Tuesday, September 10, 2013

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

"Execution delayed so Pam Bondi can attend fundraiser"

Adam Smith: "There is no graver responsibility and act of state government than an execution. In Florida this week, a campaign fundraiser takes precedence."

Attorney General Pam Bondi persuaded Gov. Rick Scott to postpone an execution scheduled for tonight because it conflicted with her re-election kick-off reception.
"Attorney General Pam Bondi persuaded Gov. Rick Scott to postpone an execution scheduled for [Monday night] because it conflicted with her re-election kick-off reception."
Scott said Monday that he did not know the reason for the request, and he declined to answer when asked whether he considers a campaign fundraiser an appropriate reason to reschedule an execution. . . .

"Wherever one stands on the death penalty, there isn't anyone in America that believes an execution should be postponed for political fundraising," said David Donnelly, executive director of Public Campaign Action Fund. "That Pam Bondi requested a delay in this execution shows how the nonstop chase for campaign cash has hollowed out the morality of our political system. Her moral compass is broken."

The delay keeps Gore on death row an extra 21 days at a cost that the Department of Corrections estimates at about $1,000.

The Republican attorney general faces no serious challenger so far, and organizers expect[ed] her campaign kick-off event to attract 100 to 200 people. Among those hosting the event: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a Democrat; House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel; and state Sens. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, Bill Galvano, R- Bradenton, Tom Lee, R-Brandon, Wilton Simpson, R- Trilby, and Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg.

"Execution rescheduled to accommodate Pam Bondi fundraiser". See also "Execution delayed so Pam Bondi can attend fundraiser".

And this is a little late: "Bondi Says Execution Date Shouldn't Have Been Changed".

Florida has the lowest-paying major metro areas in the country

"Central Florida is now the lowest-paying major metro area in the country, according to federal data analyzed by the Orlando Sentinel."

Metro Orlando's median pay ranks last among the nation's 50 biggest metropolitan areas, and it has the largest share of jobs — 37 percent — paying less than $25,000 a year. That's nearly twice the rate of Las Vegas, another city built on tourism.

Central Florida also has the smallest share of jobs paying more than $50,000. And since 2002, median pay in the region, adjusted for inflation, has fallen by $1,761 — to $29,450 — as the number of middle-class and upper middle-class jobs tumbled because of the Great Recession.

Low median pay isn't a new phenomenon: In 2002 and 2007, before the recession hit, Orlando ranked 49th (ahead of San Antonio, Texas) among the top 50 metro areas.

"The last decade shows how dominant low-paying jobs have become."
Between 2002 and 2012, Central Florida's total employment grew by about 14 percent, from 884,540 jobs to 1,011,810. But among the occupations detailed in the BLS data, jobs paying less than $25,000 expanded by 95 percent; in raw numbers, they climbed from 187,540 to 366,530.

More than 203,000 of those are hospitality jobs: housekeepers, cashiers, theme-park attendants, waitresses, cooks and bellhops. They form 20 percent of the work force and pay, if worked full-time, an average of $22,858.

Over the same 10-year period, jobs paying more than $75,000 a year – attorneys, doctors and engineers – grew by 16 percent to 80,180. But that was more than offset by the disappearance of middle-class jobs.

"Orlando's median pay worst in U.S.".

The tables that appear in the print version of this story show that Florida consistently has the lowest paid employees in the Country, with the following rankings among the largest 50 "Metropolitan Divisions" in the nation:

- Orlando - Kissimmee - Sanford (50/50)

- Miami - Miami Beach - Kendall (48/50)

- Ft Lauderdale - Pompano Bch - Deerfield Bch (46/50)

- Tampa - St Petersburg - Clearwater (45/50)

Another thing, the central Florida "region's low pay does not appear to reflect an unusually low cost of living."

West won't go away

"Allen West Woos Conservatives as he Plays on the National Political Stage".

Good luck with that

"Florida lobbyists have enjoyed little scrutiny in reporting what they’re paid to ply their trade with lawmakers and governors since a law was enacted seven years ago requiring the public disclosure. That free ride may be coming to an end. Senate President Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican who pressed for new prohibitions on lawmakers becoming lobbyists last spring, now wants the Legislature to make good on a never-enforced requirement that lobbying firms be subjected to random audits." "Senate Prez wants to start auditing lobbying reports"

Republicans exonerate "fellow Republican"

"Report: Changes to Indiana school grades were ‘plausible’". See also "Indiana report says Tony Bennett actions "plausible," grade changes applied "consistently" to other schools besides charter school" ("The newspaper also noted the report was spear-headed by legislative leaders who were Republicans like Bennett.")

The Indiana Star article: "Indiana report says Tony Bennett's changes to A-F school grades were 'consistently applied'" ("The report, released Friday, was commissioned by two Republican legislative leaders — House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President David Long — to investigate their fellow Republican and former Statehouse colleague, Bennett.")

There is more to come. Nancy Smith: "Tony Bennett Targeted by His Successor in Indiana, Glenda Ritz".

"Florida Forever program eviscerated under Gov. Rick Scott"

Fred Grimm: "Forever — as in Florida Forever — runs out this fall."

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has deemed as “surplus” some 160 tracts of Florida Forever land — more than 5,000 acres. DEP assembled the list, counting on a big $50 million selloff in November.

But not long after the list of expendable properties popped up on the DEP website last month, a fearsome reaction erupted across the state, as locals noticed that the state was intent on selling off chunks of their state parks and nature preserves.

In South Florida, for example, DEP figured on extracting 145 acres from Oleta River State Park. Folks in South Florida went apoplectic. To gauge the statewide firestorm DEP created for itself, multiply our local reaction by 32 other state parks to be sliced up for the proposed sell-off.

By Aug. 29, so much hell had been raised that DEP removed 474 acres from the “surplus” list. By the middle of last week, the number of tracts extracted from the “for sale” list had reached 51 properties and 709 acres, including the land in Oleta River State Park. On Friday evening, 345 acres along the Wekiva River Parkway in Central Florida went suddenly off the real estate market.

Not that DEP fixed its PR disaster, which reaches from the Keys, where 17 tracts along A1A between Tavernier to Plantation Key remain on the surplus list, to Jacksonville, where locals were stunned the state might gut the Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park.

To be fair, DEP was put in this bind by the Legislature’s pretend gesture toward re-funding a Florida Forever program that had been eviscerated under Gov. Rick Scott.

"Forever is a short time in Florida".

"Campaign-style gimmickry"

"Scott today opens a four-day image-rebuilding "listening tour" to promote his call for cuts of $500 million in taxes and fees by the Legislature next year, when he will be seeking a new term. . . . Democrats say Scott is using campaign-style gimmickry to prop up his low poll numbers with voters. The most recent Quinnipiac University poll in June showed voters still deeply ambivalent about Scott with 43 percent approving of his performance and 44 percent opposed, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points." "Rick Scott's tax cut tour mocked as 'election year vote-buying'".

Hit piece

Jeff Henderson: "Is Allison Tant Hurting Florida Democrats' Chances in 2014?".

Double trouble

"U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia’s former chief of staff and top advisor is under FBI investigation for his ties to a phony Tea Party candidate’s secretly funded mail campaign, the Miami Herald has learned."

Consultant Jeffrey Garcia, no relation to the Miami Democratic congressman, already faces a separate state criminal investigation for allegedly requesting absentee ballots of voters without their permission.

Rep. Garcia has denied participating in or knowing about either scandal. Jeffrey Garcia won’t comment.

"Former congressional staffer under second investigation".

Rouson to defend himself

"If he wants to keep his job as the next leader for House Democrats, Rep. Darryl Rouson will have to defend himself in two weeks. Current House Minority Leader Perry Thurston of Plantation said Rouson will have an opportunity to explain how and why he created his own fundraising committee, outside of party control, during a caucus meeting the week of Sept. 23, when all 44 House Democrats are in Tallahassee. . . . If Rouson doesn't step down, the caucus could decide in a majority vote to remove him." "Rep. Rouson asked to explain actions in meeting with Democrats".

"Scott no longer a long shot"

"Rick Scott is no longer a long shot for re-election".

Flores in the wings

"When Jennifer Carroll resigned in the middle of March, many of the chattering class in Tallahassee assumed that Sen. Anitere Flores would be Rick Scott’s replacement for her as lieutenant governor. Six months later, Scott still hasn’t named a lieutenant governor, but the Miami Republican remains a rising star for the Florida GOP. Despite turning 37 on Sunday, Flores is an old hand in Tallahassee, having worked as an education staffer in the Florida House before joining Jeb Bush’s team in a similar role." "Anitere Flores a Major Factor in GOP's Future, With or Without LG Appointment".

Scott "mostly false"

"Florida is set to collect more tax money next year than ever before, state officials say. And not only is Florida Gov. Rick Scott proud of the accomplishment, but he is taking credit."

Scott is right: State economists (the wonkishly called revenue estimating conference) say tax collections in the 2014-15 fiscal year will be higher in sheer dollars than ever. But crediting "conservative pro-growth policies" for the extra flow of money is a conclusion that ignores trends nationwide, as PolitiFact Florida found out. . . .

Scott said that Florida "will have the highest general revenue in state history next year. Conservative pro-growth policies work in our state."

Scott's statistic is wrong if you account for inflation. But the bigger issue is that Scott overreaches by connecting the revenue resurgence with conservative policies. The trajectory is not unique to Florida, or conservatives.

There's an element of truth to this statement but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate this claim Mostly False.

"PolitiFact Florida: As tax collections grow, Scott gives undue credit to his policies".


Never mind the industries and development that have for decades abused the 'Glades: "Everglades Water Flow Plugged up by Bureaucratic Challenges".