Sunday, January 05, 2014

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

"Political dominoes could fall"

"Political dominoes could fall as one of Florida's leading Republicans announces he may step down if he is selected as president of Florida Atlantic University." "Jeff Atwater says he’s seeking FAU presidency". See also "CFO Jeff Atwater seeking FAU presidency", "Atwater to seek presidency at Florida Atlantic University", "Jeff Atwater: Florida CFO jumps into race for FAU chief" and "Latest: Gov. Scott praises Atwater as he seeks university presidency".

Greer now sells recliners

"Jim Greer, ex-Florida GOP chair, now sells recliners".

A favorite of social conservatives

"Eric Eisnaugle is looking to get back to the Florida House and he had an impressive 2013 to set the stage for a probable return to Tallahassee come November."

The Central Florida Republican is certainly a known commodity in Tallahassee. Eisnaugle was elected in 2008 and appeared on the fast track to leadership, including serving as vice chairman of the Economic Development Policy Committee in his second term. Eisnaugle was also a favorite of social conservatives. His wife, fellow attorney Carrie Eisnaugle, serves as president of Florida Right to Life.
"Eric Eisnaugle's a Strong Favorite to Return to Florida House".

Florida has "essentially abandoned growth management"

The Tampa Tribune editorial board writes that "Gov. Rick Scott greeted with glee U.S. Census Bureau numbers that show Florida is close to passing New York as the third-largest state."

The U.S. Census numbers show Florida only 98,000 people behind New York, which it should supplant by the end of the year.

"But Scott and other state leaders also should recognize there is more to economic success than simply adding new residents. Florida could easily roll off a financial and environmental cliff if it doesn’t recommit to confronting the challenges of growth."

This is a lesson Florida leaders once understood. Lawmakers adopted policies in the 1980s to ensure responsible growth after seeing haphazard construction lead to polluted waterways, congested roads, overcrowded schools and crime.

"But Scott, a relative newcomer to Florida, state lawmakers and special interests used the recession as an excuse to junk the state’s growth management efforts."

They blamed the economic collapse on undue regulations when, in fact, the downturn hit Florida particularly hard because of overbuilding.

Developers’ complaints that the process was cumbersome surely had some validity. But rather than streamline it, the state essentially abandoned growth management.

That may not have seemed a risk when the recession had stalled population growth, but it looks pathetically short-sighted with the rebounding state now adding more than 200,000 people a year.

If Scott wants to continue to retain Florida’s appeal to businesses and residents, he needs to attend the other side of the growth ledger.

Consider: Much of the state already endures chronic water shortages. Most of the state’s 700 springs suffer from pollution and diminished flow. Half the state’s rivers and more than half of its lakes have poor water quality. Toxic algae blooms and fish kills are common along the coast.

Our cities are plagued by gridlock, and Florida ranks near the bottom in per capita education spending.

Rapid population growth will only compound these problems, unless state leaders are proactive.

One concern we have is that the full ramifications of gutting the state’s growth management laws aren’t yet known because of the recession. But if the effects prove to be disastrous — more school overcrowding and worse traffic gridlock, to name a couple of problem areas — state leaders need to reverse their decision to give local jurisdictions most of the power over growth management.

There are other solutions — some that don’t necessarily require tax increases. For instance, more than half of all the potable water used in Florida goes to lawn irrigation. Encouraging the use of drought-resident, Florida friendly landscaping, particularly in new development, would tremendously reduce use. So would retrofitting toilets and other water fixtures in homes built before low-flow fixtures were available.

Yet lawmakers have been reluctant to pursue such sensible, and economical, solutions, much less address more vexing threats.

Thoughtful policies on septic tank and runoff pollution remain elusive.

State leaders even resist the efforts of cities to offer more transit options for their growing numbers. Lawmakers have refused to pass legislation that would allow Tampa and other municipal voters in Florida to vote on tax increases for better mass transit in cities. Instead, only voters countywide can decide such referendums.

Lawmakers sometimes still seem to view Florida as a small wannabe state, instead of one that will soon leave New York in its wake.

The census numbers show robust growth has returned to Florida. That could be an economic blessing — but only if the state demonstrates the resolve to look beyond the numbers to the future needs of its citizens.

Read all of it here: "Need to manage growth evident as Florida passes New York".

Scott's unemployment website a disaster

"Department of Economic Opportunity officials dispute claims from Deloitte that all technical problems with the new unemployment system it was hired to create and implement are fixed. The agency said it will continue its $15,000 daily fines of the company until the issues are resolved." "Squabble over unemployment system heats up". Meanwhile, "Democrats say Obamacare working well in Florida"

"Incentive programs receive mixed report card"

Aaron Deslatte: "Florida incentive programs receive mixed report card".

On the agenda

"14 for '14: What Will Command the Capitol's Attention This Year".

"A crack in a critical GOP constituency"

"For more than two decades, running for Congress in this sun-soaked capital of Cuban exiles has required two things: a Republican registration card and a hard line toward the Castro regime."

So when Joe Garcia became the first Cuban-American Democrat from the state to win election to the House in 2012, it signaled a crack in a critical GOP constituency. . . .

Garcia represents a new breed of Cuban-American, more interested in pragmatism and reconciliation than regime change and isolation.

That generational shift is at the heart of a realignment that could help change U.S. policy toward Cuba and reshape the political landscape in the country's largest swing-voting state.

The implications are particularly troubling for the GOP.

"Democrats breaking GOP's long lock on Cuban vote".

"Array of changes to gambling laws"

"Florida lawmakers will be eyeing a range of gambling changes this spring that could reshape the state's controversial industry for decades." "Florida legislators looking at array of changes to gambling laws".

Congressman’s former aide convicted in A-B case released from jail

"Jeffrey Garcia must still serve three months of house arrest." "Miami congressman’s former aide convicted in absentee-ballot case released from jail".