Friday, December 07, 2012

You should consider giving one or more newspaper subscriptions as gifts this holiday season. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

"An ascot of Republicans milling about in Tallahassee"

Daniel Ruth: "Do you get the feeling whenever Mike Fasano walks into an ascot of Republicans milling about in Tallahassee he's greeted to a chorus of harrumphs rivaling Meat Loaf gate-crashing a Buckingham Palace tea and crumpet party?"

Until he was term-limited out of the Florida Senate this year, Fasano was known for royally annoying the GOP powers-that-be. Now the New Port Richey Republican has returned to serve in the House, where he is already off to a good start of being a pain in the tuchus to the spats of leadership running the place.

This ought to be fun.

It should be said Fasano holds radical, revolutionary, heretical views for someone calling himself a Republican. He has been one of the leading consumer advocates in Tallahassee and was one of the few state senators who openly labeled former Sen. JD Alexander's ham-handed effort to create a completely unnecessary University of Narcissus in Lakeland as the taxpayer-funded conceit that it was.

Still, simply as a matter of good manners, you might think that after all of Fasano's many years of public service in Tallahassee he had earned a bit of consideration for his seniority when it came to honoring his request to be appointed to the House Banking and Insurance Committee.

But Fasano was passed over for the banking and insurance post by Speaker Will Weatherford, who was just 15 years old in 1994 when Fasano was first elected to the House. So much for respecting one's elders.

"Watchdog shut out".

"Outrage circus"

Paul Flemming writes that "there was an outrage circus on Monday during a Senate committee meeting to discuss Florida’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act. A host of Tea Party folks and 10th Amendment fetishists came to the podium and erupted in outrage about the very possibility that Florida’s elected officials would deign to recognize the results of congressional acts, elections and U.S. Supreme Court decisions."

One thing those folks had going for them is that they were in earnest. Whatever the merits of their arguments (nominal, in my opinion), they were sincerely held.

Not so with the still-roiling outrage about the $48 million 1st District Court of Appeal, the so-called Taj Mahal of SouthWood. Most of the outrage expressed about the granite-countertop, flat-panel-TV, in-house-gym extravagance of a courthouse is manufactured, and 100 percent of the outrage emanating from elected officials is self-serving, contradictory, unsupported outrage of the most hypocritical kind.

"Outrage aplenty, but none of it genuine".

Imagine the outrage: requiring call centers with state contracts to use American workers?

Lloyd Dunkelberger: "State Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, said today that he has refiled his 'American Jobs' bill that requires any call centers with state contracts to use American workers. Smith, the Democratic leader of the Senate, filed a similar bill in the 2012 session. It passed the Senate but was never taken up in the House." "Sen. Smith wants American workers in call centers".

"Malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty and incompetence"

The Palm Beach Post editors: "Should it be easier for state officials to remove elections supervisors? Simply put, the answer is no. There is a good reason that the state constitution calls for each county to choose its elections supervisor: to assure his or her independence from political pressure at the state level. Making it easier for the governor or the secretary of state to remove elections supervisors would weaken their autonomy."

The suggestion came Tuesday from state Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, who said he was “all for independence and local control,” but went on to ask at a committee hearing “at what point is there an intervention? If it becomes so apparent that a county has not made the appropriate decisions or the ballots were sent out wrong … there’s really no recourse.”

To an extent, his frustration is understandable. Last month, for instance, St. Lucie County Elections Supervisor Gertrude Walker hesitated on recounting disputed early-voting results, even after admitting that her office had mishandled vote cartridges and tabulated some of them incorrectly. The mayor’s race in Fort Pierce got a new winner, and needless doubts arose about Patrick Murphy’s surprising and narrow defeat of Rep. Allen West.

But the Florida Constitution already gives the governor the ability to remove elections supervisors – and other state or county officers – for reasons including malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty and incompetence.

"No need for more state authority over elections supervisors".

A false choice

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Florida's state funding of higher education and its university tuition rates are both far below the national average. For the state to build anything resembling a first-rate university system, it needs more money from both the Legislature and the students. It's a false choice to suggest otherwise, as the current debate in Tallahassee pretends." "Universities starved for investment".

Palm Beach County Dem party leadership elections

"Palm Beach County Democrats denied former Chairman Mark Alan Siegel’s bid to return to party leadership on Thursday night in a race for the party’s state committeeman post." "Palm Beach County Democrats elect new slate of officers, Siegel not among them".

Starting at "ground zero" on economic incentives

"Sen. Jeremy Ring wants to start from 'ground zero' on economic incentives. He says he thinks the money awards to businesses to bring in jobs and industry that spur economic activity don't work." "Senate panel vows strict oversight of business incentives".

Eliminating "business impediments"

Senator and Sharia law-phobe, Alan Hays", wants to eliminate "red tape". But an Audubon Florida representative raised concerns that eliminating regulations will create new arbitrary standards." "Hays says committees will identify laws and regulations that are business impediments".

"Financial chicanery"

The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Florida taxpayers should appreciate the fact that Gov. Rick Scott has been prodding state government agencies to cut their costs. When agencies save, taxpayers can, too. But not when state agencies meet their budget targets by dumping their duties on local agencies, which also are bankrolled by taxpayers."

Offloading state functions on local governments is one less than responsible way for lawmakers meet their annual obligation to balance the state budget. We hope they don't resort to this or any other unfunded mandates.
"Spurious savings".

Never mind

"After spending nearly $1 million to gear up for a petition campaign to put a casino amendment on the 2014 ballot, the casino giant withdraws its plans — for now." "Genting abandons gambling petition drive". See also "Genting Bows Out of Casino Ballot Effort, Waiting for Lawmakers".

Not a "Line in the Sand"

"A proposal by university presidents to trade tuition increases for an increase in state funding won’t be a simple pass-fail proposal through the Legislature."

Gov. Rick Scott may have applauded the presidents' proposal on Wednesday because he has opposed across-the-board tuition increases. But he didn’t embrace the $118 million the presidents say is needed to cover the money they would otherwise collectively project tuition would produce for the 2013-2014 school year.

The Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial board: "Florida universities' recent offer to forgo tuition hikes next year if the state boosts funding was a polite form of hardball. It drives home the point that college affordability -- a priority issue for Florida's governor as well as President Barack Obama -- can't be delivered with cuts alone. Avoiding higher tuition will require a mix of cost-curbing innovation and financial support from taxpayers." "Florida's tuition equation". Meanwhile, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said too much is still up in the air about the state’s budget.

"Frank Brogan: University Tuition Deal Isn’t a Firm ‘Line in the Sand’". Related: "Brogan spells out performance-based plan to Senate panel".

"Teachers accountable for students they have never had in class"

"Discussion of a new evaluation system for teachers dominated interim Education Commissioner Pam Stewart’s presentation before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education Thursday. . . . The new evaluation system was put in place by the merit pay law of 2011. The evaluations are based partly on student test scores and a value-added system designed to measure a teacher’s effectiveness. Teachers complained the evaluation process is flawed, in some instances holding teachers accountable for students they have never had in class." "Education commissioner defends teacher evaluations". Related: "Despite good teacher evaluations, criticism grows".

Falling up

"Scott turned to his top lawyer to take over the state’s jobs agency after the executive director abruptly resigned amid questions about jobless benefits he received before he was hired. Scott on Thursday named Jesse Panuccio, the governor’s general counsel, to replace Hunting Deutsch. Deutsch quit earlier this week after about eight months on the job." "Scott names counsel to head jobless agency". See also "Rick Scott Makes His General Counsel the State Jobs Czar" and "Gov. Scott's top lawyer tapped to head jobs agency". The press release: "Governor Scott Names Additional Staff in the EOG".

Meanwhile, "Florida's unemployment trust fund, drained when the state's labor market collapsed, should be back in the black by the middle of 2013, according to state officials."


has squeezed unemployment costs. It added new eligibility requirements, reduced the length of time someone could collect benefits and tied maximum number of available weeks to the state jobless rate.

The changes have been challenged by worker advocates who say lawmakers have tried to prevent people from receiving benefits to which they are entitled.

Mike Evangelist, a policy analyst with the National Employment Law Project, said that, during the past year just 16 percent of people who applied for benefits under the state program — the first 26 weeks of payments — were deemed eligible. That's the second-lowest rate in the country, he said.

"I don't contest that they'll be able to pay back what they borrowed," Evangelist said. "But it's not that everyone is finding jobs. They're just not paying benefits, so money isn't coming out of the trust fund."

"Florida expects to repay unemployment loans by May".