Saturday, July 28, 2012

Today's Florida Political News and Punditry

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

"It’s a very strange recovery"

"U.S. economic growth slowed to a crawl in the second quarter, a tepid showing that doesn’t bode well for Florida’s recovery. Gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced in the nation, rose at a 1.5 percent annual rate in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday. That followed a 2 percent gain in the first quarter and a 3 percent jump in the fourth quarter."

Household purchases, which make up about 70 percent of the U.S. economy, grew at the weakest pace in a year. With the economy stalled, job growth has been sluggish. Economists say the economy needs to grow at a pace of about 2.5 percent for unemployment to go down.

Typically, Florida’s economy creates jobs at a pace of 200,000 a year after a recession, said economist Tony Villamil, dean of the business school at St. Thomas University in Miami. But in the aftermath of the Great Recession, job creation has been much slower than in the past.

“It’s a very strange recovery,” Villamil said. “It’s not what we’re used to.”
"Slow U.S. economic growth bodes ill for Florida’s recovery".

"The well-being of Florida’s children is among the worst in the nation"

"The well-being of Florida’s children is among the worst in the nation, according to a report released Wednesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation."

The annual Kids Count report ranked the state 44th in the economic well-being of it’s children, 38th in their health outcomes and 35th in educational performance. Overall, the state ranked 38th, down from last year’s ranking of 36.

In addition, the study said, the number of Florida children in poverty increased 28 percent from 2005 to 2010. The study considered factors such as whether a child’s parents are employed or can pay for housing.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a nonprofit focused on disadvantaged children.
"Florida scored worse than the national average in a handful of categories, the study showed."
In 2010, 23 percent of children statewide lived in poverty. More than 30 percent of them had parents who lacked secure employment, up from 28 percent in 2008. In addition, 49 percent of Floridians saw their housing costs increase to 30 percent or more, up from 42 percent of Floridians in 2005.
"Study: Well being of Florida children lags".

Elsewhere, the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds that a "New Report Shows Progress in Child Education and Health Despite Economic Declines ".

4,000 officials have failed to file financial disclosures

"The Florida Commission on Ethics said Friday it was stepping-up its efforts to pursue more than 4,000 public officials who have failed to file annual financial disclosures. Virlindia Doss, the commission’s executive director, told the panel that staff will be making phone calls to 4,284 officials who have not submitted their 2012 disclosure forms by the July 1 deadline. A grace period gives officials until Sept. 4 to turn in the reports, but after that, fines may be coming." "Florida steps up efforts to make 4,000 officials file disclosures".

"Scott filled most of the seats with ALF industry insiders"

Fred Grimm: "The Assisted Living Workforce was born out of a scandal of such unspeakable neglect that it made for a startling juxtaposition against the emptiness of this bunch’s notion of a fix."

Plainly, regulatory torpor contributed to brutal living circumstances among Florida’s most vulnerable citizens. Great investigative work by The Herald’s Carol Marbin Miller, Mike Sallah and Rob Barry seemed to have provoked considerable anger across the state. So the governor appointed this task force.

It was stacked. Gov. Rick Scott filled most of the seats with ALF industry insiders and advocates and two legislators, Republican Sen. Rene Garcia of Hialeah and Republican Rep. Matt Hudson of Naples, both famously cozy with ALF owners. Former Secretary of Elder Affairs Bentley Lipscomb warned The Herald last year that the workgroup would hardly do much that might inconvenience ALF operators. “Based on what I’ve seen so far, I don’t expect much out of any of this,” he said.

Friday’s meeting made Lipscomb look like a prophet. Only one voice, among the 14, was an actual resident and he didn’t say much. On the other hand, Hollywood ALF operator Larry Sherberg was hardly shy about talking down new regulations he considered onerous. He called a proposal to require some new but rather tepid qualifications for ALF administrators an “unfunded mandate.”

Sherberg read from a U.S. News and World Report guest column by Gov. Rick Scott, explaining why he rejected an expansion of Medicaid under the affordable health care act, citing the potential for future costs for the state. “Substitute this for Medicaid,” Sherberg said. “The state can’t afford it. We can’t afford it,” he said. “We’ve got to look at this from a realistic standpoint.”

It might have been shocking enough, given that the regulations he dismissed were designed to rid the state of shoddy ALF operators who’ve left a trail of real human suffering and death in their wake. To equate the scandal to market forces might indeed represent a brutally realistic assessment for how Florida got itself into this mess, but market forces sure as hell aren’t going to fix the problem. The “consumers” here were not of the kind able to pick and choose among providers. Industry reps even objected to a proposal to protect resident whistle-blowers from being tossed out onto the street by ALFs.
"Stacked task force useless on ALF reform".

Weekly Roundup

"Campaign Roundup: Of errant mailers and replacement candidates". See also "Weekly Roundup: Election Time A'Comin', But When?"

"The reality is different"

The Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy: "In June, the U.S. Supreme Court June decision upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in full, but nevertheless held that states could not lose funding for their existing Medicaid programs if they rejected the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, which would extend coverage to more than a million of the lowest-income, uninsured Floridians."

Since then, Florida Governor Rick Scott and other ACA opponents have argued that expansion is in fact unnecessary because the needs of low-income Floridians are already being met through Florida’s existing Medicaid program. The reality, however, is different.
"Medicaid Expansion Would Reach Only Low-Income Floridians".

Committee spending dwarfs spending by candidates

"Political spending by committees continues to dwarf spending by candidates, according to campaign finance reports released Friday. Since July 6, candidates have spent $2,463,182.15 while committees governed by less strict disclosure laws have spent $8,067,231.93. Figures are of 6:45 p.m. Friday." "Committees outspend candidates 3-to-1 in latest campaign reports".

Competitive Democratic elections

"Conspicuously absent from the 2012 state Senate primary match-ups are ample instances of competitive Democratic elections. Only three out of forty Senate seats appear to present Senate Democrats with viable primary contests. That’s because Democrats only occupied 12 seats during the 2012 legislative session – a misproportion the redistricting process is said to fix – and the remaining incumbents have huge wealth and name recognition advantages."

But within these three races, outcomes appear entirely unpredictable.

Central Florida District 12, newly redrawn and formerly represented in part by outgoing two-term Senator Gary Siplin, will now be the constituency of either Rep. Geraldine Thompson or Victoria Siplin, Senator Siplin’s wife. Both women are African-American and have nearly same total campaign contributions to spend.

District 27 is set to be a Democratic barnburner as well. Rep. Mack Bernard of West Palm Beach is squaring off against Rep. Jeff Clemens in what looks to be an uncontested general election for the winner. While Clemens, a former mayor of Lake Worth, has out raised Mack, he hasn’t nearly the reported net worth – an advantage that could tip the scales if the race comes down to the wire.

Finally, in what looks to be the most wide open primary race of either party, District 39 is embroiled with five Democratic contestants.
"Unpredictable Results For Scarce Dem Senate Primaries".

HD 20

"HD 20: Two Alachua County Dems Battle in Primary for Open House Seat".


"Oshkosh Corp.'s Pierce Manufacturing division intends to exit the ambulance business and lay off 325 Manatee County workers by January." "Pierce ending ambulance line and will lay off 325".

Audubon takes on big sugar

"The Florida Audubon Society took on the state’s largest sugar producers on Friday, challenging recently issued permits that allow the pollution control practices the companies use on 234,932 acres of farmland in the Everglades." "Audubon demands hearing over sugar producers’ Everglades pollution". See also "Audubon Florida files legal challenge against sugar farms' permits".

"Interesting battle is developing in HD 27"

"With Rep. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, facing term limits and running for a seat in the Florida Senate, an interesting battle is developing to see who will represent the southern part of Volusia County in the Florida House of Representatives."

Two candidates are battling for the Republican nomination in the Aug. 14 primary in HD 27 and David Santiago, an Army veteran and a former Deltona city commissioner, has a solid lead in the money chase. ...

Whoever emerges from the Republican primary will face a major Democratic opponent in November who has been building a solid war chest and has kept most of his campaign money -- most of which came from loans -- in the bank.

Dennis Mulder, who served as mayor of Deltona from 2005 until 2010, jumped in the race back in early May and he faces no opposition for the Democratic nomination. Mulder has won the backing of many government employees’ organizations and organized labor, including the AFL-CIO, the FEA and the Fraternal Order of Police.
"HD 27: Interesting Battle Shaping Up for Open Seat Representing Volusia County".

Raw political courage

"Florida’s 3-day back-to-school sales tax 'holiday' starts Aug. 3".

Huckabee endorses Mica ... yaaawwwnnn

"Though he got involved this week in a rare primary battle between two incumbent congressmen, former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas is playing less of a role in the 2012 election cycle than he did in 2012 in Florida -- where he moved after his bid for the Republican presidential nomination."

But Huckabee shows no signs of playing less of a role on the national stage.

Late Wednesday, he announced that he was backing U.S. Rep. John Mica who is facing U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams in the Aug. 14 Republican primary.

“John Mica is a proven leader who doesn’t just talk; he achieves sound conservative results,” Huckabee said. “Congressman Mica's 100 percent pro-life, pro-family, and pro-Second Amendment record is one I commend and salute! He’s voted against every bailout and Obama stimulus plan, is an original co-sponsor of the Fair Tax. He joins me in sheer determination to repeal Obamacare. If conservatives want a man of action and a man we can count on, I urge my fellow Floridians in Central Florida to join me in supporting John Mica.”
"Mike Huckabee Less Active in Florida in 2012, but Rolling Nationally".

"A small rebellion is brewing"

"With Rep. Connie Mack IV all but assured the U.S. Senate Republican nomination, a small rebellion is brewing in the conservative wing of the party, particularly social and religious conservatives, in favor of his dark-horse opponent Dave Weldon." "Some conservatives turn to Mack's rival Weldon".

"Rooney often feels like a political rookie"

"Two-term Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney has quietly climbed the status ladder in Washington, getting tapped as a House deputy whip, landing an Agriculture subcommittee chairmanship and winning a high-profile appropriations showdown with Speaker John Boehner."

But Rooney says he often feels like a political rookie these days as he pursues a third term by introducing himself to new voters in freshly drawn congressional District 17. A product of this year’s redistricting, the largely rural seat is generally north and west of Lake Okeechobee and extends to Punta Gorda, eastern Hillsborough County and part of Polk County.

About 63 percent of the voters in District 17 are new to Rooney, while the other 37 percent are from his old District 16.
"U.S. Rep. Rooney faces GOP challenger Arnold in new House District 17".

New Dem in HD 89

"One-time House Speaker Tom Gustafson will be Palm Beach County Democrats’ choice in the state House District 89 race, against incumbent state Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, according to county party leader leader Mark Alan Siegel. Gustafson, who lives in Wellington adn not yet in the coastal district, will replace Pamela Goodman, who withdrew from the race earlier this week because of her husband’s health problems. The county Democratic Party executive committee will meet Tuesday to vote on the selection, Siegel said." "Democrats pick former House Speaker Gustafson to challenge state Rep. Hager in District 89". See also "Florida Economists: Revenue Up, Forecast Remains Weak".

Lawsuit over reduced early voting

"Days before early voting begins in Florida, a Democratic member of Congress wants a federal court to block the state from what she calls a racially motivated reduction in the days of early voting. U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville filed suit Friday in U.S. District Court along with the Duval County Democratic Party, several residents and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference." "Democratic lawmaker files suit over reduced early voting period".