Saturday, August 10, 2013

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

Bill Weatherford's "mystery job"

Carl Hiaasen writes about how Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford is "struggling to answer a simple question that has bedeviled many politicians: What exactly do you do for a living?"

In Weatherford’s case, the answers are riddles within riddles.

During his six years in the Legislature, the young Wesley Chapel Republican has filed reports stating his major source of his personal income as a company called Breckenridge Enterprises. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Breckenridge hasn’t been registered in the state of Florida since 2007.

When the newspaper recently asked about the speaker’s role with Breckenridge, he said he isn’t actually employed by that firm. The company he really works for is a Texas construction outfit called Diamond K Corp., he said, for which Breckenridge handles the payroll duties.

Except it doesn’t use the name Diamond K in Florida. Here it goes by T. King Construction, Inc.

Got all that?

"Being speaker of the House is a big-time gig. but it pays a relatively modest $41,000 a year. Still, House speakers typically get richer in that job because they’re offered well-paying outside positions with clout-seeking companies or universities where they seldom have to show up."
By the time Marco Rubio finished his profitable tenure as House speaker, he was pulling down more than $400,000 a year. He definitely wasn’t putting in 40-hour weeks with all the folks who were paying him, or he would have had no time to run the House. Rubio’s successor, Ray Sansom , didn’t fare so well. Sansom quit as speaker in 2009 after it was revealed that he’d helped steer $25 million in questionable funding to Northwest Florida State College, which was paying him a $110,000 salary for . . . well, something.

Weatherford, one of the rising stars in the state GOP, clearly needs emergency assistance in polishing his financial disclosure forms.

The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting recently revealed that the speaker is a founding member and ex-director of a Texas firm that has received $826,676 from Citizens Property Insurance, Florida’s beleaguered state-run insurance company.

Much more here: "Florida speaker’s mystery job".

"The Republican pastor has no choice"

"Bill Gunter, the Presbyterian minister running to fill the House seat vacated by Mike Fasano last week, is looking for a new home. The Republican pastor has no choice if he wants to continue his candidacy. Gunter lives outside House District 36, the seat vacated when Fasano became Pasco's tax collector Wednesday, and election rules mandate that candidates live in the district they represent." "Candidate for vacated House seat must move to run".

Weak FlaGOP bench

The best the GOPers can do? "Freshman Rep. Joe Saunders, D-Orlando, drew an opponent this week in Edward Nelson Rodriguez, a retired law enforcement officer who has been active in business and with the Orange County GOP. . . . Despite a failed bid for the Orange County Soil and Water Board in 2010, Rodriguez told Sunshine State News he was looking forward to hitting the campaign trail as he runs for the Florida House." "Joe Saunders Draws a Republican Opponent in Orange County".

Here's another one: "Second GOP Challenger Guns for Linda Stewart's Orlando Seat".

"Fouling fishing grounds and making water unsafe for human contact"

"Lake Okeechobee's rising water level is expected to hit 16 feet Thursday, continuing to climb despite the deluge of lake water getting dumped out to sea for South Florida flood control. . . . While those lake discharges help avoid flooding in South Florida, they are having damaging environmental consequences on coastal waterways — fouling fishing grounds and in some areas making water unsafe for human contact." "Lake Okeechobee rising as drainage problems grow".

Rubio's "juvenile delinquency"

Daniel Ruth: "Two of the leading voices on repealing the Affordable Care Act are Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Never mind that the two men have been collecting a public paycheck in one form or another for virtually their entire adult lives. Yet they are threatening to shut the government down unless Obamacare is defunded, an idea many other Republicans, who haven't sipped from the tea of spite, regard as naively loopy."

The reckless scheme to fiddle with the fiscal security of the United States by Rubio and Cruz and their pals is irresponsible.

Most of the nation's Republican governors, even those who adamantly oppose Obamacare, have cautioned Rubio, Cruz and the Gang of Kaztenjammers that shutting down the federal government would have a catastrophic impact on their state economies.

But Rubio and Cruz have never had to manage a business or a bureaucracy. Threatening to shut down the country because you didn't get your way is not statesmanship. It's juvenile delinquency.

"Summertime, and the posturing is easy".

It is hard to believe that this "juvenile" is a "possible 2016 presidential candidate".

However, as Alex Leary explains, when Rubio "helped write the Senate's immigration reform bill [he] got scorched by conservatives, not just for working on the legislation but for working with Democrats." So, after dipping his toes into the swimming pool of adulthood, Rubio is reverting to form, and

is now helping lead the government shutdown threat, a move popular among the tea party groups he turned off on immigration but deemed reckless by mainstream Republicans.
Even hard core GOPers see the folly in Rubio's race-to-the-bottom:
"When do you realize that your stupidity is getting in the way of conservatives winning national elections?" Republican commentator Joe Scarborough said on MSNBC last week, referring generally to the hard-liners Rubio was eager to align himself with. "You've lost a popular vote five out of six times in presidential races. Do you want to lose the next five or six? Do you really want Hillary Clinton to be president for the next eight years?"
"GOP seeks a focus".

Some call it treason

"Florida's largest companies are holding at least $9.4 billion in foreign profits, shielding the earnings from U.S. income taxes, according to an Orlando Sentinel review of financial statements." "Florida companies stash billions abroad to avoid taxes". See also "Florida's biggest corporate holders of offshore profits".

"Pollution killing Everglades"

"Pollution is killing Everglades, Miccosukee warn".

"Jeb!" defends his scandal ridden schemes before private school crowd

"In the wake of a growing school-grade scandal that led to the resignation of former Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett, [Jeb] Bush defended the standardized test-based school accountability movement he helped launched as Florida governor. Bush spoke on Friday to the American Legislative Exchange Council conference in Chicago on the importance of setting standards for student performance." "Jeb talks education at ALEC conference".

ALEC is a great forum for Jebbie. After all, it is all about "promoting voucher programs that drain public schools of resources by using taxpayer dollars to subsidize private school profits, and specifying that those schools must remain unregulated." "ALEC at 40".

Rick Scott claims credit for merely "being there"

Aaron Deslatte: "The University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research reported this week that the state's population grew by 184,000 people last year, or roughly 500 a day. That means the economy will continue to grow – not with a sonic boom, but slow and steady." "Florida's economy may redeem Scott's awful summer".

Much like the protagonist in Jerzy Kosinski's allegorical tale, "Being There", Rick Scott passes through life, being credited for things he has little to do with.

However, "state sales-tax estimates are being revised downward by one-quarter of 1 percent starting this summer due to the sequester, which took effect last March."

Overall, the economists' projections for the coming year are down from the 7.2-percent growth in tax collections during the fiscal year that just ended June 30. In all, the state collected $25.3 billion, mostly from taxes on sales, corporate income, insurance premiums and real estate sales.
"Higher projected state tax revenues signal a sustained recovery". See also "State economists predict steady growth in Florida".

A very wealthy man

"Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Friday turned over additional details on his personal fortune in order to make sure he is complying with a new state law."

The multi-millionaire governor turned in to the state's ethics commission a list of nearly $74 million assets he placed in a blind trust more than two years ago.

It shows, for example, Scott transferred into the trust $1.42 million in shares he owned in a social networking company that came under fire from some conservatives because it had partnered with Playboy magazine in Mexico.

Scott established the trust to remove direct control over his finances and avoid questions of conflicts of interest. But when he set it up, he was not required to disclose what his money was invested in.

A new sweeping ethics law passed this year by the Florida Legislature says that public officials who set up blind trusts now must disclose the initial assets placed in the account.

Scott is not bound by the new law since the Florida Commission on Ethics had previously approved his blind trust. But Scott's general counsel said the governor is turning over the information now in “abundance of caution.” Scott is also requesting the commission to confirm that he is compliance with the new law.

But the filing makes it clear that there are no plans to divulge what assets are held by the trust currently and whether there have been any changes in the last two years. The trust is managed by a New York firm that includes two of his former business associates.

"Fla. Gov. releases details on his personal assets". See also "Scott releases details of assets".

Sheriffs like SYG

"Florida Sheriffs: Keep 'Stand Your Ground' as Written".

A Florida story

"Mommy blogger who wrote viral ‘Walmart pink headband’ post Baker Acted in Central Florida".