Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Consider giving a newspaper subscriptions as a gifts this Holiday season. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Scott pushes more voting restrictions

William March: "A new state directive restricting absentee ballot returns sparked renewed Democratic accusations of voter suppression Tuesday against Gov. Rick Scott, with suggestions the Scott administration hopes to influence the special election to replace the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young."

Several elections supervisors also criticized the directive from Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, saying it will cause unnecessary inconvenience for absentee voters who return their ballots in person.
"Florida absentee ballot directive draws criticism". See also "Detzner’s directive on absentees sets off spirited debate".

Pension haters in a dither

"City of Tallahassee pension plan is 91 percent funded" (similarly "the Florida Retirement System defined benefit plan, which serves 517,000 teachers, state workers, law enforcement professionals and county employees that include those for Leon, was 86.2 percent funded as of October.")

"Don't tell Nan Rich she can't win"

Nancy Smith: "Don't tell Nan Rich she can't win. She won't believe you."

This is a Democrat who knows who she is, what she wants to do and why. In her marathon, year-and-a-half run for governor of Florida, she didn't expect help from the men in her party, and certainly she hasn't had any.
"Democrat Nan Rich's Enduring, Families-First Rise in Florida Politics".


The Miami Herald editors: "Delicate balance in the Everglades" (subscription required).

FlaGOP fights for freedom to be uninsured

"GOP Attacks Florida Democrats on Obamacare".

Garcia draws another GOP challenger

Kevin Derby: "National Republicans are increasingly turning their attention to Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo to dispatch freshman U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., even as Curbelo draws another major primary opponent." "South Florida Congressional Race Heats Up".

Radel swarm

"GOP leader: Rep. Radel should step down". See also "Calls for Trey Radel's Resignation Grow Louder" and "Florida GOP chair calls for Radel to step down".

Low wage employers all atwitter

"On the heels of new unemployment figures showing a hiring surge in recent months, Florida businesses have mixed news as they consider hiring decisions for next year. The Department of Revenue released the 2014 unemployment tax rates Tuesday, showing the minimum rate will drop by 42 percent. The minimum wage, though, will jump 14 cents to $7.93 per hour starting Jan. 1. The direct wage for tipped employees will also rise 14 cents to $4.91 per hour." "Businesses to see conflicting cost pressures next year".

Florida's wildfire-beating firefighters still waiting

"Several of the people who make the money for Florida’s market-beating pension fund are getting major raises -- some as high as $25,000 -- to bring the state’s fund managers closer to what they might make on Wall Street or in other state capitals." "SBA hands out hefty pay increases".

Florida's crime-beating and wildfire-beating cops and firefighters are still waiting for their raises

Miami’s foreclosure rate falls

"Miami’s foreclosure rate falls to 9.9 percent".

Runnin' Gub'mint like a bidness

"Struggles Continue With New Unemployment Computer System".

Florida's new method for counting and calculating income to determine Medicaid, CHIP, and the Premium Tax Credits and Cost-Sharing Reductions available through the new Health Insurance Marketplace

The Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy reports that "starting January 2014, Florida will begin using the concept of Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) when determining eligibility for its Medicaid and CHIP programs."

More than just a number, MAGI is a new method for counting and calculating income under the Affordable Care Act.

Specifically, MAGI will provide a basis for aligning, simplifying and streamlining eligibility across Medicaid, CHIP, and the Premium Tax Credits and Cost-Sharing Reductions available through the new Health Insurance Marketplace.

The "translation" between the current system and MAGI is not completely straightforward, however. In fact, as a result of the differences between the two systems, some Floridians who are Medicaid-eligible under current rules will become ineligible in 2014, even if nothing about their situation changes. On the other hand, some who are ineligible under current rules will be able to qualify once MAGI is implemented.

"MAGI: The Other Change to Medicaid Eligibility and What It Means to Florida".

How about proper staffing levels?

"Jim Karels led the independent investigation last summer into the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona, which killed 19 members of a firefighting "hot shots" team and was the deadliest wildfire since 1933. With Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam last week having raised concerns about a potentially difficult 2014 fire season, Karels said there are lessons from the Arizona fire that apply to Florida." "Florida Forest Service director reflects on lessons learned from Arizona wildfire deaths".

"Economic statistics aren’t all they sometimes appear to be"

Rick Scott's pals on the Tampa Trib editorial board write that "he took great satisfaction last week in the release of new jobs numbers and unemployment rates that give plenty of reason for optimism in a state hit particularly hard by the great recession. Florida added 44,000 jobs last month, more than any other state in the nation. Here in the Tampa Bay area, 7,100 jobs were added last month and nearly 40,000 over the past year, which leads the state."

However, even they acknowledge that

the positive economic statistics aren’t all they sometimes appear to be. For instance, economists say one reason the unemployment rate is dropping is because the long-term unemployed have given up looking for work and no longer show up in the statistics.
"Scott makes progress on jobs front".

Allegations of altered calendars, private email accounts and dilatory provision of text messages

"A persistent critic of Gov. Rick Scott filed lawsuits on Monday accusing top Florida officials of flouting the state’s public records laws by failing to turn over emails and other documents."

The lawsuits contend the Scott administration altered calendars of one top aide, relied on private email accounts and waited more than a year to hand over text messages of another aide.

The lawsuit against Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi says her office refused to hand over notes from meetings Bondi kept on her iPad and didn’t provide emails from private accounts that deal with state business.

Tallahassee attorney Steven Andrews, who is embroiled in a land dispute with the governor and members of the Cabinet, said he decided to file the lawsuits after failing to get records he has been seeking for months.

"Gov. Scott, Bondi sued over public records".

Crist defends Obamacare

"Health law may take toll on Democrats at polls". See also "Crist defends Obamacare at Palma Ceia fundraiser".

Cuba suspends consular services

"In a startling move, the Cuban government's diplomatic mission in Washington announced Tuesday that it was suspending consular services until further notice — in effect no longer issuing passports or visas for travel to Cuba." "Cuba indefinitely suspends consular services in U.S.".