Steve MacNamara wrote in a resignation letter Saturday that he would step down July 1. He wrote that "recent media attention I have been receiving has begun to interfere with the day-to-day operations of this office."
The Associated Press recently reported that while working for the state Senate, MacNamara helped steer a $360,000 no-bid consulting contract to a friend who now leads a task force rooting out state government waste.
The Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times reported about other contracts and how MacNamara clashed with one agency head over MacNamara's decision to let the state's film commissioner travel to the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.
MacNamara, who has been on unpaid leave from his job as a Florida State University professor, will be replaced by Adam Hollingsworth.
View this article in its original form here.
Thank you to all of our supporters who signed our petition to tell Pink Slip Rick to fire Steve MacNamara.
Organizations such as Florida Watch Action, Awake Broward, Broward AFL-CIO and Organize Now, let the afternoon commuters know how they feel about these three men and by coming out and holding them accountable for their extremist agendas.
Sean Phillippi and Amy Ritter both created the theme of the rally. They knew they wanted to have something on tax day and thought it would be fitting to make it a Three Stooges Event.
Ritter, who is the Director of Research for Florida Watch Action, a statewide watchdog nonprofit organization, said that while Floridians struggle to turn in their taxes on time and pay their fair share, “These three stooges, Pink Slip Rick, Pink Slip Mitt, and Wrong Way Rubio, continue to be out-of-touch cheats who have proven time and time again that they are beholden to corporations and wealthy CEOs and not the middle class.”
Between Rick Scott’s false promise of $1 billion for public schools when he cut $1.3 billion from public education funding last year, to Mitt Romney obviously hiding something by not filing his taxes on time, to Marco Rubio’s betrayal of his own Hispanic community by not supporting the DREAM Act, these three stooges are clearly nothing to laugh about. It is important now more than ever that we hold them accountable for their disloyalty to the American people. – Amy Ritter of Florida Watch Action, Inc
Sean Phillippi, Facilitator of Awake Broward and Lighthouse Point resident said , “It was abundantly clear today that the middle class will not fall for Pink Slip Rick Scott’s $1 billion trick when it comes to public education. The middle class showed up in force today, and they will continue to hold these job-killing, out of touch, anti-middle class crooks, cheaters, and traitors accountable.”
Coral Springs resident and FAU Student Stephanie Rosendorf thought the turnout was great. ”I’m hoping to be involved in more rallies in the future.”
While millions of residents and visitors are working on their tans, shady politics are prospering in the Sunshine State. What residents are now learning is that the negative impact of the work of the Republican-dominated Legislature and Republican Gov. Rick Scott will haunt them for years to come.
Most of the new measures were approved over the past 12 months, but as we are all learning, seven-year-old legislation is causing excessive pain, heartbreak and anger in 2012.
1. Stand Your Ground
Florida’s so-called “Stand Your Ground” statute was passed in 2005 with bipartisan support. The measure, signed by then-Gov. Jeb Bush, was pushed by gun rights activists and makes it clear people can use deadly force when they fear their lives are in imminent peril of death or great bodily harm, even if they are not at home. Supporters of the law say it has reduced criminal activity, although it could stand some changes. Opponents want the law thrown out entirely. And Jeb Bush now says the law does not apply in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26 in Sanford.
“Stand your ground doesn’t mean chase after somebody who’s turned their back,” Bush said at a University of Texas at Arlington forum a month after the incident. The 17-year-old Martin was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer during a scuffle. Despite calls for justice from Martin’s family and nationwide protests over the shooting, local police and prosecutors cited “Stand Your Ground” in initially deciding not to charge volunteer George Zimmerman. A state investigator has ruled Zimmerman can’t be charged with first-degree murder.
On Wednesday, however, a special state prosecutor announced that Zimmerman would be charged with second-degree murder and was in police custody. The state’s prosecutor said police investigators needed to take the time necessary to establish probable cause and decried the publicity surrounding it, saying it could prevent selecting an unbiased jury. However, without the national outcry, it is questionable whether any charges would have been forthcoming.
And Florida has buckled under more recent pressure from the National Rifle Association. An editorial in the Tampa Bay Times says “Florida leads the pack in passing bills written by the gun lobby that block any sensible attempt to control the purchase and use of firearms.” Weapons opponents say Florida is now the “Gunshine State.”
2. The Gunshine State
Right-wing Republicans approved a bill in October 2011 that declared that the Legislature “is occupying the whole field of regulation of firearms and ammunition … to the exclusion of all existing and future county, city, town or municipal ordinances.” Anti-gun forces and local officials were outraged. One effect of the law is that Tampa city officials cannot ban handguns near the site of this summer’s Republican National Convention. If the city council did so, it would face a state fine of $100,000 for interfering with the statute. So while the city council is banning hatchets, knives, pepper spray, chains and water guns during the GOP gathering, anybody can carry a gun near the convention unimpeded.
Another provision of the law is truly frightening. It makes it easier for anyone to bring a concealed weapon into the state government complex in Tallahassee. No longer can police ask people to check their weapons before entering the state capitol itself. Adding insult to injury, many lawmakers spent taxpayer money to install emergency alert buttons on their phones, just in case someone starts shooting. But as one Democratic senator notes, panic buttons won’t be much good if someone charges into a government office with guns blazing. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says violent crime has fallen statewide, but gun-related deaths increased 35 percent from 1999 to 2009. And here’s something that really worries gun opponents: In a state with 19 million residents, there are 6 million gun owners, almost a million of whom can now carry concealed weapons.
3. Resurrecting Jim Crow
A year ago, Republicans crammed another right-wing manifesto down the throats of Floridians. HB 1355 was called an omnibus elections bill. Those against the measure call it a rollback of voting rights that will hit minorities and others especially hard and could impact 2012 election outcomes. They say many of the state’s 11 million registered voters won’t get to cast ballots in future elections. “It undercuts democracy,” says Denise Velazquez of the group State Voices Florida 501C3 Civic Engagement Table.
She finds one part of the law “most offensive.” It places severe restrictions on third-party groups registering new voters and says it’s likely to have an overwhelmingly negative effect on blacks and Hispanics across the state. Velazquez calls the law a “silent understanding to disenfranchise voters.” Another provision aimed at restricting voters’ freedoms compresses the time for early voting to just eight days.
But in acting to reduce voting rights, the Republicans didn’t just penalize minorities. In March 2011, Gov. Scott scaled back the right to vote for thousands of people with criminal records. In many cases, they have to wait up to five years before being allowed to reregister to cast ballots. A state with a lengthy and hateful record of voter discrimination seems to be carrying on that nasty tradition even today.
4. Who Needs Public Schools?
The Republican establishment in Tallahassee continues to cut the state’s commitment to education. “Rick Scott and the legislature don’t care about education,” says Susan Smith, president of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida. In 2011, Scott and his cronies removed $1.3 billion in funding for kindergarten through grade 12, resulting in hundreds of teacher layoffs.
“Just horrific,” is how Mario Piscatella of the group MPA Political describes the cuts. “They’re undermining our education system.” And Piscatella criticizes another Republican initiative. Rather than funding colleges adequately, he says the state voted to build a 14th state university, which seems to him an utter waste of tax dollars. “Scott talks about bringing in new jobs and companies to Florida, but that won’t happen with poorly educated kids,” Piscatella adds.
Others note the budget cut for education was so steep that the governor’s popularity plummeted. So in the 2012 state budget, Scott added $1 billion for schools. He’s been touring the Sunshine State, telling students how the new money will help them learn and find good jobs. Many call it sheer hypocrisy intended to get voters to support Republicans running for reelection to the legislature this fall. Scott does not run again until 2014.
5. Limiting Car Insurance Claims and Payments
Earlier this year, the state legislature approved a measure Scott and his Republican cohorts call motor vehicle insurance reform. Supporters say it’s meant to stop fraud by unscrupulous drivers. Opponents label it anti-consumer, pro-industry legislation. The measure is so controversial that eight Republican senators voted against it, although it managed to squeak through the upper chamber by one vote. The new law is set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2013. It deals with PIP insurance, personal injury protection.
PIP is mandatory for all Florida drivers. It covers medical bills and lost wages resulting from motor vehicle accidents. Florida is a no-fault state, so benefits are paid by drivers’ insurance firms, regardless of who is at fault in an accident. At present, PIP pays 80 percent of medical bills and 60 percent of lost wages, up to $10,000 after a deductible. Republican state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff is one sponsor of the new measure. “We see scams in many forms, including staged car wrecks or bogus medical claims,” she says. “Floridians should not be forced to pay higher premiums due to these unscrupulous individuals taking advantage of no-fault auto coverage.”
But others see it as purely pro-business. “The new law is very arbitrary,” says Miami-based attorney Jeffrey Gale. He says it forces accident victims to seek medical attention within 14 days. If they don’t, Gale says PIP won’t pay. And he notes that, unless the victim gets emergency medical treatment, PIP payments are reduced to $2,500. “It’s taking the decision on a person’s need for medical care out of the hands of a doctor and putting it in the hands of insurance companies,” Gale adds.
The bill was a pet project of Scott, who, before becoming chief executive of the state, was the chief executive of a large group of hospitals across Florida. Republicans predict that insurance rates will go down over time. But the new law does not force companies to reduce insurance premiums for Florida consumers. Some doubt premiums will come down, and they predict the companies will just make more money.
“Profits over people,” concludes attorney Jeffrey Gale. The Miami lawyer says the new law may actually bring him higher fees in some medical lawsuits, but he still opposes it, because it is anti-resident and pro-business. And he says the new PIP plan is still not the best way to deal with accident insurance. What Florida needs to do, he says, “is to abolish PIP and institute mandatory bodily injury coverage.”
The Sunshine State is one of the few that does not have it, he said, “and it’s just ripe for abuse.” Gale is quick to hurl epithets at the governor and his legislative cohorts. “These changes do not come about by chance but are the result of real decisions by real people, and the real people making these decisions favor big business over people,” he said.
6. Florida’s GOP War on Women
The Republican right-wing express was less successful in one area, but the legislature tried very hard to reduce the rights of women. A handful of bills was introduced in the 2012 session that Democrats, and even some Republicans, found so offensive they prevented the measures from being voted on.
The “Florida for Life” Act would have banned all abortions, no exceptions permitted. It stalled in committee. The “Fetal Personhood” bill was also tabled. But one measure was approved by the House and was ultimately blocked by a bipartisan group of Florida senators. SB 290, also known as the Trap bill, was described by critics as an “omnibus antichoice” measure. It would have placed tough restrictions on abortion clinics and providers. It would have mandated that abortion clinics be owned and operated by physicians only. It created a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking the procedure, and it outlawed third-trimester abortions, except if the procedure were necessary to prevent the death of a pregnant woman or cause substantial and irreversible physical impairment.
And the List Goes On
There were other outrageous measures: a bill to gut growth management in the fast-growing state (passed in 2011); an effort to cut the minimum wage by 50 percent for workers who get tips (failed); a plan to steer public money to for-profit charter schools (approved); and legislation to adopt an Arizona-style anti-immigration policy (failed).
There’s every indication Gov. Scott and his right-wing allies will continue the assault on Floridians’ freedoms, assuming the Republicans win reelection this November and retain control of the legislature.
“They didn’t campaign on what they’re actually doing, and they don’t pass sensible legislation,” says Democratic Progressive Caucus president Susan Smith. “They said they would create jobs and improve conditions.” But Smith says they have not done that, and they’ve merely made things much worse. And the damage, in some cases, could last forever.To view the article in its original form, click here.
Although Gov. Rick Scott told voters during his campaign to hold him accountable for whether he hits his goal of creating 700,000 jobs in seven years, his top economic development director is telling lawmakers they shouldn't use the same logic to evaluate Florida's tax-incentives for businesses.
Gray Swoope, head of Enterprise Florida and Scott's newly named Commerce Secretary, told Senate budget-writers Tuesday morning that evaluating the state's dozen different financial-incentives can't be judged on whether the total number of jobs created over the last 15 years doesn't add up to what was promised when the deals were announced over the years.
"The math simply didn't work," Swoope told the Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Committee.
Swoope and his team are on the defensive because the agency is asking for $230-million in business incentives next year - up from this year's $93 million - even though the governor's new Department of Economic Opportunity is having trouble reconciling the tracking systems for the millions of dollars the state has paid out to businesses that haven't met their job-creation targets in recent years.
Six weeks ago, new DEO director Doug Darling said "millions of dollars" had been paid out to companies that hadn't fulfilled their contracts. The agency then released figures showing that the state paid out $738 million over the past 16 years as part of more than 1,600 job-creation deals signed with companies.
The deals were cumulatively projected to generate more than 224,000 new jobs in exchange for $1.7 billion in tax credits, rebates and other incentives. About 40 percent of them never resulted in a single job, and the companies were paid nothing. Many other deals were only partially successful. In all, agency officials can confirm that only about one-third of the promised jobs were actually created, though many of the contracts are still considered "active" and may add to those numbers.
The agency also provided inaccurate data that suggested some companies had received $23 million in tax dollars and not met their job-creation targets, when in fact most of that money was sitting in escrow accounts and had not been paid to the companies.
"There was a lot of room for improvement," Swoope told lawmakers. "We've looked at a lot of things... We've learned that our system and the way we account for things is outdated."
Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, took exception at the meeting with the disclosure of one of the companies - St. Petersburg-based Jabil Circuit - which state data originally said had been paid $12.4 million in state closing fund dollars for a new headquarters it hadn't built. The agency has since admitted it erred in releasing the inaccurate information, although Latvala blamed the Orlando Sentinel for the confusion.
"As we move forward, we're cleaning these programs up so we'll have better accountability and better tracking," Swoope said.
Several lawmakers on the panel - including Senate President-Designate Don Gaetz, R-Niceville - asked Swoope to develop a Web site that would break down how many companies had been paid, and how many jobs they had created.
Gaetz helped drive through the job-agency reform last spring and included requirements for the new jobs agency to do a more complete analysis on the return-on-investment for the last three years that is due next month.
Swoope said he'd rather wait until that December report is completed before committing to building a new Web site.
But Gaetz also took exception with the preliminary look at the performance over the last three years. Senate staff used the data DEO released to suggest that the state had entered into contracts to create some 40,000 jobs when only about 6,000 had been delivered. Although money wasn't paid to many of those companies, the cash committed to them often sits in an escrow account for years.
"We're tying up an extraordinary amount of cash," Gaetz said. "Shouldn't there be from time to time a re-look at deals that haven't matured at all, where nothing has happened, or where very little has happened?"
Swoope defended the tie-up of cash because "a lot of those are still open contracts," and "we have made a conscious decision" to sign contracts with them.
While there is not one agreed-upon message among protesters rallying in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, politicians and pundits have tried to pin down the group's beliefs. Conservative pundits and politicians have referred to the movement as a "communist plot" or "class warfare."
In his interview on FOX 13, when asked about the protests, Scott said he thinks "people are frustrated with where the world is going."
"In my race," he said, "the biggest frustration people had is jobs - and they are frustrated because they believe government kills jobs, whether it's taxes or regulation or permitting."
He also said he won his race because he had "a plan for jobs." His plan, however, has been the center of attention because he recently walked back from a central metric for his plan.
"I think we are going to solve these issues (and I am glad people come out and tell us what they think) by creating an environment where people can get jobs," Scott told Fox.
According to the Independent's Virginia Chamlee, protesters at Jacksonville's Occupy Wall Street-inspired rally singled out Scott as a protest target:
Though the protesters were initially more concerned with the growing divide between the country's most wealthy 1 percent and the rest of Americans, the movement has begun directing anger at current Florida policy-makers - none of whom are bearing the brunt quite like Gov. Rick Scott.
One small group of protesters waited outside the Jacksonville Omni Hotel, where Scott was acting as guest speaker of a gala. Holding signs that read "We are the 99 percent" and "Pink Slip Rick," the handful of protesters proclaimed their dissatisfaction with Scott, whom one woman said was more concerned with "looking out for corporate interests" than with representing average Floridians.
Occupy Wall Street rallies took place in several cities in Florida this past weekend, including Miami, Orlando, Sarasota, Tallahassee and Fort Lauderdale.
Watch Scott's appearance:
"We are capturing the attention of the business community worldwide," Scott said Wednesday while announcing Garda World Security, a Montreal-based armored car company, would move its U.S. headquarters from Pasadena, Calif., to Boca Raton.
But Garda's expansion into Florida along with similar announcements from Vision Airlines and Bing Energy earlier this year was started and nearly completed when former Gov. Charlie Crist was in office.
While the economy dictates the fate of many politicians, Scott has made job creation the defining characteristic of his administration. But his zeal to count every new job toward his campaign promise of creating 700,000 has some questioning his credibility.
"Despite the promise to be an outsider, he is nothing more than a typical politician who wastes money for his own ego and takes credit for other people's work," Florida Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff said.
Scott's office acknowledges that the three companies started the process to move to Florida while Scott was a candidate for governor. But the former hospital executive and venture capitalist portrayed himself Wednesday as the closer who stepped in and cemented the deals as a new governor.
"I'm extremely pleased we were able to close the deal," Scott said.
Scott spends several hours every week in "economic development" meetings but only recently signed into law his first budget, which contains the bulk of his policy changes.
When Scott ran for office last year, he told voters that Florida enforced too many regulations, collected too many taxes and wasn't friendly to businesses.
Either Scott was wrong about Florida's business climate or it has made drastic improvements during Scott's five months in office.
When Garda made its decision, Scott said Wednesday, "Florida was chosen over two other states thanks to our low taxes and our great business climate and it's just a wonderful place to live."
Economist Sean Snaith said its virtually impossible to prove "causality" when it comes to a politician's role in shaping the economy.
"There's many things you may criticize the governor for, but you can't criticize his timing," said Snaith, a University of Central Florida professor. "It's impeccable. He came into office just as the economy was starting to turn."
Scott's office isn't parsing at all.
According to state statistics, Florida has added 50,000 non-agricultural jobs since January. (Florida lost 12,900 jobs in January, which means if Scott's office started its count in December instead of January, their total count would be thousands less.)
Scott spokesman Brian Burgess said all 50,000 count toward the goal of 700,000 jobs in seven years.
"We're on track," Burgess said.
But the fine print of Scott's campaign promise is more nuanced.
When Scott put out his economic plan, state economists had already estimated that Florida would gain 1 million jobs over seven years with no major change to state policy. Pressed about that, Scott said his plan accounted for that prediction and would add an additional 700,000.
Despite a current unemployment rate of 10.8 percent, job growth is ahead of economists' projections.
Instead of counting that difference toward Scott's goal, his office is counting every one.
Scott's latest announcement was made in Montreal, where he's on his second foreign trade mission in three months. He visited Panama in March and plans to travel to Brazil in October.
The Garda deal, however, had been finalized for months and was reported by the Palm Beach Post in February. The company took $1 million in incentives from Boca Raton, Palm Beach County and the state in return for a promise to create 100 jobs with an average salary of $65,769 by the end of 2013.
Gary Hines, senior vice president of the Palm Beach County Business Development Board, said the county and the company started talks in August, but that Scott did play a role once he took office.
"He made a phone call," Hines said.
Garda CEO Stephan Cretier recalled that Scott called on his fifth day on the job in January and said, "Hey, we want Garda in Florida."
"I have been very impressed," Cretier said.
Similarly, Bing CFO Dean Minardi said he decided to bring his fuel-cell manufacturing company to Tallahassee in December, after Scott won election and promised to phase out corporate income taxes. The company plans to hire 12 employees and add a total of 244 jobs in seven years.
"There is no guarantee on the corporate income tax," Minardi said after a press conference with Scott in February. "But it makes sense."
In January, two weeks after he took office, Scott stood side-by-side with Vision Airlines chief operating officer David Meers, who announced the company would open an Atlanta-Fort Walton Beach route and bring 4,200 "direct and indirect" jobs to Florida.
Scott took credit for those jobs during the press conference.
"The way I look at it," Scott said at the time, "if I could do about 150 of those, then I get to my 700,000 jobs."
Anyone who's seen the classic movie Casino remembers that the guy who oversaw the "skims," Artie Piscano, had kept expense records that ultimately helped prosecutors take down the scam operation. Piscano died, and the bosses whacked anyone they thought would testify, but nothing could be done about the records. In a scene that foreshadowed the downfall, one boss warned Piscano, "Artie, no records, Artie. What are you gonna do with records? Pay taxes?"
Gov. Rick Scott's policy adviser (or consigliere) feels the same way about records. Mary Anne Carter, a top lieutenant in Scott's crew, purposely avoids creating public records by using her private email account for state business, rather than her public email address, according to a Times/Herald investigation.
"I rarely check and almost never respond to work email because of the open records law," Carter wrote in reply to an email sent from the office of Sen. Bill Nelson.
Communicating through personal email accounts appears to be a common practice among administration members, according to the Times/Herald report. It's also probably illegal because it sharply deviates from behavior encouraged in the Code of Personal Responsibility in the governor's office.
Carter, who is paid $150,000 a year, was a major force behind some of Scott's most questionable moves. She fought hard to strip released felons of civil rights and led the administration through a supershady debacle that ended with disgraced bureaucrat Carl Littlefield getting a $78,000-a-year state job.
Carter's Mafioso-style precaution serves as just one example of the disdain for an informed public that pervades Scott's administration.
"Are there things we don't want you to know? Yes," Brian Burgess, Scott's communications director told the Times/Herald. "There are things we don't want to broadcast to our opponents."
Apparently, Scott's opponents are Floridians who would like to know how their tax dollars are spent. His office has also taken down the website that allows taxpayers to see exactly where federal stimulus money was going. The highly detailed website was replaced with a single page on the governor's website that merely provides vague letters from states to the feds about certain projects they're using the money on.
But do you remember what Scott said back in March, when he launched his own transparency website?
"As taxpayers, you have the right to know how every taxpayer dollar is spent." Really, governor?
This aversion to transparency only makes it easier to see right through Scott and his administration. It's understandable that Burgess would want to keep some things on the hush. While Carter learned from mobster movies, Burgess seems to favor the Notorious BIG's "Ten Crack Commandments."
And like Biggie said, "Don't you know bad boys move in silence..."
Riptide has uncovered several completely baseless and fantastical conspiracy theories that Scott is not fit to be governor according to the Constitution of the State of Florida.
The state constitution is quite clear regarding the requirements of a person to serve as governor:
When elected, the governor, lieutenant governor and each cabinet member must be an elector not less than thirty years of age who has resided in the state for the preceding seven years.
They're far less strict than the requirements needed to be POTUS, and citizenship at birth is not an issue. Several Florida governors were born out-of-state, and though none has been foreign-born, it would not be against the law. Scott could have been born anywhere and it wouldn't matter.
We also have no issue with Scott's age or Florida residency. We are sure he's over the age of 30 and has lived in Florida for the past seven years.
Though the idea that Scott is an "elector" has raised our completely insane eyebrows, which has nothing to do with our undying hatred for bald men. We're just asking questions here. (Obviously, bringing up crazy theories about fitness for office has nothing to do with deep-seated ignorance, bigotry, and hatred, right?).
Anyway, being an elector merely means one is qualified to vote in elections, though Florida law is very clear that any entity registered to vote in the state must indeed be a living, breathing human being. Aha! Here's where we get to the controversy.
Riptide has heard several theories that Scott is the product of a demon father and alien mother who copulated on Mars and deposited the resulting egg deep in the core of the red planet. Allegedly, 13 months later, a fully formed Rick Scott emerged.
Scientists tell us that scenario is highly unlikely, but much like people who are convinced Obama was not born in America, we are completely undeterred by the facts.
We've also heard theories that Scott is actually a robot forged deep inside the secret artificial intelligence laboratory of a conservative think tank.
A scientist told us that is slightly more likely than the other scenario, but still probably not fact. The scientist then yelled at us for wasting his time and hung up.
Of course, Scott could put all of these theories to rest by simply producing a birth certificate -- one proving he is indeed human. A quick Google image search for Rick Scott's birth certificate reveals nothing, and as we all know, if it's not on the Internet, it probably doesn't exist. Why are you hiding your birth certificate, Scott? Hmmm?
Then again, even if Scott does provide a birth certificate, it might not quash all theories that he is fit to be governor. Riptide believes it is also quite possible that Scott might be a zombie, and only living people are considered electors in Florida. We once again dialed our scientist friend to inquire about this possibility, but he had blocked our number. He's probably in on the conspiracy anyway.
In a February meeting with the industry lobbyists writing bills for the upcoming legislative session, documents show that Governor Scott's top staff sought to force the 1.3 million property owners who now have a policy from the state-run carrier back into the private market, "phasing out Citizens completely."
The industry lobbyists protested that Florida carriers could not absorb all of Citizens' business, records show.
The gap would force many Florida property owners to turn to the unregulated surplus lines market, where rates are unchecked and policies are not backed by a state guarantee fund.
A lobbyist who attended the meeting advised others by email that Scott knew about the gap, but was not bothered.
"He doesn't seem to care whether they are insured in the voluntary market or surplus lines," the lobbyist wrote.
The concept of shutting down Florida's largest and, at the moment, best-capitalized insurance company outraged lawmakers whose constituents rely on the public company.
"He's clueless. The governor is clueless as to what is happening throughout the state, and the burden on homeowners and condominium owners and business owners," said Sen. Mike Fasano, a New Port Richey Republican who opposes most of the insurance legislation offered by the industry this year.
Scott also hired 71 legislative affairs – many of them former campaign workers – staff for a total of $4.3 million a year. On the campaign trail, Scott questioned the need for legislative affairs staff.
The TaxWatch report comes as lawmakers are grappling with slashing $3.8 billion from last year’s budget.
The combined costs for Scott’s PR pros – including four in his own office – and the LADs is $11.7 million. Without benefits, that comes to $975,048 per month, or $32,056 per day.
“There is no excuse for government waste at any level at any time,” TaxWatch president Dominic Calabro said in a statement. “Every tax dollar spent should gain the highest return for the taxpayer. In a budget year where critical programs are being cut to balance the budget, it is time that our leaders take a serious look at all positions, determine which are essential to the mission of our government and cut the excess. This is what Florida families and businesses have been doing and must continue to streamline. The levels and number of administrative and support bureaucratic staff has been forced to shrink, but too many in our state bureaucracy defy the gravity of downsizing.”
TaxWatch is a business-backed Tallahassee organization whose mission is to ferret out wasteful government spending.