Wednesday, April 10, 2013

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

The Rich are Different

"Gov. Rick Scott’s opposition to a House bill that would increase campaign contribution limits appears to have jeopardized not only that bill but also a Senate bill creating stricter ethics rules for elected officials."

The Senate passed its ethics overhaul, Senate President Don Gaetz’s top priority, on the first day of the legislative session, and the House last week approved its campaign finance package, a priority of House Speaker Will Weatherford. But neither measure has yet received a full vote from the opposite chamber.

The leaders’ priorities are intertwined, Senate Ethics and Elections Committee Chairman Jack Latvala said Tuesday. And Scott’s balking at one imperils both, Latvala, R-Clearwater said.

“The governor has probably sapped the energy out of any campaign finance bill this session … . What I’ve been told is they (the House) had to have campaign finance to pass our ethics package,” Latvala said Tuesday after the Senate Rules Committee unanimously approved a campaign finance measure (SB 1382) that did not include an increase in campaign contribution limits as the House bill does.

A few hours later, House Ethics and Elections Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Boyd yanked his ethics bill (HB 7131) from the committee instead of having it go to a vote as originally planned. He said lawmakers needed more time to study a slate of recently filed amendments.

Responding to reports of Latvala’s remarks, Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, tweeted: “Campaign finance dead? Session has only just begun.”

"The comments came a day after Scott’s spokeswoman, Melissa Sellers, said the governor 'can’t imagine signing a bill' that would raise contributions by any amount."

It isn't hard to figure out the reasons for Scott's recalcitrance:

Scott, who plans to run for re-election in 2014, spent more than $70 million of his and his family’s money in his 2010 campaign, compared to the $17.5 million raised by his opponent, Democrat Alex Sink, under the state’s $500 campaign contribution limits.
"Gov. Scott's opposition to raising campaign contribution caps may also jeopardize ethics reform". See also "House, Senate differences on campaign contributions threaten reforms", "Policy Note: Campaign Finance" and "Elections bills set for Senate debate".

Dirty water

"Policy Note: Groundwater and Springs". "Policy Note: Water Quality", "Policy Note: The Everglades" and "Policy Note: Hazardous Waste & Contamination".


"The Florida Senate is examining whether to repeal the state's controversial no-fault auto insurance requirement and replace it with another type of compulsory insurance: bodily injury liability." "Savings uncertain if PIP is repealed". See also "Drive to Ditch No-Fault Insurance Slowed in Senate".

"A step in the right direction"

"Senate panel advances bill to put brakes on nuclear fees". The Tampa Bay Times: "A Florida Senate plan won't reimburse Progress Energy customers who have been paying for years for a nuclear power plant that may never be built, but at least it would ensure that in the future, utilities can't earn profits on such failures. The vote Monday by a Senate committee to bring tighter scrutiny to the state's so-called nuclear advance fee is a step in the right direction and it is the least legislators can do to protect consumers." "Finally, a step for utility customers".

Early learning bills

"Bills intended to make Florida's early learning programs more accountable to taxpayers and to overhaul their governance are advancing in the Florida Legislature." "Reforms in Florida early-learning program advancing".

Obamacare dead ender

Eric Giunta: "One of the many Obamacare taxes targeting successful small-business owners is a nearly 1 percent increase in the Medicare payroll tax, which experts say will further 'slow economic growth' and 'deter job creation.'" "Obamacare Payroll Tax Hike: More Punishment for Small-Business Success".

"Government by gimmick"

Scott Maxwell: "Scott Maxwell: Enough of government by gimmick".

"Florida Chamber Playbook"

Eric Giunta: "Regional Planning Councils Taking Page Out of Florida Chamber Playbook".

From the "values" crowd

"Despite a cash-flush budget that has policymakers considering a grab-bag of corporate and stadium incentives, Florida lawmakers are still raiding a fund created two decades ago to help provide low-income housing." "Lawmakers re-direct money dedicated to low-income housing".

Trigger bills are "products of political or special interests’ agendas"

The Tampa Trib editorial board writes that "it’s impossible to dismiss the criticism that for-profit charter school companies are the driving force behind the [parent trigger]bills. And legislation driven by narrow private interests, if that’s the case, seldom makes for good public policy."

But the state’s largest group representing school parents, the Florida PTA, is firmly against the bills, in particular a provision giving parents the option to turn failing schools into charter schools. They think the backers of the bills — which include the Foundation for Florida’s Future, chaired by former Gov. Jeb Bush — are motivated by a keen interest in expanding the number of charter schools.

They point to current laws that already require school districts to address turnaround strategies for failing schools. Parents, through a PTA or other groups, would have a chance to be involved in that process.

The bills would require school districts to inform parents that the state is requiring a turnaround strategy for a particular school. The district would then be required to explain the options and petition process to parents, and to help the process along by verifying signatures and setting up public meetings.

"A petition process in California, the first state to pass a parent trigger bill, devolved into controversy when parents who signed a petition later complained they were misled about what they were signing."
That experience gives us pause.

If these measures were responding to a genuine need, we would feel differently. But they seem to be products of political or special interests’ agendas, not necessary laws.

"State doesn’t need parent trigger".

This story will make your day

"An orphaned Florida panther sprinted back into the wild Wednesday, the first time one of the endangered cats has been released into Palm Beach County."

After a long ride in an animal carrier from a sanctuary near Jacksonville, the panther was taken to a dirt road in the southwestern corner of the county, a place of cattle ranches, swamps and bushy forests that's a world away from the strip malls and subdivisions of Boca Raton, Wellington and Royal Palm Beach.

Wildlife officers lowered the crate onto the road and opened it. The 123-pound panther walked out, took a quick look around, and set off at a gallop down the road, a tawny streak of speed clearly trying to put as much distance as possible between himself and dozens of wildlife officers, reporters and television news crews. After running along the road for a few hundred yards, the panther found a gap in the trees and vanished into the Rotenberger Wildlife Management Area.

"The panther had been rescued as a kitten when his mother was found dead in northern Collier County. After discovering her body, biologists who were monitoring cameras around the den discovered two kittens, a male and female, who were still alive. They set traps, captured them and took them to the White Oak Conservation Center near Jacksonville, where they were raised with minimal human contact."

The young panthers learned to hunt deer, rabbits and armadillos to the point biologists were satisfied they would have a decent chance of survival in the wilderness. The female was successfully released Jan. 31 in Collier County. Biologists said Wednesday that she has been doing well.

The release location for the male was selected largely because it had no resident male panther that would try to kill a younger interloper.

"An estimated 100 to 160 adult panthers remain in Florida, occupying a core habitat stretching from west of Lake Okeechobee to Everglades National Park." "First Florida panther released into Palm Beach County".

"Will Rubio be able to play in the big leagues?"

"As the baseball season begins, it seems appropriate to borrow an analogy from the sport: Will the 'can’t miss' young phenomenon of the political world, Sen. Marco Rubio, be able to play in the big leagues? The immigration battle affords a good test." "Immigration gives Rubio shot at big leagues".


"State lawmakers are debating SB 876 in earnest now, legislation that would create a separate criminal offense for anyone who hurts a pregnant woman and the unborn child is injured or killed." "'Offenses Against Unborn Children's Act' Progressing in Senate".

Tuesday in Tally

"Vote on liquor sales bill, other action in the Florida Legislature".

Bill would allow Citizens to raise rates faster

"Sen. David Simmons said Gov. Rick Scott is asking for changes to SB 1770 to protect current customers of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. The bill would allow Citizens to raise rates faster and soften the 10 percent cap on annual rate hikes." "Sen. Simmons: Gov. Scott calls for changes to Citizens bill". See also "Premiums for new Citizens customers could rise up to 84 percent under Senate bill".

Changes to the state’s medical-malpractice system

"Florida lawmakers appear to be inching closer on changes to the state’s medical-malpractice system, with a House committee Tuesday scrapping proposals that likely would have run into opposition in the Senate." "Florida House, Senate may find common ground on medical malpractice".

"Lucky few Floridians"

"Lucky few Floridians get $125,000 from foreclosure settlement, most to get $300".

"The Two Ricks: Pals in Peril"

"The Two Ricks: Pals in Peril -- But the Friendship Does Scott Some Good".