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Thursday April 17th 2014

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House District 2 Race, Scott Miller Interview

scott millerAfter working on other campaigns, Miller has launched his own. He has worked as a computer consultant, in the construction-debris trade and now in the medical industry with his father-in-law. If elected, the candidate will join his cousin, Sen. Greg Evers, in Tallahassee.

This is the third extended interview in the District 2 series. More to come.

IN: Tell me a little about yourself and why you entered the District 2 race.
MILLER:  Why I entered the District 2 race? I’ve been involved with politics—it’s been a long time dream of mine to go to the legislature. To be some sort of a legislative person.

I’ve been peripherally involved with it for a long time, helping get other candidates elected. My family has a long history of public service. It was always just something we were kind of steeped in. We’re one of those families, that when you go to the family reunion, or just any family event, there’s always a table that’s sitting around there hotly discussing the various benefits and flaws of the government. It was just kind of steeped in it. The hotter discussions tended to lean toward the flaw, but you know, at the end of the day you kind of have to embrace the whole package.

IN: What do you hope to accomplish?
MILLER:  I just want to make sure that we get—I hesitate to say honest representation, because I don’t want to undermine anyone’s motives, but I know the things that I stand for and why I stand for them.

For example, the Second Amendment is something that has been near and dear to my heart for a really long time. And it’s not just for the reasons people might think. It’s not that I’m such a gun person. I’m probably an average gun person. I’m not any more or less really. I have a couple of guns. I go hunting some. I like to shoot targets more than anything else because I really want to have something to shoot immediately.

My big concern about the erosion of our Second Amendment rights is that the way they are doing it will set precedence for the erosion of other rights down the road.
This last week the federal government tried to pass a treaty, to ratify a treaty with the United Nations that would circumvent our Second Amendment rights. And that’s the most mind-boggling thing I can imagine. How 46 Democrat senators could look at this mechanism and say, ‘Well, even though it completely undermines something that our Constitution says is sacred we’re gonna vote for it.’ To me, this should terrify the Democrats more than anyone else. Because at some point—there’s already a level of mistrust between liberal elements of the government and conservative elements—they have to know that at some point the pendulum is going to swing the other way and they’re not going to be in charge. But when that happens they will have set precedence for subverting the Constitution, that maybe the people that they’re not so in love with will have the ability to control.

I just wanna put as many brakes on the whole thing as much as I possibly can as far as the erosion of our rights, to the extent that I can at the state level and who knows what the future holds beyond that.

IN: I’m going to throw out a few topics, kind of a word association game, except for that you can elaborate. These are all topics that have come before the Florida legislation this session, or are a topic of national conversation.
MILLER: I’m gonna do my best to answer. In some cases things are as black and white as they seem. Because a lot of times if people ask me, ‘Are you in favor of this or that?’ a lot of times it’s how it’s implemented. Because implementation is everything.

IN: You just kind of touched on this, but guns. What are your thoughts on what’s going on nationally, about—
MILLER:  I am a big proponent of it. Because anti-gun people—and again, I don’t undermine anyone’s motives, I believe they believe what they believe with all their heart—but, for example, when people ask, ‘What do you need with an AK-47? What do you need with an AR-15? You can’t hunt with those guns, you can’t target shoot with those guns.’ But there are people who feel genuinely threatened by their environment. For example, if you lived on the border of Texas and Mexico, there are people over there who are on farms or whatever, and they may see drug runners, which happens all the time. I don’t think they’re so scared of people that are just doing boarder crossings, illegal aliens just trying to come in and go to work, but the drug cartels are a real clear and present threat and those guys might feel like they need something with a little bit of range to it that they can use to keep these guys at bay until the sheriff or Homeland Security comes.

Why do I need one? Because it’s a big scary looking gun and the people who might be threatening me will realize that I’m serious about home defense if I have one. Now, I don’t have one, but I’m not gonna deny someone that feels like they need that to protect themselves or at least to fend people off.

It’s like nuclear weapons, we didn’t invent nuclear weapons to destroy the world, we invented nuclear weapons to make sure people realized we were a serious nation and that if they came at us with a very serious threat, we had the ability to repel that threat. To me, the so-called assault weapons are kind of the same thing. This is just on a personal level.

IN: Sure. Okay, Healthcare.
MILLER:  Well, I couldn’t be more opposed to a federal takeover of healthcare. My family business is actually involved in healthcare. We have two family businesses in the healthcare industry. This medical imagining company that my father in-law owns and an assisted living facility that he also owns, that my wife runs on the Westside. So, I mean, we get to deal with the government, the way the government does business a lot.
Most of my criticisms of the government tend to revolve … around the way that they implement things, which seems to be kind of disingenuous. Let me give you a great example of what’s wrong with the medical system. Before Obama even got involved in it. When we do an MRI—we have several independent testing facilities that do MRIs— when we charge Medicare for an MRI they pay us $600. Alright? By the time you add up the various line items that they let us charge for. If the hospital does the exact same procedure, with the exact same equipment, using in some cases the exact same radiologists to evaluate the test, they get paid $2,500. Okay. What changed? Some people argue that they’re a larger facility and have more overhead, but that doesn’t change the value of the test, it doesn’t change the diagnostic quality of the test. It just says, ‘Well, those guys need more money, so we’re gonna give it to them.’

If you wanna know why and how the government throws away money that’s a great example. But, that’s something that’s driven by the federal government. On the state level, when we we’re applying for our license over at the assisted living facility our application got kicked back to us three or four times, I forget the details of it, a couple of those times it was because we used the wrong colored ink. Not that we carelessly used the wrong colored ink, we followed the directions on the paper, it said use one thing, they kicked it back and said those directions are no longer correct, we resubmitted it and the new person gets it this time and they say, ‘No, no, it says right here on the directions you have to use this color ink.’

Now, something that almost no one knows is that ACHA doesn’t evaluate those; they pay a contractor to do it. Now, why do you think a contractor might have a motive for kicking these things back as often as they do? Because the more times they evaluate  ’em the more times they get paid.

Things like that—I don’t know if there’s a budget motive for doing things like that or what. What I know is, if in the limited number of times I have an interaction with a government agency like that I have this problem, it has to be profoundly widespread. If they want to limit the number of applications they have apply, as part of the filtering process, or whatever, that’s just not a valid reason for doing those things. You have to do these things so that you set criteria and everybody gets a fair shot, or say we’re going to have a lottery and only permit this many per year, or whatever—fine, fair to everybody. But to sit there and say, ‘We’re just going to create a deliberately broken system that makes it hard for people to go through and that’s going to be our filtering mechanism, that’s just not how government is suppose to work and it’s the sort of things that I want to try to correct.

I don’t think the agencies are trying to be deliberately bad. I think they just aren’t given the right tools, or the right evaluation criteria for the agency, so they tend to be geared toward things like that. It gives people the impression that ‘We’re just a bunch of government bureaucrats and we don’t care what happens.’ These guys just get beat to death because no one is giving them a full set of instructions. That’s part of what I want to do. I want to help them.

I’ll give you one more, because it’s common knowledge that I’m involved with the Rolling Hill Recycling Company. And what we do is we have a construction and demolition landfill permit, what we do is we bring in construction material, we separate the things that can be recycled and then what’s not, we still separate it, but usually we separate it in such a way that we can bury some of if over here … some things are just going to be hard iron, and just things of that nature, that are never going to be anything—bury ’em, and at some point it’ll make a firm foundation for something to be built on top of it. Wood, biodegradable parts that we can’t recycle immediately, we bury and in a few years we’ll dig them back up and filter … the sand through there and that’ll turn into topsoil and products like that.

I say that because about a mile away from me there was another non-licensed guy who was disposing of—I’d watch 30, 40 30-yard containers a day go by of, containers of two-by-fours sticking out of the thing. Clearly it was the same containers I was taking, he just wasn’t licensed to. Called the DEP, ‘Hey, you gonna do anything about this guy?’ He said, ‘Well, we don’t have permission to enter his land.’ So, what you’re saying is, you’re going to regulate me, because I’m willing to let you come to my place, you guys are gonna come give me a hard time, but I’m right here telling you about a guy, not a mile away from me, that’s just bringing in stuff just as fast as he can and you’re not gonna do anything. Well, I think that statement was probably the beginning of a series of clashes that I had with the DEP that cost me around $100,000. One of which was, they tried to site my facility for accepting eight loads of ground up cardboard, glass and metal. Now, keeping in mind that my facility is allowed to take anything that can be found on a construction site, which includes cardboard, glass and metal. And that little box right there [points to box] is the deposition we got from the DEP. My favorite line in the whole thing was when the director of the solid waste activity said, ‘Well, we don’t really have anyone that’s familiar with the business of solid waste.’

Okay, so you’re charged with regulating an industry for which you have no clue what the parameters are? For example, they would come out and say, ‘There are refrigerators and stones and things like that out on the deck.’ I said, ‘Yeah, well we’ve got to pour the container out and see what’s in it when we find things… that need to be refused we go and pick it up—we haven’t gotten to that load yet.’ Write it up in a report. So, there are certain people at the DEP, there’s one guy at the DEP that I like to think that I harassed enough that he finally left. And I think the department, since some of that has happened, has dramatically improved.

I know that the Northwest district of the DEP files more—at one time, when we first started—filed more litigation than any other district in the state. And was losing more litigation than any other district in the state. So, I can’t say what their motives were but it seems to fall right in line with the cliché, that they were doing it to appear to be doing something.

IN: And you feel government in healthcare produces that same kind of result?
MILLER:  You know, like I say, I run into these agencies and I have these sorts of results. They seem to happen for no good reason. I’ll tell you right now, when we bill Medicaid on a monthly basis, the way that it’s accomplished it goes through a web portal, you type in the patient’s information, things that you’ve billed them for that month, and then a week later they send you a check. Works great. Since I’ve become involved in it, probably every other week the website is down probably two or three days at a time. Now, I design websites. That’s one of the things that I’ve done for years. I have a strong background in computer programming, web design and things of that nature. I’ve had my on personal servers up there.

When you talk about the Medicaid billing portal, let’s generously say that there are 50,000 people hitting that server in a given month. A 10-year-old server could handle it, a little ol’, whatever-you-were-using-ten-years-ago could handle that load of the type of processing that they do by itself, should run 24-7, 365 no problem. But this thing’s down every couple of weeks. And down for days. It’s the way that people have to get paid. What are we paying for? If we’ve got a server we know is critical to the way people who are working according to the parameter that the government sets out, what are we paying for?

I’m too much on the soapbox. I know, to a certain extent, that’s what all this is about, but it’s the long way of telling you, ‘That’s my motivation.’ I’m not gonna sit here and say, ‘I’m for lower taxes! I’m for smaller government!,’ Well, I am for those things, but it’s a lot deeper than that.

IN: Next subject. Where were we? Gay marriage, or domestic partnership.
MILLER:  I have a different take on that, too.

IN: Different from what?
MILLER:  Well, I oppose it. I oppose it because, in my estimation, and I can only take credit for my opinion, the people that are trying to advance that are not looking for equality, they’re looking for superiority. By that I say, if you will go out to the beach during spring break, this is just one metric, and watch as the college kids that are out there get in trouble. If a girl at spring break manages to get her bikini this far up, there’s a sheriff deputy there to throw his hand on her, toss her in jail.

Alright, you go out there on Memorial Day, there are people out there walking around the beach topless, they’re having sex right in front of God and everybody, and there are children running everywhere. And there’s not a living soul to stop them. And the reason is, is because everyone, is because law enforcement is terrified of the perception that they’re homophobic or they’re trying to be discriminatory. And when you go see gay pride parades, there’s behavior that’s tolerated there that in any other context would never be tolerated, if it were other people.

It’s a double standard that I don’t understand how conservatives allow to happen, beyond the fact that they can’t seem to articulate why this context is good, is tolerable, acceptable, and this one is not. Now, I would happily reevaluate my stance on that if the gay community would do a better job of policing itself so that their people would act as, would conform better to community standards. I’m not saying—what they want to do in their own bedrooms is their business, but they have to give us the same latitude that they expect us to give them.

IN: Do you favor or oppose any measure to grant same-sex couple the same rights as traditionally married couples? Legally speaking.
MILLER:  I can’t say that I favor it. It’s hard for me to get militant about it, but it’s not really—you know, the greatest thing that makes me oppose it is they’re trying to redefine something that has been part of Christian culture for, you know, for millennia gone by. At some point these people are going to have to face God and if there’s any, you know—what’s the word I’m looking for—if there’s a punishment for any behavior they’ve had in their life, God will mete it out. But at the same time, that doesn’t give them the right to redefine an institution that God specifically defined, or that the Christian religion and other religions—I can only speak for the Christian religion—but the Christian religion defined it over 2,000 years ago in the Bible, which came from other Judeo religions thousands of years before that. So, when they want to redefine something for no real reason, beyond validating, having someone else validate their lifestyle, it’s hard for me to get behind that.

IN: What about Marijuana. There are two bills in play in Florida this session, and nationally it’s obviously a discussion.
MILLER:  I have a lot of concerns about that, as far as marijuana being legalized. I do know that it has medical benefits, there’s no question that there’s medical benefits for it. At the same time, you know, Oxycotin’s legal and it is a rampantly abused drug. In fact, I think the greatest threat to Florida is the rampant abuse of those types of painkillers that are perfectly legal.

If we can’t control the things that are available by prescription, how are we going to make sure that marijuana is only used in a medical context since Oxycotin—you know, you have to have a very sophisticated laboratory to produce Oxycotin, any half-baked gardener can make marijuana. So, my greatest problem is we have a wonderfully available, widely-implacable medicine that is more open to abuse than Oxycotin is. So, at this time I have a little trouble supporting it.

IN: What about RESTORE money? Sen. Gaetz inferred recently that it might not be the best idea to leave a portion of that to the county-level discretion.
MILLER:  I think the more local the decision-makers are, the better the money gets spent. And I know there are concerns that people have, that someone’s friend might get it and not me, but at the end of the day we have remedies for how well those people spent our money. If they’re not doing the correct thing, we can vote ‘em out of office. If they’re doing illegal things, we can throw them in jail. But we can’t not do the right thing because there’s a risk of the wrong thing happening. At some point we have to have a certain amount of faith in government, although it’s popular to adopt a more jaded attitude.

IN: Sen. Evers, and this year Rep. Broxson, floated the idea of drilling in Blackwater. What do you think about that?
MILLER:  I’m fine with it. I grew up in Blackwater. As a matter of fact, when I was growing up, they were drilling around there. Well they weren’t drilling in Blackwater—no, no, no they were. I was tiny so it’s vague recollections.

IN: You weren’t operating the well?
MILLER:  I was barely operating the tractors, let alone the well-drilling equipment.

IN: How do you think this area would benefit from your service if you were to win?
MILLER:  I’m really kind of a hands-on guy. I’ll be honest with you. I tend to follow a lot of things, to my detriment, that have absolutely no benefit to me now, as a financial thing. I’ve gotten involved with helping these guys promote one of these industrial sites up in the north end. They paid me for my services at the time and they said, ‘See you later.’ But since then I’ve just thought it was such a great idea I just keep pumping it and pumping it and pumping it. It does nothing in the world for me, and those guys will make a million dollars doing it. And God bless ‘em for it. Because when they make the million dollars it will have brought probably a thousand jobs here that aren’t just service related jobs—there’s nothing wrong with service-level jobs, but they’re not the best paying jobs in the world—

IN: You talking about Florida’s First Super Site?
MILLER:  Yeah, that’s one of the things and I’m working with some people that want to build an inland port system to help support the actual port that we have here. I want to extend some of the tax-free benefits that would help do that and bring an inland port system that extends even north of the interstate. And kind of an intermodal thing where it has the opportunity to bring things in, switch things and actually do manufacturing that has, you know, not technically entered the country yet. Come in, be manufactured and leave without ever having entered the country. And I think that’s a terrific idea because it brings jobs, and it brings, once again, that aren’t just service related. It brings jobs that you can easily raise a family on.

You know, my big thing about Florida as a whole and the panhandle in particular, is Florida, on the south end, is so built up and so built out, any investment down there is going to have a minimum—you invest a million dollars, just a million dollars in Miami and sometimes you get a facade for a building, you invest a million dollars in the Panhandle, because of our proximity to Airbus, because to the other military assets and aviation consumers that are within a 10 hour drive, which is a huge deal, because it’s one trucking-day. You can have a trucker start his day at our facility and drive one trucking-day somewhere, pick up a load, and drive one-trucking day back. So, it’s maximum efficiency. It’s the same thing as being next door for the consumers.
Because if I ordered a ream of paper today, I would expect it to be here tomorrow. These people can order a jet engine and get the same service that I get for a ream of paper. That’s a huge opportunity for us. And if we can build that sort of economy around here, every million dollars that we invest here has a dramatically larger impact than it would anywhere else in the state. And that’s what I want to sell to the people in Tallahassee and around Tallahassee. Part of the job of a representative is to sell the area that he represents.

IN: What would you consider the biggest issues for Florida, and up here specifically?
MILLER:  The RESTORE Act is a tremendous opportunity. And some people have said the $200 million dollars isn’t going to be as big of a life-changing deal as you think it is, but I think that it can be. If we use that money judicially, then we have a great opportunity to change the economic future of our area. If for no other reason, by simply making people aware of the opportunity they have here as far as manufacturing goes.
At the same time, we’ve got Airbus building $200 billion worth of A320s just 50 miles away. And it’s not just aviation. We have an opportunity for aviation-based industry. Which is appropriate for Pensacola, you know, our history is steeped in aviation. But we have an opportunity to build—you know, if we had a tire distributer, that might distribute a certain custom market kind of tire for A320s, well they don’t just sell tires for airplanes, they sell tires for airplanes, for large heavy equipment, they could be a supplier for Caterpillar, there’s a lot of different heavy industry applications that they would have even just in a distribution context.

IN: So, jobs, basically?
MILLER:  Well, jobs, as far as anything being a direct benefit to the area, I think jobs—we’re gonna miss the boat if we don’t start connecting the right people with are area. And, you know, I guess one of the other things I was trying to allude to as far as what my impact is, I am a direct-to-constituent kind of guy. There are a lot wholesale things that go on in Tallahassee, but the job is really about making sure that your run-of-the-mill, walk-in guy that having trouble, having a problem with government, gets someone that can be an advocate on his side.

One of the things that Sen. Evers was famous for doing, when he was a representative, was that someone would call him with problems with their VA benefits. Well, he doesn’t have anything to do with the VA, but what he would do is call and say, ‘Hey, this is Rep. Evers’ office calling about so-and-so.’ There are so many federal employees, departments and stuff like that—he was, you know, a state representative—but he would get the response that was normally reserved for a congressman and he’d get it for someone who might not have known that they needed to go to Congressman Miller’s office.

So, for me the job doesn’t start and end with the level of government that I’m on. It begins and ends with the people that come into the office, because those are the people that need the help.

IN: Sen. Evers is your uncle?
MILLER:  Cousin. First cousin.

IN: What advice has he given you?
MILLER:  He didn’t give me any advice. He and I have a pretty close relationship, so we talk politics a lot, the mechanics of it more than anything else. In the back of my mind when I first told him I was going to run—I didn’t really call him, I just texted him—because what was interesting to me, I kind of expected him to say, ‘Really is that something you really want to do?’ Talk me out of it, you know, whatever. What he did instead was start talking about the mechanics of it to me in a way that I found really encouraging, because when you talk to your family and they think you’re going to do something dumb, something that someone else would tell them and they’d go, ‘Oh, that’s great,’ and smile—you know, if you tell a family member, I guess they feel comfortable enough to tell you, ‘You’re gonna do what?’ And he absolutely didn’t do that. He just started talking to me about how that sort of thing might happen and why I thought the mechanics of it worked, and he didn’t disagree with me.

He’s in a little bit of a tight spot as far as openly supporting me, because he’s worried about, ‘How does it look?’ You know, ‘You’re only supporting this guy because he’s you cousin,’ or whatever. But I get a lot of great advice from him; he points me in a lot of great directions.