Saturday, February 23, 2013

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

"A tea partier's dream come true"

Robyn E. Blumner writes that "a new face doesn't improve bankrupt ideas."

One of those ideas is the undermining of public schools. Under the guise of helping lower-income parents, Rubio is offering the Educational Opportunities Act to move students from public to private schools, most of which are church-affiliated, at taxpayer expense. To get around church-state separation problems his plan would give taxpayers dollar-for-dollar federal tax credits for "donating" money to designated scholarship funds that would pay for private school education. Some would call that money laundering.

This is a tea partier's dream come true. It starves the federal treasury of tax revenue, funnels children into religious indoctrination, erodes support for public schools by having parents abandon them and, perhaps sweetest of all, harms all those progressives who have chosen to be public school teachers as well as their unions.

"Rubio, like his fellow Republicans, would transform public education from a process where students collectively learn from secular teachers about civic duty and virtue and turn it into a private commodity where education is faith-based and teachers must be of a certain religion to get a job."
In Florida, voters dislike the idea of taxpayer-funded vouchers going to religious schools so much they rejected a constitutional amendment in the last election that could have opened the door even wider to them.

Yet despite this antipathy the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program has grown by leaps since it was established in 2001, more than tripling in size largely due to Republican dominance in Tallahassee. Last year, $229 million in corporate taxes was diverted from the state treasury into private scholarship funds. About 83 percent of the approximately 50,000 students using the scholarships attend religious schools.

At the Kingsway Christian Academy in Orange County, the school gets about $1.4 million in state scholarships that fund 318 out of its 408 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The school uses the A Beka Book series that intersperses religious dogma into its science curriculum, teaching biblical creationism and denouncing as heretical the evolution theory of man's origin.

This is Rubio's idea for bringing a competitive edge to the nation? No wonder he had trouble with how old the Earth is.

Rubio's proposed legislation would grant individuals a dollar-for-dollar federal tax credit of up to $4,500 for donating to a nonprofit "Scholarship Granting Organization." For corporations, the tax credit shoots up to $100,000. Families qualify for the scholarships if they earn up to 250 percent of the federal poverty line, currently $58,875 for a family of four. Not exactly targeted solely to the poorest families.

"Rubio's stale school plan". Meanwhile, there is no shortage of dead enders like Kingsley Guy: "GOP should promote Rubio's skills".

"The world has gone mad, and Scott has explaining to do"

Joe Henderson assumes Rick "Scott is savvy enough to understand just what he unleashed this week by announcing his support to expand Medicaid coverage by a whole lot in our fair state. It's the political equivalent of a Category 5 storm."

Over the last couple of days, I heard people say they were "disappointed" and "surprised" and, oh, "extremely disappointed." These were also people who theoretically like the governor.

That group includes Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam — which is why I used the word "theoretically." Putnam can't order farm fresh Florida eggs for breakfast these days without someone asking if he plans to challenge Scott in the 2014 Republican primary.

"It's a fascinating turn of events for a governor who is looking more liberal by the day."
One thing can't be denied, though. If it comes down to attack ads, the old Rick Scott would have a field day with the new Rick Scott, but how would Democrats approach that? I mean, these days he is doing what they want him to do. Can they rip him for that?

There is no other way to put this: The world has gone mad, and Rick Scott has some explaining to do.

"Who is this man in the governor's mansion?".

"Gaetz not sold on $10,000 limit"

"Gaetz not sold on $10,000 limit on campaign contributions".

From the "values" crowd

"State Lawmakers Move to Restrict Living Wages, Sick Leave Ordinances". See also "House panel votes for restricting county wage rules". More: "Florida Senate Committee Weakens Ethics Bill".

Crist complains about Scott's "metamorphosis"

"Ex-Gov. Charlie Crist, however, says the governor's 'metamorphosis' won't help Scott next year when he's running for re-election. Mac Stipanovich, though, said from a political perspective 'it's another significant move by Rick Scott toward the center, where most elections are won.'" "Republicans stunned, Democrats happy with Scott's Medicaid decision". See also "House Democrats: We can work with Scott".

Meanwhile, "Tea Party responds to Scott".

Related: "Medicaid numbers add up", "Get to know some of those affected most by Florida's Medicaid expansion debate" and "South Florida hospitals could lose $368 million".

The Tampa Trib editors: " Tea party activists are dismissing Gov. Rick Scott as a traitor after the former health care executive who rode his opposition to Obamacare into the governor's office agreed to expand Medicaid coverage under the administration's health care program. It's true there is reason to be dubious about all this. But Scott is acknowledging something his critics are not: reality." "Scott nods to Obamacare".

The Sun Sentinel editors: "Florida Gov. Rick Scott defined compassion in public policy Wednesday by switching his stance and agreeing to expand Medicaid to cover another million of Florida's poorest citizens." "Bravo, Gov. Scott. Bravo!" Background: "Scott's turnabout on Obamacare angers allies".

Good luck with that

"Grassroots effort builds for laws to curb gun violence in South Florida".

Pantywaists parrot the Chamber of Commerce line

Although the pantywaists comprising the Palm Beach Post editorial board concede that "most people agree that hiring more local workers is generally a good thing", they - parroting the Chamber of Commerce line - worry that

trying to require companies to do so is legally fraught. Federal courts have ruled strict local-hiring mandates illegal because they violate a constitutional ban on states discriminating against residents of other states.
"Hiring local workers for Palm Beach County projects is more complicated than it sounds".

Session Outlook: Education

"2013 Session Outlook: Education".

Scott makes the rounds

"Gov. Rick Scott visits Miami drug-testing lab".

"Where the Fur Will Fly"

"Florida eyes may be focused on the gubernatorial race, but once in a while they might want to look up and notice some of the intriguing 2014 congressional races already shaping up in the Sunshine State. . . . CD 26 -- Republicans Lining Up Against Garcia . . . CD 18 -- Patrick Murphy Looks to Hold On . . . CD 2 -- Democrats Target Steve Southerland." Details: "Florida Congressional Races in 2014: Early Look at Where the Fur Will Fly".

"Think about what might have been"

Lucy Morgan: "Think about what might have been."

In October 2006 it looked as if House Speaker Allan Bense would become the next chairman of the Florida Republican Party.

Bense was completing a scandal-free run as the leader of the House and insisting he had no plan to run for another political office. He was ready to go home to Panama City and return to his private business despite some heavy pushing from lots of Republicans who wanted him to run for the U.S. Senate.

Then in October, less than a month before Bense would leave office, GOP gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist asked Bense if he would take the reins of the state party.

"Meanwhile Crist decided to support Jim Greer, a little-known party official from Seminole County."
George LeMieux, Crist's campaign manager, and the former governor say Lemieux suggested Greer as one of several names to be considered. Both say Bense was also on the list.

"I learned not long after Crist was elected that Greer would be the guy,'' Bense recalled. "Quite frankly, I was disappointed. I thought, 'Boy this is really embarrassing,' but I didn't complain.''

Asked recently why he thought Greer was qualified to run the state party, Lemieux said he had been "the best county chairman for the campaign in terms of organizing and he and Charlie knew each other from when Crist was at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.'' (Crist, in a deposition last year, said he didn't recall knowing Greer back then.)

Much more here: "Imagine if Greer weren't the choice".

Week in Review

"Week in Review for Feb. 18 to Feb. 22". See also "Weekly Roundup: Scott Pulls Off a Stunner".

Feds closing in on Rivera and Alliegro

"A one-time candidate whose suspicious campaign finances led to an FBI investigation of former Miami Congressman David Rivera was formally charged Friday in federal court with three crimes."

Shackled at the wrists, waist and feet, Justin Lamar Sternad pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, false-statement and illegal campaign-contribution charges.

Sternad is expected to strike a plea deal as he cooperates with federal authorities in their investigation of Rivera and the former representative’s close friend, Ana Alliegro, who managed Sternad’s disastrous Democratic primary campaign for a Kendall-to-Key West congressional seat.

"Suspect in David Rivera case is charged".