Monday, December 28, 2015

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


Tallahassee "a global laughingstock and a symbol of the polarized debate surrounding climate change"

"After Crist was elected governor, he convened a summit, appointed a task force and helped usher in new laws intended to address a future of climate change and rising sea levels. Crist and the Florida Legislature set goals to reduce emissions back to 1990 levels."

The effort didn’t last, and in a short amount of time, the U.S. state with the most to lose from a warming planet became a global laughingstock and a symbol of the polarized debate surrounding climate change.
"Earlier this year, the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that after Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011, state agencies told employees not to use the terms 'climate change' or 'global warming' in official correspondence. Emails warned staff and contractors to stay away from the terms."
Environmental reports stopped including the words “climate change.” One state official even refused to say those words during a committee hearing.

With no leadership from Tallahassee, the burden of dealing with climate change shifted to municipalities, where today the majority of the work to address the effects of global warming is being performed.

"Florida’s case of climate denial: A tale of two governors."


"Lost in Presidential Race's Shadow"

Kevin Derby: "Lost in the shadow of the presidential contest, the race to become Florida’s next U.S. senator was shaped greatly in the past year, setting the stage for what is expected to be one of the most important contests in the nation as the GOP looks to preserve its majority in 2016." "Lost in Presidential Race's Shadow, Candidates Line Up for Senate Contest in 2015."


"Florida sends more juveniles to adult prison than any other state"

The Tampa Trib editors: "Florida lawmakers are considering legislation that could have a huge impact on the fate of juvenile offenders who find themselves in big trouble and face a critical juncture in their lives."

Whether they are tried in adult court or juvenile court can profoundly affect their chances to mature into responsible adults who can contribute to society. Sending them into the adult system greatly minimizes those chances.

Yet Florida law often relegates judges to the sidelines when the decision is made to transfer juveniles to adult court, giving prosecutors sole discretion. Maybe that’s why Florida sends more juveniles to adult prison than any other state.

"Let judges review critical decision to try juveniles as adults."


"In Florida, Bush forged a landmark environmental accord — and then exploded it"

The New Yorker: "On the afternoon of December 11, 2000, Jeb Bush, the forty-third governor of Florida and a member of the most dominant American political family since the Kennedys, stood in the Oval Office with President Bill Clinton to mark the signing of a landmark law intended to restore the Everglades, the majestic swamp that spans the interior of southern Florida. The legislation, overwhelmingly approved by both parties, envisioned spending eight billion dollars to revive the wetland, which, thanks in large part to heedless development, had been shrunk, chopped, polluted, and drained to the point of terminal decline. That same afternoon, the Supreme Court was hearing Bush v. Gore, the case that ended the vote-counting dispute in Florida between Clinton’s Vice-President and Jeb’s brother. But, if the occasion was awkward for Bush and Clinton, it marked a seeming triumph of federal and state co√∂peration. The Everglades legislation was the result of years of co√∂rdinated planning. The State of Florida and the federal government had promised to share the expense. “This is the restoration of a treasure for our country,” Bush said after the ceremony."

Less than three years later, Bush returned to Washington, this time to justify to a group of skeptical Republican members of Congress why he was dismantling one of the central provisions of Everglades restoration. Just days before, Florida lawmakers had endorsed a bill to drastically weaken pollution regulations—the result of an extraordinary lobbying blitz by the sugar industry, the largest polluter in the Everglades and one of the largest political donors in the state. Newspaper editorial boards around Florida condemned the proposal as a gift to Big Sugar, the nickname for the major interests in the state: Florida Crystals, U.S. Sugar, and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative. In a private meeting room at the Capitol, the congressmen who had summoned Bush said the bill was so egregious that it could threaten federal funding for the restoration. Bush insisted that he would not change his mind.
"Less than three years later, Bush returned to Washington, this time to justify to a group of skeptical Republican members of Congress why he was dismantling one of the central provisions of Everglades restoration. Just days before, Florida lawmakers had endorsed a bill to drastically weaken pollution regulations—the result of an extraordinary lobbying blitz by the sugar industry, the largest polluter in the Everglades and one of the largest political donors in the state. Newspaper editorial boards around Florida condemned the proposal as a gift to Big Sugar, the nickname for the major interests in the state: Florida Crystals, U.S. Sugar, and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative. In a private meeting room at the Capitol, the congressmen who had summoned Bush said the bill was so egregious that it could threaten federal funding for the restoration. Bush insisted that he would not change his mind."
In the Presidential primaries, Bush has spoken little about his record on the environment. As he struggles to revitalize his ailing campaign, he has preferred to talk broadly about his experience as governor—an attempt to contrast himself with insurgents like Donald Trump and Ben Carson, and also with Barack Obama, who, even after seven years in the White House, is described by many Republicans as a political neophyte. (The Bush campaign declined to comment for this article.) In a speech following the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Bush announced, “We are living in serious times that require serious leadership.” In a campaign video, recorded in what appears to be a comfortable suburban living room, he presents himself as a tough, decisive manager. “This is what leadership’s about—it’s not just about yapping about things,” he says, as an image of the White House comes on the screen. “We need to start fixing things. I said I was going to do these things, and I did them. And the result was, Florida’s a lot better off.”

What lingers in Florida is the memory of a governor who liked to announce “big, hairy, audacious goals”—often shortened to BHAG, pronounced “bee-hag”—and to pursue them zealously. Much of the time, in a state with natural bipartisan coalitions, it worked. But when it didn’t Bush pushed on, even at the price of gruelling and expensive political conflict. Nowhere was his style more evident than in his protracted struggle with the federal government over the fate of the Everglades—a fight that, according to people in both parties, could well have been avoided with a less autocratic approach. Nathaniel Reed, an Assistant Secretary of the Interior in the Nixon Administration, a friend of President George H. W. Bush, and a prominent Florida environmental activist, told me, “Jeb wouldn’t listen to anyone. He’s the most thin-skinned son of a bitch I’ve seen. If you criticize him, he never forgets it.”

"Swamped."