Saturday, April 19, 2014

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

FlaBaggers expose "rift in Republican party"

Undocumented immigrants fighting for in-state college tuition rates had their hopes dashed when "a top state lawmaker abruptly announced his committee would not hold a vote on the controversial bill."

The surprise move by Senate Budget Chairman Joe Negron — which caught Republicans in the House and governor’s office flatfooted — means the proposal (SB 1400) will be a long shot for passage during the final two weeks of the legislative session.

Negron, R-Stuart, gave a list of reasons for rejecting the bill, including the potential cost.

"Immigrant tuition bill opens rift in Republican party". See also "Trouble looms for immigrant tuition bill in Florida Legislature" and "Negron: In-state tuition for undocumented immigrants won't be on agenda".

Meanwhile, a desperate "Rick Scott, along with former governors Jeb Bush and Bob Martinez, made an urgent last-minute plea for legislators to pass a tuition break to students who entered the country illegally." "Scott and Bush want in-state tuition bill passed". See also "Scott enlists ex-Govs. Bush, Martinez to push Fla. Senate to pass in-state tuition for immigrants", "Rick Scott to Florida Senators: Pass In-State Tuition Bill" and "Scott urges lawmakers to pass in-state tuition bill".

Related: "Miami lawmakers make one more push to extend healthcare to immigrant children".

Weatherford hits a wall

"Much of the "work plan" put forth by both House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz has either been accomplished or is on track. But two big-ticket items favored by Weatherford - expansion of vouchers and a move to push most new state workers into a defined contribution pension system - have hit turbulence in the Senate as session enters its final two weeks." "Work remains on joint 'work plan' as items stumble in Senate".

"Murphy Routing Republican Foes in Money Chase"

"One of the most quiet developments in Florida politics has been Republican candidates failing to keep pace with Patrick Murphy in the money chase in what should be a competitive congressional race. The Republican candidates are having no problem putting their money where their mouths are but their supporters aren’t exactly opening up their wallets. Murphy should be a top target for Republicans. He represents a swing district and barely beat conservative Allen West back in 2012. This time Murphy won’t have Barack Obama and Bill Nelson cranking out Democratic turnout." "Patrick Murphy Routing Republican Foes in the Money Chase".

"Grossly negligent" science instruction in private schools that accept taxpayer voucher money

Brandon Haught, the communications director for Florida Citizens for Science, writes that "A fiery debate over expanding the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program is attracting lots of attention in Tallahassee. Predictably, we at Florida Citizens for Science are focused on the science education angle. What is the quality of science instruction in the private schools that accept taxpayer’s money through this program? We found that some of these schools are grossly negligent in the science classroom. That answer is shocking, but even worse is how this fact is ignored in the school voucher debates."

He continues, pointing out that

at least 164 voucher-accepting private schools in Florida teach creationism. Many of those schools are proud of this fact. It’s a successful selling point. And they get away with it because they aren’t held accountable for what goes on in the science lab. Tax credit scholarship students are required by state law to take state-approved standardized tests in reading and math, but not in science.

These creationist schools may have stellar reading programs. Their smaller class sizes and more one-on-one instruction may help students overcome their fear of math. That’s admirable, and we applaud those efforts. But the creationist schools butcher science education by teaching that the earth is only about 6,000 years old, contrary to the fact that we, Homo sapiens, have been around much longer than that by about 200,000 years. Some dismiss evolution as devilish tomfoolery, which would certainly surprise evolutionary biologists in our state universities and at the Scripps Research Institute.

With this in mind, the argument that parents will hold private schools accountable by walking away from substandard ones rings hollow.

It’s heartbreaking when parents purposely want what is in reality a distorted funhouse mirror version of science education. It’s a travesty for the students. Creationist thinking starts with a conclusion and then collects facts that support that conclusion while discarding or ignoring facts that disagree with it. That’s not science. Scientific thinking collects all of the available facts and then draws conclusions based on where the evidence leads. Students in creationist classes are being taught what to think, not how to think.

"Science has a spot in voucher debates".

Hot for teachers

"Pasco to recruit teachers out of state".

Florida adds jobs but unemployment increases

"Unemployment Rate Increases Slightly in March, but It's Called a 'Beauty Mark,' Not a 'Blemish'". More: "Florida adds jobs but unemployment rate increases as more return to workforce" and "Fla. jobless bumps up to 6.3%, jobs increase and workers return to job force".

Week in Review

"Week in Review for April 18, 2014" and "Weekly Roundup: Pondering Where Things Stand". See also "Arrivals and Departures, April 18, 2014" and "Political Bits and Pieces".

Scott's "unique legal argument"

"The administration of Gov. Rick Scott is making a unique legal argument when it comes to handing over public records: Get it from the employees, not us." "Gov. Scott’s office: Ask employees for records, not us".

"FCAT Expelled"

"Parting is such sweet sorrow -- sort of -- as many Florida students took the FCAT for the last time this week, waving goodbye to the standardized test and marking an end to its 16-year legacy in the Sunshine State." "FCAT Finally Expelled From Florida's Schools".

Even the Trib

Of all people, the Tampa Tribune editorial board whine that "State lawmakers can take a giant leap forward this year by passing a Senate bill that promises to clean and protect the state’s natural springs." "Protecting natural springs should be a priority".

"Win your primary and then maybe we’ll debate"

"'Give me Scott.' Democrat Charlie Crist issued that implicit debate challenge to Gov. Rick Scott during an impromptu caught-on-video meeting with Lieutenant Governor Carlos-Lopez Cantera."

But Scott said Tuesday that he’s not ready to take up the challenge, noting that Crist has refused to debate his fellow Democrat, former Sen. Nan Rich.

“That’s laughable. Think about it. He has a primary,” Scott said.

“I’m sure it’s going to be enjoyable watching his debates with Nan Rich,” he said.

"Gov. Rick Scott to Charlie Crist: Win your primary and then maybe we’ll debate".

Meanwhile, "Easter Week's Been Busy in Florida Governor's Race".

"The belly of the beast"

"As Eric Conrad exits Charlie Crist’s campaign stage left, questions have to be asked about what’s in the belly of the beast. Conrad is a committed liberal Democrat. He worked for Enroll Florida, spreading the message of Obamacare. Conrad was a staffer for the Florida Democratic Party and an old Barack Obama hand. His commitment to the Democratic Party and left-of-center politics can’t be questioned. But after only a week, Conrad is now gone from Crist’s campaign team." "Charlie Crist's Revolving-Door Staff Underlines GOP's Attacks". See also "Crist press spox leaves after a week".

Venezuelan sideshow

"Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Bill Nelson try to keep U.S. attention on Venezuelan political unrest".

"Dem registration advantage hasn’t been this small since 2007"

Marc Caputo: "In a state where a presidential election was famously decided by 537 ballots, Florida Democrats’ edge of 485,907 active voters over registered Republicans looks impressive at a glance."

But it isn’t.

In historical terms, it’s a bad sign for Democrats and Charlie Crist. And it’s great news for Republicans and Gov. Rick Scott.

The Democrats’ registration advantage hasn’t been this small since 2007. Perhaps more significantly, the gap is even smaller than it was in 2010 (591,809), when Republicans whipped Democrats at the ballot box.

"Yes, the Republican base is proportionately shrinking. It’s growing whiter, while Florida gets browner. And it’s a problem for the GOP in presidential election years when young people and minorities cast ballots in bigger numbers."
But there’s one advantage to having a large bloc of white voters during a mid-term election: They vote far more often and in bigger proportions than minorities.

Also, because the GOP controls the state power structure (determined in mid-term election years) it’s able to raise far more money than Democrats. That’s why in the last fundraising quarter, announced late last week, Scott’s side was able to raise $17.1 million to Crist’s and the Democrats’ $6.1 million.

For Democrats, that’s just not enough money to both run a statewide race and conduct the type of voter registration efforts that President Barack Obama did twice in Florida to help guarantee a win. . . .

But when Democrats show up in force, all the proportionality in the world can’t save the GOP. Even those elections aren’t blow-outs.

"Democrats’ deceptive voter registration edge in Florida".

Florida "moving backwards"

"HB 7147 and SB 1044 contain what Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam describes as 'cleanup' language, including eliminating the Solar Energy System Rebate Program created in 2006. The program hasn't been funded since 2010, when some rebate applicants received only 52 percent of what they applied for. 'We are moving backwards,' environmentalist Susan Glickman said." "Objections simmer as Putnam's energy bill would eliminate solar rebate program".