Saturday, February 21, 2015

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

"Good luck getting Scott to ask for an investigation of himself"

Tom Nickens writes: "Citizens, good government groups and news media organizations should not have to file a lawsuit to force someone to examine whether Florida's highest elected officials violated the Sunshine Law."

The lawsuit is a last resort, and the [Tampa Bay] Times joined as a plaintiff with some reluctance and after much discussion among top editors. There are more direct ways to determine whether the state's top leaders violated their oath to uphold the Florida Constitution and ignored the fundamental principle of open government. But no one else will do what has to be done.

Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs won't investigate whether there was a public meetings violation in the way Gov. Rick Scott abruptly ousted Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey. Never mind that Bailey reported to the governor and Cabinet — Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Never mind that the governor cannot hire or fire the head of FDLE by himself. Never mind that there was no public discussion, no public vote, no nothing.

Bondi, who ought to be interested in enforcing the Sunshine Law, won't investigate. She hasn't asked the statewide prosecutor to look into it. She hasn't even responded to a letter from the First Amendment Foundation suggesting that she ask her good friend the governor to appoint a special prosecutor. (Full disclosure: [Nickens is a] member of the First Amendment Foundation's board.)

Good luck getting Scott to ask for an investigation of himself. This governor has less regard for open government than any governor in the modern era.

"Why the Times joined the lawsuit against the governor and Cabinet."

"Pleasing developers and farmers"

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "The Florida House is moving to quickly change how the state manages and preserves water that is more about pleasing developers and farmers than protecting the environment. The legislation delays the cleanup of the Everglades and puts new pressure on the water supply in fast-growing Central Florida." "House takes wrong approach on water."

The elephant in the room

The Tampa Trib editors look at the plans for "Shoring up Florida’s corrections system." Of course the elephant in the room is the GOP's privatization fetish.

"Shift-based care"

"Bill targets shift work at foster group homes."

"The governor and lawmakers are ignoring the greatest public concern"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board writes that "the governor and state lawmakers still are ignoring the greatest public concern: Students, teachers and school districts simply aren't ready for next month's new assessments for the Common Core-aligned Florida Standards."

While the governor and state lawmakers nibble around the edges, the new standardized tests are barreling toward students in a couple of weeks. Yet there has not been nearly enough careful consideration and preparation for these new assessments. Scott foolishly dropped out of the multistate consortium developing the tests and demanded that Florida obtain its own assessments in an unsuccessful attempt to silence critics of Common Core.
"Cutting one test is not testing reform."

Meanwhile, "Who's fringe now? Moms' testing position now mainstream."

Scott admin gives privateers a billion dollar do-over

"Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones announced Friday she intends to rebid contracts worth about $1.4 billion with private companies to provide health care services to the state’s 100,000 inmates." "Prisons boss aims to rebid health care contracts."

"The announcement came amid increased scrutiny of Florida’s prison system, the nation’s third-largest, after reports of guards abusing inmates, a rising number of unexplained inmate deaths and lawsuits from investigators who claim they were retaliated against after exposing wrongdoing." "Prison chief seeks overhaul of prison health contracts."

"Beer battle comes to head"

"Beer battle comes to head again in Tallahassee."

"It didn't have to be this way"

Daniel Ruth: "For the past several weeks, as disclosures have mounted over Gov. Rick Scott's abrupt dismissal of Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey, questions have popped up about whether there is any way for voters to remove a Florida governor from office."

The answer to that question is no.

The issue is particularly intriguing since Attorney General Pam Bondi appears to be uninterested in pursuing allegations that the sacking of Bailey was either: A) related to the FDLE chief's steadfast refusal to allow the governor to politicize the agency; and/or B) whether Scott's actions violated the state's government-in-the-open Sunshine Laws.

Given Bondi's Officer Krupke-esque indifference to, you know, actually performing her duties as the state's chief legal officer, it would appear Scott is going to get away with thumbing his nose at proper protocols and legal niceties.

It didn't have to be this way.

"Florida voters have no way to recall Gov. Rick Scott, Cabinet."

Run, Marco run!

"Sen. Marco Rubio is in the midst of a comeback, fueled by a self-assured stand against easing relations with Cuba, some savvy campaigning in Iowa and a meeting that impressed well-heeled donors." "As a White House hopeful, Sen. Marco Rubio on the comeback trail."

Meanwhile, "Rubio faces stiff odds in reversing Obama’s policy toward Cuba."

"A raw, public tussle"

Jeff Henderson: "Just when things can’t get any worse for Democrats in Florida, two of their leading figures are going at each other in a fight that won’t help them keep the state in their column come 2016." "Hillary Clinton Needs to Step In as DWS and John Morgan Bicker."

This "raw, public tussle between U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and trial attorney John Morgan over a medical marijuana ballot initiative prompted the Florida Democratic Party chairwoman to declare herself 'disappointed.'" "Feud between Wasserman Schultz and millionaire donor exposes Democratic fault lines over medical pot."

Jeb staggering around within the margin of error in Florida

It is no secret that Florida's claptrap media desperately to prop up dear Jeb; after all, it would be far more interesting - at least for Florida's chattering classes - if Jebbie became the GOPer nominee. Consider this stretch of a column: "Jeb could ruin Hillary’s political run."

That's of course true . . .

. . . except for the polling part. Consider the latest Q poll:

- FLORIDA: Clinton 44 - Bush 43

OHIO: Clinton 47 - Bush 36

PENNSYLVANIA: Clinton 50 - Christie 39

A first look at three critical swing states, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, for the 2016 presidential election is good news for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who tops possible Republican contenders in every matchup, except Florida, where she ties former Gov. Jeb Bush, and Ohio, where she ties Gov. John Kasich [who of course is not a declared candidate], according to a Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released today [2/3/2015].

Overall, Gov. Bush runs best of any Republican listed against Clinton, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds. The Swing State Poll focuses on Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania because since 1960 no candidate has won the presidential race without taking at least two of these three states.

Clinton's favorability rating tops 50 percent in each state, while Republican ratings range from negative to mixed to slightly positive, except for Bush in Florida and Kasich in Ohio.

Of three "Native Son" candidates, measured against Clinton only in their home states, only Ohio Gov. John Kasich gives the Democrat a good run, getting 43 percent to her 44 percent. . . . [with Clinton ahead] 49 - 39 percent over U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, the Native Son.

"Clinton Leads In Pennsylvania, Ohio; Ties Bush In Florida, Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll Finds."

Jeb is staggering around within the margin of error? In the latest version of his home state? And after years of Florida's traditional media telling Floridians how popular Jeb is.

So, Jeb will have to fight to even hold his own in his "home" state, while at the same time "Bush does not do well in either Ohio or Pennsylvania. In Ohio, he trails Clinton 36 percent to 47 percent, and in Pennsylvania he trails her 35 percent to 50 percent." "Q Poll: Hillary, Jeb tied in Florida."

NRA "gins up faux hysteria"

Daniel Ruth: "Leave it to the National Rifle Association's Marion Hammer, the Martha Stewart of Smith & Wesson, to gin up faux hysteria over the debate to allow concealed weapons on the state's college campuses by suggesting ISIS is practically advancing on the gates of Florida State University's Doak Campbell Stadium." "College campuses no place for concealed weapons."

"Storm clouds gathering"

Nancy Smith writes that, if "DOE Commissioner Pam Stewart doesn't see storm clouds gathering, she isn't looking up." "Nearly Duck-and-Cover Time for DOE's Pam Stewart."

Weekly Roundup

"Weekly Roundup: Legislature Gets Moving as Session Approaches."