Monday, March 04, 2013

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

Declining jobless rate not a function of new jobs, but fewer people in the labor pool

"As the state unemployment rate inches down, Gov. Rick Scott rarely misses an opportunity to broadcast the news, sometimes blasting out four or five news releases in a day — such as this one from January's jobless report."

"Florida's unemployment rate is down to 8 percent, its lowest in four years. … The changes we are making to improve our state's business climate are helping Florida families pursue the American dream."
"But while there has been real improvement on the jobs front, the movement on unemployment is not as dramatic as it appears."
That's because part of the declining jobless rate is not a function of new hiring. It is tied instead to the fact that the share of Floridians in the labor market has been falling since the housing bubble burst.

The state's "labor-force participation rate" — the percentage of working-age Floridians in a job or looking for one — has slipped from 64.2 percent in 2007 to 61.1 percent in 2010 and 60.2 percent in December 2012. Florida's average labor-force participation rate for all of 2012 was 60.4 percent, the lowest annual level since 1985.

The declining rate is important because it artificially amplifies progress on unemployment. With fewer people in the labor pool, it is mathematically easier to drive down the jobless rate. In Florida's case, the impact is significant, said Rollins College economist William Seyfried.

The unemployment rate fell from a high of 11.4 percent in February 2010 to 8 percent in December 2012. But if the labor-force participation rate had remained constant, December's jobless rate would have been more than 2 percentage points higher, Seyfried said.

"If you want to explain why the unemployment rate declined from its peak," he said, "over two-thirds of the decline was due to the declining participation rate."

Florida Chief Economist Rebecca Rust disputed that conclusion, saying, "It's not possible to say" what the unemployment might be if the labor-force participation rate held steady. Rust said it was unrealistic to assume that everyone who'd left the work force would be unemployed if they'd kept looking for a job.

"Jobless rate improves — but labor-pool dropouts skew numbers".

"Scott’s neck-snapping policy reversals"

"Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s neck-snapping policy reversals and decisions to back higher teacher pay and Medicaid expansion are complicating politics for both major parties as Florida’s annual legislative session begins this week."

Florida Republicans, who had rallied behind Scott despite his chronically lousy poll numbers, also are trying to grasp the governor’s lurch toward the political middle.

While GOP leaders accentuate the positive, Scott’s conservative base is livid, with many feeling betrayed. Scott frenemies will abound when state lawmakers gather Tuesday at the Capitol to open the two-month session.

“Hey, this just shows we’re not a monolithic party,” said Florida Republican Chairman Lenny Curry, whose party controls the House, Senate and governor’s office but who has been spending time tamping down internal divisions.

Already there’s talk that Scott might not be a lock for next year’s GOP nomination.

"Scott's shift to middle annoys parties". See also "Scott explains his support for Medicaid expansion". Meanwhile, "Governor in need of lawmakers' help" ("Florida Gov. Rick Scott faces a dire political situation and his awkward relationship with the Legislature makes a rebound even more difficult.")

"Cagy lobbyists and conniving lawmakers"

The Tampa Trib editors: "It never pays to be optimistic about the Florida Legislature. You can count on a cagy lobbyist or conniving lawmaker to always be plotting some mischief — or worse." "Tampa Tribune editorial: Cause for optimism in Tallahassee".

Lawmakers set to increase contribution limits for statewide candidates

"Campaign finance bills filed in the Florida House and Senate for the legislative session that begins Tuesday signal that Florida lawmakers are poised to increase campaign-contribution limits for statewide candidates. Political consultants for candidates in both parties agree limits should rise, but by how much?" "Campaign Finance Reform Negotiations Still Have a Way to Go".


"Rep. Pafford: From a U.S. Senator’s driver to Florida Dems’ policy driver".

"If you don’t like it, tough"

The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Here is the message from Florida Atlantic University about the $6 million football stadium deal with prison company GEO Group: We’re keeping the money. If you don’t like it, tough." "FAU can’t talk its way past the GEO stadium controversy".

"Secret Democratic strategy memo"

Nancy Smith: "A secret Democratic strategy memo from the liberal George Soros-funded Blueprint North Carolina found its way into the public domain, revealing a premeditated attack plan designed to “eviscerate” Republicans in that state. Even more troubling is the much broader strategy it reveals, spilling out of North Carolina and into our own state."

According to the RPOF:

- The document specifically references an invitation to the "Florida minority leader" to travel to North Carolina to brief liberal activists on successes in Florida.

- Seeks to mimic media attacks launched by "Pink Slip Rick" Scott.

- Part of the document is a polling memo commissioned by Project New America, whose senior staff includes former Florida state Rep. Loranne Ausley, a Democrat who most recently lost the CFO’s race to Republican Jeff Atwater.

- America Votes claimed responsibility for authoring the Blueprint strategy document. Ausley's political committee, Project New Florida, collected $75,000 from America Votes.

- Project New Florida's treasurer is also the treasurer at Florida Watch Action, the group behind the “Pink Slip Rick” campaign.

"Pop Goes the Democrats' Credibility".

"Consumer's guide to the Legislature"

"As lawmakers convene Tuesday to iron out Florida's budget during the 60-day legislative session, their decisions will have a major impact on the budgets of families across the Sunshine State." "A consumer's guide to the Florida Legislature".

The Sarasota Herald Tribune editors: "Ethics reform first".

Related: "Local lawmakers stake out positions", "Slideshow: Top 10 issues facing Fla. legislators" and "School safety on table as legislative session starts Tuesday".

"Republicans show signs they want to look ahead to the future"

"Even as a new poll from a firm with connections to prominent Democrats shows Republican Gov. Rick Scott in a dead heat with former Gov. Charlie Crist, who left the GOP to run for the U.S. Senate partyless in 2010 and joined the Democrats last year, Republicans show signs they want to look ahead to the future, whether Scott wins a second term in 2014 or not."

Rick Scott had a phenomenal rise to the top of Florida politics, the likes of which had not been seen in decades. Unlike then-Attorney General Bill McCollum, his rival for the Republican nomination in 2010, Scott did not spend years cultivating local and county GOP poobahs as he made the rounds of rubber chicken dinners. After emerging on the national scene to oppose President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law, Scott jumped into the gubernatorial primary and upset McCollum in a close and bitter contest -- leaving GOP leaders in Tallahassee, who by and large backed the attorney general, forced to play ball with the new Republican leader in the Sunshine State.
"Adam Putnam and Will Weatherford Look Past 2014 and Rick Scott".

Medicaid Monday

"Gov. Rick Scott has said what he would do. So have the other three members of the Florida Cabinet. But it is the Legislature that will ultimately decide whether the state will expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. House and Senate committees studying the health care law could make their recommendations Monday." "Legislature could tip hand on Medicaid expansion Monday".

"Latest episode of Miami Ballot Vice"

The Miami Herald editors: "Miami-Dade elections officials and the office of State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle have found an object worthy of praise — the computer. And with good reason. Had computers inside the elections office not detected a series of unusual requests for absentee ballots last July, August’s primary election could have been a nightmare."

The Miami-Dade elections department received more than 2,500 suspicious ballot requests within a 2 1/2 week period in July. It was clear that the system was being hacked. The computer responded as it should and flagged the requests, which were later rejected.

Now, the challenge is to identify who was behind this latest episode of Miami Ballot Vice. It’s a question that could have been answered months ago if the two agencies now heaping praise on a machine had done their jobs more effectively.

"Stop absentee ballot fraud".


Lauren Ritchie: "State Sen. Alan Hays' bill to keep public buses from stopping on streets is absurd".