Tuesday, May 05, 2015

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

"Test first and ask questions later"

The Gainesville Sun editorial board: "Gov. Rick Scott last week announced his appointment to a panel that — along with those named by Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli — will select a firm to review the Florida Standards Assessment, the statewide standardized test given to public school students."

That is important because the FSA only introduced more turmoil into a system that already had been rife with controversy surrounding its predecessor, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. Technical glitches bedeviled the program during statewide testing periods in March and again in April, heaping more stress on thousands of already emotionally taxed students in Alachua County and elsewhere.
"Clearly this is no way to run an exam. That all the i’s were not dotted and all the t’s crossed before testing ensued is inexcusable. And the Scott administration might have known that had it done one simple thing: listen to the teachers."
Teachers and district-level administrators repeatedly pleaded with the governor to slow down, to give the FSA a year’s grace period in order to work out the kinks and let students and teachers adapt to its differences from the FCAT.

Neither they nor others who advocated a delay were demanding an end to testing, or to accountability. They only requested prudence in ensuring the test would work, especially since it is so heavily dependent on technology and had not been vetted thoroughly by anyone.

But this is Florida, where increasingly since 1999, when the current testing regimen first grabbed a foothold in the public school system, we must test first and ask questions later. And the untested FSA failed our pupils.

"Testing review."

"Imagining 2 Floridas, South and North"

"The South Miami City Commission is urging the creation of a new state of "South Florida." It's a symbolic resolution, aimed at showing leaders in Florida's current capital of Tallahassee that they're not doing enough to address concerns about rising sea levels at the southern end of the Florida peninsula." "Juice would be spilled: Imagining 2 Floridas, South and North."

Rick Scott AWOL

"Gov. Rick Scott’s standing with legislators has never been great, but he clearly lost ground this spring. He was rarely visible. When he was desperately needed to break a budget stalemate, Scott was far from the action — attending political fund-raisers, casting for jobs in California and dedicating a new amusement park ride in Orlando." "Where’s Gov. Rick Scott amid state budget crisis?"

Jeb Bush leads GOPer field

"WSJ/NBC Poll: Marco Rubio Most Broadly Acceptable Candidate for GOP Voters." See also "Jeb Bush leads 2016 GOP field."

Wingers will rise again

"Florida Chamber: Special Session Gives Us Another Bite of the Apple."

Scott reappoints 16 agency heads

"Gov. Rick Scott wasted little time in reappointing 16 agency heads, including the leaders of two health-care agencies and the state's elections chief, after the Senate did not confirm them before the end of the regular legislative session."

"I think there are some of our senators that have had concerns about some of the responses from secretaries," Gardiner told reporters after an April 23 floor session. "By no means would we be playing games or threatening or anything like that."

Gardiner's comment came a day after Scott threatened to veto a number of Senate bills if the chamber didn't move his requested $673 million tax-cut package. Scott's tax cuts remain in limbo, awaiting a special session on the budget.

"Scott reappoints agency heads after Senate fails to confirm them." See also "Rick Scott Reappoints Unconfirmed Agency Heads"" and "Gov. Scott reappoints top posts after abrupt session end."

Fate of Low Income Pool hospital funding uncertain

"After the third of three public hearings, the fate of the Low Income Pool hospital funding program remains uncertain." "Without bills to vote on, state lawmakers attend public hearing on hospital funding."

Scott's PSC takes it in the shorts

"In a rebuke to the Public Service Commission, a state appellate court ruled Monday that the utility regulator hurt utility customers when it refused to explain why it banned the public’s lawyers from asking questions in certain rate cases. The ruling by the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee ordered the PSC to explain why it refuses to allow the Office of Public Counsel to conduct discovery in pending rate cases as had previously been the tradition." "Court rebukes Public Service Commissioners for 'ill serving' rate payers."

What's wrong with Hillsborough?

"Hillsborough County is among the worst places in the country in terms of poor children’s ability to climb out of poverty, researchers from Harvard University have concluded. A study on upward mobility highlighted on the front page of Monday’s New York Times ranks Hillsborough 98th out of the nation’s biggest 100 counties in terms of potential earning power for low-income people. Every extra year spent in Hillsborough reduces a child’s earnings by 0.67 percent, the study found." "Growing up poor in Hillsborough? It’s going to cost you."

"No doubt"

The Sarasota Herald Tribune editors: "The Florida Supreme Court has left no doubt that the state House of Representatives' stunning, early adjournment last week was unconstitutional."

Five of the seven justices agreed, in a concurring opinion issued Friday, that the unilateral adjournment on Tuesday at 1:15 p.m. -- more than 72 hours before the scheduled end of the Legislature's 2015 regular session -- "violated the plain requirements of the constitution."

Those requirements are found in Article III, section 3, which governs sessions of the Legislature and states: "Neither house shall adjourn for more than seventy-two consecutive hours except pursuant to concurrent resolution."

The same section of the constitution prescribes specific steps that must be taken if "the two houses cannot agree upon a time for adjournment."

Yet none of those steps was taken.

"Constitutional incentive."

Striving for relevancy

"U.S. Rep. Ron DeSanti s, R-Fla., a possible U.S Senate candidate in 2016, said on Monday he will bring out a constitutional amendment to limit the number of terms senators and representatives can serve in Congress." "Ron DeSantis Calls for Congressional Term Limits Amendment."


"House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, is one of Florida's most chill and reasonable state leaders." "For Brevard reps, no budging on Obamacare."

"Punching Away at House Reps on Medicaid"

"Former Naples City Councilman Gary Price announced Monday that he is running for the Florida Senate in 2016 and he gave warning to two Florida House representatives that he will make their opposition to Medicaid expansion a major issue in the Republican primary."

Price filed on Monday for the seat currently held by Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, who faces term limits next year. Two Naples Republicans in the Florida House -- Speaker Pro Tempore Matt Hudson and Rep. Kathleen Passidomo -- are also running for the seat.
"Gary Price Enters Senate Race, Punching Away at House Reps on Medicaid Expansion."

DSCC Disses Grayson

"The Democratic Senate campaign committee endorsed Rep. Patrick Murphy on Monday as its candidate for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Marco Rubio, who is running for president."

The endorsement comes even as U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, is considering the race.

It's the latest move by establishment Democrats to unite behind Murphy, a South Florida moderate in his second House term. There are concerns that a run by the liberal Grayson could hurt the party's chances in a major swing state.

"Democratic campaign committee endorses Murphy for Senate." See also "Democrat Leadership Lines Up Behind Patrick Murphy for Senate in 2016."