Saturday, January 05, 2013

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

"Fewer state workers, and they're being paid less"

Paul Flemming: "The Annual Workforce Report came out at the end of last week, a load of information about state workers compiled by the Department of Management Services."

It’s a well-worn fact that state workers have not had a general pay raise in six years, but that, too, undersells the reality.
"Adjusted for inflation, the average Career Service employee is $2,542 in the hole, 7 percent behind the curve compared with 2008. (Even in nominal dollars, the average Career Service salary is $231 less than four years ago.)" "There are fewer state workers, and they're being paid less".

Scott appeases developers

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Few operations have been as compromised under Gov. Rick Scott as Florida's Department of Environmental Protection."

An agency that time after time has put the interests of developers and the polluting industry ahead of the state's natural resources struck again last month, laying off nearly 60 employees — many if not most of them responsible for enforcing compliance with environmental regulations. This agency is supposed to protect the environment, not enable its destruction. . . .

This is what Floridians have come to see under Scott's DEP — an agency that has worked hand in hand with the governor to dismantle the regional water boards, weaken clean water standards and second-guess the experts, local authorities and the science behind regulatory decisions.

"Former employees say the layoffs, and DEP's hiring of industry consultants into upper management ranks, reflect the Scott administration's interest in appeasing the development community."
These individual moves to set back environmental protection have a compounding effect. The loss of experienced voices at the state level leaves the public lacking a counterweight to oversee the private sector.
"Florida's polluters protected".

Aaron Deslatte: "Republicans have controlled state government for nearly two decades. "

Florida's major employers and landed interests had been operating under the old rules for a long time. So in 2011, they won a wholesale weakening, thanks to Gov. Rick Scott, GOP super-majorities and a Great Recession that had pulverized the state's previously unstoppable development industry.

Scott has vetoed state funding for those 1970s-era regional planning councils for two years running. The water management districts have had budget cuts and staffing reductions.

The document taking shape at [Department of Economic Opportunity] reflects those politics. It cites legislative aims like "tort reform" and increasing college degrees issued in science, math, engineering and technology (STEM). Sound familiar? Those were campaign pledges by Scott – and objectives of the business lobby long before Scott arrived.

The DEO report actually credits Scott's "7-7-7" plan and the Florida Chamber of Commerce's "Six Pillars" plans. And it makes clear Scott's administration isn't done unraveling the old regulatory framework.

"Florida's growth challenges are the same, but political realities aren't". The Saint Petersburg Times's, Bill Maxwell writes that "Gov. Rick Scott is an outsider, and he is proving to be no friend of the environment in almost every move he makes." "Taking a wrecking ball to natural Florida".


"Florida jobless may need email account to get benefits".

Southwest Florida blues

"Business spending across Southwest Florida mirrored a statewide lull during October that saw budget-minded consumers putting money aside for the holidays early last year." "Local economy limps along, economist says".

Teabagger freaks say "no" to Hurricane Sandy relief

"The House overwhelmingly passed a bill Friday providing $9.7 billion in flood insurance aid for Hurricane Sandy victims. All 67 votes against the aid came from Republicans, including Florida Reps. Ron DeSantis and Ted Yoho, both whom were sworn in Thursday. All other Florida representatives voted with the majority."

The bill goes now to the Senate. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio already voted against a larger version of the aid package.
"New Fla. congressmen vote no on aid".

These dopes will of course expect the rest of the nation to come to Florida's aid when Florida's inadequate infrastructure collapses during the next tropical storm.

Week in Review

"Week in Review for Jan. 2 to Jan. 4". See also "Weekly Roundup: New Year Marks the Return of Perennial Issues". Related: "FCIR Associate Director Discusses Immigration Reform, Other Topics on WLRN’s ‘Florida Roundup’".

Sorry, Rick but "new companies are hard to come by"

"Scott wants to attract new property insurers to the Florida market to help drive down premiums, but new companies are hard to come by despite seven straight years without a hurricane." "Governor sees new companies, capital as key to lower insurance rates".

"Scott remains a polarizing figure"

Steve Bousquet: "Rick Scott casts himself as a problem solver, but after two years as governor of Florida, his biggest challenge remains unsolved. Himself."

Midway through a four-year term, a time when governors traditionally take stock of their highs and lows, Scott remains a polarizing figure, a leader who's still awkwardly learning the ropes. Once the toast of the tea party, Scott now must work to expand his political base as he seeks a new term in 2014. Slow to grasp the state's shifting political dynamics, he has made course corrections on issues such as immigration, education, health care and early voting.

Sued repeatedly over his policies, Scott has been cast by Democrats as a coldhearted, payroll-slashing "Pink Slip Rick," ridiculed on cable TV for insulting the king of Spain and parodied for pushing drug-testing of state workers.

"[P]olls show he remains unpopular with no hint of improvement, a red flag that the public's negative view is unyielding. If Scott is going to improve his standing with Floridians, it's now or never."
Scott won by 60,000 votes in November, in one of the closest governor's races in Florida history. He got less than 50 percent of the vote in an election in which turnout was below 50 percent, yet he acted as if he had a powerful mandate.

He didn't, and people soon decided they did not like him all that much.

In May 2011, the first of seven Scott-era Quinnipiac University polls showed that just 29 percent of Florida voters approved of Scott's handling of his job while 57 percent disapproved. Those numbers have improved, but a poll conducted last month showed a majority still disliked him. . . .

In the latest Quinnipiac poll, the most troublesome news for Scott is that voters not only are lukewarm toward him, but they oppose his policies, too.

Voters opposed, 66 to 26 percent, Scott's plan to offer $10,000 degrees to students in fields targeted to higher-paying jobs. They opposed, 71 to 7 percent, a Board of Education plan to set race-based education goals for students.

"As governor, Scott has spent time recalibrating his positions." [Read: flip-flopping]
He vowed as a candidate to bring an Arizona-style anti-immigration law to Florida and an E-Verify program designed to catch businesses that hire illegal immigrants. But he quickly backed away.

After Scott signed a law reducing early voting from 14 days to eight, the League of Women voters sued over changes that made it harder to register new voters, and won.

Scott was pilloried by Democrats for trying to suppress the vote and watched as people in Miami-Dade County waited up to seven hours to vote.

"Two years in, Rick Scott's biggest challenge remains himself".

Good luck with that

"Legislator wants to abolish capital punishment".

Desperate FlaGOP to resurrect Reagan and mimic Obama's campaign formula

Dara Kam: "Florida Republicans want to get back to basics after losing the presidential race, four congressional seats and super-majorities in both the state House and the state Senate in November."

Elected officials, state party staff and consultants repeatedly point back to Republican icon Ronald Reagan even as they look forward to instituting high-tech methods to spread the message of a softer, gentler GOP.

For some — including Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry — that means moving away from hot-button social issues such as abortion and refocusing on the principles of lower taxes and smaller government that earned broad support in a state where voters are almost evenly split between the parties. . . .

After serving one term as the head of the party, Curry will be re-elected by GOP leaders in Orlando on Saturday. Despite GOP losses in Florida, Curry faces no opposition and has the endorsement of nearly all elected Republican officials, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Miami lawyer whose parents emigrated from Cuba.

Grassroots and local activists don’t blame Curry for the Republican setbacks. Instead, they point the finger at GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a brutal GOP primary and President Obama’s data-driven, micro-targeted campaign machine. . . .

The RPOF and its consultants are using the Obama campaign formula to pinpoint its message to young voters, minorities, tea party activists, social conservatives and fiscal hawks, to draw in and unite at-times warring factions, said RPOF spokesman Brian Burgess.

"Florida GOP gameplan: resurrect the Gipper".

"Voting machine memory cards failed"

"Election staff inexperience and inadequate procedures fueled vote-counting problems in one of the country's most-watched congressional races, a state report released today found."

St. Lucie County was the epicenter of issues in the hard-fought race between Allen West and Patrick Murphy. The razor-thin contest gave way to two weeks of recounts, court fights and allegations that the votes weren't properly counted.

The Department of State's review of electoral processes in St. Lucie County found at least four incidences in which voting machine memory cards failed, as well as numerous ballot-scanning errors and missing logs of ballots.

"Despite well-intentioned efforts, staff inexperience and inadequate procedures compounded issues," the report states, "resulting in additional technical and procedural errors."

Murphy ultimately was declared the winner in the race, unseating West, a first-term hero of the tea party movement. . . .

Separately today, the state issued a report on electoral problems in Palm Beach County, where a portion of 36,485 absentee ballots were misprinted and later had to be duplicated to be counted. The DOE report echoed the county's assessment, placing the blame of the misprint on the vendor who printed the ballots.

"Report finds issues in St. Lucie election process". See also "Election report: Palm Beach’s Bucher responded properly to ballot flaws but St. Lucie tally flawed" and "Inadequate Procedures, Checks Found in St. Lucie, Palm Beach Elections Offices" ("Blame also was cast on the vendors for each county's electronic voting system.")