Saturday, April 20, 2013

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

"Scott's Re-election Strategy Is Not Working"

"While Gov. Rick Scott might be correct that his policies are turning Florida’s economy around, his constant mantra of “it’s working” is simply not the case when it comes to reversing his political fortunes."

On Friday, Scott and his allies pointed to a Department of Economic Opportunity report that found Florida's unemployment rate has dropped from 7.8 percent in February to 7.5 percent in March. Scott and his assorted supporters crowed “it’s working” and tried to contrast the new numbers with the unemployment rate under former Gov. Charlie Crist, unannounced Democratic front-runner to challenge the governor next year.

Scott and his backers are correct in noting that Florida’s economy is on the rebound. But they will need more than healthy unemployment numbers to boost the governor’s re-election chances.

"Part of the problem comes from the Republicans themselves. When Barack Obama and his team pointed to lower unemployment numbers during last year’s presidential campaign, Republicans came out in droves to insist the stats and figures meant nothing. GOP leaders and conservative pundits outdid themselves to note that the unemployment figures did not include people who had given up on their job searches and insisted the real unemployment numbers were much higher than those being trumpeted by the White House.

Now, a lot of the same people who moaned that the unemployment numbers could not be trusted when it came to Obama are assuring voters they show Scott’s policies are effective."

But another part of the problem comes from Scott and the myths that have developed around him. When he came out of nowhere in 2010 to beat Bill McCollum in the primary and Alex Sink in the general election, Scott told voters that his business background would help turn Florida around and create 700,000 new jobs in 7 years.
"Job Numbers Might Be Working, But So Far Rick Scott's Re-election Strategy Is Not". See also "Florida unemployment falls to 7.5 percent".

Can he govern as well as he can issue press releases?

Tampa Bay Times editors: "Gov. Rick Scott has two weeks to demonstrate he can govern as well as he can issue press releases. It's great that the governor supports expanding Medicaid and accepting billions of federal dollars to provide health coverage to nearly a million residents. Now he has to persuade fellow conservative Republicans in the Legislature to agree or embrace a reasonable alternative. This is a defining moment for this state, and Scott should use all of the persuasive tools of his office to lead lawmakers to the right conclusion."

Charlie now a Panhandle Dem

"Crist visits Leon County, local Democrats".

"Pay proposals vary in shape and size"

Tampa Bay Times editors: "The past five years haven’t been easy for state government workers and teachers."

The ranks of state workers have shrunk about 10 percent. Training has been slashed by 25 percent. Seven out of every 10 state employees make less than $40,000 — putting them well below what the average employee in the private sector makes and near the bottom of state workers across the country.

The state’s 172,000 teachers, meanwhile, have had tenure stripped away and are now evaluated based on student test scores, which next year could help decide if they get a raise.

“It’s been a rough ride,” said Ryan Druyor, a 30-year-old research scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission who lives in St. Petersburg. “Getting ahead working for the state just isn’t done anymore. We’re falling behind."

"A budget surplus producing the first pay raises for state employees in six years has been celebrated by lawmakers as a chance to make up ground. Gov. Rick Scott, the Senate and the House have all proposed budgets with pay raises that can start to kick in this summer."
But as lawmakers haggle over budget details during the next two weeks, the pay proposals vary in shape and size, who gets them and for how much.

It’s a legislative exercise that has left many workers feeling oddly conflicted. While obviously thankful that their pay is on the upswing again, they can’t help but notice they aren’t being treated equally.

"Time for Scott to get to work on Legislature".

"Hitting the Home Stretch"

"Weekly Roundup: Hitting the Home Stretch".

Teabaggers take a bath

"Rubio's PAC Spends $47,484 on Water Bottles, Hauls in More Than $650,000".

"Rural gun absolutists ignore the firearm slaughter"

Fred Grimm: "We don’t count for much down here in Florida. Not in this particular democracy. Not like the someone from the sparse reaches of rural America. When it comes to settling the great national issues of the day, the opinion of a cowpoke from Wyoming or a roughneck from North Dakota carries considerably more weight than some no-account from Florida."

Over the years, the undemocratic make-up of the Senate gave disproportionate power to slave states (Robert Dahl, the famed Yale political scientist, noted that House of Representatives passed eight antislavery measures between 1800 and 1860 but all of them faltered in the Senate), then allowed segregation and its attendant wrongs to fester through the 1960s.

Disproportionate power has led to disproportionate disbursements of federal money — and this bizarre scenario in which residents of the rural south and west complain bitterly about recipients of federal handouts, about those imagined urban welfare queens, those moochers, while (with a few exceptions like Texas and Nevada) their own states collect more than they contribute to the federal treasury.

Rural states enrich themselves running cattle on federal rangeland, cutting timber in national forests or collecting federal farm subsidies and crop guarantees. In the past decade, they scarfed up more, per capita, in Homeland Security grants than states facing actual threats, like New York. As if al Qaeda had sworn jihad against Montana cows.

And it was the same scenario with federal stimulus money. The New York Times analyzed the distribution of the stimulus cash and found that the smaller states made out like bandits. Much of the money was flowing to same states whose political leaders complained so fervently about the stimulus programs.

Surely the founding fathers didn’t anticipate a situation in which workers abandon rural America and head to urban job centers even as rural America accrues more political clout. The voters migrate in one direction, the power and money flows the other.

So now a majority of Americans can only watch as rural gun absolutists ignore the firearm slaughter suffered in urban America and beat down even the most tepid gun measures, like the vote Wednesday killing background checks. They explain their opposition with this weird fantasy insurrectionist argument — they must hold on to their assault weapons, lest the federal government come after them.

It makes a tiresome sound, coming from folks who’ve got far more influence in that same federal government than residents of New York or California or Illinois. Their disproportionate power was on display Wednesday in the Senate, where some gun nut from Wyoming has 17 times more clout than a no-account from Florida.

"Rural senators’ clout mis-represents America".

Hispanic conservatives strive for relevancy

"Hispanic conservatives embrace immigration reform".

"An incentive to plead ignorance"

The Tampa Trib editors: "When the elderly are abused, and families seek compensatory damages from those responsible, the judgments can be limited by the victim’s incapacitation. Punitive damages are the clear and imminent threat that gets the attention of the nursing home operators and owners. Raising the bar for the families who are suing, and giving nursing home owners an incentive to plead ignorance, should not be written into law." "Obstacle to justice for nursing patients".

Sorry, Mr. West, this ain't the same as taking on an unarmed prisoner with a pistol

Quite the tuff guy, the pusillanimous Mr. West: "Allen West to FAU protesters: Stop harassing my wife or face ‘the side of me that you do not want to see’". Yes, the same West who dishonored himself and our country by threatening to kill an unarmed prisoner, and "followed up on that threat by taking the suspect outside, put him on the ground near a weapons clearing barrel and fired his 9 mm pistol into the barrel."

"Political reasons that fly in the face of common sense"

The Miami Herald editorial board: "The Florida House’s refusal to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid stands as the most confounding action of the 2013 legislative session thus far, and probably the most irresponsible."

Money that could be used to help more than a million needy Floridians who lack access to healthcare is in danger of being rejected for political reasons that fly in the face of common sense and elementary mathematics.
"Don’t reject Medicaid funds".

"You are a coward Sen. Rubio"

"The leader of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns group in Rubio’s home county of Miami-Dade, Democratic Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner, said at a Thursday news conference that the Florida senator’s vote the day before was all about his ambitions for the White House in 2016."

And, Lerner said, Rubio’s position on guns will cost him dearly when he runs again.

“Your position and your vote yesterday put you on shaky ground with 94 percent of Floridians,” Lerner said, citing a poll paid for by the group that showed overwhelming support for universal background checks.

“You are a coward Sen. Rubio,” she said. “You are afraid to stand up to the gun lobby and to stand up for your constituents. Instead, you stood up for the NRA. Shame on you.”

"Bloomberg-backed group slams Rubio for Senate vote on guns". See also Carl Hiaasen: "Rubio comes up short on gun control". More: "Senate fails the nation, victims on gun control".