News from Tallahassee for 7/29/14

Gov. Scott had stake in pipeline firm whose $3 billion venture he and his appointees backed posted on 7/22/14

by Dan Christensen |

Upon his election, Gov. Rick Scott’s transition team included a Florida Power & Light executive who pitched his company’s plan to build a major natural gas pipeline in North Florida to fuel a new generation of gas-fired power plants in places like Port Everglades.

“The proposed project will need state regulatory and governmental agencies to understand and support this project,” said the proposal submitted by FPL vice president Sam Forrest.

Gov. Scott understood. In May and June 2013, he signed into law two bills (HB 999 and HB 1083) designed to speed up permitting for what came to be known as the Sabal Trail Transmission – a controversial, 474-mile natural gas pipeline that’s to run from Alabama and Georgia to a hub in Central Florida, south of Orlando.

Five months later, the Florida Public Service Commission, whose five members were appointed by Gov. Scott, unanimously approved construction of Sabal Trail as the state’s third major natural gas pipeline. More approvals are needed from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which the governor oversees.

What wasn’t publicly known in 2013, however, was that Gov. Scott owned a stake in Spectra Energy, the Houston company chosen by Florida Power & Light that July to build and operate the $3 billion pipeline. Sabal Trail Transmission LLC is a joint venture of Spectra Energy and FPL’s parent, NextEra Energy.’s review of financial records made public last month by Gov. Scott show that as of Dec. 31 his portfolio included several million dollars invested in the securities of more than two-dozen entities that produce and/or transport natural gas – including some, like Spectra, with substantial Florida operations.

His stake in Spectra Energy was reported as being worth $53,000 that day.

Florida’s ethics laws generally prohibit public officials like the governor from owning stock in businesses subject to their regulation, or that do business with state agencies. A similar prohibition exists on owning shares in companies that would “create a continuing or frequently recurring conflict” between an official’s private interests and the “full and faithful discharge” of his public duties.

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Crist names Miamian Annette Taddeo-Goldstein as running mate posted on 7/18/14

by Marc Caputo | Miami Herald

Charlie Crist on Thursday tapped Miami-Dade Democratic Party Chairwoman Annette Taddeo-Goldstein to become his running mate for governor, adding a South Florida Hispanic face to the former Republican’s ticket.

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Legislature won’t appeal redistricting ruling; asks judge to approve rework posted on 7/15/14

by john kennedy | Palm Beach Post

The Florida Legislature’s leaders said Tuesday that they will not appeal a judge’s ruling throwing out the state’s congressional district map, but instead will redraw boundaries of two districts singled out as flawed.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said they will ask Leon Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis to clarify his decision last week to assure that this fall’s elections can proceed under the invalid map “as a legal and practical matter.”

“It has been the practice in other states and in Florida to remedy maps at a future election so as not to disrupt and disenfranchise voters,” the two leaders said in a statement.

“We believe such action is appropriate and is in the best interest of Florida, and particularly our deployed military servicemen and servicewomen, who are casting their votes now.”

Absentee ballots began being sent out to overseas voters Saturday from county elections officials in advance of the Aug. 26 primary.

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New district map may not be a game-changer posted on 7/14/14

by ledyard king | Florida Today

vote signWASHINGTON – Most Democrats are cheering the Florida Circuit Court's judge ruling Thursday throwing out the congressional district map drawn by the GOP-controlled Legislature.

But at least one expert who studies congressional races says Democrats shouldn't get too giddy, even if it helps put the Orlando-area seat — now held by Republican Daniel Webster — back into play.

David Wasserman, who monitors House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said there are several reasons why not much might change in a state where Republicans control 17 of the state's 27 congressional seats.

First, there's little time to take advantage of the ruling in this fall's elections, largely because the filing deadline for candidates has passed. In addition, the Florida Legislature is expected to appeal the ruling, further delaying any remedy.

Second, any changes to the map might affect Webster and Jacksonville Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown, but maybe only marginally, and probably no one else. And third, even redrawing the districts would not tremendously help Democrats whose voters are generally concentrated in the state's urban corridors. The decidedly GOP District 8 seat held by Republican Bill Posey of Rockledge, for example, probably wouldn't change parties even if the boundaries were adjusted.

Writing on Cook's Web site, Wasserman said it could take weeks before it's clear whether there's any impact at all.

"Democrats should be encouraged that courts have shown any openness whatsoever to crack open the GOP-drawn map," he wrote. "However, nothing in the ruling suggests a remedial map would enhance Democratic prospects in more than one or two seats. That's hardly a game-changer."

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Weekly Roundup: Looking for Answers posted on 7/14/14

by BRANDON LARRABEE | News Service of Florida

Everyone in Tallahassee seemed to be looking for solutions this week.

After Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis threw out two of the state's congressional districts, lawyers and politicos were left trying to find out what the ruling meant and how to repair the damage.

Meanwhile, the state's prison system was looking for a fix to a spate of bad stories about suspicious deaths of prisoners in the agency's custody. By the end of the week, the head of one prison had been suspended and the secretary of the Department of Corrections was promising to do more if necessary.

Even the question of how to grow marijuana was getting stuck in the regulatory thicket, as the Department of Health and the nascent pot industry argued over the regulations that will guide the farming of a version of the plant meant to help with some health problems.

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