Saturday, March 29, 2014

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

Resignations continue to rock Scott campaign

"Gonzalo Sanabria, a longtime Miami-Dade Expressway Authority board member, resigned Thursday from his post to protest the 'disparaging and disrespectful' treatment of Mike Fernandez, the former co-finance chairman of Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign."

Sanabria, who also quit his leadership post with the Republican Party of Miami-Dade, said his resignation was “mostly due to your perceived insensitivity to loyal supporters and our Hispanic community in Florida.”
"Fernandez quit his position as top fundraiser for Scott’s campaign last week. Three of his emails, obtained by the Herald/Times and Politico, showed Fernandez repeatedly questioned the judgment of Scott’s advisers and the quality of his campaign ads and his Hispanic outreach."
He also complained about a lack of access to Scott and accused unidentified campaign aides of mimicking a Mexican accent in front of his business partner, a charge the campaign denies but will not discuss in detail. . . .

Scott’s office, without mentioning Sanabria’s resignation, then issued a short press release announcing that Javier Vasquez, a 50-year-old attorney from Miami Lakes, would be appointed to the MDX board.

Later, Scott spokesman Frank Collins issued a terse and blunt statement saying that Sanabria was upset at the governor’s decision earlier that morning to not reappoint him. . . .

Sanabria rejected the explanation, saying he resigned first and that the governor’s office then told him they were going to appoint Vasquez. “I had told them I was resigning this morning due to the events I stated,” Sanabria told the Herald. . . .

Florida Democrats seized on the expiration date of Sanabria’s term and record as a MDX board member to slam Scott. “Rick Scott claims Gonzalo Sanabria’s dismissal was due to his vote to raise toll fees,” said Florida Democratic Party spokesman Joshua Karp in a statement. “What the Governor fails to mention is that Sanabria has been serving in a vacant seat since February 2013, and the tolls vote took place on March 19th, 2013.

“So for 373 days Rick Scott didn’t have a problem with Sanabria, and expects Floridians to believe that his resignation today is completely unrelated to Sanabria’s concerns over the handling of the racism scandal within the reelection campaign?”

"Another resignation rocks Rick Scott campaign".

Marc Caputo explains the genesis of Rick Scott's recent problems, writing that "Florida Republicans had a well-scripted plan to showcase their Latino outreach last week, as an immigrant-friendly tuition bill passed the state House and national Republicans unveiled their Florida Hispanic Advisory Council."

Then came the Mexican-accent controversy.

On Friday, the Miami Herald reported that Gov. Rick Scott’s top campaign-finance co-chairman, Mike Fernandez, raised a concern in an email last month about campaign associates joking around in over-the-top Mexican accents. . . .

The Scott campaign went into double-damage-control mode, reeling from Fernandez’s abrupt departure and downplaying the Mexican-accent issue, which apparently played out in a van en route to a Mexican restaurant in Coral Gables. . . .

Fernandez donated and raised as much as $8 million for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012, but watched with dismay as the Republican candidate alienated Hispanics in talking about “self deportation.” Romney and Scott, incidentally, are headlining a Republican Governor’s Association fundraiser Monday that Fernandez is hosting at his Coral Gables home.

Romney lost the Hispanic vote by 44 percentage points.

"In that election, for the first time, the number of Florida Hispanics who registered as having no party affiliation exceeded the number of registered Hispanic Republicans. So before they cast their ballots, Hispanics were already letting Republicans know they didn’t identify with the GOP, which has become far whiter than the rest of Florida."
After Romney’s drubbing at the hands of Hispanics, the Republican National Committee sought to do better with this fast-growing and crucial demographic. . . .

While Republicans, like Sen. Marco Rubio, helped pass immigration reform in the Democrat-controlled Senate in 2013, a majority of his caucus opposed the measure and his poll numbers dropped due to opposition from the right.

About that time, a congressman from Alaska referred to Mexicans as “wetbacks” and another from Iowa suggested that more southern-border crossers were drug mules than possible valedictorians. Republican leaders condemned the comments.

The Republican-controlled U.S. House refused to take up the Senate bill and has stalled immigration reform.

Immigration activists and Democrats have started demonstrating at the home offices of House Republicans.

On Friday, one of those demonstrators — national union leader Eliseo Medina — was arrested by Doral police for refusing to stand on a sidewalk instead of near an entrance door that led to Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s office.

"Mexican-accent controversy nags Gov. Rick Scott".

The Scott clown car drives on

"Gov. Rick Scott on Friday rejected the possibility that bonuses for Florida Highway Patrol troopers could be connected to the numbers of traffic tickets they write. Scott issued a strongly worded statement after media reports raised questions about whether the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles was considering such a plan." "Scott: There will be no trooper bonuses based on number of tickets written". Background: "State's proposed performance measures trouble PBA".

Nelson won't run against Scott

"In case anyone was still wondering, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson is taking himself out of contention as a possible candidate in the race for governor of Florida. Nelson's decision could free up money for likely Democratic nominee Charlie Crist. At least some of the state's top Democratic fundraisers and donors, who have been loyal to Nelson for years while Crist was still a Republican, have been holding off on getting involved in the governor's race because of the possibility that Nelson might enter." "Nelson says he won't run against Scott".

Rubio moves to the right of Libertarians

"Sen. Marco Rubio has sketched out a firm stance on national security and foreign policy, finding himself to the right of some libertarian Republicans." "Sen. Marco Rubio: ‘We cannot unilaterally disarm’ the NSA, ‘it makes the country less safe’".

"Frankel Should Cruise"

"Lois Frankel Should Cruise to a Second Term".

"Cooking up an insane scheme"

The Tampa Tribune editorial board worries that "a few naive lawmakers [are] being courted by oil-industry lobbyists right now, or cooking up an insane scheme themselves to allow drilling within sight of our gorgeous beaches. It’s happened before, and it’ll undoubtedly happen again. But common sense has always prevailed, with members of both parties working to ensure that drilling remains a safe distance from our coast." "Keep oil away from Florida coast".

"Bits and Pieces"

Kevin Derby: "Political Bits and Pieces".

"The magic of a budget allocation coming out of thin air"

"Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, the ranking member of the Agriculture & Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, said the problem with the budget process is 'the magic of an allocation coming out of thin air.' He said it is a process that involves closed-door meetings and little time for input for representatives and the public." "Democracy in action? The problem is the budget process not the spending, House Democrat says".

Weekly Roundup

"Week in Review for March 28, 2014". See also "Arrivals and Departures" and "Weekly Roundup: A Star-Struck Capitol Keeps the Cameras On".

"How many babies must be buried . . . ?"

Carl Hiaasen: "Most of the dead are babies and toddlers, and they perish in horrible ways — starved, punched, shaken, burned, thrown from cars or simply forgotten. There’s nothing left to protect them except the state of Florida, which fails over and over."

Since January 2008, at least 477 children have died for no other reason than being overlooked by the system. Their families were known to the Department of Children & Families, yet they’d been allowed to remain with reckless parents in high-risk homes. . . .

Of all the services people expect from government, none is more important than shielding the youngest and most helpless from brutality and neglect. Florida’s record, dreadful for decades, is getting worse.

Said interim DCF Secretary Esther Jacobo, “I don’t think we are broken; I think we are challenged.”

Unbelievable. How many babies must be buried before somebody in Tallahassee admits the system is broken?

DCF has been grossly underreporting the number of child deaths to the Legislature, evidence of either ineptitude or a cover-up. Lawmakers have been consistently misled, which partly explains why DCF funding has been cut.

Under Gov. Rick Scott, more case investigators were hired, yet money for oversight and family counseling was slashed. The agency’s budget shrunk by $100 million during this fiscal year alone. . . .

“We have kind of known they have failed,” Jacobo replied when asked about the written promises, “and we have kind of been at a loss as to how to fix it.” Then kind of stop doing things that fail. How’s that for starters? Try listening more closely to experienced case workers and supervisors. . . .

Last month, the governor proposed adding $40 million to help DCF decrease investigative caseloads and improve oversight of cases. Under his plan, the agency’s budget would rise slightly more than one percent.

That’s not nearly enough.

"How many babies must be buried?".

Scott's voter purge on hold

"Previous efforts to purge the Florida voter rolls of noncitizens were highly controversial, as elections supervisors doubted the accuracy of the state’s data and groups said the removals targeted minority voters." "Florida suspends non-citizen voter purge efforts". See also "Fla. election chief halts voter purge for 2014".


"After being called out for his support of Obamacare in a new television ad by Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign, former Gov. Charlie Crist responds with a web ad and highlights the benefits of the program." "Crist and Scott go to battle over health care in dueling ads". See also "Rick Scott and Charlie Crist Launch New Ads, Clash on Health Care".

No improvement to unemployment rate

"Florida adds 33,400 jobs, but unemployment rate stays at 6.2 percent".

Charter madness: "$100 million to charter schools for repairing school buildings"

Aaron Deslatte: "Florida Republicans are ramping up a decades-long effort to build the physical and fiscal infrastructure for taxpayer-funded alternatives to the public-school system. Look no further than the not-yet-dead school-voucher expansion and the millions of dollars being poured into construction of charters."

On Thursday, the House passed bills creating a single-gender public-school pilot project (HB 313) and another (HB 533) expanding sports options at public schools for students being home-schooled or in private, charter and "virtual" schools.

"This is the beginning of our school-choice agenda," said House Speaker Will Weatherford, a Wesley Chapel Republican who was home-schooled.

The $75.3 billion House budget advanced last week devotes $50 million for public-school repairs, $104 million for public-university maintenance and a record $100 million provided to charter schools for repairing school buildings.

The total for charters, including those managed by for-profit companies, is more than the $91 million they landed last year and the $55 million they received in 2012.

"School choice gets helping hand in Florida Legislature" Related: "School choice bills find support in House" and "New version of school voucher bill passes House committee".

Jesse's Girl

Nancy Smith writes, "Yes, DEO's Jesse Panuccio IS Getting CONNECT Job Done".

"Political hypocrisy driven by the personal agenda of one member"

Orlando Sentinel columnist, Beth Kassab writes, "leave it to the Legislature to hold grudges and champion inequality long after the Civil War."

House Bill 493 also adds a dose of brazen political hypocrisy driven by the personal agenda of one member of the Florida House.

On Monday a House committee approved the bill by Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, to micromanage state parks.

Just the kind of thing you would expect from Republicans who preach small government and local control. #DoubleStandard

Baxley doesn't want state park officials to be able to approve changes to historic sites.

Why? Because Baxley and a group of citizens who say they are descendants of Confederate soldiers don't want the state to allow a marker for Union soldiers who died at the Battle of Olustee, which occurred 150 years ago. #WishIWasInTheLandOfCotton

The Sons of Union Veterans would like to add a marker to the battlefield near Lake City to acknowledge the 1,861 Union men who fought there.

Already there are three memorials there for Confederate men.

No one proposed those markers be altered in any way. Just that a prominent Union marker be added nearby. All that's there now is a cross marking a mass grave of Union troops.

"It's hidden by trees, the Porta-Potties and the food shacks," Harvey Linscott, a member of the Sons of Union Vets group, told the Tampa Bay Times. "Our organization just wants to honor our ancestors. The war is over. We thought this wasn't going to be a problem." #ThinkAgain

Instead of letting park officials handle such requests, Baxley wants to make it so that the Florida Cabinet has the final say. #Unnecessary

"Halfway through session, and foolishness abounds".

Baxley, while wrapping himself in a Confederate Flag, is probably ignorant of what happened to Union troops at Olustee. In this New York Times column, University of Alabama History Instructor Glenn David Brasher explains the fate - a sordid moment in Florida history - of black troops who covered the retreat of their fellow Union soldiers who had been were forced to retreat by the more experienced Confederate soldiers at Olustee:

When the black troops arrived at the front, their effective fire slowed the rebel advance, allowing the other federals to withdraw.

But with Union troops in full flight, the 54th [(Massachusetts, the first regiment of African-American troops recruited from the Northern states)] now bore the brunt of the entire Confederate line. They could hold for only so long. Soon, the brigade commander, Colonel Montgomery, became unhinged and shouted “every man for themselves!” Nevertheless, the disciplined officers and men of the 54th executed a textbook retreat that slowed the Confederate advance, especially when the regiment deceptively cheered to create the impression that they were receiving reinforcements. Soon the Confederate advanced slackened, and the 54th was able to escape with the other Union troops.

Still, it was a bloody rout. “What we saw all made our blood run cold,” one Union soldier recalled. “Everywhere, men were staggering out of the forest, faces … dripping with blood and sweat, dragging themselves and their wounded comrades to safety.”

During and after the retreat, a new fear emerged: What would befall the captured and wounded black soldiers? The Confederacy had already made it clear that black soldiers would not be treated the same as whites. The federals at Olustee knew that in several battles, rebels had murdered wounded and surrendering black soldiers. One white soldier recalled that during the retreat, “The endurance of some of the colored soldiers was almost incredible.” He saw many wounded blacks “crawling on their hands and knees, preferring that painful mode of escape to capture.”

One white Union surgeon insisted that African-American soldiers be loaded on the ambulances first, only allowing white soldiers aboard if space permitted. “I know what will become of the white troops who fall into the enemy’s possession,” he explained, “but I am not certain as to the fate of the colored troops.” As they retreated toward Jacksonville, the men of the 54th learned that a locomotive carrying their wounded comrades had broken down. Despite their fatigue, soldiers rushed to the rescue, lashed ropes to the boxcar, and used manpower to strenuously haul it away. “They knew their [own] fate if captured,” one doctor recalled, “but their humanity triumphed. Does history record a nobler deed?”

By Feb. 22 the regiment was safely in Jacksonville with the rest of the army, having marched approximately 120 miles round trip. “Yet the roll-call showed no stragglers,” Emilio proudly claimed. They were soon rewarded with bread that the quartermaster described as an “indigestible paste, very good for diarrhea.”

Unfortunately, not all of the black troops escaped. A wide variety of letters and memoirs written by Confederate troops in the days and years after the battle suggest that as many as 50 wounded African-American troops were shot and even clubbed to death by rebel soldiers. “I tell you our men slayed the Negrows,” a Virginia soldier wrote home, “& if it had not been for the officers their would not one of them been spaired.” A Georgia soldier recalled how the wounded blacks “would beg and pray, but it did them no good.” Some accounts shockingly describe Confederate surgeons performing needless and purposely shoddy amputations on black limbs.

"Confusion and Courage at Olustee".

And Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala stands in the way of a memorial to these men?

NRA hack hammers Scott staffers

"In the wake of testimony from a Florida National Guard attorney critical of her bill, powerful National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer blasted staff in Gov. Rick Scott’s office, blaming them for not doing enough to help her cause, emails show. The bill would allow people without concealed weapon permits to carry guns during forced evacuations prompted by emergencies, such as hurricanes." "NRA lobbyist blasted Scott staff over ‘guns in hurricanes’ bill".

Rubio's Obamacare claim "Mostly False"

"Rubio said, 'Americans increasingly want (Obamacare) to be repealed.' Depending on which polls you consult, anywhere from about 35 to 50 percent of the nation does want the law repealed. That’s not insignificant."

But we take issue with his claim that as time goes on, more voters are calling for repeal. Experts say the percentage of voters who want Obamacare repealed is staying consistent within each poll. We rate Rubio’s claim Mostly False.
"Rubio says increasing number of Americans want Obamacare repealed".