Thursday, July 25, 2013

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

Congressman Garcia's challenger asks Rick Scott to step in

"The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office engaged in a war of words Wednesday with congressional candidate and Cutler Bay Mayor Ed MacDougall, who called for a special prosecutor to take over a high-profile absentee ballot investigation."

MacDougall, a Republican, intends to challenge Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia, whose campaign has been at the center of the investigation into hundreds of fraudulent absentee-ballot requests submitted online for last August’s primary election.

Garcia fired his former chief of staff, Jeffrey Garcia, no relation, on May 31 after Jeffrey Garcia told the congressman that he had directed the campaign to submit some of the phantom requests. Florida elections law prohibits anyone other than voters or their immediate family members from requesting absentee ballots.

"Joe Garcia has denied any involvement in the scheme, and prosecutors have said they have no evidence to the contrary."
In a letter Wednesday, MacDougall asked Republican Gov. Rick Scott to step in, accusing Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle, a Democrat, of taking too long in her probe. MacDougall also unveiled a website,, to collect petitions urging the governor to take action, and said he plans a round of robocalls to congressional district voters to steer them to the site.
"Congressional candidate, Miami-Dade prosecutors spar over absentee-ballot probe".

"Florida's shameful practice of warehousing disabled children"

The Tampa Trib editors: "The federal government took the only recourse available by finally asking the courts to end Florida's shameful practice of warehousing disabled children in nursing homes. For two years, Gov. Rick Scott's administration has made clear that it had no intention of changing course on a policy that punishes children with complex medical needs and keeps them from their homes, families and communities. If Florida won't comply with the antidiscrimination laws, then it falls to the federal government and the courts." "Fed must save children from state apathy".

Tax breaks . . . for reinsurers

"Scott, business groups speak out against eliminating tax break for reinsurers".

Drake wants back

"After stepping aside for House Speaker Pro Tempore Marti Coley, R-Marianna, in 2012, former Rep. Brad Drake is looking to return to the Florida House to represent all of Holmes, Jackson, Walton and Washington counties and parts of Bay County." "Brad Drake: I Want Back in the Florida House".

You live, where?

"Residency of All Legislators Under Review".

Blame game

"State officials are sounding the alarm that federal budget cuts have depleted the line of defense against powerful storms just when Florida faces the busiest part of hurricane season." "Disaster readiness may be at risk, Florida warns".

Feds renew efforts to persuade lawmakers to call a special session om Medicaid expansion

"Saying it’s not too late for Florida to accept billions of dollars in federal funding for Medicaid expansion, federal officials renewed efforts Wednesday to persuade lawmakers to call a special session to reconsider." "Feds to Florida: Not too late for Medicaid expansion". See also "President Obama, You Were Economically Profiled".

Rubio stands with teabaggers

"Can Sen. Marco Rubio recover with tea party? 'Absolutely,' leader says".

"Facts are not likely to change the rhetoric"

"As the president goes to Jacksonville to focus on building middle class jobs, the GOP takes aim in battle over who gets credit for an improving state economy."

But economists say that while Obama and Scott have played a role in the economic recovery, it is the Federal Reserve that deserves most of the credit. The federal monetary policy that has kept interests rates low has revved up Florida’s stagnant housing market, provided a lift to the construction industry and helped to reduce unemployment, said two promiment state economists.

Consumers are more optimistic in Florida than they have been since the onset of the recession, said Chris McCarty, an economist at the University of Florida, and the reason is primarily the rise in housing prices. But can Scott or Obama take credit for the uptick in housing prices?

“Most people would argue the answer is no,’’ he said. “Credit Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve.”

“The dramatic stance of monetary policy, with interest rates cut to zero and $1 trillion in mortgage backed securities backed by the feds, have certainly played a role,’’ said Sean Snaith, an economist with the University of Central Florida. The governor can claim credit, but he doesn’t have the tools that the Federal Reserve has at its disposal, he said, and even the president’s influence is muted.

Those facts are not likely to change the rhetoric in the coming election year, however, as skirmishes over who gets credit or blame for the pocketbook pressures of average Americans make up the campaign narrative.

"President’s speech in Jacksonville underscores battle over economy". Related: "UCF report says state economy to grow faster but won't take off".

Meanwhile, "Republicans Welcome Obama to Jacksonville With Jeers and Jabs".

"Democratic Battleground Emerges"

"With Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Pembroke Park, facing term limits in 2014, three Democratic candidates are already running hard to replace him in the Florida House. Gibbons, who is now running for the Broward County Commission, represents parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties." "Democratic Battleground Emerges for South Florida Open House Seat".

Protestors still at Capitol

"Protesters at Florida Capitol: ‘We stay until we win’". Related: "Dream Defenders file paperwork to solicit contributions".

"Orlando-to-Miami train project rolling"

"A deal that would get an Orlando-to-Miami train project rolling is close but has been delayed because of minor details that need to be worked out, negotiators said Wednesday."

The agreement calls for the Orlando Orange County Expressway Authority to buy $12 million worth of land from Deseret Ranch along the BeachLine Expressway. The right of way would be used to lay tracks for All Aboard Florida, a $1.5 billion passenger train linking Orlando International Airport with South Florida.
"Deal for Orlando-to-Miami train delayed but almost done".

"End of a lengthy and often turbulent ride"

"Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones’ bid to run for a third term was denied by the Third District Court of Appeal Wednesday, when it ruled that despite a lengthy suspension the commissioner had already been elected and qualified to run for two full terms."

The decision means the end of a lengthy and often turbulent ride for Spence-Jones in Miami’s District 5, where the commissioner was elected three times in four years — once while under suspension from the governor — and successfully fought a pair of felony charges brought by the state.
"Appeals court shoots bid by Miami’s Spence-Jones to seek third term".