Friday, April 05, 2013

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

"Scott worked himself into a full Cotton Mather lather"

Steve Bousquet: "Gov. Rick Scott raising big bucks at rapid rate".

Daniel Ruth: "It was just a few days ago that Gov. Rick Scott worked himself into a full Cotton Mather lather over proposals sliming their way through the Florida Legislature that would raise caps on campaign contributions in legislative campaigns from $500 to between $3,000 and $5,000 — depending, of course, on just how shamelessly money-grubbing our elected men and women of the people want to be seen."

Scott, who spent $75 million of his own money to buy the Governor's Mansion in 2010, was bereaved over the declasse infusion of unbridled money into the political process.
"No doubt the governor, decked out in a hairshirt and cradling Diogenes' lamp in search of an honest man, would have loved to issue his reproach of the Legislature's effort to turn itself into the Best Little Whorehouse in Tallahassee in person."
But alas, Scott himself has been a busy politician on the make, collecting an average of $50,000 a day, or $4.6 million in re-election campaign donations from deep-pocketed Republican sugar daddies.

Let's be clear. Scott cannot be bought for a measly $5,000. But he is available for a lend-lease deal if the check is at least six figures. The governor has his standards, you know.

You're probably thinking it is the height of hypocrisy for Scott to decry the Florida Legislature wanting to fatten its pockets while he is rolling over to have his ears scratched by a brown bag of prominent Republicans.

But this is Tallahassee, where scruples go to die a quick, painless death.

"Sugar daddy kisses for Scott".

Even Bill

"Florida Sen. Bill Nelson reversed his opposition to gay marriage on Thursday, joining a swell of moderate Democrats to do so recently as public support for gay marriage has grown." "Florida Sen. Bill Nelson says he sees it as a civil rights issue.". See also "Sen. Nelson says he now backs gay marriage" and "Nelson switches, now favors allowing gay marriage".

Carroll claims she had no idea

"Former Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll said Thursday she had no idea law enforcement was investigating a veterans charity accused of running illegal slot machine-style casinos until two agents walked into her office last month." "Investigation caught Lt. Gov. Carroll off guard".

Raw political courage

"Senate passes Internet cafe ban, sends bill to Gov. Rick Scott". See also "Say goodbye to Florida's 'strip-mall casinos'", "Internet sweepstakes cafe ban passes Senate, heads to Gov. Scott", "Florida Senate bans Internet cafes after scandal" and "Game over for senior arcades, as Gov. Scott to sign ban on slots-like parlors".

Background: "Policy Note: Internet Cafes".

Trigger madness

"The Florida House approved the controversial parent trigger proposal Thursday, setting the stage for a showdown in the Senate. If the story line sounds familiar, there's a reason: The bill, which would enable parents at low-performing schools to demand sweeping changes in how the school is run, won the support of the Republican-dominated House last year."

The parent trigger bill would let parents convert struggling traditional schools into charter schools, or even demand the school be closed.
"Parent trigger bill passed by House". See also "Parent trigger, charter reform pass House" and "Florida House bolsters charter school growth, over teacher, union objections".

But heaven forbid they pay a nickel more in taxes to pay for an overburdened, underfunded public education system.

Environment budget blues

"A Senate budget subcommittee has recommended $48.2 million for water projects while a House subcommittee still is reviewing $286 million in requests for projects. Among other budget issues, the Florida Forever land-buying program is a top priority for environmental groups. Other groups look for funding for Everglades restoration, petroleum tank cleanups, beach restoration and community water projects." "Policy Note: Environment Budget". Related: "'Water parade' in House follows vetoes of water projects in past 2 years".

Teabaggers in a dither

"More than 1.7 million Floridians will be eligible for a tax credit to help offset the cost of buying health insurance in 2014, according to a health care advocacy group." "1.7 million Floridians could get assistance to buy health insurance".

"Bills rise, bills fall"

Bill Cotterell: "Bills rise, bills fall as Legislature passes session midpoint".

"Legislators are doubling down on political cronyism"

Scott Maxwell: "Gimme the right to vote the bums out!"

Marijuana bills are stalled in the Florida Legislature

"While bills to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes -- sponsored by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, and Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation -- are stalled in the Florida Legislature, a new survey finds a majority of Americans for the first time in history favor marijuana legalization." "Marijuana Legalization Sparks Majority Support".

So much for local democracy

"The Florida Legislature voted Thursday to preempt local governments from enacting “living wage” laws and 'sick time' ordinances. HB 655 passed the Florida House in a 75-43 vote, largely along party lines. The bill is viewed as a direct challenge to Orange County , where residents gathered enough signatures to put a 'sick-time' measure on the ballot." "Legislature moves to slam down local 'living wage' laws". See also "House votes to block local sick-pay, wage protections".

"A broken promise and a crutch"

The Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial board: "Year after year, instead of allocating all trust-fund dollars toward their designated causes, lawmakers routinely sweep millions into Florida's general fund to be spent on other necessities."

That can mean desired road projects don't happen, and affordable apartment projects are shelved for lack of financing. It can also mean a lack of progress on anti-smoking efforts, because one frequent target of the legislative sweeps is the trust fund created (in 1999) with money from the tobacco settlement. Some of those proceeds are supposed to serve as a "perpetual source of enhanced funding for health maintenance and research programs related to tobacco use."

Trust-fund sweeps are a necessary evil during a budget crisis, when critically important services could otherwise be slashed. But when the strategy is used over and over, in good times and bad, it becomes a broken promise and a crutch.

"Trust fund distrust".

Castor to Cuba

"Rep. Kathy Castor arrives in Cuba for four-day trip".

"Lawmakers, in the face of feverish lobbying, bowed to pressure"

"Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, added an unexpected provision to her sweeping education accountability bill Thursday: a pitch to free Florida school districts from having to provide private tutoring services at low-income schools."

Under current law, Florida school districts must spend 15 percent of their federal funding for low-income students on private tutoring services.

Passidomo's proposal: let school systems spend those dollars on tutoring, or on other programs for low-income children instead.

"The sudden interest in subsidized tutoring follows a Tampa Bay Times investigation outlining serious problems with the $100 million government program."
Published in February, the newspaper's series revealed that a rapist, a child abuser and a fugitive were among those approved by Florida to head tutoring firms last school year. The stories showed that state regulators weren't tracking problem providers, which allowed criminals, cheaters and profiteers to cash in on tutoring at-risk kids.

The series also showed that state lawmakers, in the face of feverish lobbying, bowed last year to pressure from the tutoring industry, requiring school districts to continue paying for private tutoring despite an opportunity to do away with the troubled program for good.

"Troubled low-income tutoring program could see changes".