Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.
Medicaid expansion games
House bill permits adoption agency discrimination
"House Democrats were unable to gut a bill that would allow adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBT parents based on their religious beliefs. Just an hour later, senators upheld language that strikes down an existing ban on gays adopting children." "House, Senate take different approaches on gay adoption ban."
"Republican members of the most recent class of lawmakers elected to the House are pushing back hard on reports in blogs that members are attempting to overthrow Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando, as House Speaker for 2020-2022." "Freshman House members push back against Eisnaugle 'coup' reports."
"The fate of a bill to allow guns on college campuses faces an uncertain future after it was removed from the Senate Judiciary Committee’s meeting agenda this week. Gun rights groups have speculated the bill’s removal came at the hands of Senate President Andy Gardiner, who can ultimately decide whether a bill dies or lives to see another day in the Florida Legislature." "Is Campus Carry Bill Under a Death Sentence?."
Nancy Smith: "Democrats close to Florida party leadership are buzzing over the bold call Monday from Democratic progressives to replace senatorial candidate Patrick Murphy with Alan Grayson -- and an equally bold, retaliatory call the very next day from a party executive chair to disband the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida."
Fuming over the attempt to sabotage FDP's choice to run for Marco Rubio's seat, Celeste Bush, DEC chair of St. Lucie County, said in an email distributed Tuesday, "Yesterday an unprecedented action was taken by Susan Smith, (president) of the 'Democratic' Progressive Caucus and Nancy Jacobson, an elected DNC member. "They called a press conference to discredit Congressman Patrick Murphy’s run for U.S. Senate. You may have seen some of the news stories.""Decertify Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, Urges Party Leader."
"Along comes Annette"
Nancy Smith: "For four years Charlie Crist gave me a reason to get up in the morning. I've been so down since he left my computer screen. Then, just when I thought that 6 a.m. bounce to the bathroom sink was over -- eureka! -- along comes Annette Taddeo." "Bless You, Annette Taddeo, Gift That Keeps on Giving."
Detzner under fire
"Secretary of State Ken Detzner appeared before House and Senate committees to oppose online voter registration, calling the idea a “flashing yellow light” fraught with security risks." "Florida’s top elections official under fire on two fronts." See also "Detzner opposes online voter registration before frustrated senators."
"An interesting accounting maneuver”
"Customers of Duke Energy Florida could get $2 or $3 reductions in their monthly bills through a financing plan that received support from lawmakers Tuesday." "Senators back Duke Energy plan that could cut bills $2 or $3."
Jeb papers over drop in black college enrollment
"As he courts Republicans across the country, Jeb Bush boasts that an executive order he signed that ended race-based college admissions in Florida upheld conservative principles while helping minorities."
"We ended up having a system where there were more African American and Hispanic kids attending our university system than prior to the system that was discriminatory," the former governor and likely presidential contender said recently at a conference of conservative activists.Jeb is playing word (numbers) games:
But at Florida's two premier universities, black enrollment is shrinking. At the University of Florida in Gainesville and at Florida State University in Tallahassee, administrators say they worry that the trend risks diminishing their standing as world-class universities and hurts the college experience.
The growth in minority enrollment that Bush now points to is primarily a result of the state's booming Hispanic population, which has led to a large increase in the share of Hispanic students attending Florida colleges. Between 2000 and 2013, the numbers of Hispanics, African Americans and other ethnic groups have risen as the statewide university system has gotten much bigger, with freshman enrollment growing 35 percent."After Bush order, black enrollment shrinks at Florida universities."
As a proportion of the overall student population, black enrollment has declined — most notably at UF and FSU. At the time Bush enacted the policy, black students made up 18 percent of all freshmen at Florida colleges. That dropped to 15 percent by 2009.
"A bill identifying specific legal uses for unmanned drones stalled in a Senate committee Tuesday as members said they were concerned about 'unintended consequences.'" "Bill to restrict use of drones postponed in committee."
"While the House scales back its broad bill, a Senate committee took its narrow bill and broadened it to expand gaming." "Turmoil continues over fate of gambling bills." See also "Not Quite Gambling's Year in the Florida Legislature ... Again."
Batista-dead-enders in a dither
"There are conflicting reports this week about when the U.S. will move to withdraw Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. No matter when, people in Florida who have a stake in the change are preparing for it, including professors at USF." "Florida researchers eager to see Cuba off U.S. terror list."
"Modest prison reforms"
"Prison reform advocates and families said a House bill approved Tuesday in committee doesn’t go far enough to fix the troubled prison system." "Despite appeals, House advances modest prison reforms."
Another Jeb flop
"In October 2003, Jeb Bush unveiled one of the largest economic projects in Florida history: a $500 million plan to bring Scripps Research Institute to the state and build a biomedical hub he said would generate nearly 50,000 jobs in 15 years."
As governor, he described it as a "seminal moment,” comparable to Walt Disney World's arrival in Florida in 1971, which brought billions of dollars in tourism, spawned tens of thousands of jobs, transformed the economy and created the world’s most-visited vacation resort."How Jeb Bush's big bet on Florida economy may come back to haunt him." "Former Gov. Jeb Bush’s bet on creating a biotech cluster on the Treasure Coast hasn’t paid off as intended, and could help lead to the downgrade of Port St. Lucie’s debt."
Today, as Bush leads possible Republican candidates in the 2016 race for the U.S. presidency, the missed projections and mixed results of his signature economic policy as governor — a biotechnology gamble that has yet to pay off — illustrate problems he could face in explaining his own record while promoting a vision of “real conservative success."
By nearly all measures, the plan to transform bedroom communities into biotech corridors by attracting Scripps and other research institutes has fallen short of expectations, despite $1.3 billion in state, city and county funding.
Making an early case for his presidential ambitions, Bush has stressed that government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winning industries and that market forces should do that job.
"I’m not here to take sides and I don’t think the government should either," he said in a speech on Feb. 4.
But his Florida record tells another story.
The news comes as Bush is gearing up for a possible run for President. A recent story from Reuters noted that other parts of Bush’s bio tech bet, like the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, are falling far short of expectations."Jeb Bush biotech bet could lead to downgrade for Treasure Coast city." See also "Moody's places Port St. Lucie (FL) under review for possible downgrade."
A recent state report also showed the Innovation Incentive Fund, set up by Bush to aid the biotech sector, provides a negative return on investment for the state, although the fund is envisioned for more long-range returns.