"Back in 1974, employees contributed 4 percent of their salaries to their retirement fund while special risk members (police, firefighters, etc.) contributed 8 percent. But if those employees left the state workforce, they were entitled to have their contribution return to them in the form of a refund -- costing the state that year a whopping $30 million and setting up an unfunded liability. 'The primary purpose in changing FRS to a non-contributory plan is to help eliminate the unfunded liability documented in past actuarial studies of state retirement systems,' the newsletter states." "1974 pension document shows how state benefited from switch away from employee contributions".
When it comes to FRS, Scott is "comparing apples and aardvarks"
Bill Cotterell: "In proposing that state employees pay 5 percent of salary toward their pensions, Gov. Rick Scott makes good political and policy arguments. But when he citing the 'unfunded actuarial liability' of the Florida Retirement System, he's comparing apples and ."
But aardvarks the keep at it: "Florida’s pension system: A ‘ticking time bomb’ as Rick Scott says, or rock solid?".
Bits and Pieces
Kevin Derby's "Political Bits and Pieces".
"Lining the pockets of insurance companies"
Broward County is "the largest of five counties participating in a 2006 pilot program implemented under former Gov. Jeb Bush that puts Medicaid recipients into privately managed care. Gov. Rick Scott and Republican lawmakers want to expand the program statewide during the upcoming legislative session, which begins March 8."
"Let me tell you a doctor's perspective on Medicaid - we don't participate. It's that simple," said Dr. Miguel Machado, a St. Augustine neurosurgeon and head of the Florida Medical Association."Lawmakers poised to privatize Medicaid statewide".
Doctors also complain the Medicaid HMOs refuse the tests and medicine they prescribe.
Broward County obstetrician Dr. Aaron Elkin can no longer see pregnant Medicaid patients in the critical first trimester because private providers won't pay for it. If a patient has a suspicious breast lump, he said, timely mammograms and biopsies are impossible.
Critics say the state is jeopardizing the care of poor and disabled patients to line the pockets of for-profit insurance companies, especially because there's been little data evaluating the pilot program five years later. That data showed a small decrease in expenditures, but it was unclear if that was because patients got less care or it was delivered more efficiently.
"Governing Florida like a business"
Kenric Ward: "Rick Scott is governing Florida like a business -- and that's made the former health-care CEO the bete noir of pro-labor progressives and union-loving Democrats. But Scott's agenda is just what the voters ordered to revive an ailing economy, say corporate leaders and grass-roots conservatives."
Seth McKee, a political science professor at University of South Florida St. Petersburg, sees built-in problems to running a state like a business."Why Scott the Businessman Energizes as Scott the Governor".
"By its very nature, representation involves lots of compromise and responsiveness to voter concerns, and if Scott continues to be tone deaf, he will be bipartisan in his alienation of political supporters in and outside of Tallahassee. He definitely isn't behaving in a manner that reflects a desire to win re-election," McKee said.
"Perhaps most striking is that he doesn't even bother cultivating support for his plans from the Florida electorate -- beyond a very small group of tea party folks. It's bizarre," McKee added.
But Lee, who served in the state Senate for 10 years, says it would be a mistake to dismiss Scott as some sort of novice.
"The environment drives a lot of the mandate. People want to shrink and right-size government. [Scott] doesn't have the vocabulary of a politician, but it would be naive to underestimate his political acumen. His high-speed rail decision was a good example of that," Lee said.
Political observers have also noted that Scott has stopped short of making a Walker-esque attack on public unions' collective-bargaining privileges[*], which may suggest he's more savvy and less ideological than his critics care to admit. He's at least keeping his options open.
Lee said that even Democratic businessmen he knows are "incensed at the pro-government worker rhetoric" wafting around the state. "These guys look at their offices and half the cubicles are empty. The dynamics of the times drive people's ability to change," he said.
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*That may have changed. See "Ricky's unintelligible comments about collective bargaining". Related: "Media poodles raise their paws in opposition to Florida union busting".
Haridopolos needs to disgorge this $152,000 now
"New Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos was paid $152,000 by Brevard Community College for his 2007 book, 'Florida Legislative History and Processes.' It was supposed to be a textbook-quality look at Florida political history, but its 175 double-spaced pages mostly contain his political advice, with some basic government included. Only one copy exists publicly, stored at the school."
t was supposed to be a textbook-quality look at Florida political history, but its 175 double-spaced pages mostly contain his political advice, with some basic government included. Only one copy exists publicly, stored at the school.Among the brilliance Floridians paid Haridopolos includes: "A cell phone will be essential ... A computer with an internet connection is equally important" an "At a minimum a candidate must know his own position on all the important issues. On the campaign trail, he will be asked about his positions by members of the public, by the media, and possibly by interest groups." "Excerpts from Sen. President Haridopolos' book".
Was it this monumental intellectual achievement that allowed Haridopolos to assume the august position of "guest lecturer" at the University of Florida? At $75,000-a-year no less. Wonder if this inflated salary applies to an FRS pension?
More: "State Senate president leads other life – as prof".
As Scott sleeps, "Florida's center of illicit drug trade"
"After two years and more than 5,000 deaths from prescription drug overdoses, the tool that could be the key to helping reverse Florida's position as a center of illicit drug trade is on the brink of collapse." "A planned database to monitor Florida's infamous pill trade is being swallowed up by politics". Related: "Pill Mill Fight Path Unclear in House".
"Florida gets more time for hi-speed rail". Travis Pillow asks: "What next for Florida’s rail systems?"
Did Ricky reject the cost of the meal?
"Gov. Rick Scott dines with Obama at White House".
And your "free market" solution for this is what ...?
"Florida not only leads the United States in the number of [children who died of abuse or neglect after child welfare authorities had performed at least one investigation], it dominates the nation."
After a controversial decision by child welfare administrators to halve the number of children taken into state care — while reducing the number of children receiving protective services with their birth families — the number of dead children with a child protection investigative history almost doubled, from 35 in 2001 to 69 in 2009. No statistics are available for 2010."Florida leads nation in children who die after abuse inquiry".
Over the past six years, 41 percent of all children who died of abuse or neglect in Florida had been the subject of at least one prior contact with child protection authorities, the state Department of Health reports. The average for all other states: about 12 percent.
Entrepreneurs in action
"Clinic faces $200 million Medicare fraud allegation".
"Florida showdown with the Republican Party"
"Florida may be headed for a showdown with the Republican Party and the early primary states over the date of its 2012 presidential primary."
Some early-state Republicans are even calling for the party's national convention in Tampa to be moved to another state if Florida sticks to its schedule-busting, January primary."Florida may face showdown over early 2012 primary".
The January date jumps ahead of Iowa, New Hampshire and other early states, breaking party rules.
Hard right spoiling for a fight
Hard righter, Nancy Smith appears to be spoiling for a fight with Florida's labor movement. She warns that "for public employees who are the members of these unions -- and I'm talking about teachers more than any other group -- protesting Wisconsin-style comes at great risk. For Florida teachers, the risk is closer to certainty. It's personal and it's not about being part of some grand brotherhood. It's a risk they shouldn't take. Period. You just can't compare the citizens' perception of unions in Florida and Wisconsin."
Smith argues that most Floridians "don't live in a union culture and they have little sympathy for union members or patience for union shenanigans[*]." "Florida Teachers, Beware Wisconsin Stinky-Cheese Effect".
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*Smith loses most readers, except of course her Teabagger audience, when she uses derogatory phrases like "union shenanigans" to denigrate the exercise of a fundamental constitutional right - which is what union concerted activity is in Florida. Too bad, because there may have been the glimmer of a legitimate point somewhere in her column.
"Modernizing Florida's tax structure"
The Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy: "Modernizing Florida's tax structure would (1) close the state's budget gap, (2) prevent the most severe cuts in essential services like education and health care, (3) increase fairness, and (4) fix the state's long-term structural budget deficit." "Tax Modernization Would Produce Revenue for Critical State Needs".
Bondi backwards on civil rights
The Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial board: "Unwisely, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi intends to make it harder for convicted felons to get their civil rights restored. This would be a step backward for the state and for community productivity. ... Bondi has offered few details, but her press release suggests she'd return to the type of cumbersome rights-restoration system of Florida's not-so-distant past." "Wrong way on rights restoration".
"Utility-backed renewable energy legislation returns in the Senate".
"Simply too extreme"
"A handful of high-profile Christian activist groups and conservative legislators have declined to lend their support to Florida’s proposed fetal personhood amendment, an initiative that aims to outlaw abortion and some forms of birth control."
That’s not deterring Personhood Florida leader Bryan Longworth, who says many of those who “have a negative view of the bill have participated in an abortion” and “have to come to grips with the fact that they participated in taking their own child’s life.”"Personhood Florida leader: Many opponents have ‘participated in taking their own child’s life’".
Anti-abortion critics say the initiative is simply too extreme, and are instead supporting legislation like a bill that would require that women seeking an abortion undergo mandatory ultrasounds.
"U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson has already dealt the Obama administration a staggering blow on health reform, and this week the administration may get another one from the fiery Florida judge." "Obama's 'risky move' in Florida".
Natural environment preservation programs on the chopping block
"Eager to slash taxes and restrain government spending, Gov. Rick Scott and Republican budget-cutters in Congress are seeking to chop big chunks of state and federal funding for programs designed to preserve the natural environment."
Government regulations to clean the air and water and prevent global warming are under attack. Even Everglades restoration, long a sacred cow for environmentalists and leaders of both political parties, may fall victim to the budget ax."Budget cuts could kill environmental programs".
Stop "Waiting for Stoopid"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Orange County School Board Chair Bill Sublette shoots down the myth of charters as 'a silver bullet,' an impression that might have been left with those who saw the documentary 'Waiting for 'Superman.''"
Orange has closed six charters since the first one opened in 1997, including Cyber High in 2002, MESTA High in 2004 and Origins Montessori Charter School in 2007. Not that it's a simple matter to pull the plug on a lousy operator. Imminent threats to health and safety are the surest route to closure. Otherwise, charter sponsors must document other "good causes" such as student performance and financial woes. And then provide the charter 90 days to clean up its act. After that, schools can drag out a closure for months with appeals."Charter schools can offer rewards, but risks in oversight".
Meanwhile, there's evidence that the seductive promise of impressive gains may be overstated. A recent U.S. Department of Education report found that fourth-graders in traditional public schools outscored their peers in charter schools on average by 4.2 points in reading and 4.7 points in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test.
Will Bondi hide under her desk?
"A group of faith community leaders will submit a petition to the State Attorney’s Office in Orlando Friday morning requesting that Florida Attorney General Pan Bondi hold banks accountable for their role in the mortgage crisis that has caused an avalanche of foreclosures." "Churches petition state's Attorney General to go after banks over foreclosure".
"Early voting began Monday at 20 locations in the recall election for Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez. More than 20,000 absentee ballots have already been returned for the March 15 election." "Early voting begins Monday in Miami-Dade recall election".