Thursday, November 29, 2012

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

"Another Flori-duh moment"

The Miami Herald editors: "Details are emerging as to what went wrong on Election Day in Miami-Dade County, and it’s clear that Tallahassee had a lot to do with it but the county also had its major lapses."

Aside from a ballot, stacked with proposed state constitutional amendments, that ran from 10 to 12 pages in various jurisdictions, there was the problem of recruiting temporary poll workers to count absentee ballots.

Ms. Townsley says only 60 of the 150 workers who were hired showed up to do the job. What was their excuse?

Oh, they decided it wasn’t worth the trouble, apparently. Some said they feared they would lose their unemployment benefits for working only a few days. Others just changed their mind.

Makes one wonder where the elections office chose to recruit these so-called workers.

"It was especially tough this year because the state cut the number of days for early voting from 14 to eight. And Gov. Rick Scott refused to extend early voting even as the lines grew by the thousands."
Adding to the mayhem was the state’s new requirement that counties count absentee ballots 24-7 as soon as polls closed on Election Day. Those long shifts for workers and the canvassing board, which has the last say on whether voters’ signatures are valid on absentee ballots, only heightened the anxiety and created another Flori-duh moment for Miami-Dade, along with Broward, Palm Beach and several other counties, because they took days to finish counting.
"Never again".

Meanwhile, "Florida Congressional Democrats seek federal probe of voting law".

Senate committees

"Detert and Galvano are on key Senate committees".

"Both deny wrongdoing"

"Two Miami commissioners were reprimanded for ethics violations. Both deny wrongdoing." "Miami-Dade ethics board rebukes two city of Miami commissioners".

LeMieux lament

"Former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux spoke to Sunshine State News Wednesday, his first interview since Election Day less than a month ago."

He believes he would have had a better chance of beating incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in the Senate race than primary victor – and general election loser – Connie Mack IV, and in the coming weeks he will be announcing reforms to give state and local Republican Party apparati a greater role in the selection of nominees in the primary process.

Finally, he insists he has no regrets for having introduced into the primary race attacks on opponent Mack’s pre-congressional moral character. The attacks were taken up by Nelson during the general election.

"George LeMieux: I Would Have Beat Nelson, I Endorse Lenny Curry, and You Haven't Seen the Last of Me".

Privatization follies

"Judge hearing Fla. prison privatization challenge".

Tough rules

"State may toughen rules for community-college professors".

"Insurers Gone Wild"

Fred Grimm: "Sorry, Citizens."

Not you, fellow citizens. Who cares what you think? I’m apologizing to your betters: those hard-working — and occasionally hard-partying executives — at Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

Citizens provides catastrophic hurricane insurance for Florida homeowners. Lately, the company’s been buffeted by a cyclone of adverse publicity. Apparently the “media” has been on slanderous vendetta.

"Citizens CEO Barry Gilway said so, anyway. He told his board of directors Tuesday how it was all the media’s fault, these wild misconceptions about mismanagement, lavish spending, sexual harassment, overly generous severance packages for the company’s ousted bad boys, cover-ups and bra-less Human Resources managers dancing on the bar top at Coyote Ugly."
Gilway was like a veritable thesaurus as he dredged up adjectives to describe the media’s treatment of his beleaguered operation. The Miami Herald’s Toluse Olorunnipa reported that Gilway called the news coverage preposterous, absurd, pathetic and shameful. Citizens Board Chairman Carlos Lacasa complained these stories were only “designed to incite the public.” . . .

Gilway railed about how that whole firing thing has been utterly misconstrued by the press. It was a coincidence, apparently, that all this unfolded as the company was amidst restructuring. And the Office of Corporate Integrity just happened to be restructured out of existence. But you know how the media thinks. The boss fires the investigators who uncover company scandals. We make it seem soooooo suspicious.

"Those Citizens’ hijinks? Blame the media, of course". Related: "Citizens committee tiptoes around coverage changes".

Full on Chamber dead ender Obamacare whine

She who apparently loses every piece of litigation she touches, "Attorney General Pam Bondi said she was still 'disappointed' in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June on the Affordable Care Act." “Before Congress passed this health care law, President Obama stood in front of the public and told us that the insurance requirement was not backed by a tax.

“And yet we read the opinion that upholds the health care law on the basis that Congress has taxing power. We all know that this law would never have gotten through Congress if it was sold as a new, $4 billion tax on the American people.”

Bondi’s appearance preceded a panel on Florida’s reaction to the Affordable Care Act that is better known as Obamacare.

And she blamed the failure of “political accountability” for the outcome.

“We learned our Republican system of government only works well when our leaders are honest with the American people,” Bondi said.

"Attorney General Pam Bondi Still ‘Disappointed’ in Affordable Care Ruling". The rest of the dead enders at the Chamber-fest say Florida "shouldn’t rush into that portion of the federal Affordable Care Act. That's the message from business and health insurance providers in the Sunshine State. In other words, how Gov. Rick Scott and the state Legislature have approached the controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Democratic Party's narrowly-backed health care overhaul is supported by panelists at the Florida Chamber of Commerce's sixth annual Insurance Summit." "Florida Health Insurance Industry: Get Obamacare Right".

Extra hoops for mere local government employees

"Citing a 1992 state law, the court ruled lawmakers explicitly separated local government employees from their state and federal counterparts, who are protected from recriminations if they make charges of wrongdoing to the appropriate state or federal authorities. Local government employees, in contrast, must first direct their comments to the local chief executive officer or other appropriate local government official to protect themselves from being fired in response to their charges, the court ruled." "Local Whistleblowers Must Tell Local Bosses".

Local ethics laws tightened

"Florida's local governments toughening ethics laws".

"Anything less is an affront to open government"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "So far, no one in Tallahassee — not Scott nor Senate President Don Gaetz nor House Speaker Will Weatherford — are willing to commit to extending the Spider Data contract that ends Dec. 31. But now that the sun has shone on the budget process, putting it back in the shadows should not be an option. Scott, Gaetz and Weatherford should either find favorable terms to extend the project or commit to the same transparency through another publicly accessible tool. Anything less is an affront to open government and Floridians who expect nothing less." "Keep light shining on state budget".

Most of Florida's Obamacare beneficiaries likely to be children

"Florida’s lawmakers appear to be facing a choice of adding comparatively few people to the state’s Medicaid rolls at considerable cost or adding a lot more people for not much more money, according to a study by a Washington study group released this week."

The study showed that if Florida accepts Medicaid expansion, it will cost the state about $8.9 billion over 10 years to insure an extra 1.6 million people in the state-federal insurance for the poor.

If Florida opts out of the expansion — as the U.S. Supreme Court allows states to do — the state’s Medicaid enrollment will still go up by about 370,000 people, with an added cost to the state of about $3.5 billion over 10 years, according to the Kaiser analysis.

An increase in enrollment will occur under either scenario because many provisions of Obamacare will make it easier for people to apply and qualify for Medicaid, said Rachel Garfield, a Kaiser researcher. One example: People applying for insurance through the new exchanges will be directed to Medicaid if their income is below a certain level. Garfield said most of those who would be added to the rolls are likely to be children.

"The Kaiser study said that expansion will save money in other areas — about $1.3 billion over 10 years in Florida because of reduced payments to hospitals and other healthcare providers to support their services to the uninsured."
Gov. Rick Scott has warned repeatedly that Medicaid expansion could be too expensive for Florida in these tight budget times. Last summer, he was reported to have said on several national television shows that Medicaid expansion through Obamacare would cost Florida about $1.9 billion a year — far higher than the Kaiser figures.
"New study: Medicaid expansion could cost Florida $8.9 billion over 10 years".

Florida should erect a statue of Hugo Chávez

Andres Oppenheimer: "Just as Florida should extend eternal gratitude to Cuba’s dictator, Fidel Castro, for the tens of thousands of middle-class professionals who fled to Miami after the 1959 Cuban revolution, Florida authorities should erect a statue to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez for triggering the flight of a good chunk of Venezuela’s middle class over the past decade." "Obama should send thank-you note to Chávez".

On the cheap

Lloyd Dunkelberger: "Scott’s call for state colleges to offer a cheaper four-year degree follows years of steep budget cuts to Florida’s higher education system, leading one top state education official to say the goal cannot be achieved without sacrificing education quality." "Scott call for cheaper degree follows budget cuts".

FlaBaggers in a dither

"The University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research expected the drop-off. Chris McCarty, director of the Survey Research Center, said of the election, 'No matter who won, half of the state was not going to be happy with the outcome.'" "Election results, 'fiscal cliff' worries drive down Florida's consumer confidence".

"Here’s the rub . . . here’s the insult"

The Miami Herald editorial board: " But here’s the rub: Florida’s colleges and universities already are among the cheapest in the nation — they’re not the for-profit colleges causing much of the problem nationally for students overwhelmed by loans. And here’s the insult: For the past six years the state has cut funding for state colleges to perilous levels, and this past legislative session the governor supported whacking $300 million from the state university system, which runs separately from state colleges." "Invest in Florida’s public colleges".

Dirty water

"Industry groups and utilities have been battling environmental groups for the past three years over proposed federal water quality rules. A federal judge in May warned the agency against seeking another delay." "EPA seeks another delay in deadline for issuing water quality rules".