Sunday, January 10, 2016

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

Rubio is "Dog-Whistling Dixie"

"For a senator who likes to hold himself out as the future of the Republican brand, Marco Rubio has come up with a remarkably retrograde contribution to the party’s chorus of phony empathy for the poor: Let the states do it." "Rubio Demands States’ Right to Ignore the Poor."

So, it is no surprise that "Texas governor joins Marco Rubio in call for new constitutional convention ('Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday revealed his plans for a 'convention of the states,' the first in more than 200 years, as part of a larger effort to reshape the U.S. Constitution and expand states' rights.')"

However, as David Greenberg once explained, no "one who used the phrase 'states' rights' in living memory of the massive resistance movement against forced desegregation could be unaware of the message of solidarity it sent to Southern whites about civil rights. (The phrase, of course, had been bound up with racism at least since John Calhoun championed it in his defense of slavery in the 1830s.)"

"But because the term also connoted a general opposition to the growth of the federal government's role in economic life, nonracist whites could comfort themselves that politicians like Nixon and Reagan were using it innocently—and thus shrug off any guilt they might feel for being complicit in racist campaigning."

"It was a dog whistle to segregationists."

"In the same vein, Reagan's use of phrases linked to insidious racial stereotypes—his talk of Cadillac-driving welfare queens, or 'young bucks' buying T-bone steaks with food stamps—pandered to bigots while making sure not to alienate voters whom starker language would have scared away." "Dog-Whistling Dixie."

Have Florida's lawmakers learned anything from 2015’s disastrous performance?

The Miami Herald editors: "The annual session of the Legislature that begins on Tuesday will test whether Florida lawmakers learned anything from 2015’s disastrous performance. Can they pass a budget, finish other required work on time and avoid extra sessions? Given last year’s debacle, we’re skeptical."

Because 2015 was not an election year, the returning Capitol cast consists of the same members as the last time around, when the regular session ended in acrimony and finger-pointing by leaders of the House and Senate — and without a budget, the only mandated requirement.
"That dispiriting episode was followed by three special sessions for which taxpayers were forced to shell out: two for redrawing electoral districts and one for the budget. All in all, it was a sorry year for the Legislature. This time, with a projected $635-million surplus and the redistricting issue behind them (except for pending lawsuits), lawmakers should make sure things go much more smoothly."
Sadly, Gov. Rick Scott hasn’t made it any easier.

The governor’s unrealistic budget, calling for $1 billion in tax cuts, ensures a political collision in the Legislature even though all key players are Republicans. His budget has already drawn skepticism from Senate President Andy Gardiner, who said existing programs, largely in healthcare and education, will cost $1.6 billion more next year. He recommended a more modest — and more realistic — tax-cut target of $250 million to start out.

Mr. Scott’s fixation on budget cuts at the expense of the state’s broader and demonstrated needs extends to climate change, a phrase his administration has banned from official correspondence. Last year, he vetoed a relatively small $750,000 appropriation for water pumps for Miami Beach because the project “does not provide a clear return on investment.”

How about the citizens not drowning, governor? You think that might be a good return on investment?

"Florida’s needs vs. governor’s tax cuts."

Meanwhile, the Orlando Sentinel editors write that "Lawmakers must make 2016 count." More: "Five powerhouse issues Florida lawmakers will face this session."

Mat Ellen Klas: "Florida Legislature returns seeking unity despite simmering divisions."

"Ugly little secret"

Steve Otto reminds us that, when it comes to human trafficking, "Florida is right there near the top." "Human trafficking is area’s ugly little secret."

Even some in the media are beginning to notice

The Miami Herald reminds us that most state employees haven’t had a wage increase for eight years.

Bill Cotterell: "If state employees get a pay raise next fiscal year, state Rep. Alan Williams will consider his final legislative session a success."

Gov. Rick Scott’s budget recommendations do not include any general pay raises for the state workforce. But Williams always works on the House leadership and with joint budget negotiators – unsuccessfully – to squeeze a percent or two into the budget.

Williams, term-limited out of the House, is running for Leon County supervisor of elections. One of his other top goals is an automatic voter-registration bill, to let new residents simultaneously get their driving licenses and sign up to vote.

"Williams wants pay raises for state employees."

Jeb races to salvage campaign

"Jeb Bush races to salvage presidential campaign."

"Hell-bent on ruining our great state park system"

The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "With all the issues facing Florida — hundreds of thousands of uninsured residents, concern about overtesting in schools and blatant legislative disregard for preserving more natural treasures, among others — state bureaucrats and some lawmakers are hell-bent on ruining our great state park system." "Editorial: Leave our state parks alone!"