Sunday, February 23, 2014

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

Endless Jeb-Love From Florida's Media

Steve Bousquet simply adores Jeb Bush, writing this morning that "Rick Scott will never be confused with Jeb Bush."

Both men are Republicans, but the similarities largely end there. As Scott begins his fourth year as chief executive, his agenda in the Legislature is again modest, anchored by a couple of tightly focused, feel-good priorities: cutting fees and taxes by $500 million and increasing public school spending by $542 million. . . . Scott plays it safe.

He has to hoard his limited political capital at a time when a recent poll showed a majority of voters don’t want him to win re-election.

Bousquet then contrasts Scott's timidity with the bland right-wing agenda of, as an editorial board once put it, "Jeb Bush And His Amen Chorus Of Goose-Stepping Legislators".

Bousquet would have his readers believe that Jebbie's tired right wing "ideas" and incompetence - tax cuts that chiefly benefited business and the wealthy; faith-based prisons; the attempted kidnapping of Terri Schiavo from hospice care, nearly precipitating a constitutional crisis; failed "education reform" which was little more than a means to attack public school teachers; issuing an executive order directing state agencies to merely voluntarily comply' with the OSHA standards which was followed by the deaths of public employees; spinning public services off to private companies that were GOP campaign contributors; his embarassing attempts to stride the world stage; all leading to his exiting office leaving Florida with "a water crisis, insurance crisis, environmental crisis and budget crisis to go with our housing crisis . . . first in the nation in mortgage fraud, second in foreclosures, [and] last in high school graduation rates" - was somehow courageous.

Bousquet - in full misty-eye-mode - explains that

Bush, by contrast, relished spending his abundant political capital as he barnstormed the state in pursuit of big, often controversial ideas in two terms from 1999 to 2007.

Backed by a Legislature controlled by Republicans eager to exercise their newfound muscle, Bush created the nation’s first statewide tuition voucher program, a public school grading system based on student performance (now under attack), eliminated some civil service protections for state workers, expanded outsourcing in government and restructured the governance of Florida universities.

Bousquet continues:
Scott similarly has the wind at his back in the Capitol, with a Legislature dominated by fellow Republicans, but his vision is more limited. . . .

If Scott has an audacious goal, it may be that he believes he can win re-election with such relentlessly mediocre poll numbers. His legislative agenda can almost literally fit on a bumper sticker. Scott himself pared it down to just 11 words in his big announcement on Jan. 29 when he proposed a $74.2 billion budget: “Tax and fee cuts, eliminate government waste and pay down debt.” . . .

Scott’s small-ball strategy is sure to be on display Tuesday, March 4, when he delivers his annual State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature.

"Florida Gov. Rick Scott plays it safe in an election year".

One suspects that most Floridians would prefer Scott's "small ball" to Jeb's long string of failed "big ideas."

"Not only is that presumptuous, it's nuts"

Scott Maxwell: "Most of you probably have no clue who Eric Eisnaugle is."

That's completely understandable. Eisnaugle, after all, is merely a former legislator who wants back in office. . . .

Only here's the thing: Republican Eric Eisnaugle isn't just running for a House seat in west Orange County. He's running to be House speaker … in 2021.

That's right. He's 37, not even in the state House, yet Eisnaugle is making plans to head it.

What's more, big-moneyed interests such as Walt Disney World are helping finance his quest for leadership under the assumption that he'll win office this year, get re-elected in 2016 ... and 2018 ... and 2020 — and then take over as House speaker. . . .

In recent years, however, a new breed of politico has emerged — one so rabidly power-hungry that he skips trying to prove his worth and instead tries to buy his way to the top.

And it's wickedly effective.

Special interests that need favors start funneling money to prospective leaders.

In the past two months Eisnaugle has collected about $45,000 worth of checks — not for his general campaign, but for his "Committee for Justice and Economic Freedom."

We're talking about $20,000 from Disney, $5,000 from the Realtors PAC and $2,500 from an online travel company.

Eisnaugle — who is facing two lesser-financed opponents, Republican Vicky Bell and Democrat Shaun Raja — then uses that money to fund the campaigns of other aspiring legislators who can pledge to support his bid for speaker if they, too, get elected.

"Eisnaugle should win House seat before eyeing 2021 speakership".

It never saw a tax cut it didn't like

The Tampa Tribune editorial board never saw a tax cut it didn't like: "Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam offers a practical way to generate desperately needed funds for school construction that merits the Legislature’s support."

The proposal also includes a business tax cut aimed at making Florida more competitive.

Putnam’s plan is to cut in half over three years the 7 percent tax on energy used by businesses. Residents pay no such sales tax. Putnam says large corporations are exempted, so the tax affects mostly mid-sized businesses.

"A way to help Florida schools and commerce".

FRS flux

"Florida Retirement System in flux" (subscription).

The usual suspects

Aaron Deslatte: "Florida's lobbying corps garnered another banner year of cash in exchange for influencing legislation and regulation in the Capitol last year."

And although social issues such as abortion, medical marijuana and gun rights draw a lot of ink and airtime in the Capitol, it's always interesting to note that when it comes to swaying political outcomes, the most critical issues almost always revolve around corporate profits.

An Orlando Sentinel analysis of the 2013 lobbyist-compensation data filed last week indicates Florida's lobbyists were paid about $132.3 million to ply the Legislature, up from $123 million in 2012.

They also reported being compensated to the tune of $93.8 million to lobby Gov. Rick Scott's office and executive-branch agencies, up from $88.5 million last year.

The biggest lobbying spenders were all companies with either tax or regulation issues affecting their bottom lines pending before state government.

"Taxes, regulation dominate Florida's lobbying agenda".

Latvala fail

"Former Gov. Charlie Crist came home to St. Petersburg on Saturday with a book tour that also looks a lot like a campaign tour for governor. Crist drew a good crowd in his hometown, estimated at several hundred by Ray Hinst, owner of the venerable Haslam’s Book Store, including a gang of Crist family and close friends."

Veteran state Sen. Jack Latvala, one of the most prominent elected Republicans from Pinellas County, also showed up at Haslam’s to deliver a GOP response to Crist’s message. The Republicans have shadowed Crist on every stop of his book tour so far, including nine stops in Florida so far and several national broadcast interviews.

Latvala, like Crist, is known for occasional moderate stances on issues like the environment that often have put him at odds with more conservative fellow Republicans.

“I don’t like everything the Republican Party does either, but I’ve chosen to stay and try to change it,” he told reporters. He said Crist as governor seemed uninterested in the details of governing -- “He wasn’t paying attention.”

Asked whether he believed his own attempts to make the party more moderate were working, Latvala said Gov. Rick Scott’s “attitudes on a lot of things have evolved” since Scott won the office in 2010 as a tea party champion. He also repeated the GOP mantra of blaming Crist for the job losses in Florida during the global economic meltdown of 2007.

"Plenty of politics at Crist book tour stop in St. Pete".

"A winding road to success"

"For the first time since 1971, residents of Pinellas County’s 13th Congressional District will have a new representative. After a special election on March 11, either Republican David Jolly, Democrat Alex Sink or Libertarian Lucas Overby will take the Washington House seat that Republican C.W. Bill Young held for 43 years until his death in October." "House District 13 battle boils down to 3 choices".

"Before she tells a crowd about her hometown, Alex Sink calculates the mean age of the people there."

If the crowd skews a little older, she’ll ask if they remember “The Andy Griffith Show” — Griffith, after all, based his fictional town of Mayberry on Mount Airy, N.C., Sink’s hometown.
"Now 65, Sink grew up just outside of town on a tobacco and corn farm, where she and her sister would help in the fields. It’s a far cry from crowded Pinellas County, which she hopes to represent in U.S. House District 13."
Mount Airy was an idyllic start for one of Florida’s top Democrats, seemingly incongruous with the dynamic life that has ensued for Sink, one packed with travel, activism and, at times, tragedy. And now one that includes running for the District 13 U.S. House of Representatives seat against Republican David Jolly and Libertarian Lucas Overby in a March 11 election.

Sink wasn’t born into money. They had a black-and-white television on which they would watch “The Ed Sullivan Show” each Sunday — she remembers the Beatles’ first performance 50 years ago — but life was simple with few distractions.

Sink attributes her academic success in part to growing up in a remote place, where studying was pretty much the only thing to do.

“She was what I called ‘the brain’ in school,” said Bill Francisco, who grew up in Mount Airy and whose parents were close with Sink’s. “She was one of the real smart girls, and that kind of intimidated me.”

"Sink walked a winding road to success".

The Republican in the race: "Jolly’s passion for politics started early". And then there's the Libertarian: "Civics class helped shape Overby’s political views" ("At 27, Lucas Overby is by far the youngest candidate in the District 13 congressional race, but to him that’s of little consequence. The Largo-born Libertarian demonstrated a confidence and wonkish-ness at a recent debate that nobody on the stage seemed to expect.")