Sunday, April 06, 2014

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

"Hordes of brown-skinned immigrants coming to sabotage Florida’s elections"

Fred Grimm writes that Rick Scott and "Ken Detzner imagine[ ] hordes of brown-skinned immigrants, up from the Caribbean or Central America, come to sabotage Florida’s elections."

They must be purged.

Unhappily for the secretary of state, his efforts to cleanse voter rolls of noncitizens have not gone well. “Far from perfect” was how the U.S. District Court of Appeals put it last week, employing more than a little judicial understatement.

A three-judge panel from the 11th Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, ruled Tuesday that his rather clumsy attempts in 2012 to reconcile Florida’s rolls of registered voters against databases listing non-citizens constituted violations of the National Voter Registration Act.

In Detzner’s defense, he was just a lobbyist for the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association before Gov. Rick Scott appointed him as secretary of state two years ago. As it turned out, sorting out ineligible voters is a bit more demanding than greasing state legislators. His office started out with some 180,000 suspect voters. After county election supervisors examined the names, the list fell to 2,600, then 198. Finally, the beer meister’s scary hordes had dwindled to 85. . . .

But the court slapped Detzner around without exploring suspect racial or ethnic or partisan political motivations. Nor did the panel bother addressing the other nagging question about the purge. What would motivate someone to add “illegal voter” to his already risky status as “illegal immigrant?”

Detzner and Scott seemed to be clinging to the supposition that some noncitizen would be willing to risk a felony conviction to vote in the 2012 election. To risk a five-year prison sentence and a $5,000 fine just to add a single, mathematically insignificant vote to the 8,491,920 ballots cast in the general election. . . .

Either that or the beer man has overestimated the threat of noncitizens impacting Florida’s elections.

If Scott and Detzner were truly interested in chasing down cheaters, a much richer, long-ignored category of electoral illegality awaits their intervention. They ought to be hunting down our giant flock of lowdown, double-voting snowbirds. . . .

If Ken Detzner wanted to go after election cheats, double-dipping snowbirds, with their penchant for casting absentee ballots hither and yon, would seem to offer the secretary of state a more promising target than purported gangs of illegal immigrant voters that nobody can seem to find.

Of course, folks able to afford both a house in Ohio and a condo in Florida don’t tend to fall into the demographic our governor and his beer baron buddy fear on Election Day. Some election cheats just aren’t as scary as others. Even if the others don’t exist.

Much more here: "Time to purge the purgers".

Obamacare numbers give Crist an unexpected boost

The Miami Herald's Marc Caputo writes that "Charlie Crist’s reasons to embrace Obamacare has hit the 7.1 million mark."

That’s the number of people who selected an Affordable Care Act plan by the close of the enrollment period last Monday, according to the Obama administration.

The better-than-forecast numbers gave Democrats like Crist an unexpected boost, especially after the sign-up website was essentially non-functional when it debuted in October.

There are many reasons to be skeptical about how many of the 7.1 million actually are enrolled in individual-market healthcare plans (there’s a different between selectees who haven’t paid and those who have paid and enrolled).

Still, 7.1 million is the official number for now.

And politics is about simple things, simple numbers. Like insurance, politics is a numbers game.

Crist had already made the calculation that he wasn’t going to run from Obamacare, unlike Democrats who face more-conservative electorates in other races. Crist wants to use the unpopular Affordable Care Act’s popular positions to strike at the governor.

"As of March 1, the Obama administration reported that about 442,000 Floridians of about 990,000 eligible for individual market plans signed up in Florida (the vast majority of Floridians and Americans are insured through employer group plans that aren’t as central to the Affordable Care Act)."
How many ACA selectees didn’t have insurance before? How many are paying more? How many are paying less or get subsides? How many Floridians signed up from March 1 to the March 31 deadline? . . .

It’s likely Obamacare’s selectee figure would be far higher. But Republican-run states like Florida and Texas (which have the highest uninsured rates of about 25 percent) have fought the law at nearly every turn. They’ve also refused to expand Medicaid, which could give health insurance to as many as 1 million in Florida.

Despite the recent positive news for Obamacare and the number of Floridians who could benefit from it, those who hate the law appear more numerous and more ready to vote than those who love it in Florida. . . .

Meanwhile, for all the misleading presentation of figures in his ads, Scott has perhaps the most-important figures on his side: $45 million. That’s the amount of money he likely has to spend so far on his campaign. He’s trying to raise $100 million.

Crist hopes to get half of that. Fellow Democrat Nan Rich has struggled to fundraise for more than year. Libertarian Adrian Wyllie is a wild card in the race.

Money like Scott’s buys wall-to-wall ads that are seen by far more voters, who spend far more time watching TV or looking at Facebook than they do reading newspapers or PolitiFact.

And no matter how you figure it, $45 million is a bigger number than 7.1 million.

Much more here: "Figuring and politicking with Obamacare figures".

"Fat Man and Little Boy"

"Jeb Bush and Bobby Jindal are starring in a new ad for a group seeking to rebrand the Republican Party." "Jeb Bush, Jindal appear in ad to rebrand Republican Party".

Oh . . . the irony

Recent statistics show that "Florida had the nation’s second-highest rate of residents without health insurance with almost 1 out of 4 Floridians lacking it", yet the geniuses in Tally want to invite residents of other states who do have health insurance to come to Florida and spend their health care dollars: "Proposals in the state House and Senate seek to pump $5 million into efforts to promote Florida’s healthcare industry to potential patients worldwide." "Lawmakers seek to draw medical tourists to Florida".

This, from the "values crowd"

"Last year, state employees got their first across-the-board pay raise since 2006 as part of a compromise between House and Senate proposals struck late in the legislative session. Employees earning under $40,000 were given a $1,400 pay increase while those earning $40,000 or more were given a $1,000 pay increase. But union representatives say last year’s raise wasn’t enough to make up for a reduction in pay state workers saw in 2011 when lawmakers passed a measure requiring them to contribute 3 percent of their pay toward their retirement accounts." "State-worker raises an 'uphill battle'".

Political notes

Tally "Political notes".

Court packing

"The proposed constitutional amendment (SJR 1188) would allow an outgoing governor to replace appellate or Supreme Court justices whose terms expire on the governor’s last day in office." "Who gets to appoint justices?".


"Small but promising step in restoring Everglades".

Scott working to "resolve image problems"

William March: "Worried about his standing among Florida’s Hispanic voters in the wake of turmoil over a major Hispanic fundraiser, Gov. Rick Scott is working to resolve image problems in a key segment of the electorate. Florida Democrats are working just as hard to highlight the problems, accusing Scott of a history of anti-Hispanic discrimination." "Scott courts Hispanics after fracas".

Legislature boosts Scott

"At session midpoint, Legislature boosts Gov. Rick Scott in election year".

"Scott is desperate to appear gubernatorial"

Carl Hiaasen: "With much chest-thumping, Gov. Rick Scott last week signed a law clipping auto-tag fees by about $25 per vehicle in Florida. He used the opportunity to blast former Gov. Charlie Crist for raising those fees five years ago."

What Scott cynically failed to mention during the bill-signing charade was that all the top Republicans standing at his side had also supported the auto-tag hikes. It was the depth of the recession, and the state desperately needed revenue.

Scott himself is desperate to appear gubernatorial because Crist, running as a Democrat, will likely be his opponent in the November election. The auto-tag fee cut was the centerpiece of a tax-relief agenda being pushed by the governor, who trails Crist in the early polls.

"Two of the GOP lawmakers who were crowing about this grand windfall for motor-vehicle owners have an infinitely more important job in the days ahead. House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz have a chance to do something truly crucial and good."
They can shape a law that saves actual lives — the lives of endangered children.

Bills that would strengthen Florida’s child welfare laws are winding through both houses of the Legislature following publication of the Herald’s shocking investigative series, Innocents Lost ["After Florida cut down on protections for children in troubled homes, deaths soared. The children died in ways cruel, outlandish, predictable and preventable."]

The newspaper documented the deaths of at least 477 children whose parents or caregivers had a history with the state’s Department of Children & Families. During the six-year period studied by reporters, DCF consistently under-reported the number of victims in its files who died because of violence or negligence by parents and caregivers. . . .

Lowering auto-tag fees by 25 bucks might be cause for giddy back-slapping in Tallahassee, but saving even one child from a tortuous death would be a more noble accomplishment.

And one you can’t put a price on.

"The profound urgency of DCF reform".