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Rick Scott and Black Legislative Caucus Clash After Missed Meeting

January 14, 2014 - 6:00pm

Gov. Rick Scott clashed with the Florida Legislative Black Caucus on Wednesday, even as some of their members have increasingly started working with the Republican governor in recent days.

The caucus was scheduled to meet with Scott on Wednesday but Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, the caucus chairman, informed the governor he was cancelling the meeting.

I write on behalf of the members of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus to inform you that, despite great respect for the public office you hold, we have agreed to cancel our scheduled meeting with you today," Williams wrote on Wednesday. Based on your lack of action on matters of importance to this caucus that we have brought to your attention at prior meetings, we believe another meeting at this time would be fruitless.

Today, as we recognize the anniversary of the birth of The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., we are particularly mindful that the dreams of Floridians remain unfulfilled, Williams continued. Therefore, we take this occasion to respectfully remind you that there are significant needs facing Floridians that demand attention and action. All Floridians, including the thousands of residents of the communities we serve, deserve to have access to affordable health care that can be provided under an expansion of coverage using available federal dollars. We believe you can and should do more to ensure that your administration as well as the various staffing and judicial appointments you make -- reflects the racial and ethnic diversity of Florida.The restoration of rights for individuals who have paid their debts to society is an important caucus priority. So, too, is the proper enforcement of voting rights and the end to the unnecessary purging of legitimate voters from voting rolls for apparent partisan gain.

While we respect your role in protecting the state budget, we remind you that your veto actions last year cut funding for programs and services that are critical to communities we serve," Williams added. There should be proportional representation of state spending on economic development investments, including advertising programs under the purview of your office. And the members of this caucus remain committed to adequate funding for all institutions of higher education, including Floridas historically black colleges and universities.

We have previously presented these and other matters to you and your staff in person, Williams wrote in conclusion. We intend to continue championing these issues with our colleagues in the Florida Legislature, and we encourage your engagement and leadership on these matters.

Jackie Schutz, Scotts press secretary, quickly fired back saying the governor was disappointed about the caucus decision.

Governor Scott believes the best way to serve Floridians is for the Legislature and the governors office to work together to find solutions, Schutz said, before adding the governor would be in his office for an hour in case any of the caucus members wanted to meet with him.

While there is an election coming up in November, there have been signs in recent days that some of the members of the caucus are willing to work with Scott.

Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, praised Scotts record and his call for more transportation investments on Monday.

Last year we saw incredible growth in Florida ports and manufacturing businesses thanks to Governor Scotts investments in transportation, Jones said on Monday. I look forward to seeing continued growth in the Sunshine State and the city of Jacksonville as he works with Mayor Alvin Brown to support transportation funding.

When Scott named Carlos Lopez-Cantera as the next lieutenant governor on Tuesday, state Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, another member of the caucus, praised the choice.


Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.

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