Thursday, January 17, 2013

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

Rubio's Immigration plan is "remarkably similar" to Obama's

Last week we touched on how Rubio's proposed immigration reforms amounted to "Self-Immolation". After all, Rubio's ideas seems awfully ... familiar.

Mother Jones', Adam Serwer writes that, although Marco Rubio hasn't introduced any actual immigration reform legislation,

conservative pundits have showered Rubio with praise. The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin called Rubio's proposal "bold," and the Daily Caller's Matt Lewis writes that "although there is opportunity here, this is still an act of political courage."
Here's the rub: "Conservatives hailing Rubio may not realize how close to President Barack Obama he has moved on immigration, but opponents of reform, such as the Center for Immigration Studies' Mark Krikorian, certainly noticed."
"There's nothing substantive in Rubio's proposal that wouldn't immediately be agreed to by President Obama," Krikorian says. "This is the Rubio-Obama immigration plan." In fairness, Krikorian notes, it's also broadly similar to the George W. Bush immigration reform plan conservatives derailed in 2007.

The centerpiece of Rubio's proposal—his plan to handle the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants who are already here—is strikingly similar to the plan Obama described it in 2011. . . .

All of Rubio's immigration reform criteria—fines, back taxes, proof of residence, background checks, and learning English—are part of Obama's plan. The Journal describes Rubio as "charging up the middle" on immigration, even as the Florida Republican rides next to the president. And Rubio's big idea isn't much different in substance from what immigration reform advocates want. . . .

According to the New York Times, like Obama's 2011 proposal, the plan currently being negotiated in the Senate is remarkably similar to what Rubio has discussed, and would include fines, the payment of back taxes, "and other hurdles for illegal immigrants who would obtain legal status." As in Rubio's proposal, those who gain legal status would ultimately be allowed to apply for citizenship. Immigration reformers are now waiting to see if Rubio will back up his words with specific actions that will bolster the prospects of bipartisan legislation—and, no doubt, the White House is, too.

"The Rubio Immigration Plan Conservatives Love Looks a Lot Like Obama's".

Marc Caputo calls Rubio's grand ideas "pretty much what Obama asked for 20 months ago." "Rubio-Obama immigration plan? Senator’s proposal looks like White House policy".

Florida's jobless rate still above national average

The Orlando Sentinel editor point out that "the recession and the budget chaos it created haven't stopped lawmakers from doling out hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks and other financial incentives to businesses in the name of creating jobs. How's the strategy working? Figures for November, the most recent available, show the state's jobless rate is coming down. But at 8.1 percent, it was still above the national average, where it's been since 2008." "Time to rethink reliance on business tax breaks". Meanwhile, "Florida Chamber to push tax cuts, legal changes in legislative agenda". See also "Florida Chamber Urges Lawmakers for More Business ‘Competitiveness’".

Will "unlimited amount of cash gush into campaign coffers?"

"Florida's campaign finance system is so riddled with holes that a state ethics watchdog group will urge lawmakers today to open the spigot and let an unlimited amount of cash gush into campaign coffers." "Support mounts to allow unlimited political contributions in Florida".

Blah, blah, blah

"Jack Latvala Not Ready to Impose 75-Word Ballot Cap on Legislators".

"Black lawmakers find no common ground Gov. Scott"

"Gov. Rick Scott’s third meeting with black lawmakers left them disgruntled and with low expectations for his assistance on issues ranging from restoration of rights for felons to the federal health care law."

Scott met with the Legislative Black Caucus, who make up one-fifth of the state legislature, for an hour on Tuesday.

Their requests echoed those laid out and largely ignored by Scott, they said, at a similar meeting prior to the legislative session in November 2011. This year’s session starts in March.

At the top of the agenda was restoration of felons’ rights, something that Scott and the cabinet reversed in their first meeting after taking office in 2011. Felons must now wait at least five years before applying to have their rights restored, including the right to vote.

"Black lawmakers find no common ground in meeting with Gov. Scott". See also "Scott gets an earful from black lawmakers".

West to cash in

"With a new job hosting an online TV show, conservative former U.S. Rep. Allen West says he won’t run for Congress again in 2014 after his narrow November loss to Democrat Patrick Murphy." "West says won’t run for Congress again; he’ll host online TV show".

So much for local government control

"The Florida Chamber of Commerce said Wednesday that one of its top legislative priorities this year would be blocking local governments from adopting paid sick-time measures such as the one pending in Orange County." "Florida Chamber targets local sick-time laws".

"Specter of bid-rigging"

"Commissioner raises specter of bid-rigging in Miami Beach convention center project".

Here's an idea, cut back on OPS abuse

"The federal Affordable Care Act is expected to add tens of millions of dollars in costs to Florida's state-employee health insurance program, leading some lawmakers to float the possibility of shifting more expenses to workers or tinkering with benefits."

A major part of the increase stems from an Affordable Care Act requirement that the state offer insurance coverage to people who are considered temporary employees but work more than 30 hours a week. Under current state law, those people -- known in Tallahassee-speak as "other personal services,'' or OPS, employees -- are not eligible for coverage.
"Obamacare to Boost Costs for State Insurance Plan".

"Business-friendly" ALF proposals

"The head of the Senate committee in charge of elder affairs vowed Tuesday to revive efforts to toughen the rules for assisted living facilities — and close the most dangerous ALFs."

As the state Legislature met Tuesday for the first time in 2013, Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, chair of the Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs, said she plans to bring back legislation that sank at the end of last year's session.

At the hearing, resident advocates and ALF operators tried to sway lawmakers through passionate testimony. Elder advocates called for more oversight and tougher punishment for rogue facilities, while industry leaders warned that more regulations could put the homes out of business.

Although Sobel says "now is the time" to address ALF reform, she could face a daunting task in 2013, with momentum waning.

Change seemed inevitable at this time in 2012, with Gov. Rick Scott promising to clean up the industry and his ALF task force rolling out some of the most forceful reform proposals in decades.

Former Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, a vocal elder-advocate, got behind the issue. And a Miami-Dade County grand jury called for reforms. But Storms couldn't convince the House to take up the bill as the clock ticked down the final day of session.

This year, Storms has left the Legislature and Scott's task force has unveiled a second, more business-friendly round of proposals.

"Lawmakers vow to reconsider assisted living facility reform".

Stoopid is as stoopid does

Nancy Smith: "Other Conservative States Look to Follow No-State-Income-Tax Florida".

"Scott must be squirming"

Tom Lyons: "Gov. Rick Scott must be squirming."

It's a public-relations nightmare that he supposedly dumped his dog like a no-longer-needed campaign aide. . . .

Scott had introduced the yellow Lab during his 2010 campaign to become governor. Scott even held a contest to name the cute new family member.

But very soon, “Reagan” disappeared from photo ops, sightings and casual mention. No one saw any yellow Lab romping with the Scott family, or snoozing happily at the governor's feet.

Press accounts now make it pretty clear that when reporters started asking why, Scott's staff ignored, stonewalled and dodged.

"Rick Scott's canine conundrum".

Scott setting up gun control flip-flop

"Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday voiced his support for a broad review of Florida's gun laws by state legislators, saying the state's tourist economy depends on visitors being able to 'feel safe' amidst an increasingly well-armed population." "Scott open to review of state gun laws".

One reason Republicans don't like dues checkoff

"Teachers go after merit pay law in court".

"Florida led the nation in foreclosure activity"

"Florida led the nation in foreclosure activity last year, and Orlando had the second-biggest increase in foreclosure filings among the state's major metro areas, according to a new report." "Florida, Orlando see dismal foreclosure rankings again".