Friday, March 15, 2013

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

"Blood in the water"

Joe Henderson: "Rick Scott fooled us once by being elected governor of our great state, so maybe he can do it again."

And maybe pigs can fly.
"There was already blood in the water for Scott's re-election chances, and Wednesday's abrupt resignation of his second-in-command, Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, opened the spigot full blast."
The only thing missing is the theme from "Jaws."

Her departure came just hours after law enforcement officials interviewed her as part of a nationwide investigation of Internet gambling sites. A company her public relations firm did work for, Allied Veterans of the World, is accused of being a key player in a $300 million conspiracy.

So far, 57 people have been arrested, but Attorney General Pam Bondi wouldn't say if Carroll is a target. She would only say the investigation will continue.

"Voters won't overlook Scott's errors in judgment". More: "Lt. Gov. Carroll quits amid Internet cafe probe". Background: "Jacksonville lawyer at center of alleged veterans charity scheme". Related "Officials: Despite ‘casino on a corner’ arrests, it’s tricky to regulate gambling".

Weatherford pledges to block Medicaid expansion

"During a speech at the conservative James Madison Institute's 25th anniversary celebration Wednesday night, the House speaker pledged to block Medicaid expansion." "Weatherford contends U.S. 'less free' under Obama".

The Miami Herald editors have something to say about that: "An indefensible decision".

More: Fasano calls for public engagement on Medicaid expansion.

The Palm Beach Post editors: "Despite rejection by Florida House and Senate committees studying implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid expansion is not yet dead. The nearly 1 million Floridians who would be eligible might still get health coverage if Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, can convince lawmakers to approve a plan that uses state and federal money to buy these individuals private insurance." "Alternative plan could give health care to working poor".

Scott claims ignorance

"Gov. Scott says he has no knowledge Carroll broke law".

Will Scott find a running mate?

"Gov. Rick Scott: No Lt. Gov. Appointment Until May". Surely he needs the extra time to find someone, anyone.

Background: "Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll’s surprising resignation spares Gov. Rick Scott a decision that increasingly looked inevitable: to drop her as his running mate in 2014."

Carroll looked good in 2010 when Scott, a political neophyte, had little else going for him other than his vast personal wealth. Her military record and race brought diversity to the ticket, but in office she turned into a political liability by violating a cardinal rule.

She became an embarrassment to Scott and a distraction from his agenda.

And as he has tried to shift focus from his controversial about-face on Medicaid expansion to his more popular goal of increasing teachers’ pay, Carroll’s resignation drowned out other messages and horrified Republican activists, adding new turmoil in Scott’s world.

“This entire thing was such a shock,” said Cindy Graves of Jacksonville, a friend of Carroll’s and president of the Florida Federation of Republican Women. . . .

Carroll is a former lawmaker who was used sparingly to push Scott’s agenda through the Legislature. She’s an African-American who was largely silent when black lawmakers recently assailed Scott’s record at hiring minorities for judgeships.

Most embarrassingly, she’s a decorated 20-year U.S. Navy veteran whose downfall stemmed from ties to Allied Veterans of the World, which authorities say was a criminal enterprise that exploited veterans to make money. Allied Veterans was a client of Carroll’s public relations firm.

"Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll was already political liability for Gov. Rick Scott".

"Closer scrutiny of economic incentives"

"Florida lawmakers are advancing a sweeping package of reforms of state economic incentives that would require more transparency about the tax breaks companies have received to create jobs and scaling back some that don't work." "Senators vote for more disclosure, closer scrutiny of economic incentives". See also "Senators vote for more disclosure, closer scrutiny of economic incentives" and "After 16 years, $80 million, Enterprise Florida delivers just 20,000 jobs to Tampa Bay".

"Once taboo practice gaining traction"

"Florida’s key foreclosure prevention program may dedicate $50 million to paying down mortgage principal amounts, a once taboo practice gaining traction as foreclosures continue to plague communities. The plan, which homeowner advocates feared was on the chopping block earlier this month, is scheduled to be voted on today by board members of the Florida Housing Finance Corp." "Homeowners could get $50K under Fla. proposal".

Another Friend of Charlie's going down

Nancy Smith writes that "you might not want to be one of Charlie Crist's friends. They seem to have such bad luck."

Too many of them, especially the ones involved with Charlie's campaign cash, end up in the clink.

As we speak, another donor/bro is suiting up for the Big House. This time it's Lee County real estate broker Greg Eagle. If the name sounds familiar, that's because Greg is the father of Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral.

Greg is looking at 30 years and a fine of up to $1 million. He pleaded guilty to a trifecta of fraud charges -- bank, mail and wire. . . .

The Times says, "In 2006, (Greg) Eagle put $1 million into a third-party political group, Floridians for a Better and Brighter Florida, before the September primary. The money later was transferred to another group that helped Crist secure the Republican gubernatorial nomination."

"Add One More to the Charlie Crist Jailhouse Brigade".

"Florida’s water infrastructure is in dire need"

"Water could be the biggest challenge Florida faces over the next 20 years. Florida’s water infrastructure is in dire need of help, Florida Water Advocates (FWA) told the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee Wednesday." "Move Over, Health Care: Florida's Biggest Future Challenge is Water".

"Revising the death penalty"

"Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda on revising the death penalty".

"Here's an idea"

"Here's an idea for a governor and Legislature who say they are committed to reducing the state payroll and cutting costs: Eliminate the Florida lieutenant governor's office. As Jennifer Carroll just confirmed, the job is a drain on taxpayers and can be a serious distraction. Gov. Rick Scott is proud to have cut nearly 9,000 state jobs since taking office two years ago. Now he should push lawmakers to ask voters to cut this one, and the support staff." "Florida doesn't need this job". More from Scott Maxwell: "No lieutenant governor? Not a problem".

"For a moment there, though, it appeared that Florida had evolved"

Frank Cerabino writes that Florida House Bill 701 is "a silly piece of grandstanding from Republican legislators eager to foster the myth that the freeloading poor are having it way too easy here in Florida."

The bill makes it clear that needy families in Florida won’t be allowed to use their government-provided debit cards, known as Electronic Benefit Transaction (EBT) cards, to buy liquor or to indulge themselves at gambling venues and strip clubs. . . .

The bill is silly because it’s unnecessary. The federal Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, passed by Congress and signed by President Obama, already banned the use of EBT cards for these purposes, and all the state needed to do was simply to update its policies by next year to follow the new federal law.

“The public law does not require states to enact legislation in order to comply with the new EBT restrictions,” a staff analysis of the proposed Florida law states.

But, hey, riding this dead horse makes for good future campaign fodder. So we’re going to get ourselves a piece of legislation that shows just how tough state lawmakers can be on the poor when they’re not handing out tax breaks to billionaires.

"But there was a slight problem with the initial script."
For along with banning EBT cards for purchases of gin, dog track quinellas and lap dances, the bill tacked on a prohibition of using the government assistance at “an establishment licensed to sell firearms or ammunition whose firearm and ammunition sales exceed 35 percent of the establishment’s annual sales.”

How long does thinking like this survive in Florida? The gun provision was dead on arrival at the first public airing of the bill.

"It would have also killed the Florida legislature’s perfect record of being a wholly owned subsidiary of the gun manufacturer’s lobby, also known as the NRA."
So to recap: A committee devoted to preserving the health of families made sure the poorest of families could buy guns and ammo with their government handouts. . . .

Yes, the Earth is back on its axis. For a moment there, though, it appeared that Florida had evolved. But that moment didn’t last very long.

"Bill allowing poor to use government debit cards to buys guns, ammunition off target".

Lawmakers flooded with "illegally obtained" campaign cash

Mary Ellen Klas: "Florida sheriffs have pleaded for years with the Legislature to close the loophole that fueled the fastest expansion of illegal gambling in decades, so-called 'Internet cafes.' Legislators squabbled. Bills languished or failed. But the delay paid off — for lawmakers and the industry. Threatened with being shut down, the owners and operators flooded lawmakers with campaign cash and hired a stable of lobbyists with money that police now say was illegally obtained." "Legislators race to distance themselves from money and operations of illegal gaming".

The contributions included "at least $327,000 to the Republican Party of Florida and $207,000 to the Florida Democratic Party". "More than $1M in political contributions linked to Internet cafes".

"Outdated, overlooked or just plain unpopular education laws"

"On Thursday, the state House and Senate took steps toward repealing more than two dozen outdated, overlooked or just plain unpopular education laws." "Florida lawmakers want to weed out education laws".

Lil Marco a hit with wingers

"With presidential speculation swirling around him — and a surging potential rival at his heels — U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio told a gathering of conservatives Thursday that the GOP does not need to search for new ideas."

The speech was notable for what Rubio did not talk about: immigration. He is one of eight senators producing a bipartisan bill but one of its chief components — a path to citizenship for more than 11 million undocumented residents — is unpopular among many conservatives. . . .

Attendees — and the media — were denied a showdown between Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who asked not to be included on the [straw poll] ballot.

"U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio waves as he addresses the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday in National Harbor, Md.". See also "Rubio leads off showcase of GOP’s 2016 presidential aspirants".

Firemen get injured as Legislators end disability benefits

"Firefighter injured battling blaze". Meanwhile, the Florida legislature is hard at work ending disability benefits.

"The party of 'old white stodgy guys.'"

"Allen West was one of only two black Republicans in the House of Representatives during the 112th Congress before losing his re-election bid in November. Now he wants to change the GOP image as the party of 'old white stodgy guys.'" "Ex-congressman West forms foundation as base for minority conservative candidates".

State budget forecast

"Florida economists are drawing up new forecasts for how much money the state is expected to collect in taxes over the next few years." "Fla. economists to draw up new budget forecast".

Task force on employee medical leave policies

"A Senate committee voted Thursday to create a statewide task force on employee medical leave policies to preempt ordinances approved by city and county governments. The Community Affairs Committee amended SB 726, proposed by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs. The bill emerged while Orange and Miami-Dade counties are considering sick-time measures opposed by business groups." "Senators want a study on sick leave".

Meanwhile, "Sick-time bill loses unpaid time-off provision".

FRS follies

Update: "House, Senate Differ on Pensions" and "House, Senate take differing pension paths".

A "step further"

"Senate elections bill may go 'step further'".

Entrepreneurs in action

"In light of federal probe lawmakers push for Internet sweepstakes café ban". See also "Internet cafe probe snags dozens, could doom industry in Florida", "Jennifer Carroll resigns, Internet cafes shut down" and "Arrests, Carroll Resignation Put Long Odds on Future of Internet Cafes".