Wednesday, September 18, 2013

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

Florida's health care amongst the nation's worst

The New York Times reports that,"As many states prepare to introduce a linchpin of the 2010 health care law — the insurance exchanges designed to make health care more affordable — a handful of others are taking the opposite tack: They are complicating enrollment efforts and limiting information about the new program. "

Chief among them is Florida, where Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-dominated Legislature have made it more difficult for Floridians to obtain the cheapest insurance rates under the exchange and to get help from specially trained outreach counselors.
"Florida Among States Undercutting Health Care Enrollment". This, despite the fact that "[a]ccess to affordable, quality health care for poor Americans varies dramatically among states — with Florida ranking among the nation's worst, according to a new study released today."
The report from the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund found a fourfold disparity in measures of health between states with the best care and those with the worst. As a result, low-income Floridians, like those in a handful of other states, were more likely to die prematurely or end up in the hospital for conditions such as diabetes and asthma.
"Florida, which ranked 43rd out of 50 states in providing access to quality health care, had a high percentage of uninsured residents and high rates of potentially avoidable hospital visits. It also had low rates of preventive care and significantly worse health outcomes on more than half of the 30 indicators."
More than 60 percent of Florida's low-income adults were either uninsured or underinsured — meaning they spend a relatively high share of their incomes on medical care, according to the study.

In the highest-ranking states, low-income, less-educated residents are more likely to be covered by health insurance, to have a regular source of medical care and to get the recommended preventive care, such as cancer screenings. . . .

In Texas, for example, 55 percent of working-age adults who make less than twice the federal poverty level lack health insurance, the highest rate in the nation.

In Massachusetts, which already guarantees its residents health coverage under a 2006 state reform law, 12 percent of low-income adults lack health coverage, the report notes.

"Florida fails on health insurance". Meanwhile, "Obamacare insurance could cost as little as $100 a month".

Gambling interests gather forces

"Gambling interests will once again push for large casinos and a stronger state regulatory body next year, but the only sure thing is a lot of money will be on the line." "Gambling interests gather forces ahead of next legislative cycle".

Our booming economy: nearly one in five Floridians on food stamps

"Florida, where nearly one in five residents is on food stamps, has a lot at stake as the House debates deep cuts in the program this week. House Republicans want to cut $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over 10 years. That’s almost 10 times more than the Senate wants to cut and twice as much as cuts the House rejected earlier this summer." "New food stamp reforms could affect millions in Florida".

Lake O rising

The Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial board: "Man's efforts to control nature have been severely tested this summer in Florida, and man -- as well as nature -- is losing."

The rains that have pummeled South Florida are the heaviest in 45 years, pushing Lake Okeechobee to the brim of the man-made, earthen dike that surrounds it. The risk of overflow has forced the release of excess water into the estuaries of the St. Lucie River to the east and the Caloosahatchee River to the west.

As described by New York Times reporter Lizette Alvarez, in a story published in Wednesday's Herald-Tribune: "The rush of fresh water from the lake and the estuaries' own river basins, along with the pollutants carried in from farms, ranches, septic tanks and golf courses, has crippled the estuaries and, on the east coast of the state, the Indian River Lagoon."

The estuaries and the 156-mile-long lagoon -- which need a natural balance of salt and fresh water to be breeding grounds for marine life -- have been overwhelmed by the inflow. Manatees, fish, shellfish and sea grass have suffered massive kills.

"Lake Okeechobee rising".

Charter madness

"Sarasota County School Board members lambasted the applications for new charter schools Tuesday, at times calling them 'bizarre' and 'disrespectful' and accusing one of plagiarism." "Sarasota school officials scold charter schools".

Miami-Dade GOP punks Jebbie

"Miami-Dade’s Republican Party voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to oppose the Common Core education standards as an unconstitutional 'inappropriate overreach' by the federal government."

The two-page resolution, part of a grassroots conservative revolt sweeping Florida and the nation, was partly a stand against President Obama as well as former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, who helped build the Miami-Dade Republican Party and chaired it in 1984.
"Miami-Dade's GOP slaps down Common Core (takes stand against past chair, Jeb Bush)". Meanwhile, "Common Core Takes Center Stage at State Board Meeting". See also "Core supporters to step up and explain".

Grayson opposed by array of lightweights

"Carol Platt of the Osceola County Realtors Association ramped up her campaign Tuesday for the Republican nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla. Platt’s camp announced formal campaign kickoffs throughout Central Florida toward the end of October."

Platt does not have an open shot at the Republican nomination. Also running for the GOP nomination are Navy veteran Jorge Bonilla and community activist Peter Vivaldi, who served on the Orange County Charter Review Commission and ran for Orange County School Board in 2012. Navy veteran Michael McKenna is challenging Grayson in the Democratic primary.

On Tuesday, Platt, whose family has been in the area since the end of the 19th century, played up her roots in the GOP. Platt’s team played up the fact she was appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush to a community college board of trustees and served as a co-chair for his gubernatorial campaign and his brother George W. Bush’s presidential campaign.

But there are signs that some Republican officeholders are leaning toward Bonilla who they hope can appeal to minority voters in the district. More than 40 percent of voters in the district are Hispanics. U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, who chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee, is backing Bonilla. So is state Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who previously led the Florida Christian Coalition.

Grayson still looms as a heavy favorite to keep his seat in 2014.

"Alan Grayson Foes Growing Active in Central Florida".

Pastor Bill looks to replace Fasano

"Bill Gunter, pastor of Redeemer Community Church in New Port Richey, won the Republican primary on Tuesday in the special election to replace former Rep. Mike Fasano in the Florida House to represent parts of Pasco County." "Bill Gunter Cruises to GOP Primary Victory in Pasco County House Race". See also "Gunter romps in GOP primary for District 36 special election".

"Which bring us to Gov. Rick Scott"

The Miami Herald editorial board: "After years of belt-tightening that saw Florida lawmakers slash funding for state services and repeatedly renege on legislative commitments made in earlier sessions, the state is projecting a surplus of $850 million for 2014-2015 budget. Great news — especially for anyone in elected office dealing with sagging poll numbers and running for another term."

Which bring us to Gov. Rick Scott. Hardly had the surplus estimate been made public before Mr. Scott launched a “listening tour” around the state to figure out how to give away $500 million in the form of tax cuts. Whee! Who doesn’t like tax reductions? But before jumping on that tax-cut bandwagon, consider what Florida stands to gain by using the money wisely.

Any tax reduction proposed by Mr. Scott and Florida’s lawmakers must promote job growth and bolster the state’s economy. A tax cut that doesn’t do either can wind up being costly and counter-productive, like the 2011 reduction of more than $200 million in property taxes collected by water management districts. The resulting cutbacks on water cleanup operations and environmental oversight have proven unwise in a state that depends on a clean environment and outdoor recreational activities.

And before promising to dispense revenue like so much election-year candy, the governor and lawmakers must consider abiding by pledges made by the Legislature in years past.

"The tax-cut bandwagon".

"Scott 'deeply troubled'"

"Scott 'deeply troubled' by looming flood rate hikes, urges U.S. Senate action".

Sebelius and take a swipes at Republicans in Miami-Dade visit

"HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius visited Miami-Dade Wednesday to spread the word about healthcare reform - and take a few swipes at Republicans who have tried to block the new law." "Sebelius spreads the word on healthcare reform in Miami-Dade".

New education commissioner

"Pam Stewart named state education commissioner".

Rubio collects millions

"Sen. Marco Rubio has lost standing among conservative activists for his lead role in immigration reform but continues to collect millions in campaign dollars, emerging as one of the most prolific fundraisers in the country and underscoring his national ambitions."

Wednesday, the money chase continues when the Florida Republican appears at a barbecue restaurant alongside some of Washington’s top lobbyist-fundraisers. Admission ranges from $500 to $10,000.

Rubio this year alone has raised more than $5 million — a mix of small-dollar donations from average folks across the country to $5,000 checks from corporate interests — which he has poured into a team of strategists and to expand a national fundraising network.

"If you want to be president, you hire political consultants, fundraisers. People who work on your brand. That’s pretty clear what he’s done," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan authority on campaign finance.

Rubio’s operation has stoked such speculation because so little has been spent on supporting other candidates, the ostensible purpose of committees such as his Reclaim America PAC. In 2011-12, he gave candidates just 4 percent of the PAC’s collections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

"Sen. Marco Rubio can still raise cash even as he irks some conservatives".