Saturday, November 29, 2014

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

"Unapologetic populism" the new message for SoDems?

"Southern Democrats are joining others in the party who say that a return to advocating to lift people out of economic hardship and emphasizing spending on education and public works will re-energize black voters and attract whites as well."

“It’s time to draw a line in the sand and not surrender our brand,” Rickey Cole, the party chairman in Mississippi, said. He believes candidates have distanced themselves from the past half-century of Democratic principles. . . .

Cole and other Southern Democrats acknowledge divisions with prominent populists such as Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is expected to run for president in 2016, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Yet they see merit in pushing stronger voting rights laws, tighter bank regulation, labor-friendly policies such as a higher minimum wage and other familiar party themes.

Democratic politics have become a tough sell in the conservative South. A major challenge in the region is finding candidates who can win high-profile races now that Republicans, who scored well in midterm elections earlier this month, dominate the leadership in state legislatures and across statewide offices.

"J.P. Morrell, a state senator from New Orleans, faulted a muddled message that began with candidates avoiding President Barack Obama. “You have to articulate why the economic policies we advocate as Democrats actually benefit people on the ground,” Morrell said."
Cole, the Mississippi chairman, acknowledged that any new approach won’t close the party’s gap in the South on abortion, same-sex marriage and guns, and said Democrats intensify that cultural disconnect with “identity politics.”

While the party’s positions on gay rights, minority voting access, women’s rights and immigration are not wrong, Cole said, “those people who don’t see themselves in those groups say, ‘What have the Democrats got for me?'”

Unapologetic populism, he said, would “explain better that the Democratic Party is for justice and opportunity — with no qualifiers — for everyone.”

Much more here: "Southern Dems Want Return To Policies That Will Re-Energize Black Voters, Attract Whites." Related: "Alan Grayson Now Will Try to Shove the Democrats Even Further Left."

"Living in Cloud Cuckooland."

Nancy Smith: "The cheer that went up Wednesday among NextGen activisits when Herschel Vinyard announced his departure was pretty silly. Anybody who thinks a new Florida Department of Environmental Protection secretary means a new climate-change policy is living in Cloud Cuckooland." "Climate Change Policy? What Climate Change Policy?."

Entrepreneurs in action

"South Florida Scammers Accused of Taking $25 Million from Taxpayers."

FlaDem task force

"Stung by the Nov. 4 election, Florida Democrats are turning to two Central Florida leaders, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and former Orlando police Chief Val Demings, to try to figure out what went wrong. The duo will lead a task force examining the machinery and heart of the party that once boasted dominant political figures such as former Govs. Bob Graham, Lawton Chiles and Reubin Askew." "Nelson, Demings lead job of reviving state Democrats."

Blah, blah, blah

The Gainesville Sun editors: "The cost of justice."

Time for "a new interpretive bulletin from Obama’s Labor Department"

Kudos to the Miami Herald for publishing this piece from the Washington Post this morning: "Public pension funds should invest the retirement savings of government workers to secure their financial future, not undermine it. Yet across the country, these funds are financing companies that privatize their own workers’ jobs. And because many of these investments are funneled through ­private-equity companies, the problem is still largely hidden from public view."

This pattern is surprisingly pervasive: The retirement funds of firefighters, teachers, prison guards and others are invested in private firefighting companies, private public-school-service companies and private prisons. These companies may offer the promise of high investment returns, but they may achieve those returns at the expense of the public employees themselves. The Florida Retirement System, with half its assets belonging to teachers and other school employees, bought Edison Schools, a company that ran public schools. Pension funds have financed the privatization of school bus companies, water utilities and libraries. Displaced workers not only stop contributing to the funds, losses that can harm other workers and retirees, but also often must turn to public assistance to survive, undermining the argument that taxpayers benefit from these transactions.
Pension trustees justify these investments by pointing to an “interpretive bulletin” issued by the Labor Department in the waning days of George W. Bush’s presidency, on Oct. 17, 2008. It does not technically apply to state and local pension funds, but it is widely relied upon to guide the interpretation of their trustees’ fiduciary duties. According to this bulletin, the statutory command that trustees act “solely in the interests of participants and beneficiaries” really means that they should act solely in the interest of 'the plan.' Under this plan-centric view of loyalty, trustees can invest in companies that seek to privatize their own members’ jobs, focusing exclusively on the investment return to the plan.
In restoring this proper understanding of a trustee’s role, a few well-placed lawsuits might help. Indeed, some helpful legal precedents already exist. Favorable pronouncements from state attorneys general or legislatures could also move things in the right direction.

Best of all would be a new interpretive bulletin from Obama’s Labor Department, with its national voice and its powerful, if informal, influence over state and local pensions, clarifying that when the duty of loyalty says that trustees should invest “solely in the interests of participants and beneficiaries” it means just that — not in the interests of “the plan,” or anyone else.

"Public pension funds are investing workers out of their jobs."

"Bowing to Utilities"

"Bowing to Utilities, Florida Regulators Cut Energy-Efficiency Goals and Sunset Solar Incentives."

"Peacocking across the sprawling grounds of a pink-hued luxury resort"

A truly ugly visual, courtesy of the Miami Herald: ""

A half-dozen potential Republican presidential contenders spent last week peacocking across the sprawling grounds of a pink-hued luxury resort, schmoozing with donors and sizing up the competition in the party's most fractured field in decades.
"Gathering hints at showdown awaiting GOP in 2016."

Walmart remains open

"Small Business Saturday."

"Rearranging the building blocks of democracy"

The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "In a sharply worded opinion last week, the Florida Supreme Court punctured the hopes of political operatives hoping to conceal key documents behind Florida's messy, secretive 2012 redrawing of legislative and congressional districts."

[T]he emails paint a distressing picture, demonstrating that, within months of an overwhelming vote by Floridians demanding better and more accountable districting, political forces were intent once again on rearranging the building blocks of democracy for their own political gain.
"Gaming the will of the people." The Orlando Sentinel editors: "Records show partisans mocked the will of voters."

Grayson a kingmaker for Democrats in 2016?

Jeff Henderson: "Looking at the debacle for Democrats earlier this month, Alan Grayson somehow is claiming it shows that running to the center doesn’t work and his party needs to be more liberal."

Despite his growls at the White House, Grayson could actually end up being something of a kingmaker for Democrats in 2016 if he plays his cards right -- something Republicans would relish. Grayson has always been a strong fundraiser and he can rely on a grassroots base of liberal donors across the nation. If he chooses not to back Hillary Clinton in 2016, Grayson would be a major asset to whichever liberal challenger he ends up supporting, especially with Florida shaping up as an important presidential primary.
"Alan Grayson Now Will Try to Shove the Democrats Even Further Left."