Friday, November 30, 2012

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

Scott administration's "manipulation of content"

Steve Bousquet: "Bad news and controversy are routine in the vast state government under Florida Gov. Rick Scott's control. But don't look for clues in Project Sunburst, Scott's program for email transparency."

That's because Scott doesn't use email as a primary form of communication, and neither does his top aide, chief of staff Adam Hollingsworth.

Workers at state agencies also are wary of using email to alert Scott's inner circle (and consequently the media) to impending trouble.

Anyone can access the email of Scott and his top aides at But if Sunburst were designed to end secrecy in state government, it hasn't.

"It's been a disappointment, to say the least," said Barbara Petersen of the First Amendment Foundation, who had high hopes because the search for email from Scott's office had been costly and time-consuming.

"The manipulation of content and lack of substantive communications — there's simply not much there of any real value to the public," Petersen said.

"Scott's government-in-the-sunshine effort is not very enlightening".

Bills filed to increase Early Voting

"Democrats File Bills to Increase Early Voting Hours". See also "Florida Democrats file bills to increase early voting hours".

"Medicaid expansion would provide a significant and disproportionate benefit to employers"

The Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy: "Affordable Care Act opponents have expressed a desire to forgo the opportunity to expand Medicaid, ostensibly out of concern for the perceived burden on the state budget and, by extension, on Florida businesses. In reality, however, Florida's participation in Medicaid expansion would provide a significant and disproportionate benefit to employers in Florida's service industry-dominated economy. Read the report." "Florida Employers Will Benefit Greatly From Medicaid Expansion".

"Bondi needs to stop whining and start leading"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Citizens Property Insurance Corp. CEO Barry Gilway need to stop whining and start leading." "Stop complaining, start leading".

Continuing effort to sink Crist campaign

Sunshine State News, which some might argue is the official newspaper of the Republican Party of Florida, gives us this today: "The Republican Party of Florida is continuing its efforts to sink any Charlie Crist campaign before it can get off the docks. The latest release from the RPOF takes on the former Republican-turned-independent-rumored-Democrat governor for his appearance with legally challenged former RPOF Chairman Jim Greer on MSNBC:"

After a brief estrangement, professional political candidate Charlie Crist has apparently reforged his alliance with his hand-picked political co-star, Jim Greer, and the two are now trying to leverage it into a new, blockbuster theatrical release.

In a delicately choreographed TV teaser, the two former political co-conspirators thrilled MSNBC viewers this week in a coordinated duet, with supporting roles filled admirably by Al Sharpton and Rachael Maddow.

"RPOF: Crist, Greer Is a 'Titanic' Sequel".

Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka, "the 'wolf guarding the henhouse'"

"The new makeup of the main committees dealing with property insurance legislation removes some roadblocks for industry-friendly bills that have stumbled the past two years."

Most notably, Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, did not get a spot on the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee despite making it his top request for a committee membership. Fasano helped water down or kill bills pushed by property insurers as a senator the past two years.

“Even (former Senate President Mike) Haridopolos put me on the insurance committee,” Fasano said. “I’m extremely disappointed.”

Yet Fasano vowed to remain vocal on property insurance issues and to pressure House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee Chairman Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka, whom he likened to the “wolf guarding the henhouse.”

“You better believe it. If I’m not on the committee I’ll hold a press conference every time (Rep.) Nelson wants to poke the consumer in the eye,” Fasano said.

"New committee assignments give opening to insurance industry".

Privatization follies

"Circuit Judge John Cooper, quoting Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and super sleuth Sherlock Holmes, promised a prompt solution to a multimillion-dollar puzzle of conflicting legislative and executive powers Thursday involving Gov. Rick Scott's plans to save taxpayers money by privatizing health services in Florida prisons." "Prison health care privatization back in circuit court".

Late to the game

"The Florida Legislature is taking its first steps toward implementing Obamacare. Both the House and Senate have formed special committees to study the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and to recommend legislation necessary to comply with the federal law." "Lawmakers getting to work on Obamacare".

Meanwhile, "Advocates who once begged Florida lawmakers to embrace President Barack Obama’s health care law are now lobbying federal officials to leave out Florida decision-makers. With little more than a year left to plan major provisions and Florida politicians on record against the law – chief among them Gov. Rick Scott – health care reform advocates argue that programs they fought for may fail in the hands of state leaders. An alliance of state organizations is sending a letter today to the Department of Health and Human Services, asking federal officials to set up an online insurance marketplace, set to go live Jan. 2014, without state input." "Advocates ask feds to kick state out of health care law decisions".

"Doing its best to provide an inferior product"

"Citizens is doing its best to provide an inferior product, the president of Florida’s last-resort property insurer told an industry conference Thursday." "CEO: Citizens Insurance is substandard intentionally".

Frank Cerabino: "Not-so-upstanding Citizens".

Happy to make the boss man happy

Always happy to make the boss man happy, The Sun Sentinel editorial board writes that, "Some are mocking the idea, calling it a political stunt or a gimmick. Others don't think it's possible. But we like the challenge Gov. Rick Scott has put before the state's 28 public colleges — previously known as community colleges — to offer discounted bachelor's degree programs for $10,000 or less to in-state students." "Scott's challenge worth taking". And more of the same from The Tampa Tribune editors: "Scott's useful challenge to curtail college costs".

"Do-over elections"

Steven Kurlander: "Build in a simple, immediate do-over election into our election process, much like the runoff elections allowed in some states when more than two candidates are running and none gain a succinct majority or a particular percentage of votes. Just simply call a second election to allow all those voters who voted early or by absentee ballots to get to the polls a second time." "Do-over elections would make process more honest".

"'Rogue agency' that's biased in favor of employers"

"Lawyers who represent workers before the Florida Human Relations Commission say it is a 'rogue agency' that's politicized and biased in favor of employers. The state chapter of the National Employment Lawyers Association issued a report Thursday calling for it to be fixed or abolished." "Lawyers say Fla. Human Relations Commission biased".

Federal dollars accounted for 35 percent of Florida’s budget

Jac Wilder Versteeg: "Governors are taking a short break from bragging — so they can get in some begging."

“Please,” they beg Washington, “don’t throw us over the ‘fiscal cliff.’ ” Over and over we’ve heard governors preach that they have to balance their budgets and live within their means. If the states can do it, the governors sneer, those profligate spenders in Washington should shape up and do the same. Here’s Florida Gov. Rick Scott in his recent speech to the Federalist Society: “We balanced the state budget in my first year without raising taxes, despite a multi-billion dollar budget deficit.”

The footnote is that he and the Florida Legislature did so by taking $350 million in federal stimulus money that year alone. The stimulus is history, but federal padding of state budgets isn’t. The feds kick in about $11 billion toward Florida’s Medicaid bill. The federal Title I program supplementing education at low-income schools is worth $500 million to the state. The National Priorities Project this year reported that, for 2010, federal dollars accounted for 35 percent of Florida’s budget.

"Editorial: Time for governors to stop lecturing Washington".

Cannon looks for some Chamber luv

"The Florida Chamber of Commerce already has a deep roster of lobbyists; some may even say it’s too big. But Chamber President Mark Wilson says there's about a 50 percent chance that they could find a place for a new all-star firm in Tallahassee -- Capitol Insight -- launched by two former House speakers, Larry Cretul and Dean Cannon." "Florida Chamber Holds ‘Serious’ Talks with New Lobbyists Larry Cretul, Dean Cannon".

Legislature's upcoming ethics reform agenda

"Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Destin, is reviewing a report published Tuesday by a pair of public policy think tanks on public ethics reforms at the county level, and his office says counties 'certainly have a role to play' in formulating the Legislature's upcoming ethics reform agenda." "Don Gaetz: Florida Counties Will Participate in Upcoming Ethics Reforms". Related: "Counties show progress on ethics reforms".

Atwater speaks

"Florida CFO Jeff Atwater said companies need to lower premiums to reflect changes to no-fault laws." "State CFO to car insurers: lower premiums".