I hate Rick Scott. I mean, I really fucking hate Rick Scott. Never mind that when you Google his name, the search engine auto-completes to the phrase “Rick Scott is Voldemort.” What really grinds my gears about Scott is his complete lack of accountability for illegal activity, destruction of Florida’s social programs and environmental protections, and utter disregard for the well being of Floridians. That’s why I have decided to compile 6 ways that Rick Scott has completely fucked over Florida, my home state.
6. He wasted taxpayer money on drug testing Florida’s welfare recipients.
At one time, Rick Scott thought it might be a good idea to drug test all welfare recipients to ensure that taxpayer money wasn’t being wasted on drug addicts. The findings? Only 2.6%, or 108 of 4,086, were found to be drug users, most of whom only tested positive for marijuana. Any testers who were found to be drug free had to be reimbursed by the state; that bill came to $118,140, which is more than Florida hands out in welfare each year. Although testing was supposed to save Florida taxpayers money, it actually cost them $45,780 in addition to welfare costs. Instead, Florida spent 1.5 million dollars on litigation surrounding the mandate, which was eventually found unconstitutional by two federal judges. What’s more, Scott had a stake in the money made from testing welfare recipients. Just a few months before the mandate requiring welfare recipients to be drug tested, Scott transferred his shares of Solantic to his wife. Of course, that company was in part responsible for conducting the tests. This is just one example of Scott’s schemes to pocket taxpayer money.
5. He cut funding to Florida’s rape crisis centers.
In 2003, Florida had this excellent idea to create a trust from fees levied on sex offenders to fund the state’s rape crisis centers. Unfortunately, the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence reports that trust is still low on funds, which forces victims onto waiting lists. That’s why the state had approved giving $1.5 million to rape crisis centers in the 2012 budget. This allotment made up only .002% of the budget, but Scott line-item vetoed it anyway. I guess rape victims just aren’t that important to Mr. Scott, or he just couldn’t find a way to monetize the victims’ misery.
4. He refused to expand Medicaid in Florida.
Love it or hate it, the Affordable Healthcare Act has allowed thousands to finally have medical coverage. However, when the Supreme Court ruled that states could opt out of the Medicaid expansion, this allowed Florida to refuse $51 billion in federal aide that would have enabled a complete overhaul of the state’s Medicaid system. Basically, Scott’s refusal denies Medicaid coverage to low-income, working-class people who don’t qualify for Obamacare subsidies. Some say Scott’s refusal to expand Medicaid in Florida has resulted in a number of deaths that were preventable. If the victims had access to proper healthcare services, including doctor’s visits and medications, then they might have extended their lives. This action proves that Scott is more interested in corporate profits and partisanship than the well being of Floridians.
3. He uses taxpayer money to foot his legal bills.
If you’ve been paying attention to media outlets in last 6 months, you’ve probably heard of the Clinton email scandal, but have you heard of the Scott email scandal? In February of 2015, 3 lawsuits were filed against Scott for violating a number of statues in the Sunshine Law, which mandates transparency of public meetings and records. Apparently, Scott wanted to shift the blame for a forged-document prison break from the executive branch to Orange County clerk of courts Colleen Reilly. He actually asked Gerald Bailey to name her, even though there was no evidence that she had done anything in conjunction with the case. When Bailey refused, he was fired. According to reports, Scott discussed firing Bailey in private meetings with his cabinet, and then withheld evidence of any such meetings. Scott denied the meetings ever happened even though evidence proves they did. In an unsurprising discovery, Scott created private email accounts to discuss state matters and hid records of secret meetings. Now, Gov. Scott wants taxpayers to once again pay for his indiscretions. Nearly $1 million has been offered by the state to make the allegations simply go away. In reality, Scott is the one who should go away.
2. He has financial ties to the company that drills for oil near Florida’s Everglades.
Last year, Florida voters passed Amendment 1, or the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative. This amendment allows taxpayer money to be funneled into a trust that enables the acquisition and maintenance of the Florida Everglades. The overwhelming support for this amendment shows that Floridians care a lot about what happens to the Everglades. However, oil companies have not reduced their efforts in trying to buy up the Everglades for drilling. In fact, just this July a company put in a bid for exploratory drilling near Broward County. This bid was aided by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which is spearheaded by none other than Rick Scott. Now, correct me if I am wrong, but the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is tasked with protecting the environment, right? Well, not if it’s run by Scott. Of course, that might have something to do with the fact that he has a blind trust in Schlumberger Ltd. This company is not only the biggest oil company in the U.S., but it is also the company that is drilling in Collier county close to the Everglades. You may know this drilling site, as it is close to the Golden Gate Estates and the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge. Scott doesn’t seem to think that there’s anything wrong with having investments in an oil company whiling heading up an environmental protection agency. Residents and critics say that Scott’s stake could be a disaster for the Everglades. If you know Scott, you know he’ll do anything when there is money to be made, even if it means destroying one of America’s great natural preserves.
1. He likes to sell Florida to the Koch brothers.
Do you know who the Koch brothers are? In short, the Koch brothers are billionaire oil heirs who have spent $45 million trying to buy Congress. In an effort to expand their breadth of control, the Koch brothers steadily invested in Rick Scott’s campaigns. As large contributors to Scott’s campaign, Scott no doubt owes the Koch brothers. Since the Koch family controls 1/3 of the raw sugar industry, they are deeply interested in the Florida Everglades because it is prime real estate for sugar cane production. In fact, they already own a lot of agricultural land in the Everglades, and they use Lake Okeechobee to water their crops. Then, they dump the toxic runoff in estuaries instead of recycling it in a reservoir.
By passing Amendment 1 last year, Florida voters made a stake in their claim for the Everglades. This amendment allows the state to buy back the land bought by the Koch family since their contract on the land ends this October. However, there is little hope that Scott will do that. He has actually stated that he has no plans to buy back this land, effectively denying Floridians the land the amendment promises. This is nothing new for Scott; he essentially demolished all the environmental protections set up by Charlie Christ, and now Florida is the 2nd most polluted state in America. Hell, he even contributed to it! Scott illegally approved a pipeline from the Koch family’s Georgia-Pacific paper mill to the St. Johns River. The result? Tons of toxic waste is poured into the St. Johns River daily. And what is Scott doing about it? Nothing! Since he is the head of the DEP, he can refuse to investigate.
As a native Floridian, I often am completely disheartened after a state election. This year, I was madder than ever. After all that Rick Scott did in his first term–hell, before his first term–I was floored that voters were duped again into keeping him in office. Most people in Florida probably don’t keep up with state politics, but if you love the Sunshine State as much as I do, you’ll start looking more closely. It may seem a little late to be writing an article about Scott, but my hope is that readers will become more interested in state politics, and dig into the issues that matter: corporate corruption, ecology, social programs, and ethical government. If you want to keep guys like Scott out of office, stay up on state legislature and issues. That way you can make an educated decision at the poles.
Photo by Mark Taylor