Saturday, April 06, 2013

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

"Rubio has one of the most conservative voting records"

"Sen. Marco Rubio's skittishness on immigration reform in recent days is calculated to send a resounding message to conservatives: I've got your back."

Rubio has built one of the most conservative voting records in Washington, but largely due to the positive arc of his story as the son of Cuban immigrants, and his youthful image, he has managed to avoid being cast as an ideologue.
"Rubio has worked to keep up his conservative credentials."
• Last month, he joined a handful of Republicans, including new tea party darling Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, in a threatened filibuster of any gun control legislation moving through the Senate following the mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Rubio opposes even expanded background checks for gun buyers — a measure more than 90 percent of Americans support.

• When tea party Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky went on a marathon filibuster against the Obama administration over use of drones, Rubio made his way to the Senate floor to stand with him — a move that lit up conservative websites and social media. (Rubio doesn't share Paul's worry over drones, but Obama bashing is always good GOP politics.)

• In February, Rubio was one of 22 Republicans to vote against the Violence Against Women Act, even though it contained human trafficking provisions he worked on.

• In January, he was one of only eight Republicans to vote against a deal to avert the "fiscal cliff" that preserved tax cuts for the middle class while raising them on the wealthy.

Rubio's score last year with the Club for Growth made him the seventh-most conservative member of the Senate. He scored even better — fourth — with Heritage Action.

"Marco Rubio's balancing act: Image vs. roots".

"Rubio should join Nelson"

The Tampa Bay Times editors:"Florida U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson's remarkable announcement this week that his beliefs have evolved to embrace the cause of gay marriage is a welcome one. Now Florida's junior senator, Marco Rubio, should join Nelson and a growing number of Democratic and Republican senators who recognize that equal protection under the U.S. Constitution includes all Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation." "On gay marriage, Rubio should follow Nelson".

Week in Review

"his week we learned how the Senate and House want to divvy up the state budget, that Internet cafes have almost no friends in the Legislature, and that at least one Senate committee was willing to endorse a domestic partnership bill." "The Week in Review for April 5".

The dreaded "private sector solution"

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "The legislative session is half over, and lawmakers have yet to decide if and how they will expand health care to uninsured Floridians of modest means under the Affordable Care Act. All that is at stake is health care for roughly a million low-income Floridians and more than $50 billion in federal money. House Speaker Will Weatherford and his Republican colleagues who are so rigidly opposed to expanding Medicaid have a moral and financial obligation to find an alternative that is at least as responsible." "No time to wait for Medicaid, or alternative". Meanwhile, Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, "is trying to come up with a private sector solution to provide health care for the uninsured that the governor and House will accept." "Gaetz, trying to bridge the gap".

Runnin' gub'ment like a bidness

"Federal health officials say Florida owes millions in Medicaid overpayments, according to a report released Friday." "Feds: Fla. owes millions in Medicaid overpayments".

Never mind

"Leaders at the state's Department of Elder Affairs circumvented hiring procedures and appointed an attorney with a criminal history at the urging of Gov. Rick Scott's then-chief of staff, according to a whistle-blower lawsuit filed in Leon County court."

Attorney Donald Bell was hired for the $98,000-a-year top-level post despite a drug conviction and two arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol, the lawsuit alleges. He was recommended by former Scott chief of staff Steve MacNamara, emails show.

The lawsuit, filed by former human resources employee Frances Brooks, says Elder Affairs secretary Charles Corley passed over other applicants and allowed Bell to skip key background screenings, shielding his record from other employees while bypassing safeguards to protect elderly people served by the agency.

"Lawsuit: Florida agency hid background check for political insider".

Internet cafe blues

"Internet cafe customers brace for gambling shutdown". See also "Fla. Gov. has 1 week to sign ban on gaming centers".

Garcia, Murphy rake in cash

"With a whopping $550,000 hauled in during his first three months in office, Miami-Dade Democrat U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia signaled he's a top freshmen fundraiser in Congress. And the money, a campaign's lifeblood, sends a message to Republicans: He won't be easy to beat in 2014. Garcia's self-reported fundraising totals rival that of fellow Democratic freshman Patrick Murphy, of Jupiter, who also said he raised $550,000. But Murphy's far more vulnerable." "U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia's fundraising haul sends GOP a message".

Black caucus, labor, NAACP fight for Medicaid expansion

"Members of the Legislative Black Caucus teamed up with the NAACP and organized labor leaders Friday to begin a late campaign for expansion of Florida's Medicaid program, hoping to extend coverage to about 1.2 million poor people." "Black caucus, labor, NAACP join Medicaid push".

Scott's tax cuts not yet reality

"After battling with the Legislature over tax cuts each of his first two years, Gov. Rick Scott has adjusted his sights in hopes of returning tax dollars to industries he cherishes as job creators. Instead, he’s got another battle on his hands." "Scott's tax cuts on table, but as leverage, not yet reality".

Chamber dogs roll in their feces

"In a move inspired by Orange County's fight last year over paid sick-time, the Florida House voted mostly along party lines Thursday to block local governments from adopting their own stronger worker wage and sick-leave protections. The House bill, HB 655 which passed 75-43, would render moot a potential 2014 vote in Orange County over whether to require that many businesses offer paid sick-leave to workers. It would also nullify 'living wage' laws on the books for a decade in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, and more recently in Orlando and Gainesville, which majority Republicans said was necessary to provide "certainty" to businesses." "House votes to block local sick-pay, wage protections".

"Disagreements could boil over"

Aaron Deslatte: "Put 160 elected officeholders representing vastly different constituencies, with different, often-conflicting ambitions, into the pressure cooker of a 60-day session, and tempers and egos are bound to overheat."

House Speaker Will Weatherford was mad this week that Democrats locked down against the $74.4-billion state budget over its omission of any Medicaid expansion. . . .

The decision leaves Republicans without as much political cover for a spending plan that substantially grows government and funds many of the items that Democrats have used as grounds to vote against budgets in recent years -- pay raises for teachers, state employees, and increased social safety-net spending. . . .

Gov. Rick Scott, who made national buzz by endorsing the Medicaid expansion before session, has been silent on the issue since – and his office hasn't been working with lawmakers on it. Across the Capitol Rotunda, Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, expressed his own disappointment that Democrats had voted in lock-step there against an election-reform bill in committee because it allows – but doesn't guarantee -- 14 days of early voting. . . .

Gaetz said it still seemed there was more cooperation this session. But disagreements could boil over depending on how the GOP leadership decides to pursue health-care expansion.

"At midpoint of session, political divides are emerging".

Will Rubio "cave the most conservative wing of his party?"

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Momentum keeps building for significant immigration reform. Business and labor groups have agreed on the outlines of a new visa program for guest workers in low-skill jobs, and a bipartisan group of senators is days away from introducing legislation to fill in the details on a comprehensive overhaul. Soon Floridians will see whether Republican Sen. Marco Rubio will continue to help build a consensus for compromise on immigration or cave under pressure from the most conservative wing of his party." "Rubio's moment on immigration reform".

Charlie's pot games

Dara Kam: "Trial lawyer John Morgan, one of President Barack Obama’s top Florida fundraisers, has thrown his clout behind a medical marijuana initiative whose proponents have struggled for more than three years to get the question before Florida voters."

Morgan recently pledged to raise money — and plug in his own, if necessary — to get a measure on the 2014 ballot that would make Florida the 19th state to legalize the growing and purchase of marijuana for medical purposes.

Morgan also happens to be the boss of Charlie Crist, whose name might be alongside the pot measure as the Democratic nominee for governor.

Some "say the medical marijuana initiative could help draw voters to the polls who would more likely support Crist or another Democratic candidate than Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican incumbent who is seeking re-election."
The proposal would allow patients with certain illnesses, such as cancer or glaucoma, to grow or buy marijuana if they have a doctor’s prescription.

A Jan. 30-Feb. 4 survey conducted by Democratic pollster David Beattie’s Hamilton Campaigns found that 73 percent of Floridians support the medical marijuana initiative.

The poll also showed majority support across party, race and demographic lines, but where it forecast a potential advantage for Democrats was in those voters most likely to support the measure: white women, English-speaking Hispanics and blacks.

Black voters, who overwhelmingly support Democrats, typically are less likely to show up at the polls in a midterm election, but having an issue like medical marijuana on the ballot might help attract them to the polls in 2014, Beattie said.

Beattie also said the initiative could have a broader impact than just voter turnout.

“There will probably become a debate on should it be legal or not. That is an issue that could make a difference in a campaign, particularly if it became a debate in the governor’s race. It would have an impact on how people see the race and the bigger implication of the race,” he said.

"Could Crist employer’s medical marijuana initiative help Crist candidacy?".

When they say "Owlcatraz", they mean it

"Florida Atlantic University students who participated in a March 22 protest against the school’s agreement with the private prison company Geo Group were summoned Friday to meet with a top school official investigating possible misconduct on their parts, but one of the students said afterward she believed no charges would be filed against them." "FAU summons 7 ‘Stop Owlcatraz’ protesters to dean’s office".

"One of the quickest ways to start a passionate argument"

Joe Henderson: "One of the quickest ways to start a passionate argument is to suggest normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba." "No easy answers on Cuba".

"Scott has earned an F in office"

Stephen Goldstein: "Florida's infrastructure rates D's for conditions that range from neglect to disrepair, bordering on crumbling and dangerous. If the state were a condo, it would flunk inspections."

Big bills are coming due in a state where elected officials refuse to raise taxes and citizens kid themselves that there is a free lunch. When Rick Scott campaigned for governor, he repeated, "Let's get to work" ad nauseam.

Repairing our infrastructure could have created thousands of jobs during the recent downturn in the economy. But because that's what President Obama has been saying — and wanting to fund — of course, Gov. Scott has rejected the idea. He's earned an F in office.

Anyone considering running for governor in 2014 should use repairing and enhancing Florida's infrastructure as a major economic development strategy and campaign pledge.

In four years, when Scott's anomalous governorship has long been consigned to the sinkhole of history, perhaps we will have improved by at least a letter grade on the next infrastructure report card.

"State infrastructure on failing course".

"More complicated than simple favoritism towards Deloitte"

"A Department of Children and Families senior manager awarded a multimillion dollar contract to track Medicaid eligibility to the behemoth auditing and financial consulting firm Deloitte, against the official recommendation of the negotiating team, even though the competing bid was $5 million less. The circumstances surrounding the decision, however, are more complicated than simple favoritism towards Deloitte." "Against official recommendation, DCF swaps vendors for Medicaid contract worth millions".

Crist ditches St. Joe Co., cross dresses as a Dem

Doing his best to at least dress up like a Democrat, "Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist will step down as a director of the St. Joe Co., a Panhandle-based real estate development and timber company. One of Florida's largest private land owners, St. Joe historically has long been considered a politically well-connected corporation in Tallahassee." "Former Gov. Charlie Crist to step down from St. Joe Co. board".