Scott Holds Court in Orlando While Tallahassee Does a Slow Burn

Jun 7, 2015 by

While the Florida Legislature was meeting in special session to work out a budget plan, Gov. Rick Scott was 263 miles south at Disney World.

While some question why he wasn’t playing an active role in the negotiations between the House and Senate, I give him a pass for several reasons.

First of all, he has not only shown a lack of leadership, he’s actually been an impediment to progress by fanning the flames of dissent between the two republican-controlled chambers. Perhaps it’s better for him to occupy himself with something else.

Second, he wasn’t there to visit Mickey; he was there to host an “Economic Growth Summit” — one that had been planned for months. In fact, while planning the summit, he didn’t know for sure that the Legislature would be back in special session at the same time. So let’s cut him a little slack.

An economic summit sounds pretty good. Having some of the greatest economic minds gather to discuss what is best for the future economic prosperity of Florida and the United States could prove very beneficial.

I picture well-known and respected economic scholars and practitioners reviewing trends, showing charts and providing economic forecasts while financial experts and policy researchers discussed shared prosperity, sustainable growth and the global economy.

But that’s not what Gov. Scott had in mind.

His “Economic Growth Summit” was actually a political event. The speakers were neither academicians nor economists — they were seven of the top-tier contenders seeking to win the Republican presidential primaries.

That’s right, the summit was actually a cattle call for the Republican presidential hopefuls.

With national and state media showing up in droves, 29 electoral votes to be won and a veritable who’s who of Florida’s fundraisers in the audience — few candidates would turn down the governor’s invitation to attend such an event.

Surprisingly, the event was hosted not by the Republican Party of Florida but rather by Scott’s political committee — Let’s Get to Work.

Ostensibly, the summit was to focus on jobs. Scott would be able to brag about the positive economic growth in Florida, the jobs created and the decline in unemployment. He would then offer a stage for seven of the leading contenders to talk about their economic platforms.

That stage included a banner, an incredibly large banner. Rick Scott’s name appeared across the top of the banner in gigantic letters — so large that numerous media outlets felt the need to point out the enormous size. Underneath in much smaller type you could make out the words “Economic Growth Summit” and below that in even smaller letters was “Brought to you by Let’s Get to Work Committee.”

The event seemed to be more about Scott’s ambition, self-promotion, political posturing and interjection onto the national stage.

For their part, the candidates or soon-to-be candidates — Marco Rubio (via video), Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush — sang Scott’s praises, kissed the ring, and launched into their campaign speeches.

Mike Huckabee — in a statement of complete candor — gave his rationale for attending Rick Scott’s Economic Growth Summit: “Anything I can do to suck up to him and his donors, by God, I want to do.”

Candidates then proceeded to discuss a plethora of issues such as states’ rights, their opposition to Obamacare, immigration reform, entitlement reform and, if they cared to, jobs and the economy.

After speaking, the GOP presidential hopefuls had the opportunity to move to an area with another Rick Scott-dominated backdrop where they fielded questions from state and national news media.

So it wasn’t really an economic summit advancing state business and it really wasn’t a Republican Party event, as the Republican Party of Florida was basically snubbed — neither involved nor invited.

Instead, it was an opportunistic move by Scott to use his position as governor of a critical electoral state to help boost his profile and advance his future political aspirations, stoking speculation about his desire to be considered for vice president or a run for U.S. Senate in 2018.

One reporter tweeted: Will the national media question Scott for holding a beauty pageant amid tumultuous times in his state?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch — aka Tallahassee — Scott’s leading Medicaid official, Justin Senior, was snubbing the Florida Senate.

Senior appeared at the House committee the prior day with a bill analysis criticizing the Senate healthcare expansion plan. He didn’t see fit to share it with the Senate nor did he think it necessary to show up at the Senate committee hearing.

Senators were livid. Senior eventually appeared. Chairman Tom Lee minced no words, calling his information disingenuous and rightfully pointing out that he was doing the House’s bidding.

On the House side, Scott’s proposed tax cuts were cut in half.

Perhaps it wasn’t the best time for the governor to host a political cotillion.



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