Florida State Government: Weekly Roundup

By: Keith Laing, The News Service of Florida
By: Keith Laing, The News Service of Florida

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Jan. 7, 2011 --

Rick Scott dropped the elect from his title last week, becoming the 45th governor of Florida and immediately getting to work, as he promised to do during his campaign – repeatedly.

His first order of business after taking the oath of office was to deliver an inaugural address, however haltingly. Scott stumbled over several of his lines, but he used his speech to make the case for a business, business and more business agenda, even borrowing a phrase from former President George W. Bush – with a slight twist.

"States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world,” Bush said of three nations - North Korea, Iraq and Iran - in his 2002 State of the Union speech.

"Three forces reduce that chance for success," Scott said this week. "Taxation, regulation and litigation. Those three form the axis of unemployment."

Scott took the side of those looking for work in making the case for getting to work.

“This morning more than a million Floridians got out of bed and faced another day of unemployment," Scott said. "For months they've searched for work. They fill out applications. They beg for interviews. They face rejection after rejection. Many people who once earned a good living on a construction site, --when the economy stalled, building stopped -- found themselves with skills, but no degree and absolutely no job.”

That’s why “job creation is an absolute mission," Scott said near the top of a roughly 20 minute speech in which he used the word jobs 20 times. At one point, Scott looked up from his prepared remarks and asked roughly 4,000 attendees “can you tell I’m focused on jobs?”

The crowd responded favorably for the most part, though Scott’s message was not well received by everyone in attendance. A heckler interrupted Scott at one point, shouting "Criminal! You are not Christian! You're a heathen!"

But even there, it all came back to employment. "Get a job!,” someone in the crowd responded, though Scott himself did not take the bait.

Members of the GOP in the Legislature loved Scott’s speech, which was music to their ears after a year of having a Republican turned independent who governed at times like he was a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat.

"His comments on… making sure that we create a better environment to create jobs in Florida was probably what stuck out the most," said Rep. Will Weatherford, who is expected to be speaker of the House during the second half of Scott's tenure. "Frankly, that's what the Legislature's been talking about and that's what we'll be focusing on as well."

Weatherford was even willing to overlook the fact the audience for Scott's first official remarks as governor included many of the lobbyists he railed against during his populist campaign. In fact, many of them had the best seats in the House, right in front of the podium. But Weatherford said those who share Scott's goals aren't the "special interests" the former health care executive ran against.

"If what you mean by special interests is tax cuts and deregulating industries that have been far too over-regulated for far too long, if it means helping out small businesses, if it means creating a 21st century education system and putting free markets into our health care, than I'm OK with those special interests," Weatherford said.

Democrats were less charitable after the speech, which was filled with red meat rhetoric aimed squarely at them, or whatever is left of them after last year’s disastrous-for-the-Dems election.

"I think he had a golden opportunity to bring everybody together and start from a fresh page and say 'look, these are my goals, but today we are one Florida.' I think we missed that a little bit," said Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, one of the few Democratic lawmakers who actually attended the inauguration ceremony.

MILLION AIR (AND A MILLION MILES)

One of the first things Scott did as governor was ground two state airplanes by putting them up for sale. That’s easy for him to do, of course, because he has his own jet, which was used this week to take him around the state.

But don’t try to keep up with the whereabouts of Scott’s private plane - he’s blocked it from flight trackers, and said Friday morning he has no plans to let the public track the planes takeoffs and landings on the Internet. “We put out … where I’m flying, where I’m going,” Scott said. “It’s all public record.”

A reporter noted that might make Scott able to “slip away” like former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. “I don’t think you have to worry too much,” Scott responded.

Scott ordered the Department of Management Services to sell the state's 10-year-old Beech King Air 350 and its 2003 Cessna Citation Bravo on the Website Aircraft Shopper Online - with bids opening on Feb. 9. As for the other members of state government who don’t have their own wings, Scott said they could fly commercial, despite the fact that means they could be spending much of their working time in Terminal B in Atlanta. They could also drive, the governor with his own sky miles said, which probably wasn’t much comfort either.

The ground stop on official state flights is already putting a crimp in the travel plans of new Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who said he was driving himself to Weston for the Everglades Coalition Conference. And then drive to St. Augustine.

“It certainly presents some challenges, but we'll make the most of it," Putnam said this week. It’s the governor’s prerogative, he said, and “it is what it is.”

Other new Cabinet members said they would get familiar with Florida’s highways and byways too. A spokeswoman for state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said he will continue to move around in his blue minivan, and Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement she would drive or catch a ride.

Elsewhere in his busy first week, Scott froze agency regulations and ordered checks on the immigration status of new state hires, both of which he had promised to do. Following his inaugural speech, he signed an executive order creating a new office to carefully vet proposed rules by agencies and go back over state contracts.

The day after, the moves were still being debated, with some lawmakers and lobbyists praising Scott for being bold, and others boldly saying he was wrong to paint all regulations with the same brush.

“I don't want to use the word disappointed, but I wish Gov. Scott had consulted the Department of Health before he signed the executive order, understanding the effect it may have on the Legislature's attempts to crack down on pill mills," said Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey.

"He's not looking at what rules might be worthwhile or effective," Audubon of Florida Executive Director Eric Draper said. "To stop rules arbitrarily, like he's done, doesn't make sense."

Also this week, Florida Senate president Mike Haridopolos said that a proposed high-speed rail connecting Tampa and Orlando was too expensive, despite the fact that the federal government has offered to pay for about 90 percent of it. The remarks that the state shouldn’t be paying for rail appeared to be on a different track than Haridopolos’ voting record however, since he supported a late 2009 bill that allowed the state to purchase tracks for the proposed SunRail commuter train in Orlando.

As for Scott, who has yet to weigh in on the project, he said he was still waiting for a feasibility and ridership study.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Me on Jan 11, 2011 at 05:36 AM
    To Joe, I tend to be on your side. I am not sure where all this fear is coming from. I don't here him talking about laying people off. I hear him talking about getting people to work. Unemployment in very expensive and my experience with hospitals executives are they are very concerned about expenses. I don’t think he wants more people collecting unemployment. The private sector has been the one creating this massive unemplyment crisis in Florida
  • by Truth or Fear on Jan 11, 2011 at 05:27 AM
    cccc, Where are you getting this information that states he wants to put 6,000 state wokers in the unemloyment line. I am not saying you are wrong. I am just trying to get educated on the sources. Is this just fear talking or is thier actual documentation to back it up. I am all on your side if that is true, but I want to see your sources.
  • by Friend not enemy on Jan 11, 2011 at 05:20 AM
    Has he done any mass firings? Where is all this fear coming from? I am not saying it is unfounded, I am just trying to understand?
  • by FedUp Location: Tallahassee on Jan 10, 2011 at 09:14 PM
    Funny, I wrote about the truth behind this governor's push to outsource and offshore and my post was never put up. I did not call anyone a name. I did not use profanity. I did not engage in partisan ranting. Readers, beware. Google for yourself: Selling Idaho--The Trojan Triangle. Forwarned is fore--(deleted in PC response to the Arizona trajedy) well, you'll know what's being done to you.
  • by Quest Location: Everywhere on Jan 10, 2011 at 08:53 PM
    Nobody looks at the big picture and are only concerned with their own agenda. But as for educating yourself, maybe everyone should take that advise. Educate yourself before making executive orders that make changes in areas that you have no expertise. Educate yourself to know that state workers provide a valuable service to the citizens of Florida. Educate yourself to know that without a state workforce, there is absolutely no one to call when you need help during a hurricane, burglary, robbery, malpractice, or other matters that may need attention. State Workers for the last five years have done more with less. Where else would workers who make less than $35K per year, buy their own pens, paper, post its, staples, & yes copy paper to get the job done because there is simply no money in the budget. What about buying your own soap & toilet paper cause there is no money in the budget? No raise in over five years, none in the future, benefits reduced, what is next, unemployment!
  • by BULL Location: FLORIDA on Jan 10, 2011 at 02:38 PM
    I POSTED BLOG AFTER BLOG AND NO ONE LISTENED WATCH OUT STATE EMPLOYEES.
  • by Billo Location: Tally on Jan 10, 2011 at 01:00 PM
    ccccc...please do everyone a favor and educate yourself.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 10, 2011 at 09:23 AM
    Joe, he doesn't have to consider the special interest, but he will.
  • by ccccc Location: Tallalhassee, FL on Jan 10, 2011 at 09:13 AM
    This man wants to put approximately 6000 state workers into the unemployment line and yet he is willing to bring in people from out of state and pay them $150,000.00 a year. "The goal is look around the country and around the state to find the best people and pay them a competitive compensation,” Gov. Scott told reporters. This is an outrage. Florida has double digit unemployment and he is looking AROUND THE COUNTRY??? He wants To pay his new staff a “competitive compensation” and yet state workers haven’t received a raise in almost 5 years. Surely he can find people who live in Florida who are more that competent and who would be willing to work for far less. If you don’t live in Florida you have no business working in Florida, and “Mr.” Scott, you shouldn’t be looking anywhere else. SHAME ON YOU!!! It is obvious that you are no friend of the people of the state of Florida.
  • by Joe Location: Tallahassee Fl, on Jan 10, 2011 at 07:57 AM
    Rick Scott, May well be one of the best things to happen to Florida in quite some time. He is his own Boss, And can make decisions that will benefit all Floridians without having to consider the special interest. Thank you Governor, for having the courage to take on this challenge.
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