Friday, July 28, 2017

Florida in focus: Florida’s cost for losing lawsuits keeps growing

By Watchdog News - July 28, 2017 at 08:04AM

Sun Sentinel: Florida’s cost for losing lawsuits keeps growing

Florida’s price tag for losing legal battles – which has included courtroom fights over drug testing, voting rights and gay marriage — continues to grow under Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott recently agreed to pay $1.1 million to cover the legal bills of physicians and medical organizations in their successful challenge of a law that restricted doctors’ ability to talk to patients about guns. The law had been pushed through the Florida Legislature at the urging of the National Rifle Association.

In early July, the state also agreed to a $2 million payment that will go to lawyers who sued on behalf of disabled inmates.

A review of records by The Associated Press shows that since Scott took office in 2011, the state has paid at least $19 million to cover expenses and fees for lawyers who have sued the state. Many of those lawsuits took aim at policies put in place by Scott and the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The Scott administration has defended the legal expenses in the past, saying the governor will “vigorously defend” Florida’s laws.

Tampa Bay Times: Gov. Scott backs off boycott of companies doing business in Venezuela

Gov. Rick Scott will ask the Florida Cabinet next month to prohibit the state’s investment managers from doing something they already do not do: invest in companies or securities owned or controlled by the Venezuelan government.

The proposed resolution released by the governor’s office on Thursday stops short of advancing a bolder threat Scott had been making at public appearances as recently as last week when he vowed to boycott companies that “do business” with the Nicolás Maduro regime.

Instead, the vote on the resolution — scheduled for the Aug. 16 meeting of the State Board of Administration — will be a mostly symbolic gesture aimed at sending the message that Florida will not tolerate any business sympathetic to the Maduro regime going forward. The SBA oversees the Florida Retirement System and its $150 billion in assets.

“We currently do not maintain any investments owned by the Venezuelan government right now,” SBA spokesperson John Kuczwanski told the Times/Herald. The governor’s resolution will not change that but make sure it doesn’t change going forward.

The Gainesville Sun opinion: Major challenges to Florida’s economic promise

Along with California and Texas, Florida has positioned itself to be a national leader in economic growth in this century.

Spurred on by a massive population increase since 1970 (the Census now estimates the state’s population at 20.27 million, up from 6.8 million in 1970), Florida has built an economy that ranges broadly from construction, tourism and agriculture to IT, health care, banking and international trade. With a population that is as diverse as any in the nation, it has also built strong cultural, economic and banking ties to nations in the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Throughout much of its early history, Florida struggled to develop such a strong and diversified economic base. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, political leaders doled out free land to anyone of wealth and to those who would start a business or locate a business into the state. It was a gamble that often boomeranged when these businesses collapsed, leaving the state with substantial debts.

After World War II, many Americans relocated to the state to retire or seek new opportunities. Air conditioning stimulated population growth, construction and tourism, resulting in dynamic economic growth. Florida also benefitted from an economic boom nationally in the late 1940s and 1950s. But when the nation’s economy slowed, Florida’s collapsed as population growth and tourism slowed to a halt.