Tuesday, April 02, 2013

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

"Brodeur hauled in between $48,000 and $65,000"

Daniel Ruth: "If Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford ever decides to create a Select Committee for Cronyism, Three-Card Monte Schemes, Misdirection and Obfuscation, he has the perfect candidate to tap as chairman: young master Rep. Jamie Grant, R-It's Good To Be Me."

In 2011, Grant had spent all of 20 minutes serving in the Florida House when he pitched an idea to the Industrial Development Authority of economically beleaguered Hardee County to create a mobile application that could link medical, insurance and legal records for family and first responders.

But first, the Donald Trump of Tallahassee needed the authority to approve a lousy, stinking $2.4 million in seed money to get everything going. What could possibly go wrong?

"Oh sure, Grant had about as much private sector business experience as a North Korean orchid farmer. And the rest of his stealth company included House colleague Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, and Grant's campaign manager, Jennifer Lux. Not quite a gathering of high-finance eagles."
There was just one itsy-bitsy problem with the grant Grant was hustling. The lawmaker hadn't even created his company, LifeSync Technologies, at the time the Hardee County IDA approved the grant application, a violation of state law. If we start insisting lawmakers actually follow the law, where does it end?

For LifeSync Technologies, it ended pretty quickly.

It seems about the only thing Grant's company created was paperwork. In 2012 he sold the rights to one company and the remainder of the grant moolah to another concern, whose owner worked for LifeSync. In all Grant walked away with about $70,000 and Brodeur hauled in between $48,000 and $65,000.

"The incredible shrinking seed money".

Nelson raises cash for out-of-state Dems

Jeremy Wallace: "U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson doesn’t have to worry about his own re-election until 2018. But that isn’t keeping the veteran politician completely off the campaign trail. Nelson, a Democrat, is trying to appeal to his own campaign donors to give to other Democratic Senators who face tough re-election campaigns. This past weekend, Nelson launched an appeal for Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu." "Nelson campaigning for Democrats".

Florida’s widespread use of solitary confinement for children

Fred Grimm: "Reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been subjecting scores of immigrant detainees to solitary confinement, many of them for 23 hours a day, some for stretches of 75 days or more, brought a quick, angry response in Washington."

Senator Charles E. Schumer, chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, reacting to a report in the New York Times, fired off a letter to the agency Tuesday, complaining of “an over reliance by ICE on the harshest forms of incarceration.” Schumer warned that unless the agency reduced the use of isolation cells, legislation would be written to force a change in policy. That same day, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she ordered ICE to provide her with some explanation for the cruel surge in the numbers kept in solitary.

The reaction in Washington was markedly more urgent than in Tallahassee, where the Senate criminal justice committee held a hearing last week looking into the Florida’s widespread use of solitary confinement for another kind of prisoner — children confined to state prisons and county jails. After a short hearing, a piece of proposed legislation to regulate the use of solitary for juvenile inmates was set aside without a committee vote. (The bill is scheduled to come up again next week, though there’s not much hope that it will pass.) Kids in solitary got not much more than a shrug.

"For kids in isolation, a shrug from Florida lawmakers".

Charter madness

"One in 17 Florida students attended a charter school last year, a number that has increased almost six-fold in a decade. The state authorized the first charter school in 1996, and now there are more than 500 charter schools in the state operated by private nonprofit companies with enrollment of 154,000 students. Charter schools control their own finances and supporters of traditional public schools see them as a financial drain on public education. Supporters say that by providing competition for traditional schools they stimulate innovations that improve public education." "Policy Note: Charter Schools".

Trial lawyers take it on the chin

"A bill making it more difficult to sue nursing home for punitive damages was approved Monday by the Senate Judiciary Committee. SB 1384 would require an evidentiary hearing where the plaintiff would be required to establish that the breach of a legal duty resulted in an actual loss, injury or damage before the suit could proceed." "Nursing home bill proceeds".

Meanwhile, "Senate ALF bill clears Judiciary" ("Regulation of assisted living facilities would increase under a bill moving through the Legislature. AHCA would have more ability to inspect facilities and revoke licenses.")

$141 million tax break for manufacturers

"A Senate panel passed a $141 million tax break for manufacturers Monday, but will take the same provision out of the Internet sales tax bill." "Scott's manufacturing tax cut gets renewed push in Senate". Related: "Policy Note: Internet Sales Tax".

At the trough

Beth Kassab: "The Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute is back at the trough of taxpayer dollars. This is the same outfit that received a record-setting (for our region) incentive package worth $300 million in 2006 to build labs in Orlando." "Sanford-Burnham wants more tax dollars". Background: "Policy Note: Economic Incentives".

Owlcatraz ends

"The private prison company GEO Group of Boca Raton has notified Florida Atlantic University that it is withdrawing the $6 million donation it made in exchange for naming rights to school’s football stadium, ending a weeks long drama that brought negative publicity to both parties." "GEO pulls FAU donation for stadium naming rights".

Laff riot: "Rick Scott Blasts Obama"

"Rick Scott Again Blasts Obama's Day-Late-Dollar-Short Support for Florida Ports".

"Likely failure of medical marijuana bill"

"Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, said Florida should start preparing now for licensing, regulating and taxing medical marijuana because, she predicted, that sooner or later legislation will be approved. The head of the Cannabis Action Network joined her plea." "New legislator laments likely failure of medical marijuana bill".

Florida Gulf Coast University, Atlas Shrugged, really?

"If you're wondering how Florida Gulf Coast University became the first 15th seed in the history of the NCAA men's basketball tournament to advance to the Sweet 16, look no further than the ur-text of the school's economics department: Atlas Shrugged. Embedded in this long, ponderous novel — required reading for all undergraduate economics and finance majors at FGCU — is the formula for transforming your college from a bunch of trailers on a swamp into the most talked-about school in the country." "Ayn Rand's formula for hoops success".

This proposal should be dead on arrival

The Palm Beach Post editors: "The Florida Senate Health Policy Committee is scheduled this afternoon to consider an alternative to expanding Medicaid that wouldn’t provide health coverage or health care to the state’s uninsured. The proposal should be dead on arrival." Florida Senate should reject Medicaid plan that does nothing for the uninsured". Related: "Another Medicaid Alternative Pops Up in the Senate".


Jeb Bush's former speechwriter, Lloyd Brown takes a shot at "Setting the Record Straight". The results are predictable.

The free lunch makes comeback in Tally

Steve Bousquet: "The free lunch is making a comeback in Tallahassee. It has been more than seven years since the Legislature passed a zero tolerance policy that prohibits lawmakers from taking meals, drinks or gifts from lobbyists or their clients." "Lobbyist gift ban getting 'tweaks'". See also "Senate panel votes to relax gift ban", "Policy Note: Lobbyist Gift Ban" and "Lawmakers seek exceptions to free food and drink ban".

Florida lawmakers move forward with NRA-backed measure

"Florida lawmakers are moving forward with a National Rifle Association-backed measure aimed at blocking dangerous mentally ill people from buying guns." "Florida Senate panel advances measure to bar mentally ill from buying guns".

Citizens Property Insurance scandals swept under rug

"The president of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. faced a grilling from lawmakers Monday, but ultimately received a unanimous vote of support after explaining his response to a series of recent scandals at the company." "Florida Senate panel criticizes Citizens chief then gives him support". See also "Policy Note: Citizens Property Insurance Corp." and "Hot seat agency heads scrutinized by Senate panels but receive support".

One wonders how far the next firefighter, policeman or teacher would get with this excuse the next time he is interrogated for alleged wrongdoing at work: "'I may be [insert age], but, man, I learn every single day,' said [insert name of employee], acknowledging that he was 'naive' ... and had made some mistakes."

Statewide domestic partnership registry

Lloyd Dunkelberger: "In a landmark vote that may signal a shift in legislative attitudes, a Senate committee on Monday narrowly endorsed the creation of a statewide domestic partnership registry that could extend some legal protections to same-sex couples. 'We have made history in the Florida Senate,' Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, said, as the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee voted 5-4 for the registry bill (SB 196)." "In shift, Senate committee OKs domestic registry". See also "Senate panel approves domestic partnership bill" and "Domestic partnership bill passes committee, though victory likely symbolic".