Wednesday, September 19, 2012

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

"Florida's unemployment rate is falling for a dire reason: a shrinking workforce"

"Rick Scott cut off a journalist Tuesday who tried to ask him about a report from a top state economist who said Florida's fall in unemployment is almost exclusively due to people leaving the workforce."

"Mike! I said I've answered all your questions," said Scott, briefly abandoning his normally laid-back demeanor and raising his voice in response to Bloomberg reporter Michael C. Bender.

The reporter had pointed out the findings of Amy Baker, the Florida Legislature's chief economist, which showed that Florida's unemployment rate is falling for a dire reason: a shrinking workforce.

For the past few months — as Scott has touted the 2 percentage point drop in the unemployment rate — economists have noted that the rate is falling because people have given up looking for work and aren't being counted among unemployed. Job creation has been mediocre compared with other states and is lagging the national growth rate.

Meanwhile, Scott — who based his 2010 campaign and governorship on his ability to create jobs — said last week that "Every economic indicator we have is good."

As Scott's message has begun to diverge from that of economists and other state officials, media scrutiny has intensified.

"Question on jobless rate irks governor".

"The Great Recession ended in 2009 but Florida continues to do worse than other states, especially those that have been able to boost manufacturing, which has in turn spurred growth. This slow recovery has meant that many workers are working less hours and for less pay than they did in 2010. Additionally Florida’s typical worker is taking home about $1,000 less on average today than in 2010. This is explained in part by the industries that are growing in Florida and the types of jobs they create." "The State of Working Florida 2012". See also "Rick Scott: The Job Creation Number That Matters Is 130,000".

Boca made him do it

"Mitt Romney’s description of nearly half of America as “dependent upon government” and unwilling to 'take personal responsibility and care for their lives' came during a fundraising trip to Boca Raton in which Romney had earlier tried to dispel the notion he doesn’t care about middle-class voters."

It marked the second time this year that the Republican presidential nominee’s private words to big-dollar Palm Beach County contributors created a national flap. . . . “In Mitt Romney’s America, if you aren’t born to wealth and privilege like he was — if you are a firefighter, a teacher, a student or senior — you’re on your own and can expect nothing from a Romney administration,” Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith said. “That’s not an America I want to live in, because this vision for our country continues to prioritize the wealthiest few Americans while doing nothing to grow our economy for Florida’s millions of middle class families.”

Former West Palm Beach mayor Lois Frankel, running for a Palm Beach County-Broward County congressional seat, called on Republican foe Adam Hasner to condemn Romney’s “offensive and derogatory comments” and resign as a member of Romney’s campaign steering committee. The Hasner camp declined comment.

U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Palm Beach Gardens, who is no stranger to controversial remarks, told Fox News that “Mitt Romney probably could have better explained himself. I think he was a little clumsy in doing it.”

"Romney comment about 'dependent' 47 percent not his first misfire in Palm Beach County". Related: "Boca Raton mogul at center of Mitt Romney video flap". See also "Jeff Atwater Defends Mitt Romney’s Campaign Strategy Comments".

"Call it official neglect"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Call it official neglect. Florida is accused by the Obama administration and the parents of sick and disabled children of warehousing hundreds of those children in large nursing homes rather than helping them stay home with their families." "Florida’s sick and disabled children deserve better".

Angry man

"Sen. John McCain bashes President Obama on foreign policy during visit to Tampa". See also "McCain criticizes Obama Mideast policy during Tampa visit".

Pundits suggest the election is all but over and Romney blew it

"Republicans quietly grumble and pundits imply [that] the election is all but over and Romney blew it." Florida's Romney investors beg to differ:

"Nobody's getting weak-kneed," said Brian Ballard, a top Romney money-raiser in Florida, who said planned Romney fundraisers in Miami today and Palm Beach Thursday have generated significant support and interest.

"The folks I talk to still very much think Mitt is going to win. People are voting with their checkbooks," he said. "It's a uniquely Washington thing that when the first bump in the road occurs, people like to point fingers."

Campaigning for Romney in Tampa on Tuesday, Arizona Sen. John McCain brushed off the second-guessing of Romney as beltway chatter. . . .

"He has to show in the debates he is up to the task," said Republican strategist Jamie Miller of Sarasota. "Those of us who believe in him know he's up to the task, but I'm not sure he's made the sale to American people."

"He needs to communicate what he's trying to do, and to communicate with the middle class, the backbone of the country," added Pinellas GOP chairman J.J. Beyrouti. "Time is running out."

Tallahassee GOP strategist J.M. "Mac" Stipanovich said rough patches tend to be cyclical in campaigns, and Romney has plenty of time to regain the momentum.

"He can't continue this way for another three weeks and get well, but as you and I sit here talking today hopefully these are all teachable moments, and he will learn from them and move on," Stipanovich said. "What Gov. Romney has to do is prove that he's able to seize an opportunity and make the most of it. There are damn sure a hell of a lot of opportunities for him."

"Mitt Romney stumbles, but don't count him out".

Curious timing

"Secretary of labor to announce grant program in Clearwater".

She forgot the campaign contribution

"Parents who were invited to meet with Gov. Rick Scott last week were given a routine security clearance but at least one Tallahassee parent was surprised to learn she wasn’t safe enough to meet with the governor". "Parent locked out of governor’s meetings because of a security check".

If it was a strike, the traditional media would be outraged

"Panthers lay off workers amid lockout".

"The specter of privatizing"

The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "The Legislature will not be in session until March, but already the signs point to another battle over whether to privatize South Florida’s state prisons."

State lawmakers have tried twice to privatize 26 prisons and work camps, which would be the largest shift by any state. But in 2011 a judge struck down the effort as unconstitutional, because legislators slipped it into the budget instead of putting it up for an individual vote. The state appealed, but lost this summer.

Last spring, legislators tried again to ramrod the plan into law, despite protests that it was being rerouted through friendly committees without the required study. Ultimately, a group of Republican senators joined with Democrats to kill the proposal.

But privatizing more of the Department of Corrections is never out of mind. Last week a legislative budget panel approved a plan to outsource prison health services to two private companies. That plan, while mired in its own lawsuits, has not been nearly as controversial as the broader push, but it may be a sign of more to come.

The specter of privatizing more state prisons makes many uncomfortable. For-profit companies would want more inmates in prison, despite bipartisan calls for sentencing reform. Then there are questions about security and accountability.

"Make prison privatization a three-time loser".

"Florida home prices bottomed earlier than previously thought"

"A new home sales measure says Florida prices hit a soft bottom in 2009, years earlier than what some experts have declared as the low point for real estate." "Florida home prices bottomed earlier than previously thought, according to one study".

Too much red tape

"Florida fat report: Obesity could more than double by 2030".

Sore Losermen can't give it up

"The Florida Health Care Amendment ('Amendment 1') has two purposes: to allow the state’s voters to register their symbolic opposition to the health insurance mandate of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA; known as 'Obamacare' to critics), and to make it difficult for the Florida Legislature to implement its own statewide version of such a mandate in the event the U.S. Congress overturns the controversial federal law." "Florida Health Care Amendment Gives Voters Chance to Speak Out on Insurance Mandates".

Now he's a pension expert?

The man who pled the fifth amendment 75 times in one sitting is now a pension investment expert: "Rick Scott said Tuesday he remains 'extremely concerned' that a 7.75 percent projected earning rate of the Florida Retirement System's massive investment portfolio is too high, and that meeting pension payments to hundreds of thousands of government retirees could become a big burden on future state budgets." "Scott very concerned about state pension fund's investment return".

George P. Bush lectures on "how wealth is created"

"With his campaign needing a lift, surrogates for Mitt Romney tried Tuesday to defuse the uproar over a video in which Romney suggests that almost half of all American voters are dependent on government handouts, 'believe that they are victims' and refuse to take responsibility for their lives."

In east Orlando, George P. Bush — the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — said Romney was highlighting government spending. "We have to be mindful," Bush said, "of how wealth is created, who's paying taxes and how we can fund entitlements."
"In Orlando area, McCain, George P. Bush defend 'victims' video".

SD 27

"Circuit Judge Terry Lewis' decision lets stand an election decided by 17 votes. Lewis said the evidence was not conclusive enough for him to overrule the local canvassing board." "Judge rejects Bernard's challenge in close Senate race".

Just what we needed

"David Christian, who has worked in Washington and Tallahassee, will start next week." "Chamber adds veteran lobbyist to its ranks".

Good luck with that

"Last year, the Legislature passed and Scott signed a bill cutting property taxes collected by the five water management districts by $210 million. The revenue caps were lifted by the Legislature this year, yet the districts are not raising taxes because of what some perceive as pressure from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection." "Former water district board members urge Gov. Scott to restore lost tax revenue".

Palm Beach GOP Black Caucus

"Pollsters say that almost all African-Americans and most Latinos will vote for President Obama in November." But then there are folks like "Michael Barnett, 35, of Boca Raton, [who] is president of the [teeny tiny] GOP Black Caucus in Palm Beach County." "In political choices, minority firm owners weigh social leanings and business interests".


"Jeff Atwater to Citizens Property: Take Your Time". See also "Atwater urges Citizens to take it slow on loan program".

"Scott’s opponents are wary of the governor’s newfound enthusiasm"

"Following a weeklong 'listening tour' of Florida schools, Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday he will name a panel of five superintendents to recommend cutting regulations and red tape that distract teachers in the classroom. . . . Although he didn’t cite specifics, Scott said the legislature is contributing to the regulatory burden on teachers by approving new requirements and classroom standards each year." "Gov. Scott says education is top Florida priority, vows to cut schools’ red tape". See also "Scott wants to reduce schools' paperwork". Meanwhile, "Rick Scott Shows No Signs of Budging on Tuition Hikes".

It ain't beanbag

"The District 6 Hillsborough County Commission race heated up Tuesday as Democratic incumbent Commissioner Kevin Beckner found himself targeted in an election contribution complaint." "Campaign contribution complaint filed against Beckner".