Tuesday, April 01, 2014

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

Jebbie begins his inchoate presidential run with a big fat spoonful of mendacity

"Jeb Bush for president in 2016? Speculation keeps heating up". See also "Jeb Bush team awaits 2016 decision: 'We are keeping our powder dry'".

Jebbie begins his presidential run with a big fat spoonful of mendacity: "Jeb Bush says the state’s revenue 'is growing at a faster rate than almost any state in the country.' PolitiFact says he’s wrong."

Former Gov. Jeb Bush waved off any talk of a 2016 presidential run at a meeting of Broward County business leaders on Friday. Instead, he spent a lot of time talking up Florida’s rebound from the Great Recession.

Bush said Tallahassee had been hit hard in the past few years, but was making a comeback. "The revenue of the state is growing at a faster rate than almost any state in the country because our state has been fiscally well-managed and we grew our way out of the hole," he told attendees at the Broward Workshop business breakfast in Davie.

It is probably fair to say the state has bounced back from the worst of the economic downturn, but is the revenue rate outpacing the rest of the country? [Politifact] checked.

Is it true, as Jebbie claims, "that 'the revenue of the state is growing at a faster rate than almost any state in the country'"?
A few reports compiled with data encompassing different kinds of revenue can be confusing, but all paint the same picture: Florida revenues are still down from pre-recession levels, and don’t generally reflect a growth rate consistent with what Bush is claiming, either annually or in recent quarters.

There is one report that says 2014 general revenue is expected to grow at a rate in the top 10 of all states. That data is self-reported from the state, however, and is only an estimate.

According to experts we talked to, the Sunshine State is lagging behind the rest of the nation when it comes to getting its revenues back to pre-recession levels. We rate [Jeb Bush's] statement Mostly False.

"PolitiFact: Is Florida revenue growing faster than other states?"

Related: "Analysis: Florida economy recovering but problems remain".

Chapter 119

The Florida League of Cities claims to be concerned about the "rising number of lawsuits related to records requests. A House proposal would broaden the open records law and could lead to lower fees charged when a public records request is made." "Public records bill runs into criticism".

"High Obamacare demand in Florida"

"High consumer demand in Florida, nation on last day of Obamacare enrollment". More: "New Analysis: 9.5 Million Uninsured People Covered Under Obamacare".

Scott panders

"Florida Gov. Rick Scott met with Venzuelan activists who are becoming increasingly frustrated with what they see as President Barack Obama’s indifference to the crackdowns on protesters in the South American country." "Gov. Rick Scott: President Barack Obama’s ‘not caring about Venezuela’".

"Governor's-Race Attacks"

"At Root of Governor's-Race Attacks: 'Who Can Relate to Floridians?'".

"Who is running the fumbling Scott re-election public relations machine? Tallahassee Rose?"

Daniel Ruth: "It is something of a toss-up as to what is really the worse sin here: that the various hapless coat hangers in the employ of Gov. Rick Scott's re-election bid are such tone-deaf toadies? Or that they are so transparently inept in their phoniness?"

It was just days ago that Mike Fernandez, one of the Scott's top-tier re-election fundraisers, charged that some staff minions had engaged in "culturally insensitive" remarks regarding Hispanics, including indulging in some bad, really bad, attempts to mimic a Mexican accent. . . .

And now this. Another high-profile Hispanic voice, Miami-Dade Expressway Authority board member Gonzalo Sanabria announced he was resigning from the agency in protest over the Scott campaign's "disparaging and disrespectful" treatment of Fernandez. . . .

What exactly was Sanabria's shortcoming as a board member? Scott jettisoned the Miami Lakes real estate developer because of his "votes to raise toll fees on the people of Miami-Dade." Oddly enough, Sanabria's vote to raise the tolls took place in March 2013. It took Scott a year to get around to being properly riled up? Who is running the fumbling Scott re-election public relations machine? Tallahassee Rose?

"If an expressway authority board member can be given the boot over a toll increase, then certainly Scott, channeling his inner Ralph Nader, ought to be at the very forefront in attempting to dismantle Florida's feckless Public Service Commission."
After all, the PSC has allowed the state's power companies to charge customers $1.8 billion in charges for nuclear plants that will: a) never be repaired or b) never be built.

Can we anticipate the consumer protectionist governor now will demand most of the Citizens Property Insurance & Tanning Parlor board of directors and management lose their jobs? After all, they have dragged their feet on settling claims and foisted homeowners off on dubious carriers who have been in business for all of 20 minutes but were savvy enough to make political contributions to the governor's campaign.

And just wait until Scott ferrets out the dolt who championed the construction of a $131 million elevated tollway linking U.S. 19 and I-275 in Pinellas County. If voting for a rate increase of between 30 cents and 70 cents on the Miami-Dade expressways was enough to incur the wrath of Tallahassee's God of Toll-fire, then surely proposing an elevated toll road would have Scott fuming over yet another assault on the pocketbooks of motorists.

Irony abounds. It seems that the U.S. 19 to I-275 toll road has been warmly embraced by the governor, who has pledged to fast-track the project to completion.

Does this suggest Scott might fire himself? How does one explain this apparent contradiction?

It's simple really. In an election year, one man's toll road treason is merely another man's convenient toll road hypocrisy. Or maybe it's all Obamacare's fault, which is always a favorite Scott default position when he runs out of common sense.

"Taking a toll on Scott's campaign".

"On the cheap"

The Miami Herald editors: "Lawmakers cannot reform DCF on the cheap"

Florida legislators have gotten off the dime and are coming up with one idea after another and another to force the Department of Children & Families to take far better care of kids in grave danger of being abused — or killed. Now, are they going to come up with the money it’s going to take to make dysfunctional families whole?
"Make the investment".


With the appointments Scott has been making, it is disconcerting to read that Nancy Smith is wondering if "Crist friend and Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein [was] telling the truth in all that sworn testimony he gave? In deposition after deposition when he talked about his arrangement with Gov. Crist, his story never wavered. Was it for real? He said he put it in writing once. Anybody follow that up? And were there any more Scott Rothsteins doing the same kind of business with the governor?"

It's going nowhere.

It isn't even a blip on the radar because it doesn't exist.

I tried to reach out last week to Committee Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon, to find out why not. I even left a detailed message with one of his aides, but I never got a call back.

"Why Does New Jersey Have Bridgegate, but There's No Judgegate in Florida?".

Scott's "few successes and hundreds of unfulfilled promises"

"Gov. Rick Scott has staked his political future on his ability to bring jobs to Florida, but the first comprehensive review of his efforts shows few successes and hundreds of unfulfilled promises." "We examine Gov. Scott's record on job creation".

"A Republican power grab aimed at stacking the Florida Supreme Court"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board argue that a "governor who is leaving office after two terms or who has just lost a re-election campaign should not be able to pack the Florida Supreme Court on his way out the door. Yet that would be the effect of a proposed constitutional amendment that the Florida Senate will consider[ ]. There is a legitimate issue regarding the appointment of state Supreme Court justices, but this is not the way to solve it."

Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, has identified a situation that needs some clarity. Three of the Supreme Court's most liberal justices — R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince — will each reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 during the next governor's term. They can serve out their complete six-year terms, which will end on the same day the new governor is inaugurated in January 2019. So which governor gets to appoint their successors? The outgoing governor who is leaving at the same time, or the new governor who is just taking office? . . .

However well-intended, this appears to be a Republican power grab aimed at stacking the seven-member Supreme Court for decades if Gov. Rick Scott wins re-election this fall. A governor who has been ousted by the voters or who has completed eight years in office should not be able to extend his influence this way as he departs. This change would inject even more politics and less accountability into the judicial appointment process. Surely the next Constitution Revision Commission can create a more reasonable solution to this timing question when it meets in 2017.

"Editorial: Senate should reject court-packing move".

Raw Political Courage

"Gov. Scott signs bill allowing veterans to pay in-state college tuition". See also "Rick Scott Signs Florida GI Bill Into Law".

"Power companies control the legislative agenda in Tallahassee"

Mary Ellen Klas: "To understand the influence of Florida's largest electric companies in Tallahassee, look no further than your monthly bill."

You won't see a line item for the "nuclear cost recovery fee" that Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light collect each month for future construction of new nuclear power plants. That's because legislators last year voted down an amendment that would have required them to disclose the fee to customers, something they knew the two companies didn't want to do. . . .

The legislative journey of the nuclear cost recovery fee is but one example of how Florida's power companies control the legislative agenda in Tallahassee, according to a new report by Integrity Florida, a nonprofit Tallahassee research and watchdog group. They say millions of dollars in campaign contributions and an army of lobbyists help keep corporate interests ahead of the public interest, and are calling on lawmakers to make the power companies more transparent and more accountable.

"Our state's monopoly power corporations have demonstrated how politically influential investments can be profitable,'' said Dan Krassner, president of Integrity Florida and one of the authors of the report Power Play: Political Influence of Florida's Top Energy Corporations. "The volume of spending on campaigns and lobbying give this industry an outsized influence." . . .

The report also suggested that a "revolving door" is commonly used "to lure former government regulators and officials into more lucrative lobbying and consulting jobs" for the industry.

"Watchdog report says power companies wield too much influence in Florida Legislature".

What's next, indentured servitude and debtors prisons?

"Labor pools can already pay workerw in cash under current law." "Bill allowing labor pools to pay with debit cards clears Senate panel".

"Downright stunning in a world dominated by conservatives"

"Whatever the outcome of the medical marijuana bills dominating the conversation in the Florida Legislature, one thing is certain: More lawmakers are embracing cannabis as a cure than they are as a curse. This is new. It's downright stunning in a world dominated by conservatives." "Power of a Few: How the Florida Legislature's View of Medical Marijuana Has Turned Around". Related: "Lawmakers discuss medical marijuana implementation" and "Medical marijuana forum brings smiles from advocates, ire from opponents".

"Closer to reducing government control of wetlands, springs and stormwater protections"

"A permitting bill sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, passed through the House Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee meeting Monday, moving the bill one step closer to reducing government control of wetlands, springs and stormwater protections in Florida." "Bill to Reduce Fed Control Over Florida's Water Issues Passes House Committee".

Meanwhile, "Springs bill passes with most opponents taking the polite role".

"Hard to think of a worse week than the one Scott just survived"

Steve Bousquet: "It's hard to think of a worse week than the one Gov. Rick Scott just survived, but he can turn things around if he wants to."

First, though, a recap of what went wrong.

Scott's campaign finance co-chairman, health care exec Mike Fernandez of Coral Gables, quit in protest of the way the campaign is going. Then, in three blistering emails, the Cuban-American business leader called into question Scott's commitment to Hispanic voters and accused a campaign aide of crudely imitating a Mexican accent. . . .

Anyone who's paying close attention to the legislative session knows exactly what Scott should do, even though it would rile some conservatives.

Rather than waiting for the Legislature to act, he should lead the charge to guarantee passage of a law offering in-state tuition rates to children of undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers. The bill, HB 851, passed the House 81-33, but it's not clear whether the Senate will take it up, and a strong push from Scott would change the dynamics.

"Bousquet: A solution for Scott's Hispanic problem?". See also "Can 'Dreamers' Bill Help Rick Scott in November?"