Gov. Rick Scott, Black Caucus Find Little Common Ground As 2013 Session Nears
Gov. Rick Scott's hour-long sit-down with the Legislative Black Caucus on Tuesday was frostily correct and almost completely nonproductive for the black lawmakers, according to two accounts of Tuesday's session in Tallahassee.
The Tampa Bay Times and the Palm Beach Post described the governor as almost completely unyielding on voting rules, ex-felon rights and appointments to the judiciary and other state positions.
As to the 2011 voting law that many say turned the 2012 election into a Florida disaster, the governor said he should not be blamed for that.
The Times described the exchange over the bill that reduced early voting opportunities and restricted voter registration by the League of Women Voters and other third-party groups:
Scott, who is seeking re-election in 2014, said it was largely a decision of the Legislature.
"It was not my bill," Scott said. "We've got to make changes, I agree. … The Legislature passed it. I didn't have anything to do with passing it."
Scott signed the bill into law in 2011. His administration spent more than $500,000 in legal fees in a largely successful defense of the law, though a federal judge struck down new restrictions on groups that register voters.
Told by State Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, that his record of appointing black judges was "appalling," the governor said he always chose from lists of nominees provided by regional nominating panels. And he reminded the caucus that he had appointed the wives of two of its members to important but non-judicial jobs.
The Palm Beach Post reported another rebuff on an issue close to the caucus' heart:
At the top of the agenda was restoration of felons’ rights, something that Scott and the cabinet reversed in their first meeting after taking office in 2011. Felons must now wait at least five years before applying to have their rights restored, including the right to vote.
“My focus is on making sure we continue to have a low crime rate,” Scott responded to House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston’s request that he undo the changes. When pressed, Scott insisted: “You should take the time to show that you’re going to be a good member of society.”
“I think I would like to see him have a better feel and understanding for people," Thurston told the Post's Dara Kam after the meeting. “He doesn’t relate well to others. That’s for sure. I don’t expect anything to change. I expect him to do absolutely nothing about any of our requests.”