Wednesday, June 19, 2013

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

Scott "less unpopular", Rubio shines in Q poll

"Gov. Rick Scott is more popular, according to a new poll by Quinnipiac University, but 50 percent of voters say he doesn’t deserve to be re-elected and that he would lose handily to former Gov. Charlie Crist if the 2014 election were today."

Scott’s standing with the public has been so persistently grim that any improvement looks like a breakthrough. His approval rating cracked 40 percent for the first time in the latest poll — 43 percent of voters approve of his handling of his job, 44 percent disapprove.
"Gov. Rick Scott gains ground in new statewide poll, but still trails former Gov. Charlie Crist". See also "Poll shows higher approval ratings for Scott". See also "Poll shows higher approval ratings for Scott", "New poll shows Crist leading, Scott gaining" and "Poll: Scott getting less unpopular (video)". Kevin Derby points out that
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is at the center of a few current political dramas as he balances his prospects for a presidential run in 2016 with being the leading voice in Washington on immigration reform. A poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University finds voters in Florida don’t think much of Rubio’s role on immigration reform or gun control, but still give him high marks for his two and a half years in the Senate.
"Marco Rubio Gets High Marks in Florida Despite Immigration and Guns".

Florida exec fights for "Walmart loophole"

"A California bill that would fine large companies whose employees rely on Medicaid has Darden Restaurants so worried that the company's chief executive officer recently visited state lawmakers to lobby against it."

The Orlando-based owner of Olive Garden and Red Lobster confirmed Clarence Otis went to Sacramento last month to weigh in on the union-backed bill (AB 880). A spokesman for the bill's sponsor, Assembly member Jimmy Gomez, said lawmakers expect to vote on the measure this week. . . .

Drafters of the bill say they wrote it to combat what's often referred to as the "Walmart loophole."

"Darden CEO lobbies against California Medicaid fines".

Garcia vulnerable?

"A poll conducted for Republican Carlos Curbelo suggests Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia’s popularity has been hurt by his campaigns involvement in a fraudulent absentee-ballot request scheme." "Poll: Absentee-ballot scandal makes Miami Congressman Joe Garcia vulnerable in potential matchup".

Punishing dissenters

"Latest Rules Draft Makes It Harder for House Democrats to Punish Dissenters".

Hill smokes both "Jeb!" and Rubio in Florida Q Poll

So much for Florida's "favorite sons":

And in a way-too-early comparison of potential presidential candidates in 2016, the poll found Democratic former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leading both Rubio (53 percent to 41 percent) and former Gov. Jeb Bush (50 percent to 43 percent), while Vice President Joe Biden is trailing Bush (43-47 percent) and Rubio (43-45 percent) although both findings are within the margin for error.
"Poll: Florida voters don't approve of Rubio on immigration; Clinton leads him in 2016" ("The school surveyed 1,176 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.") See also "Hillary Clinton Beats Out Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in New Q-Poll of Florida".

Never mind those school grades

"State board calls for review of school grades". See also "Board to study how schools are graded" and "State School Board Will Get Task-Force Help on School Grading Standards".

Yee haw!

"More guns seized at OIA than other Florida airports".

"Gobs of attention for Nan Rich"

"Weeks of not-so-subtle taunting by Republicans about the lineup of speakers at the Democrats' annual fundraiser didn't change the group on the dias one jot this past weekend. But it did generate gobs of attention for Nan Rich, the former state senator who has been running hard with little traction to be the Democratic candidate for governor next year." "Brushoff pays off".

Same old Republican Party of Florida song

Fred Grimm:

Our governor was deeply offended by a burst of unkind aspersions after an insurance company that didn’t exist 11 months ago finagled a $52 million deal out of the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Company.

Heritage Property and Casualty Insurance landed the very sweet package — all that money to take over 60,000 windstorm policies from Citizens — just two months after contributing $110,000 to Gov. Rick Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work” political action committee in March. And after Heritage (an odd name for a company with a heritage dating back to last August) contributed $30,000 to the state Republican party.

Reporters wondered whether hefty political contributions might have greased the suspect transaction. (So suspect that Senate President Don Gaetz has announced a Senate investigation.)

The governor’s spokesperson retorted that “any assertion that our office influenced the Heritage risk transfer decision by the Citizens Board is outrageous.”

Then why, one wonders, the contributions? What was this fledgling company buying with its $140,000? It’s the wormy question hanging over Florida’s stampede to privatize state functions.

Private for-profit companies, while getting rich off the taxpayers, taking over state prisons, probation services, public toll roads, prison health services, online education, pieces of the state park system, school tutoring and windstorm insurance, are simultaneously enriching their benefactors’ re-election committees.

Or they’re hiring the state’s most powerful influence peddlers. In February, Citizens similarly paid Weston Insurance $63 million to take over 30,000 policies — after Weston spent $250,000 on Tallahassee lobbyists. When Sunshine State Health Plans wanted a piece of the action as Florida moved Medicaid clients into privately managed health care plans, the company hired Dean Cannon, last year’s speaker of the House.

The well-lobbied 2013 Legislature voted to funnel more public money to private, for-profit, online education operations — despite unsettling revelations about their class sizes and teacher qualifications — while reducing funding for the state-run Florida Virtual Schools. Without evidence that private companies would do any better job teaching students. Or that taxpayers would be getting more for their money.

All that influence money flowing into Tallahassee, even as state politicians turn over state assets and state funds to private outfits, keeps raising the same nagging question: Is it about us, about the public’s best interest? Or is it all about the money?

"Rush to privatize is all about bucks". This is of course an old Florida Republican song, as Paul Krugman explained a few years ago:
Jeb Bush has already blazed the trail. Florida's governor [was] an aggressive privatizer, and as The Miami Herald put it after a careful study of state records, ''his bold experiment has been a success -- at least for him and the Republican Party, records show. The policy has spawned a network of contractors who have given him, other Republican politicians and the Florida G.O.P. millions of dollars in campaign donations.''

What's interesting about this network of contractors isn't just the way that big contributions are linked to big contracts; it's the end of the traditional practice in which businesses hedge their bets by giving to both parties. The big winners in Mr. Bush's Florida are companies that give little or nothing to Democrats. Strange, isn't it? It's as if firms seeking business with the state of Florida are subject to a loyalty test.

So am I saying that we are going back to the days of Boss Tweed and Mark Hanna? Gosh, no -- those guys were pikers. One-party control of today's government offers opportunities to reward friends and punish enemies that the old machine politicians never dreamed of.

"Victors and Spoils".

Sink speaks

"Stop this bad Citizens insurance deal".

"Localities offer millions in tax breaks" corporate welfare

"Amazon officials won’t disclose the role tax incentives play in deciding where to expand, or even if they request them. But if there was ever a case in which a company didn’t need an incentive to come to Florida, it might just be Amazon." "Amazon doesn’t need tax incentives, but localities offer millions in tax breaks".

PSC challengers

"PSC Incumbents Draw 22 Challengers". See also "At least 24 apply for 2 PSC seats, including commissioners Brisé and Graham".

"Voters don't approve of Rubio immigration stance"

"Poll: Voters don't approve of Rubio immigration stance". See also "Poll: Rubio gets negative marks on immigration".

"Dysfunctional Dems"

Scott Maxwell: "Florida Democrats are a titillated bunch these days. They have far more registered voters than Republicans. The GOP governor is weak. What they don't have is a candidate."

Actually, that's not true. They have one; a respected former state senator. They just don't like her. So they shunned her at their big convention last weekend so they could court a guy who might be their candidate … a guy who spent most of his career touting the virtues of being a "Reagan Republican."
"Welcome to the party that never stops … being dysfunctional: The Florida Democratic Party."
Allow me to provide a reality check: The "Anybody-but-Rick" game plan is a loser. . . .

[And] Crist is little more than a Labrador puppy who wags his tail at whomever he thinks has a treat.

"Dysfunctional Dems need more than hatred for Rick Scott".