"Jeb Bush selected most likely to never get my vote, poll says"
"Pop quiz: Jeb Bush would have a better shot at being elected president in 2016 than Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. True or false?"
False. No other potential Republican candidate (Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Texas Gov. Rick Perry or former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee) has a higher hill to climb against a Democrat than Florida’s popular[*] ex-governor, a new Washington Post-ABC poll suggests."Jeb Bush selected most likely to never get my vote, poll says". Meanwhile, "Jeb Bush in 2016? Barbara Bush backs away from 'no.'".
When 873 registered voters were asked in late January which Republican they would definitely not vote for, 50 percent said there’s no chance they would vote for Bush.
That ranked Bush as the most soundly rejected of the possible presidential candidates. Christie, Cruz, Huckabee and Perry each were rejected by 42 percent of respondents. A third of those surveyed (33 percent) said they would not vote for Rubio. . . .
The same poll indicates Bush would have easiest time winning the GOP nomination against the same field. Of 457 Republicans surveyed, 76 percent said they would either vote for or consider voting for Bush. Next closest among eight surveyed was Paul (67 percent) and Huckabee (66 percent). Rubio came in next at 65 percent.
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*It bears noting that Florida's professional chatterers continue to call Jeb Bush "popular," even in the face of empirical evidence like this.
"Scott’s ad is a scare tactic"
"Seniors (particularly voters), listen up: Medicare cuts have arrived — and the way Gov. Rick Scott tells it, they’re going to lead to some sickening results."
Scott’s ad is a scare tactic that omits several caveats. We rate this claim Mostly False."Gov. Rick Scott says Medicare rate cuts will affect seniors’ ability to keep their doctor, hospital and prevention services".
"Running along the edge of acceptable adult behavior"
Steven Girardi: "March 11 — [Tuesday] — is Election Day and, by the grace and mercy of God, the end of the campaign for the District 13 U.S. House of Representatives seat — a two-month free-for-all of name calling and shin kicking not seen anywhere outside of a school yard during second-grade recess."
It has been 43 years since anyone besides C.W. Bill Young has occupied this esteemed office, which became available upon his death in October. If this is what we’ve been missing, another 43 years might be too soon."Welcome end to free-for-all District 13 race".
In political campaigns, as in wars, the truth often is the first casualty. Reasonable and alert people expect as much. But even that provides no sense as to why this election spat between Democrat Alex Sink and Republican David Jolly turned into mud wrestling.
And pity poor Lucas Overby, a Libertarian who unexpectedly found himself as the moderate voice of reason. For Libertarians, who run best and happiest as outsiders poking sticks into the government machinery, that’s not where you’re prepared to be.
Sadder still is that Sink and Jolly, two otherwise successful, competent and civil human beings, seemingly lost control of their own campaigns, and of their own voices. They bemoan the lies, accusations and generally bad etiquette of the campaign, along with the absurd amounts of money ($9 million-plus by some counts) that poured in from everywhere, but either could not or chose not to stop it. They were hijacked by national campaigns and political organizations that see this race as some kind of mood ring for the country.
Just for fun, does anyone really think Alex Sink, a serious-minded woman and the former chief financial officer of the whole darn state, is a racist and a bigot? That she supports immigration reform to make sure Florida’s hotels, restaurants and lawn services don’t run out of cheap labor?p>
Or how about this: Does anyone really think David Jolly, no matter for whom he may or may not have lobbied in Washington, is A-OK with oil drilling platforms off the shores of Treasure Island or Clearwater Beach? That the same man who supports spending millions of federal dollars to pump sand onto eroding tourist beaches would risk, politically if nothing else, turning them into oil fields?
Political campaigns by nature tend to run along the edge of acceptable adult behavior. This one ran right off. Or is there such little regard and expectation for the truth anymore that the old Lyndon Johnson tactic (reportedly) — sure it’s not true, I just want to hear him deny it — is just swell with everybody?
Rubio sees big drop in support
"Rand Paul wins 2014 CPAC straw poll, Ted Cruz finishes a distant second - Rubio and Ryan, GOP leaders in Congress all see big drops in support".
"It’s like a twisted Comedy Central sketch — if you pass the exam, you die"
Carl Hiaasen: "For 35 years, Florida has been trying to execute Freddie Lee Hall, who is mentally disabled and has been his whole life."
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the state’s solicitor general argue that the execution should go forward because Hall scored too high on IQ tests to be spared from the death penalty. . . ."Florida’s IQ exam fails test of justice".
In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to execute mentally retarded persons, saying that IQ scores below “approximately 70” showed serious intellectual disability. Individual states were left to hammer out details of the exemption.
Several of the Supreme Court justices last week questioned why Florida lawmakers imposed an arbitrary IQ threshold of 70 when most psychiatrists recognize margins of error spanning five points or more.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer proposed that trial courts require clinical experts to explain IQ parameters to the judge or jurors who were deciding if a defendant was intellectually disabled.
Asked Breyer, “What’s so terrible about doing it?”
“What is so terrible about doing it,” replied Florida solicitor general Allen Winsor, “is you end up increasing the number of people who would be eligible for a mental-retardation finding.”
The last thing we’d want to do is thin out Death Row, where inmates currently spend an average of about 25 years appealing their sentences, at enormous taxpayer expense.
Some will say it’s just as immoral to lock up a mentally disabled person for life as it is to execute him, but nothing can excuse the crimes that Freddie Lee Hall took part in. He belongs in prison forever.
And that would be his certain future, if only he’d gotten one or two problems wrong on his IQ test, scoring a 70 instead of a 71. It’s like a twisted Comedy Central sketch — if you pass the exam, you die.
Florida authorities seem concerned that some inmates who aren’t really mentally disabled will be able to dodge lethal injection if the law is made more flexible.
Internet cafe overload
"A year after the Florida Legislature approved sweeping legislation that led to the closing of Internet cafes and senior arcades across the state, some lawmakers are hoping tweaks to the law might help fix some of the unintended consequences."
Two Senate bills have been filed to address arcade games, such as those found at bowling alleys and Chuck E. Cheese, which might have gotten swept up in the frenzy to pass a bill shutting down so-called Internet cafes. "Bills would fix unintended consequences of internet cafe ban".
Florida's conservative "bad girl" nabbed in Nicaragua
The self-styled conservative "bad girl," Ana Alliegro, "the gal pal of former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, was arrested and informally extradited Friday from Nicaragua to Miami, where a federal grand jury charged her in a four-count indictment for her alleged role in a campaign-finance scheme tied to the one-time congressman."
She will be locked up in a federal detention center until her first court appearance Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick White."Busted in Nicaragua: ex-Rep. David Rivera's pal, Ana Alliegro, in FBI custody over campaign scheme". See also "" and "".
Alliegro had fled to Nicaragua in 2012 as the FBI began investigating her and Rivera in a scheme to steer and conceal $82,000 in illegal campaign contributions to a no-name congressional candidate, who appeared to be doing Rivera’s political dirty work. That candidate, Justin Lamar Sternad, subsequently pleaded guilty to breaking federal campaign-finance laws and lying about it.
Now, the 44-year-old Alliegro faces charges of helping Sternad make false statements on his campaign reports and of making illegal contributions well in excess of federal campaign limits. If convicted, she faces up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each count.
Rivera has not been charged. Neither Alliegro nor Rivera, who have long denied wrongdoing, could be reached for comment.
The indictment against Alliegro lists unnamed co-conspirators.
"CD13 campaigns go low profile"
"Anyone hoping David Jolly or Alex Sink would be out shaking hands and kissing babies on the last day of the last full week before election day was probably disappointed Friday. The Republican and the Democrat, respectively, kept noticeably low profiles heading into the final weekend before the as-yet unnervingly close race is decided on Tuesday, though the nasty messages flying to and fro between the camps continue uninterrupted." "District 13 campaigns go low profile".
Meanwhile, "John Boehner and GOP Leadership Try to Counter Bill Clinton in CD 13".
"Sheriff will not pursue case against Grayson".
Kevin Derby's "Political Bits and Pieces". See also "Weekly Roundup: Few Surprises in Session's First Week" and "Week in Review for March 7, 2014".
"A prelude to new drilling"
The Miami Herald editors: "The U.S. Interior Department is about to open up a portion of the Atlantic Ocean to oil and gas exploration after shutting that door in the 1980s."
While there is a ban on actual drilling in the Atlantic until 2017, Interior’s move is clearly a prelude to new drilling, which is troubling in light of the Obama administration’s admirable efforts to reduce fossil-fuel consumption to combat climate change."Don’t drill, baby!".
Florida fought hard for that drilling moratorium, and it should fight Interior’s new survey plan, too. The Eastern Seaboard area to be opened to seismic surveys for oil and gas ranges from Delaware to Cape Canaveral. Environmental groups are opposed, saying the testing, which involves underwater explosions, will harm sea life, particularly whales and dolphins. The intense noise of the explosions could kill them, the opponents say. Compressed air guns creating repeated bursts of sound as loud as a howitzer are used beneath the sea, often for long periods of time.
But the jury is out on just how injurious the blasting is for dolphins and whales. Scientists disagree on whether the loud, repetitive underwater noises are lethal, but most do agree that the blasts could alter sea mammals’ long-term behavior, affecting their migration patterns, mating habits and even how they communicate with each other. There are 34 species of whales and dolphins, including six whale species that are endangered, in the proposed survey area.
"Republicans from Florida made the case to delay the individual mandate this week, including  U.S. Rep. Bill Posey. R-Fla.," ... you remember, the guy whose "grandma, allegedly, [had relations with] an alligator." "Florida Delegation Continues to Disagree on Obamacare". Meanwhile, "Obama Heads to Florida as GOP Pounds him for Sending Medicare Funds to Obamacare".
"Rubio wants U.S. attention on Venezuela crisis".
"The bill has support from statewide groups including Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Farm Bureau Federation and the Florida Forestry Association. Opponents include Martin, Alachua and Lee counties, the Florida League of Cities, 1000 Friends of Florida and several environmental groups." "Critics: Proposal undermines 2011 law encouraging locals to make growth decisions".
"A sweeping overhaul of the state's de facto school-voucher system was approved Thursday by a House subcommittee on a party-line vote, a sign of the friction the proposal could cause as it moves through the Legislature." "Voucher Bill Gets Backing in Party-Line Vote".
"A million miles from Medicaid"
Aaron Deslatte: "Florida's lawmaking session is early, but the odds are long the state will join half the nation that has embraced President Barack Obama's optional expansion of Medicaid. "
That means debates will live on over how to deal with nearly one-in-five Floridians without health insurance long after the federal Affordable Care Act is implemented, and nearly 1 million people are left living in the "doughnut hole.""Florida is a million miles from Medicaid expansion".
In the first week, Florida looked a million miles away.
One day, a cadre of volunteers held signs outside the Florida House chamber reading "Say Yes for Business! Say Yes for $51 billion!"
But on another, House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, was standing on the Capitol steps rallying a crowd of Americans for Prosperity activists, asking if they were glad the Legislature refused to take the Medicaid deal last year.
Florida's Governor Ultrasound?
"A vote on a controversial proposal that would outlaw abortions in Florida any time a doctor determined a fetus was viable was postponed indefinitely Wednesday."
Sen. Aaron Bean, the Fernandina Beach Republican who chairs the Senate’s Health Policy Committee, said consideration of Senate Bill 918 was delayed at the request of the sponsor, Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami. Flores could not be reached for comment after the meeting."The proposal requires doctors to perform medical examinations, including ultrasounds, on pregnant women who seek abortions to determine viability. If the doctor rules the fetus is viable — defined as the stage of development where the life of a fetus could be sustained outside of the womb — then an abortion can only be carried out if the woman’s life is at risk or she faces serious risk of injury."
Similar restrictions are added to the state’s existing ban on third-trimester abortions and there is also the requirement of a second doctor’s opinion before the exception is granted."Vote on controversial abortion bill delayed in Senate".
A “temporary postponement” means the bill could be brought back to the committee any time — there will be at least two more meetings during the 2014 session — or never again.
Perhaps an enterprising journalist will ask our Gubernatorial candidates for their position on this bill.
Scott's last stand
The Tampa Tribune editorial board does its best to polish up the Governor: "Whatever missteps he has made along the way, and whatever awkwardness he may have at the podium, he has an advantage as governor and candidate. He’s firm in his beliefs. And even his harshest critics cannot deny he has gotten results." "Scott’s campaign narrative".
Kevin Derby: "With less than a week to go until the election, candidates running in Pinellas County for the congressional seat opened by the death of longtime U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., made their final pitches this week, with a little help from their new famous friends." "National Parties Weigh in Big in CD 13, with Clinton, Rove".
Meanwhile, "Elections Alex Sink campaigns cautiously in final week before Pinellas election" (subscription required).
"Medical Marijuana Passes First Hurdle"
"After more than an hour of testimony and debate, the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee passed a groundbreaking bill Wednesday to decriminalize a non-euphoric strain of marijuana supporters say can save lives and ease the suffering of thousands of Florida children with intractable epilepsy." "Groundbreaking Bill to Decriminalize CBD Medical Marijuana Passes First Hurdle". More: "Committee approves "non-euphoric" medical marijuana use".
The usual suspects are out to expand Florida’s controversial school voucher program. These "powerful political forces" want to continue draining money from Florida's public school system, and then complain about the inadequate job they're doing.
Those forces include the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity and influential think tanks like the conservative James Madison Institute and former Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future. All have thrown their considerable weight behind the expansion."House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, considers the bill among his top priorities this year."
And then there is the money. The voucher program’s top supporter, Tampa venture capitalist John Kirtley, controls a political committee in Florida that spent nearly $2.4 million to influence races in 2010 and 2012. He plans to spend at least $1.5 million in 2014, he said.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott is on board, too. . . ."Big money, powerful lobbying groups push school voucher proposal".
The bill does have its opponents: the Florida Education Association, the Florida School Boards Association, and several parent groups, to name a few. The FEA is major contributor to mostly Democratic candidates and their committees, and has already raised at least $365,000 for the current election cycle.
“To me, it looks like a concerted effort to allow religious schools to receive public dollars,” said Kathleen Oropeza, an Orlando mom and co-founder of the group Fund Education Now.
Mindy Gould, the legislative chair for the Florida PTA, said her organization plans to fight the proposed expansion, because it “takes taxpayer dollars away from our public schools.”
But Gould conceded that the PTA did not have the same kind of resources as some groups supporting the bill.
Kevin Derby: "The gubernatorial race is heating up after Gov. Rick Scott offered the State of the State address on Tuesday with his challengers attacking the Republican incumbent and each other."
Former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge Scott despite spending most of his political life in the GOP, continued on the attack on Wednesday. Pointing to Politifact’s review of Scott’s speech, Crist took aim at the Republican."Governor's Race Mushrooms into Attack-Fest".
"A tough path to the Florida House"
Jeff Henderson: "Mike LaRosa had a tough path to the Florida House in 2012 and things won’t come easy this year either as a new major opponent filed paperwork on Wednesday to challenge him."
Two Democrats have stepped up to run against LaRosa. Native Floridian Chad Carnell filed to run back in November. Carnell has an interesting background, serving as CFO of Brevard Family Partnership for seven years and helping the Children’s Home Society before that. He also worked as a tax auditor for the state and ran for the Osceola County Commission in 2012. . . ."LaRosa Faces Challengers in Florida House Race".
Pete Placencia, an attorney from St. Cloud who works in Kissimmee, filed his paperwork to run on Wednesday. Placencia is a trial attorney who came out behind alternative energy on Wednesday, insisting it will help the region’s economy. Carnell has a head start, to be sure, but Placencia has ties to the area and should be able to offer a competitive primary.
Scott works on gambling deal
"A spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott confirmed Wednesday that he and the Seminole Tribe of Florida have begun talks to renew a revenue-sharing agreement that adds more than $200 million yearly to the state’s treasury." "Scott, Seminoles renew talks on gambling revenue".
Good luck with that
"After a decade-long fight, advocates of in-state tuition rates for students whose parents are undocumented have some momentum – at least in one chamber of the Legislature." "In-state tuition advances for children of illegal immigrants". See also "In-State Tuition for DREAMers Breezes Through House Committee".
"Florida’s uncompassionate conservatives"
Joy-Ann Reid writes that, "If a novel were written about Florida’s administration of its healthcare for the working poor, an appropriate title might be: 'Don’t get sick, and God help you if you do.'"
It could also be called “How to kill a hospital.”Read it all here: "Our state’s sick healthcare system".
Florida has tied the ultimate Gordian knot around its healthcare providers: refusing to accept the federal expansion of Medicaid, despite a 100-percent federal match for the first few years, meaning that the state’s estimated 3.8 million uninsured — that’s one in four Floridians under age 65 — have little hope of getting insured if they fall in the no-man’s land between the federal poverty line and a job with insurance.
And the hospitals that treat the indigent can thank the Legislature for ensuring that they will do so — presuming they can still afford to — at the risk of their solvency. . . .
And now comes the unkindest cut of all: The state run by a former hospital executive whose company helped him get rich on the back of extravagant Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare fraud, has elected to limit Medicaid patients to six hospital visits a year, which is not only cruel, but also an illegal perversion of the program. The federal government has already begun levying the fines.
It’s a novel way to deal with the fact that the Legislature has held at arm’s length low-income Floridians like a cruel game of keep-away, the E.R. becomes the primary-care provider for an inordinate share of the working poor.
So rather than help those people get Medicaid via the federal expansion, or at least stopping the state’s serial obstruction of the navigators administering the federal exchange under the Affordable Care Act (the Legislature even stripped the insurance commissioner of the power to regulate insurance premiums) Florida’s uncompassionate conservatives decided to treat the potential hospital crisis as a demand-side problem.
As a result of this one-two-three punch, if you are poor in the Sunshine State, but you work a full-time job, or even two, but don’t get healthcare — and your employer, or employers — don’t pay you enough to afford to buy insurance on the federal exchange, you’re out of luck. . .
Of course, if you get sick once, you can go to the emergency room. Under federal law, they have to treat you. In fact, you’re allowed to get really sick just five more times. God help you if your condition is chronic, because the seventh time, you’re just plain out of luck.
Tampa Trib editors: "Good riddance to the state’s misguided plan to sell conservation lands under the guise of attempting to raise money to purchase better environmentally sensitive property." "Good riddance to flawed environmental lands plan".
"Even Texas . . ."
Fred Grimm: "Gun rights absolutists conjured up a new enemy this week." Sunrise Mayor Michael
Ryan’s actual sin had nothing to do with the right to “own a firearm or defend your family.” Rather, he had written to Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi raising “the obvious safety concerns associated with unregulated residential firearm ranges.” . . . "One-size-fits-all gun laws fail Floridians".
And for anyone who thinks that he’s trying to infringe on some God-given American right to fashion a backyard shooting range, Ryan offered the ultimate gun-nut rejoinder. “Even Texas has made these illegal."
"A rose-colored view of Florida"
The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Gov. Rick Scott's State of the State address on Tuesday offered a rose-colored view of Florida that he hopes to sell in his re-election campaign and ignored the biggest issues facing lawmakers. The governor offered little beyond more tax cuts and shortsighted limits on university tuition as he took credit for the economic recovery and criticized his predecessor and presumed November opponent, Charlie Crist. But the Sunshine State is more complicated than Scott suggested, and his agenda should be broader."
On public school funding, Scott boasted that he proposes record spending for 2014-15. Actually, Florida spends less per student now than when the governor took office. Even with his proposed increase next year, per student spending would be $177 less than what the state spent in 2007-08 before the economic recession."Scott took credit for the improving economy and falling unemployment rate, indirectly blaming Crist for the economic pain of the recent recession."
He ignored the broader factors that both triggered the recession and the recovery, from the stock market to housing prices that have little to do with who occupies the Governor's Mansion. Instead, he made the familiar conservative argument that tax cuts create jobs. . . ."Scott's leadership vacuum". See also "Scott touts job creation, economic upswing in State of the State address", "Scott pushes tax cuts, slams Crist in State of the State speech", "Rick Scott Turns on Charlie Crist in State of the State" and "Gov. Scott touts accomplishments at state of the state".
The governor continues to promote his performance solely on economic terms, specifically job creation. But the governor's role is much larger than promoting economic development. Scott offered no indication where he stands on many of the key issues facing the Legislature, and lawmakers won't hesitate to fill the leadership vacuum.
Kevin Derby: "Florida's Leadership Divides on Scott's State of the State".
"Trying to Snuff Out Medical Marijuana"
"Parents of perhaps thousands of children with unrelenting epileptic seizures are holding their breath today as a bill that would decriminalize light-strain medical marijuana comes under attack from a drug-policy official with no background in medicine, science or agronomy. Kevin A. Sabet, director of the University of Florida's Drug Policy Institute, has a Ph.D. in public policy from Oxford University and a propensity for arguing against decriminalization of any part of the marijuana plant that isn't already in a clinical trial or with a pharmaceutical company." "Anti-Legalization Advocate Trying to Snuff Out Medical Marijuana Bill".
"Dream Defenders shake the Capitol"
"About 150 members of the Dream Defenders outside the House and Senate chambers chanted, stomped and jumped so hard that the fourth floor of the Capitol bounced during a protest on Tuesday." "Dream Defenders shake the Capitol on opening day".
"Setting the stage for a grueling re-election campaign"
"Setting the stage for a grueling re-election campaign, Gov. Rick Scott took direct aim at Charlie Crist’s record as governor without mentioning his name." "Gov. Rick Scott gets personal and political in State of State speech".
"Weatherford outlines house plan for session". See also "Gaetz, Weatherford Open 2014 Session Backing Governor's Top Priorities".
"Scott oversaw the largest Medicare fraud at the time"
Fact-checking the Florida Democratic Party claim that Rick Scott "oversaw the largest Medicare fraud in the nation’s history," Politifact reports that
The Columbia/HCA settlement has since been surpassed in dollar value, though the bigger cases involved Medicare somewhat less directly. Because the Democratic Party could have been a bit more specific in its wording — by saying that Scott oversaw the largest Medicare fraud at the time — we rate the claim Mostly True."Rick Scott 'oversaw the largest Medicare fraud in the nation’s history,' Florida Democratic Party says".
Weatherford "remains the stalwart fool"
Fabiola Santiago: "It’s this simple: The Florida Legislature cannot afford to decline federal dollars for healthcare."
A state with an estimated 3.3 million uninsured — even in a post-Affordable Care Act world — can’t continue to play political games and forgo $51.3 billion in federal funds."Who remains the stalwart fool who can turn down a $51.3 billion bounty rolled out over 10 years?"
The partisan match with the U.S. president doesn’t pay nor serve citizens in any imaginable way — and even fiscal ideologue Gov. Rick Scott has changed his view on accepting federal dollars to expand Medicaid and better serve the underprivileged.
House Speaker Will Weatherford, a Republican from well-heeled Wesley Chapel who has vowed to fight to the finish any effort to bring up the issue again in the legislative session that began Tuesday. He’s not even amenable to the latest proposal, a Republican-friendly one that places the money in the hands of private health care insurers and providers. . . ."Lawmakers would be negligent in declining federal help".
Weatherford’s opposition to federally subsidized healthcare is, at best, hypocritical.
According to his father, the family accepted more than $100,000 in Medicaid dollars to pay the bills of Weatherford’s cancer-stricken 13-month-old brother, who died in 1995. Weatherford has said he was too young to remember how the finances were handled, yet he remembers enough to cast doubt on his father’s recollection, and avoid judgment on his position. But he’s catering to the point of view of wealthy supporters and the powerful father-in-law who put him in office, Tallahassee royalty.
It would be negligence of the worst kind for the legislature to continue to decline money that would bring some relief to a state in dire need of healthcare funding.
"Nine weeks of stupid"
Daniel Ruth writes that "it might appear that today marks the beginning of the Florida Legislature's annual 60-day session in which our dedicated elected public servants gather to make life better for one and all across the state regardless of race, creed, gender or economic status."
Forgive a pinch of cynicism, but you might be better off regarding the next nine weeks of stupid that are about to commence as more along the lines of "Eight Years a Knave."Ruth continues,
Gov. Dread Scott will deliver the always riveting State of the State address this morning before an assemblage of the Capitol's feedbag of pols. . . .
Then the House and Senate will get down to the serious business of legislatively napalming the environment, imploding public education, expanding gambling and otherwise pandering to any special interest lobbyist with a bulging checkbook looking for a home.
And what about you, precious reader? You are so very much burnt, crumbling, mold-infested toast."The best Legislature money can buy".
In advance of this year's auction house of influence-peddling, House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-The Errorist of the All, was adamant that the fact that Tallahassee is awash in unlimited money flowing into members' political committees has absolutely no influence on shaping legislation or advancing the special interests of the state's deep-pocketed big shots. . . .
As the 2014 session begins, if you are a poor person, or sick, or a public school student, or an environmentalist, or the child of illegal immigrants, you don't stand a chance of being heard. But you never have.
Raw political courage
"House and Senate have politically popular bills to start an election-year session. Gov. Rick Scott will kick off the festivities by asking lawmakers to approve a tax cut package. Scott's request will come in a State of the State speech marking the beginning of the 2014 legislative session, Tuesday at 11:00 a.m." "2014 legislative session convenes Tuesday". See also "Legislature convenes today".
State of the State
"Florida legislators return today to the state Capitol for a 60-day session that likely will focus on tax cuts, spending and school vouchers, but avoid many of the contentious issues that sparked partisan rancor and fierce debate in the past few years." "Gov. Scott will use speech to push tax cuts". See also "Rick Scott's Tax Cuts Dodge Democrats' Bullets as 2014 Session Kicks Off".
"In another thinly veiled shot at his chief rival in the November elections, Gov. Rick Scott will use his State of the State address on Tuesday to call for a repeal of a 2009 law allowing universities to increase tuition up to 15 percent a year." "2014 legislative session convenes Tuesday".
"On the eve of the opening of the Florida Legislature, activists from Democratic-allied groups rallied Monday at the state Capitol, challenging Gov. Rick Scott and Republican leaders over health care, voting law changes and a controversial self-defense gun law." "Liberals, conservatives stage dueling rallies on eve of legislative session’s start". See also ""Moral Monday" protestors converge on Capitol" and "Dueling rallies in Tallahassee show divide on state’s priorities".
FlaGOP stiffs 1 million uninsured Floridians
"Roughly 1 million uninsured Floridians . . . who repeatedly heard affordable health insurance was just around the corner for them, thanks to President Barack Obama’s new law, are finding a harsh reality — they’re too poor to qualify."
In Florida, generally only children, pregnant women, the disabled and single parents or caretakers of underage children are eligible for Medicaid, the government’s free health plan for the poor."But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that states couldn’t be required to expand Medicaid coverage. Twenty-five states — including Florida — opted against the Medicaid expansion."
The Affordable Care Act called for the working poor to get health coverage through an expanded Medicaid program, while offering tax subsidies to those earning above the federal poverty level or $23,550 for a family of four.
That has left the working poor in the state without access to Medicaid and with no tax subsidies that would make it affordable for them to buy insurance through the online marketplace. . . ."Poor Floridians fall into Medicaid gap". The Tampa Bay Times editors: "A million still waiting for Tallahassee to act on health coverage".
When the Florida House voted last year not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, members cited fears that it could eventually cost the state hundreds of millions annually.
Others, though, saw politics as the real reason the Republican-controlled House said no to the expansion. They point out the federal government is paying 100 percent of the costs through 2016. After that, it will phase down to 90 percent in 2020.
Health advocates are doing what they can so consumers don’t leave appointments feeling hopeless. Florida CHAIN and navigator groups like the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, which received a federal grant to sign up people for health coverage, are referring consumers to local health departments and community health centers that treat patients on a sliding scale and offer discounted drug programs.
“They’ll keep saying, ‘I’m poor. I should qualify for something.’ And they’re right, they should, but the fact is this is a state that chose not to expand Medicaid,” said counselor Adrian Madriz. . . .
Medicaid expansion may be a dead deal before the legislative session even begins today. Scott said he supported the expansion, but never made it a priority and nothing has signaled that’s changed. Republican House Speaker Will Weatherford has been adamant about turning down any proposal that relies on federal dollars. In a recent editorial, Weatherford showed no sign of changing, calling the decision not to expand a flawed Medicaid program “a common-sense, quality solution to address our health care challenges.”
"Cracking down on politicians" who live outside the district
"The Legislature could be cracking down on politicians who opt to run for office without ever moving into the cities, counties or even school districts they represent. The Senate’s Ethics and Elections Committee on Monday passed a bill (SB 602) which spells out that candidates or elected officials required to live within the geographic area – such as the district or city – must use their legal 'domicile' as their residence and can only claim one such 'domicile.'" "Latvala targets local pols living outside their districts".
"DCCC doesn’t have much hope of making progress in Florida"
"The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) tipped its hand on Monday, showing little optimism that it will be looking to defeat Republican congressmen from Florida with the exception of Steve Southerland."
The DCCC came out with its list of 35 “red to blue” and “emerging races” congressional contests where they hope to topple Republican incumbents. Democrats clearly have their targeted states lined up as they hope to win back Congress from the GOP with multiple Republican incumbents in Arkansas, California, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania already in their sights."DCCC Not Inclined to Play Much in Florida in 2014".
But the DCCC clearly doesn’t have much hope of making progress in Florida. The DCCC put Gwen Graham in the spotlight, naming her to the “red to blue” list of Democratic candidates who have the best chances of knocking off Republicans.
Lawmakers agenda built around re-electing Scott
"As Florida lawmakers open their annual legislative session Tuesday and the governor gives his fourth state-of-the-state address, overshadowing everything for the Republican-controlled Legislature is one overriding goal: the reelection of Gov. Rick Scott."
Woefully behind in the polls but ahead in campaign cash, the governor faces the greatest uphill climb of any incumbent governor since Republican Bob Martinez ran for a second term in 1990 and lost when Democrat Lawton Chiles emerged from retirement."Scott’s reelection weighs heavily as legislators convene for the 2014 session". See also "Florida Legislature opens today with Scott speech, votes on sex predator, G.I. bills" and "Session Outlook 2014: Budget and Taxes".
To help Scott’s chances, lawmakers are expected to grant the governor his modest list of priorities, including a $500 million tax cut, another freeze on university tuition, and a reduction on taxes on business leases. With that, they hope to end the session in harmony, and draw a contrast to how government will operate if Scott is replaced by the presumptive Democratic contender, Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor who has returned to run as a Democrat.
Florida FlaBaggers may help depose Scott
Winger Lloyd Brown: "Anything can happen in politics but is it possible that conservatives in Florida will help depose a conservative governor?" "One Issue Could Be Disruptive to Rick Scott's Re-Election Hopes".
"Key senators say Gov. Rick Scott's talks with the Seminole Tribe over the Seminole Gaming Compact are critical to bills allowing new casinos in south Florida, but the Governor has been vague about when those talks might be concluded and under what terms." "Seminole Compact talks loom large over casino legislation".
"Falling short of a $50 million goal set by lawmakers, state environmental officials have changed focus and won't sell pieces of conservation land to help raise money for the Florida Forever program." "Florida Halts Sale of Conservation Land". See also "Florida halts sale of conservation land" and "DEP ends stormy land-selling review, shifts focus to nonconservation lands".
Environmental permitting bill
"Patronis is back with another environmental permitting bill".
He has "a blue-chip rating among the business lobbyists who help control House and Senate"
"At this time last year, Ross Spano admitted he didn’t know what to expect as a newly elected member of the Florida House. Tuesday, starting his second session, Spano feels a bit more confident thanks to relationships established among the Republican leadership, some experience in getting bills passed, and a pot of re-election money in the bank. Plus, he’s got a blue-chip rating among the business lobbyists who help control House and Senate agendas for the next 60 days." "Lawmaker Spano gains confidence, cash as second session opens".
Ten Issues to Watch During the Session
"Florida lawmakers will start the 2014 session Tuesday with a budget surplus and an eye on the November elections. But they still will have to address some tough questions before the session ends May 2. Among the questions: How can Florida better protect vulnerable children? Is it time to overhaul the state pension system? And should the state allow resort casinos to set up shop? Here are 10 issues to watch during the next two months . . . ." "Ten Issues to Watch During the 2014 Session".
"Peters Has Competition"
"Things are getting tougher for Kathleen Peters as she runs to keep her Florida House seat after losing the Republican congressional primary to David Jolly last month." "Kathleen Peters Has Competition from Left and Right".
Quick, Marco . . . the difference between the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus?
"The crisis in Crimea and the violence in Venezuela are making Marco Rubio a hot ticket again on cable news."
Having faded somewhat from view after the conservative blowback over his immigration bill, Florida’s Republican senator is back to being a must-book for the 24-hour news beast, in great part because of his role on the Senate’s foreign relations committee."Crises in Ukraine, Venezuela put Florida Sen. Marco Rubio back in spotlight".
Rubio called on the Obama administration to further “isolate” Russia for its invasion of Ukrainian-held Crimea, suggested the U.S. should help bolster Ukraine’s military capabality as well as its government, and urged a restart of a missle-defense shield plan that has troubled Russia and, before it, the Soviet Union for decades.
Raw Political Courage
"Fla. Gov. will use speech to stress tax cuts".
Did Hillsborough County change its rules?
"A computer installation company says Hillsborough County changed its rules to reject the company’s bid to provide services, costing taxpayers more than a quarter-million dollars." "Computer firm claims Hillsborough changed rules to aid vendor".
"What is Bousquet's excuse?"
Nancy Smith ain't happy. She writes: "Who is more disingenuous about gubernatorial travel, Charlie Crist or Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times? Charlie is running to get his old job back, you expect hypocrisy and you get it. But what is Bousquet's excuse?" "Jet Plane Fantasies of Charlie Crist and Steve Bousquet".
Please, just "do no harm"
The Miami Herald editors: "The Legislature begins this week — say a little prayer."
The recent report by the LeRoy Collins Institute on Florida’s future minced no words: The Sunshine State is near the bottom of the barrel on a wide range of issues affecting Floridians’ daily lives. Whether it’s public transit, housing, education, the tax and pension systems, employment, access to healthcare — chances are Florida is doing badly."Fingers crossed".
A better future for Florida’s 19 million people depends on how well lawmakers, who begin their session this week, can grapple with the issues. Some issues — gambling and medical marijuana — call for a choice. With others — affordable housing, for instance — all we ask is, do no harm.
5 Things to Know
"5 Things to Know in Florida for March 3".
Whatever Marion Hammer Says
"Bills dealing with toaster pastries and insurance policies are just two of more than a dozen gun-related measures lined up for the 2014 legislative session that starts Tuesday. As in previous years, many of them will go nowhere, especially if Marion Hammer, the National Rifle Association's powerful Florida lobbyist, doesn't like them." "Lawmakers Look to Pass Far-Flung Gun Bills".
North Miami absentee-ballot requests case
"New details emerge in North Miami absentee-ballot requests case".om/2014/03/01/3967617/fred-grimm-marlins-samson-voted.html">".
"Highest Paid Government Workers . . . They’re not who you think they are"
Bill Cotterell: "The idea behind privatizing Florida government services is that it’s supposed to be not only cheaper, but better — to save money for the taxpayers and, just as important, to do the job better than state employees."
That’s how Gov. Jeb Bush pitched it, when he was crafting such deals as the Convergys takeover of state human-resources functions 12 to 16 years ago. It became an article of faith among Republican legislators that anything state employees could do, the private sector could do better and cheaper."It should be mentioned that CMD is not exactly practicing pure science here. The organization is based in Madison, WI., and describes itself as a 'non-partisan progressive watchdog group' involved in 'exposing corporate spin and government propaganda.'"
A lot of state employees and their elected representatives, who were Democrats, warned that there was another purpose behind privatization. It makes a lot of money for companies taking over state contracts, and officers of those companies make a lot of contributions to politicians.
We’ll let you take a wild guess at which party grabs most of the gelt[*].
In Tallahassee, privatization started small with Gov. Bob Martinez about 25 years ago. Democrat Lawton Chiles, who beat Martinez in 1990, accelerated it — preferring to call it “outsourcing,” rather than “privatizing” — and Bush made major workforce reductions over his eight years.
Generally, the Bush idea was for agencies to focus on “core missions,” and leave the toll collecting and custodial work for contractors. That came to include a lot of IT work and, inevitably, prisons.
The Center for Media and Democracy recently published a somewhat lurid, deliberately one-sided report, EXPOSED: America’s Highest Paid Government Workers*
The asterisk is significant. The subtitle of the report is “They’re not who you think they are.”
In other words, CMD is not talking about some bus driver who piled up months of overtime to pad his pension or an incompetent, petty bureaucrat whose union contract protects her from being fired or replaced. No, the “highest paid government workers” in this report are the men who run giant corporations that get government contracts to do work previously done by state employees.
“Lavish salaries. Platinum health care and retirement plans. Job security despite massive screw-ups,” says the CMD study. “These are the hallmarks of America’s highest paid ‘government workers’ — and they cost taxpayers millions of dollars.”
Anyway, CMD spotlights such civic-minded public servants as Ron Packard, whose K12 Inc. is said to work with the American Legislative Exchange Council to push “virtual” schools. ALEC, as everyone knows, is a shadowy conservative organization whose tentacles ensnare legislators, making them rubberstamp all ideas emanating from its citadel fortress."Report: Privatizing government work reaps lavish profits for some".
The CMD report says Packard was paid $19 million between 2009 and 2013, although only 28 percent of K12 Inc. schools met state standards — compared to 52 percent of public schools.
Then there’s George Zoley of the GEO Group, which runs prisons all over the world. GEO has four of Florida’s six privately run prisons and is a mainstay of the state Republican Party and Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election campaign fund. . . .
“These and other ‘government workers’ who head big firms in the fields of education, corrections, waste management, water treatment, transportation and even social services make billions off of taxpayers,” CMD said, “but muddy accountability and cut corners when it comes to public health and safety."
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*Paul Krugman once wrote that "one of [Andrew] Jackson's key legacies was the ''spoils system,'' under which federal jobs were reserved for political supporters. The federal civil service, with its careful protection of workers from political pressure, was created specifically to bring the spoils system to an end; but now the administration has found a way around those constraints."
"We don't have to speculate about what will follow, because Jeb Bush has already blazed the trail. Florida's governor has been an aggressive privatizer, and as The Miami Herald put it after a careful study of state records, 'his bold experiment has been a success -- at least for him and the Republican Party, records show. The policy has spawned a network of contractors who have given him, other Republican politicians and the Florida G.O.P. millions of dollars in campaign donations.'" "Victors and Spoils".
Bargaining begins for one of the largest unionized employers in the country
"The contract talks between Disney World and its unionized employees start Monday. Workers covered in the contract include housekeeper, ride operators, fast food workers, cooks, dishwashers, beverage workers, custodians, ticket-takers and vacation planners. The contract covers about 24,000 fulltime unionized Disney World workers in the Orlando area." "Disney union contract talks start".
"Florida's gun-friendly nature will be scrutinized during the 2014 legislative session as bills that would modify the state's "stand your ground" law and another allowing warning shots will be considered, a marked contrast from the 2013 session in which no major gun legislation was passed." "Gun legislation back in the forefront for session".
Scott treats Florida like another corporate acquisition to be dismantled and repackaged
The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Gov. Rick Scott’s bottom line is creating jobs, but he forgets the real Floridians who fill them and the everyday struggles they face. If the governor only had a heart."
This is the tin man as governor, a chief executive who shows no heartfelt connection to the state, appreciation for its values or compassion for its residents."In Scott's Florida, it is harder for citizens to vote and for the jobless to collect unemployment. It is easier for renters to be evicted and for borrowers to be charged high interest rates on short-term loans. It is harder for patients to win claims against doctors who hurt them and for consumers to get fair treatment from car dealers who deceive them. It is easier for businesses to avoid paying taxes, building roads and repairing environmental damage."
Duke Energy is charging its electric customers billions for nuclear plants that were botched or never built. Homeowners are being pushed out of the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and into private insurers with higher premiums and no track records. Federal flood insurance rates are soaring so high that many property owners cannot afford the premiums but also cannot sell their homes. The governor sides with the electric utilities and property insurers. He criticizes the president rather than fellow Republicans in Congress for failing to fix the flood insurance fiasco they helped create.
Scott, who moved to Naples just seven years before running for governor, treats Florida like another faceless corporate acquisition to be dismantled and repackaged. Collins created the community college system; Scott ordered the colleges to create a gimmick, a handful of bachelor's degrees that can be purchased for $10,000. Askew established the water management districts and reformed the appointment process for judges; Scott gutted the former and injected more politics into the latter. Gov. Bob Martinez pushed ambitious efforts to manage growth and preserve environmentally sensitive land; Scott decimated both."If the governor only had a heart".
The state's refusal to accept billions in federal money illustrates how this governor ignores the needs of everyday residents. He fought the federal Affordable Care Act all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and lost. He stood by as the Legislature turned down $51 billion in federal money to help cover 1 million uninsured residents, and now he refuses to reaffirm even his tepid support for taking the money. Tens of thousands of Floridians are signing up for health coverage in the federal marketplace in spite of a governor who refuses to help them.
Scott's decision to reject $2.4 billion in federal money for high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando was just as callous. At a time when the region was desperate for more jobs, Scott dismissed federal guarantees and let the money go to other states. He called high-speed rail financially risky but then approved far riskier projects to please powerful state legislators. He embraced the expensive SunRail project in Central Florida and the creation of Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland, a boondoggle that diminished the University of South Florida and will cost taxpayers dearly for generations.
This governor shows little respect for individual rights. He advocated drug testing for state employees and welfare recipients; the courts ruled against him. He pursued a purge of voter rolls that threatened to disenfranchise minority voters; the county elections supervisors revolted. He signed into law restrictions on early voting; the public outcry forced changes.
Scott sides with developers seeking an easier time building their projects, utilities winning routine approval of higher electric rates and health insurers that now need no state approval to raise rates. For homeowners, there is less protection from leaking septic tanks. For motorists stuck in traffic, the governor's solution is more toll roads.
The state spends less per public school student than when Scott took office. Parents and teachers have lost faith in a school accountability system in chaos. College students hear the governor's disdain for a liberal arts education as he demands results on the cheap. Meanwhile, Scott eagerly promises hundreds of millions in tax breaks to businesses pledging to create jobs in future years. His administration approved nearly 350 job creation deals in his first three years in office, but only four jobs have been created for every 100 promised.
Guide to the Session
"Guide to issues in Florida Legislature's 2014 session".
Scott eyeing changes to the state-employee health-insurance program
"Gov. Rick Scott and Florida lawmakers are eyeing changes to the state-employee health-insurance program — including the possibility of new high-deductible plans — that could affect more than 170,000 policy holders." "Lawmakers considering changes to state worker health plans".
Florida "witnessing a more extreme 'hollowing-out' of its middle class than the nation overall"
Aaron Deslatte: "Long-term problems that have not yet reached crisis stage are always easier to ignore, defer or deal with superficially."
Consider a major, sobering study produced by the nonpartisan LeRoy Collins Institute and written by economists James Dewey and David Denslow at the University of Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research."Election-year session a time to court voters, contributors".
Among its findings is that Florida's labor force is essentially in long-term decline, both in relative size and skills.
By measuring Florida's gross state product per worker, the analysis shows output per worker in Florida declined from 94.6 percent of the national level in 1993 to 87.7 percent in 2011, a drop interrupted only briefly by the housing boom in the mid-2000s.
With its work force becoming relatively less productive — by essentially having fewer prime-age workers and more low-skill jobs — the state is going to continue witnessing a more extreme "hollowing-out" of its middle class than the nation overall.
Younger workers here are earning a lower percentage of bachelor's degrees, and it isn't yet creating the "agglomeration economies" that lure high-skilled workers.
"Why Will Weatherford is worth watching this year".
Stupid is . . .
"Across Florida, top-ranking public schools and highly-thought-of teachers are learning that the state's newest model for quantifying teacher quality, called VAM for Value-added Model, is tarnishing their reputation." "Data shows one-third of Florida's top educators have students progressing below expectations".
"In the midnight hour"
Joe Henderson on Arizona's recent experience with a bill that would have sanctioned discrimination in the name of religious freedom: "Even Arizona legislators who voted for it were asking Brewer to save them from themselves when they saw how bad the law really was. It all sounds ridiculous, but beware. You never know what might bubble up out of our state Legislature in the midnight hour."
I posed that hypothetical Friday to Mike Fasano, a Republican who served many years in the Legislature before taking over the Pasco County tax collector’s office in 2013. He knows how these things work."Arizona madness a cautionary tale for everyone in Florida".
“Sometimes there are so many bills being filed, going through the process, that most of these members will never see a bill until it gets to the floor,” he said. “They are so focused on their own bills that they don’t understand the consequences of a bill until after the fact.
“To be honest, I’m surprised the leadership of the Arizona Legislature allowed that bill to come to the floor.”
Unless, of course, the leadership has its own agenda. Fasano knows how that works. During a battle over prison privatization in 2012, he was chair of the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice budget committee. Senate President Mike Haridopolos needed the committee to keep a bill moving that could have led to privatized prisons in an 18-county area, but Fasano balked against the leader of his own party. He wouldn’t let the bill be heard.
So, Haridopolos booted Fasano off the committee and reintroduced the bill through another committee.
“I had never seen something like that before,” Fasano said. “But that’s how leadership can get any bill they want to the floor of their respective chamber.”
The bill eventually died, but it was an object lesson in how rough the game of politics can be.
"Unprecedented arms race for cash"
"Money has long commanded attention in the Florida Legislature. But a new campaign finance law has ignited an unprecedented arms race for cash among some key lawmakers." "A torrent of cash is flowing through Tallahassee as lawmakers prepare for 60-day annual session". See also "Political campaign fundraisers lose the frills".
Tally's version of health care reform
"Large Miami-area hospitals serving many Medicaid patients and uninsured Floridians are expected to be hard hit under a new funding law. . . . Lawmakers passed the Medicaid funding reforms in 2011 with the intent of making the statewide distribution of funds more equitable." "Large hospitals to be hard hit by planned cuts". See also "Jackson Memorial Hospital expected to lose $140 million under new Medicaid law".
Florida suddenly worried about Korea trade
We're sure the folks in Detroit are sensitive to Florida's sudden concern about trade with Korea.
"Florida citrus growers, alarmed about South Korea squeezing their business, are pushing U.S. officials to settle a tariff dispute they say is costing them millions of dollars in sales."
The fight, which began last year, centers on U.S. exports of frozen orange-juice concentrate to South Korea and comes while the industry is struggling with a devastating plant disease called citrus greening."U.S. citrus industry feuds with South Korea over frozen OJ".
For years, South Korea had levied a 54 percent tariff on the product, making sales prohibitively expensive and keeping U.S. exports low.
But under a trade agreement that took effect two years ago, the tariff disappeared, leading to an explosion in U.S. business. Exports of frozen orange-juice concentrate to South Korea jumped from $11 million in 2011 to $30 million in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
It was a promising expansion for the $9 billion Florida citrus industry, which grows the majority of oranges used in U.S. juice, including concentrate.
The good times didn't last long, however.
Miami-Dade lawmakers join forces
"State lawmakers from Miami-Dade are joining forces to win a greater share of state funding. But issues like gaming and subsidies for sports teams could prove divisive." "Once divided, Miami-Dade state lawmakers rally together for funding".