Sunday, December 15, 2013

After reading the hard copy of your hometown newspaper, please consider becoming a site fan on Facebook and following us on Twitter. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Rick Scott's campaign promises were "too good to be true"

The Miami Herald editors: "When Rick Scott ran for governor in 2010, his promise to create 700,000 private sector jobs in seven years seemed too good to be true. Evidently, it was."

Floridians desperate for employment gave him the benefit of the doubt and voted Mr. Scott into office despite the sketchy details of his job-creation promise. Three years later and working up a head of steam for a second campaign in 2014, the Republican chief executive unashamedly takes credit for every new job in the state.

Not so fast, governor.

"An in-depth analysis by the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times shows the governor’s pledge has fallen well short of the mark. Of the jobs Mr. Scott can influence most, only a fraction now exist. He has pledged $266 million in tax breaks and other incentives in turn for 45,258 new jobs, but 96 percent of them have yet to materialize."
The larger economic picture has undoubtedly improved since Mr. Scott took over. Some 440,000 private-sector jobs have been created in the state since January 2011, when Gov. Scott took office. The state’s unemployment rate has dropped from 11.1 percent to 6.7 percent. Those are positive measures of the economy’s rebound from the depths of the Great Recession, but the credit is not Mr. Scott’s alone by any means.

The analysis also found a loss of 49,163 jobs at companies with more than 100 employees and the loss of 37,736 jobs at companies with fewer than nine employees. Most important (and overlooked by Mr. Scott and his spokesmen), the nonpartisan economists at the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research announced in mid-2010 that Florida would add 1.05 million jobs between July 1, 2010 and June 30, 2018, no matter who lived in the Governor’s Mansion, as a result of normal job growth.

Thus, to fulfill his promise of making a difference, Mr. Scott would have to come up with 1.7 million jobs in seven years. It would require the state to produce 20,000 jobs per month on average, every month, for seven years. The actual number is 12,000.

And who really deserves credit for those jobs that have been realized?

The editors stress that "the gap between Mr. Scott’s promises and his ability to deliver must be noted."
The effort to lure new companies and their jobs to the Sunshine State by pledging $266 million in tax breaks and other incentives is the most troubling. The number of jobs promised came to 45,258. Jobs delivered: 1,939. Meawhile, the number of layoffs at companies with more than 100 workers between January 2011 and November came to 49,163, according to federal data.

Given this poor performance, it may be time for the governor and Legislature to ask whether the state’s money could be put to better use. Making deals and attending ribbon-cuttings make for good PR, but so far this program hasn’t lived up to the governor’s promises.

"Many promises, few jobs". See also "Winners and losers in state's jobs hunt" (Part 1), "For some, Rick Scott's jobs plan isn't working" (Part 2) and "PolitiFact Florida: 7 steps, 7 years, still many more jobs to go" (Part 3).

More: "Shareable infographic detailing Gov. Rick Scott's jobs record", "County-by-county database tracking Gov. Rick Scott's jobs deals" and "Florida's lost jobs".

"Sink Ready for GOP Attacks "

"The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is going after former state CFO Alex Sink, the Democratic candidate in the special election for the congressional seat left open by the death of U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla." "Alex Sink Ready for GOP Attacks as NRCC Pours it On".

"Profoundly disturbing"

Carl Hiaasen writes that Willie Nelson "has canceled an upcoming performance at SeaWorld Orlando because of a CNN documentary called Blackfish, a profoundly disturbing account of the theme park’s exploitation of captive killer whales."

If you haven’t yet seen Blackfish, download it today. The film has been shortlisted for an Academy Award nomination, with good reason.

Last week, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart also scratched a SeaWorld show amid the outcry. The rock group has roots in Seattle, which isn’t far from the site of brutal roundups of baby killer whales during the late 1960s and early 70s.

"The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has "ruled that SeaWorld subjected its trainers to a hazardous environment, and ordered barriers erected to separate the whales from the employees. A federal judge agreed. The company has appealed."
Orcas are complex, highly intelligent mammals that in the wild would be traveling vast distances in close-knit family pods. Captive specimens spend their days in glorified guppy ponds performing stunts designed purely to amuse paying customers.

In a toothless response to Blackfish, Michael Scarpuzzi of San Diego SeaWorld defended the company’s “educational presentation” of orcas, and noted the thousands of uneventful interactions between trainers and whales during “exercise, play and enrichment.” . . .

There’s no denying that places like SeaWorld and the Seaquarium have educated millions of people about the beauty of orcas. Nor does the documentary leave any doubt that the trainers and vets who work directly with the whales care passionately for them.

It doesn’t change the fact that they exist in a state of extreme and stressful confinement. Imagine spending your whole life in a backyard swimming pool. Think you might get depressed every now and then? Bored out of your skull? Pissed off? . . .

"Meanwhile [the Company] working hard in court to overturn the OSHA decision and return to the old bareback-riding days. Said its lawyers: “Contact with killer whales is essential to the product offered by SeaWorld . . . ”
The product being live, performing orca meat.

After watching Blackfish, you’ll wonder if that’s really what you want your kids to see on their next vacation.

"Misery of captive whales portrayed in ‘Blackfish’". See also "Martina McBride is 7th to cancel SeaWorld performance".

Homestead absentee-ballot fraud case

"Miami-Dade police and prosecutors are investigating as potential fraud the case of four absentee ballots a Homestead family says campaign workers filled out against their wishes, the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald have learned." "Police, prosecutors investigate Homestead absentee-ballot fraud case" (subscription).

"Year of Water"

The Tampa Trib editors: "It’s too early to say whether the 2014 session of the Florida Legislature will be the 'Year of Water,' but momentum is building in that direction. And if correct policy decisions are made, the state will be in a stronger position to protect the environment, including Florida’s wondrous natural springs, strengthen the economy, and bolster agriculture."

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam recently noted that the environmental “devastation” on both sides of the state caused by the release of high volumes of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee this year has created “momentum” among lawmakers to fund water resource projects and discuss water policy next session.

In addition, Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, who has been chosen by colleagues to succeed House Speaker Will Weatherford of Wesley Chapel after the 2014 session, has said that water issues will be a top priority during his two-year term overseeing the House.

Putting water on the front burner is essential to Florida’s future.

"Putting water on the front burner". Related: "'Landmark' water proposals coming in 2014 session".

"High-stakes issue" in Miami-Dade

"Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez struck down Saturday county commissioners’ decision to restore most workers’ pay, forcing a new vote Tuesday on the high-stakes issue." "Mayor vetoes restoring workers’ pay, offers compromise bonus for low-paid employees" (subscription).

"His fists are forever clenched, and maybe his derriere, too"

John Romano: "There isn't an issue [Marco Rubio] can't attack, mock and then retreat from in a moment's notice. He speaks as if his fists are forever clenched, and maybe his derriere, too."

Yes, the clues are unmistakable.

Sen. Marco Rubio is positioning himself to run for … .


"Trust me on this. I know the signs. The smirks. The sarcasm. The complete disregard of any fact that might get in the way of the point he is trying to make."
Think about it.

When does he lead? What does he accomplish? Who does he help?

Near as I can tell, he doesn't put in many office hours, has a hard time getting along with co-workers, and has few discernible skills other than a vicious ability to criticize.

In other words, he'd be perfect for this job.

Did you catch his critique on the bipartisan budget deal that passed the House last week? It was as if he was trying to scoop every columnist in the nation.

Before the deal was even completed, he was blasting it on Fox News radio. It didn't matter that details had yet to be released. . . .

He has absolutely no shame, which happens to be one of the first indicators a scout looks for in a budding columnist.

"Try this simple exercise:"
Go to Google and type in "Rubio" and "criticize" and "Obama." You get over a million hits. There's Rubio criticizing the president for not lecturing Raul Castro at a funeral. Rubio criticizing Obama for not intervening in Syria quickly enough. Rubio criticizing the Iran deal. Rubio criticizing executive actions. Rubio criticizing Obamacare. Rubio criticizing economic plans. Rubio criticizing the oil spill response. Rubio criticizing Obama's golf game. I could continue, but I think you get the idea.
"Rubio wants all of the attention with none of the responsibility."
Who else could spend months crafting his own signature piece of legislation for immigration, and then shamelessly turn his back on it at the first sign of pushback? It was as if he wasn't trying to solve this ongoing problem for immigrants and the rest of the nation, but was only interested in how it affected his own career and image.
"I've seen the man criticize. I've watched him bluster and preen. I've seen him twist, contort and duck accountability for his own words."
I'm telling you, the guy could be a major newspaper columnist tomorrow.
"Marco Rubio has all the traits of a newspaper columnist".

The best he could do

"Sen. Tom Lee calls lieutenant governor's role 'opportunity to serve'".

"Scott and Weatherford are oblivious to reality"

The Tampa Bay Times editors remind us that: "Florida is stuck with a tea party governor who won't talk and a tea party House speaker who won't listen."

Gov. Rick Scott refuses to repeat his earlier support for Medicaid expansion, and House Speaker Will Weatherford refuses to hear the economic and moral arguments for accepting billions of federal dollars to cover the poor. Congress is finally rejecting such ideological rigidness in embracing a budget compromise, and the Legislature should do the same on health care. . . .

While the governor dodges, Weatherford clings to his flawed arguments against expansion as if they will ring true if he repeats them often enough. The Wesley Chapel Republican complains that Medicaid is a flawed system, yet fails to mention he refused to let the House vote on a bill passed 38-1 by the Senate that would have used the Medicaid money to subsidize private insurance. He accuses the Obama administration of being inflexible, yet the administration has allowed Arkansas to spend the Medicaid money on private insurance. He contends the Medicaid expansion would be too expensive, yet Washington would pay the entire cost for three years, other federal money to treat the poor will be cut and the state could save millions it spends now on health programs.

The real problem is that Weatherford believes adults are not entitled to access to affordable care and should just work harder to get better jobs that provide coverage. He's out of touch, and Floridians who need health care are out of time.

"Because Scott and Weatherford are oblivious to reality, more than 800,000 Floridians too poor to receive federal subsidies to buy insurance on the federal marketplace can't qualify for Medicaid."
Their pinched ideology ignores the pent-up demand for health coverage by the Floridians they were elected to represent. In October and November, more than 18,000 Floridians tried the federal marketplace and learned they are eligible for Medicaid under the existing program. More than 17,000 Floridians picked a private plan — more residents than in any other state using the federal marketplace. Imagine how many more residents would be covered if the federal marketplace worked as intended or Florida had created its own exchange. . . .

The U.S. House stood up to conservative groups last week, approving a modest bipartisan budget compromise. Why won't reasonable Democrats and Republicans in the Florida Legislature do the same and stand up for uninsured Floridians and fiscal responsibility?

Read the entire editorial here: "Failure at the top on Medicaid".

GOPers sling the mud in CD13

"The negative campaigning has begun in the Republican primary for Pinellas County's open congressional seat, with candidates David Jolly and Kathleen Peters attacking each other in separate mailings."

Jolly's mailing says "It's Pinellas County's worst nightmare … keeping Obamacare," and features pictures of Republican Peters, Democratic congressional candidate Alex Sink and President Barack Obama.
"She criticized the mailing's "tabloid spin" and called it misleading."She also said she was troubled by the way Jolly's piece brings together two female candidates in a weirdly discolored photo collage, a tactic she said has led some to criticize GOP candidates in the past for waging a 'war on women.'"
Which brings us to the piece Peters' campaign is sending out.

It asks "What kind of Republican makes campaign contributions to Obamacare liberals in Congress?"

It goes on to say that Jolly has contributed to some notable Democrats, including Jesse Jackson Jr., something not likely to be welcomed in a Republican primary. Jolly is a former aide to the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, and Jolly later became a lobbyist and Washington-based attorney and consultant. He said he has maintained relationships with several elected officials, and has contributed to many Republicans as well.

"Negative campaigning begins in race for congressional seat in Pinellas".

Entrepreneurs in action

"Some patients say South Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen is a ‘godsend.’ The feds say he bilked Medicare of $9 million." "Despite federal probe, patients of Palm Beach County eye doctor see him as ‘godsend’". More: "Fla. couple charged with Medicaid fraud".