Thursday, March 06, 2014

Consider giving newspapers subscriptions - either hard copy or electronic will do - as gifts. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Florida's Governor Ultrasound?

"A vote on a controversial proposal that would outlaw abortions in Florida any time a doctor determined a fetus was viable was postponed indefinitely Wednesday."

Sen. Aaron Bean, the Fernandina Beach Republican who chairs the Senate’s Health Policy Committee, said consideration of Senate Bill 918 was delayed at the request of the sponsor, Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami. Flores could not be reached for comment after the meeting.
"The proposal requires doctors to perform medical examinations, including ultrasounds, on pregnant women who seek abortions to determine viability. If the doctor rules the fetus is viable — defined as the stage of development where the life of a fetus could be sustained outside of the womb — then an abortion can only be carried out if the woman’s life is at risk or she faces serious risk of injury."
Similar restrictions are added to the state’s existing ban on third-trimester abortions and there is also the requirement of a second doctor’s opinion before the exception is granted.

A “temporary postponement” means the bill could be brought back to the committee any time — there will be at least two more meetings during the 2014 session — or never again.

"Vote on controversial abortion bill delayed in Senate".

Perhaps an enterprising journalist will ask our Gubernatorial candidates for their position on this bill.

Scott's last stand

The Tampa Tribune editorial board does its best to polish up the Governor: "Whatever missteps he has made along the way, and whatever awkwardness he may have at the podium, he has an advantage as governor and candidate. He’s firm in his beliefs. And even his harshest critics cannot deny he has gotten results." "Scott’s campaign narrative".

CD 13

Kevin Derby: "With less than a week to go until the election, candidates running in Pinellas County for the congressional seat opened by the death of longtime U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., made their final pitches this week, with a little help from their new famous friends." "National Parties Weigh in Big in CD 13, with Clinton, Rove".

Meanwhile, "Elections Alex Sink campaigns cautiously in final week before Pinellas election" (subscription required).

"Medical Marijuana Passes First Hurdle"

"After more than an hour of testimony and debate, the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee passed a groundbreaking bill Wednesday to decriminalize a non-euphoric strain of marijuana supporters say can save lives and ease the suffering of thousands of Florida children with intractable epilepsy." "Groundbreaking Bill to Decriminalize CBD Medical Marijuana Passes First Hurdle". More: "Committee approves "non-euphoric" medical marijuana use".

Voucher Madness

The usual suspects are out to expand Florida’s controversial school voucher program. These "powerful political forces" want to continue draining money from Florida's public school system, and then complain about the inadequate job they're doing.

Those forces include the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity and influential think tanks like the conservative James Madison Institute and former Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future. All have thrown their considerable weight behind the expansion.

And then there is the money. The voucher program’s top supporter, Tampa venture capitalist John Kirtley, controls a political committee in Florida that spent nearly $2.4 million to influence races in 2010 and 2012. He plans to spend at least $1.5 million in 2014, he said.

"House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, considers the bill among his top priorities this year."
Republican Gov. Rick Scott is on board, too. . . .

The bill does have its opponents: the Florida Education Association, the Florida School Boards Association, and several parent groups, to name a few. The FEA is major contributor to mostly Democratic candidates and their committees, and has already raised at least $365,000 for the current election cycle.

“To me, it looks like a concerted effort to allow religious schools to receive public dollars,” said Kathleen Oropeza, an Orlando mom and co-founder of the group Fund Education Now.

Mindy Gould, the legislative chair for the Florida PTA, said her organization plans to fight the proposed expansion, because it “takes taxpayer dollars away from our public schools.”

But Gould conceded that the PTA did not have the same kind of resources as some groups supporting the bill.

"Big money, powerful lobbying groups push school voucher proposal".


Kevin Derby: "The gubernatorial race is heating up after Gov. Rick Scott offered the State of the State address on Tuesday with his challengers attacking the Republican incumbent and each other."

Former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge Scott despite spending most of his political life in the GOP, continued on the attack on Wednesday. Pointing to Politifact’s review of Scott’s speech, Crist took aim at the Republican.
"Governor's Race Mushrooms into Attack-Fest".

"A tough path to the Florida House"

Jeff Henderson: "Mike LaRosa had a tough path to the Florida House in 2012 and things won’t come easy this year either as a new major opponent filed paperwork on Wednesday to challenge him."

Two Democrats have stepped up to run against LaRosa. Native Floridian Chad Carnell filed to run back in November. Carnell has an interesting background, serving as CFO of Brevard Family Partnership for seven years and helping the Children’s Home Society before that. He also worked as a tax auditor for the state and ran for the Osceola County Commission in 2012. . . .

Pete Placencia, an attorney from St. Cloud who works in Kissimmee, filed his paperwork to run on Wednesday. Placencia is a trial attorney who came out behind alternative energy on Wednesday, insisting it will help the region’s economy. Carnell has a head start, to be sure, but Placencia has ties to the area and should be able to offer a competitive primary.

"LaRosa Faces Challengers in Florida House Race".

Scott works on gambling deal

"A spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott confirmed Wednesday that he and the Seminole Tribe of Florida have begun talks to renew a revenue-sharing agreement that adds more than $200 million yearly to the state’s treasury." "Scott, Seminoles renew talks on gambling revenue".

Good luck with that

"After a decade-long fight, advocates of in-state tuition rates for students whose parents are undocumented have some momentum – at least in one chamber of the Legislature." "In-state tuition advances for children of illegal immigrants". See also "In-State Tuition for DREAMers Breezes Through House Committee".

"Florida’s uncompassionate conservatives"

Joy-Ann Reid writes that, "If a novel were written about Florida’s administration of its healthcare for the working poor, an appropriate title might be: 'Don’t get sick, and God help you if you do.'"

It could also be called “How to kill a hospital.”

Florida has tied the ultimate Gordian knot around its healthcare providers: refusing to accept the federal expansion of Medicaid, despite a 100-percent federal match for the first few years, meaning that the state’s estimated 3.8 million uninsured — that’s one in four Floridians under age 65 — have little hope of getting insured if they fall in the no-man’s land between the federal poverty line and a job with insurance.

And the hospitals that treat the indigent can thank the Legislature for ensuring that they will do so — presuming they can still afford to — at the risk of their solvency. . . .

And now comes the unkindest cut of all: The state run by a former hospital executive whose company helped him get rich on the back of extravagant Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare fraud, has elected to limit Medicaid patients to six hospital visits a year, which is not only cruel, but also an illegal perversion of the program. The federal government has already begun levying the fines.

It’s a novel way to deal with the fact that the Legislature has held at arm’s length low-income Floridians like a cruel game of keep-away, the E.R. becomes the primary-care provider for an inordinate share of the working poor.

So rather than help those people get Medicaid via the federal expansion, or at least stopping the state’s serial obstruction of the navigators administering the federal exchange under the Affordable Care Act (the Legislature even stripped the insurance commissioner of the power to regulate insurance premiums) Florida’s uncompassionate conservatives decided to treat the potential hospital crisis as a demand-side problem.

As a result of this one-two-three punch, if you are poor in the Sunshine State, but you work a full-time job, or even two, but don’t get healthcare — and your employer, or employers — don’t pay you enough to afford to buy insurance on the federal exchange, you’re out of luck. . .

Of course, if you get sick once, you can go to the emergency room. Under federal law, they have to treat you. In fact, you’re allowed to get really sick just five more times. God help you if your condition is chronic, because the seventh time, you’re just plain out of luck.

Read it all here: "Our state’s sick healthcare system".

"Good riddance"

Tampa Trib editors: "Good riddance to the state’s misguided plan to sell conservation lands under the guise of attempting to raise money to purchase better environmentally sensitive property." "Good riddance to flawed environmental lands plan".

"Even Texas . . ."

Fred Grimm: "Gun rights absolutists conjured up a new enemy this week." Sunrise Mayor Michael

Ryan’s actual sin had nothing to do with the right to “own a firearm or defend your family.” Rather, he had written to Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi raising “the obvious safety concerns associated with unregulated residential firearm ranges.” . . .

And for anyone who thinks that he’s trying to infringe on some God-given American right to fashion a backyard shooting range, Ryan offered the ultimate gun-nut rejoinder. “Even Texas has made these illegal."

"One-size-fits-all gun laws fail Floridians".