Sunday, March 16, 2014

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

"Crist in an Obamacare box"

Marc Caputo: "Charlie Crist is in an Obamacare box."

Opposed to Obamacare when he was a Republican, Crist is now a Democrat and is all for the Affordable Care Act.

Such flip-flops and evolutions and pirouettes make Crist’s relationship with the unpopular law one of the most-complicated in the nation.

Now it might be one of the riskiest.

Yet Crist has little choice but to embrace the law right now. Running in a primary against Nan Rich, Crist needs to prove his Democratic bona fides. The Democratic base approves of the law.

“I think it’s been great,” Crist said in a CNN interview last Sunday.

It wasn’t great for Crist’s fellow Democrat Alex Sink, who narrowly lost a special election Tuesday for a congressional seat based in Crist’s home county, Pinellas.

Obamacare wasn’t the only issue in the race. But conservatives made the law a major point.

"Charlie Crist’s Obamacare conundrum".

"Glaring loophole"

Aaron Deslatte: "Florida's campaign-finance reform that passed last session is still shaking out in the political playing field."

The law raised the contribution limit from $500 for legislative candidates to $1,000, and to $3,000 in races for governor and Cabinet posts. It also eliminated one kind of political slush fund lawmakers and candidates had used to raise unlimited dollars from wealthy donors.

So far this year, those changes have had largely symbolic effects. . . .

The elimination of slush funds had little effect, either, because lawmakers simply created a different kind of fund and transferred their dollars into new bank accounts.

One glaring loophole that has had an effect is not requiring that state political parties and "leadership funds" disclose as quickly which companies and causes were filling their coffers. This has been a blow to transparency.

The law required candidates and interest groups to start filing monthly reports, but the state parties and other funds controlled by legislative leaders don't have to do that. So donors can funnel money through them if they want to avoid disclosing their funding as quickly.

"As a result, the deadline for filing February campaign reports last week allows us to see that Southern Wine and Spirits of Florida gave $50,000 to Gov. Rick Scott's 'Let's Get to Work' political committee last month. Centene, the Medicaid managed-care company, gave $25,000 to Scott's fund. And Koch Industries wrote $12,500 in checks to state candidates."
But that doesn't tell us how much money flooded into the state Republican and Democratic party coffers in the weeks ahead of the legislative session, when companies, interests and wealthy donors will want maximum sway. What we do see from February data is that party transfers make up one of the biggest chunks of cash being moved from one place to another.
"Florida's campaign reform hides money of big givers".

The best they can do

"Beer distributors, brewers fight over growlers".

Remember, his parents were (almost) exiles

Grubbing for the Hispanic vote, Senator Rubio "asks treasury secretary to meet Venezuelans". Oh yeah, "South Florida is home to the largest concentration of Venezuelans in the U.S."

Scott has been "14% True"

"Back in 2010, Rick Scott drew national attention for spending more than $70 million of his own money to win his first elected office as Florida’s governor. Since then, the Republican has become known for serious matters, like his staunch opposition to the federal healthcare law, as well as lighter moments, like when The Daily Show crashed one of his press conferences to make fun of Florida’s effort to drug-test welfare recipients."

On March 4, 2014, after Scott gave his fourth State of the State speech, PolitiFact Florida published its 100th and 101st fact-check of Scott.
Here’s a breakdown of Scott’s record on our Truth-O-Meter:
• True 14 (14%)

• Mostly True 26 (26%)

• Half True 24 (24%)

• Mostly False 14 (14%)

• False 18 (18%)

• Pants on Fire 5 (5%)

Here's the detail on these fact-checks on Scott: "Fact-checks of Gov. Rick Scott cross the 100 mark" (subscription required).

Most of them are probably guilty

"At a time when other states are curtailing or outlawing executions, Florida is bucking the trend. A swelling number of death sentences handed down in the 1990s are reaching the ends of their appeals. Florida also is experiencing a rare window of relatively few legal challenges, botched executions or political infighting over the issue."
"It seems like the push now in Florida is to move forward with more dates, and that is different than what we see in the rest of the country," said Richard Dieter, director of the nonpartisan Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.
"As death penalty wanes in U.S., Florida executes even more killers".

Charter madness

Wonder why this charter school company is so confident? Indeed,

Charter Schools USA isn't waiting for a judge to decide if it can open a disputed school in Orange County. Construction already has begun. . . .

The district plans to appeal a state Department of Education ruling last month that he district must allow Renaissance Charter Schools to open three new campuses in Orange. . . .

The chairman of the Renaissance board, which contracts with for-profit Charter Schools USA to run its public schools, said he is "appalled" that Orange is appealing and declined to answer questions about the school under construction.

'Ya reckon their confidence has something to do with this?:
Charter Schools USA and its owner, Jonathan Hage, are major donors to Gov. Rick Scott and have influenced changes to state law intended to make it easier for charter chains to open new schools.
"Charter starts construction, despite not having approval yet for school".

Don't fool yourself . . . this is all about union hating

"Scores of marchers gathered this weekend in Polk County in hopes of prompting Publix to join a campaign designed to give tomato pickers decent wages and working conditions. A 24-hour vigil that started at 2 p.m. Friday outside the Southgate Publix supermarket in Polk County followed by a 3-mile march to downtown Lakeland on Saturday was the culmination the 'Now is the Time' multi-state bus tour across the Southeast. About 50 farmworkers with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers left South Florida on March 5, to kick off a 10-day tour with stops in several places including Jacksonville, Atlanta and Nashville, Tenn." "Lakeland march ends 10-day 'Fair Food' tour targeting Publix".

"A blow to the legacy of former Gov. Jeb Bush"

"The Florida Supreme Court Thursday struck down a state law that limits the amount of money for 'pain and suffering' in deaths caused by medical malpractice, saying the cap violates the state constitution. The 5-2 ruling also is a blow to the legacy of former Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican who called a special session of state lawmakers to overhaul the way medical malpractice cases are handled." "Fla. Supreme Court strikes down cap on ‘pain and suffering’ awards".

Crist on the attack on the environmental front

"Scott is trailing in the polls to former Gov. Charlie Crist. Despite spending most of his political career as a Republican, Crist is the favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge Scott in November. Earlier this week, Crist pointed to a Politifact story focusing on Scott’s commitment to spending on the environment and went on the attack." "Environment Becomes an Issue in the Gubernatorial Race".

Alex, shake off the loss and man up for a real challenge

Douglas C. Lyons: "Sorry about your loss. The fact that a one-time chief financial officer of Florida and candidate for governor loses a congressional seat to a lobbyist making his first bid for office is hard to swallow. . . . So, shake off the loss and man up for a real challenge, one that would benefit the state and better fit your skills: resurrecting the Florida's Democratic Party. The party has some good prospects, but not much of a network and resources to groom them for statewide office." "Memo to Alex Sink: There's a better way to serve Florida".

"Also-ran" Rubio runnin' like scared rabbit

The knuckle-draggers hope Lil' Marco Rubio is recovering

from the tarring he sustained after he proposed and helped push through the Senate the bill containing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants now in the country.

Facing the monumental backlash that quickly developed from the conservative GOP base, Rubio backed off the legislation [some might say, "flip-flopped" or "ran like scared rabbit"], offering to revise the bill and declining to help promote it in the House.

Fortunately for him, the bill never came up in the House. . . .

Since then, Rubio has been pursuing two paths to reunite himself with the conservative base of the party: red-meat anti-­Obama rhetoric focusing on the Affordable Care Act, and a series of high-profile speeches on everything from anti-poverty programs to foreign policy, an attempt to develop an image as a conservative policy heavyweight. . . .

Before his immigration proposal, Rubio had made a meteoric rise to near-rock-star status in the party, including a February, 2013 Time magazine cover suggesting he was the “savior” of the GOP.

At the 2013 installment of CPAC, just before Rubio’s immigration proposal, he came in a close second to Paul in the gathering’s presidential straw poll, with 23 percent.

In the straw poll at the 2014 CPAC a week ago, he finished a distant seventh, with 6 percent, while Paul was a runaway winner with 31 percent. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was second with 11 percent.

In national polls of Republicans on the 2016 primary, Rubio has dropped from a front-runner in early 2013 to an also-ran — fifth place in the most recent RealClearPolitics polling average.

"Rubio works on his comeback".

Runnin' with the dinosaurs

"Proposal gives school district's sole control of which textbooks to use".

Weekly Roundup

"Weekly Roundup: History Intrudes on Legislative Session". See also "Week in Review for March 14, 2014", "Political Bits and Pieces" and "Arrivals and Departures".

"The state of Gov. Rick Scott’s poll numbers is . . . sorry"

A good overview last week from Marc Caputo: "The state of Gov. Rick Scott’s poll numbers is . . . sorry. But many of Scott’s fellow Republicans were paying attention to a different set of numbers: a raft of poll data-points that make the GOP queasy because it shows Democrat Charlie Crist has broad support across Florida right now."

"The highlights:"

• 34 percentage points — the margin Crist beats Scott by in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, according to one business interest’s statewide survey. This margin is 12 points greater than Democrat Alex Sink’s in the 2010 governor’s race. If she had earned Crist’s poll numbers in just these two counties, Sink would have won.

• 10 percentage points — the margin Crist beats Scott by in another business interest’s statewide poll.

• 8 percentage points — the margin Crist beats Scott by in two other business interests’ statewide polls.

• 7 percentage points — the margin Crist beats Scott by in a fourth business interest’s statewide poll.

• 6 percentage points — the margin Crist beats Scott by in a poll of Republican-controlled state House districts across Florida.

• 4 percentage points — the margin Crist beats Scott by in North Florida, a Republican stronghold. The number is well within the poll’s error margin. But it’s a cumulative 17-point shift in favor of Democrats compared to 2010, and Sink would have won the governor’s race with this North Florida margin.

• 2 percentage points — the margin Scott beats Crist by in a poll of Republican-controlled state Senate districts in North Florida. Again, it’s within the error margin. But again: If Sink had had this margin, she probably would have won the governor’s race.

• 1 percentage point — the margin Crist beats Scott by overall in that poll of Republican-controlled state Senate districts. The poll was paid for by the Republican Party of Florida.

"On a generic-ballot test, likely voters favored an unnamed Republican Senate candidate by 8 percentage points. But when asked about Crist and Scott, the voters favored the Democrat by a point. That’s a 9-point shift in Crist’s favor."
Perversely, the leaking of unflattering poll numbers about Scott is an act of self-preservation by Republicans.

They know what Crist, a former Republican governor, has the power to do if he wins: Divert a major portion of special-interest campaign money to the Florida Democratic Party and away from the Republican Party, which currently controls the state House and Senate.

With Crist in the governor’s mansion, Republican lawmakers probably would face tougher races to maintain control of the Legislature. GOP consultants might have less high-priced work. Republican lobbyists get less of a cut as Democratic lobbyists increase in importance in the state Capitol. . . .

And if the data don’t change soon, more Republicans will grow more concerned that the state of the state speech will be given next year by a Democrat for the first time since 1998.

"Rick Scott’s ‘awful’ poll numbers make Florida Republicans queasy".