No place for moderates
"To see how the Florida Senate has shifted to the right, look no further than Pasco County's Sen. Mike Fasano, an anti-tax crusader, former Republican majority leader and cable news star during the 2000 presidential election recount."
Fasano took to the Senate floor during last week's half-day special session and railed against a GOP blueprint for fixing Medicaid. The symbolic ``memorial'' resolution informs Congress that Florida plans to steer its Medicaid patients into managed care networks, an idea that has gained popularity in the state House."Veteran senator won't toe the line".
"This is more than intent. We are setting policy today by doing this,'' scolded Fasano, a 16-year legislative veteran. "This should have gone through committees. If you think you got a few phone calls last year, put people in an HMO and the phones will be ringing off the hook.''
But Fasano's protests were quickly drowned out by a GOP stampede in favor of the bill. In the new Senate, where newcomers value business and economic development over Fasano's populist consumerism, he has morphed from conservative stalwart to moderate maverick.
RPOFers piss on the poor
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Republican legislators want to reduce the $7.5 billion that Florida expects to spend on Medicaid this fiscal year by giving doctors who treat the poor immunity from medical malpractice lawsuits. Aside from the ethical implications of putting restrictions on the poor that the middle class and the wealthy are not subject to, the plan would benefit doctors but not taxpayers." "Lawsuit break for doctors won't help Florida's Medicaid problem".
"Meet Florida U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen"
"She hung up on the next president, Barack Obama. Twice. She thought it was a prank."
In an expert stroke of political spin, she immediately sent out a press release explaining the apparent snub as a mix-up.Despite all that,
Meet Florida U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Cuban-American to serve in Congress and the next in line to head the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The phone incident occurred in late 2008 as the president-elect reached out to potentially friendly Republicans and shortly after a radio host fooled Sarah Palin by impersonating the president of France on the phone. But it was vintage "Ily," as she is known in Washington: frank, almost irreverent, yet imbued with an underlying seriousness and political savvy.
It also was a reminder that Ros-Lehtinen, 58, presents an increasingly rare image these days - a politician occasionally willing to work across the aisle. The legislator, who was re-elected with 69 percent of the vote, is a hawk on foreign affairs but breaks with her party on immigration, gay rights and other issues important to the people she represents - Cuban-Americans, gays, a strong Jewish community.
Ros-Lehtinen is outraged by Cuba's membership on the United Nation's Human Rights Council along with China and Saudi Arabia and would like U.S. contributions to the U.N. to be voluntary until the U.S. creates an office to audit U.N. activities for transparency and eliminate waste."Cuban-American to head House Foreign Affairs". See also "Fla congresswoman to head House Foreign Affairs".
"The U.N. functions very well for Iran and Venezuela, and every two-bit dictator who's envious and hates the United States," she told The Associated Press. "But for countries that contribute a lot to the U.N., I don't think people really feel like it's really living up to the standards which we set for it at it's founding."
Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and 2012 presidential hopeful, lauds Ros-Lehtinen for bringing a strong anti-communist and anti-dictator position to her analyses. "She will bring clarity," he predicts.
Critics counter that she has too much of an "us versus them" mentality that doesn't allow for gray areas when it comes to those who don't always agree with the U.S.
RPOF campaign contributor laff riot
The Sun Sentinel editorial board: "Privatizing prisons may be "on the table" — as new Senate President Mike Haridopolus has said — but state leaders would be wise to avoid rushing to fast-track it."
Privatization fits in nicely with Gov.-elect Rick Scott's plans to slash almost half of the state's $2.4 billion prison budget. The $1 billion cut in penal costs is part of Scott's efforts to make up the estimated $2.4 billion state budget shortfall Scott will inherit when he is sworn in as governor in January.Unfortunately for the privatization nuts,
questionable data and a cumbersome monitoring system by three state agencies have raised legitimate doubts about the belief that privatized correctional facilities cost less to operate or are more effective at curbing recidivism than publicly managed prisons."State mulls private alternatives to public prisons".
Unfortunately, that's not slowing down state leaders who view private prisons as a panacea. After all, prisons in many parts of the state are economic engines that provide jobs and contribute to local tax bases, particularly in rural counties in North and Central Florida.
Facing a multibillion-dollar budget shortfall, state leaders are correct to consider trimming penal costs, but not by a quick substitution of a private facility whose profit margins depend on high incarceration rates and taxpayer subsidies. State taxpayers would be better served if their leaders examined incarceration rate data to determine if the legal system can save money by tweaking current sentencing guidelines and release laws and evaluating decisions by courts and parole boards to see if all this leads to imprisoning non-violent offenders who could repay their debt to society in a more cost-effective way.
"Beaten to the edge of irrelevancy in the Nov. 2 election, the Florida Democratic Party is searching for an architect in a crucial rebuilding year." "Fla. Dems seek new party head".
RPOF immigration policy splintering
"Is the Florida Attorney General's Office of one mind when it comes to illegal aliens?"
A recent op-ed co-authored by Deputy Attorney General Joe Jacquot laid out an agenda for "immigration reform." The proposals -- including a guest-worker program and an easing of rules regulating the status of migrants who marry U.S. citizens -- were framed as an effort to garner Republican support in Congress."Florida Deputy Attorney General Stirs Immigration Pot".
While the column in the Wall Street Journal focused on national issues, Jacquot's authorship raises questions in Tallahassee. Notably: Did Attorney General Bill McCollum see the piece before it was published?
AG spokeswoman Sandi Copes said, "The article was drafted to share Mr. Jacquot's views on immigration policy at a federal level and was not intended to be a discussion about Florida's immigration policy. It draws on his experience as the former chief counsel for the U.S. Senate's Immigration Subcommittee. He had discussed the points of the op-ed with the attorney general but the AG did not review any drafts before publication."
McCollum's office did not respond to questions as to whether he agreed with the article, which suggested the need for Republicans to be more flexible on border issues.
RPOFers diss airline security
"Republicans from Florida are taking aim at new search techniques being employed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on airline passengers -- even as a poll shows most Americans accept these measures as necessary for greater security." "Florida Republicans Attack TSA Search Procedures".
White collar crooks
"She first counseled the multi-millionaire Republican governor-to-be before his 1997 departure from the Columbia/HCA hospital chain amid a massive fraud investigation."
More recently, she advised Scott before he formed his latest health care venture, Solantic, a chain of urgent-care, walk-in clinics. And recognizing Scott's political potential, she introduced him to a pair of Republican strategists who played key roles in his campaign."Rick Scott's most trusted adviser an unknown to most Floridians".
"It was a natural evolution," Mainigi said of her relationship with Scott. "It was not by design or intent. We got to be good friends. I became a close adviser of his not only on legal issues but business issues."
By late 2008, Mainigi said, she and Scott were "talking about the political sphere and how he could make a difference in people's lives."
They ultimately decided, she said: "The place that he could have the biggest impact, the most direct impact, was as governor of Florida."
After he takes office, she said, she will not have a formal, paid position on Scott's administration but will remain a close adviser.
"Not worth the extra millions"
The Sun Sentinel editorial board: "It looks like Palm Beach County, land of the hanging chad, is going to have to settle for waiting a few extra hours to see results on Election Day. Because one alternative being floated — buying a whole new voting system, either a return to the controversial touch screens of old or a better paper-ballot system like Broward and Miami-Dade have — is not worth the extra millions of dollars when local governments are already strapped for cash." "New voting system is no cure for late returns".
Watchdog leader leaves after budget gutted
"Gary VanLandingham, the director of Florida’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability for the last seven years, is taking a position with the Pew Center for the States."
VanLandingham, who had worked for the Legislature for 28 years, was in charge of the office responsible for performing independent reviews of state government programs and coming up with ways that lawmakers can save money. VanLandingham’s term was not scheduled to expire until 2013."One of Florida's top auditors leaving his job".
In his resignation letter to Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon, VanLandingham called his staff "superb and highly dedicated professionals who work extremely hard to meet the Legislature’s information needs.” VanLandingham said that during his time as director the office had issued more than 420 reports that had resulted in more than $755 million in savings.
The move by VanLandingham comes just months after state lawmakers greatly reduced the budget of his office. Last spring lawmakers cut the budget by a third from $8.2 million to $5.4 million. Top lawmakers such as Sen. J.D. Alexander defended the move at the time by saying OPPAGA was producing reports that "weren’t necessary."
Another fine Jebacy
Another "troubling trend in Florida, where thousands of students coming out of high school are unprepared for college-course work."
Two seemingly contradictory reports last week underscored the problem: One showed high-school-graduation rates at historic highs throughout the state. The other ranked Florida 12th-graders below the national average on math and reading skills. ..."Are Florida's high-school grads ready for college?".
More than 53 percent of the state's 2008 high-school graduates who went on to community colleges needed remedial courses in English, writing or math. ...
Florida students who graduated in 2008 were less likely to go on to college than in any of the other 15 Southern states, according to a report that the Southern Regional Education Board plans to release Dec. 1. Florida also was the only state to lose ground on that measure from 2000 to 2008.
GOP blocks unemployment extension
"Funding for those payments will end next week unless Congress acts to reauthorize them, and so far lawmakers seem unable to reach a deal. Each week, another 41,000 unemployed Floridians will be affected." "Jobless benefits may run out soon for many Floridians".
Rubio apparently will do anything to win an election
Although "Rubio, 39, presented himself on his Florida Statehouse Web site and in interviews as a Roman Catholic, bloggers and journalists have noted since his election that he regularly worships at an evangelical megachurch whose theology is plainly at odds with Catholic teaching."
For much of the last decade, Mr. Rubio has attended Christ Fellowship with his wife and children. He “comes very regularly to worship service" at the church’s Palmetto Bay campus, said Eric Geiger, the executive pastor. According to Mr. Rubio’s campaign Web site, he contributed almost $50,000 to Christ Fellowship from 2005 to 2008. ..."Marco Rubio: Catholic or Protestant?".
Christ Fellowship, which has five campuses and draws about 6,000 worshipers on a typical weekend, is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, and its beliefs include several that are alien to Catholicism.
Southern Baptists practice adult rather than infant baptism, for example. They do not recognize the authority of the pope. And the Christ Fellowship statement of beliefs says the bread and wine of communion are merely "symbolic," thus do not become Christ’s body and blood, as Catholics believe.
As for Mr. Rubio’s involvement with Catholicism, his spokesman did not respond to questions about whether the senator-elect gives money to the Archdiocese of Miami; whether he agrees with Catholic teachings that suggest Protestants are in error; and whether he belongs to a Catholic parish, as most observant Catholics would.
To many Protestants and Catholics, these may seem like small points of theology. But Mr. Rubio’s simultaneous embrace of Catholic identity and evangelical Protestant worship raises questions ...
Teabagger puff piece
The Washington Post: "Even before Palin's endorsement, West became a tea party phenomenon because of an impromptu speech he gave at a 2009 Tea Party Express rally in Fort Lauderdale." "Allen West, one of two black Republicans just elected to House, goes against grain".
Scott-Bondi flip flop in the works
"Four months ago, one of the few things hotter in Florida than the weather was the debate over illegal immigration -- thanks largely to Rick Scott, who used the issue as a sledgehammer against Bill McCollum in the GOP gubernatorial primary."
Today, Gov.-elect Scott seldom mentions the I-word, which isn't getting a lot of attention in the Legislature, either. ..."Scott quiet on future of an immigration bill in Florida".
When state lawmakers went into special session again this month, however, Gov.-elect Scott did not breathe a word about illegal immigration or the Arizona approach.
Scott spokesman Brian Burgess said that immigration was more than just a talking point. It remains, he said, a vital issue for Scott, whose views on it have not changed. "It hasn't fallen down our priority list."
Another politician who made much of illegal immigration during campaign season was Pam Bondi, now Florida's incoming attorney general. Spokeswoman Kim Kirtley said it remains a top concern for Bondi, who "continues to support an Arizona-style immigration law, provided it includes strong provisions guarding against racial profiling."
If Scott and Bondi still want action, they will need to partner with the Legislature -- and whether, when and how that body will address immigration remains unclear.
"Rock star moment"
"Outgoing Gov. Charlie Crist is making final (and notably international) headlines by pushing for a posthumous pardon for rock legend Jim Morrison of the Doors." "Charlie Crist's rock star moment".
Entrepreneurs want a handout
"The release of water from Lake Okeechobee is raising fears among South Florida growers who depend on lake water for irrigation." "Lake Okeechobee releases raise water supply fears".