Saturday, February 09, 2013

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

Romance over between Florida Republicans and tea-party

"The romance between Florida Republicans and various tea-party groups, which reached its zenith when Gov. Rick Scott unveiled his first state budget to a tea-party crowd in 2011, has clearly cooled. And tea-party activists are feeling left out — if not spurned."

The past seven months have not been kind to the movement that once was seen as a fresh base of ideas and volunteers for Republicans.
"The cruelest blow may have come from Gov. Rick Scott, who in 2011 unveiled a budget featuring nearly $4 billion in cuts — $1.5 billion to education alone — to fervent tea-party applause in Eustis and The Villages. This year, Scott is asking for a $74.2 billion budget — a 6 percent increase — that includes raises for teachers, bonuses for state employees and increased money for everything from roads to conservation."
"What in the world happened with Gov. Scott's budget proposal?" said Jason Hoyt, an organizer with several Orange County tea parties. "It just baffles my mind."

If some are baffled, others are bitter. Said Karin Hoffman, founder of DC Works For Us in Fort Lauderdale, who organized a tea-party conference attended by 220 activists in Orlando in January, "There's a, 'If you are not going to listen, we will go away from the party,' attitude emerging. So that's kind of where it is."

And resentful: "I think these guys are terrified," John Long, chairman of the Florida Tea Party, said of GOP leaders. "November 6th didn't go well, and rather than look inside and say, 'What did we do wrong?' they are looking around them and saying, 'Who can we blame?' It's kind of issue du jour to blame the tea party."

Added Sid Van Landingham of the South Lake [County] 912 Tea Party: "People are regrouping. … The elections kind of stunned everybody."

Clearly, Establishment Republicans are distancing themselves.

And how's this for a kick in the teeth: Florida
Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, responded to tea-party demands that Florida fight Obamacare using states-rights "nullification" strategies with an anecdote about Andrew Jackson's supposed reaction when told that "nullifiers" were threatening to burn down the White House.

"Without lifting his head from his reading, Andrew Jackson said, 'Shoot the first nullifier who touches the Flag. And hang the rest.'" Gaetz wrote to tea-party attorney KrisAnne Hall.

"… I have sworn an oath on my father's Bible before Almighty God to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and government of the United States. And that's exactly what I intend to do. Count me with Andrew Jackson."

"Republicans are cooling toward tea-party activists".

Legal challenge to Scott's 30-year no-bid leases

"The Florida Wildlife Federation has filed a legal challenge to the 30-year, no-bid leases that the governor and cabinet approved for two major growers in the Everglades in January just 10 days after the proposals were first made public." "Wildlife group challenges no-bid leases OK’d by Florida Cabinet".

"Reprehensible practice"

The Miami Herald editors write that "the state’s reprehensible practice of warehousing 'medically fragile' children in nursing homes still continues. It has to stop." "Warehousing profoundly disabled children at senior nursing homes has to stop".

Rubio tagged as a "loser"

"A top assistant to a Univisión news boss trashed Sen. Marco Rubio on his aide’s Facebook page, calling the Republican lawmaker a 'loser' and 'a token slave boy.'"

It’s the latest attack in a lengthy feud between the Florida senator and the powerful Spanish-language network that conservatives charge is anti-GOP and anti-Rubio.

The latest incident began Wednesday night after Rubio’s spokesman, Alex Burgos, announced the high-profile Florida senator would give the GOP’s first-ever bilingual rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech.

That led Univisión employee Angelica Artiles to let loose a string of partisan criticisms.

“Oh. wow, the loser is going to speak after our President,” Artiles wrote on spokesman Alex Burgos’ Facebook page at 9:33 p.m. Wednesday. “Anything to get publicity. Ask him to do us a favor and stay home that night.”

Sentiments like that reflect the prevailing political feeling among Univisión’s higher-ups at its Doral headquarters, say Univisión insiders. Artiles is executive assistant to Daniel Coronell, Univisión’s vice president of news.

The network is owned by a major Democratic donor who has accused Rubio and other Republicans of having an “anti-Hispanic” stand on immigration that’s “despicable.” . . .

When first alerted by the website BuzzFeed, Univisión announced it struck the statement and replaced it with a statement in Spanish that said: “An unpleasant comment not authorized by Univisión News was posted on this page. That comment does not represent the views of Univisión News and we have taken steps to ensure that this situation does not happen again.”

"Univisión staffer attacks Sen. Marco Rubio on Facebook".

Meanwhile, "Time cover: Rubio the 'Republican Savior'".

Is Sink running for governor?

Joe Henderson: "No one knows better than Alex Sink what an all-consuming commitment it takes to campaign for governor in Florida. If you're curious whether she is willing to do what it takes to run again after losing a close race to Rick Scott in 2010, you are not alone." "Is Alex Sink running for governor? Stay tuned".

Scott puts merit-mooks in a bind

"Members of the Senate Appropriations Education Subcommittee Thursday listened politely while Kim McDougal, the governor’s education policy coordinator, explained Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed education budget. Senators had few questions about the $22 billion spending plan that includes $488 million to give public schoolteachers across-the-board pay raises of $2,500."

McDougal told the panel that the teachers’ raise is a top priority of the Scott administration. Afterward, committee chairman Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said the proposal needs a lot of work. He noted that almost three years ago the Legislature passed a landmark education bill (SB 736) that included an incentive program based on performance. Galvano said he thinks an across-the-board pay raise is at odds with the principles behind SB 736.
"Galvano: Teacher pay raise needs a lot of work".

Sunshine State’s next political "trial of the century"

"It’s shaping up to be the Sunshine State’s next political “trial of the century”: the state’s case, beginning Feb. 11, against former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer for alleged fraud, money laundering, and grand theft."

"Greer is calling at least 44 witnesses, and eight of them are a veritable who’s-who of political celebrity:"

Charlie Crist – Greer hopes to prove that the former governor knew and approved Greer’s taking a cut from every dollar raised by Victory Strategies for the RPOF. Crist has insisted, in sworn depositions, that he did not know of the arrangements, but that assertion is contradicted by the sworn depositions of Tallahassee lobbyist and Crist confidante-cum-fundraiser Brian Ballard. Crist is also reportedly being called as a witness by the state.

George LeMieux – Former U.S. senator, a Crist-appointee who previously served as his chief of staff. LeMieux is often credited with having spearheaded Crist’s 2006 gubernatorial victory, and the former governor has said he appointed Greer to RPOF head on LeMieux’s strong recommendation. Greer alleges that the former senator, with Crist, knew and approved his fundraising arrangement.

Bill McCollum – Florida’s attorney general from 2007 to 2011, it was McCollum who launched the investigation that led to Greer’s indictment. Also being called as a witness by the state.

Dean Cannon – Speaker of the House from 2010 through 2012. Cannon was one of the signatories to the 2010 severance agreement, and has gone on the record agreeing that Greer should have been paid the $124,000 he’s asking for. Also being called as a witness by the state.

Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine – As already mentioned, Greer’s immediate successor as RPOF head (serving in that capacity for less than a year) and signatory to his severance agreement. Here’s an interesting twist: one of the drafts, though not the final signed copy, of that agreement expressly mentioned Victory Strategies and said all of Greer’s transactions were proper and agreed upon by party leadership. Also being called as a witness by the state.

Mike Haridopolos – President of the Florida Senate from 2010 through 2012. As already mentioned, a signatory to Greer’s severance agreement, a draft of which expressly mentions and legitimizes Greer’s financial activities. Also being called as a witness by the state.

Tom Feeney – Speaker of the House from 2000 through 2002 and U.S. congressman 2003-2009. Also being called as a witness by the state.

Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel – Current speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

It’s not clear what Feeney or Weatherford have to Greer’s trial. Feeney was a U.S. congressman during Greer’s chairmanship, but was not serving in any leadership role in the RPOF or (of course) the state Legislature, and Weatherford was only a state representative during that period.

However, Weatherford was connected to House leadership from the start of his 2006 electoral service: his father-in-law is former House Speaker Allan Bense, who left office (after being term-limited) the very year his son-in-law came in. Weatherford was soon anointed future House speaker by legislative leadership.

Will Greer allege that Weatherford and Feeney had insider knowledge of the legitimacy of Greer’s financial transactions? Or is Greer calling them as witnesses simply to flex political muscle and discredit the Republican Party he’s come to despise?

"Jim Greer Trial: The Who, What, When, Where, and Why".

Pension haters getting opposition

"The powerful Clearwater Republican's viewpoint clashes with House Speaker Will Weatherford's ideas on another top issue ahead of the legislative session." "Sen. Latvala voices opposition to new pension plan as bill moves in the House".

"Embarrassing" to be a Florida Republican

Adam Smith writes that "it says a lot about the evolution of the GOP that today [C.C. 'Doc'] Dockery is registered under 'no party affiliation' and no longer feels comfortable or especially welcome in the party he helped build. He's hardly alone in thinking the party has lost its way."

"Look at what happened in the presidential primary. It was embarrassing. ... It was very difficult to sit there and think this is my party and this is what I'm a part of when some of these folks were talking — like the Texas governor (Rick Perry), like Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum — pretty much all of them except (Jon) Huntsman," said Dockery, a top supporter of then-longshot Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Martinez in the 1980s, who in the 1990s helped lead the "Eight is Enough" campaign for legislative term limits.

"And this thing about 47 percent? We want to exclude 47 percent of the people who are citizens and eligible to vote in this country? (Mitt) Romney was representing much of the thought of the Republican Party when he said that, and I don't think that way," said Dockery, who changed his party registration about two years ago but said he will switch back to the GOP if he wants to weigh in on a primary.

"Republican pioneer Doc Dockery: It's not his party anymore".

Big of him

"The New Port Richey Republican says he will distribute more than $100,000 among charities in his district." "Fasano to close his CCE". See also "Fasano closes fundraising committee".

Week in Review

"Week in Review for Feb. 4 to Feb. 8".

Weatherford wants more, and will lie to get it

"Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford does not have kind words for the state’s $500 limit on individual campaign contributions."

He’s called the cap archaic, emasculating and ineffective, saying lawmakers bypass the $500 per election threshold by raising unlimited amounts of money from loosely regulated political committees.

Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, says increasing the limit on individual campaign contributions will make Florida’s campaign finance system more transparent.

"We have the second-lowest contribution limit in the entire country," Weatherford said in driving home the point to news editors and reporters in Tallahassee on Jan. 30, 2013. . . .

Florida’s limit ($500 per election) is low compared to some states, though it’s not that low when you consider that people can make multiple contributions using business entities. But even still, Weatherford errs in trying to make a sweeping comparison because states don’t have an across-the-board limit. We rate his claim False.

"Weatherford wrong on contribution limits".

Medicaid fraud

"The vast majority of Floridians want lawmakers to accept federal money to expand Medicaid, according to a new survey sponsored by the Florida Hospital Association and conducted by a Republican-leaning pollster. Of 600 voters polled, 62 percent said the state should take the money and use it to reduce the number of uninsured Floridians." "Floridians favor Medicaid expansion".

"Two separate polls find that if it was up to voters, an initiative to provide Medicaid coverage to the poor would win in a landslide." "Voters support Medicaid expansion".

Meanwhile, Florida's favorite Medicaid fraudster (he did plead the fifth 75 times in one sitting) says "Medicaid expansion a 'tough choice' for Florida".

"Business community needs to change political bedfellows"

Robyn E. Blumner: "When you're a bigwig of industry, perched up high above the hoi polloi, maybe you really do think that the laws of politics, economics and even gravity are suspended, or are at least twisted, to your benefit."

That's the only conclusion I can draw from years of listening to business-oriented groups meeting with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board with the same conflicting agenda: demands for lower taxes and fewer government protections for workers, consumers and the environment while calling for a more educated workforce, modern infrastructure and cities that attract the creative class.
"Here's the reality:"
Supporting ideologically conservative candidates for political office who want to slash taxes and regulation won't result in a government that invests in top-notch education or mass transit.

Cutting taxes on business and the rich won't magically spur enough growth to boost government revenues. Instead it starves government of the resources needed to invest in infrastructure and human capital.

Eliminating regulations on development, environmental protection and worker rights won't lead to attractive cities or a solid middle class with the disposable income to make communities blossom into cultural and consumer meccas.

Liberal sensibilities of community, intellectual pursuit and investment in people and institutions are what makes great cities.

But that recognition was absent Tuesday when the Tampa Bay Partnership, a group largely made up of area businesses and local governments, came before the editorial board to discuss transportation issues.

"Here are the attributes of a politician the business community should be supporting:"
Someone who believes in investing in public works and community amenities and raising the taxes to do so, someone who will push for sustainable community growth and limits on development, and someone who supports living wages for all workers. This last bit doesn't get talked about much. But in The Rise of the Creative Class Revisited, socioeconomic guru Richard Florida is clear that lasting prosperity for cities will only happen if service workers start getting paid wages that support families. He says it's essential to rebuilding the middle class, enhancing social cohesion and driving economic demand. What this comes down to is that America's business community needs to change political bedfellows and become liberal.
"Businesses, you really can't have it both ways".