Sunday, January 27, 2013

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

Scott's proposed budget a road map to his re-election

"Scott this week will send the Legislature a proposed budget that’s a blueprint for spending and a road map to his re-election campaign — complete with potholes."

For the first time in three years, a slow but steady economic recovery means Scott will have more tax money to spend — not less. But Scott, who ran as a small-government conservative, has rankled state lawmakers by calling for a $2,500 pay raise for every full-time teacher at a cost of $480 million, in effect sweeping much of a modest projected surplus, and declaring teacher pay a higher priority than other needs.

A year after championing a 3 percent raid on teachers’ salaries, Scott has decided they are underpaid, and they now make up a prized constituency. For three days, Scott toured schools in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Gainesville and Orlando to amplify his call for higher teacher pay.

“Our revenues are up. We have a projected surplus now,” Scott said Friday in St. Petersburg. “If we’re going to have a great education system, we’ve got to take care of our teachers. They’re doing the right things.”

The teabaggers are all in a dither:
But his fellow Republicans in the Capitol aren’t yet convinced that Scott is doing the right thing.

His call for across-the-board teacher pay hikes unnerved lawmakers who say he didn’t specify where the money would come from and that it contradicts a state policy of linking pay to classroom performance.

"State budget surplus will spur intense debate on what to fund".

Florida "first in gun ownership and 49th in mental health funding"

Fabiola Santiago wonders "what is more absurd . . . a state that has slashed mental healthcare and school safety gives tax breaks and other economic incentives for the manufacture and sale of guns, including high-powered assault weapons?"

The state subsidies ($1.6 million in a tax deal to one company alone) also extend to industries that make violent video games and violent television shows and movies — in all, $10 million in economic incentives.

This corporate welfare was doled out by a largely Republican Legislature and a Republican governor.

Aren’t they supposed to be the party against entitlement funding?

The state justifies the subsidies by saying these industries create jobs, but the government’s all-out endorsement and legislative record points to more than job-creation motives.

In recent years, the Legislature has expanded gun laws that make it easier to buy, transport, and even justify the use of firearms in questionable cases, as studies of the “Stand Your Ground Law” have shown.

While all sorts of other state fees have increased, the Florida Legislature cut the cost of getting a weapons license by $5 – maybe not a big deal money-wise, but in as tough a budget year as 2012 was, it says a great deal about our lawmakers’ priorities and values.

Santiago continues:
Look no further than their boast that Florida has more than one million people who have concealed weapons licenses.

Nationally, the state ranks first in gun ownership and 49th in mental health funding.

"Florida lawmakers’ kissing up to gun industry is real scandal"".

Tant wins contentious FlaDem leadership race

"Florida Democratic activists followed the will of the party’s top elected officials Saturday and chose Tallahassee fundraiser Allison Tant as party chairman, capping the most contentious leadership race the party has seen in decades."

Tant won on a 587-to-507 vote over Hillsborough County Committeeman Alan Clendenin. She succeeds Rod Smith, who opted not to seek another two-year term.

Tant assumes leadership of the Democratic Party in America’s largest swing state, where President Barack Obama has won the past two presidential elections but where Republicans have controlled the governorship and state legislature since the 1990s.

Tant, 51, has raised money for President Barack Obama, Sen. Bill Nelson and other Democrats. She was elected chairwoman of the Leon County Democratic Party in December, but does not have a long history with the grass-roots activists around the state who control most of the votes under the party’s weighted voting system.

Tant overcame her initial lack of grass-roots backing with some big-name endorsements, including those of Nelson, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and most of the state’s Democratic congressional delegation.

"Democrats elect money-raiser new state chairwoman". See also "Allison Tant wins race for Florida Democratic chair", "Allison Tant Chosen to Lead Dems in 2014 Elections" and "Tant wins Democratic Party top job"

Florida especially susceptible to a warming planet

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Florida's miles of coastline are especially susceptible to powerful hurricanes from a warming planet and extreme flooding from rising seas. There may be reasonable disagreements over precisely what steps to take. But doing nothing in the name of protecting the oil, gas and coal industries would, as Obama warns, betray our children." "Time to act on climate change".

Yee Haw!

Yes, "it is legal for Floridians to fire guns on private property, regardless of whether there’s a school, church, park or home next door."

The state law, on the books since the late 1980s, prohibits local governments from enacting gun and ammunition ordinances. That had widely been ignored for some time, and local governments made regulations. Palm Beach County outlawed guns in child care facilities and government buildings and made it illegal to fire a gun east of 20-Mile Bend, which would have addressed Lowe’s concerns.

But in 2011, Gov. Rick Scott signed a measure that put teeth into the state restriction: Local officials could be fined, removed from office and responsible for their own legal bills they’re sued over local gun ordinances.

"All curbs lifted on backyard gun shots in Florida".

"Stinging rebuke"

"An Arizona Senator’s joke that allowing U.S. spring break revelers to travel to Cuba would amount to a real 'get-tough' policy against the Castro government drew a stinging rebuke from Cuban American Sen. Bob Menendez." "Cuban-American senator didn’t think Arizona senator’s joke was funny".

Bag men on the run

"The 2013 legislative session doesn’t start for more than a month, but it’s already looking like a promising year for ethics reform. The challenge for legislative leaders is to maintain the momentum and commit to meaningful changes." "Senate ethics bill good start".

"Ubiquitous gasbag"

Carl Hiaasen writes, " Here’s all you need to know about the Miami Dolphins’ outrageous scheme to publicly finance renovations at Sun Life Stadium: Donald Trump thinks it’s a great idea. The team features a quote from the ubiquitous gasbag in a big advertisement touting the football stadium makeover. Read more here:" "Another boondoggle in the works".

"Scott much less concerned about the far more serious expenses"

The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Gov. Rick Scott claimed credit this month when the state’s inspector general criticized excessive travel and entertainment expenses by executives and board members of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. The governor had asked for the report in September, after a Miami Herald story detailed the excesses."

But Gov. Scott, like the Florida Legislature, seems much less concerned about the far more serious expenses regarding the state-run insurer. That would be the expenses to Citizens policyholders from the ongoing attempt to make Citizens hurricane coverage unaffordable, even though state law requires Citizens policies to be “affordable,” since for customers Citizens is often the only option.
"Citizens policyholders worried about their own expenses".

"Far right has begun attacking Rubio"

Now that it has become obvious that Rubio's views on immigration "closely mirror" the plan announced by Obama two years ago, those on "the far right have begun attacking Rubio. 'They are saying they’re done with him, that he’s betrayed the tea party and that Rubio and Obama are basically pushing the same pro-amnesty agenda' . . . ." "Sen. Marco Rubio sells conservatives on immigration reform". See also "Marco Rubio Takes the Lead in Immigration Reform".

Conservatives want to lease Florida reefs

"Private companies and nonprofits could lease plots on Florida’s reefs and charge fees to dive boats, fishing charters and others to use them under a proposal raised for discussion by an environmental group of influential conservatives and libertarians." "Environmental group’s idea: Lease parts of reefs for caretaking, let owners charge user fees".

"Middle class stability 'not a bargaining chip'"

"Dem chair Wasserman Schultz in West Palm: middle class stability 'not a bargaining chip'".

Diaz ready to jump

"Former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz looks ready to run for governor and has spent the past three weeks lining up support from strategists, financiers and elected officials." "Former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz considering bid for governor".