Thursday, November 26, 2015

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

"Scott has mastered the art of payback"

Joe Henderson: "Rick Scott never held political office before he ran for governor. After five years as Florida’s top politician, though, it’s clear he has mastered the art of payback."

The target of his ire this time is Adam Putnam — agriculture commissioner, fellow Republican and frequent irritant, but in settling a political score, Scott really hurt the state’s forestry firefighters. He couldn’t/wouldn’t find room in a proposed $79.3 billion state spending plan to give firefighters the $2,000 raise Putnam has requested, despite a budget surplus that Scott estimates at $1.3 billion.

Happy Thanksgiving, folks. Here’s an extra heaping of petty to go with your pumpkin pie.

"Of course, Scott could have risen above the bickering and given those firefighters a little money. Even with a raise, they wouldn’t be getting rich."
He might even have looked like a leader, helping these state workers in the way he approved raises last summer for workers in the drivers license department and some state troopers. For reasons I think we can all guess, he vetoed the firefighter raises last summer while letting the others go through.

Now he’s at it again.

Putnam has vowed to work through the Legislature again next year to get those folks some money. Scott would probably veto it again.

I guess it doesn’t matter to the governor that he’s not really hurting Adam Putnam.

As long as someone gets hurt though, that seems to be good enough.

"Gov. Scott’s feud with Putnam hurts forestry firefighters the worst."

Senate President Andy Gardiner looks ahead

"Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, looks ahead to the start of the 2016 session in January, his last in the Legislature, he talks about the dysfunction with the House, pushing for more education options for students with disabilities and other issues ranging from gambling to guns that are likely to be addressed by lawmakers." "Gardiner talks House dispute, 2016 session, gambling and guns."

Rivera investigation on hold as Rubio campaigns

"Prosecutors have circled David Rivera for three years, trying to build a strong enough criminal case to prove the former Miami Republican congressman propped up a ringer candidate in the 2012 election."

They got the ringer, Justin Lamar Sternad, to confess, and sent him to prison. They chased the woman who secretly funneled more than $81,000 to Sternad — Ana Alliegro, Rivera’s ex-girlfriend — to her Nicaragua hideout, and sent her to prison, too. They even got Alliegro, once out of prison, to testify to a grand jury that it was Rivera who had plotted the illegal campaign-finance scheme.

That was almost a year ago. To date, the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami has filed no charges against Rivera — or closed the investigation against him.

“The judge had them name David Rivera as ‘Co-Conspirator A,’ and David Rivera has not been charged,” lamented Alliegro’s father, Anselmo Alliegro. “Nothing seems to be moving in that direction.”

As 2015 draws to a close, prosecutors might choose to wait even longer to resolve the case.

"They have until 2017 to file charges, under the federal statute of limitations. And if Rivera’s friend and former housemate Marco Rubio continues to rise in the 2016 Republican presidential race, prosecutors might want to steer clear of the politically charged case, to avoid the appearance of meddling with an election."
U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer, a Democrat, declined to comment for this story. Rivera, whose cellphone voice mail said he is out of the country, did not respond to emailed questions. A Miami Herald reporter asked him at a Republican Party of Florida fundraiser in Orlando last week if he had heard anything from prosecutors. Rivera, who has disputed he’s the target of the investigation, laughed off the question and said no.

It’s Rivera’s continued involvement on the margins of politics, while Rubio’s national profile has grown, that has renewed media attention on the former congressman. Rubio and Rivera served together in the Florida House and for years owned a Tallahassee home together, which they sold in June.

Rivera’s presence at two GOP primary debates, including in Milwaukee two weeks ago, made headlines and forced Rubio’s campaign to deny on both occasions that it had given Rivera a ticket. (Rivera wouldn’t reveal the source either, saying only that he’s cultivated many friends in nearly three decades in politics.)

His presence at the last week’s Florida GOP Statesman’s Dinner, which featured Rubio, did not go unnoticed.

Much more here: "David Rivera investigation remains stalled."

"What's hot, crazy or shady about politics in the Sunshine State"

Marc Caputo: "NELSON blasts fuzzy intel – RUBIO backers attack Cruz – SPACE FLORIDA looks to 2016." "Florida Playbook."

Scott helps bury EPA report

"Gov. Rick Scott’s top environmental agency helped block a scathing federal report outlining environmental concerns from being submitted as part of a challenge to a controversial natural gas pipeline that would run across some of Florida’s most 'environmentally sensitive areas.'"

The Sabal Trail pipeline, a joint venture of Spectra Energy, Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light Co.'s parent company, would extend 515 miles from central Alabama to Osceola County. The project, which covers more than 260 miles in Florida, faces a legal challenge to a state permit in Florida from an environmental group named the WWALS Watershed Coalition.

On Oct. 26, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wrote to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, saying it had "very significant concerns" about the process of choosing a route because of the threat of pollution to the Floridan Aquifer and the impact on conservation areas.

Four days later, the WWALS Watershed Coalition asked Administrative Law Judge Bram D.E. Canter to take judicial notice of the EPA objections.

But the Florida Department of Environmental Protection joined Sabal Trail Transmission, LLC in objecting, and Canter refused the request.

A spokeswoman for the DEP, which is overseen by Scott’s office, was twice asked whether the permit should be re-evaluated in light of the EPA comments. Each time, she answered with a statement that neither acknowledged nor addressed the EPA concerns.

"Scott administration helped keep scathing EPA pipeline report out of legal challenge."

Meanwhile, the Tampa Trib editors give Scott a pass, writing that, with "his proposed $79.8 billion budget, Gov. Rick Scott shows far more environmental enlightenment than he did when he was first elected and cut conservation programs indiscriminately." "Scott’s environmental budget."

Obamacare is imperfect, but it’s working

Paul Krugman: "To the right’s dismay, scare tactics — remember death panels? — and spurious legal challenges failed to protect the nation from the scourge of guaranteed health coverage. Still, Obamacare’s opponents insisted that it would implode in a “death spiral” of low enrollment and rising costs."

But the law’s first two years of full implementation went remarkably well. Opponents could have reconsidered their position — but that hardly ever happens in modern politics. Instead, they doubled down on their forecasts of doom, and hyped every hint of bad news.
"Yes, Obamacare has hit a few rough patches lately. But they’re much less significant than a lot of the reporting, let alone the right-wing reaction, would have you believe. Health reform is still a huge success story."
Obamacare seeks to cover the uninsured through two channels. Lower-income Americans are covered via a federally funded expansion of Medicaid, which was supposed to be nationwide but has been rejected in many Republican-controlled states. Everyone else has access to policies sold by private insurers who cannot discriminate based on medical history; these policies are supposed to be made affordable by subsidies that depend on your income.

Sooner or later, of course, there were bound to be some negative surprises. And we’re now, finally, getting a bit of bad, or at least not-great, news about health reform. . . .

The reality is that Obamacare is an imperfect system, but it’s workable — and it’s working.

"Spate of bad news can’t hide fact that Obamacare has succeeded."