Saturday, August 31, 2013

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

"Florida deserves better" than Rick Scott

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Fourteen months from the next election, Gov. Rick Scott's sales pitch is clear. He portrays himself as the education governor, the defender of the environment and the advocate for open records. He's the jobs governor, and he has empathy for Floridians without health coverage. Don't be fooled by the packaging. It's a facade that hides reality, and Florida deserves better."


Scott organized a three-day summit last week to tackle controversies over the coming Common Core State Standards and the discredited school accountability system now in place. He promotes the $1 billion in new money public schools received this year and his effort to give teachers raises.

The reality is Scott failed to show up at his own summit to listen to the concerns of school superintendents and others. Instead he ate dinner privately with former Gov. Jeb Bush . . . .

And then there's the "Environment":
The governor staged another media show last week to promote a worthy project to improve water flow into Everglades National Park. That is a drop in the bucket compared to the damage he has done to the environment.
How about Scott's reocrd on "jobs"?
Scott inaccurately claims he is more than halfway toward meeting his pledge of creating 700,000 jobs, and he keeps cranking out the news releases. Last week: 100 jobs at Boeing in Miami; 105 new air cargo jobs in Orlando; 200 jobs at technology company Citrix in Fort Lauderdale. The week before that: 40 jobs at the moving and storage company PODS in Clearwater.

Many of the jobs Scott counts won't be created for years, if ever, and the bigger picture is darker. The state's unemployment rate has been stuck at 7.1 percent for three months, better than the national average of 7.4 percent. A report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the labor force expanded in the Tampa Bay area, Jacksonville and Orlando in the past year but in other areas — South Florida, the Panhandle, Bradenton, Sarasota and Lakeland — the labor force contracted. And the jobless rate in Pasco and Hernando counties is still 8 percent or higher.

Scott's heavy-handed attempt to lure companies from other states is a public relations nightmare, and it isn't working. While Florida now has roughly as many jobs as before the recession, people earn less and there are more part-time jobs. Jobs in the low-paying leisure and hospitality sectors are up. Better paying jobs in construction, manufacturing and professional/business services are still down.

Scott's "Health care" failure is particularly significant:
After Florida failed to persuade the courts to block health care reform, Scott called for the state to accept billions in federal dollars and expand Medicaid to 1 million uninsured residents. "I cannot, in good conscience, deny Floridians the needed access to health care," he declared in February.

Then he stopped listening to his conscience. Scott sat by as House Speaker Will Weatherford blocked expansion, and he has dropped the issue. What the governor has done is reject millions in federal dollars to implement health care reform and left the creation of an insurance exchange to the federal government. He also foolishly signed into law a ban on state regulation of health insurance rates for two years.

New U.S. Census figures show nearly 1 in 4 Floridians lack health insurance, the second highest rate in the nation. Hospitals in Orlando, Vero Beach and elsewhere are laying off workers and reducing pay in part because the new Medicaid dollars aren't coming.

Scott isn't expanding access to health care. He is working against it. He is making it harder for hospitals to make ends meet, harder for the uninsured to get coverage and harder for businesses to comply with the federal law.

"Governor Phony".

Scott kicks off his re-election campaign

"Gov. Rick Scott, effectively kicking off his re-election campaign before conservative activists Friday, proposed cutting $500 million in taxes and fees and attacked his probable Democratic opponent Charlie Crist for embracing President Barack Obama’s stimulus."

Citing signs of an improving state economy, from a budget surplus to swelling tax revenues, Scott said it was time to give back. “It’s your money, not the government’s,” he told 1,500 people at the two-day Americans for Prosperity conference.

Scott did not provide details on the tax cuts, and his office refused to elaborate. But it gives him a selling point to voters as he enters campaign mode. His remarks about Crist were among his sharpest yet and signal the GOP feels the matchup is inevitable.

"Gov. Rick Scott to call for cut in taxes, fees next year". See also "Gov. Scott to call for large cut in taxes, fees", "Scott using speech to hit Crist, promise tax cuts" and "Gov. Rick Scott delights conservative activists with $500M tax-cut pitch".

Rubio doesn't mention immigration at Flabagger-fest

"Sen. Marco Rubio knew it was coming, and it did — shouts and jeers from conservative activists over his role in immigration reform."

“Build the fence!” a man yelled as Rubio took the stage Friday at the Americans for Prosperity conference in Orlando. “No amnesty!” several people shouted throughout his address.

But the reception from the crowd of 1,500 was mostly enthusiastic for Rubio, who used his speech to denounce big government and Obamacare, the mention of which brought people to their feet.

Rubio also got loud applause when he criticized the Common Core education standards, which have come under assault form tea party activists who see the standards as a federal takeover. By extension, Rubio was jabbing at his mentor, former Gov. Jeb Bush, who is a major backer of Common Core and has worked to defend against the critics.

Rubio never mentioned immigration, but it was on the mind of many. He was one of eight senators who crafted a wide-ranging bill that would spend tens of billions on border security while also providing a pathway to citizenship for as many as 11 million undocumented residents, provided they pay fines and meet other standards.

“He lied about his position on amnesty,” said Jon Moseley, an activist from Lake Placid, Fla., referring to Rubio’s hard-line stance on immigration during his 2010 Senate campaign. “Now he’s the main face of amnesty”.

"Sen. Marco Rubio heckled over immigration during speech to conservatives in Orlando".

Week in Review

"Week in Review for Aug. 30, 2013". See also "Weekly Roundup: A Tale of Two Summits".

"Jindal won’t be making it to Miami for the long weekend"

Fabiola Santiago: "Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal doesn’t care for our contemporary salad bowl culture and its 'hyphenated Americans.' He thinks we place 'far too much emphasis' on our 'separateness' by talking about heritage, ethnic background and skin color. He bemoans what he considers an overdose of stories in the media about race, racism, ethnicity and race relations."

He was in Orlando Friday speaking to his choir, the conservative Americans for Prosperity’s “Defending the American Dream Summit,” not surprisingly in the company of Gov. Rick Scott and other tea party favorites.

It’s safe to say that since Jindal doesn’t like salad — and here, we serve them accented by mango, avocados, crunchy noodles, and yes, apples and grapes, too — Jindal won’t be making it to Miami for the long weekend.

"Despite Jindal, U.S. needs “hyphenated Americans”".

"Shortsighted leaders"

The Tampa Bay Tmes editorial board: "Sometimes good ideas survive even when shortsighted leaders ignore them. News that a small cadre of solar power firms is figuring out ways to gain a foothold in Florida's energy market despite the political hostility is good for consumers, the environment and the state's future. It also should provide additional evidence for more thoughtful lawmakers to persuade Gov. Rick Scott and Republican legislative leaders to focus on the future of renewable energy." "New hope for solar in Florida".

So much for the "Summer of Charlie Crist"

Jeff Henderson: "Labor Day weekend is here and now we know the “summer of Charlie Crist” was a bigger box-office bomb than 'The Lone Ranger.'This summer, Florida politics was supposed to focus on Crist’s efforts to win Democrats over as he prepares to run again for governor. Back in May, pundits insisted Crist would be the story and this would be the 'summer of Charlie Crist.'"

"The 'Summer of Charlie Crist' was a Political Box-Office Bomb".

"Florida financial reporting on education received a 'D-'"

"Florida financial reporting on education received a "D-" from the Cato Institute. They critiqued the difficulty in finding information. The Department of Education disagrees with the assessment saying the think tank did not properly investigate the website." "Budget Note: K-12 Education Appropriations".

Flabaggers in a dither

"A Republican congressman from a conservative Florida district was so impressed by a young immigrant at a town hall meeting that he's now more supportive of granting a pathway to citizenship." "Tea partier Rep. Steve Southerland voices immigration-reform support".

Javier Rodriguez challenger

"This week, a major Republican challenger emerged in Miami-Dade County to run against freshman Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, in a competitive Florida House district." "Daniel Diaz Leyva Launches Challenge to Jose Javier Rodriguez".