned event.
Spencer's advocacy of a "white ethno-state" has mobilized his alt-right supporters and his many detractors who call him a racist. At past speeches, those camps have sparred, sometimes devolving into street brawls and arrests — most notably in Charlottesville, Va....
TALLAHASSEE — After Hurricane Irma ravaged Florida, an impatient Gov. Rick Scott ordered counties to remove debris, reopen roads and restore normalcy as fast as possible.
Yet as the costs of Irma's Category 4 fury are still being calculated, North Florida cities and counties hammered by Hurricane Matthew a year ago are still waiting to be paid for the cost of debris removal, road repair and police overtime....
TALLAHASSEE — Even as Florida attracts hundreds of new residents every day, the state's pool of active voters is actually shrinking.
This paradox is easily explained. All 67 counties must periodically scrub the voter roll to make it more accurate and to be sure voters live where they say. Counties can't do that close to an election, so they do it in non-election years.
Turns out, that's good news for Republicans and bad news for Democrats....
10/03/17 State Roundup
STARKE — Two days before his scheduled execution, Michael Lambrix decided he won't go quietly — not after 34 years on death row.
For an hour at Florida State Prison on Tuesday, the convicted murderer talked of life and death, his last meal and his upcoming funeral, and criticized a court system that he has long claimed ignored evidence that might spare his life in the deaths of Clarence Moore and Aleisha Bryant in 1983....
WASHINGTON — A day after he saw Hurricane Maria's terrible toll on Puerto Rico, Gov. Rick Scott told President Trump about it over lunch at the White House Friday as frustration mounted over the official response.
Scott's six-hour tour Thursday was dismissed as a photo opportunity by state Sen. Victor Torres, a Democrat whose Orlando-area district will soon welcome tens of thousands of hurricane evacuees....
09/26/17 State Roundup
Gov. Rick Scott announced Tuesday that he is calling for a series of new proposals to fight the opioid epidemic in Florida, including $50 million in new funding.
"We've got to do more education of our prescribers. We've got to help our substance abuse centers. We've got to help law enforcement," Scott said.
The new $50 million would go toward drug treatment, counseling and the Florida Violent Crime and Drug Control Council, which recommends initiatives to fight major crimes....
09/22/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — As mountains of garbage piles up from Hurricane Irma, counties across Florida say that companies they hired to remove debris won't show up because they can make a lot more money doing the work in South Florida.
Officials in six counties — Alachua, Hendry, Indian River, Manatee, Orange and Sarasota — all complained to the state Thursday about problems with companies that refuse to haul debris....
09/21/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Long before Hurricane Irma attacked Florida, the state faced a troubled fiscal future that the storm will only make worse.
"A looming problem," in the words of Amy Baker, the Legislature's top economist, whose pre-Irma numbers exposed "a structural imbalance."
Simply put, Florida won't collect enough tax revenue over the next three years to pay its mounting bills, especially for Medicaid, which now consumes nearly one-third of the state's budget. Tossing a splash of reality into the faces of lawmakers, Baker said Irma will make it "much worse."...
Now that Hurricane Irma has staggered through Florida like a drunken tourist, it is telling that the early lessons from the storm's impact around Tampa Bay are less about life-and-death and more about quality of life.
We learned the value of having generators on stand-by. Of knowing the rules of the road at intersections without signals. Of knowing your neighbors. And of pre-brewing some good coffee for the morning after the storm....
TALLAHASSEE — Irma is gone, and Florida is discovering a massive fiscal storm looming on the horizon.
The Legislature's chief economist says the hurricane's impact on the economy will make the state budget "much worse" next year, and possibly 2019 and 2020.
Amy Baker delivered that sobering news Friday to lawmakers as part of a revised long-range outlook used as the foundation for critical spending decisions on schools, social services, public safety and other areas that affect nearly 21 million Floridians in a state where a balanced budget is required by the Constitution....
09/11/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Hurricane Irma's ferocious storm surge and flash floods overwhelmed large sections of Florida with some of the most severe flooding the state has seen in more than 100 years.
After drenching the vulnerable chain of islands in the Keys, followed by parts of Miami, Naples, Orlando, Tampa and Lakeland, Irma finally left town Monday after inundating Jacksonville with flood waters as it spun toward Georgia....
09/11/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — The millions of Floridians who are part of the largest evacuation in U.S. history are already itching to go home as Florida mobilizes a post-Irma mass recovery effort of troops, trucks, boats and volunteers from Key West to Jacksonville.
Some evacuees fled hundreds of miles to escape the storm, and those crowds will soon come flooding back to the state.
They're likely to be met with traffic delays, a fuel shortage, debris cleanup and possibly blocked access to their communities — which is why state and local officials have a singular message: Don't try to go home yet....
09/09/17 State Roundup
While many of his constituents were focused on Hurricane Irma and mandatory evacuations for parts of Pinellas, state Sen. Jack Latvala, a Republican candidate for governor, was thinking about raising campaign money.
Latvala had scheduled a campaign kickoff fundraiser weeks ago for Ruth Eckerd Hall on Thursday evening and, while grumbling about Gov. Rick Scott and Pinellas emergency management officials being too alarmist, Latvala said he saw no reason to cancel his event....
TALLAHASSEE — The University of Florida on Thursday called off a scheduled football game on Saturday that would have put thousands of Gator fans on I-75 on the last day Floridians could use the highway as a hurricane evacuation route.
"As the hurricane's track has approached the state of Florida, it's become obvious that playing a football game is not the right thing to do," UF athletic director Scott Stricklin said in a statement posted on the university's web site. "The focus of our state and region needs to be on evacuation and relief efforts. There is a tremendous amount of stress currently on the roads of this state, and the availability of gas, water and other supplies are at critical levels. Playing a college football game Saturday would only add to that stress."...