Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry.

"Worst TB outbreak in 20 years kept secret"

The CDC "had a serious warning for Florida health officials in April: A tuberculosis outbreak in Jacksonville was one of the worst his group had investigated in 20 years. Linked to 13 deaths and 99 illnesses, including six children, it would require concerted action to stop."

That report had been penned on April 5, exactly nine days after Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill that shrank the Department of Health and required the closure of the A.G. Holley State Hospital in Lantana, where tough tuberculosis cases have been treated for more than 60 years.
"As health officials in Tallahassee turned their focus to restructuring, Dr. Robert Luo’s 25-page report describing Jacksonville’s outbreak — and the measures needed to contain it – went unseen by key decision makers around the state. At the health agency, an order went out that the TB hospital must be closed six months ahead of schedule."
Had they seen the letter, decision makers would have learned that 3,000 people in the past two years may have had close contact with contagious people at Jacksonville’s homeless shelters, an outpatient mental health clinic and area jails. Yet only 253 people had been found and evaluated for TB infection, meaning Florida’s outbreak was, and is, far from contained.

The public was not to learn anything until early June, even though the same strain was appearing in other parts of the state, including Miami.
"Worst TB outbreak in 20 years kept secret".

West can't get his hypocrisy straight

"South Florida Congressman Allen West shook up the political arena over the weekend by comparing Social Security to a modern form of slavery."

West invoked the word "slavery" – not for the first time -- in a Fox News interview on Sunday to make the point that government programs perpetuate a sense of dependence.

"Since June of 2009 or so, we have seen 2.4 million private sector jobs created, but we've had 3.1 million people going on Social Security disability," said West, R-Palm Beach Gardens. "So once again, we are creating the sense of economic dependence, which, to me, is a form of modern 21st-century slavery."
"His latest reference to slavery is especially provocative in Florida, where one in five residents collect a Social Security check, including about half a million who receive disability benefits. West is running for re-election in a newly drawn Treasure Coast district that has a large elderly population."
But in a Facebook post Monday, West blamed "the liberal media" for "putting words in my mouth and saying I attacked Social Security.
"U.S. Rep. West compares Social Security to 'slavery'".

"Floridians have only their governor to blame"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "The Florida governor rejected $2.4 billion in federal money last year that would have paid for a high-speed rail line that would have created jobs, provided an economic boost and linked two metro areas. Scott was more interested in scoring political points with his tea party followers and snubbing the Obama administration than in waiting for an economic analysis that supported the project. He also wouldn't listen to offers to protect the state from paying construction cost overruns or operating subsidies." "Florida remains stuck at the station".

Scott about to flip-flop on FCAT

Christopher O'Donnell writes that "those living under the strain of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test are seeing some hope in recent remarks by Gov. Rick Scott that students face too many tests and the high-stakes nature of the tests is taking a toll on parents, students and teachers. ... Scott already has shown that public opinion can sway him into major policy U-turns." "As FCAT protests increase, state softens stance on test".

So says the Chamber

The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Drug loophole boosts health care costs".

"Republican members of the School Board seeing red"

"First lady Michelle Obama will stop in Miami on Tuesday to recruit residents to vote and volunteer to reelect her husband, President Barack Obama."

But the spot for the political event – Barbara Goleman Senior High in Miami Lakes – has some Republican members of the School Board seeing red.
"Miami-Dade School Board member Renier Diaz de la Portilla has called for the event to be cancelled and board member Carlos Curbelo has asked the board attorney to reconsider his opinion that the event meets legal muster. While School Board seats are nonpartisan, Diaz de la Portilla is running for state House as a Republican and Curbelo has worked as a Republican strategist."
“Allowing the first lady of the United States to use one of our schools explicitly to benefit the president’s reelection campaign is inappropriate and sends the wrong message to our students, employees, and to taxpayers – even if the president’s campaign is willing to pay for all costs resulting from the event,” Curbelo wrote in the letter to School Board attorney Walter Harvey.

Curbelo told The Miami Herald on Monday: “There’s a difference between official visits to schools by elected leaders and events that are for the sole purpose of advancing the interests of a political campaign.”

Curbelo added that his request was not an “anti-Obama position” and that he welcomes official visits from the president and first lady, but wants to keep politics out of schools to the extent possible.

Diaz de la Portilla said in a statement:

“The use of public schools whose only focus should be to educate our children for political gain is downright wrong. Don’t these liberals have boundaries? Our schools are places for learning, not places for politicking.”

While Michelle Obama holds the campaign event at a Miami-Dade school in Florida on Tuesday, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney will attend a town hall the same day at a high school in another swing state, Colorado.

Under School Board policy, all groups, including political, religious and nonprofits, can apply to lease facilities from the Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Harvey said.

The district doesn’t spend any money on the event for the outside group and employees cannot attend the event if they are on the clock. Students are on summer break.
"Miami-Dade School Board members decry Michelle Obama campaign stop at local school".

"Organizations want to register 250,000 nurses to vote"

"The League of Women Voters and five nursing organizations want to register 250,000 nurses to vote. ... The move comes while the state is embroiled in a series of legal battles with the federal government over Florida’s voting procedures. " "Nurses launch first voter registration drive".

The best they could do

"Sarasota GOP to honor Trump".

Beleaguered FlaDem drops out of the race for Congress

"Beleaguered Democratic candidate Nina Hayden dropped out of the race for Congress on Monday, and also said she is dropping her lawsuit against state and local elections officials." "Beleaguered Nina Hayden ends congressional campaign and lawsuit".

FlaGOP seeks to shield fundraising and consulting agreements

"The Republican Party of Florida doesn't want to share some documents in the upcoming criminal trial of its former chairman. Party officials asked a judge to nix a request from Jim Greer's attorney seeking certain documents. Those documents deal with fundraising and consulting agreements for the party, the state House and state Senate from 2003 to 2012." "Florida Republicans don't want to share documents".

"Consumed with ambition"

"What will you be doing in November 2018?"

While you ponder such an odd question, consider this: The race is already underway to choose the speaker of the Florida House in 2018, involving people who haven’t been elected yet.

Bizarre, but true.

Without question, this is one of the most illogical and potentially dangerous side effects of term limits.

House candidates are limited to eight years — four, two-year terms. The instant they hit the campaign trail, they can hear the ticking of that term limits clock.

Consumed with ambition, they run for speaker without first showing the ability to lead. This is the speed-dating version of running for class president, with much more serious consequences.
"A battle for power in the Florida House — years in advance".

The Week Ahead

"The Week Ahead for July 9 to July 13".

"Teetotaling time warp"

Daniel Ruth: "Florida’s Madison and Lafayette counties and the Panhandle’s Liberty and Washington counties have remained in a teetotaling time warp." "Dry counties leave me shaken and stirred".

That ought to make Florida's "values voters" happy

"Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is giving $1 million to a 'super' political committee aimed at helping conservatives get elected in Florida." "Casino mogul gives $1M to new 'super' PAC".

FLOTUS in Florida

"FLOTUS makes Fla campaign spin". See also "".

Unrealistic Mini-Mack "Penny Plan"

"'The 'Mack Penny Plan' is simple — eliminate one penny out of every federal dollar spent,' Mack said in a mailer. 'Doing this would balance our budget by 2019 and restore economic freedom by reducing spending and bringing fiscal discipline to Washington. The Penny Plan continues to gain support.'"

Under the plan, the federal government would reduce spending by 1 percent each year for six years. Then, in the seventh year, funding would be capped at 18 percent of gross domestic product, which measures the size of the overall economy. By the eighth year, the plan would balance the budget and save $7.5 trillion over 10 years.

Experts we reached out to generally agreed that Mack's math is correct and would balance the budget.

But — and it's a big but — no one we interviewed thought Mack's proposal was a realistic way to balance the budget.

"One can always make the math work, as presented in this fashion it's a fairly straightforward exercise," said JD Foster of the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Most notably, Mack doesn't explain how he would adjust Medicare and Social Security to make up for the expected growth as baby boomers retire.

We asked Mack's congressional office, for instance, if Mack supports cutting Social Security 1 percent a year for six years.

It didn't answer.

Michael Linden, of the left-leaning Center for American Progress, called Mack's plan "ridiculous." He said that Mack and others would face a choice between cutting benefits to seniors and veterans or — if they held Social Security and Medicare harmless — massive cuts to most everything else.
"PolitiFact: Mack says cutting one penny out of every federal dollar would quickly balance the budget".

RNC bumps county services

"More than a thousand Hillsborough County government employees will move out of downtown Tampa the week before and during the week of the Republican National Convention, but the county will still be open for business." "Many county services relocating during RNC".

Meanwhile, "GOP books Hard Rock hotel for entire RNC week".

Might as well blame Occupy

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Community leaders in West Tampa should think twice before blaming the Occupy Tampa camp for the blight on Main Street and the surrounding neighborhoods." "Of blight, blame and Occupy".