Tuesday, March 26, 2013

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

"Don't count Sink out of the 2014 governor's race"

"Don't count her out of the 2014 governor's race, says Tampa's Alex Sink."

In a Tribune interview, Sink acknowledged that she suffered a setback in her consideration of the race, the death of her husband Bill McBride, but that doesn't mean she's through.
"Sink said she's working through a decision process and will decide "this summer." She wouldn't be any more specific about the timing."
And she said recent news stories dismissing her as a possible candidate were wrong.
"Sink: Don't count her out of 2014 governor's race".


"Florida's Luckiest Economic Engine Alive and Well".

Koch Brothers/ALEC fueled scheme to shutter pension system runs hits opposition

The Florida House's Koch Brothers/ALEC fueled scheme "to shutter the state's pension system and send all new employees to a 401(k)-style option . . . is running into stiff opposition from a more-moderate Senate and union groups who say that the proposal would be a raw deal for public employees." "House, Senate at odds over potential pension reform".

Friend of Vern

"For 20 years, Tampa home builder Timothy Mobley and U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan have been friends. They vacation together, bicycle together and at times have done business together. Now that friendship has exacted a heavy toll, though not as heavy as federal prosecutors wanted." "Friend of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan evades prison time for illegal fundraising". See also "Judge fines Buchanan contributor".

"Few states have a higher percentage of uninsured children than Florida"

"With a third of the annual regular legislative session already gone, a bill that would close gaps in access to health care coverage for Florida children has passed just one committee and appears in danger of not passing."

Few states have a higher percentage of uninsured children than Florida. In 2011, about 579,000 children statewide were uninsured, including 358,000 low-income children who were eligible for KidCare.
"Expansion of kids health insurance program stalled in Florida Legislature".

"It's a bad return on investment for taxpayers, Governor"

Nancy Smith: "No matter how you cut it, it's a bad return on investment for taxpayers, Governor." "Memo to Rick Scott: Cut Your Losses on Drug-Testing Welfare Recipients".

Chamber losing even the Trib editors on this one

When the Chamber loses the Trib editors, you know they're in trouble. The Tampa Trib editors write this morning: "The Florida Chamber of Commerce says the state is one of the worst in the nation for lawsuits and needs to curtail litigation. Reforms may well be needed, but caution is required when lawmakers consider curtailing citizens' rights."

Such is the case with a proposal to overhaul the "bad faith" insurance law, which business interests are once again pushing. A measure failed last session, but legal reform is a priority for Senate President Don Gaetz so look for another try.

Business organizations say the legislation simply prevents lawyers from gaming the system and driving up costs. Perhaps some reforms are needed, but we fear this approach would put citizens and small businesses at a disadvantage in conflicts with insurance companies.

The law now requires insurance companies to act in good faith when settling claims for their policyholders.

"Taking chances in bad faith".

"Lost amid all the back-slapping"

"Attorney General Pam Bondi praised Florida House Republicans last week after they unveiled a plan to spend $200 million from a national mortgage settlement on a variety of affordable housing needs for those hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis."

Lost amid all the back-slapping, however, is that House Republicans are planning to strip an equal amount for housing aid — $200 million — from a separate trust fund so that it could be spent on other priorities, such as teacher raises and health care. In effect, they are swapping out what the state already had set aside for affordable housing while claiming they are spending more on it.
"Despite budget surplus, bill would strip housing aid trust fund".

"Squeaky wheel"

"Democrat Corrine Brown plays 'squeaky wheel'".

Greer Faces Sentencing

"Former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer, who pled guilty on the eve of a potentially politically salacious trial that could have aired the laundry of the state GOP and former Gov. Charlie Crist, will find out his prison fate Wednesday." "Ex-RPOF Chair Jim Greer Faces Sentencing This Week".

Try harder

"Florida's next lieutenant governor needs to try harder". Meanwhile, "Gov. Rick Scott shuts down lieutenant governor's office to save money".

Never mind

Eric Giunta complains that the "Governor's Former Top Attorney Withdraws Judgeship Application After Liberal Smear Campaign".

"Legislators undermining Florida's public school system"

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Once again legislators are looking for ways to undermine Florida's public school system by giving more taxpayer dollars and freebies to charter schools, including those run by for-profit management companies."

At a time when school district budgets remain squeezed for cash, two House bills would give charter schools more opportunities while undercutting traditional public schools where most Florida students attend. Public schools are bought with public money, and they should not be given away to schools operated by private interests.
"Stop the giveaway to charter schools".

From the "values" crowd

"'Backlash' bill against LEED green-building certification program moving in House".

More from the "values" crowd

"Florida House seeks 6 percent tuition hike".

The political landscape has shifted in Florida

"Opponents of same-sex marriage will march en masse outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday as justices hear arguments on two cases. Even if traditional marriage activists win the court battles, though, it looks more and more like they have already lost the war."

Look no further than Florida to see how remarkably the political landscape has shifted.

Barely four years ago, nearly 62 percent of Florida voters approved a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions. Last week, a poll released by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling found just 23 percent of Florida voters oppose legal recognition of both gay marriages and civil unions, and 75 percent support either gay marriage or civil unions. Among Republicans, 53 percent support civil unions, and 21 percent support legal same-sex marriage.

Another poll released last Thursday by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute found that 54 percent of Florida voters favor allowing same-sex couples to marry legally and 41 percent oppose it.

Most troubling for Republicans eager to broaden the party’s appeal after President Barack Obama’s comfortable re-election victory are generational attitudes. A national Washington Post-ABC News poll released last week found that more than 8 in 10 voters under 30 favor legalizing same-sex marriage.

It’s a staggering number that doesn’t surprise Matt Hoopfer, president of the College Republicans of Florida State University.

"Political winds shift in Florida, nationwide on same-sex marriage issue".

The best he can do?

Jeremy Wallace: "Florida Gov. Rick Scott has said he will wait until after the current legislature session to appoint a replacement for recently resigned Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll."

But that has not stopped Tallahassee speculation that state Rep. Doug Holder is on a possible short list for the position. Holder's dinner with the governor last week only heightened the speculation in newspapers and blogs that Scott is getting to know the four-term state legislator for a reason.
"Rep. Holder rumored to be on short list for Lt. Governor replacement".

Email plan all but defunct

"A plan to consolidate the email platforms of all state agencies into one system is all but defunct - despite state law calling for such a project - but now some lawmakers want to consolidate all agencies' information technology duties." "Policy Note: State Technology/Email Consolidation".

Cuts without conscience

"The elimination of a $141 million tax on manufacturing equipment and machinery is one of Gov. Rick Scott's top legislative priorities. Senate budget chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, has stated he doesn't like the manufacturing tax cut idea and would prefer to cut drivers' license and vehicle fees instead. He announced a plan last week to cut a $220 million annual tax break for insurance companies to pay for the fee cuts." "Policy Note: Manufacturing Taxes".

Scott's K-12 Education Funding

"Gov. Rick Scott surprised many when he recommended what may be the biggest increase in public education funding in Florida history. His recommendation included $10.7 billion in state spending for public schools. The package includes a teacher pay raise. Sen. Bill Galvano, Appropriations Education Subcommittee chair, has told members he hopes to finalize the plan at a meeting this week." "Policy Note: K-12 Education Funding".