Friday, January 11, 2013

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

"The Joad Family of Left Turns"

Daniel Ruth: "This was a thing of fife and drum beauty:"

Republicans and Democrats putting aside their petty, partisan disharmony to come together as comrades-in-chicanery for the good of their pals.

Cue the amber waves of greed.

It was probably a tip-off that the bipartisan vote in Washington last week to avoid tumbling off the fiscal cliff included some smoke-filled-room mischief when one of the yes votes came from Sarasota Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan.

After all, Buchanan is so scruples-challenged he practically made the capital's list of the most compromised members of Congress before he was even sworn into office. You can't deny he is a man of ambition.

Tucked into the fiscal cliff vote were an estimated $46 billion in big, fat, juicy pork projects for special interests. But it's still early yet. There's a lot more counting still to be done. Altogether now: "Woo pig sooie!" . . .

And then there was the $78 million in tax subsidies that went to those poor, struggling, impoverished, destitute folks who own NASCAR racetracks, which as we all know is one of the most economically depressed businesses in America.

"Indeed, the single biggest beneficiary of the $78 million hand-out is the barely-making-ends-meet France family, which owns Daytona International Speedway and a majority of NASCAR racetracks around the country. If anybody needs a spare can of that taxpayer-underwritten StarKist Tuna, it's the Joad Family of Left Turns."
Buchanan voted to pour the $46 billion into the pockets of tuna corporations, movie moguls and those street urchins at NASCAR. So, too, did Florida's senior Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Daddy Warbucks.

Both men insisted they were only trying to help the average Joe. And they certainly did, if you define the average Joe as the France family, with a net worth of $3 billion overseeing the No. 1 spectator sport in the country, which pulls in $3 billion in sponsorship money along with a $560 million-a-year television deal.

If you're looking for someone to blame for the $46 billion in gifts, take your pick. Both parties participated in the giveaway and have benefitted from the generosity of special interests. Both Nelson and Buchanan have received thousands of dollars in contributions from NASCAR.

And while the fiscal cliff vote was supposed to protect Bush era tax cuts for the middle class, is anyone shocked to learn $46 billion was earmarked to lather up special interest projects?

"Racing away with the cash".

Foreclosure settlement funds

"The Joint Legislative Budget Commission is poised to disburse $45 million to the Florida Housing Finance Corp. next week for down payment assistance and housing counseling for eligible homeowners as part of an agreement between Attorney General Pam Bondi and legislative leaders. Another $15 million will go to legal counseling, legal fees and the court system." "Lawmakers to disburse part of foreclosure settlement funds next week".

"Pistol-packing teachers?"

The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Pistol-packing teachers? A formula for disaster".

What a deal

"HB 33 would allow adjacent landowners to obtain state land in return for a conservation easement on their private land. Rep. Jimmie T. Smith, the bill's sponsor, said the measure would increase conservation opportunities. But some conservation and environmental groups are concerned. " "Bill would let landowners acquire state land without having to buy it".

Let them sleep under bridges

"As Florida legislators debate how to respond to the overhaul of the federal health care system, and Gov. Rick Scott continues trying to get Health and Human Services officials to accept the Sunshine State’s views on Medicaid funding, at least one U.S. congressman believes they don’t have to rush." "Florida Right to Reject State-based Health Care Exchange, Medicaid Expansion".

Never mind

The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Scott admits to faking the cost to Florida of Medicaid expansion". "Gov. Rick Scott's administration has reversed course and conceded the optional Medicaid expansion allowed under President Obama's health-care law would cost Florida taxpayers far less than he has been claiming." "Scott reverses course on 'Obamacare' price tag". See also "New estimate slashes Fla.’s Medicaid cost by billions".

Rick Outzen, the publisher/editor of Pensacola’s Independent News, writes in the Miami Herald that: "Florida lawmakers need the best estimates possible to make intelligent decisions about the state’s budget. The governor and his agencies have an obligation to do that. Blowing up the projection to such an exaggerated level does much more harm than good. However, it may be Gov. Scott’s ticket to re-election, or, at least, he seems to think so.". Come on, Gov. Scott, drop the scare tactics". Meanwhile, "Joe Negron, Governor ‘Reasonable’ to Question Health Care Cost". And where have these dopes been? See "Health Care Summit: Florida Must Do Health-Care Overhaul Right".

Stand 'yer stoopid

"'Stand Your Ground' Repeal Bill Filed".

The race to lead FlaDemParty

Aaron Deslatte: "The race to lead the Florida Democratic Party is heading down to the wire, and dividing elected leaders from the party's traditional grassroots bases of support." "Activist, fundraiser compete for Democratic Party chair".

Feds turn up the heat on Florida

"The federal government turned up the heat on Florida over its treatment of children with severe medical conditions." "DOJ proposes overhaul of Florida’s program for disabled children".

"Assault on civil liberties"?

Bill Cotterell: "As the ACLU points out 11 issues it was involved in with a report called 'Protecting the Rights of Floridians in the Rick Scott Era,' the state GOP calls the ACLU lawsuits "frivolous" and opposed to 'common sense.'" "ACLU accuses Scott of 'unprecedented' assault on civil liberties". See also "As ACLU touts court victories against Gov. Rick Scott, state GOP attacks group".

Rocking the fraud fraud

"The Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced that it found no evidence of criminal activity from the Rock the Vote website. FDLE was alerted to the potential of fraud Oct. 8 by the state Division of Elections." "FDLE finds no evidence of vote fraud in MTV's Rock the Vote".

More early voting days

"Florida election supervisors want up to 14 early voting days".

Scott scrapes the bottom of the barrel

"Scott gains more control of universities with new appointments". "Scott’s choices include three men from Naples, where he has a home, and the son of one of his biggest campaign contributors. They are:"

• Harry Wayne Huizenga Jr., 51, of Delray Beach, president of Rybovich Boat Co. and Huizenga Holdings, the firm founded by his father, former Miami Dolphins owner H. Wayne Huizenga. The elder Huizenga in May gave $250,000 to the governor’s reelection campaign in addition to $200,000 in 2010.

• Ned Lautenbach, 68, of Naples, retired partner in a New York equity firm and for 30 years before that an IBM executive who holds an MBA from Harvard. Lautenbach and his wife, Cindy, were members of Scott’s inaugural committee and donated $25,000, the maximum allowed; he also gave $15,000 to Scott’s reelection committee, Let’s Get to Work, in April in addition to $40,000 to the Republican Party. Lautenbach’s term is for six years because he is filling the unexpired term of a former board member.

• Wendy Sartory Link, 48, of Palm Beach Gardens, an attorney and managing partner of Ackerman, Link & Sartory and chair of the Florida Healthy Kids Corp.

• Edward Morton, 65, of Naples, a former healthcare executive with NCH Healthcare Systems. He has a master’s degree from Florida Gulf Coast University and an MBA from the University of Miami.

• Alan Levine, 45, of Naples, senior vice president of Hospital Management Services of Florida and former secretary of health for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Levine, who once worked in Pasco County for the hospital chain Scott founded, holds a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees from the University of Florida, where he serves as a trustee.

"Scott names five new members to University Board of Governors".