Sunday, October 25, 2015

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

Rick Scott "Thanks God for the SEC states"

Scott Maxwell: "If you've lived in Florida long enough, you know we're not No. 1 in much. Schools? No. Health care? Don't be silly. Child welfare? Not even close. But here's one category where we're No. 1: denying unemployment benefits."

Florida's benefits, which temporarily help for laid-off workers, not the chronically unemployed, are already among the chintziest in America — averaging $239 a week for as few as 12 weeks.

How long that would pay your mortgage? Or pay your light bill? Or feed your family?

So we have some of the lowest benefits. And now comes word from the National Employment Law Project that we grant those chintzy benefits to the lowest percentage of unemployed workers in America.

Actually, we're tied for last with South Carolina.

As Floridians often say: Thank God for the SEC states.

"Most of Florida's unemployed don't get benefits."

Even the Orlando Sentinel editors believe "Fla. must stop picking on jobless."

Drilling in the 'Glades, fracking in the fragile Apalachicola

"A Texas oil company’s plan to search for oil and gas in North Florida is stoking fears that drilling and possibly even fracking could come to areas around the fragile Apalachicola and Chipola rivers."

Fueling the fears are GOP-backed bills moving through the Legislature that would create a regulatory framework for fracking in Florida. The controversial drilling technique is actually legal now, but it’s believed to have occurred only once in the state near the Everglades. Democrats, meanwhile, are offering bills that would ban fracking, though similar measures have gotten little traction in the past.

The fracking legislation comes at a time of renewed interest in oil and gas exploration in Florida. Energy companies are hoping to conduct seismic testing in the Big Cypress National Preserve and exploratory drilling in the Everglades.

"Fracking fears surface in North Florida."

"Trump mocks Jeb, Rubio"

"Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump mocked former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in his own state on Saturday, saying recent campaign cuts show he's not ready to be president." "Trump jabs at Bush in Florida: Not ready to be president." See also "Trump mocks Jeb, Rubio on their home turf in Florida."

Rubio's "backward approach"

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Rubio's penchant for saying one thing and doing another was on full display during his energy speech earlier this month in Ohio."

The Republican candidate faulted Democrat Hillary Clinton for an "outdated" energy strategy even as he called for expanding offshore oil and gas drilling, rolling back the Obama administration's clean air rules and blocking any international effort to combat climate change. His campaign appearance at a company that manufactures pumping equipment was aimed at promoting hydraulic fracking — the practice of pumping water and chemicals underground to release natural gas buried deep in rock formations. He promised to allow the Keystone XL pipeline, and he would permit more oil and gas drilling. He would reverse the Obama administration's limits on greenhouse gas emissions, and he would essentially cancel the outgoing president's efforts to reach an international agreement on combating climate change.

This is a backward approach from a politician who continues to fan the myth that the energy sector is under attack and that new investments in renewable energies are too expensive and threaten too many jobs. U.S. oil and gas production is expected to remain robust for years, even as demand is constrained in part by new fuel economy standards. Rising costs for new fossil fuel resources and dropping prices for renewable technologies are expected to boost market demand for clean energy solutions.

"Rubio's backward energy policy."

"Gunsmoke style"

Bill Cotterell updates us on the Fla-NRA agenda in Tally:

• A bill by Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, allowing concealed-weapon permit holders to carry their guns openly in public. Appearances aside (opponents worry “open carry” will frighten foreign tourists, for instance), there’s a certain logic to this. If someone is a licensed, law-abiding citizen, what’s the difference whether they pack a pistol in a shoulder holster or strap it on Gunsmoke style? . . .

• A bill by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, that shifts the burden of proof in “stand your ground” cases to the state. Normally, if you make a motion to dismiss the charges, you have the burden in a pre-trial hearing to show that the case shouldn’t proceed. If SB 344 passes, the state attorney would have to show that a defendant did not have a legitimate fear of death or injury, or was not protecting someone else, when a tense confrontation turned deadly.

Bradley also proposed that the get-out-of-jail card come with up to $200,000 for attorney fees and court costs, reimbursed by the state. To collect, defense attorneys would have to prove “the state willfully or substantially violated the rules of discovery” in arresting defendants who claim to have been standing their ground. Judges could also award reimbursement when a criminal filing “violates the court’s sense of fundamental fairness.” . . .

• That old standby, guns on campus. This one didn’t get through in the 2015 session, but Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, brought it back for next year’s session. It will probably pass this time, despite vocal opposition from university police forces, students and faculty members.

"Gun bills are locked and loaded for 2016 session."

Jeb "stands with far-right extremists"

The Sun Sentinel's Daniel Vasquez writes that, "over the last few months, one thing has become increasingly clear: Jeb Bush is not on the side of the Latino community. The rhetoric he has used throughout this campaign and the policy positions he’s pushed throughout his career have shown that he stands with far-right extremists at our expense." "What Jeb Bush Won't Tell to Latino Audiences."

Yee Haw!

"Seek Cover, Teddy: 3,500 Hunters Take Guns and Bows to Bears Across Florida."

The FlaGOP's "worst nightmare"

Joe Henderson: "When the Florida Supreme Court ruled the boundaries of congressional District 13 violated the state Constitution, many might have seen that as another dense political story filed under 'W' for 'whatever.' Gerrymandering these districts to suit the political party in power has long been a sport in Tallahassee. Pundits and losing candidates might grumble about that tactic, but that’s as far as it usually goes. In this case, though, the court’s remedy for the boundary shenanigans may result in the Republican Party of Florida’s worst nightmare." "Ghost of candidates past is back, and his name is Charlie Crist."

"We're not known as Flori-Duh for nothing"

Daniel Ruth shares the sad story of Bill Johnson, "who heads up Enterprise Florida, [who recently did] his best subway panhandler impersonation before a Senate committee, insisting he simply needs an additional $80 million to help finagle more jobs to the state. And great hilarity ensued."

On Scott's watch, Tallahassee has appropriated $398 million to fund various incentive programs to attract jobs to Florida. . . .

Does offering bribes to companies to create jobs in Florida make some sense? Sure, although you have to wonder if part of the problem is whenever a CEO sees Scott, the Uncle Fester of Tallahassee, walking through the door that is hardly an appealing incentive to take up residence in Florida. . . .

For the sake of argument, imagine a CEO running down a checklist while considering establishing a presence in Florida, perhaps even relocating a thousand employees to the state. . . .

What about schools? Well, Florida public schools rank 28th nationally and let us not forget Tallahassee's stumblebum, bizarre, garbled approach to testing that practically turns underpaid teachers into villains.

Public health? Well, consider the state set aside nearly $400 million to lure jobs that have yet to exist, while also refusing to accept federal Medicaid funding to help a half-million poor Floridians who do exist.

Public safety? Oh boy! Florida is awash in guns. . . .

Tolerance? Let's say 10 percent of the jobs the CEO is planning to relocate represent nonwhites. The CEO decides to take a tour of the state and as the executive drives into Tampa from Orlando what is the first thing he or she sees? A giant, honking, massive Confederate flag fluttering at the junction of I-4 and I-75, advertising for all the world to see that one is now entering redneck, yahoo, racist Gooberville. . . .

Miscellaneous? There are Floridians who keep cobras for pets. George Zimmerman calls Florida home. The Church of Scientology has its spiritual headquarters in Clearwater. Florida leads the nation in identity theft. Florida leads the nation in weird, from hanging chad to Duke Energy charging customers for a nuclear reactor that will never be built, to the election of a governor who ran a company that later paid a record fine for Medicare fraud. Three final words: stand your ground.

Much more here: "Bribing companies not the way to bring jobs to Florida."