Saturday, October 19, 2013

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

Rick Scott: Never mind those job numbers

"Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced 'incredible news' Friday with Florida online job postings up 78 percent in September from the previous year — if only it weren’t an error in reporting accurate information from the Conference Board’s Help Wanted OnLine data series."

Florida online job postings improved 1.12 percent from September 2012 to 271,126 last month, data from the New York-based Conference Board stated, contrary to the governor’s report.
"Florida online job listings flat".

"Florida hasn’t been forthcoming"

"Many left frustrated with state unemployment benefits website". Meanwhile, "Leaked memo raises concerns of candor with Scott's DEO" ("the memo supports a strong impression made this week by DEO officials that Florida hasn’t been forthcoming in disclosing the extent of problems with CONNECT and its vendor, Deloitte Consulting LLP.")

Florida "Walmart Workers walk off job in spontaneous strike"

"In an unexpected act of collective frustration, dozens of Walmart associates walked off the job at the Hialeah Walmart on 9300 NW 77th avenue in Miami, Florida on Friday Oct 18th, 2013. As many as 80 workers joined the walk-out after complaining of poor wages and mistreatment."
The spontaneous strike was not organized by any organization nor did it appear to be planned in advance. During the strike, customers reported incredibly long lines while associates reported that managers were being called in from other Walmarts in the region as replacement workers for the registers and other positions.

In the afternoon, the striking workers agreed to a meeting with management. After hearing of the strike, 1Miami and other community members rushed to the Hialeah Walmart to support the workers. "Walmart has to do some serious soul-searching and ask itself why so many workers are willing to risk everything to take a stand for respect," said 1Miami's Eric Brakken.

"Hialeah Walmart Workers walk off job in spontaneous strike - YouTube".

You know the Miami Herald hated having to cover this story of spontaneous employee concerted activity: "Customers going to the Walmart in Hialeah Gardens didn’t get the usual greeting as they walked into the store Friday."

Instead, they saw about 100 employees from the store, at 9300 77th Ave., who had walked off the job in the morning to demand a change in management.

At 9 a.m., employees gathered outside the front of the store and started to march, chanting for better hours and fair treatment.

"Workers seek changes at their Walmart". See also "Walmart Workers Strike At Miami-Area Store" and "Breaking: Wal-Mart workers on strike, defying firings -".

While the pols are playing golf

"Firefighters battle Port of Tampa blaze".

"Amid an election-fraud scandal"

"Congressman Joe Garcia’s campaign paid his former adviser $25,000 for consulting work months after he was fired amid an election-fraud scandal, new financial disclosure documents show."

The payment to Jeffrey Garcia, no relation to the Miami Democratic representative for whom he was a chief of staff, came months after he received another eye-catching sum: a $25,000 “campaign win bonus” that Republicans suggested was “hush money.”

But Garcia’s campaign, which budgeted the bonus money before any troubles arose, denies any wrongdoing and said it had to pay Jeffrey Garcia’s company, Palm Media, after an invoice appeared in the campaign’s mailbox.

"Rep. Joe Garcia pays $25,000 consulting tab from past adviser amid federal investigation".

Bill Young passes

"Family: Longtime U.S. Rep. Bill Young dies".

Flabaggers and country clubbers at impasse

"Large business interests are breaking up with the tea party after the hardline, right-wing faction of the Republican Party in Congress threatened not to raise the debt ceiling, nearly forcing the U.S. government into default."

Congressional leaders came to a last-minute agreement this week on a short-term lift of the debt ceiling and a reopening of the government for three months, but the game of brinksmanship with the world economy is still giving business leaders heartburn.

Though during the 2010 election cycle they embraced the tea party, which gave the GOP energy and vibrancy after its deflating defeat to President Barack Obama in 2008, bottom line-driven enterprises are starting to push back against a political faction that came within hours of ruining the reputation of one of the foundations of the global economic system: U.S. treasuries.

“And we business leaders, commerce leaders have to rethink this,” Mike Jackson, chairman and CEO of AutoNation, a Fort Lauderdale-based car retailer, told a crowd of business executives this week at the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Future of Florida Forum.

"As big business shies from tea party in Congress, state races could benefit"As big business shies from tea party in Congress, state races could benefit".

Star power and money

"Miami Beach’s mayoral election has attracted the kind of star power and money that has come to be expected of the million-dollar sandbar. Former President Bill Clinton has dropped by, and eclectic Virgin Group CEO Sir Richard Branson has weighed in. More than a million bucks in campaign expenditures have been made in the fight to become mayor of this brand-name city of 90,000." "In Miami Beach, a mayoral race as lively as the seaside city".

Miami-Dade Republican Party officer ensnared in absentee ballot fraud claim

"Two men knocked on the door of Betty Brockington’s bright orchid-pink Homestead house Wednesday night, asking for her family’s four absentee ballots. They worked for political campaigns, they said, and could take care of mailing them."

Brockington named the candidates she, her husband and two nieces wanted to vote for in the Nov. 5 city mayor and council races. The two men sat in a pair of chairs on the porch, filled out the ballots out of the family’s sight and stuffed them in ballot envelopes.

Brockington and her husband, Willie Snead, both 54, and their younger niece, Taquesha Robinson, 19, signed the envelopes without reviewing the ballots.

But when it was the older niece’s turn, 22-year-old Robkevia Scott, who had been watching South Beach Tow on television while the men sat in the porch, refused to give the men her ballot.

She grabbed it back — and realized the two men had filled the bubbles for precisely the candidates the family did not support: mayoral candidate Mark Bell and council candidate Norman Hodge Jr.

“I didn’t want to vote for those people,” Scott said.

"Scott contacted the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics & Public Trust, which has followed up with the family over the apparent absentee-ballot fraud. The Miami-Dade state attorney’s office has also been alerted. Both agencies declined to comment about any potential investigations."
Miami-Dade elections have been plagued by absentee-fraud scandals since last summer, when two Hialeah ballot brokers known as boleteros were arrested. Deisy Cabrera and Sergio “El Tío” Robaina have since pleaded no contest and received probation.

Earlier this year, after a Miami Herald report, prosecutors reopened an investigation into hundreds of phony absentee-ballot requests submitted online, which they have linked to Congressman Joe Garcia’s 2012 campaign. No arrests have been made.

Ever since Miami-Dade County tightened up some absentee ballot legislation, it has been illegal for anyone to possess ballots other than their own. The only exception is for an immediate family member or legal guardian.

The Homestead incident was first reported by the Political Cortadito blog.

At least one of the two men who filled out the Brockington family’s ballots, James Brady, the corresponding secretary for the Miami-Dade Republican Party, works for Bell, the husband of Miami-Dade County Commissioner Lynda Bell. Brockington and Scott identified a photograph of Brady, who went to school with one of Brockington’s sons.

"Homestead family: We were victims of ballot fraud". See also "First absentee ballot fraud claim arises — in Homestead race".

Weekly Roundup

"Week in Review for Oct. 18, 2013". See also "Weekly Roundup: Common Core Clash; Duke Pact; New House Dem".

Rubio easy meat

Kevin Derby: "Florida Democrats continued to pound Republicans for opposing the agreement ending the federal shutdown and raising the federal debt ceiling even as Republicans fired back."

Earlier in the week, the Florida Democratic Party trotted out Allison Tant, the chairwoman of the party, to label three Republican congressmen from Florida -- Steve Southerland, Dan Webster and Ted Yoho -- for opposing the deal. Tant’s attack on Webster was premature as that Central Florida Republican voted for the agreement.

On Friday, the Florida Democrats turned to their executive director Scott Arceneaux to continue the assault on Southerland and Yoho. But Arceneaux also set his sights higher and fired away at U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who also voted against the agreement.

"Florida Dems Won't Stop Jabbing at Marco Rubio, Repubs Who Opposed Debt Deal".

Maroño to flip?

"Manny Maroño plea deal may mean handing over bigger fish".

Smaller sample sizes

Political polls could be dramatically affected by "new Federal Communications Commission restrictions on calling cell phones."

The new regulations, which went into effect this week, are intended to curb telemarketers pestering cell phone users, but they also likely will have a chilling effect on polling companies that use automated calling systems . . . .

Now, such companies risk hefty fines if they make so-called “robo-calls” to cell phones without written permission. Polling firms can still call residents on their land lines, but that will mean smaller sample sizes and less accurate polling because so many people use cell phones exclusively . . . .

"New FCC rules will impact local polling".

A little money among friends

"A political action committee affiliated with Attorney General Pam Bondi is being scrutinized for a $25,000 campaign from Donald Trump that came just days after her office announced they were reviewing a New York based case that involved Trump University and its affiliates. Florida has not taken action against the group despite the case citing dozens of complaints filed with the Florida Attorney General's Office." "Campaign Note: Cabinet: Attorney General". See also "Trump contribution to Pam Bondi's re-election draws more scrutiny to her fundraising".

This FlaGOP "cash grab has yet to ignite political furor"

"Months after Florida lawmakers rejected $51 billion from the federal government to expand Medicaid, state officials are prepared to request billions in new federal aid for a different program to improve care for the poor, uninsured and under-insured."

But this cash grab, for whatever reason, has yet to ignite a political furor.

State officials want to grow their Low Income Pool (LIP) program from $1 billion a year to possibly $3 billion a year, said Justin Senior, deputy secretary for Medicaid at the Agency for Health Care Administration. The additional money could be used to help hospitals cover charity care, provide premium support for low-income Floridians or expand current healthcare programs.

“Our feeling at the agency is that there are opportunities here to make the LIP program larger,” Senior recently told lawmakers, who didn’t object. “We have talked with the federal government about that, and the federal government, by and large, they seem generally receptive to the possibility of it.”

Even contemplating accepting additional federal LIP dollars seems at odds with the Legislature’s stone-cold rejection of additional Medicaid funding tied to healthcare reform. But it highlights how intertwined Tallahassee and Washington are — whether Republican lawmakers in the state Capitol like it or not.

"Linda Quick, president of the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association, said the need for more funding became even more pronounced after House Republicans blocked a plan to expand Medicaid to 1 million low-income Floridians earlier this year."
The federal healthcare law also reduces some supplemental funding hospitals now receive.

Even if that weren’t true, Florida will always have people who are uninsured or don’t have enough insurance coverage, Quick said. And that means hospitals and health centers will always need this supplemental money, she said.

“Unfortunately, those people are not going anywhere, and they’re not getting insurance,” she said. “And therefore we need to continue to put money into the Low Income Pool.”

The state is hoping the federal government will give at least conditional approval to its Medicaid waiver renewal and funding increase by early 2014. That will allow the Legislature time to pass any laws needed to implement it for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

House Republicans rejected Medicaid expansion largely because it relied on federal funding to reduce the number of uninsured. Now, they may be needed to sign off on how any new dollars are allocated.

“I suppose there is some sense of irony if not hypocrisy there,” Quick said, “that we’ll take money with a different title and tag on it.”

"After saying no to feds on Medicaid expansion, Florida may ask for more money".

Rubio's immigration strategy a flop

"Break time’s over for Marco Rubio as immigration reform gets ready to move back into the political spotlight, but he might have a new strategy in dealing with the issue which remains unpopular with Republicans."

In the first half of the year, Rubio was the public face of the “Gang of Eight” on immigration reform. Rubio was everywhere on it, from the usual round of Sunday morning talk shows to the weeknight shows on Fox News.

But after the “Gang of Eight’s” bill passed the Senate and the House did nothing with it, Rubio turned his focus to bashing Obamacare. Rubio made the rounds on the same shows, this time calling for defunding Obamacare.

There’s a reason for that. Rubio started off the year as one of the top contenders for the Republican presidential nomination. But, the more Rubio hit the airwaves to plug immigration reform, the more his 2016 numbers started dropping. The likes of Chris Christie, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul leapfrogged Rubio in the polls.

"Marco Rubio's New Tactic on Immigration Reform: Can't Trust Obama".