Thursday, July 17, 2014

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

Gaetz and Weatherford "losing the lawsuit becomes no worse than winning"

Update: "Forcing lawmakers to re-draw the maps now would require calling a special session, then allowing another candidate-qualifying period. Nonetheless, League of Women Voters lawyer David King said that was a better alternative that asking voters to cast ballots within invalidated congressional districts. . . . Lewis didn't decide on the question and set another hearing for next Thursday so both sides could prepare arguments." "Redistricting sides jostle over whether to redraw congressional lines now."

Fred Grimm: "It’s as if you spotted someone cruising around in the family sedan that had been swiped from your driveway. Sorry, the thief says, but he can’t return the car just now. Maybe in 2016."

Sooner than that would cause nothing but “chaos and confusion.”

Except, it wasn’t a car that was stolen. Just a fair election.

The very legislative leadership that allowed political “consultants and operatives” to flout the Florida Constitution and hijack the congressional redistricting process told a judge Tuesday that they’d eventually “enact a remedial plan consistent with this Court’s judgment.”

But not until after the 2014 elections.

"Last week, Judge Lewis ruled that Republican Party operatives had been allowed to “infiltrate and influence” the 2012 redistricting process and subvert the Legislature’s constitutional mandate. 'They made a mockery of the Legislature's proclaimed transparent and open process of redistricting by doing all of this in the shadow of that process . . . going to great lengths to conceal from the public their plan and their participation in it,' Lewis wrote."
The judge said the consultants “managed to taint the redistricting process and the resulting map with improper partisan intent. There is just too much circumstantial evidence of it, too many coincidences, for me to conclude otherwise.”

House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz indicated in a motion filed Tuesday that they won’t appeal the decision. Instead they’ll just dawdle, arguing that they can’t fix the gerrymandered districts now “without irreparable damage.” So losing the lawsuit becomes no worse than winning.

"Winning lawsuit over redistricting is as bad as losing."

"Happy to meet"

"Gov. Rick Scott said today his administration would be 'happy to meet' with 10 scientists from Florida universities who want to talk about climate change, a subject he has been reluctant to address."

This, even though

Scott, who is running for re-election, has worked to dismantle climate change initiatives put into place by his predecessor and current opponent, Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist.

Florida’s other top Republicans, including possible 2016 presidential candidates U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush, also have challenged climate science.

"Scott says he’ll meet scientists on climate change."

Allen West calls for impeachment

"Former U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., who has left the door open to a political comeback in 2016, made the case to impeach Obama on Tuesday." "Allen West and Alan Grayson Clash on Impeaching Obama."

Scott may "follow Jolly’s game plan"

Jeff Henderson writes that, "if Scott’s team wants to keep Crist busy in his own backyard [Pinellas County], they should follow Jolly’s gameplan with strong research and a great ground game. An underdog at the start of the year when Republicans were pining for Jack Latvala, Will Weatherford and other candidates to get in against Sink, Jolly just might turn out to be the Florida GOP’s MVP for 2014." "David Jolly Could Be Florida GOP's MVP for 2014".

Tampa Caught With Hand in the Federal Cookie Jar

"The Tampa City Council will be asked this morning to approve repayment of more than $560,000 the city received from the federal government after Hurricane Frances a decade ago." "FEMA wants $560K back from Tampa for storm."

Road to Dems winning winds through Sunshine State

"According to the Democratic leader in the U.S. House, the road to her party winning back control of the chamber winds through the Sunshine State. In an interview published on Wednesday, U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., offered her take on Democratic chances to flip the U.S. House in November -- and said it comes down to Florida." "Nancy Pelosi Bets on Florida Redistricting to Win Congress." See also "Nancy Pelosi’s goal is to win 25 seats. Here’s how she thinks it can happen."

Florida ranks last in the nation in per-person Obamacare funding

"Florida ranks last in the country in per-person funding from the Affordable Care Act, a new study shows, and that doesn’t even include the billions of dollars the state is forfeiting by saying no to Medicaid expansion."

The Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation at the University of Michigan performed the analysis of ACA grant totals between the time the law was signed in March 2010 and the end of September 2013.

Judging by the grant totals of other states, Florida appears to have forfeited at least $100 million and possibly $300 million or more.

“Florida is 51st in per capita funding, last among all the states and the District of Columbia,” said Josh Fangmeier, health policy analyst at the Center. In a study released by the same group a year ago, Florida had been 48th.

Over the study period, the average nationwide funding per person was $47.67, the Center’s charts show. By contrast, Florida’s per-capita funding was just $18.04.

"Florida Inverse: 2nd Highest Level of Uninsured, Dead Last in Affordable Care Grants."

FEA sues to block runaway voucher legislation

"The state teachers union filed a challenge to a controversial education law Wednesday, saying it violates a constitutional requirement that each law be limited to a single subject."

Gov. Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 850 last month over loud objections from the union, parent groups, the NAACP and the League of Women Voters.

Among other things, the law expands the school voucher program and creates new scholarships for children with profound disabilities. The scholarships, which can be used for private tutoring, educational materials and various types of therapies, are being rolled out this week.

The lawsuit from the Florida Education Association takes aim at the way SB 850 became law. Some of the bill’s more contentious provisions, including the voucher expansion and the scholarship accounts, started out as stand-alone proposals that met resistance in the Legislature. They were combined into a sweeping education bill on the second-to-last day of the legislative session, giving lawmakers little time to review the proposal and citizens virtually no chance to weigh in.

In its final form, the 140-page bill also addressed career education, collegiate high schools, dropout prevention, hazing and middle-school reform.

"The school voucher program has been controversial since its debut in 2002. The program provides private-school scholarships to children from low-income families. It is funded by businesses, which receive a dollar-for-dollar corporate tax credit in exchange for their donation."
This year, lawmakers expanded the program by creating partial scholarships for children from higher-income families. They also raised the amount of the scholarship beginning in 2016-17.

The union, which has about 140,000 members, opposed the measure, saying it would take money from public schools. Leaders began mulling over a legal challenge as soon as session ended, McCall said.

FEA Attorney Ron Meyer said that the union had “grave concerns about the constitutionality of the tax credit [scholarship] program and the damage potentially being done in these unregulated, unaccountable schools.”

"Florida teachers union files legal challenge to voucher expansion law." See also "Teachers union sues over how school voucher bill passed" and "Florida Teachers Union Files Lawsuit Over Controversial Voucher Bill."

"Liberal credentials"

Kevin Derby: "With less than six weeks to go, the two Democrats looking to topple Gov. Rick Scott are trying to reach out to primary voters by stressing their liberal credentials." "Charlie Crist and Nan Rich Go Left for Primary Votes."