Thursday, August 23, 2012

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

Floridians Disapprove of Scott 49 to 41 percent

"A new poll says Florida Gov. Rick Scott's approval rating has climbed to 41 percent."

But 49 percent of the 1,241 likely voters polled during the past week still say they disapprove of Scott's performance as governor. The numbers in the latest poll are improving for Scott, who has consistently languished below the 40 percent marker in many previous surveys.
"Floridians still don't embrace Gov. Rick Scott". See also "Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times Swing State Poll". See also "Gov. Scott's approval rating climbs to 41 percent".

Investigators suspect Rivera was behind unknown political newcomer

"The FBI and Miami-Dade police have opened separate criminal investigations into the campaign of a Democratic congressional candidate who, vendors say, was aided by GOP Rep. David Rivera."

Federal agents gathered campaign records, invoices and began interviewing employees at two mail and data companies used by Democrat Justin Lamar Sternad’s primary campaign. Sternad spent about $43,000 in unreported cash and checks on mail services, a witness told The Herald and authorities. Some of the money was stuffed in envelopes bulging with $100 bills. Federal law required Sternad to quickly report any contributions — including loans —just before the Aug. 14 primary, which he lost to Democrat Joe Garcia, a longtime Rivera rival who Sternad bashed in one of his 11 mailers. Rivera, investigators suspect, was behind the sophisticated mail campaign run by Sternad, who was an unknown political newcomer and hotel night auditor.
"FBI, Miami-Dade police target Democratic primary candidate with possible ties to Congressman David Rivera". Background: "Campaign vendors say Republican Congressman David Rivera funded Democrat’s failed primary bid".

Michelle Obama fires up FlaDems

"Michelle Obama fires up Dems in South Florida". See also "First lady Michelle Obama exhorts the party faithful in Fort Lauderdale".

Florida's latest ACT scores "among the lowest in the country"

Jebbie Bush's education legacy: Florida's "average composite ACT score for the four exams — 19.8 out of a possible 36 points — was still among the lowest in the country. Only three states — Arizona, Mississippi and Tennessee — and Washington, D.C.— posted a lower composite score than Florida." "Florida's ACT scores inch upward but still lag nation".

Obama with small lead in Florida, other swing states

"August 23, 2012 - Ryan Micro-Bump In Florida, Wisconsin, But Not Ohio, Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times Swing State Poll Finds". See also "Poll shows Obama with small lead in swing states".

Florida dead last in providing unemployment compensation

Courtesy of the "values" crowd: "Only one in three applicants for unemployment compensation in Florida receives any money, ranking the state dead last among the 50 states." "Getting an unemployment check in Florida is frustrating ordeal for many".

"The Villages, the Stepford Estates of the tea party"

Daniel Ruth: "To win the White House, Mitt Romney needs to carry Florida with its millions of seniors dependent on Medicare. What a brilliant idea, then, to select as a running mate a chap who advocates blowing up the current Medicare system and creating a future voucher program that would in all likelihood also increase out-of-pocket expenses for all the old coots. Say, there's a voter-friendly winning formula."

He might as well have picked Che Guevara III as his a running mate. Why Ryan, the Atticus Grinch of Congress? Was Simon Legree unavailable? So it was rather telling the Romney camp sent Ryan into the Villages, the Stepford Estates of the tea party, to defend the Medicare equivalent of "Hey you, geezer! Get off my lawn!" Only in the Villages, where folks probably regard the Koch Brothers as more liberal than Sacco and Vanzetti, could Ryan expect a rousing, cold-blooded reception from the inhabitants for wanting to transform Medicare. The Villages might be the only retirement enclave in Florida where a politician can advocate stiffing senior citizens on their medical care and be welcomed with the same enthusiasm as North Korea's Kim Jong Un showing up in a famine-stricken village to tout the South Beach diet. This was venturing into the belly of the ballot-rich bacchus feast to gorge oneself on filet of elephant. If the Romney campaign had wanted to demonstrate bold, visionary leadership and sell critics on the intellectual superiority of its ideas, Ryan would have been dispatched to Century Village in Broward County or perhaps Top of the World in Pinellas County, where the veep-in-waiting might have experienced somewhat fewer hosannas than the Children of the Corn-esque tea party accolades the Villages offered up.
"On the pander trail with Paul Ryan".

Atwater to lead "Catholics for Romney"

"Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater will take a lead role for a group being announced this week called 'Catholics for Romney.' The group is being formed to address concerns that may arise on religious topics through the general election, Atwater said on Wednesday. In the campaign role, Atwater will be expected to discuss Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s policy initiatives that address religious freedom." "Jeff Atwater to Campaign on Catholic Faith for Devout Mormon Mitt Romney".

"Pseudo-reality imagined by Tallahassee"

Fred Grimm: "The Florida Unemployment Compensation Program was reconfigured last year into a bureaucratic morass that has the effect, if not the secret intent, of clogging up jobless benefits. The Miami Herald’s Toluse Olorunnipa reported that the new system begrudges benefits to only 16 percent of Florida’s unemployed workers. We’re dead last among the 50 states."

Mind you, the program formerly known as unemployment compensation is not some kind of welfare giveaway with a roster full of shameless recipients mooching off society. It’s an insurance program that guarantees temporary assistance for employees who’ve lost jobs “though no fault of their own.” In Florida, the average weekly check is about $230. But the rechristened “Reemployment Assistance Program” has been larded up with requirements that take applicants through a bewildering online maze that includes a 45-question “skills assessment test.” Recipients who finally manage approval must then demonstrate that they’ve applied for five jobs each week.
Grimm continues:
Olorunnipa reported that eligible applicants can find themselves simply consigned to oblivion — never officially denied their benefits, but simply ignored by the faceless bureaucrats out there beyond the Internet. Meanwhile, the maximum time a jobless worker can receive benefits has been shortened to 23 weeks from 26. But in the pseudo-reality imagined by Tallahassee, this bleak stuff has been declared great news. The unemployment rate in Florida, which is based on criteria other than unemployment claims, ticked up to 8.8 percent in July. Florida’s job growth lags behind the national rate. But Gov. Rick Scott prefers to embrace, instead, this mighty drop in the number of workers receiving unemployment benefits. That has become his leading economic indicator, his proof that Florida, under his leadership, has stanched its unemployment crisis. In a speech last month, he bragged, “The number of people on unemployment has gone from 568,000 to 320,000 people.” Of course, as Olorunnipa reported, 250,000 of those people had been tossed off the rolls because they had exhausted their benefits. And thousands of new applicants, who would have been eligible under the old program, had been denied compensation. Scott rather resembles a doctor who, after a disease has killed most of his patients, declares that he brought an end to the epidemic. But Florida, you see, is in the midst of what we’ve decided to call an economic resurgence. We’ve declared an official end to rampant joblessness. Because, comrade, reality is what we say it is.
"Job One for Florida: distorting reality".

From the comfort of their "well-padded" office chairs

The Miami Herald editorial board shares this wisdom with us from the comfort of their "well-padded" office chairs:

Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Abby Cynamon dealt the city its latest setback on Monday. She ruled that City Manager Johnny Martinez did not have the authority to invoke a state of “fiscal urgency,” which would force the unions back to the negotiating table to help balance the budget. Otherwise, the city can impose layoffs and dial back pension benefits as it did two years ago. (Last year, the city and unions worked somewhat cooperatively to help close a $61 million gap). Tuesday, the city appealed the ruling to the Third District Court of Appeal. Judge Cynamon’s finding handed a victory to Miami’s police union, which sued — and is loathe to make any more concessions out of its well-padded contract agreements.
"The politics of ineptitude".

Mini-Marco shrinks into irrelevancy

"Sen. Marco Rubio to West Palm Beach crowd: Leaving Medicare as is will bankrupt it".

State officials scrambling over early-voting proposal

"Attorneys for the state have asked a federal court to approve a change in early-voting hours in Collier, Hardee, Hendry and Hillsborough counties -- but appeared to stop short of asking for that same approval in Monroe County, where a controversy has flared about the issue. The state filed documents in federal court in the District of Columbia on Wednesday seeking approval to use eight, 12-hour days of early voting in the four counties during the November elections." "State Asks for Approval of Early Voting Changes". See also "Florida asks court to approve early voting plans".

Meanwhile, "Democrats accused Republican Gov. Rick Scott of bullying the supervisor of elections in Monroe County on Wednesday, the latest salvo in the high-stakes battle over early voting in the November elections in Florida. ... State officials are scrambling to come up with an early-voting proposal that would be acceptable to a federal court after a three-judge panel last week refused to let new restrictions take effect in five counties covered by federal voting laws — Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe." "Gov. Scott says no to more days for early voting in Florida". See also "Showdown Looming Between Rick Scott and Monroe Elections Supervisor?". Related: "Joyner, Gelber tell Scott to end early-voting confusion".

What's next? The National Guard?

"100 Broward deputies to help at RNC in Tampa".

Florida's teacher merit-pay system struck down as "wholly invalid"

"A judge Wednesday struck down as 'wholly invalid' the state's rules governing Florida's new teacher merit-pay system." "Judge strikes down state merit pay rules as 'invalid'". See also "Judge rejects Florida teacher evaluation rule".

Florida turns down grant money for At-Risk Families

Ashley Lopez: "Even after Florida lost its legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act, state officials continue to turn down grant money connected to the law." "State Officials Still Turning Down Federal Money for At-Risk Families".

Florida wants its military cash

"But nobody really believes Congress won't 'kick the can down the road.' A consultant tells a state panel examining the issue that Congress likely won't enforce the mandatory budget cuts that could threaten military-reliant businesses and jobs in the state." "Federal budget 'sequestration' threatens Florida military bases".

Scott: If only Obama were not President

"Forget any talk of Florida Gov. Rick Scott torpedoing his message of progress being made in Florida’s economy for the sake of any ongoing national campaign seeking to paint a bleaker picture. Instead, Scott said Tuesday that Florida’s resurgence should be seen as a national model, one that a more receptive White House occupant could emulate in the not-too-distant future." "Rick Scott: To Create Jobs, Florida Needs a 'Federal Partner' in the White House".

Florida would face tuffer RNC penalties

"Under new Republican party rules, Florida Republicans would see their delegates cut 90 percent if they hold their presidential primaries before Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada." "Florida to face stiffer RNC penalties if it moves up primary date again". Meanwhile, "Rick Scott: ‘Absolutely, All Our Delegates Should be Seated’".