Wednesday, January 30, 2013

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

"Efforts to manage growth at the state level have been curtailed or eliminated"

Paul Owens: "Since Scott took office in 2011, budgets for the Department of Environmental Protection and the state's five regional water-management districts have been cut. Efforts to manage growth at the state level have been curtailed or eliminated. Funding for Florida Forever, the leading state program to buy and protect environmentally sensitive land, was once $300 million a year; it was zeroed out a couple of years ago, and set at just $8.4 million this year." "Is Scott's administration green?"

"Full-Time Legislature?"

"Could We Have a Full-Time Legislature?" Nancy Smith: "Full-Time Legislature? Please, God, No!"

That prostitute thing

"The FBI raided the office of a South Florida eye doctor who last year was accused of providing prostitutes to longtime ally Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat." "FBI raids West Palm Beach office of doctor tied to U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez".

Scott flack booted

"Brian Burgess, the combative communications director for the Republican Party of Florida, is returning to the private sector less than five months after taking over as the party’s top communicator."

Burgess would not return emails or telephone calls, but was shown the door at the party after he did not answer questions from the Tampa Bay Times about a rescued Labrador retriever adopted by Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott publicly adopted the dog during the 2010 campaign and held a contest to name it — people chose Reagan — but Scott returned the dog shortly after taking office in 2011.

The resulting publicity outraged animal lovers across the state who accused Scott of adopting the dog as a campaign gimmick.

"Burgess, 42, will be joining Brian Hughes, former spokesman for the party, at Meteoric Media Strategies, a private public relations business. Hughes and Burgess worked together in Scott’s office shortly after Scott was elected governor and during the 2010 campaign. Hughes announced the new partnership in a statement to the Florida Times-Union Tuesday shortly after the Times asked Burgess for comment on his dismissal from the party."
Hughes’ firm has consulting contracts with the Republican Party of Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and other conservative groups. He has been paid more than $195,000 for campaign work since 2010, including $92,000 from the state party.

Burgess began working for the state party in September after 18 months working in the governor’s office. Burgess previously worked for a Washington public relations firm that handled communications for Scott’s gubernatorial campaign.

"Spokesman leaves state GOP after dodging questions about Gov. Rick Scott’s dog".

Funny that

"Gov. Rick Scott and state legislators will soon decide whether Florida should extend health insurance coverage to nearly 1 million residents, and those officials all get their plans from the state, many paying less than state workers. Scott, as well as the three other Republican members of the Cabinet, and nearly all state lawmakers are enrolled in Florida's health insurance plan. For Scott, the cost to cover him and his wife is less than $400 a year. A total of 107 out of 120 members of the Florida House pay the same or less for coverage." "Florida leaders who will decide Medicaid expansion get bargain on insurance".

Megachurch World

"Orlando ranks seventh among megachurch cities".

Rubio back tracking on immigration

The Miami Herald editors: "The rapidly changing mood in Washington on immigration, particularly evident in the willingness of prominent Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio of Miami to challenge diehard opponents of reform within their own party, represents a significant milestone in the long fight to ensure fairness for everyone living within America’s borders." "Immigration’s moment arrives". See also "Marco Rubio Takes the Lead in Immigration Reform". Related: "Mario Diaz-Balart: Time to Deal in ‘Reality’ on Immigration Reform". The Tampa Bay Times editors point out that Rubio - whose immigration ideas "closely mirror" the President's longstanding position on immigration - is desperately seeking to differentiate himself from Obama, so here's Rubio's scheme:

Shortly after Obama finished speaking, cracks emerged between the White House and the group of eight senators [including Rubio], which put out their proposals one day ahead of the president [actually no, the President immigration plan has been clear since last year]. Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, one of four Republicans in the group, criticized Obama for not making a citizenship pathway contingent on tighter border security, a central tenant of the lawmakers' proposals.

"This provision is key to ensuring that border security is achieved, and is also necessary to ensure that a reform package can actually move through Congress," Flake said in a statement.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is seen as an influential party voice on an issue that cost Republicans in last year's voting, said he was "concerned by the president's unwillingness to accept significant enforcement triggers before current undocumented immigrants can apply for a green card."

"Obama outlines his reform plan".

More: "Rubio's exit strategy takes shape".

A start

"Bills: Pay Florida teachers $10,000 more a year".

The best he could do?

"The Department of Economic Opportunity is one of the most critical agencies in Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, and it has run through four directors — two permanent, two interim — since it launched 16 months ago. After the fleeting tenures of three bureaucrats and a banker, Scott’s handpicked director, Jesse Panuccio, began his term as the agency’s fifth director three weeks ago. Panuccio, a 32-year-old attorney, is an outside-the-box choice for jobs chief. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 2006 and has been on Scott’s legal team since 2011, becoming the governor’s chief litigant last year."

Throughout Panuccio’s brief professional career, he has fought legal battles in support of conservative causes ranging from gun rights to traditional marriage to state’s rights. His new position will require a full embrace of Scott’s conservative job-creation agenda: less regulation, taxation and litigation.
"Free-market conservative leads Gov. Rick Scott’s jobs agency".

Entrepreneurs in action

"Nursing home executives investigated by The Palm Beach Post charged in $2.75 million Medicaid fraud".

Florida Gambling Review

"Florida Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill, has been named chairman of the House Select Committee on Gaming by House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel. And as with the Senate Gaming Committee, the House effort is viewed as a two-year endeavor." "Rob Schenck to Head House’s Two-Year Florida Gambling Review".

Enuf with the private sector

"Look Which Former Reps Want Their Jobs Back in 2014".

New complaints

"Clarence Shahid Freeman, a Palm Beach County Democratic Party activist under investigation in a 2012 case for allegedly taking funds for legal help he never provided, was the subject of criminal complaints for the same alleged offense filed by at least four other persons in recent years, although no criminal fraud charges were filed in those cases."

Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office records show five complaints filed between 2003 and 2009 where Freeman was accused of accepting money under false pretenses.
"Earlier complaints against Democratic activist similar to one under investigation".