Wednesday, January 02, 2013

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

"Democrats see November’s successes as an early indicator of a re-emergence"

"The Florida Democratic Party, progressives, unions and civil rights organizations helped Democrats shatter supermajorities in both the state House and Senate, pick up four congressional seats and kill eight constitutional proposals put on the ballot by the GOP-controlled legislature."

Democratic activists again have the taste of blood.
"The optimism will help Democrats recruit and motivate candidates and keep grass-roots supporters, the backbone of the Obama campaign in 2008 and again this year, but which virtually disappeared in Florida in 2010 . . . strategists said."
Republicans acknowledge that President Obama’s re-election campaign exposed weaknesses in the GOP’s ability to motivate and drive voters to the polls. But many leaders interpret election results as still favoring Republicans in Florida. . . .

Democrats, though, see November’s successes as an early indicator of a re-emergence. With current Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith stepping down, party leaders are poised to elect a new chair this month and an increasingly heated contest is underway between Tampa activist Alan Clendinen and Tallahassee fundraiser Allison Tant.

"Keeping the momentum alive won’t be easy, despite demographic shifts in Florida that helped Democrats this year."
“There’s a realization that Florida is a state that has moved over the last number of years to be more supportive of Democrats both at the national and at the state level. The problem has been that the Democratic Party organizationally, for many years, just has not been able to take advantage of these demographic changes,” said former U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, Boca Raton lawyer who was ousted by U.S. Rep. Allen West in 2010. West was defeated by Democratic U.S. Rep.-elect Patrick Murphy last month.

After the 2008 election, Obama’s campaign disappeared from Florida, Klein said. “The party was left to fend for itself and we got killed. Across the board. It was awful,” he said.

Klein said he’s working with various organizations to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

“My interest is making sure that the Obama team in some version stays in place and works with the various interested organizations that drive Democrat [sic] votes out and to stay arm-in-arm and to fight this battle in 2014,” he said. “I think it’s very doable this time because there’s a national recognition that Florida really is in play.”

"Florida Democrats: our best weapon is Republicans".

Rubio a "coward"

The cowardly Marco Rubio contends that "Fiscal Cliff Deal Will Stunt Economic Growth, Stifle Job Creation".

However, as the Palm Beach Post editorial board's Jac Versteeg writes, "the only thing worse than voting for the deal is voting against it, as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., did with the 'fiscal cliff' deal. It was a cowardly thing to do. Let others be tainted by the necessity of ugly compromise. Sen. Rubio remains 'pure' by holding out for a deal that has no chance of making it to the floor, much less of passing. He said in a statement he couldn’t support tax increases on small businesses. But his vote against the deal was a vote to raise taxes on everybody." "Over the cliff for a lousy deal".

Well, at least he isn't involved in a prostitution ring

"Florida’s most unlikely Republican Election Day victor is a newcomer to the political scene, picked by his party to replace a candidate who resigned in disgrace from a sex scandal – but don’t let that fool you. Rep. Mike La Rosa of St. Cloud tells Sunshine State News he’s in it for the long haul. La Rosa, the son of a Cuban immigrant, first came to public light in late September, when the Republican executive committees of Osceola and Polk counties announced their selection of him to replace incumbent Rep. Mike Horner of Kissimmee, who dropped out of the District 42 race after it came to light that he had been involved in a prostitution ring." "Mike La Rosa: Unlikely Republican Victor 'In It for the Long Haul'".

"Down by the river"

The Miami Herald editorial board: "Like Florida’s Everglades, the unique 'River of Grass,' many of the state’s other rivers are also beset by pollution and fluctuating water levels thanks to seasonal droughts and increasing demand for drinking water in urban areas. Unlike the Everglades, however, many of these threatened rivers are getting no relief. So says a year-long study, Down by the river, of 22 rivers statewide conducted by the Orlando Sentinel." "Saving Florida’s rivers".

Charter schools and voucher companies pour millions into Florida campaigns

John Kennedy: "Charter school, voucher and online education companies poured more than $2 million into this fall’s political campaigns, primarily those of Republicans who are again demanding more alternatives to traditional public schools."

A deeply ideological battle is expected to unfold at Florida’s Capitol in coming months, with vast amounts of taxpayer dollars at stake. Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s own political future also may be in play.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, talked of as a future GOP presidential contender, has emerged as chief cheerleader for the industry that flourished during his eight years as Florida governor and still helps finance a nationwide education policy think tank he leads.

“If you believe, like I do, that we need to move this ball down the field far faster, charter schools, vouchers, all sorts of alternatives … are part of the answer,” Bush said in November at his Foundation for Excellence in Education national conference in Washington.

“But once again, there will be massive pushback,” warned Bush, a fierce opponent of teachers unions.

"Scott is promoting changes to expand enrollment in charter schools."
Another benchmark was the selection last month of Education Commissioner Tony Bennett, who adheres to Bush and Scott’s approach to what supporters call parental choice. Bennett is Florida’s third education commissioner in two years.

Bennett, though, was turned out in November by voters as Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction after clashing with teachers unions over voucher, teacher evaluation and school grading policies, similar to those enacted in Florida during the Bush years.

“Sometimes, it seems that Bush is still the manager of all that’s still going on in Florida,” said Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union.

“These policies are part of his political past. But now they also could affect how credible he is in the future,” Ford added.

The union and several parent groups say the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars that go to charter schools, online efforts and to the state’s tax credit scholarship program started under Bush merely redirect money to private and often for-profit interests that could, instead, be used to improve public schools.

"Charter, voucher, online schools campaigning for bigger role in Florida".

"The most-read PolitiFact Florida fact-checks of 2012"

"With 2012 now behind us, PolitiFact Florida editors decided to look back at your favorite fact-checks of a busy political year. In no particular order, here are a selection of the most-read PolitiFact Florida fact-checks of 2012." "Top Florida fact-checks of 2012".

"It just didn't come off as scripted."

Aaron Deslatte: "Gov. Rick Scott was following a well-read playbook when he campaigned in 2010 to kick-start the economy in part with deep property tax cuts. It just didn't come off as scripted."

Capping out-of-control property tax spikes was once a surefire appeal to voters in Florida — so much so that Scott made long-term relief an integral part of his "7-7-7" campaign plan two years ago. Cutting property and corporate taxes was the single largest job-creating element in the plan, projected by his campaign economist to generate 364,000 jobs after seven years.
"Scott's goal of tax cuts a mixed result".

Aren't we still waiting for Rubio's magic immigration plan?

"Rubio promises proposals to bolster middle class". Promises, promises.

No, the Orlando Sentinel Editors have not gone crazy

If you read the online Orlando Sentinel editorial pages this morning, you would necessarily assume a stunningly pro-union editorial that appears therein was written by the Sentinel editorial board. Sorry to say, it is an error: the editors (at least in the online edition) forgot to attribute the piece to the actual author, one Mary Sanchez, a Tribune Media Services columnist who published the column on December 14 in the Chicago Tribune. Ms. Sanchez - at least to our knowledge - has never previously graced the pages of the Orlando Sentinel.

In any event, here are some excerpts from the column/editorial:

"America lost one of its iconic brands last month when Hostess, maker of Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Wonder Bread and other staples of postwar Middle America, closed up shop."

But there was another curious aspect to the story: Hostess workers were still represented by several labor unions, and one of them, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, had gone on strike. The failure of management and the bakers union to reach an agreement, it appears, precipitated the closing of the company and the loss of 18,000 jobs."
"The Twinkie and the labor union, going down together — the story fitted perfectly into a pat journalistic narrative in which unions have done their work (thanks for the eight-hour day, folks!) but now must exit the historical stage."
Unfortunately, reality is not quite so simple. Recently, we learned — from the Wall Street Journal, no less — that the company had diverted payments it was supposed to make to the employee pension fund into other operating accounts. This at a time when finances were tight and management nevertheless decided to give itself more bonuses and salary raises.


This is the new America: Bonuses and stock options for the top brass, pink slips and blame for the working class. Most Hostess employees had taken steep pay cuts over the last few years. One of the major reasons the bakers union went on strike was that the company was not honoring prior pension agreements.

"The version we got from the headlines was a little different: Union refuses to negotiate, forces 80-plus-year old company to shut down."
Don't be mistaken. What happened at Hostess is part of a long, protracted shift in the American workplace. Companies use any means at their disposal, including bankruptcy reoganization, to get rid of unions. Meanwhile, right-wing think tanks and pundits demonize union members as freeloaders and thugs. It has been a decades-long project, and it's been incredibly successful.

Look at Michigan. With a law signed recently by Gov. Rick Snyder, it became the 24th state in the nation where a person can accept a job, along with the benefits negotiated by union contracts, and opt out of paying union dues. In time, this will undercut the unions — and their ability to negotiate with employers.

That Michigan could become a "right to work" state is a testament to the power of the anti-union narrative. This is the very state where the once powerful United Auto Workers was birthed. But notice how this event is covered. Some in the media present this as a sad event — it's always sad when Middle Americans lose out. Others tout it as a victory for freedom. But nobody in the media is permitted to register this in outrage, to decry this as systematic rigging of the system in favor of employers at the expense of employees.

"Union-busting's the secret filling inside Twinkie demise".

All this and no surprises

"Five Questions for Dennis Baxley".

More than a million Floridians packing heat

"Amid soaring gun sales, Florida distinguished itself from the rest of the country with a milestone this month: issuing 1 million permits for concealed weapons. That number may get even more dramatic as Floridians, fearing further gun restrictions after the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Conn., scramble to sign up for the classes required to secure the permit." "Florida: More than 1 million permits for concealed guns".

Teabaggers in a dither

"Many low-wage workers in Florida will be getting a little bit more in their pay checks in the new year thanks to an increase in the minimum wage that took effect Jan. 1. Florida's minimum wage is now $7.79 per hour, up 12 cents from last year's $7.67, while the rate for tipped employees is $4.77 hourly, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity." "Florida's minimum wage increases to $7.79 per hour".

C.W. Bill Young still on defense appropriations subcommittee

"Longtime Florida Rep. C.W. Bill Young will serve another term as chairman of the powerful defense appropriations subcommittee, House leaders said Monday. " "Young keeps top committee post".