Wednesday, March 06, 2013

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

Preparing for 2016, "Jeb!" flip flops on immigration reform, rejects Rubio's path to citizenship

Update: "Jeb Bush is back in the spotlight — and thinking about 2016", "Harry Reid: Jeb Bush not a leader on immigration. Rubio is." and "Jeb Bush working hard to be heard".

In his run up to the 2016 GOP presidential primary, Jebbie Bush is plainly re-establishing himself with the Republican base: "Distancing himself from his former-president brother and Sen. Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush appeared to reverse course Monday when he said undocumented immigrants should not be given a pathway to citizenship."

At different times during the presidential campaign, Bush made veiled critical references about Romney. Now, Romney backers say, Bush sounds as if he's adopting the same positions as Romney.
"Jeb Bush: no citizenship path for undocumented immigrants".

Meanwhile, "Jeb Bush tells CBS: I am not ruling out run for president". More: "Jeb Bush to run for president in 2016?"

"A powerful message"

Update: "Florida Senate Passes Most Comprehensive Ethics Reform in 30 Years". See also "Florida lawmakers vote for ethics and early voting changes". The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Without confidence in the integrity of elected officials, there can be no confidence in the public policies they embrace. The Senate is poised to send a powerful message today as it takes up ethics reform shortly after the opening of the legislative session." "Editorial: Ethics reform is job one".

"From before-noon coffees to evening soirees, lawmakers and lobbyists marked the eve of the 60-day session of the Florida Legislature Monday in private clubs and lobbying offices with a traditional social ritual: handing out millions of dollars in checks." "Will lawmakers pass campaign reform or just do a face lift?".

State of the state

"Scott sounds re-election themes as 2013 session opens". The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Rick Scott delivered his most upbeat State of the State speech yet Tuesday, reflecting Florida's economic rebound from the worst of the Great Recession. He praised everyone from teachers to university presidents to business leaders, avoiding confrontation and appealing to mainstream voters he will need to win re-election next year. But the governor was noticeably silent on most big issues and stuck to narrow budget priorities, passing up an opportunity to cast a broader vision for Florida's future." "Editorial: Scott plays nice and safe".

The Tampa Trib editorial board: "Tribune editorial: Gov. Scott's solid, but cautious, address". See also: "Scott: 'It's working'", "In State of the State, Scott says policies 'working'", "'It's working,' Gov. Rick Scott declares in upbeat State of the State address" and "Former Gov. Bob Graham attends State of State speech". More: "Transcript: Gov. Rick Scott's State of the State address".

"Scott to Charlie Crist: Gotcha"

"Fiscal State of the State? Rick Scott to Charlie Crist: Gotcha".

And so it begins

"Five things to look for in Wednesday’s Legislative session".

Bill Cotterell: "Capitol comes alive as session starts". See also "Lawmakers open session by advancing elections, ethics reforms". More: "Teacher raises, student safety, Bright Futures and more at stake in session".

What Scott says; what Scott means

Scott Maxwell: "Rick Scott: What he says; what it means".

"What will Charlie do?"

"The state of the 2014 Florida governor's race is boiling down to this: What will Charlie do?"

With the election still 20 months away, politicos took notice last week as Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam signaled he might be available to challenge fellow Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer declared he would not run.

But most potential challengers remain on hold, waiting to see what former Gov. Charlie Crist will decide. The Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat is the presumed front runner among Democrats who are itching to take on Scott -- but not so eager to take on Crist. . . .

A recent survey by Washington-based Hamilton Campaigns showed Scott tied with Crist in a hypothetical matchup – and with a favorability rating of 44 percent, the highest since he took office in 2011.

"I think Scott is in ascendancy," [Democratic pollster Keith Frederick, owner of FrederickPolls] said.

With former Florida chief financial officer Alex Sink, whose husband died earlier this year, sounding very reluctant to seek a rematch of her close 2010 loss to Scott, the Democratic field beyond Crist are all virtual unknowns outside of their hometowns.

"Anybody else [besides Crist] requires an introduction," said Hamilton Campaigns president David Beattie.

And even among Democrats, Crist may have to overcome the image that Republicans have pushed since the moment he quit the GOP in the spring of 2010: that he's an opportunistic flip-flopper interested primarily in his own political future.

"What I'm hearing from the Panhandle down to South Florida is that people want a true Democrat." Rich said, "My record is an open book. I'm not going to be changing those positions."

There also is emerging regional tension between Democrats in South and Central Florida. The last three Democrats to run for governor all came from Tampa Bay, and all lost. Crist lives in St. Petersburg.

Some South Florida leaders privately say that their region's huge number of Democrats – and its rich base of campaign contributors -- might get far more excited by a local candidate. Besides Rich and Diaz, former state Sen. Dan Gelber of Miami Beach, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler are among the possibilities mentioned.

Others whose names come up: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn; U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa; Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown; and even former Orlando police chief Val Demings.

"Potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates await Charlie Crist".

Arrogant power play by House Speaker Will Weatherford

Update: "Clock starts on Medicaid maneuvering". See also "‘Safety net’ of Weatherford’s anti-Medicaid expansion tale apparently hospital charity".

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "[A]lready House Republicans have drawn a partisan line against expanding Medicaid. A select committee voted along party lines Monday to not even bother writing legislation that would enable the expansion."

This was an arrogant power play by two Pasco County legislators, House Speaker Will Weatherford and committee chairman Richard Corcoran, who are not representing the best interests of their districts or their state on health care reform.
"Editorial: House's irresponsible move on Medicaid". See also "House committee votes no on Medicaid expansion", "Key house panel says no to Medicaid expansion, sets up legislative showdown" and "Weatherford, House Committee Say Medicaid Expansion Not Right for Florida".

Related: "Legislator: Don Gaetz Wanted to Expand Medicaid, Will Weatherford Ruined It". See also "Fla House Speaker opposes Medicaid expansion. But his dad says Medicaid helped his family".

Nancy Smith: "Rick Scott: Why I Said 'Yes' to Medicaid Expansion". See also "Scott explains his support for Medicaid expansion".

AIF, Chamber Divided on Gambling

"AIF, Florida Chamber Divided on Casino Gambling, Taxes for Online Travel Companies, and Obamacare?".

Sequestration follies

Lloyd Brown: "The impact on Florida was described to Scott in a letter from, I think, the third assistant secretary to the undersecretary to the oversecretary of the deputy assistant to the secretary of defense. (You know how the manpower shortage is in D.C.)" "Florida in Grave Peril, State Leaders are Advised".

Charter madness

"It was clear to teachers at the Einstein Montessori School in Orlando that something was very wrong when school opened for business last fall."

There were no computers for student use. And although the school focused on students with dyslexia, there were no reading texts.

Teachers said there was no set curriculum and no library.

"It was a disaster," said Brittany Clifton, a first-year math teacher who took on additional duties as principal for several months. She said students weren't getting what they needed. "It should have been shut down before the end of the semester."

The charter school closed in February, two months after Orange County Public Schools warned the privately run public school that it was violating state law and its own contract with the district.

"Two years ago, Imani Elementary Charter Academy was shut down by the district School Board after the school misspent state money and left students without computers or adequate books for nearly an entire school year."
Later that year, the district closed Summit Charter School in Maitland, which served students with learning disabilities, after years of financial troubles, including administrators spending school money on lavish meals, travel and a truck, and employees working without compensation.

Then, in 2012, the academically lagging NorthStar High School gave its principal a payout of more than $500,000 after its charter was not renewed. In addition, she was being paid about $305,000 a year in salary and bonuses. The four schools, combined, have received more than $287.2 million in state tax money.

After an Orlando Sentinel investigation about NorthStar, state legislators expressed outrage, followed by a stack of bills related to charter schools, many increasing fiscal controls.

"I hope that we're going to make these kind of stories a thing of the past," said Simmons.

At Einstein, teachers said their training was haphazard, paychecks were late from the start and payments meant to compensate them for a lack of health insurance stopped after a single check. Three teachers who left in December and January were never paid several thousand dollars they were owed, they told Orange County Public Schools officials.

Things were also falling apart in the classroom.

The principal quit to save on salaries, and two of the five teachers were forced out, former teachers said. Further defections left a revolving door of substitute instructors, according to former teachers and the Einstein Montessori board chair, Rebecca Simmons.

Victoria Miranda, 14, said she had substitutes in all classes but one.

"They let us do what we wanted," she said.

"Another failed Orlando charter 'a disaster' for students, teachers".

Short-sighted scheme would essentially put an end to conservation programs

The Tampa Tribune editors: "A short-sighted measure in the Florida Legislature would essentially put an end to the state and local land conservation programs, making it impossible to preserve the natural treasures that are the foundation of the state's appeal. Credit Sen. Alan Hays of Umatilla and Rep. Charlie Stone of Ocala for this scheme." "Short-sighted land deal".