Sunday, January 26, 2014

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

"Florida is one of the Republican-led states that has chosen partisan politics over sound public policy"

"In Florida, legislators passed up $51 billion over 10 years to expand Medicaid or subsidize private policies. That left people like [House Speaker Will Weatherford constituent Jennifer] Bates out of luck. Her unemployment benefits leave her with too little income to qualify for a federal subsidy to buy private insurance in the federal marketplace. The health care reform law anticipated people like her would be covered by the Medicaid expansion."

The U.S. Supreme Court made Medicaid expansion optional for the states when it upheld the guts of the Affordable Care Act, and Florida is one of the Republican-led states that has chosen partisan politics over sound public policy and refused to participate.

Uninsured Floridians aren't the only ones hurt by this callous indifference. A new report estimates the failure to expand Medicaid could cost Florida businesses up to $253 million a year in tax penalties. The report by Jackson Hewitt Tax Service estimates about 84,000 uninsured Floridians work for large companies but cannot afford their employer's health coverage. They would qualify for expanded Medicaid, but since that is not available they can sign up for subsidized coverage on the federal marketplace. Those businesses face fines for each employee who gets a subsidy in the marketplace — fines they would avoid if Florida accepted the Medicaid expansion money.

"The Senate passed a reasonable alternative by a 38-1 vote last year that would have used the expansion money to subsidize private coverage. Weatherford did not allow that bill to come to a vote in the House in the session's final days." "Floridians left behind on health coverage".

Raw political courage

"The Republican governor wants to save businesses $33 million by reducing fees paid when companies register with the state. The Scott administration says the proposal would streamline filing files for more than 1.6 million businesses." "Fla. Gov. wants to cut corporate filing fees".

Charter madness

"A Florida state representative with ties to the charter school industry has been tapped to oversee a bill revising charter school contracts across the state. Republican House leaders recently chose Hialeah Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. to handle the bill. Diaz is a dean at Doral College. The school is run by Florida’s largest for-profit charter school company Academica." "Representative Diaz tapped to oversee bill on charter schools".

Scott won't take responsibility

Paula Dockery: "Scott claims credit, but won't take responsibility".

Crist hosing Romney in real time

"Charlie Crist's 2008 backing of John McCain caused fury"

Mitt, released Friday on Netflix, shows the moment Romney learned of Crist's endorsement, which actually surprised McCain as he was preparing to address Pinellas County Republicans. Romney looks anguished as he hears the news, and his son Tagg speaks to the camera:

"Charlie Crist had promised my dad multiple times that he was going to stay neutral," he says. "He talked to many people on our campaign and he promised them all he was going to stay neutral. And now he has announced he is going to endorse John McCain. Now it's two days before the election. This is a big deal. It's a tight race, and it's probably enough to tip it in McCain's favor."

"Charlie Crist's 2008 backing of John McCain caused fury".

Drake Draws Major Primary Opponent

"After two terms in the Florida House, Brad Drake stepped aside after redistricting in 2012 so fellow Republican Marti Coley could finish her last term. Drake has been running to return to Tallahassee ever since but now he has a major Republican opponent." "Brad Drake Draws Major Primary Opponent in Florida House Fight".

Raw political courage

"Rick Scott Announces $2.45 Million in Grants to Support 14 Florida Military Communities".

Hispanic Independents can almost be treated as a third party

Helen Aguirre Ferre in the Miami Herald: "Florida’s Hispanic voters might be up for grabs. In 2006, most were registered Republican, but that trend has dramatically changed since. In 2012, 645,000 Hispanics were registered Democrat while 476,000 were registered Republican. But a whopping 513,000 were registered Independent, indicating dislike or mistrust of both parties."

These Hispanic Independents could almost be treated as a third party as they can tilt the gubernatorial election in any direction.
"Republicans have relied on the all-important Cuban-American vote, which up until recently went solidly Republican. But that is changing, and Puerto Ricans in Florida lean Democrat. The game-changer came with the debate on immigration reform. To say Republicans handled it badly is an understatement."
It was a self-inflicted wound that still is in the process of healing. The disparaging tone and language used by some sent the message that they neither wanted nor needed the Hispanic vote. To make matters worse, Scott unnecessarily embraced the controversial Arizona immigration law as a model for Florida, pushing Hispanics further away.

If this Republican ticket wants to win this election, they will need to reintroduce themselves, and the Republican Party, to Florida Hispanics not only in words but with deeds. The platform will make a difference, and Republican House Speaker Will Weatherford can help. . . .

Hispanic voters care about the same issues as other voters with a sensitivity toward immigration reform. The quality of the candidates and their campaigns, the state of the economy and their ability to provide solutions to current challenges in unambiguous terms is important. Hispanics do not need everything to be said in Spanish. However, they do need to know that the candidate “gets” them. That goes a long way in politics and usually is the way elections are won.

"State GOP must show it ‘gets’ Hispanics".

Gay marriage

"A coalition of gay couples in Florida is taking on the state's ban on gay marriage." "Six Couples Launch Legal Challenge Against Florida’s Gay Marriage Ban".

Florida Makes Another "Worst" List

"'Florida is one of weakest in the country in terms of traffic safety laws,' said Cathy Chase, vice president of governmental affairs for the Advocates group." "With Traffic Enforcement Bills Pending, Florida Makes “Worst” List For Highway Safety".


"As Gov. Rick Scott ramps up his re-election bid, he wants his legacy to be the state's declining unemployment rate and jobs, but the next few months could shape his message on a more controversial issue: gambling."

Will the state renew or expand the Seminole Tribe's monopoly on blackjack and other casino-style table games? Should the state allow slot machines in communities, like Palm Beach and Naples, whose voters have approved them at their racetracks? Will casino giants Genting and Las Vegas Sands be allowed to build a resort casino on the shores of Biscayne Bay or in Broward County?

Because it's an election year, most observers believe the governor will avoid finding answers.

"Florida Gov. Rick Scott unlikely to roll dice on election-year gambling debate".

GOP wants to stiff hospitality industry workers

"Republicans in the House of Representatives are proposing legislation that would allow the food industry to bring a half-million guest workers from other countries into the United States each year, and most voters don’t like the idea." "58% Oppose GOP Plan for 500,000 Guest Workers Every Year".

"Christie isn’t such a nice guy, but neither is Scott"

The Orlando Weekly's David Plotkin contrasts Scott and Christie: "Both Christie and Scott demonstrate how dangerous it is when leaders prioritize money over human need – but of the two, Scott is the more sinister politician. In Florida, we could only hope for a governor who carried out political grudges through bridge-lane closures. Scott avoids public conflict, engaging instead in the silent trade of human lives for corporate profits."

In 2012, Scott vetoed the funding of 30 rape crisis centers, during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. He sped up Florida’s execution process, but then chillingly delayed one prisoner’s execution date so it wouldn’t conflict with a political fundraiser. And of course he refuses to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid, even as 4 million Floridians lack health insurance. Why does it seem like so many public officials act in ways that are so contrary to the public good?
"To understand why politicians do what they do, we first have to start viewing political campaigns as what they really are: businesses. Political campaigning is a large and complex industry, with its own technologies, trade magazines and master’s degrees. A political candidate is essentially a specialized contractor who wears three hats. They’re media personalities, they are fundraisers and they are customer-support representatives."
Campaigns create media for carefully selected audiences, just like advertising agencies or television studios. A political campaign serves its customers, who are still quaintly referred to as campaign “donors.” The campaign’s mission is to elect a government representative on behalf of these customers – most of whom are Florida’s wealthiest individuals and industries.

What makes Scott and his campaign so frightening is that he’s both the candidate and his own biggest client. Scott spent $85 million to win his first term in 2010, and $73 million of it came from his own pocket. This year, Scott’s campaign will spend more than $100 million to win re-election. But we are not his customers.

"Gov. Rick Scott vs. Gov. Chris Christie".

"Reports, concerns and logic regarding Medicaid expansion have failed to move Weatherford"

The Sarasota Herald Tribune's editorial board: "Last week's report that failure to expand Medicaid could cost Florida businesses $253 million in tax penalties is just the latest evidence that the Legislature's obstinacy on this issue will hurt the state's economy. The report offers yet another reason -- as the Legislature prepares to open this year's session -- for the public and the business community to push lawmakers to close this troubling gap in Florida health care."

Previously, a University of Florida study found that Medicaid expansion -- and the $51 billion in federal dollars that would would flow to the state as a result -- would create more than 120,000 permanent jobs. . . .

Still, so far, all reports, concerns and logic regarding Medicaid expansion have failed to move the Legislature -- or, more precisely, House Speaker Will Weatherford.

"Another reason to expand Medicaid".

"Obama comes to Scott’s aid"

"Christie: Touch of irony as Obama comes to Scott’s aid on state’s troubled jobless site" (subscription required).

"A surprising and encouraging development"

The Tampa Tribune editors: "The run-up to this year’s legislative session in Tallahassee has been filled with promising signs for Florida’s environment, a surprising and encouraging development considering the virtual antipathy of recent Legislatures toward conservation."

In separate announcements last week, Gov. Rick Scott said he’ll seek $55 million to restore and maintain the state’s natural springs, and that he wants the state to double its spending on Everglades restoration, bumping it up to $130 million.

In the Senate, a $380-million plan to help the state’s natural water bodies is being drafted. And in the House, members are also working on a springs restoration package.

Whatever the motivation ­— be it political or not — the results will benefit the environment, the economy, and the reputation of Florida as a place of abundant natural beauty. The governor and state lawmakers should be applauded and encouraged to do even more.

"Encouraging signs for Florida’s environment".