Sunday, September 22, 2013

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

Scott's claims of economic success are "without empirical foundation"

"Florida Gov. Rick Scott is broadening the central message of his re-election campaign: Beyond claiming responsibility for Florida’s recovery from the Great Recession, he now blames the downturn on his predecessor and likely 2014 opponent, Charlie Crist, and former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink."

Sink and Crist scoff at Scott’s claims, which don’t pass muster with economic experts, either.

“Poppycock” was Sink’s response; David Denslow, retired University of Florida economist, called Scott’s contentions “without empirical foundation.”

"Scott has made his campaign message clear, before the race gets underway, in repeated speeches and daily news releases: He contends that onerous state taxes and regulations in place before he took office caused Florida’s job losses, and his own pro-business governing formula of lower taxes and cutting regulations has pushed Florida’s recovery ahead of the nation’s."
Economic data don’t back that up.

Economists say national economic policies and the business cycle have far more influence on the state’s economic condition than local or state tax or regulatory policies. They also say Florida doesn’t appear to be recovering faster than the rest of the country.

The state is recovering, but it still trails national averages in growth of personal and per-capita income and growth of its domestic product. Drops in the unemployment rate have occurred largely because workers have stopped looking for work, according to the state Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research.

"Experts dispute Scott’s take on economy".

Runnin' gub'ment like a bidness

"Citizens Property Insurance Co. will be raising its rates for the third time next year and the proceeds will cover more than claims:"

They’ll also pay attorneys’ fees — now averaging an estimated $2 million each month — as policyholders battle over getting their claims paid.

Between January 2011 and June 2013, Citizens has spent more than $16 million on lawyers from 177 different law firms who have successfully challenged the state’s largest insurance company on behalf of policyholders. Citizens collects $2.2 billion in annual premiums and has an administrative operating budget of $205 million.

The data was compiled by the state-run insurer at the request of Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, a licensed general contractor and appraiser who has been one of the Legislature’s most vocal critics of Citizens. He and several plaintiffs lawyers estimate that Citizens has spent a comparable amount on defense attorneys’, with total litigation costs exceeding $30 million a year, but the company does not have that data available.

"How can you ask me to increase my premiums when you are wasting away my premiums in litigation?" asked Artiles, who wants the Legislature to force Citizens’ board of directors to keep the company’s legal costs in check. "How can you function as a board when you cannot control your costs?"

The issue presents another prickly management question for the state-run insurer of last resort: should the company continue its aggressive policy of rejecting claims and battling disputes in court, or should it cut its losses early and pay more claims to avoid the costly legal fees.

"Citizens racks up millions in attorneys’ fees".

Sink says the cost of running against Scott 'a factor' in her decision

"Alex Sink, considered one of the leading prospective Democratic candidates to run against Gov. Rick Scott in 2014, has announced she won’t be a candidate. In an interview Friday, Sink said there was no single, decisive reason for her decision but acknowledged that raising the money for what promises to be a tough race was a consideration."

Former state Sen. Nan Rich of Weston is the only prominent, declared Democratic candidate, but former Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to announce soon. Nelson, a subject of speculation and entreaties by some leading Democrats to run, says he has “no plans” and “no intention” to run but hasn’t ruled it out.

Sink said in an interview several months ago that she thought a Crist candidacy would be “a disaster” because of his vulnerability to attack over changing his positions and changing his party. A former Republican, Crist was a state senator, education commissioner and governor before changing parties after he lost the 2010 Republican U.S. Senate primary to Marco Rubio.

"Sink says fundraising 'a factor' in decision not to run".

Even the Trib

Even the Tampa Trib editors think "Florida should take the $51 billion in Medicaid money".

Knuckle-dragging sloths

You can rest assured that knuckle-dragging sloths will always have work with the union haters at the Orlando Sentinel: "A look back at replacement players and NFL picks".

Bonus Schadenfreude: It is always a laff when right-winger columnists like the author of this piece show their ignorance of basic military terminology, like the difference between an APC and a "tank".

Can you imagine . . .

. . . the quality of this "education": "This year marks the first full year of the founding of the LBA Construction and Business Management Academy, a charter high school in Hialeah. It’s the first time a business association, such as the Latin Builders Association, has opened a business charter high school in the United States." "Latin Builders Association: Magnet school a path to success".*

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*The magnet charter school students surely will be required to take a world history course, where they will be taught about the importance of a vibrant union movement to democracy, and, by contrast, how that Batista fellow revoked political liberties of Cuban workers, including the right of employees (even construction workers, golly gee whiz) to strike for better wages; how he presided over a stagnating economy that widened the gap between rich and poor Cubans; and how he used his secret police to carry out violence, torture and public executions, killing as many as an estimated 20,000 people, including workers who sought to unionize. More: "Backing the Wrong Tyrant".

And this is "diversity"?

"As the Legislature begins to deliberate policy affecting the whole of Florida, its members bring to the discussion identities and influences that look different from those of the state they represent."

Florida, for example, has an almost equal split between men and women but almost three quarters of lawmakers are male. And Republicans outnumber Democrats in the Legislature almost 2-1, but there are more registered Democrats than Republicans in the state — about 4.7 million to 4.2 million.
"Diversity shapes Legislature’s makeup".

Half true

"There are lots of different valid ways to measure education funding. One way is to compare how much money a state provides for education per pupil, and by that measure Florida ranked 48th according to the Census. That’s a valid way to look at the numbers because it was in the context of Rich criticizing the governor who signs the state budget." "Nan Rich says Florida is 48th in K-12 funding and 50th in higher education".

Where's Rick Scott?

"Swisher International will lay off 250 employees in Jacksonville as it moves some of its cigar-making production from the city to the Dominican Republic." "Cigar company to lay off 250 in Jacksonville".

In Florida, "ominous silence"

"In the half of America where health care reform was enthusiastically embraced, uninsured consumers are being deluged by opportunities — online, on TV and on street corners — to learn about their coverage options for 2014. But in states that have resisted the program, including Florida, so far there's a slightly ominous silence." "Floridians await guidance on Obamacare".

"Marketing strategy employed by National Lampoon, circa 1973"

Fred Grimm: "Think of it as government à la carte. Miami-Dade residents can now pick and choose among favorite government services they’d like to subsidize. . . . Commission Chairman Rebeca Sosa, who first divined that county taxpayers worried they were getting off too easy, deserves all the credit. And to make sure she gets all credit, her minions fired off a press release: 'Early Friday morning at the second and final budget hearing, county commissioners adopted a motion sponsored by Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa to establish a system for residents to make voluntary donations to specific county departments.'"

Sosa’s fiscal epiphany no doubt struck her like a blow to the head with a blunt instrument during those raucous budget hearings. Remonstrating crowds had filled the commission chambers, incensed that the mayor’s proposed budget had shorted public libraries, fire services, the no-kill animal shelter project.

Cowed by the angry masses, commissioners dug around in the county’s emergency reserves to find money for libraries, and crossed their fingers about getting a federal grant that would help fire services. The Pets’ Trust, supposed to halt mass euthanization of stray dogs and cats at the county animal shelter, didn’t do so well.

Sosa no doubt figured her new donation program would appease mightily offended dog and cat lovers, who, thanks to her plan, could leap right into the budgeting process with their own checkbooks. The effect, however, was just a tad too reminiscent of the marketing strategy employed by National Lampoon, circa 1973. The cover that January depicted a hand with a revolver aimed at the head of an adorable puppy with the caption: “If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll kill this dog.”

But there’s much more potential in Sosa’s program than the opportunity to extort money from heartbroken animal advocates. The real beneficiaries, of course, will be that special class of taxpayers always eager to circumvent county ethic regulations and donate to a commissioner’s favorite project. Lobbyists will no doubt be attaching personal checks to their annual tax payment earmarked for some very special services. Like, say, supplementing the salaries of chairwoman’s staffers. Or helping out the department in charge of redecorating the commissioners’ offices.

And grateful criminal defense attorneys will be celebrating a dandy new courtroom tactic for fending off corruption charges. “Bribery? No way, your honor.

“No way my client was greasing a county inspector to get a permit approval. He was just making his annual Sosa donation to the building and zoning department. Judge, my client doesn’t mind paying more to support the services he cares about the most.”

"Sosa brainstorm: government a la carte".