Sunday, November 17, 2013

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

South Florida trial lawyers give big to Crist

"The Charlie Crist for Florida fund has to disclose its contributions and expenditures on a Web site, and lists a heavy-hitting crew of mostly South Florida trial law firms as Crist's biggest early donors."

The former Republican-governor-turned-independent-turned-Democrat is a trial lawyer at Orlando-based Morgan & Morgan, although his employer is missing from the early list.

Coral Gables-based Grossman Roth gave $250,000.

"Crist raises $872k in two weeks as a candidate". See also "Crist pulls in $900,000 in contributions". However, "Crist's big haul dwarfed by Scott's".

Gravis Marketing?

About that recent Gravis Marketing Florida poll: "One year out from the 2014 state election, Republican-turned-Democrat former Gov. Charlie Crist holds a 10-point lead over current Republcian Gov. Rick Scott in a head-to-head matchup according to a new poll by Gravis Marketing of Winter Springs."

In the same poll, a strong majority of voters are saying they are undecided when asked to choose between incumbent Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi and either of the two Democrats running to oppose her, George Sheldon or Perry Thurston. For both of the potential Democratic nominees for attorney general, the Florida population has a “Who are they?” opinion, with more than 90 percent saying they don’t know. Bondi has double-digit leads on either of them but is far from gaining 50 percent herself.

The Crist-Scott matchup, which would happen if Crist defeats former state Sen. Nan Rich in a Democratic primary, appear fueled partly by a still-strong disapproval rating for Scott and an assumption by many voters that Crist better understands average Floridians better.

"Both (Crist and Scott) are doing well with their parties but the independent [vote] is the key," said Gravis managing partner Doug Kaplan.

Crist leads among independents 51-30. "Crist is killing him with independents," Kaplan said.

"Poll shows Crist leading Scott by 10 points" ("The poll was conducted Nov. 8-10 with robocalls, by Human Events and Gravis Marketing. (The poll was conducted 11-8-2013 to 11-10-2013 using automated IVR telephone calls, calling a random sample of registered voters.)

Weekly Roundup

"Week in Review for Nov. 15, 2013". See also "Weekly Roundup: Deja Vu for Bill Nelson, Charlie Crist".

Obama campaign workers flock to Crist

"Charlie Crist’s career as a Republican was ruined four years ago after he hugged President Barack Obama onstage; now he says it could be his salvation as a Democrat."

Running again for his old post with a new party affiliation, Crist is being embraced by another aspect of the president: former Florida campaign workers for Obama, who has twice carried the Sunshine State.

At least seven former Obama Florida campaign workers — from his pollster to a top political consultant to media experts to his fundraiser — now form the nucleus of Crist’s new campaign team.

"Charlie Crist campaign team looks a lot like President Obama’s campaign team".

Lobbyists post earnings

"Health care, sugar and gambling interests spent the most with lobbyists during the summer months when most lawmakers spend time away from Tallahassee. The top three earners remain the same with Ballard Partners edging out Ron Book and the Southern Strategy Group." "Lobbyists post quarterly earnings".

Mario Diaz-Balart’s district wants action

"More than 6 in 10 voters in Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s district say he needs to be more aggressive pushing immigration reform this year, according to a new poll showing that a higher number of them favor a comprehensive bill that he hasn’t yet backed."

The 605-voter survey, conducted by Public Policy Polling for the liberal-leaning Florida New Majority, is a sign of the troubles Diaz-Balart has faced while trying to get a bipartisan bill passed in the U.S. House, where GOP leaders have kept the issue from a vote.

For months, the Miami representative and others have met in secret and tried to hammer out a bill that a majority of the Republican House caucus would back.

But with no bill yet as the year ends, the meetings have started to haunt Diaz-Balart because advocates and voters in District 25 want to see more results.

"Poll: Voters in U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s district want immigration reform now — not later".

Detzner "false" claim about Florida's voting rolls purge

"Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner has been on a public relations mission to defend his plan to use federal Homeland Security data to search for noncitizens on the voting rolls."

The key to the revamped process is using a federal resource of data, called the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or SAVE.
"Detzner defended the use of SAVE for voter registration purposes during a Nov. 4 hearing before the Senate committee on ethics and elections. He said using SAVE to check voter registration is one of its primary uses."

To be sure, a

federal document lists voter registration as one of the benefits that SAVE data can be used for to check citizenship status. However, [Politifact] found no documentation to support Detzner’s claim that voter registration is one of its "main functions."

SAVE is primarily used for agencies to check citizenship status for public benefits or driver’s licenses. Using SAVE to check voter registration eligibility is a more recent use, and only in effect in four states, plus a few Arizona counties. For fiscal year 2013, voter registration queries equaled less than 1 percent of the searches.

We rate this claim False.

"Florida’s top elections official argues that a federal database is used often to check voter registration".

Common core "flash point for critics"

Travis Pillow: "As Florida looks to quell the controversy over its new education standards, state education officials are working on a decision that will affect how those standards apply to nearly 2 million students. The tests set to come online next school year have become a flash point for critics of the Common Core State Standards — as well as legislative leaders who say the state is unlikely to abandon them. They were singled out by Gov. Rick Scott as he issued an executive order that brought the standards under a new round of scrutiny." "Common Core: What test will replace FCAT, and who will develop it?"

Rubio panders to Florida fringe

"Sen. Marco Rubio told an anti-gay group Saturday night that moral issues need to be part of government debate and that the United States needs to do more to protect religious freedom abroad."

“The moral well-being of our nation is our business. It’s everybody’s business,” Rubio said to applause at the Florida Family Policy Council fundraising dinner. “The debate we should be having isn’t whether or not we have a right to talk about values and morals in the public square, the debate we should be having instead is which values and morals our nation should focus on.”
"Rubio, who fell out of favor with some conservatives while pushing for comprehensive immigration reform, clearly still had the support of the social conservatives at the dinner. "
After he took the stage, one man yelled, “Rubio for president!” followed by applause.

“The American Dream cannot be saved unless our people have the values they need for success,” Rubio said. “They cannot be taught by government, and they will not be taught by the tornado of entertainment content and media messaging swirling around our children every day.”

The dinner was raising money for the group that led the petition drive to put a gay marriage ban on the state ballot. The constitutional amendment was approved by voters in 2008. The appearance came a little more than a week after Rubio voted against a bill that would have outlawed workplace discrimination against gays.

"Rubio to anti-gay group: Nation's morality at risk".

Obamacare supporters across Florida in high spirits

The Sunshine State News doesn't understand why, what it calls the "raincloud of poor enrollment numbers" has failed to dampen "the spirits of Obamacare supporters across Florida -- some still appear to be in high spirits despite the fact that Florida’s enrollment numbers were, by all definitions, much lower than anticipated. Only 3,571 people successfully signed up for health care in the entire state, a number comparably lower than the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ estimate of 3.5 million who are uninsured in the state of Florida." "Low Enrollment Hasn't Dampened Obamacare Supporters' Spirits".

See also "Only 3,600 Floridians Enroll in Affordable Care Act’s First Month; Obama Accepts Blame But Questions Abound".

Politics Muddy Merits of Medical MJ

"The Florida Supreme Court will try to sort through the conflicting arguments between Attorney General Pam Bondi, who opposes legalization, and proponents of the measure. The court hearing is scheduled for Dec. 5, a key step in deciding whether voters will get to have their say next fall." "As High Court Takes On Medical Marijuana Proposal in Florida, Politics Muddy Merits".

In the meantime the Tampa Trib editors write that "You would have to be under the influence of a controlled substance to miss the hypocrisy."

State lawmakers who routinely subject the voters of Florida to arcane constitutional amendment proposals that serve their ideological purposes are now up in arms that a 2014 ballot initiative proposed by a citizens group might possibly be misleading.

Recently, legislative leaders joined Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in challenging the ballot language proposed by the group behind legalizing medical marijuana in Florida.

We’ll leave questions about legalizing medical marijuana for another day, and instead focus on a process that stacks the deck in favor of lawmakers when it comes to changing the state’s constitution. It’s an inequity that should be rectified by lawmakers. But don’t count on it.

"Challenges to medical marijuana law reveal a stacked deck".

Even Florida YRs acknowledge FlaGOP alienating their peers

Even (some) of Florida's Young Republicans are beginning to see it. Anthony Man writes that "Young Republicans are increasingly worried that their party is doing so much to alienate their peers that it's an endangered species, facing an increasingly tough time winning big elections."

The problem is especially pronounced in South Florida, with its liberal social views and diverse population, which make it especially difficult to sell the Republican brand to young voters, party activists say.

As the national organization of Young Republicans joins with the statewide Florida group at the GALLERYone DoubleTree Suites Hotel in Fort Lauderdale this weekend for schooling, strategizing and socializing, many are calling on the party to change — fast.

"It's what we face every day as young Republicans," said Daniel Ruoss, 33, former vice chairman of the Florida Federation of Young Republicans and current board member of the Young Republican National Federation. "There is a stereotype out there of Republicans as old and white, pro-big business, screw the poor."

Dan Daley, 23, a Republican and elected city commissioner in Coral Springs, said legions of younger voters are turned off by many of the party's positions. "There is very little doubt the party needs to change," Daley said. "The party needs to get away from focusing on the social issues and more on the fiscal issues."

It's a critical topic for young Republicans at their weekend conference.

Robert Watson, a professor of American studies at Lynn University in Boca Raton, said there is a "real disconnect" between young voters and Republican positions on issues such as same-sex marriage, marijuana decriminalization, abortion and immigration reform.

Then again,
Brittany Bruce, 26 ["proud American and lover of liberty"], isn't convinced the situation is dire. Bruce, a Republican committeewoman and president of the Palm Beach County Young Republicans, said her party's stands on economics and freedom are so superior to Democratic policies that it doesn't need to change on social issues.
"Young Republicans see rocky future if party doesn't change".

Scott paints himself into a corner

How much more of "runnin' Florida like a bidness" stuff can Floridians take? "Florida physicians have made the argument for years:"

The state's Medicaid payment rates are so low that many doctors wouldn't take patients covered under the program.

But the federal Affordable Care Act provided a temporary solution. In 2013 and 2014, the law calls on the federal government to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to boost the pay of primary-care physicians who provide much of the treatment for low-income Floridians enrolled in Medicaid.

Now, however, Florida lawmakers and doctors face a dilemma. The federal government will stop covering the full cost of the physician pay increases at the end of next year. And that means Florida taxpayers would have to pick up part of the extra cost if the pay continue into 2015.

"Florida may have to prop up Medicaid pay for doctors". And then there's this: "Medicare Advantage enrollment pitfalls await".