Tuesday, February 19, 2013

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

Attack on public employee pensions on hold

"House Speaker Will Weatherford's push to close the state's $136 billion pension system to new state employees is on hold. A report released Friday was supposed to provide an estimate of how much the change would cost to pay out benefits to the employees currently in the system while switching new state employees into 401(k)-style retirement plans. Instead, the report was deemed incomplete." "Weatherford's plan for pension reform hits a snag".

Florida's mini-Obama

"President Barack Obama's administration drafted legislation this month that could give undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship in eight years, require employers to check workers' immigration status and increase penalties for those who break immigration law."

The ideas appear in three separate draft bills, obtained Monday by the Miami Herald, that closely resemble many of the reforms advanced in 2011 by Obama and, more recently, by Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
"Obama's immigration proposal resembles Sen. Marco Rubio's plan".

Never mind that state run exchange

"The committee reviewing how Florida should respond to the federal health-care law agreed Monday not to pursue setting up a state run exchange. At least, not for the next year or two." "Florida Senators Say No to State Run Health Care Exchange". Related: "The builders of the Sen. Marco Rubio brand", "PolitiFact: Does Sen. Marco Rubio live in a “working-class” neighborhood?" and "Marc Caputo: A swig of water isn’t going to sideline Marco Rubio".

Raw political courage

It is always a laff to see politicos stand shoulder-to-shoulder in opposition to dumping raw sewage into springs and streams.

Scott Maxwell: "Last week — when most Florida politicos were still buzzing about the guilty plea of former GOP party boss Jim Greer — some of the state's biggest names were throwing a party."

Attendees came at the invitation of a host committee that included the likes of Bill Nelson, Bill McCollum, Charlie Crist, Alex Sink, Jeff Atwater, Buddy MacKay and dozens more.

Though the atmosphere was celebratory, the cause was serious: the environment.

In that regard, it was also unusual.

Because in recent years, when leaders of this state have gathered, our natural resources have often paid the price.

In fact, they have been savaged. . . .

Finally, we may be waking up to that reality.

"Politicians wake up on environmental issues".

"We finally got it, Marco — the sheer brilliance"

Carl Hiaasen concocts a "secret Valentine’s Day memo to Sen. Marco Rubio from the Strategy Office of the Republican National Committee:"

Dear Marco, One simple word sums up your unorthodox rebuttal to the President’s State of the Union Address: Genius.

Pausing in the midst of a speech that nobody would otherwise remember, lunging off-camera for a bottle of water and then slurping it like a demented hummingbird . . .

Time magazine was right. You are the savior of the Republican Party.

Was the whole country laughing at you? Possibly. OK, yeah.

But was it the most unpresidential thing you could have done? No! You could have walked out with your fly unzipped (whoa, don’t get any ideas!).

Truth be told, all of us here at the RNC started freaking out when we saw you stop and take that sip.

What’s that goofball doing? we wondered. Does he think it’s a rehearsal? Doesn’t he know he’s on live TV in front of, like, 50 million voters?

But once we stopped throwing our coffee cups and kicking our garbage cans, we calmed down and thought about what you’d done.

"And we finally got it, Marco — the sheer brilliance."
The water grab wasn’t really a spontaneous and awkward moment, was it? You’d planned the whole darn thing, right down to your deer-in-the-headlights stare at the camera.

Of course you did, because that’s what saviors do. They see the big picture.

The script we gave you to read the other night was incredibly lame. In fact, it was basically Mitt Romney’s stump speech for the last three years. Didn’t work for him and, let’s face it, it wasn’t going to work for you, either.

Truth is, we don’t have any new ideas in the Republican Party. Our plan was to retread all our stale old ideas through a sharp, young Hispanic dude — you! — and hope people would think they’re hearing something fresh.

Obviously, you read through the script ahead of time and realized it was a turkey. So you improvised a visual distraction, something so ditzy that all of America would instantly stop paying attention to what you were saying.

In retrospect, it was the best thing that could have happened to our party. Thanks to you, Marco, nobody’s talking about that moldy little speech. They’re talking about you jonesing for that water bottle.

Read it all here, "Rubio and the GOP’s thirst for leadership"; check out his latest columns here. Randy Schultz: "Tuesday night was the first chance to begin learning whether, in Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Republicans have the candidate"
Based strictly on that performance, they don’t. President Obama, whom Sen. Rubio spent most his time bashing, had just gone more than an hour without breaking a sweat. Sen. Rubio couldn’t last 15 minutes without a panic attack.
"Marco Rubio needed to reach for new ideas" ("What happens from here? If Sen. Rubio continues to seek a higher profile, people will hear not just about his family and upbringing but about the sketchy political action committee that got him the speakership, his personal spending on a party credit card and the condo in Tallahassee on which the lender nearly foreclosed. And he says the government overspends?")

Pennsylvania looks to close "the Florida loophole"

Frank Cerabino has "a beef with Pennsylvania’s new attorney general."

Kathleen Kane, not even in office for a month, has decided to pick on Florida, and pick on us in a way that strikes at our very essence.

We here in Florida take great pride in the number of concealed weapons permits our state issues. We were the first state to issue them, and today we lead the nation in concealed weapons permits, reaching the mark of 1 million active permits in December.

We like our gun permits so much, we consider them a crop.

That explains why you get a Florida gun permit from the state Department of Agriculture, not the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which would treat guns like, well, a public safety issue, instead of something that needs to grow.

And "it’s not easy handing out so many gun permits. You eventually run out of Floridians who want to roam the streets with a loaded gun."
Fortunately, we had that figured out, too.

That is, until this new attorney general from Pennsylvania got herself elected.

You see, about 4,000 people who are Pennsylvania residents got their concealed weapons permits from Florida, not from Pennsylvania, where they really live.

They’re not doing anything illegal by getting a Florida permit. They’re just taking advantage of something known in Pennsylvania as “the Florida loophole.”

"You can get a Florida concealed weapons permit through the mail. The state requires completion of a firearms-safety class, a set of fingerprints, a photo, the completion of a questionnaire and $112."
Success is practically guaranteed. Florida approves 98.5 percent of all concealed weapons permit applications. This hasn’t gone unnoticed in Pennsylvania, where suspected street gang members in Philadelphia flash valid Florida concealed weapons permits to officers. That city, alone, has about 900 residents carrying Florida concealed weapons permits.

One of those Florida permit holders is Marqus Hill, 28, of Philadelphia, who had his Pennsylvania gun permit revoked due to confrontations with police.

After failing to win an appeal to get his weapons permit back, Hill went on-line and got a Florida gun permit through the mail. A year later, he spotted a teenager breaking into his car and killed the fleeing boy with 13 shots, according to police. Hill was charged with murder.

That case and others have led Pennsylvania’s new attorney general to question a 12-year-old reciprocity agreement that has allowed a Florida gun permit to be valid for Pennsylvania residents.

"Gun-control act by Pennsylvania’s attorney general will hurt Florida’s top crop". See also "" and "".

You gotta problem with that?

"Amid higher premiums, Citizens execs land big raises".

Big of them

"The committee reviewing how Florida should respond to the federal health-care law agreed Monday not to pursue setting up a state run exchange. At least, not for the next year or two." "Lawmakers consider revising claims law to help those wronged by governments get paid".

Will GOP-heavy Florida Legislature to sympathize with social conservative concerns?

"Florida's Catholic and evangelical social conservatives expect the GOP-heavy Florida Legislature to sympathize with their moral concerns as the 2013 session gears up, but they're not taking anything for granted as they prepare to lobby legislators on issues dear to them." "Florida’s Social Conservatives Gear Up to Strengthen Families, Oppose Gambling, GLBT Rights".

One man's "baloney"

Lloyd Brown rushes to the defense of Enterprise Florida: "Bashing of Enterprise Florida has the Appearance of Baloney".

"Politico cognitive dissonance"

Aaron Deslatte: "There's sort of a politico cognitive dissonance occurring this year in Florida's Capitol when it comes to corporate welfare. The Legislature is in a full-throated "show me the jobs" mood over Gov. Rick Scott's plans to give $278 million in new tax dollars to corporations that pledge to grow. But lawmakers are also rushing to line up more tax perks for companies and sports teams." "Tax incentives are questioned — except when lawmakers want more".

Pollution-related tax breaks for building even where there is no proof of pollution

"It looks like Florida businesses will still be able to get pollution-related tax breaks for building on land even where there is no proof of contamination. Despite concerns raised about the practice, proposed bills filed in the Legislature (HB 415, SB 554) tweaking the state's brownfield program make no substantial changes to the definition of a brownfield." "Brownfield loophole won't get tightened this year".

Hospitals support Medicaid expansion

"Florida hospitals back Medicaid expansion".

Legislature asks Supreme Court to toss legal challenge to redistricting plan

"The Republican-dominated Legislature has asked the Florida Supreme Court to throw out a legal challenge to its 2012 redistricting plan for the state Senate."

The high court put the case on a fast track Monday, setting tight deadlines for additional filings. Former Justice Raoul Cantero submitted the petition on behalf of the House and Senate on Friday. Cantero argued that only the Supreme Court can decide legislative redistricting cases and that the justices already have done so.

He's asking the high court to order a trial judge to dismiss a challenge to the Senate map lodged by the League of Women Voters of Florida, Common Cause, National Council of La Raza and several individual plaintiffs. The justices ordered the plaintiffs to respond by Feb. 28 and gave the Legislature until March 5 to reply.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis rejected the Legislature's claim last month in Tallahassee and ordered the case to proceed. Lewis wrote that the Legislature's argument "flies in the face of case law." He cited prior Supreme Court and appellate rulings that said trial courts have jurisdiction over redistricting challenges.

"Legislature appeals Florida redistricting ruling". See also "Legislature Asks Supremes to Stop Redistricting Case" and "Legislature asks state Supreme Court to quash redistricting challenge".

"Outrageous capitulation to anti-regulatory ideologues"

Fred Grimm: "The assumption was that Florida fixed these perversities. That new legislation had banished strip-mall oxy peddlers. That we were done with pill mills."

But the great triumph was supposed to have been a statewide database that tracked opiate and other controlled-drug prescriptions. Doctors and pharmacists, with a few strokes on their computer, could check a patient’s history of prescription controlled drugs and tell whether the patient had been doctor-shopping: going from clinic to clinic and collecting multiple pain prescriptions. Doctor shopping had become the great engine supplying America’s booming oxy street trade.

Except the database law failed to make the checks mandatory. An investigation last fall by the Tampa Bay Times looked at 48 million prescriptions for controlled drugs since the database was initiated in September 2011.

Only 2 percent of the prescribing doctors and 1.7 percent of the pharmacists had bothered to check their oxy patients against the prescription database.

State law, in an outrageous capitulation to anti-regulatory ideologues, also bans the use of public money to fund the database.

"State slow to regulate pill mills, until the bodies start piling up".