Sunday, April 13, 2014

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

Florida "Insiders" say "Jeb!" is in

Adam C. Smith: "Jeb Bush says he hasn't made up his mind about running for president in 2016, but the overwhelming verdict from 121 of Florida's most plugged-in politicos is that Bush ultimately will take the plunge." "Insiders predict Jeb Bush will run for president in 2016".

"Scott’s air travel reflects not only his wealth, but his preference for stealth"

"The first campaign promise Gov. Rick Scott kept allows him to travel with the privacy and luxury of a CEO while living in the fishbowl of public office."

As a candidate in 2010, Scott said it was a waste of money for Florida to have two airplanes for official travel, so he replaced them with a private jet at his expense.

The switch has saved taxpayers a lot of money, but how much is a mystery: No public airplanes means no public records.

Scott’s air travel reflects not only his wealth, but his preference for stealth. Despite his oft-stated support for transparency, Scott keeps his flight itineraries off tracking websites and even blacks out arrival and departure details on official schedules after the fact, citing the need for security.

"He also uses the jet to campaign for re-election and might be literally flying above the law."
Other candidates must pay for commercial flights or hop aboard private jets owned by donors — trips that must be publicly disclosed under state campaign finance laws.

Not Scott.

The hospital CEO-turned-governor flies in a Cessna Citation Excel owned by a company whose only officer is his wife, Ann Scott. The jet’s tail number carries her initials, A.S.

Having access to a private jet 24/7 is a luxury other candidates can’t afford, and some experts say it requires more disclosure than Scott is providing. . . .

Scott opened his re-election campaign Dec. 10 and has made dozens of campaign flights since then, but he has disclosed no air travel expenses.

"Two lawyers who are experts in election laws say Scott is not complying with the letter or spirit of Florida’s 'who gave it, who got it' campaign finance law. Both lawyers are Democrats who have advised Democratic and Republican candidates."
“You have to account for it,” said one of the lawyers, Mark Herron. “Otherwise, it could be an unreported contribution to your campaign.”

The other lawyer, Ron Meyer, said it “defies logic” to accept the Scott campaign’s explanation.

“To do so would mean that a campaign could accept all kinds of services and simply not write a check to pay for them until the end,” Meyer said. “Not exactly a transparent way of reporting who gave it and who got it.”

Nancy Watkins, a Tampa certified public accountant who often advises Republicans, said tax law could be interpreted such that Scott’s use of an aircraft owned by a firm whose sole officer is his wife makes it personal transportation — the same as riding in a car — and not reportable as a campaign expense, or what’s known in the tax code as a disregarded entity.

"The plane truth: Florida Gov. Rick Scott travels in wealth, stealth".

The session's final weeks

Gray Rohrer: "The priorities of House Speaker Will Weatherford, large ominibus bills and the finalization of the budget will all be in play in the session's final weeks." "Final weeks: Weatherford's big ideas, trains and budget talks". See also "Negron: Budget conference meetings to begin on April 21".

All Geller

"With his leading opponent dropping out of the race, Joe Geller has become the strong favorite to win the Florida House seat currently held by Joe Gibbons." "Joe Geller Clear Favorite for Open House Seat in South Florida".

Voucher madness

"The proposal lacks a testing requirement for students and it's not clear if it will be accepted by the Senate where President Don Gaetz has said accountability is one of the themes of the 2014 Workplan." "House school vouchers bill heads to Senate". See also "Floridians Opposed to Voucher Program".

"No other state came close"

Carl Hiaasen: "After being sued by the Wall Street Journal, the government finally released its Medicare reimbursement data last week. It included the less-than-stunning revelation that 28 of the 100 doctors who received the largest payments in 2012 were from Florida. No other state came close." "First, do no harm — to your bank account".

Tampa yawner

Steve Otto: "Tampa still working on ‘Next Great City’ status".

"Has this state’s voting record ever really been out of the headlines?"

The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board "Florida was back in the headlines last week, featured in a story about states that have made it more difficult to vote. But then, considering the voter purges, the restrictions on voting, the subsequent backtracking and the inevitable Election Day foul-ups, has this state’s voting record ever really been out of the headlines?"

The Pew Charitable Trusts issued a report on voter access and found Florida lagging behind much of the rest of the country.
"Voting rights".

"Using the Republicans’ own words against them"

Bill Cotterell suggests that "Florida Democrats, holding neither the veto pen nor the majority vote in either chamber of the Legislature, can employ a bit of political martial arts by using the Republicans’ own words against them sometimes. The difference between a legislative gotcha and that other form of ground fighting is that, in jiu-jitsu, the little guy has a chance. Democrats know they’ll lose. But sometimes, it’s entertaining to watch the them remind GOP leaders of past pronouncements." "Using Republicans' own words to debate them".

The great negotiator

"Gov. Rick Scott, who made a career out of negotiating hospital mergers, is now applying his negotiating skills to a deal with the Seminole Tribe that could singlehandedly dictate the future of gaming in Florida." "Gov. Rick Scott’s negotiations with Seminole Tribe could be a blueprint for gaming’s future in Florida".

Meanwhilee, Nancy Smith wonders "What Happens to Gambling If Charlie Crist Wins?"

To the right of Ander Crenshaw?

"Ander Crenshaw Faces Conservative Primary Challenger Ryman Shoaf in CD 4".

Week in Review

"Week in Review for April 11, 2014". See also Kevin Derby: "Political Bits and Pieces", "Weekly Roundup: Lights Out Permanently on Gambling, Temporarily on Session" and "Arrivals and Departures, April 11, 2014".

"Black caucus struggles"

"In GOP-dominated Legislature, black lawmakers caucus struggles".

"Florida Republicans Say Good Riddance"

"Florida Republicans Say Good Riddance, Kathleen Sebelius".


The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Florida lawmakers have three weeks to decide if they are going to stand with trauma patients and for rationally priced health care, or with hospitals that are charging indefensible trauma center response fees and driving up costs across the health care system." "Stand with patients, not profits".

Yee haw!

"The sponsor explained the bill extends carry-and-conceal privileges to those fleeing during a mandatory evacuation declared by the governor or local officials. The Senate version has yet to clear a committee." "House sends gun bill to Senate".

"Republican bad girl" denied bond

"Former Congressman David Rivera’s friend Ana Alliegro denied bond, remains in jail".

Choice politics

"It changes the exceptions to a late term abortion and opens the door to a legal framework that would take into account viability for life, rather than a designated time period, for when an abortion could be performed. Among those voting no were four Republicans." "House approves abortion restriction".

Legislators secret save-our-civilization-from-Zombie Bloodbath-agenda

Fred Grimm: "Florida lawmakers are getting us ready for the zombie apocalypse."

At first glance, Senate Bill 296, which allows gun owners to pack heat during civil emergencies, whether or not they happened to have a concealed weapon permit, would seem just another mindless pander to the National Rifle Association.

Sponsors told fellow legislators that a new law was necessary to prevent police from seizing firearms from Floridians fleeing declared civil emergencies. Like a hurricane. Perhaps even a riot.

At first glance, none of that stuff made sense, adding unlicensed gunslingers to civil chaos. One can only suppose that our legislators, as they voted “yea,” were advancing a secret save-our-civilization-from-Zombie Bloodbath-agenda as the measure zipped through Senate committee stops last week and a House companion bill was approved 80-to-36 Friday afternoon. Our leaders are intent on getting us armed and ready to battle The Army of Darkness (or worse, the feminist version, Zombie Women of Satan). Because any other explanation for SB 296 is just plain crazy.

So it’s obvious. Legislators, anxious to avoid setting off mass panic, played it coy. They talked hurricanes. They talked riots. They didn’t broach the fear gnawing at slimy, rotten innards of American culture. They didn’t talk about World War Z. No one mentioned Dawn of the Dead. They said one thing. They were thinking Die You Zombie Bastards!

Their lack of candor did cause a few awkward moments. When one of the bill’s champions, Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, was pressed to name an actual instance when someone in Florida was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon or had his firearm confiscated during a declared emergency, he couldn’t think of one. Not even during that spate of hurricanes last decade that sent Floridians scurrying from the paths of Katrina, Wilma, Charlie, Jeanne, Dennis and Ivan.

That led Sen. Jack Latvala R-Clearwater, to ask Brandes why, then, our already lenient state gun laws were in such urgent need of fixing, Brandes recalled that firearms had been confiscated in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. “Often we see situations around the country that we don’t want repeated here in the great state of Florida.” The word “situation” was code for Night of the Living Dead. Or maybe Night of the Living Dead 3-D.

Of course, most of the guns seized in New Orleans were confiscated at the entrance to the Superdome. Authorities apparently thought gunplay would not improve the mix of the hunger, thirst, stench, despair, anger suffered by 20,000 desperate refugees camped inside the big, dark, domed stadium. That incident so provoked the gun lobby in 2006, that Congress passed a federal law prohibiting “the confiscation of a firearm during an emergency or major disaster if the possession of such firearm is not prohibited under federal or state law.”

Florida’s about to take this even further. At times when fear and desperation and panic grips the population, SB 296 would extend that immunity to folks too lazy or too hinky to qualify for a concealed weapon permit.

Of course, such a premise is way too absurd for anyone to pretend it’s anything other than a diversion from the scary truth. Everyone in Tallahassee surely knows that Brandes‘ real intent is to save Florida from the ultimate civil emergency. What occurred in the capitol (a.k.a. House of the Dead) last week, thanks to this brave senator from St. Petersburg (long known as The City of the Living Dead) was exactly the intersection between heroic politician and the funereal horrors revealed in the 2012 historical classic Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies.

"Zombie Apocalypse bill comes to life".

"Jeb Bush has a lot of baggage"

Steve Otto reminds us that "Jeb Bush has a lot of baggage, particularly in Florida, where his image as an education reformer and other issues don’t carry the same weight they might elsewhere, but he is clearly setting the stage for a campaign later this year, not only for a run for himself but the return of some semblance of balance to the Republican Party." "All you need is a little love, Jeb".