Sunday, January 06, 2013

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

Florida Republicans "unsuccessful and oblivious"

Scott Powers writes that, "If the Republican Party of Florida harbored any uncertainty about its Nov. 6 election performance, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam offered this Saturday morning: 'We got our teeth kicked in.'"

In the November election, Republicans lost ground in both the state Legislature and Congress, failed to offer much challenge to the re-election of Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and failed — against all the party expectations — to deliver Florida in the presidential race.

Florida Republicans failed to win over independent voters and did particularly badly with the fast-growing pool of independent Hispanic voters.

"It's not just that we lost, but that nobody saw it coming," Putnam said. "The fact that we were unsuccessful and oblivious is very disconcerting."

"RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry, Scott, Putnam and others offered several strategies [at the Republican Party of Florida executive committee meeting at the Rosen Centre in Orlando]:"
•Keep the same leadership team. Curry and Vice Chairman Blaise Ingoglia were re-elected by acclamation.

•Differentiate Florida Republicans from national politics.

•Fight the "party of 'no'" label.

•Learn from Democrats, whose campaign networks, uses of data-driven marketing, social media and other technologies were thought to be more advanced.

And then there's the old stand by, blame the media:
"Being a Republican does not require an unyielding orthodoxy and not thinking," Curry said. "That's another thing certain members of the media like to stick on us."
But try as the might, the GOP's underwear is still showing:
Not everyone was preaching a softer, gentler Republican Party. U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland of Panama City, first elected in 2010 with tea-party backing, offered a defiant message full of biblical references, hostility toward President Barack Obama's agenda, avowed opposition to any gun-control proposals, and the observation that he himself is "part of a very thin line that stands between freedom and tyranny."
"Florida GOP seeks new direction after election losses".

Plakon, just booted out of office in HD 30, has already filed to run against Clelland in HD29

After being booted out of office in House District 30, Scott Plakon must be having a difficult time in the vaunted "private sector". If Ayn Rand were still with us, she would be sad to learn that Plakon has unable to "Go Galt" with his fellow private sector "creators", but instead has already filed to run in 2014 against newly elected (retired firefighter) Mike Clelland in House District 29. "Former State Rep. Scott Plakon Files To Run In HD 29".

Florida's access to government tit may be curtailed

"You may already know your taxes are going up this year, even if you're not in the top 2 percent of money makers. But more bad news from Washington could hit Floridians in the pocketbook soon, including lost government jobs, fewer defense contracts and smaller raises for Social Security."

The last-minute "fiscal cliff" deal between Republicans and President Barack Obama left many remaining challenges and uncertainties, not the surge of consumer confidence that economists say is needed to pull Florida out of its doldrums.

The future of Social Security and Medicare, money for such pet projects as Everglades restoration, and thousands of military contract jobs from South Florida to the Panhandle are still at stake in the ongoing battle over how to cut federal spending.

"After surviving fiscal cliff, Florida still faces budget ax".

Banks laffing all the way to ... to the bank

"New Florida bill would speed up the foreclosure process".

Scott "is just plain wrong"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "For a large portion of Florida's nearly 4 million uninsured, 2014 cannot come soon enough. People will have access to affordable health insurance options on online exchanges, and under the Medicaid expansion an additional 1.2 million Floridians would qualify for the federal-state program, according to a study by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured."

Embracing the Medicaid expansion would be a humane step and a practical one. With a minimum investment from the state, Florida could get more uninsured covered and billions of federal dollars flowing annually into the state's health care sector. Under the health care reform law, the federal government shoulders 100 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion from 2014 through 2016. After that, the percentage of the federal responsibility slowly drops until it hits 90 percent in 2020 and beyond. Under the law, the states will not be responsible for any more than 10 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion going forward.

But Scott has argued that Florida cannot afford to expand a program that has been eating an ever larger share of the state budget. Using new numbers from the state Agency for Health Care Administration, Scott claims the cost for taxpayers of the expansion is $63 billion over 10 years, with Florida's share at nearly $26 billion.

This figure is just plain wrong.

"Florida Medicaid expansion a bargain".

"Conga line of officials on corruption charges"

"Six years after former Palm Beach County Commissioner Tony Masilotti led what became a conga line of county officials to federal prison on corruption charges, the majority of those who pleaded guilty and served their time are back in court, protesting their innocence. One-time influential land-use attorney Bill Boose and Kevin McCarty, husband of disgraced County Commissioner Mary McCarty and a political powerhouse in his own right, are the latest to ask federal judges to throw out their convictions." "Corrupt PB County officials want their names cleared".

Sarasota doing business with crooks?

The Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial board wonders whether "the Sarasota City Commission conduct a public hearing to consider the Planning Board's narrow approval of plans for a Wal-Mart supercenter adjacent to neighborhoods?" "Wal-Mart dilemma".

This, on the heels of The New York Times' lengthy expose on Walmart's bribery scandal in Mexico." This most recent story follows up on the Times'

earlier story about what got Walmart in trouble in the first place. Investigators are looking into the world's biggest retailer's dealings in the country, and some of Walmart's senior management appear to be entangled.

The bribes were paid to win permission to open new stores quickly, and may have totaled more than $24 million, The Times alleged.

Now, more details about Walmart's practices in the country have emerged.

"Stunning New Details About Walmart's Mexican Bribery Scandal". Related: "Former city officials say downtown Walmart violates code". Tom Lyons has no problem doing business with Walmart per se: "Forget the "Walmart" name and look at the plan".

"Governor Quixote charged ahead"

The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "In 2011, Gov. Rick Scott beheld the 85,000 employees in the state agencies his office controls and mistook them for possible closet junkies. And so, Gov. Quixote charged ahead."

But his full-on stampede quickly ran headlong into a lawsuit. . . .

Then, in April, U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro vanquished the cockamamie crusade. Ungaro ruled the program unconstitutional. . . .

Not that Floridians escaped the lunacy unscathed. In Scott's clumsy attempt to drug test employees, his lance landed deep in taxpayers' wallets. Ungaro last week ordered the state to pay the plaintiff [the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 79] attorney fees to the tune of $190,589.74.

Just the final bitter irony for a dubious plan that Scott spun as a measure of fiscal responsibility — but ultimately proved a costly tilt at windmills.

"Costly crusade".

Cuba, 54 years later

Fabiola Santiago: "54 years later, no end in sight...".

What the spats-and-ascot crowd mean by "freedom"

Prepare yourself. The spats-and-ascot crowd and their do boys in the Teabagger crowd will soon be screaming about how their "freedom" is being trampled upon by the federal government's jack-booted thugs.

You see, "the Food and Drug Administration laid out two proposed rules Friday designed to boost food safety and curb illnesses that kill thousands of Americans a year."

The first would require food producers to have formal plans in place to avoid and deal with contaminated consumables sold in the U.S., whether originating domestically or abroad.

All companies would have to keep records of their efforts, which would be open to government audits.

The latter rule would demand “science- and risk-based standards” at fruit and vegetable farms and packing facilities.

"Recalls and outbreaks were rampant in recent years."
The FDA temporarily shut down the New Mexico production facility of Sunland Inc. after the company’s peanut butter sparked a spate of salmonella illnesses and a mass recall at Trader Joe’s and other retailers this fall.

Last year, a multi-state Listeria outbreak linked to tainted cantaloupes killed dozens of people. Each year, one in six Americans falls ill due to contaminated food, which leads to 140,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 fatalities, according to the FDA.

"FDA proposes new food safety rules for farmers, producers".

"Just one agenda"

Randy Schultz writes that "the NRA and CEO Wayne LaPierre have just one agenda: Stall — using the armed-guard plan — and then block anything."

In Florida, the NRA has an even easier fight. The only firearms-related issue likely to come before the legislature is the “stand your ground” law. Gov. Rick Scott’s task force, which the governor created after George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin, came stacked with supporters of the law. Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, has introduced Senate Bill 136. It would improve “stand your ground” — among other things, making an exception if someone provoked the confrontation; think George Zimmerman — and it has no chance of passing.
"Counter NRA by treating gun violence as public safety problem".

Scott's collapse continues in Tampa Bay area

Michael Van Sickler: "If Gov. Rick Scott wants to make up ground in the Interstate 4 corridor in his bid for re-election, he might want to start in the Tampa Bay area's two largest counties."

Almost twice as many adults in Pinellas and Hillsborough gave Scott a subpar rating than those who gave him a passing mark, according to a Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/AM 820 News poll.

Only 23 percent rated Scott's job performance as "good" or "excellent," while 42 percent said they rated him as doing a "poor" or "not so good" job. Those who rate him "average" made up 27 percent of the respondents.

Of the two counties, Scott's numbers are substantially worse in Pinellas. While 33 percent of voters rated him not so good or poor in Hillsborough, 52 percent gave him that rating in Pinellas — which just happens to be the home turf of Charlie Crist, the former governor who may challenge Scott in 2014.

"Gov. Rick Scott faces sagging approval ratings in Tampa Bay area".

"The past year may not have been the greatest"

The Miami Herald editorial board: "The past year may not have been the greatest for South Florida’s economy, but it was a good year in terms of recovery. Job numbers slowly improved, housing values continued to rise, the effort to diversify the job market inched forward." "Securing our future".

"The political wind is blowing liberal in the Sunshine State"

The Sun Sentinel's Stephen L. Goldstein writes that, "after the 2012 Election, you don't have to be a weatherman to know that the political wind is blowing liberal in the Sunshine State."

There's a storm brewing for the tea party/GOP, and it's more than a tempest in a teapot. It turns out that Florida voters can only be lied to for so long. Since 1999, Republican governors and a Republican-dominated Legislature have enacted mean-spirited policies that favor corporations and hurt average citizens. Two months ago, disgusted voters finally said enough is enough.
"But there's no rest for the politically savvy. In less than two years, on Nov. 4, 2014, Election Day, Floridians need to repudiate the failed past by firing Gov. Rick Scott, electing more Democrats to the Legislature, and paving the way to a promising future by putting on the ballot and passing constitutional amendments that would . . . [continue reading.]"
In November 2012, Florida voters soundly rejected draconian constitutional amendments that members of the Legislature put on the ballot. But as sure as weathermen will tell you that the sun rises in the East, the tea party/GOP is planning to hatch another slew of them in 2014 — likely some of those that were defeated, repackaged better to fool voters. So, it's time for liberals to eclipse them, rain on their parade and let weathermen deliver the good news about which way the wind is blowing.
"A liberal agenda for Florida in 2014".

Another $130M needed just to keep up with school growth

John Kennedy: "Enrollment in Florida’s public schools has spiked at a rate not seen since before the recession, but analysts are drawing mixed conclusions about what the sudden change says about the state’s economic recovery."

Almost 30,000 more students were in Florida schools last fall than the previous year, a 1.1 percent boost that represents the largest jump since 2005-06, a new state report shows. . . .

Private school enrollment in Florida peaked in 2003-04, according to the state’s Department of Education, when 381,346 students attended. Those numbers have since tailed off to where in 2010-11, the latest year available, 305,825 kids were listed in private schools.

Florida’s public schools are expected to add another 20,273 students next year, topping the 2.7 million mark. State dollars flow to counties based on the cost per student, which this year averages $6,375 statewide.

At that rate, it means lawmakers will have to find at least another $130 million just to keep up with growth.

"School enrollment gets best boost since bubble but it could mean a good sign or a bad sign for state economy".

Billionaires don't cry

Andres Oppenheimer wants you to know that "Super-rich pay lower taxes in Latin America", but it would not be best to raise their taxes.

What's wrong with Hillsborough?

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "The decision in Hillsborough County to put armed officers at every elementary school is well-intended. But it is a temporary goodwill gesture and an emotional reaction rather than a real strategy." "Schools, safety and gun laws".