Monday, August 25, 2014

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

FlaGOP's "Pants on Fire!"

"Charlie Crist's vow to change Florida law about insurance regulation during a Facebook Q&A on Aug. 6 was not liked by the Republican Party of Florida."

In answer to a voter's question, Crist said he would reinstate the state insurance commissioner's power to renegotiate 2015 health insurance rates in time to keep costs down.

"The fact that we have a law on the books under Rick Scott that says the Office of Insurance Regulation can't regulate insurance is astounding," Crist said. "We deserve better, you deserve better."

But the state Republican Party contradicted him. "Wrong, Charlie," the GOP's Facebook account wrote. "It's Obamacare that prevents OIR (the Office of Insurance Regulation) from regulating insurance … a law that you think is great even though premiums will go up by double digits for Floridians."

"Is the party right that the Affordable Care Act stopped Florida from regulating insurance?"
The 2010 Affordable Care Act said states had to follow minimum federal guidelines for insurance plans, like requiring that pre-existing conditions be covered. The health care law also required insurance companies to justify unreasonable rate increases, defined as more than 10 percent year over year. . . .

So the state GOP not only misrepresented the terms of the law, but it also implied it was to blame for the state's (temporary) regulatory woes. And it was mostly Republican lawmakers who spearheaded change to Florida law after the state rejected a $1 million federal grant to help improve the process.

Most other states regulate insurance rates without the difficulty the Republican Party of Florida claimed. We rate its statement Pants on Fire!

"PolitiFact Florida: GOP claim on Obamacare rated Pants on Fire." Related: "GOP Anti-Obamacare Strategy at an End? Not a Chance."

So much for Scott's "transparency"

"Records produced in a Tallahassee attorney’s quest to get documents show that top officials in Gov. Rick Scott’s office found ways to limit access to records despite vows of transparency." "Records show governor’s office put up barriers to public records."

"It’s not fixed"

Joe Henderson: "You may have heard there were thousands of complaints late last year when the new [unemployment computer] system was introduced on Oct. 15, but the state promised to get things fixed."

It’s not fixed.
"The state unemployment computer system that was fixed? It’s not fixed."

"Campaign devoid of a campaign"

"In the Democratic primary for governor, Charlie Crist is expected to roll up a big double-digit victory over Nan Rich, a former state Senate Democratic leader who lacks money and name recognition." "Florida’s Charlie Crist and Nan Rich: the campaign devoid of a campaign."

Goin' local

"Tuesday's election focuses on local offices, issues."

Rubio at home in the heart of the Confederacy

"U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is scheduled to speak at a fundraising barbecue for South Carolina Republicans." "Florida Sen. Marco Rubio boosting SC Republicans."

FlaGOP dances victory jig

"Congressional district boundaries redrawn by the Republican-led Florida Legislature were approved Friday by a judge, who also ruled that this year’s elections can continue using a 2012 map he had earlier invalidated." "Judge rules for Florida Legislature across board in redistricting case."

CD 26 hopefuls move on as Rivera is charged

"David Rivera’s four opponents in the Republican congressional primary have largely ignored the once-influential politician, preferring instead to focusing on Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia." "U.S. 26th District hopefuls move on as David Rivera is officially named in campaign rigging."

"What is wrong with you people?"

Gary Stein: thinks "the voting process is so ridiculously easy, it's laughable." Nevertheless,

number of voters Tuesday will be embarrassingly low, but hardly shocking. . . .

People have their excuses, of course.

They were busy taking kids to school. They were busy picking kids up. They were more concerned with the elections in New York than the elections here. They were busy worrying about whether Fluffy the dog would be returned to its owner in Boca Raton. The judicial candidates confuse them because the only judge they know is Judge Judy. It's hard to concentrate on voting when you have something like that on your mind.

So the very, very few who take the minimal amount of time needed to vote will have the biggest say in things that matter to everybody. They will vote on people who will spend your tax money, fix your streets, hire your cops and firefighters, restrict hours in parks and libraries, set policy the affects your school children, decide if you get fined or go to jail, things like that. It is to the point where one floor of people in a condominium can affect an entire local election, because nobody else cares.

Oh, they care enough to complain, to me and others, when things are screwed up in their city or county or the courthouse.

What is wrong with you people?

"Could voting be any easier? Of course." See also "A steady trickle of early voters turn out for final Sunday of balloting."

Yee Haw!

The Tampa Trib editors: "Hernando County School Board member John Sweeney compromised academic integrity to falsely puff up his son's high school scholastic record. A school district investigative report released last week showed Sweeney wanted a teacher fired for refusing to raise his son's poor grades, misled administrators by falsely indicating he had the superintendent's blessing, culled questions from a test as invalid to raise his son's scores, and portrayed the sophomore English class as an honors class in a failed attempt to improve the teenager's transcript. Yet Sweeney has the gall to seek re-election Tuesday, and Hernando voters should send him a clear message that they want better from their school board." "Editorial: School board member flunks Ethics 101."

Ethics Complaint

Steve Bousquet: "Gay-Marriage Issue At Heart Of Ethics Complaint In Miami-Dade Judicial Race"

1. Scott's victory margin

Unlike his bruising 2010 primary battle with Bill McCollum that produced a narrow victory, Scott's path to the Republican nomination is a breeze this time. He faces two opponents, Yinka Abosede Adeshina and Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder, who are so obscure that any votes they get could only be interpreted as shunning Scott. It likely will not amount to much, but it will be interesting to see if Scott's percentage is lower in counties where some of his policies are less popular with the party base, such as in the Panhandle, where opposition is stronger to Scott's support for in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants.

The other things to keep an eye on:
2. Charlie can't cruise

3. Will Democrats vote?

4. Chosing Bondi's challenger

5. More ballots should count

After years of being accused by Democrats of trying to suppress turnout, Republican legislators have taken recent steps to make voting easier. Counties can offer up to 14 days of early voting, including on the Sunday before the election. The expanded use of electronic poll books to verify IDs should reduce the number of provisional ballots because the devices allow instant updating of voters' address changes. For the first time in a statewide election, voters who forget to sign absentee ballot envelopes can cure the problem if they fill out an affidavit and provide proof of ID by 5 p.m. Monday. In past elections, unsigned absentee ballot envelopes were not counted.

"Five things to watch in Tuesday's primary."

Not everyone swooning over Charlie

"Charlie Crist Won Democrat[ic] Hearts But Other Voters Aren't Swooning."

Right next to the Wal-Mart

Aaron Deslatte: "Here's one aspect of Florida's medical-marijuana debate getting little airplay: Would the dispensaries be crowded into poor and minority neighborhoods?"

If voters statewide pass Amendment 2 this fall, the dispensaries have to open somewhere. Critics of legalizing marijuana such as Attorney General Pam Bondi and others have warned it could lead to pill-mill-like explosions of dispensaries "on every street corner." But there is some evidence that they may be concentrated in poorer, urban and disproportionately minority areas, not suburban strip malls.

A new study published this month in the Journal of the American Planning Association found evidence that the dispensaries are being concentrated in poorer, minority communities within states that have already legalized medical marijuana.

"Will medical-pot centers end up in low-income areas?."