Friday, January 25, 2013

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

There will be blood

Scott Powers: "The way Florida Democrats have battled among themselves in recent weeks over choosing an new leader, people might think the state governor's race is being decided this weekend in Lake Mary."

On Saturday, Florida Democrats will elect a new state chairman to succeed Rod Smith — either Tant, 51, a Tallahassee fundraiser and former lobbyist who wants to overhaul the party's fundraising efforts and modernize its technology, or Alan Clendenin, 53, a Tampa-area labor organizer who vows to shake up the party and bring more attention, power and money to local groups and elections.

The state's Democratic establishment, including U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who's chair of the Democratic National Committee, have almost all lined up for Tant, a major fundraiser for President Barack Obama. Clendenin has widespread support in Tampa Bay, Democrat-rich South Florida and most statewide caucuses.

Tant said Thursday that she "knows" she has the necessary 580 votes lined up to win. But Clendenin has rebuffed overtures to back down or take another post. While some votes remain fluid — as Ramos indicated — the campaigning has been furious.

"Dems' party-chairmanship battle goes down to wire".

Uppity employees getting big ideas

The union haters on Florida's editorial boards don't want their employees getting big ideas. The Palm Beach Post editorial board whines that the "real pension problem in Florida . . . is in cities — unsustainable police and fire pensions." "Stare down police and fire unions on pensions".

"Scott hopes this 'investment' pays dividends at the polls"

The Orlando Sentinel editors: "With an anemic approval rating, and dimming re-election hopes, Gov. Rick Scott borrowed the goodies-win-elections page from Mitt Romney's Monday-morning-quarterback playbook."

"No better investment" for Florida, he said, than the $2,500 across-the-board bump ($480 million total cost).

Our translation: Desperate to perk up a 36 percent approval rating ahead of his 2014 re-election bid, Scott hopes this "investment" pays dividends at the polls. We're surprised he didn't throw in a promise of dark chocolate, red wine and foot massages.

The editors continue, with a less than impressive analysis of the flip-flop. On one hand they pay homage to their corporate masters, writing that
This naked political ploy . . . undercuts the sensible proposition — once embraced by Scott — that teacher pay should be pegged to effectiveness and results. Education reformers [sic] around the state must be feeling double-crossed about now.

Under Scott's plan, the best teacher in Florida will get the exact same raise as the worst teacher in Florida. We're having trouble seeing the merit in that.

Perhaps due to his absence from corporate life, Scott has forgotten that most businesses don't operate by awarding across-the-board raises.

Then, wiping the drool from their chins, the editors bring themselves to articulate a position that would make Paul Ryan cringe:
We share Scott's newfound belief that teachers, as a group, deserve better pay. Florida teachers haven't had a substantive raise in years, in part because of the education budget cuts that Scott signed into law during his first year in office.
"Teacher pay proposal smacks of political bribe". The Palm Beach Post editors write that "Scott has not been friendly to public schools since taking office. His first year, the state cut education spending $1.3 billion. He enthusiastically supported and signed legislation that reduced paychecks by 3 percent for teachers and other state workers by requiring them to make pension payments that had been the responsibility of their employers. He advocated for and signed a teacher evaluation system that has not been shown to be valid or reliable." "The raise Scott seeks is his standing with teachers". The Sun Sentinel editorial board: "Teacher raise proposal welcome". The Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial board: "A boost for teachers -- maybe". Even The Tampa Tribune editorial board acknowledge that the "average pay for Florida teachers is $46,000. That's $10,000 below the national average and 46th in the nation. Florida is shortchanging itself as well as its teachers." "Florida teachers deserve a raise". Meanwhile, Tampa teachers grateful but wary as Scott touts pay-raise plan

"Distressed homes a drag on Florida"

"At a news conference Thursday, Attorney General Pam Bondi suggested that money coming to the state from the multistate settlement with five large lending banks could be used to fund affordable housing projects, foreclosure prevention, neighborhood rehabilitation, renter and homeowner assistance, legal aid, and housing counseling programs." "Funds flow to foreclosure aid, but distressed homes to remain drag on Florida".

"Finger-pointing over phosphorus discharges"

"Everglades legislation in works amid finger-pointing over phosphorus discharges".

Never mind the details

"A value-added score as called for in the Student Success Act of 2011 will determine whether a teacher can be fired starting with the 2014 school year. How to calculate that score is still being determined." "Value-added measure for teachers still a work in progress".

"Two floppers actually facing each other in 2014?"

Scott Maxwell: "Rick Scott is about to make history as the very first governor to reform voting — and then unreform it."

After cutting early voting, he now wants to expand it.

He's the hero … to his own villain. And it's getting to be a trend.

Remember when he wanted credit for boosting school funding … after first cutting it?

Or his complete about-face on immigration? (Vowing to crack down on hiring illegal immigrants during the campaign and then calling such a crackdown "foolish" after he got elected.)

I'm all for enlightenment and evolution of thought, but this looks more like your basic flip-flop.

As a matter of fact, it looks more like … dare I say it? … Charlie Crist.

Yes, Crist has long been viewed as royalty when it comes to reversals — the prince of pandering, if you will.

Yet Scott seems eager to seize the throne as the king of contradictions.

And now there's talk about these two floppers actually facing each other in 2014?

Can you imagine what that would look like?

Maxwell imagines here: "Crist vs. Scott? More like Flip vs. Flop".

Entrepreneurs whine about red tape

Unlicensed (licenses are after all "red tape") entrepreneurs whine that "under a 'draconian' 2005 Florida law, an unlicensed contractor cannot sue for breach of contract, even when they have been wronged and even when the party against whom they are seeking relief knew of their unlicensed status." "Florida Supreme Court to Contractors: Unlicensed? No Relief for Contract Violations!".

"Burnishing Hillsborough's reputation for backwardness"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "They all papered their support for their bigoted position with patriotic rhetoric. But voting against a registry to give unmarried adults in committed relationships the right to visit each other in the hospital and other protections had nothing to do with smaller government, or legal loopholes, or personal responsibility, or any of the other phony excuses from the four Republican Hillsborough County commissioners. They simply couldn't summon the courage to do the right thing, and the county again looks narrow-minded and unenlightened as a result."

Commissioners Ken Hagan, Victor Crist, Sandra Murman and Al Higginbotham continued the commission's sorry legacy on civil rights Thursday by killing the creation of a domestic partner registry on a 4-3 vote. The measure would have allowed unmarried couples — straight or gay — to enjoy some protections that married people have, such as the right to visit each other in the hospital, be notified by the police in an emergency or take part in a child's education. It is a simple step that communities across the country are taking to recognize equal treatment in the modern family. In the bay area, the cities of Tampa, Clearwater and St. Petersburg, and Pinellas County, have adopted a registry. It should have been an easy decision for Hillsborough to follow suit.

But the feckless four would rather burnish Hillsborough's reputation for backwardness than face social conservatives in their party who are intent on denying rights to gays. This is a county, after all, that has a policy against recognizing gay events. This is a county that has blocked efforts to reinstate antidiscrimination protections that commissioners stripped in the 1990s. Crist didn't even have the decency to act civil during the debate. And none of the four bothered faking that they came in with an open mind.

"Feckless four in Hillsborough set back rights". See also "Domestic partner registry fails to pass in Hillsborough County" and "Commission rejects domestic registry".

Haters may have the last word

"Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said despite talk of the state entering the 2013 legislative session with a potential surplus for the first time since 2007, Florida faces a number of economic hurdles." "Senate Budget Chief: Scott’s Teacher Pay Hike Could Cut Other State Programs".

Entrepreneurs in action

The Neanderthals on the Tampa Tribune editorial board argue that it

makes business sense for the state to move toward a benefits system similar to that used by most private employers.
"Opinion: Looking for savings in state government". See also "Additional State Worker Pension Changes in Hands of Ongoing House Study". Florida's genius "House Speaker Will Weatherford . . . has called Florida's current pension plan a 'ticking time bomb' because he fears it could require a costly taxpayer bailout in the future." "Florida House speaker wants to drop pension, offer 401(k) for state retirement accounts". This, even though "the state's $127 billion retirement fund — which covers 623,000 current employees — is one of the best-rated in the country. For the last few decades, it has been either fully funded or just shy of 100 percent funding." "Florida may end pensions, opt for 401(k)-style plan".

Mormon church could block train

"Mormon church could block Orlando-to-Miami train".