Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Thanks for the many emails of support during our brief absence. We hope you enjoy the new site format as we work out the remaining kinks. After reading the hard copy of your hometown newspaper, please consider becoming a site fan on Facebook and following us on Twitter. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

After being "grilled", Scott "has changed his tune"
"Continuing a national media blitz Tuesday against last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act, Gov. Rick Scott fielded some penetrating questions from radio hosts about statements he's made since the high court ruled. Those included queries based on a PolitiFact review – the fact-checking website by the Tampa Bay Times – that awarded Scott a 'pants on fire' and two 'falses' for his remarks since the ruling." "Scott grilled about health care statements".

"Scott is continuing his media blitz, appearing on at least one national radio program Tuesday to criticize the health care law. But one day after having several statements deemed 'False' or 'Pants on Fire' by PolitiFact Florida, the governor has changed his tune in some ways." "Scott tweaks health law barbs". Meanwhile, "What does Scott's health care stance mean for Floridians?"

"Progressives" attack Rubio
"An interesting UPS delivery to the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau".
A hard copy of Sen. Marco Rubio's newly released memoir, An American Son, wrapped in a pink book jacket. The front of the jacket is plastered with Rubio's picture, above the word "TRAITOR." The attack jacket, which comes as Rubio tours Florida to promote the book, contains an unflattering picture of a wild-haired, pasty-faced Rubio. In English and in Spanish, Rubio is portrayed as a traitor to Hispanics, the middle class, women and seniors. The "about the author" description rehashes accusations that Rubio took improper contributions during his campaign for U.S. Senate, and that he "billed more than $100,000 in personal expenses such as groceries, minivan repairs and plane tickets for his wife" to a Republican Party of Florida credit card. The inside cover points readers to a Rubio attack website,
"Progressives' attack on Sen. Marco Rubio wrapped around memoir".

"One of the most conservative unemployment programs in the country"
"The next three months will determine just how long thousands of unemployed people will receive state jobless benefits next year. Jobless rates from July, August and September will determine the maximum number of weeks people can collect unemployment payments in 2013. Officials will calculate average statewide unemployment for those three months and use the figure to set limits for next year."
A lower average means fewer weeks of benefits. A higher average means more weeks. The change would apply to workers laid off after the first of the year. It would not affect those already receiving benefits. The provision was part of package passed in 2011, making Florida the first state to put its maximum weeks of benefits on a sliding scale. The same bill cut total weeks available in the state unemployment program from 26 to 23. The measure, pushed by Gov. Rick Scott and Republican lawmakers, was an effort to reduce the cost of jobless benefits in Florida. Those had ballooned during the recession, draining the state's unemployment trust fund and forcing the state to borrow more than $2 billion in federal money. In response, officials trimmed total weeks available and tied available weeks to the average statewide unemployment rate during the third quarter of the year.
The formula works like this: For each half a percent decline in the third-quarter average, a week is cut from the maximum weeks available. If the third-quarter average drops to 5 percent or less — not likely this year — the total number of weeks is capped at 12. ... Florida historically has had one of the most conservative unemployment programs in the country. Its eligibility requirements are stricter and its benefits less generous. In 2011, for example, 17 percent of the unemployed here received benefits. Nationally, the figure was 27 percent. Florida's average weekly payment is $232 a week, 48th lowest in the nation. In May, NELP called for a federal investigation into the state's rules, saying they are designed to prevent laid-off workers from collecting benefits. The Labor Department is reviewing the law.
"As Florida jobless rate drops, so do benefits for unemployed".

Bondi "should stand with Floridians, not polluters"
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "A federal appeals court has struck a commanding blow for public health, science and the rule of law, sending a sharp rebuke to states like Florida that continue to side with big polluters. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia last week upheld efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the emissions of greenhouse gases. The ruling is a big step toward controlling the impact of global warming."
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has intervened in several cases to challenge the EPA's clean air rules, arguing that the moves are based on flawed science or bad economics. She should accept the court's finding that the federal government is acting properly to safeguard Americans against the danger of global warming and dirty air. She should stand with Floridians, not polluters.
"Bondi should act to rein in big polluters".

Congress asked to restore voting rights of Florida ex-felons
"Hundreds of thousands of Florida ex-felons who have completed their sentences still can’t vote, a prohibition that is hindering their re-entry into society, a group of voting rights advocates said Tuesday as they urged Congress to step in." "Ex-felons need voting rights restored, group says".

"Dueling endorsements"
"Congressional candidate Kristin Jacobs said Monday she was humbled. Her opponent Lois Frankel described herself as honored. The Democratic competitors' reactions were the predictable responses to a day of endorsements, tit for tat. It started with Jacobs scoring a big announcement of support from the Service Employees International Union. Hours later, Frankel responded in kind, rolling out her own high-profile statement of backing from U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton." "Jacobs, Frankel roll out dueling endorsements".

"State tossing millions of dollars to businesses with little oversight or restraint"
The Tampa Tribune editors point out that "the state is tossing tens of millions of dollars to select businesses with little oversight or restraint. A three-month investigation by the Tribune's Michael Sasso found that at least four in every 10 companies that won grants from the state's Quick Action Closing Fund incentive program failed to meet job-creating goals."
The finding was difficult to make because Enterprise Florida, the economic development agency that oversees the grants, didn't include failing projects in its report. Moreover, under current policy, it is impossible to determine if the companies receiving the incentives would have expanded or located here without the incentives. Provisions to reclaim tax dollars when projects fail to achieve goals are inconsistently enforced.
"Tossing tax dollars to select businesses".