Thursday, October 17, 2013

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

Rubio votes to continue shutdown

"Florida Sen. Marco Rubio voted against the Senate deal to reopen the federal government and lift the nation’s debt ceiling Wednesday night." "Marco Rubio, Florida Senator, Votes Against Senate Deal To End Shutdown, Lift Debt Ceiling".

Meanwhile, Rubio puts his eggs in the Obamacare basket: "Republicans may have lost their bid to defund Obamacare, but Sen. Marco Rubio says the real fight over the health care law will begin in 2014. 'By the early part of next year, February, March, April, and May of next year — and I know that sounds like a long time away, but it’s not — the realities of the law are going to begin to impact people,' Rubio said Wednesday on Fox News’s 'Hannity.'" "Marco Rubio: ‘Revolt’ vs. Obamacare in ‘14".

"If this new purge proceeds, beware, Florida voters"

The Miami Herald editors: "Here we go again. Gov. Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner want to conduct another purge of Florida voter rolls."

Their attempt to purge the rolls of noncitizens in 2012 was a complete flop. Florida’s Division of Elections, which Mr. Detzner oversees, botched the purge, which was conducted in advance of a presidential election, raising justified questions about the timing, and with little evidence that a clean-up was needed. It alienated voters and angered most election supervisors who oversee voter rolls in the state’s 67 counties.
"Yet here we go again — even though there is no more proof now than there was in 2012 that one is warranted."
Yes, there have been isolated incidents of chicanery in obtaining absentee ballots on behalf of individual candidates, but there is no evidence of widespread efforts by the non-eligible to cast ballots. The new purge would be done before the 2014 election for statewide offices, including for Gov. Scott, who’s seeking a second term. Our advice to Messrs. Scott and Detzner: Give it up and move on. Spend the state’s money on better uses, like restoring voting rights in a more timely manner to felons who have served their time and deserve a second chance. Or seek better ways to guarantee the right to vote for all Florida citizens. . . .

If this new purge proceeds, beware, Florida voters.

"Voter purge a bad idea".

"System crashes and error messages"

"The day after Florida launched a $63 million website to process unemployment benefits for thousands of residents, state officials sounded only positive notes."

Department of Economic Opportunity spokeswoman Jessica Sims called the debut of the CONNECT site a success. It had processed about 50,000 claims in two days and workers fielded thousands of calls.

Yet it’s not clear how the website is handling the demand of a system with 235,000 claimants. Sims said she didn’t know how many people failed to file a claim or how many phone calls weren’t picked up.

Context matters because a far different portrayal of CONNECT’s debut was playing across social media and in claims offices across the state. Facebook and Twitter were filled with complaints about wait times, system crashes and error messages — reviews echoing those that met the Oct. 1 debut of the Obamacare insurance exchange.

"An employee at the job center, followed by a security guard, told a reporter he was forbidden to talk to recipients."
“Miss, you can’t talk to him,” the security guard told one recipient during an interview, causing her to walk away.

The job center employee said Jim McShane, the CEO of Workforce Plus who oversees the job centers in Tallahassee, instructed them to forbid interviews.

“I didn’t make that decision,” McShane said later. “We’re an open federal program so I don’t know why they would do that.”

McShane said there were several technical glitches on Tuesday when the site launched, and some had persisted. One major issue is that the CONNECT site wasn’t recognizing Social Security numbers and PIN codes claimants need to log into the site.

Sims said since its launch, the website has not crashed, despite a phone recording from the state’s 1-800 number late Tuesday and Facebook postings that said otherwise.

Problems were anticipated. In a letter sent to claimants two weeks ago, the DEO warned of long lines and extended wait times. The contractor of the CONNECT site, Deloitte, has had similar issues with unemployment system overhauls in Massachusetts and California.

Deloitte’s contract with Florida, signed in 2011, shows it has been amended several times. The final rollout is 10 months later and $6.4 million more expensive than initially anticipated, the contract shows.

Sims said cost increases were a result of changes to the scope of work required from Deloitte. The delay, she added, came at no extra cost to taxpayers and was a result of a “corrective action plan.” She did not specify why such a plan was needed.

The website underscores tension between the U.S. Labor Department and how Florida processes unemployment claims under Gov. Rick Scott.

Federal officials say Florida violated the civil rights of unemployed individuals because it required them to apply online for benefits.

"Many left frustrated with state unemployment benefits website".

"Scott gets his way"

"Hoping to quell some opposition to the controversial Common Core State Standards, the state Board of Education opted Tuesday not to adopt the reading samples associated with the new national benchmarks. . . . Board members also voted to extend the school grade 'safety net' through the 2014-15 school year. The measure will prevent school grades from dipping more than one letter in any given year during the transition to new standards and tests, which are considered more challenging." "Gov. Scott gets his way with Common Core standards".

Rubio a real joker

"Apparently when it comes to the government shutdown battle over the implications of Obamacare, all Senator Marco Rubio has to offer is lame pop culture jokes." "Marco Rubio's Shutdown Solution? American Horror Story Jokes".

"Florida has 763,890 people in the 'coverage gap'"

"Florida has 763,890 people in the "coverage gap" -- uninsured residents who are not old enough for Medicare, who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but who make too little money to qualify for subsidized health insurance through the new federal Affordable Care Act, according to a new Kaiser study."

The study, released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation, offers a lower number than previously-used estimates from the Urban Institute, of 995,000 Floridians. Kaiser officials say they used slightly different methodology and updated data.

These are poor people. By definition, they make less than the federal poverty level, which is $11,490 for an individual and $23,550 for a family of four. They have no insurance, and have no government programs to help them afford any.

"New study: Florida has 763,890 people too poor for ACA subsidies, to well-paid for Medicaid".

Central Florida layoffs

"Lockheed Martin Corp. plans to hand out pink slips to about 600 workers across the country in its Mission Systems and Training division, which includes its Orlando simulation technology operation, the company said Wednesday. . . . Lockheed would be the second defense contractor in as many months to carry out layoffs at Central Florida simulation training operations." "Lockheed to lay off 600 across mission, training systems". Meanwhile, Scott is all about throwing money: "Scott seeks $35M more for port projects, including Canaveral". See also "Scott announces $35 million ports plan".

"Immigration reform efforts in danger of being ignored"

Tampa Trib editorial board: "Hundreds of marchers gathered in downtown Tampa this week to make certain immigration reform isn’t shoved into oblivion by the raging debates in Washington over government shutdowns and health care." "Immigration reform efforts in danger of being ignored".

"Tea party takeover" in Hillsborough

"Hillsborough County Tea Party leader Sharon Calvert and one of her political allies both won offices in the Hillsborough County Republican Party on Tuesday, leading one GOP leader to worry about a tea party takeover." "Tea Party leader wins office in Hillsborough GOP".

Scott slams DC Dems

"Gov. Rick Scott and other Republican elected officials slammed the lack of progress in federal government shutdown and debt ceiling talks. They did not, however, specifically criticize a strategy by congressional Republicans to shut down the government if President Barack Obama did not agree to defund the Affordable Care Act, his signature piece of legislation." "Florida leaders deride Washington 'dysfunction' but avoid specifics".

"Scott's Gaining Traction"

"A poll from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, released on Oct. 15, 2013, confirms the University of North Florida's poll from the previous week. Gov. Rick Scott is closing the gap between him and Charlie Crist. The poll has Crist leading 46 to 41 percent. In June, Quinnipiac, among other polls, had Crist leading by double digits." "Campaign Note: Cabinet: Governor".

Jeff Henderson: "Despite all his flaws as a public speaker and his strained attempts to connect with the public, Scott can count on the support of voters who don’t like him but still think he is up to the job in Tallahassee. Scott is serious and focused. That’s not exactly something that can be said of Crist with his various party changes, policy shifts and constant pursuit of the next office." "It's Working? Not Quite Yet But Rick Scott's Gaining Traction".

Does Murphy win indicate bigger things to come for FlaDems?

"Florida Democrats added one more to their 44-member minority in the Florida House on Tuesday by narrowly capturing a Pasco County legislative seat in a special election."

The former holder of the office, Republican Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, had been tapped by Gov. Rick Scott to serve as Pasco tax collector, and the GOP candidate to replace him, Bill Gunter, had a nearly three-to-one financial advantage over Democrat Amanda Murphy (if you count just direct spending by the campaigns and in-kind support from the parties). . . .

Democrats quickly claimed the race could indicate bigger things to come next year, or even 2016.

Murphy squeaked by in a race that had turned negative, winning by 322 votes -- or a 1.7 percent margin -- in a race with 19.9 percent turnout. She also benefitted from a rare series of intervening events unlikly to be duplicated in next year's general election.

For starters, the former incumbent, Fasano, holds extraordnary name-ID in the district, and endorsed Murphy over the Republican. The race drew an inordinant amount of attention from the Florida Democratic Party, which has demonstrated in the past that its single focus in 2014 will be the Governor's Mansion, not down-ballot races (for example, who have they got running for AG?).

The government shutdown likely at least temporarily soured some GOP voters to the brand (nationally polling suggests as much).

"What does Amanda Murphy's win mean for 2014?". Background: "Democrat Murphy wins Fasano's House seat", "Mike Fasano Gets the Win Even as Amanda Murphy Gets the Votes" and "Campaign Note: House: District 036".

Striding the world stage

"Marco Rubio and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Urge Obama to Keep Sanctions on Iran".

Special Master says Republican consultant not required to disclose redistricting papers

"A 'special master' appointed to deal with a dispute over documents related to the 2012 redistricting process has ruled that a Republican consultant shouldn't have to give those records to groups challenging the new political maps in court."

Former Supreme Court Justice Major Harding's report, dated Monday, says that Pat Bainter and employees of his Gainesville-based firm, Data Targeting Inc., shouldn't have to produce hundreds of pages of documents shared inside the company and with the Republican Party of Florida, which paid Bainter for work during the redistricting process.
"'Special Master' Sides with Consultants on Redistricting Documents".

What about Rod Smith?

Barney Bishop writes that, "there is only one person" who can beat Rick Scott – "Rod Smith. The former state senator and Democratic Party chair is a charismatic politician who hails from north Central Florida. In his first race for office he defeated a Republican state attorney and he went on to serve with distinction for eight years. . . . Rod was a union lawyer for the firefighters and unions early in his legal career. He’s also a staunch law-and-order politician who can go toe-to-toe with ol’ Chain Gang Charlie in the primary. Remember it was Rod who put Gainesville-killer Danny Rolling on death row for his heinous murders. Consequently, Rod is admired by sheriffs and state attorneys around the state for his intellect and his courtroom skills." "Best Democrat to Run Against Rick Scott? Not Charlie Crist or Nan Rich".