breaking news

Dolphins respond to Donald Trump with protest during national anthem

Scott backs Trump, business and tourism groups in State of the State


Florida Governor Rick Scott offered up gratitude for the election of Donald Trump, noted the horror of terrorist attacks in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale and threw his weight behind maligned tourism and business agencies during his sixth State of the State address Tuesday.

Scott also called for a pair of sales tax holidays — a three-day one for veterans and a nine-day one to spur disaster preparedness.

Notably absent from the Republican governor’s remarks to the Florida Legislature on the opening day of its 2017 session was any mention of the opioid and heroin epidemic that has ravaged families in Palm Beach County and throughout the state.

“That tells you where his priorities are,” said Palm Beach County Mayor Paulette Burdick, a Democrat who, with other county officials, traveled to Tallahassee for two days of meetings with state legislative leaders. “If you have your head in the sand, we won’t make progress on this.”

Scott’s fulsome backing of Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida put him on a collision course with fellow Republicans in the House, who have ripped the agencies as havens of waste and corporate welfare.

Those lawmakers set their sights on Visit Florida last year, demanding to know how much it was paying rapper Pitbull to promote the state.

When the agency balked at providing that information, lawmakers sued. Pitbull then disclosed that his promotion contract was worth $1 million, enraging lawmakers.

In remarks to the state House of Representatives that preceded Scott’s speech to a joint session of the House and Senate, House Speaker Richard Corcoran noted the dust up with Visit Florida and Pitbull.

“We forced another agency into the sunshine, sued a rapper and won, only to reveal even more wasteful spending,” Corcoran said.

Scott, however, has continued to support Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida, which provides tax incentives to lure businesses to the state.

The governor was blunt in backing Visit Florida.

“Getting rid of Visit Florida and ending advertising for tourism doesn’t make any sense in the real world,” Scott said. “Successful companies know how to market themselves, and they don’t stop advertising when business is good.”

Enterprise Florida’s chief executive officer, Chris Hart, resigned Monday after only a few weeks on the job. House leaders have vowed to eliminate the agency, which they describe as a source of corporate welfare.

Scott made clear he isn’t on board with plans to scrap the agency.

“It’s easy to throw around catch phrases like ‘picking winners and losers’ and ‘corporate welfare,’” the governor said. “By the way, I don’t like either of those. I doubt anyone in this chamber does. But that’s not what we’re doing. We are competing with 49 other states and hundreds of counties for jobs.”

Palm Beach County officials said they back both Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida.

County Commissioner Mack Bernard, a former state representative, mingled on the floor with his former colleagues in the House before Scott’s speech. He said Enterprise Florida came up during discussions he had last week with the Business Development Board.

“We don’t want the state to get rid of it,” Bernard said.

Scott said Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida haven’t operated flawlessly.

“I want to be very clear in acknowledging that both Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida have made mistakes along with their many successes over the years,” he said. “And I do not fault anyone for pointing out those mistakes. Any time we can eliminate government waste, we should do it. But just like we would do in the business world, we have made changes at both agencies so the organizations can be more efficient and transparent.”

This year’s State of the State was the first since Trump’s election, and the governor used a portion of his remarks to note it.

“Our economy is booming, and I am glad that America elected my friend, Donald Trump, a businessman outsider like myself, as president who is focused on growing the national economy,” he said.

Scott addressed the mass killings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in June.

“The days I spent in Orlando following the shooting will always be with me,” he said. “The hardest thing I have ever had to do as governor is try to find the words to console a parent who lost their child, and I truly cannot imagine the grief of losing a child.”

The governor also mentioned the hurricanes that struck the state last year and the deaths from the Zika virus and the mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport.

“While heartbreaking, these tragedies have given me a new perspective,” he said. “I am now more convinced than ever that the future of our state is even greater than our past accomplishments and that we must be even more resolved to build a society where any child, no matter where they are from, has the opportunity to live their dreams.”

To limit the damage of future hurricanes, Scott proposed a nine-day sales tax holiday for disaster preparedness. He did not spell out when the holiday would take place or how much in sales tax revenue the state would lose.

Still, the general idea drew support from Palm Beach County officials.

“Disaster preparedness is something I would embrace,” Bernard said.

Scott also called for a three-day sales tax holiday for veterans, another proposal that garnered broad support.

The governor’s speech drew polite, not enthusiastic, applause.

State Rep. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, offered praise for the governor’s message but said legislators will need time to sort through the details on many of the proposals.

“I think the governor’s got a cautiously optimistic message,” Powell said.

For Burdick, that message should have included mention of the opioid and heroin epidemic.

“I heard him talk about Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida,” she said. “I didn’t hear him talk at all about the heroin or the opioid crisis we have in Florida, the lives lost and the families devastated.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

LOOK: Rescuers help stranded dolphin in Florida Keys
LOOK: Rescuers help stranded dolphin in Florida Keys

A female dolphin stranded near the shores of Sugarloaf Key was helped by a group of rescuers on Saturday. A homeowner making repairs to his window broken after Hurricane Irma spotted the dolphin near his home around 11 a.m. He called the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, and soon a group of people were helping to return the slightly burned female...
Melania Trump meets Prince Harry on first solo trip abroad as first lady
Melania Trump meets Prince Harry on first solo trip abroad as first lady

Melania Trump has completed her first solo duty as first lady outside of the United States, participating in a meeting with Prince Harry ahead of the Invictus Games - the multi-sport international event Harry created for wounded, injured or sick armed services members, and leading the U.S. delegation for the Games. On Saturday, the first...
NEW: Five displaced after Lake Worth apartment catches on fire
NEW: Five displaced after Lake Worth apartment catches on fire

The Red Cross is helping to find shelter for five people who were displaced after their Lake Worth apartment caught on fire. Palm Beach Fire Rescue responded to the fire around 6 a.m. today in the 700 block of North A Street. Crews located a fire in a front bedroom and extinguished it before it could damage surrounding apartments. No one was reported...
POST TIME: The Norleys, Part III: Two deaths and a return to school
POST TIME: The Norleys, Part III: Two deaths and a return to school

(Originally published March 17, 2016) Readers: This is the last of a three-parter on the Norleys; it’s a family story of tragedy and triumph. Dolores and Theodore “Skeeter” Norley already had dealt with their first son, Greg, being born with developmental challenges, and another son, David, vanishing at sea at age 16. The fates weren&rsquo...
POST TIME: The Norleys, Part II: A brave stand and a tragic vanishing
POST TIME: The Norleys, Part II: A brave stand and a tragic vanishing

(Originally published March 10, 2016) Readers: Last week we began telling the life story of Dolores Norley. Husband Theodore “Skeeter” Norley — many of his patients just called him “Doctor T” — had been just the second orthopedic surgeon in Palm Beach County. But he clashed with the establishment. He refused to treat...
More Stories