Sunday, March 01, 2015

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

Jeb skirts rules, chases unlimited amounts of cash

"As an actual candidate, Jeb Bush’s direct source of funds would be limited to $2,700 per person per election. But because he’s not officially running, his legal advisers contend he can chase unlimited amounts for his Right to Rise Super PAC." "Jeb Bush exploits non-candidate status to rewrite campaign finance playbook."

Meanwhile, "Walker scores with conservatives; Bush still has work to do."

"Capital comes to life"

"Political prime time: Capital comes to life for session."

"Massive gambling overhaul"

"A massive gambling overhaul bill will hit lawmakers’ desks on the first day of the legislative session, but its sponsor is holding back on exactly what’s in it." "GOP leader’s gambling bill heads to Florida lawmakers." See also "Expansion of casino gambling draws dire warnings, praise."

No-bid contract

"Ocoee hires state rep as consultant in no-bid contract."

"Flood of tests"

"Florida’s largest teaching union, the Florida Education Association, thinks Gov. Rick Scott’s order suspending the standardized 11th grade English test this year falls too short to address the flood of tests faced by students and teachers." "Teachers union: Scott testing order not enough."

Taxpayers on hook for legal bill of disgraced Speaker

"Florida taxpayers should foot most of the nearly $1 million legal bill of disgraced former House Speaker Ray Sansom, a Florida judge said Friday." "Judge: Taxpayers should pay legal bills for Ray Sansom."

Florida overtakes California with the most people on Obamacare

"The Senate has supported health care expansion for the last couple of years, even passing its own version two years ago. The more conservative House, now led by Speaker Steve Crisafulli, has been staunchly opposed."

Republican Gov. Rick Scott previously has voiced support, though he retreated from the issue during last year’s re-election campaign.

Last weekend, however, the Senate’s Republican leader called on the state to expand Medicaid in a speech to a business-friendly civic group.

Sen. Bill Galvano of Bradenton said funding health care for the working poor is a problem that “cannot be ignored,” according to news reports.

"Darryl Paulson, a Republican and retired professor of government at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg, said he doesn’t expect House leadership to reverse itself."
“It’s like many things in politics,” he said. “They don’t want to do it unless they absolutely have to do it, and they don’t see that they absolutely have to do anything about it.”

At the same time, Paulson notes that Florida has overtaken California as the state with the most people — 1.6 million enrollees —signing up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

“That in itself is interesting because clearly there’s been no support from the Republican leadership, from the governor,” Paulson said. “It’s ironic at the very least."

"Fragile peace keeps Medicaid expansion off Legislature’s agenda."

A poverty thing

"Why Almost 1 in 4 Floridian Driver Has No Car Insurance: Poverty."

"State’s auditor general issues scathing audit"

"The state’s auditor general issued a scathing audit about lapses of many kinds on Florida’s unemployment website." "Auditor: Florida’s jobless claims website in disarray."

Scott missed that press conference

"Harris leaving Brevard for Virginia?"

Fact-checking the Legislature

"When the Florida Legislature convenes Tuesday, it will kick off a 60-day session during which legislators and Republican Gov. Rick Scott will fashion a budget and set policies on topics including K-12 tests, guns on college campus and whether to allow online voter registration." "Fact-checking some claims tied to bills so far."

Weekly Roundup

"Weekly Roundup: Shamed Speaker Redeemed; Other Court Battles Focus on Sunshine."

Privatization "at any cost"

Paula Dockery: "Generally when a crisis occurs in a large organization, the CEO is expected to acknowledge and address the problem, keep stakeholders up to date on progress and be held accountable for the problems that occurred."

Why is it then that Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott has been AWOL on the crisis within our prison system?
"Here are some of the problems: A record number of inmate deaths, suspicious deaths not reported as such, claims of widespread prisoner abuse, drugs and contraband, investigator reports ignored, investigators intimidated and silenced, potential inspector general retaliation and cover-ups, four Department of Corrections (DOC) secretaries in as many years, crumbling buildings, leaky roofs, dilapidated vehicles, dangerously low staffing levels, excessive overtime costs, and questionable contracts for privatized services such as medical care."
And yet when disturbing reports started surfacing — about a mentally ill prisoner who was scalded to death at Dade Correctional or a nonviolent offender seeking medical treatment who was punished and gassed to death instead — there was a shocking lack of concern from the governor. The silent indifference was so unsettling that former DOC Chief Jim McDonough exclaimed, “Where is the outrage?”

To date, the governor has not directly acknowledged the problems, answered questions nor communicated a plan of action. Instead he let his third DOC secretary, Mike Crews, take the heat. Crews resigned amid the growing scandal.

Crews admitted that during the re-election campaign, the governor’s then chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, told him he needed to take a bullet for the governor. Crews expressed frustration that the governor and his staff were more concerned with crafting news releases than with doing what needed to be done to keep the institutions safe and secure.

This behavior came from the very administration that touts accountability, transparency and business acumen. . . .

The cynic in me is starting to believe that the Scott administration doesn’t want to fix the problems at the department and doesn’t want to fully investigate the abuse that has been and still is occurring. In the meantime, people in state supervision are dying and the state is exposed to costly litigation and liability.

Perhaps this is the means to an end and Scott’s true mission is to fully privatize Florida’s prisons — at any cost.

"Privatizing prisons could be Scott’s end game."

Goosestepping in lockstep

"Dean Cannon: Better Florida Economy Means Fewer Fights in Session."

"Like a wolf howling in the middle of the Tundra"

Nancy Smith: "The outlook might get brighter next week for the Everglades Foundation and its allies, but for now their voice crying out to buy U.S. Sugar Corp. land is like a wolf howling in the middle of the Tundra." "Not a Single Legislative Delegation Makes Buying U.S. Sugar Land a Priority."

"Failed Republicans who are playing politics"

"This week, mailers from a newly formed political committee called Moving Tampa Forward described [Jackie] Toledo’s opponents as failed Republicans who are playing politics and stated that Toledo was the “target of vicious personal attacks.”" "Accusations fly in heated District 6 race."