Tuesday, November 27, 2012

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.

Beer lobbyist seeks "solutions", apparently his resignation isn't one of them

Secretary of State Ken "Detzner said he has already formed a team to meet with supervisors of elections from Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, to address why people waited hours to vote during early voting and on Election Day." "Ken Detzner Seeks ‘Solutions’ Not Blame to Fix Elections".

Chairs and committee assignments

"In line to be the House speaker in 2017, Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity, will head his chamber’s approach to the federal health care act." "Richard Corcoran to Head House Approach on Federal Health Care, Committee Chairs Announced".

"Senate announces committee chairs; House releases full committee assignments", "", "", "Don Gaetz, Will Weatherford Offer Joint Agenda for 2013 Legislature" and "Benacquisto Named Senate Majority Leader, Negron Gets Budget, Latvala to Chair Ethics, Elections".

Battle of the empty suits

"The appearance for 2016 -- at least as the national media portray it -- continues to be that the Sunshine State will be affixed to the GOP ticket. The question that continues to swirl is, will it be U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Miami, or is former Gov. Jeb Bush planning his move?"

Capitol insiders with long ties to the governor say they've heard rumblings, some even hopeful and eager to help rev up his campaign machine. But they could only offer speculation if Bush would jump into a national contest, and still believe he would have been the strongest in the 2008 Senate race or among the 2012 presidential field. . . .

Following the general election, Rubio was quickly anointed the next darling of the right, if that is what one could call someone who for nearly a year was on the tips of every vice presidential discussion while brushing up on his foreign policy credentials and becoming a regular Sunday morning talk show guest.

"Will Jeb Steal Marco’s 2016 Thunder?". See also "Jeb Bush, with cash and clout, pushes school reforms". The Tampa Tribune editorial board wonders: "Can Marco Rubio become the Hispanic Reagan?".

Another Haridopolos gem

"A $5 million program to monitor revealing details of the state budget has been kept under wraps and now may not become active unless state leaders agree to put it into place by the end of the year." The software program was "quietly developed by a former House budget staffer, licensed by the state Senate under former Senate president Mike Haridopolos, and financed with $5 million of taxpayer dollars". "Legislative leaders are ready to shelve a $5 million budget-tracking program".

GOPers in a dither

"Never before have Hispanics voted so overwhelmingly Democratic as they did for Obama, said Luis Martínez-Fernández, professor of history at the University of Central Florida." "Will next generation of Hispanic voters follow their parents?".

Pass the ammunition

"Cops: Brevard man shoots Jacksonville teen dead over loud music".

Scott's latest cheap gimmick

"Rick Scott wants colleges to offer $10,000 degrees", "Scott's challenge: $10K degrees", "Scott: Community colleges should offer $10,000 BAs". See also "Rick Scott: Four-Year Florida College Degree for Under $10,000".

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Cheap gimmicks are no way to improve Florida's higher education system and better prepare students for the work force. That is exactly what Gov. Rick Scott proposed Monday, borrowing a simplistic idea from Texas by challenging the state college system to offer $10,000 bachelor's degrees. How this blue-light special fits with Scott's supposed commitment to building a quality higher education system that produces more science, math and technology degrees is anyone's guess. But slashing prices to deliver cheap college degrees when what's really needed is more public investment in colleges and universities is the wrong approach." "Scott stunt won't fix higher ed".

Nancy Smith complains this morning that, "Of course the Democrats are going to look down their noses at a $10,000 college education: 1) they didn't think of it first; 2) it can't have any merit if Rick Scott is promoting it; and 3) heaven forbid debt-spooked students and their families get a choice." "So Predictable, So Tiresome: Democrats' Disdain for Rick Scott's Affordable Ed Plan".

Joe Henderson agrees that "college is too expensive and student debt is a social and economic time bomb. The problem requires serious people seeking serious solutions. It won't be solved with gimmicks. The governor's proposal is a gimmick." "Scott's degree gimmick won't help education".

"Divine guidance comes with $4,000 a year in maintenance fees

Fred Grimm: "Divine guidance comes with a one-time charge of $22,000. Plus another $4,000 a year in maintenance fees. The estimate didn’t come from theistic sources (God doesn’t bill by the prayer), but from the Miami-Dade mayor’s office, trying to calculate the cost to taxpayers if the county commissioners vote next month to reinstate the thorny old custom of entertaining prayers before meetings." "County government doesn’t have a prayer".

Runnin' gub'ment like a bidness

"A department deputy secretary said the Highlands Ranch LLC permit would provide more environmental protection. But DEP wetlands expert Connie Bersok testified that the number of credits proposed by the department could not be ecologically supported."

DEP wetlands expert Connie Bersok wrote a memo in May objecting to a proposed permit for the Highlands Ranch project. A few days later she was suspended from her job with pay amid a department investigation into possible work leave and attendance violations that were not substantiated.
"DEP officials offer conflicting testimony on Clay County mitigation bank project".

Check, please

"PSC Gives Thumbs Up to Nuclear Costs".

"Every major metropolitan area in the country saw increase in personal income"

"For the first time since the start of the Great Recession, every major metropolitan area in the country saw an increase in personal income last year, according to data released Monday by the government. The 2011 data is the most recent year charted by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, but assuming that the trend holds this year, it bodes well for Southwest Florida and the nation's recovery, which is reliant on consumers spending more money." "Personal incomes increase in SW Florida, data show".

The Week Ahead

"The Week Ahead for Nov. 26 to Nov. 30".

Sharia Law prohibition jumps to top of GOP agenda

"Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, has brought back a bill that seeks to prohibit foreign laws -- while not spelled out in SB 58, the focus of similar legislation in other states is Islamic “sharia” law -- from being used by state courts." "Texting Ban, Sharia Law Prohibition, Equal Rights for Women among Early Senate Bills".

Outsourcing madness

"County tax collectors and two other license plate groups filed formal protests Monday accusing Florida's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles of overstepping its authority with plans to outsource parts of its license plate operation." "County tax collectors, others file protests against Florida's plan to outsource license plates".

Hatin' them lib'ruls

Lloyd Brown is still looking for lib'ruls under his bed: "From Nov. 6 until November 2014, the effort to unseat Florida Gov. Rick Scott will be under way."

There will not be one day during that time without an editorial, column or editorial disguised as a news story that trashes Scott in one way or another or praises one of his potential challengers. Liberals longed for Jeb Bush to go also. But not in the way they do Scott. He is loathed by the left.

Largely, it is because he is not a politician. Thus, he desecrates their religion by his presence.

He also was a successful businessman. Strike two. Success deserves punishment, not reward, in the liberal view.

From what I can gather, Scott's major offense during his first term was to suggest that state employees actually pay for part of their own retirement.

In the era of European socialism we are entering, this gives sensitive liberals the vapors.

Government's function, as they see it, is to coddle us from cradle to grave. Even now they are straining to get closer to the cradle by making the voluntary pre-kindergarten program mandatory. Scott also has supported sensible reforms for the government schools, such as merit pay for teachers.

"With Rick Scott Out There, Elections Are Not Over".

Weatherford's version of "sanity"

"In the campaign cycle that just ended, Senate President Don Gaetz controlled a fund of about $4 million and House Speaker Will Weatherford, $2 million. Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, controlled a fund that raised $1.9 million. Latvala, a tenacious and experienced lawmaker, is the new chairman of the Senate Ethics & Elections Committee, a focal point of changes to the campaign finance system."

Gaetz and Weatherford want to raise the $500 contribution cap and ban legislator-controlled funds, called CCEs or committees of continuous existence, which collectively raised $22 million in the last cycle, according to contributionlink.com.

"I think $500 is archaic," Weatherford says. "We all know people are spending a lot of money on campaigns. Unfortunately, none of it's going to the actual campaigns."

Before Chiles, the maximum contribution to a legislative candidate was $1,000, and $3,000 to statewide candidates.

Weatherford says the changes he seeks would be more transparent than what exists today in Florida.

Under the current system, CCEs and electioneering organizations that buy ads and mail pieces transfer millions of dollars among them, making it hard to follow the money.

Gaetz and Weatherford see a system poisoned by big money and want to clean it up, just like Chiles did more than two decades ago.

"What I'm trying to achieve is sanity," Weatherford says.

"Florida leaders call for sanity in campaign finance".

Race to the bottom

The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "One of the priorities of new Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford is to phase out pensions for state workers. Taxpayers should hope he succeeds."

This isn't a question of being chintzy to score points with conservative voters. Growing pension obligations threaten the security of today's workers and programs while unfairly shifting costs of unknown size to the future.

The high costs and uncertainties of pensions have caused most private companies to drop them in favor of the 401(k) retirement plan. Weatherford wants to shift to that sort of system for new state workers. Existing pension promises would be kept.

One argument against reform is that Florida's pension fund needs more new employees paying in to keep it financially healthy. If the base must keep growing to keep the top from collapsing, that describes a pyramid and confirms Weatherford's description of the system as a "ticking time bomb."

That's not to say Florida's pension fund is in trouble. It is funded at 86.9 percent and is among the nation's best. Workers are not going to be short-changed.

"Phase out most pensions for government employees".

Revolvin' door

Jason Garcia: "The Republican lawyer, who had represented the Winter Park area in the Legislature since 2004, has opened a new lobbying shop in Tallahassee called Capitol Insight LLC. The Republican lawyer, who had represented the Winter Park area in the Legislature since 2004, has opened a new lobbying shop in Tallahassee called Capitol Insight LLC."

Cannon joins a line of former state House speakers who jumped from legislating to lobbying. At least eight former speakers are or have recently been lobbyists — including Ocala Republican Larry Cretul, who was Cannon's immediate predecessor as speaker and will now be Cannon's partner at Capitol Insight.

Nobody illustrates how lucrative lobbying can be for ex-lawmakers more vividly than state Sen. John Thrasher, R-Orange Park, who served as speaker in 1999 and 2000 and joined the lobbying firm Southern Strategy Group in early 2001, representing clients such as Walt Disney World, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Mosaic. Thrasher left Southern Strategy and was elected to the state Senate in 2009.

During Thrasher's final year in the House, his net worth was $512,000, according to a legally mandated financial disclosure. When he joined the Senate eight years later, his net worth had ballooned to $7.5 million.

Thrasher earned $1.6 million related to his lobbying just in 2008.

"Cannon was a lobbyist with the Orlando law firm GrayRobinson before he was elected to the Legislature. But he ceased lobbying shortly before he was elected in 2004 and left GrayRobinson entirely in 2007." "Former House Speaker Dean Cannon jumps from legislating to lobbying".

Crazy times in St. Lucie County

"U.S. Rep. Allen West may have ended his two-week battle with election officials in St. Lucie County on Tuesday, but the Treasure Coast office will continue to face scrutiny over how it handled the election." "Allen West's Concession Won't End Troubles for St. Lucie County Elections".