Sunday, December 06, 2015

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

Florida Senator "Discovers His Inner Jim Crow"

Pierre Tristam writes that State Senator Travis Hutson appears to be suffering from Trump envy,

demonizing undocumented immigrants and manufacturing a problem where there isn’t one. One bill would automatically aggravate the penalty normally imposed on citizen if it’s committed by an undocumented immigrant.

A first-degree misdemeanor, for example, would become a third-degree felony. A second-degree felony would be bumped up to a first-degree felony, doubling prison time. Prosecutors and judges use aggravating factors to harsh up their sentences all the time. But they usually cite the heinousness of crimes, not the skin pigment or nationality of the criminal, for their decision. At least not explicitly so.

Hutson’s second bill takes its inspiration from the same discriminatory poison. It more directly criminalizes an undocumented immigrant, if that individual remains in Florida in spite of a deportation order. Now, considering the Obama administration’s war on undocumented immigrants, a harsher war by far that either George W. Bush’s or Bill Clinton’s, it’s a wonder there are that many deportable immigrants left: they’ve been deported at an average rate of 400,000 a year on Obama’s watch, every year he’s been president. Well over half have been non-criminal deportations.

Obama’s version of Operation Wetback–the Eisenhower-era policy of mass cruelty so beloved and of course so mischaracterized by Operation Trump– slowed down last year in the face of criticism, but not so significantly as to reverse the battering of families and removal of unproblematic immigrants.

That wouldn’t matter to Hutson. If he finds individuals who have deportation orders in Florida, whether they’ve been charged with crimes or not, he would automatically slap a first-degree felony on them.

"Hunting Undocumented Immigrants, Travis Hutson Discovers His Inner Jim Crow."

Packing guns along with laptops and textbooks

James Call: "Bills for six proposals have completed committee assignments and wait scheduling for floor debate when lawmakers return to Tallahassee in January"

A proposal allowing university students to pack a gun along with laptops and textbooks for a political science class could be the first bill passed by the Florida House and Senate when they convene the 2016 legislative session in January.

Bills lifting a guns on campus ban have passed in committees in both chambers and await floor action when lawmakers return to Tallahassee next month.

"Campus Carry and a massive water bill await lawmakers in January."

Florida "poverty reaches new heights"

"More than 350,000 Central Floridians are living in poverty — more than ever before — according to new numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau. And many of the poor are children."

The Census Bureau's latest findings, released last week, also showed the number of kids and teens living in poverty grew substantially across Central Florida, even in relatively affluent Seminole County, where it went from 11.6 percent to 14.2 percent.
"For Central Florida, poverty reaches new heights." See also "Bitter pill: How Florida rations care for frail kids."

All politics is local

"Doral Mayor Luigi Boria pays $325 fine for breaking state campaign finance laws."

Jeb Supporters Get Desperate

"Top Jeb Bush political donor in Miami: I'll vote for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump." See also "Bush's biggest donor: Trump a 'bullyionaire'."

"All Testing, All the Time"

"A Truly Horrible Idea: All Testing, All the Time."

"A Tale of Two Chambers"

resignation exposes a "chapter in a story being written by Scott’s administration that could easily be titled 'A Tale of Two Chambers.'"

Tension with the Senate has left the fate of some of Scott’s top appointments, which must get Senate confirmation, in limbo. Chief among them is Panuccio, whose open clashes with senators have led many to believe he would not get a confirmation vote for the second consecutive year, which means he would have to vacate his post. . . .

He needed to pass three committees, including those chaired by [Senators] Latvala and Detert, prior to a full Senate vote. Many of Scott’s other agency and department heads were only given two confirmation hearings.

In addition, department heads that oversee transportation, children and families and environmental protection have all had one confirmation hearing before the 2016 session even began. Panuccio has not yet received a hearing.

Latvala said he did not want to “pile on” when asked about Panuccio’s resignation, but has had notable fights with him in the past.

During an early October meeting, Latvala slammed Panuccio after he criticized a lobbyist for the AFL-CIO who said during testimony that the Scott administration has made it tougher for people to receive unemployment benefits.

"I, frankly, don't like your attitude," the St. Petersburg Republican said before a surprised committee room. “I think there's an arrogance in the way you present this that's a sense of entitlement, and I just think it's wrong. We're here to serve the people.”

"Panuccio resignation underscores Scott’s rift with Senate."

Background: "Governor’s jobs chief submits resignation."

"Now you’ve gone from fixin’ and got to meddlin"

The Tallahassee Democrat's editorial board wonders "What ever happened to the conservative notion that the government that governs best is the government closest to the people?"

Or home rule, local control, citizen input, and all those other feel-good, grassroots concepts that candidates pledge allegiance to in every election year? Florida’s Republican-run Legislature seems oddly committed to centralized regulatory and fiscal controls.

Business interests trump local control far too often, when cities and counties try to regulate certain activities within their borders.

"Statewide standards are a good thing in many cases. About 30 years ago, Florida passed important laws allowing designation of areas of critical state concern environmentally, and regulating developments of regional impact."
This helped to rein in the greed of developers, who were building malls and housing tracts and passing the infrastructure and pollution costs along to the taxpayers. Often, counties and cities – whose commissioners depended on the builders for campaign money – winked at common-sense land use facts, eager for the property tax revenues new developments promised.

But surely Florida can have sensible local control without creating a crazy quiltwork of conflicting and overlapping state, county and city regulations. It’s hard to put on paper, but you know it when you see it – that certain, undefinable quality long-time Sen. W.D. Childers of Pensacola used to express as, “Now you’ve gone from fixin’ and got to meddlin’.” . . .

So far, 20 counties (including Leon) and nearly twice as many cities (including Tallahassee) have passed resolutions barring fracking. Those rules would be wiped out by [pending] bills, one of which has passed its first House committee.

Like a big shopping mall or theme park, fracking would be a development of regional impact, requiring more than local licensing. That’s what the Department of Environmental Protection, and some federal agencies, can provide.

But what’s the harm in letting a county say “no thanks?” If a neighbor gives the go-ahead, any environmental damage won’t stop at the county line, but there seems to be no reason that counties not wanting this supposedly safe and efficient form of exploration should have it forced upon them.

Instead of providing uniform protection, it seems more likely that statewide pre-emption would just give the oil industry one-stop shopping for its permits. Instead of persuading 67 county and 400-plus city governments that its work is safe and desirable, the companies would just need the nod of one friendly governor.

Maybe if the current administration had not banned the terms “global warming” and “climate change” from official correspondence – maybe if Gov. Rick Scott’s position on all things environmental was not “I’m not a scientist” – perhaps state pre-emption would be a sensible standardization of the rules.

But for now, and the foreseeable future, we see the benefit in letting the local governments say no.

Much more here: "Cities, counties should be able to say no to fracking."

"Jeb is not even in the conversation"

Anthony Man reminds us that, because Florida awards "all its delegates to the winner, and none to candidates in second or third place [in the March 15 primary], Florida can catapult a candidate toward the nomination." What about Donald Trump?

Those who discount the power of anti-establishment primary voters in Florida can look to 2010, when Rick Scott defeated then-Attorney General Bill McCollum in the primary for governor . . . .
Meanwhile, "Florida is especially critical for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush — unless one of them expects to lose and drops out beforehand to avoid humiliation."
"They're going to fight very hard to win Florida," said Kevin Wagner, a political scientist at Florida Atlantic University. "The optics of not winning your own state, that's really hard to overcome. I can't imagine that either one of them is going to give ground here."

[Myra Adams in National Review Online] said "Rubio and Jeb both have to win Florida, or they are done." Adams and political insiders of both parties said it would be hard for a Floridian who has won office before and touts support from the state to go on after losing the state's primary.

It would damage a key selling point for a Florida-based candidate, that he'd have bring a big home-state advantage in the November election, when Florida awards 29 electoral votes, more than 10 percent of the total needed to win the presidency.

Bush entered the race with a huge lead in fundraising and as a favorite of many in the party establishment, but failed to catch fire. He's in fifth place, at 5 percent support among Republicans, in a Quinnipiac University Poll released Wednesday. Rubio is hoping to become the go-to candidate if the outsider candidates fade. He's in a three-way tie for second place, with 17 percent of the vote in the Quinnipiac Poll.

"At this point, Jeb is such a non-factor. Jeb is not even in the conversation. He has kind of disappeared," Adams said. "Rubio has momentum. But his poll numbers are really not going up."

"9 things to watch with 100 days until Florida presidential primary."