Thursday, December 27, 2012

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

Sorry, only ineffective strikes permitted

"Florida Gov. Rick Scott has asked President Barack Obama to prevent a potentially 'devastating' strike by dockworkers at 15 East Coast and Gulf Coast seaports when their contract expires Saturday."

The longshoremen's union represents more than 14,000 workers handling containerized cargo at seaports from Massachusetts to Texas, including four in Florida: Jacksonville, Tampa, Miami and Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.

A dockworker's walkout starting Sunday would not affect passenger cruise ships, U.S. mail, military cargo, perishable cargo or non-containerized cargo called break bulk, such as cars or steel.

But it could have a major impact on distribution of household items from clothes to footwear, cleaning supplies to paper and supplies for manufacturers.

"'The predicted effects of a strike on the State of Florida would be devastating,' Scott wrote in a three-page letter to Obama dated Friday."
Scott urged the president to invoke powers under the Taft-Hartley Act to protect the public from labor disputes that 'imperil the national health or safety.' He wants Obama to prevent the union from striking.

The governor will hold a press conference about the looming strike Thursday morning.

"Strike looms at South Florida seaports".

Big of them

The conservative Orlando Sentinel editorial board claims it hasn't "always seen eye-to-eye with Gov. Rick Scott."

Remember his "education savings account" plan? Cloaked in a euphemistic Trojan horse, his "vouchers for all" gambit would have siphoned off withering public school resources. A reckless non-starter.

Yet in his 2013 legislative wish list, Scott struck a more reasonable tone, saying private schools that accept money under the state's limited voucher program should take the same standardized tests that public schools use to assess students.

The Sentinel editors think "he's right. We've been supporters of the state's Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program, which provides low-income children with the opportunity to attend private school.".
Christened in 2001, the program provides vouchers up to $4,335 to students who qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch. Funding comes from corporate kick-ins, which receive a dollar-for-dollar state tax credit.

But we also believe in accountability when public money is being funneled into private hands. Other states already recognize the wisdom of judging students by the same yardstick.

"Common sense dictates common tests for pupils".

Big of them.

Good luck with that

"A group of Venice and Sarasota residents and religious leaders plan to meet for a candlelight vigil outside Congressman Vern Buchanan’s Sarasota headquarters Thursday to urge the legislator to support new laws cracking down on assault weapons like the one used in the Newtown, Conn., school shooting that killed 27. The vigil is scheduled to begin at 5:15 p.m. Thursday outside Buchanan’s office at 111 S. Orange Ave." "Vigil to urge Vern Buchanan to support new gun laws".


"West voted to strike the word 'lunatic,' but he only gave it a brief mention in his final weekly newsletter, which focused more on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, foreign affairs, and the economy. And West wrote that his final weekly update as a congressman from District 22 wasn’t really his last word. (He represented District 22 but ran in District 18 due to redistricting. For more on his parting thoughts, read his post-election interview with NPR.)" "Outgoing U.S. Rep. Allen West said the House voted to remove the word ’lunatic’ from federal law" ("The lone 'no' vote was cast by Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas").

Related: "The oddest fact-checks of 2012".

Tax fight

"The state's 1st District Court of Appeal will hear arguments in February in a long-running tax fight between Florida counties and online-based travel companies such as Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity. A state Circuit Court judge in Tallahassee ruled earlierl this year against 17 counties that argue the companies had not properly paid tourist-development taxes — an issue that also has flared in recent years in the Legislature."

Online-based travel companies, which serve as middlemen between many hotels and travelers, charge customers for room rentals and fees related to providing the service. The legal fight centers on whether tourist-development taxes apply to the total cost that customers pay for their rooms, or only to the discounted, wholesale rate that the travel companies pay the hotels.

Counties say the total cost should be taxed, while the industry says taxing its markup would amount to a services tax. The appeals court last week scheduled oral arguments for Feb. 12.

"Appeals court to hear Florida counties' online-travel tax case".

"A performance that needs no encore"

The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "At last, the curtain seems to have fallen on the Kravis Center ‘s longest-running performance: a hostile contract dispute between the center’s executives and the local stagehand union."

On Friday, both sides announced a deal that promised to end the 12-year standoff, which had culminated last week in a strike that caused the cancellation of four productions of the Broadway musical “Jersey Boys.” . . .

The dispute began in 2000, when Kravis Center executives cut off contract negotiations with the stagehand union, fired six workers and booted the rest from the premises. As the case wound through court, judges sided repeatedly with the union.

In 2002, an administrative law judge ruled that the Kravis Center bargained in “bad faith” and engaged in unfair labor practices, and a federal appeals court agreed. The National Labor Relations Board concluded earlier this year that the Kravis Center owed union stagehands $2.6 million for illegally denying them work.

Union officials told the Post’s Jane Musgrave that the Kravis Center agreed to pay $2.2 million of the $2.6 million it was said to owe workers, and that it will hire union workers to full-time stagehand positions once again.

If the agreement holds, the show may go on, at last, without the protests, strikes or animosity of late. That was a performance that needs no encore.

"Editorial: No encore, please, for Kravis-union strife".

"South Florida home prices were up 8.5 percent"

"South Florida home prices were up 8.5 percent in October from the same time last year, nearly double the increase seen nationally and another indicator of a recovering real estate market." "S. Fla. home prices end streak of gains, still up 8.5%".

Stories (Briefed) You Might Have Missed

"Three Stories (Briefed) You Might Have Missed".

"Today's Republicans couldn't be more misguided"

The Sun Sentinel editors seem surprised that "in recent years, conservation — once a conservative principle — has become a dirty word in Tallahassee. Today's Republicans have dismantled limits on development and deprived Florida Forever and other environmental initiatives of meaningful funding, all in the name of spurring economic growth. Their efforts couldn't be more misguided, or ill-timed." "Protect Florida's rivers and springs".

Rick Scott's Early-Learning Formula

"Rick Scott: Early-Learning Formula to Be Reviewed by Jan. 1".