Sunday, April 21, 2013

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

"Will Nelson run for governor?"

Adam C. Smith asks: "Will Nelson run for governor?"

He is a hyper-cautious 70-year-old who just won a third Senate term and by all accounts enjoys his current job. But he is considering the 2014 run and has no incentive to rush into a decision.

Come August or September, after hearing loads of encouragement and analyzing whether negative public perceptions of Scott remain calcified or are improving, Nelson may well decide the job Chiles snatched from him 23 years ago looks awfully enticing.

"In the meantime, here are four reasons Nelson should run for governor."
1. It's about the legacy.

2. He has little to lose.

3. Nelson can win.

4. It's a better job.

Smith turns around and gives us four reasons Nelson should run.
1. Seniority matters in Washington.

2. He could lose.

3. Grace Nelson.

4. Age.

Smith explains in detail here: "Four reasons Bill Nelson should run for Florida governor — and four reasons he shouldn't".

About Gaetz the elder

"Florida Senate president still knocking on doors for support, truth".

"A lack of reliable and affordable private insurance"

The Sarasota Herald Tribune editors: "Any discussion about reforming state-run Citizens Property Insurance should begin with two questions: Why does Citizens exist? Why has it become Florida's largest property insurer?"

The answer to both questions is the same: because of a lack of reliable and affordable private insurance.

The failure to adequately address this fundamental problem may be why the Florida Senate's latest attempt to reform Citizens has run into trouble -- first with outraged Citizens policyholders, then with Gov. Rick Scott, now with Republican senators from coastal communities.

"Changes to Citizens misguided".

"Lawmakers collect $662k in 'slush funds'"

"In the two months leading up to a legislative session billed as an ethical house-cleaning, Florida legislators raised $662,000 from special interests through the funds they hope to outlaw over the next two weeks." "Lawmakers collect $662k in 'slush funds' they hope to outlaw".

Teachers packing heat

The Palm Beach Post's, Randy Schultz: "The [background check vote] Wednesday came roughly a month after the Senate approved a budget amendment — a budget amendment? — against approving the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty."

Apparently, the NRA’s paranoia-infused marketing campaign for the firearms industry has persuaded enough Americans that the treaty would allow the U.N to seize their guns. Since there were 53 votes for the amendment, including Sen. Rubio’s, and it would take 67 votes on the other side to ratify the treaty, look for the United States to join North Korea, Syria and Iran in opposing the agreement designed to keep weapons from terrorists.

One day earlier, the Judiciary Committee of the Florida House heard testimony on legislation that would authorize school principals to designate staff members to carry a concealed weapon. According to the analysis for House Bill 1097, the “firearms must only be carried in a concealed manner on the individual’s person at all times while performing official school duties.” Those designed to pack heat would have to go through the same training as security guards.

In order, representatives of the Florida School Boards Association (elected officials,) the Florida Association of School Administrators (principals and assistant principals) and the Florida PTA (parents) spoke to the committee in opposition to the bill. The committee members listened politely, and then approved the legislation, 11-7. An education committee previously had passed it 10-3."

"Legislature should listen to Florida’s educators, parents about arming teachers.".

Wingnuts run wild in Tally

"The sweeping package of bills, hashed out over two days and 14 hours of debate, contains many pieces of conservative Republican social policy that have been pushed in prior years." "Florida House passes raft of social-conservative bills".

Immigration talks

"Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, a veteran South Florida lawmaker, could play a more crucial role in crafting an immigration bill than fellow Floridian Sen. Marco Rubio. He just doesn’t get the same media attention." "From shadows to spotlight, Mario Diaz-Balart plays powerful role in immigration talks".

Most so-called "moderate" House GOPers in hiding

"After weeks of posturing and debate, the decision to expand Medicaid in Florida or accept $51 billion in federal health care money might rest with a moderate bloc of a dozen or so House Republicans."

And they're not saying a lot, least publicly.

While Senate Republicans appear willing to join Democrats in supporting a massive health care expansion, many House Republicans serving in moderate districts have yet to vocally embrace or reject federal assistance.

"Moderate House Republicans key to any state health care deal".

As the House laffs

"Taking on two of Tallahassee's most influential interest groups, the Florida Senate is advancing plans this spring to eliminate a pair of decades-old tax breaks for banks and insurance companies. One measure would repeal a tax deduction for international banking, which critics say has become a gaping loophole that does nothing to encourage investment in Florida and primarily benefits big, multistate banks such as Citigroup and Bank of America. The other would wipe out a tax credit for insurance companies and use the resulting revenue to reduce the car-registration fees paid by Florida drivers." "Big tax breaks for banks and insurance companies could be wiped out".

Florida's percentage of gun homicides has climbed

"While the murder rate in Florida has been falling, the percentage of homicides involving firearms has climbed." "Guns used in rising percentage of Florida murders".

FlaDems lack "nauseating" "cowards and pimps" like Rubio

Yesterday we linked to Carl Hiaasen's latest about Marco Rubio, Florida's international-empty-suit and GOP dream boy. However, we neglected to excerpt the following passage, which has received some national play. Here are Hiaasen's biting words:

Marco Rubio showed his true yellow colors last week, joining 45 other cowards to defeat Senate legislation designed to stop criminals from buying firearms online and at gun shows.

The vote was nauseating. So is Rubio. . . .

And when it came time to decide on Wednesday, with heartsick families of the murdered Newtown children watching from the Senate gallery, Rubio stood with the cowards and pimps for the gun-manufacturing lobby.

"Rubio comes up short on gun control".

In the meantime, the Tribune Company's Scott Powers echos FlaGOP talking points this morning: "Florida Democrats are short on statewide candidates".

Well, if Powers' version of a strong bench is one filled with "nauseating" "cowards and pimps" like Rubio, that may not be a bad thing for the FlaDems.

"We’re too far gone to be saved by new legislation"

Fred Grimm: "As the public found itself unable to take its eyes off their hand-held devices last week, the Florida Senate approved a bill that would ban texting while driving, though only as a so-called 'second offense.'"

In other words, if a policeman pulled you over for firing bursts from an assault weapon at the car in the next lane, and he noticed that you had also been texting your cousin “U want 2 go C movie?” he can add a $30 ticket to your rap sheet.

I’m afraid we’re too far gone to be saved by new legislation. Western Europe made it illegal back in the 1980s to talk on cell phones and drive, making for an easy transition to a texting ban. Only 10 states in the U.S., none of them called Florida, passed legislation against cell phone talking and driving. And now we can hardly get out of first gear without communicating, one way or another, through the phone.

The notion that a very tepid state law against texting might convince Florida drivers to lay down their iPhones seems almost fanciful. In 2011, a Centers for Disease Control survey found that 30 percent of American drivers admitted to texting while driving. I suspect a lie detector test might double the percentage.

"These days, the news comes fast and furious in our pockets".

"Slimmed-down tax-incentive toy box"

"Scott will get a slimmed-down tax-incentive toy box with tougher standards for evaluating the economic benefit of projects." "Scott to get fewer tax-incentive dollars, more qualifiers".

"Criminals and profiteers" exploit private contracts with school boards

"The fight over subsidized tutoring in the Florida Legislature has come down to a quiet confrontation set against an unlikely backdrop — a series of budget talks between the House and Senate."

As the session winds down, the fate of the controversial program is being haggled over in private because of a last-ditch effort to tie reforms to the state budget process.

On one side, the Florida House, backed by superintendents of the state’s largest school systems, wants to end mandated tutoring for poor students and give districts control over the money.

On the other, a Senate plan, backed by the for-profit tutoring industry, aims to keep tax dollars flowing to private contractors but also adds as-yet-undefined accountability measures.

Both sides met Saturday morning but have yet to reach a deal. The sticking point in the talks is whether school districts should have the option of hiring outside tutors for their most vulnerable students — or whether they should be required to. Subsidized tutoring, or supplemental educational services, came under scrutiny in Florida following a Tampa Bay Times investigation published in February. In a series of stories, the newspaper showed that criminals were earning tax dollars running tutoring businesses and lax regulation had allowed rampant overbilling in the $100 million program.

"Senate, House clash over controversial subsidized tutoring program".