The Trump administration has handed Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) a major political win as Republicans try to entice him to run for the Senate, promising to spare his state from its plan to massively expand offshore drilling.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke flew to Tallahassee to meet with Scott Tuesday night and pledged to exempt Florida from his plans to open nearly all coastal areas in the U.S. to offshore drilling, while heaping praise on the governor for his work.
Republicans from Trump on down have spent more than a year pushing Scott, a self-funding billionaire and close Trump ally, to run against Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). The move was seen by many as a naked political ploy — a way to boost Scott’s standing in the state, where offshore drilling is deeply unpopular, while pushing ahead on the plan in states like California where there are fewer local Republicans to worry about helping.
Zinke called Scott a “straightforward leader that can be trusted” in his statement announcing the decision, giving Scott all the credit for the reversal.
“I support the governor’s position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver,” he said. “As a result of discussion with [Scott] and his leadership, I am removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms.”
Gov. Rick Scott will soon launch a new hunt for noncitizens on Florida’s voter roll, a move that’s sure to provoke new cries of a voter “purge” as Scott ramps up his own re-election effort.
Similar searches a year ago were rife with errors, found few ineligible voters and led to lawsuits by advocacy groups that said it disproportionately targeted Hispanics, Haitians and other minority groups. Those searches were handled clumsily and angered county election supervisors, who lost confidence in the state’s list of names.
“It was sloppy, it was slapdash and it was inaccurate,” said Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards. “They were sending us names of people to remove because they were born in Puerto Rico. It was disgusting.”
The state’s list of suspected non-U.S. citizens shrank from 182,000 to 2,600 to 198 before election supervisors suspended their searches as the presidential election drew near.
Researchers at the University of South Florida are fighting with the state over access to the grounds of a now-closed reform school.
For decades, the Dozier School for Boys was notorious for the harsh treatment boys received there. Now, a forensic anthropologist and her team want permission to exhume dozens of bodies they found in unmarked graves, but are meeting resistance from state officials.
White House Boys
They’re called the White House Boys — a group of men, many now in their 60s and 70s — who were sent to the Dozier school when they were children. They take the name from a small white building on the school grounds where boys were beaten. Jerry Cooper was sent to the school in 1961. He says guards beat the boys using a leather strap.
“These were not spankings. These were beatings, brutal beatings,” Cooper says.
Cooper and other White House Boys say they know of children who died from the beatings. A few years ago, the state investigated and said it found no evidence that staff at the school had been responsible for any student deaths.