Sunday, January 24, 2016

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

Scott cuts Department of Health personnel, Florida leads nation in new HIV cases

Steve Bousquet: "Florida leads the nation in new HIV infections, but it's not being treated as a crisis by Gov. Rick Scott or the state's top health officer, Dr. John Armstrong."

As the disease has spread, Scott and Armstrong have imposed four years of personnel cuts in the Department of Health that have shrunk the size of county health departments.

State lawmakers are now asking whether the spending decisions have produced a sicker population in a state where HIV infections have risen each year since 2012 as they've declined across the country.

"Although Florida is among the nation's fastest-growing states, Scott has pushed every year to trim the state work force, and nearly one quarter of those reductions have been in the Department of Health."
The 67 county health departments, largely funded by the state health agency, have declined to 10,519 positions compared to 12,759 in the year Scott took office.

"It's indicative of the neglect of this administration across the board in social services," said Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens. "We have a rise in AIDS and we have a reduction in public health spending. We're now cutting just to be cutting."

"Florida leads country in new HIV cases after years of health department cuts."

Charter madness

"A pair of virtual charter schools in Palm Beach and Broward counties may soon shut down, following concerns over poor student performance, allegations of ethical breaches and hostility between the schools' governing board and management company." "Virtual charter schools in Broward, Palm Beach could close following audits."

"What would Jose Martí do?"

The Tampa Trib: "As the U.S. and Cuba move toward a normalization of relations, all sides lay claim to Martí as their own in the debate over whether it’s time yet."

Academics who decipher Martí’s views based on the totality of his work rather than individual quotes say the freedom fighter may have been in favor of some hallmarks of Cuba’s current government — guaranteed education and health care for all and resistance to U.S. domination — but not of the one-party system that has kept the Castro family entrenched for more than half a century.

Neither would Martí have embraced the president deposed by the Castro revolution, researchers say — Fulgencio Batista, whose supporters founded the dissident movement in the U.S. By the same token, Martí may have rejected the dissidents’ preferred means of overthrowing the Castros — continued isolation and economic embargo.

"All sides of the Cuba debate now ask: What would Jose Martí do?"

Trump taunts Jeb for turning to "mommy" to help floundering campaign

"Donald Trump is now taunting Jeb Bush for turning to his "mommy" to help save his floundering campaign -- but the former Florida governor says his mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush, is ready to rumble." "Trump knocks Bush for turning to 'mommy'." See also "Donald Trump Jabs Jeb Bush on 'Mommy' Ad."

Guns-on-campus proposal likely dead

"A Senate committee chairman won’t give it another hearing." "Guns-on-campus proposal likely dead for 2016 session."

"Symmetry between Scott and the House"

"A revised forecast trimming the amount of money lawmakers have to spend this year by almost $400 million has made Scott’s robust [tax cut] plan – aimed almost entirely at helping businesses — a lot tougher sell."

This could expose the tensions between the House and the Senate.

Signs of symmetry between Scott and the House isn’t unusual.

Last year, the two sides allied in blocking the Senate’s bid for a privatized form of Medicaid expansion, a clash that left budget talks at impasse and forced a special session in June to avoid a possible government shutdown.

The House and Senate also deadlocked in two special sessions on congressional and Senate redistricting last year, deepening divisions among Florida’s ruling Republicans.

But this year’s two-month session, which just completed its second week, has been marked by public displays of harmony between leaders.

"Scott on tax-cut plan: ‘I’m going to sell it to them every day’."

Bill would radically change how Florida's school districts are organized

"The measure (HJR 539) would mark a dramatic change in how school districts are organized in Florida. The Constitution requires all districts to be made up of whole counties, though a handful of public schools are stand-alone."

Caldwell’s proposal would also allow existing city or county governing bodies to serve as school boards and would get rid of a requirement that school board elections be nonpartisan.

But it would also raise a series of questions about the financing of schools and the logistics of untangling a district if a city is allowed to start its own school system. The amendment doesn’t spell out the legal steps that would be needed to approve a new district, though Caldwell said any move would likely have to be supported by local residents and then return to the Legislature to be ratified.

The proposal stems from the frustration some parents have as counties have grown larger and administrators seem more remote, Caldwell said.

"City School Districts? Lawmaker Mulling Proposed Constitutional Amendment." See also "Florida Legislature pondering move to school districts by city."