Monday, May 06, 2013

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

Session featured "special-interest successes"

"Special-interest successes mark legislative session".

"Scott leaves out the details"

"PolitiFact Florida: Rick Scott leaves out the details on teacher pay raises".

Florida's "excessive and faulty use" of death penalty

The Tampa Bay Times editor: "In Florida and other death penalty states, it can take years and even decades for evidence of a prisoner's innocence to come out. Yet the Timely Justice Act passed by the Florida Legislature would speed the execution process with arbitrary and rigid time limits and reduce the governor's discretion in choosing which death warrants to sign, making it more likely that the state will execute an innocent person. Gov. Rick Scott should veto the bill so that Florida is not even more likely to make a fatal error."

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach and the sponsor of HB 7083, claims Florida's death penalty process is too slow and blames "legal gamesmanship and legal quibbling." Yet the state's system is nearly two years faster than the national average. Florida inmates are on death row an average of 13 years before they are executed; the national average is 14.83 years.

In fact, Florida fares far worse in its excessive and faulty use of the ultimate punishment. This state sentences more people to death than any other state and has the highest number of exonerations. That's because Florida doesn't require juries to unanimously recommend a death sentence or the aggravating factors that justify it, as other states do. While judges impose the final sentence, they almost always follow the jury's recommendation. An effort to require juror unanimity for death sentences failed again this session, and even an attempt to amend the legislation to require a supermajority jury vote of at least 10-2 failed.

"Swift is not sure on death penalty ".

Meanwhile, "Former death row inmate urges governor to reject Timely Justice bill".

Scott's "victory tour"

"Gov. Rick Scott in West Palm Beach today; part of teacher pay raise ‘victory tour’".

Only the losers

"Bill Me Later? Top Legislative Losses of the Florida 2013 Session".

The feminist card

Nancy Smith plays the feminist card: "Disgraceful Final Act of Bully Boy and Girl, Jack Latvala and Eleanor Sobel".

Where the crazy bills go to die

"Despite the influx of new members, the Florida Senate remains where conservative bills go to die." "2013 Session: Was Republican Domination in Tallahassee Wasted Again?".

Florida, like Texas, where safety regulations don't get in the way of employer "freedom"

The Tampa Trib editors think it is a grand idea that Ricky Scott, playing in the same sandbox as his friend Ricky Perry, "wrote letters to business leaders in Illinois and California, urging them to get a 'one-way ticket' to Florida." "Scott’s ticket offer worth attention".

Florida, like Texas, offers a regulation-lite business environment where employers are free to treat their employees like so much trash.

Indeed, a number of years ago Florida had its own version of the West Texas disaster.

The (then) St Petersburg Times editors wrote that "It took a big explosion and workers dying [in Daytona Beach] to get everyone's attention, but a state task force now says that Florida's experiment with voluntary safety and health standards for public employees is insufficient. The state needs to return to the days when state law protected worker safety."

In 1999, a Republican-led Legislature decided to release state and local governments from a legal regime of safety and health requirements for their workers. Dozens of worker safety compliance positions were eliminated as part of a larger reorganization that reflected the deregulatory spirit pervading Tallahassee.

In place of state law, then-Gov. Jeb Bush issued an executive order directing state agencies "to voluntarily comply" with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act's standards, and leaving cities and counties to decide for themselves what they needed to do. But no state resources were devoted to ensuring compliance or guiding safety efforts. The move was a wink and a nod toward protecting employees, and little more.

Then in 2006 a tragic explosion of methanol occurred at a wastewater treatment plant in Daytona Beach. Maintenance workers were using a cutting torch on a roof above a highly flammable methanol storage tank. Escaped vapors ignited, and the explosion and fire resulted in two deaths and one critical injury.

A federal investigation board issued a report in 2007 finding serious deficiencies with workplace safety practices at the plant. Well-known hazards associated with methanol had not been communicated to workers, and there were inadequate controls in place for "hot work" there.

In addition, the board found 33 more "chemical incidents" at Florida public facilities in the previous five years. "All of these incidents involved chemicals that would normally be included in an OSHA compliant hazard communications program," the report stated.

"Put state back to work on job safety". More: "Jeb Bush has Blood on His Hands" and "Protections for Florida's city workers are 'unacceptable,' federal agency says" ("the U.S. Chemical Safety Board . . . took the rare step of classifying Florida's response as 'unacceptable' — the first time it has ever branded an entire state and its Legislature with that designation.")

Of course, nothing has been done to improve worker safety. Florida, like Texas, remains at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to regulations protecting workers. And this passes for "job creation"?