Saturday, March 23, 2013

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

Nelson to take on Scott?

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "So important is it to Florida Democrats that they unseat Republican Rick Scott that some are saying the only Democrat holding statewide office, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, should take on Scott in the 2014 governor's race." "Nelson versus Scott in 2014? Maybe".

Meanwhile, "In her first TV interview, Florida's Democratic Party chairwoman says, 'Rick Scott is vulnerable, he is beatable and we intend to beat him.'" "Florida Newsmaker Allison Tant" (VIDEO).

Eroding Roe

"In its landmark Roe vs. Wade privacy ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded 40 years ago that the government may not intrude on a woman's reproductive freedom. But that freedom is being endangered in Republican-controlled state legislatures across the country that are eager to test whether the current court would affirm that right."

In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott signed an intrusive law — which had been vetoed the previous year by Gov. Charlie Crist — requiring women to obtain an ultrasound before an abortion.
"In 2012, another 43 restrictions were passed by state legislatures. And a narrow majority on the Supreme Court has upheld nearly every new restriction on abortion rights that has come before it, including unnecessary waiting periods, with some justices welcoming the chance to overturn Roe entirely.
Sixty-three percent of registered voters support the Roe decision legalizing abortion, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll. Florida voters in November turned back an antiabortion constitutional amendment that would have barred state funding of abortion services and health insurance that covered abortions and weakened the state's reproductive freedom rights.
"Eroding the rights of 'Roe'".

Scott proposes biggest in state history

"Today, Florida's budget is bigger than when Scott took office, at about $70 billion. And the governor just proposed a $74.2 billion budget – the biggest in state history." "Despite campaign promises, government has grown under Scott".

Budget blues

"The separation between the two chambers' budget approaches is narrow, but possibly deep." "House, Senate close on budget numbers, timeline, not policy".

No cap on contributions to candidates’ political committees?

"A year after redistricting made legislative districts more competitive, the Florida House on Friday passed a campaign-finance bill that raises contribution limits and appears to give incumbents a political advantage."

The 75-39 vote was mostly along party lines. Democrats say the measure — which raises the cap on political contributions and lets incumbents roll over $20,000 toward the next election — gives Republicans more fundraising leverage because they control the Legislature.
"Both Republicans and Democrats supported a provision in the bill that eliminates Committees of Continuous Existence, a type of political committee that can accept unlimited donations that can be spent on anything but campaigning. CCEs have become personal slush funds for some legislators who use them for entertainment, travel and meals."
In exchange for eliminating CCEs, the House bill raises the cap on contributions to candidates’ political committees from $500 to unlimited amounts, and requires that all expenses be related to the campaign. Parties, political committees and candidates would also face accelerated disclosure requirements that would force them to release their campaign finance records every day during the final 10 days of the campaign, and weekly for the two months prior to that.
"House approves no limits on campaign contributions". See also "Policy Note: Campaign Finance".

Pension games

"The proposal, a priority of House Speaker Will Weatherford, passed along party lines 73-43 after nearly four hours of debate over two days." "House votes to close state pension to new employees, Senate unsure".

See also "House votes to shut down guaranteed pension plan", "Florida House OKs bill ending traditional pension for new employees", "Policy Note: Pension Reform" and "House passes major pension revamp".

Big talk, little thought

"Rubio overstates link between unfilled jobs and lack of skills".

"A mark of shame on the state"

The Sarasota Herald Tribune editors: "Florida Senate President Don Gaetz probably meant well when he said, "I wish we could pass a law against crazy." But the phrase hurts."

Gaetz, an advocate of gun rights, is correct that Florida needs adequate mental-health services. It has long lacked them -- a mark of shame on the state.

But other aspects of the Senate leader's phrasing are unsettling.

"Guns and mental health".

On the beach

"Florida beaches proposed as turtle “critical habitat”".

Weekly Roundup

"Weekly Roundup: Getting Serious in the Capitol". See also "Week in Review for March 18 to March 22".

Ethics boomlet

Aaron Deslatte writes that "the House is still trying to protect politicians by allowing them to file financial disclosure forms they may know to be incorrect and wait for someone to challenge them. The House also doesn't want to extend the lobbying ban to all former lawmakers – just the presiding officers." "Florida, finally, may set ethics reform trend".


"The House voted 114-0 on final passage of HB 7065. The Everglades Foundation and sugar farmers issued separate statements applauding the vote." "Policy Note: The Everglades".

"Everglades clean-up compromise passes House unanimously". From the Palm Beach Post editors: "New Everglades bill contains fewer favors for farmers".

"Four times bigger"

"Fresh off a nearly $300 million racketeering case involving a veterans’ charity that benefited from simulated gambling at Internet cafes, Florida regulators will investigate a children’s cancer group connected to a sweepstakes network that is four times bigger. The new probe comes in response to Associated Press inquiries about Children’s Cancer Cooperative, a group that operates out of a South Carolina bingo parlor, shares a lawyer with Allied Veterans of the World and has collected cash from more than 200 of the sweepstakes cafes in Florida." "Florida regulators to probe another charity tied to alleged illegal gambling at Internet cafes".

"The Legislature has puzzled for several sessions about how to deal with Internet cafes, with the House leaning toward an outright ban while the Senate is inclined to regulate them. That all changed March 13, the day news broke about Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll's resignation on the heels of FDLE questions about her links to an Internet cafe company whose associates have been charged with racketeering and money-laundering." "Policy Note: Internet Cafes".

Related: "Florida House votes to ban storefront gambling; Senate expected to follow" and "House votes to shut down Internet cafes, adult arcades".

FlaGOP scrambles for something, anything

The Tampa Trib editorials board: "Negron's promising health care plan".

"Corporate takeover of public school facilities"

"Rep. Carlos Trujillo’s, R-Miami, bill would give parents a say in developing a turnaround option for a failing school. The proposal also prohibits assigning a student in consecutive years to a classroom teacher with an unsatisfactory performance evaluation and requires parental notification of a virtual education option when a child is assigned to an out-of-field teacher or one with an unsatisfactory evaluation."

Rep. Mark Danish, D-Tampa, suggested this may not be the right time for a trigger bill. Danish is a middle school teacher and recalled how school grades dropped when the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test was implemented. He noted the state intends to adopt Common Core Standards in 2014 and a subsequent drop in school grades is expected. Danish worries that Trujillo’s proposal combined with Common Core will trigger a corporate takeover of public school facilities.
"'Parent trigger' bill is cocked and loaded for House floor". See also "Policy Note: Parent Empowerment Act". Related: "Revised charter school regulations move forward".

Man on fire

"Will Weatherford is well on his way toward many of his goals for the session." "House speaker moves quickly".

Scott about to lose another court case

Your tax dollars at work:

A federal judge's ban on Gov. Rick Scott's plan to randomly test thousands of state workers for illegal drugs may have been too broad because it failed to carve out exceptions for law enforcement and other sensitive positions, a panel of U.S. appeals judges indicated Friday.
"Judges: Fla. worker drug test ban too broad".