Saturday, May 31, 2014

After reading the hard copy of your hometown newspaper, please consider "liking" us on Facebook and following us on Twitter. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Jeb Shills For Donors

Alex Leary: "Jeb Bush is one of the country's most visible advocates of Common Core, forcefully defending the K-12 standards even as it puts him at odds with a conservative base he would need to mount a viable campaign for president."

But his problem is deeper than policy.

Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education has collected millions of dollars from pro-Common Core organizations — from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the for-profit education giant Pearson — giving critics something to sink into and drawing attention to the venture that has allowed the former Republican governor to expand his profile beyond Florida.

The ties fuel detractors who assert the standards are being pushed by big business interests, such as the company whose CEO sits on the Bush foundation board.

"[T]his is not the first time the foundation has faced questions of advancing interests of donors. In 2013, a nonprofit group released scores of emails it received in public records requests from several states that showed [Bush] foundation staff helped with legislation that could benefit for-profit foundation supporters."
Some of the same foundation supporters under scrutiny then have an interest in Common Core, including Pearson, the world's largest education company, and Amplify, a division of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Amplify's CEO, former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein, sits on the Bush foundation board.

Last month, Pearson landed a lucrative contract with a consortium developing tests aligned with Common Core. Amplify last year won a $12.5 million contract from another Common Core consortium. It also has developed a tablet that comes with Common Core-aligned material.

The potential market for all the new materials required by Common Core is as much as $8 billion, according to the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which supports the standards and has provided financial backing to Bush's foundation.

Other foundation backers with an interest in Common Core include publishers McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Microsoft, another foundation sponsor, in March announced a partnership with Pearson to develop Common Core material.

"Critics say Bush has benefited from the foundation by using it as a platform to burnish his credentials as an education expert, reformer and wonk. In recent years, he's been on an endless national road show, making key connections and gaining media exposure." "Jeb Bush's Common Core problem strikes at heart of his foundation".

"Light vetoes predicted"

"Light vetoes predicted when Gov. Rick Scott signs Florida budget".

"A conspiracy of unseemly coincidences"

Fred Grimm: "Trade secrets. Private information. Privileged stuff about the inner workings of a basic democratic function. In other words, not for the likes of you."

Neither the public nor the press can see 538 pages of emails, maps and planning documents generated by one of the high-powered political operatives who actually run this state.

The Florida Supreme Court decided Tuesday that the trove of material from Republican political consultant Pat Bainter in connection with the 2012 congressional redistricting maps must remain top secret. Bainter’s stuff can only be revealed in a closed courtroom. As if this were a matter of homeland security.

"The redistricting process was all about circumventing the 2010 Fair Districts constitutional amendment that was supposed to ban the finagling of district lines to benefit the ruling party."
Wasn’t it odd that the final districts map was so markedly similar to a map submitted by an FSU student? His map, in turn, was identical to another created by Frank Terraferma, director of campaign strategies for the GOP members of the Florida House of Representatives.

Of course, the legislative leadership would never, ever consider a map submitted directly from a political strategist. That would be wrong. . . .

The trial also elicited admissions that crucial email about redistricting exchanged among legislative leaders seems to have been erased. Senate President Don Gaetz insisted, not very convincingly, that he wasn’t the culprit. “I'm not sure I know how to delete emails.”

The trial also featured admissions of a secret meeting between Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford to approve the new districts. Gaetz explained that the meeting wasn't really secret. They just didn’t feel a need to alert that extraneous rabble known as the public.

"Tallahassee redistricting trial exposes unseemly coincidences." See also "Florida redistricting trial gets surprise witness — and a closed courtroom and "Leon County judge kicks public and media out of Florida redistricting trial." Background: "[Florida] Supreme Court says secret docs can be viewed in redistricting trial" and "GOP consultant to U.S. Supreme Court: Keep redistricting papers secret."

Scott musta skipped the con law class about that silly "supremacy clause"

Scott Powers: "A two-month feud between the state, which has been turned away from inspecting VA hospitals, and the feds, who run the facilities, escalated Wednesday when Gov. Rick Scott said he is planning to sue for access."

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs officials have repeatedly advised Scott and Liz Dudek, secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, that states have no legal authority to inspect federal hospitals.

Yet Scott and Dudek have sent inspectors on unannounced visits seven times: first on April 3 at the veterans hospital in West Palm Beach and most recently on May 20 in Gainesville. Orlando's facilities have not been visited.

On Wednesday, Scott announced he wants to sue the VA in federal court "to establish AHCA's right to inspect and regulate health facilities in Florida." . . .

Some say Scott appears to be trying to make political hay, not law, from the latest scandal to rock the VA. Stetson University College of Law Associate Dean Michael Allen directs the Veterans Law Institute there and also teaches constitutional law. He said the governor's actions suggest a political motive, because the only way state inspectors could have jurisdiction at federal hospitals is if Congress authorizes it, and he does not know of any time that has happened.

"After VA refuses state inspections, Scott says he'll sue."

One wonders if there is an lawyer out there who could in good faith argue Scott's position.

Meanwhile, we of course must have "balance" in the media: "Scott Maxwell: Rick Scott, Charlie Crist play politics with veterans."

Week in Review

Kevin Derby: "Political Bits and Pieces." See also "Week in Review for May 30, 2014," "Arrivals and Departures, May 30, 2014" and "The Week Ahead for May 27 to May 30, 2014."

Hollywood and the Hamptons

Jeff Henderson writes that "Crist’s support from Hollywood and the Hamptons rightfully raises questions of his populist support. So does Crist attacking Scott at a meeting of trial lawyers this week for using a helicopter to fly around the state before quickly backtracking and asking if any of the lawyers in the room would let him use their chopper." "'People's Gov.' Charlie Crist Relies on Hollywood and Hamptons for Campaign Cash".

"A not-ready-for-prime-time Charlie Crist"

Nancy Smith channels the Scott campaign war room, writing that "the Teflon is starting to peel off Charlie Crist like a cheap frying pan."

All of a sudden he isn't oozing charm on the big stage, getting away with empty good-guyisms, hail-fellow jokes and pie-in-the-sky promises. He's sweating.

This is something we're not used to. A not-ready-for-prime-time Charlie Crist.

"Party Traitors Aren't Hurting Charlie, Charlie Is Hurting Charlie".

Hot air

Aaron Deslatte: "Gov. Rick Scott has been taking heat over the past two weeks because he's repeatedly dodged questions from reporters about whether he believes the planet's average global increase in temperature is being caused by human activities."

But once in Florida's not-too-distant past, then Republican Gov. Charlie Crist – no scientist, either — championed the issue along with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at a climate change summit in 2007. He blocked a coal-fired power plant during his first year in office and pushed for solar-power incentives. Then, he ran for the U.S. Senate, and began back-tracking from most of those positions.

While California was carrying out greenhouse gas reduction goals for 2020, Florida was weakening its growth-management act to allow for more sprawling, pollution-increasing land development in the hopes of kick-starting its economy.

Now, Democratic gubernatorial challenger Crist is back to being a sunshine lover. He talked glowingly about climate change reduction and tapping solar power at a Capitol rally last spring. His campaign logo pictures a sun rising developed by his wife, Carole.

"Aaron Deslatte: Climate change emerges in Florida governor's race."

Bondi claims same sex marriages "impose significant public harm"

"Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi says in court documents that recognizing same sex marriages performed in other states would “impose significant public harm.”" "Bondi: Gay marriage would cause problems". More: "Fla. AG: Recognizing same-sex marriages harmful." A Bondi apologist explains "Furor toward Attorney General Pam Bondi over gay marriage court filing may be misplaced."

"Scott indifferent about importance of racial diversity among judges"

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Gov. Rick Scott remains indifferent about the importance of racial diversity among judges, but the Florida Bar is not. Its new task force report puts the governor on notice that a decline in the portion of judges who are African-American is unacceptable and that it's his responsibility to bring more diversity to the bench. Scott has a significant opportunity this month when he can make up to 78 appointments to commissions that vet judicial candidates. The governor, who previously has played partisan politics in choosing commission members, needs to set a new course and make clear to his appointees to the Judicial Nominating Commissions that a diverse judiciary is in the interest of all Floridians."

Scott last year dismissed concerns from the black legislative caucus about the shrinking number of black judges, and at least some appointees to JNCs care little about submitting a diverse pool of nominees. A survey conducted for the task force found some JNC members hostile about educating lawyers on the judicial nominating process to broaden the applicant pool. "We don't want judges who can't even figure out how to apply on their own," wrote one. "Don't try to fix what ain't broke," wrote another. Such elitism has not gone unnoticed. In a survey of Bar members, more than three of every four said JNCs are built more on partisanship than merit.
"Florida judiciary needs more diversity".

Florida "climbed out of the recession because of factors beyond any one governor's control"

Politifact: "Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican Party of Florida are hanging their campaign hopes on a story that goes like this: When Charlie Crist was governor, unemployment skyrocketed and the economy nose-dived."

Crist is pushing back, saying the economic recovery started under him. He also argues that the jobs and economic picture in Florida isn't as rosy as Scott's portrayal.

Neither side is telling the whole story. The reality is Florida went into a recession because of factors beyond any one governor's control and climbed out of the recession because of factors beyond any one governor's control.

"More than anything else, problems in the national housing market caused Florida's recession, and its recovery has followed the national recovery."
As the nation saw its unemployment rate improve, so did Florida. As of April, Florida's unemployment was a fraction of a percentage point better than the nationwide rate. . . .

Scott points to 540,000 new jobs since he took office — he arrives at that figure by getting rid of the public-sector job cuts and focusing on private-sector growth.

Kwame Donaldson, an economist at Moody's who analyzes Florida, previously told PolitiFact that the number of private-sector jobs during the time period that Scott has pointed to isn't a record and "is even less remarkable considering Florida's larger current population."

"PolitiFact Florida: Looking for economic truths in governor's race."

"Núñez emerges as effective lawmaker"

"By fighting to let undocumented immigrants pay in-state college tuition rates, Rep. Jeanette Núñez emerged as a breakout star of the 2014 legislative session." "In male-dominated Legislature, Jeanette Núñez emerges as effective lawmaker."