Saturday, December 28, 2013

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

"Crist Goes Full Kafka"

The Sunshine State News: "Here are five big Florida politics and government stories from the year that was. The list isn't meant to be comprehensive, and the rankings are certainly up for debate. But these are the things that many people will likely remember about 2013." "Yearly Roundup: Five Stories that Dominated 2013".

"Wanted: Strong leaders"

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Wanted: Strong leaders to fill these seats". Meanwhile, last week the Tampa "Tribune endorses David Jolly for District 13 GOP primary".

Florida on the heels of Texas

", online arm of Chief Executive magazine, looked at the business climate in all 50 states and ranked Florida second-best for business in the nation in 2013. It is the third year in a row the premier business publication has awarded the Sunshine State its second spot." "Florida Second-Best State for Business in 2013, Say CEOs".

Union haters run wild

This embarrassing doggerel from the Sunshine State News: "Labor Unions Have Some Wild Ideas about ‘Work’".

Scott's "simplistic message" may catch fire

Tampa Bay Times Business columnist, Robert Trigaux predicts that

Rick Scott, the most disliked Florida governor in modern history, will be re-elected next fall. Why? Because no opponent can counter his simplistic message that the state unemployment rate fell by nearly half since he took office in 2011.
"For 2014, 10 predictions for the new No. 3 state in the country".

About Scott's "simplistic" jobs message

To be sure, Florida's drop in "unemployment" rate mirrors the national trend, with "both national and Florida jobless rates improved in November, to 7 percent and 6.4 percent, respectively. . . ."

But there's a catch, and it's a big one: you can't evaluate Florida's "unemployment" rate without considering the number of "discouraged or part-time-by-necessity workers" in Florida. You see,

the number of unemployed, discouraged or part-time-by-necessity workers is more than double [the unemployment] rates: 14.1 percent in the nation and 14.6 percent in the state.
"1.3 million to lose unemployment benefit".

So, Rick Scott wants Floridians to ignore the number of "discouraged or part-time-by-necessity workers", because, if you ignore those numbers it appears that Florida's "unemployment" rate is actually slightly lower than the national rate. However, if you consider reality - the discouraged workers (who are no longer looking for work) and the part-time-by-necessity workers (who are technically "employed") - Florida remains in the sewer.

And then there's the "quality" of compensation in Florida (many jobs are sans benefits, including crazy things like a living wage, let alone paid "sick leave" or - lets go crazy for a moment - pensions).

And last, and certainly not least, there's Scott's explicit campaign promise to somehow create 700,000 in seven years, and that those 700,000 jobs would be in excess of normal job growth. So, in evaluating Scott's 700,000 new job promise, explicitly promised not to merely point to the number of jobs created, but rather the number of jobs created, in excess what would have come about in excess of normal job growth (to wit: as a result of his efforts). Good luck with that, Mr. Scott.

Consider the following excerpts from a December 13, 2013 analysis of Scott's job promises by PolitiFact:

Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011 with a simple plan he promised would invigorate the state's economy.

Over [1] seven years, through [2] seven steps, Florida would add [3] 700,000 jobs. Shorter: 7-7-7.

Not only that, the state would see improvements in its gross domestic product, personal income and tax collections, all achieved through putting government on a diet and giving taxpayers a break.

Three years into Scott's tenure, Florida is recovering in ways that surprise economists. The unemployment rate is down dramatically, below the national average [(that is if you ignore discouraged workers and part-time-by-necessity workers (see above))], and the state has churned out hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

But are Florida's gains enough for Scott to keep his biggest campaign promise? . . .

The jobs numbers, if you were to jot them onto a napkin, look good.

Florida has added 406,000 jobs since January 2011, and the biggest monthly boost is the most recent. In October, the state added 44,600 jobs, according to preliminary federal data.

Better yet, jobs are coming faster in 2013 than in 2012 and 2011.

Beyond the numbers, however, lie two critical questions:
1.) What did Scott actually promise voters in 2010?

2.) Is Scott's 7-7-7 plan the reason those 406,000 jobs came to Florida?

Scott's campaign promise

When Scott debuted his 7-7-7 economic plan in July 2010, nonpartisan economists at the Legislature's Office of Economic and Demographic Research had just released their estimates for Florida's long-term jobs outlook.

They concluded Florida would add 1.05 million jobs between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2018, and it didn't matter who lived in the Governor's Mansion — Scott, Democrat Alex Sink or someone else.

To account for the news, Scott clarified his promise. His 700,000 jobs would come in addition to the ones state economists forecasted.

Put simpler: 7-7-7 became 7-7-1.7 million.

That promise is a lot harder to keep. It requires the state to produce more than 20,000 jobs on average per month, every month, for seven years.

To date, Florida is averaging 12,000 jobs a month.

"Florida is going to come nowhere near exceeding normal job growth by 700,000 in seven years, no matter how you define it or time it," said David Denslow, a retired University of Florida economist. . . .

Part of national trend

The biggest gust behind Florida's economy is the national business cycle, said Mekael Teshome, a PNC Financial Services Group economist who studies the Florida market. If the economy is improving here, it means conditions have improved nationwide. For decades, the state's success was built on growth, the continuous influx of new residents and housing construction.

When people have more expendable income, more people visit Florida. When the economy improves around the country, retirees feel better about moving to Florida. And when housing picks up regionally, it lifts the rest of the state.

"What we're seeing in Florida has more to do with the macro trends than particular policies," Teshome said. "In terms of what proportion of that recovery was due to government versus the normal business cycle, I don't think anyone's really got that number."

The types of industries in a state also are important. Florida's boom and bust was fueled by housing.

Meanwhile, Texas performed relatively well during the recession thanks to its agriculture and energy sectors.

"You could say Gov. Rick Perry is great, and maybe he is and maybe he isn't, but a lot of its success is due to the type of industry they have," Seyfried said. "Florida's economic performance in recent years was driven by the bursting of the housing bubble."

Much more here: "7 steps, 7 years, still a lot more jobs to go".

Scott's "few successes and hundreds of unfulfilled promises"

"Gov. Rick Scott has staked his political future on his ability to bring jobs to Florida, but the first comprehensive review of his efforts shows few successes and hundreds of unfulfilled promises." "Gov. Scott's record on job creation".

Florida the third most populous state

"For Florida, the population estimates set to be released Monday could come with a side of bragging rights. This may finally be the year Florida overcomes New York as the third most populous state." "Florida poised to become third most populous state". See also "UPDATE: Florida may soon pass New York in population".

Races to watch next year

"With Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist already slugging it out, the 2014 gubernatorial race dominates political talk in Florida. But scattered across the state, candidates are raising money and getting organized to try to win competitive Florida House seats. Campaign filings point to the House as the battleground in next year's legislative races. Of the 20 Senate seats up for election, incumbents are unopposed in 15 of the districts — and the other five incumbents have huge fund-raising leads." "Jacksonville race among those to watch next year". See also "High-Profile House Races Teed Up for 2014".

Negron has Two Challengers

"Joe Negron Starts 2014 as Favorite Despite Two Challengers".

Jeb Bush lapdog claims not all charter "students struggle in mediocrity"

Myriam Marquez - who once wrote that Jeb Bush's "vision" was "universal and timeless . . . clear and electrifying as the day's cobalt-blue sky" - wants you to know that not all charter schools are "fly-by-night enterprise[s] meant to enrich a few slick operators while students struggle in mediocrity." "LBA charter school makes difference".

"A firing in name only"

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster handed out an expensive Christmas gift at taxpayer expense to the longtime city administrator who apparently prefers cash over a graceful retirement."

Tish Elston qualified for an extra half-year of taxpayer-funded salary — $78,000 — this week when Foster "fired" her effective his last full day in office. The episode is a stain on Foster and Elston's service to the city and should serve as a reminder to the incoming mayor that a mayor's fiscal obligation is to constituents, not staff.

This was a firing in name only. In announcing Elston's departure from City Hall on Jan. 1, the self-proclaimed fiscal conservative Foster gushed about her dedication to the city's taxpayers, even as both were complicit in ensuring Elston walked out the door with more taxpayer money.

"Sweetheart deal at taxpayer expense".


"Incumbent Councilman José Caragol says he can seek another term in 2015, but challenger Eddy González disagrees." "State legislator says he is running for Hialeah council in 2015".

Florida Legislature "orders" Congress to build the Keystone pipeline

"State lawmakers have often sent nonbinding, declarative messages to Congress to score political points back home, make demands on the federal government or publicize their opinions about hot topics. Memorials considered by the GOP-controlled Florida Legislature over the past few years "ordered" Congress to build the Keystone pipeline, make BP pay for environmental cleanup from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, abolish the U.S. Department of Education and limit congressional terms." "Legislators Send Message to Congress, Voters with Memorials".

"Grossly offensive" probably not the best standard for Tally

"A Florida regulation governing the use of state buildings never mentions the term 'grossly offensive' as a reason for rejecting an exercise of free speech. But that phrase is what officials repeatedly have relied on in turning down a request from the New York-based Satanic Temple to install a diorama of an angel falling into hell at the Capitol rotunda." "Is ‘grossly offensive’ enough to keep Satanists from Capitol?".

Professors in Scott's cross hairs

"An administrative law judge has sided with the Florida Board of Education in a dispute about new requirements that could make it harder for faculty members to get and keep tenure-like contracts at state colleges." "Ruling could make it harder for state-college faculty to get tenure".

"Silly season"

"Christmastime at the Florida Capitol has turned into the silly season." "Manger scene draws competition at Florida Capitol".