The Miami Herald editorial board: "Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ boyish charm and leadership are so smudged by the fudge he has spread over his legislative career that his colleagues would do better without him."
The latest exhibit against him is his admission that he lied to a reporter about a key issue in the ongoing saga of an ousted chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. Lying to a reporter is not a crime, but doing so deceives and breaks the faith of the readers and viewers of those false statements."Leadership smudged by the fudge".
Mr. Haridopolos’ backtracking came in a sworn deposition in a lawsuit brought by Jim Greer, the ex-party chairman, who wants the $124,000 settlement promised him for his resignation. Mr. Haridopolos had told Miami Herald reporter Marc Caputo in a videotaped interview that there was no such settlement. Now he says he wasn’t truthful because he thought the settlement was confidential. Gee, has he never heard of “No comment”? Or “That’s confidential”?
Mr. Greer has been charged by a statewide grand jury with fraud and money laundering related to party fundraising and payments to himself. He has claimed that party officials knew of his activities and are using the criminal inquiry as an excuse not to pay the settlement.
Mr. Haridopolos’ testimony also was replete with fuzzy memories about transfers of large sums, of his own consultant having meetings about the settlement and even if he had voted for Greer as chairman in 2009.
Mr. Greer, the Senate president testified, was a bit of a nasty fellow although Mr. Haridopolos praised him when he resigned. Nice words but all “political,” he says. That’s a candid if telling admission about politics. This is hardly the memory that one might expect from an erstwhile history professor. And hardly the transparency he promised when with great trumpets he removed the door to his office to herald his arrival as state Senate president in November, 2010.
That transparency has been absent in his professional life since he was elected in 2000 to the Florida House. He first collected $150,000 from his former employer, Brevard Community College, for writing a book of “historical value.” So said the college. The 175-page result details his political observations. Since when do community colleges receive public money to sponsor such books? Mr. Haridopolos also got $75,000, full-time pay, for teaching one class at the University of Florida. When questioned about his lack of a doctorate for that pay level, he said he was earning one at the University of Arkansas. The university said he had not been enrolled there since 2000.
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Term limits sap expertise and empower lobbyists, but residents approved them 2-to-1".
"Connie Mack, son of a former senator and grandson of a famous baseball manager, is far outpacing the rest of the field of Republican Senate candidates in Florida." "Poll: Mack holds big lead in GOP Senate race".
But they looked the other way when WalMart crushed "mom-and-pop shops"
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon have been all too happy to stand by and let the nation's Internet-only retailers reap huge competitive advantages over Florida merchants, thanks to a giant loophole in sales tax policy."
But now that the largest among these carpetbaggers — Amazon.com — is engaging in predatory practices specifically designed to undermine bricks-and-mortar retailers, will they finally stand up for Florida merchants, workers and schoolchildren by passing Internet sales tax reform? Or will they continue to do the bidding of out-of-state companies who don't employee Floridians or support our communities?"Close Web sales tax loophole".
The company that has blocked sales tax reform across the country launched an all-out attack on traditional retailers this month. Amazon transformed its vast customer base into an army of corporate spies. Customers who used Amazon's price-check application in a traditional store that day could buy select items from Amazon for 5 percent less. The gimmick cost Amazon little. Customers could collect no more than $15 in savings over three items. But in exchange, the behemoth gained a vast collection of information on its competition, from big-box retailers to mom-and-pop shops.
As Scott dithers, 20 percent of Floridians rely on public charity (the rest of us)
The Miami Herald editors: "At the state level, Gov. Rick Scott is trying to persuade the Obama administration to give Florida a waiver from federal requirements in return for Medicaid funds. The main issue is how to control the unmanageable costs — Medicaid now takes the lion’s share of the state budget — without shortchanging patients. The irony is that Republicans in Tallahassee condemn the federal healthcare overhaul for 'rationing care' but they’ve devised a system that perforce rations care for Medicaid patients by putting them into managed-care systems."
Whether this is a good idea is unclear because the effectiveness of the state’s Medicaid reform plan has yet to be tested. But a recent study by Georgetown University and a private fund says 800,000 people may be forced out of Medicaid if they must pay the state’s proposed $10 per month premium.Meanwhile, Gov. Scott has turned down millions in planning funds from Washington to begin implementing the Affordable Care Act, under the dubious theory that it’s not legal until the Supreme Court says so. Even governors of other states who don’t like the new healthcare law are eagerly accepting the money. Mr. Scott should do likewise. "America’s failing healthcare system".
The Supreme Court’s failure to uphold the Affordable Care Act would be a huge setback for reform. Consider: Florida is the lead plaintiff in the case, and yet the sorry state of our state should be Exhibit A for the federal government, given that 20 percent of Florida residents don’t have insurance and have to rely on public charity (the rest of us) when they have to go to a hospital.
Until the court decides, though, there’s other work to be done at the federal level. At last count, 781 cases of Medicare fraud had been brought in the Southern District of Florida between 2005 and 2011, involving $2.9 billion in fraudulent claims. A total of 160 defendants were charged in the year that ended Sept. 30.
"Money for work on nuclear plants"
"An advocacy group notified the state Public Service Commission that it is taking the unusual step of appealing an order that allows utilities to collect money for work on future or existing nuclear plants." "Clean energy group to challenge PSC decision on nuke funding".
"Scott’s office announced a few personnel changes on Thursday ahead of the new year."
Bonnie Hazelton is the new director of the Office of Open Government, replacing Carolyn Timmann, who left the position to run for the Martin County Clerk of Courts. Hazelton was most recently the director of the Office of the Ombudsman and Public Services at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection."Gov. Scott's office announces staff reshuffling".
Tom Doughty will take the reins of the Information Technology department of Scott’s office. He replaces Bruce Slager as IT director.
Mike Dew takes over as director of external affairs for Scott’s office from Karen Giorno, who served in that position since April. Dew will carry on supervising Scott’s regional representatives as he does in his current role as director of public liaisons.
Julie Kay Roberts fills a vacancy in Scott’s office as chief of protocol, but will continue in her current position as director of scheduling.
"In a press release Thursday, the RPOF said Kristen McDonald, who was a communications assistant, will be the party's press secretary. She completed a six-month internship early this year in Gov. Rick Scott's communications office. ... Dan Dawson joins the RPOF staff as new media director. He was a travel aide and new media director on Jeff Atwater’s CFO campaign. Dawson then started his own consulting business. This year he ran the 'war room' in Orlando for Jon Huntsman's presidential campaign." "RPOF appoints two during staff changes".
"Winn-Dixie recalls canned green beans".
"The minimum wage rises 36 cents -- about 5 percent -- to $7.67 an hour beginning Jan. 1." "Minimum wage rises Sunday".
Clemens may run for a Senate seat
"Rep. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, whose District 89 seat is being broken up by redistricting, says he will run for a Senate seat in central Palm Beach County if one is created during the Legislature's redrawing of district maps." "Orphaned House member says he'll run for Senate".
Session Outlook: Economic Development, Redistricting and Utilities and Energy
"2012 Session Outlook: Economic Development", "2012 Session Outlook: Redistricting and Reapportionment" and "2012 Session Outlook: Utilities and Energy".
To the victor go the spoils
The Sun Sentinel editorial board: "Florida's government spends billions in taxpayer dollars on contracts for goods and services. The total only grows as private companies take over more state responsibilities, like prisons and child protection. And the sheer volume of contracts magnifies the risk that waste, fraud or abuse will go undetected. Jeff Atwater, Florida's chief financial officer wants the Legislature to add another set of eyes — his — to the contracting process. At a time when lawmakers are slashing basic services to balance the budget, any reasonable effort to ensure state government is getting a good deal for taxpayers deserves serious consideration." "Let CFO review contracts".
So long as it isn't just another manifestation of the Florida Republican Party spoils system. As Paul Krugman pointed out,
there's a lot of experience with privatization by governments at all levels -- state, federal, and local; that record doesn't support extravagant claims about improved efficiency. Sometimes there are significant cost reductions, but all too often the promised savings turn out to be a mirage. In particular, it's common for private contractors to bid low to get the business, then push their prices up once the government work force has been disbanded. Projections of a 20 or 30 percent cost saving across the board are silly -- and one suspects that the officials making those projections know that. ..."Victors and Spoils"
We don't have to speculate about what will follow, because Jeb Bush has already blazed the trail. Florida's governor [was] an aggressive privatizer, and as The Miami Herald put it after a careful study of state records, ''his bold experiment has been a success -- at least for him and the Republican Party, records show. The policy has spawned a network of contractors who have given him, other Republican politicians and the Florida G.O.P. millions of dollars in campaign donations.''
What's interesting about this network of contractors isn't just the way that big contributions are linked to big contracts; it's the end of the traditional practice in which businesses hedge their bets by giving to both parties. The big winners in Mr. Bush's Florida are companies that give little or nothing to Democrats. Strange, isn't it? It's as if firms seeking business with the state of Florida are subject to a loyalty test.
So am I saying that we are going back to the days of Boss Tweed and Mark Hanna? Gosh, no -- those guys were pikers. One-party control of today's government offers opportunities to reward friends and punish enemies that the old machine politicians never dreamed of.
"Troubling and reminiscent"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "A new study by the Americans for Insurance Reform should reverberate in Tallahassee as Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers prepare to reform no-fault auto insurance, including personal injury protection, or PIP."
The project of the New York Law School's Center for Justice and Democracy claims insurers have faked some of the industry's "crises" to pump up profits and concludes that the professed need for premiums to rise to outpace claims and other expenses is simply a myth."Sworn testimony needed at insurance hearings".
The insurance industry was quick to dispute the study, insisting that insurance markets remain competitive and coverage remains affordable. Still, the findings are troubling and reminiscent of another insurance crisis back in 2003 that had tied up the state capital in controversy.
Medical malpractice was the burning issue, and at the time the war of words between the attorneys, physicians, insurance industry, not to mention then-Gov. Jeb Bush and Senate President Jim King, left lawmakers reeling as to how best to proceed in crafting a meaningful reform.
Enter the seemingly extraordinary idea of taking sworn testimony as senators used the chamber's subpoena powers to obtain answers to a host of questions that had eluded them, such as "How much money is the insurance industry taking in from premiums and how much is it paying out in benefits?" Or, "Have some insurers moved profits around to conceal profits?"
T-Shirt sales booming
"Business in 2011: Has Anyone Heard the Governor Mention the Word 'Jobs'?".
"The Tampa Bay area a hotbed for anti-Muslim activity"
"The Tampa Bay area has emerged as a hotbed for Muslim and anti-Muslim activity. The local director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations says he's trying to cool things down." "Muslim Leader Reaches Out to Build Bridges in Tampa Bay".
Nancy Smith: "Rick Scott: Florida's 2011 Man for All Reasons".
"So much for public safety or good government"
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Five years after Florida's Legislature voted to cloak the names of people holding concealed weapons permits, the number of permits issued has more than doubled. But the most disturbing thing? Floridians have no right to know if their neighbors, estranged spouses or co-workers could be packing. Nor do they have any way to ensure that government bureaucrats are actually denying permits to people who shouldn't have them. So much for public safety or good government." "Lift gun law's cloak of secrecy".
Special districts under the gun
"One of Gov. Rick Scott's first moves in the new year will be to call for a sweeping review of some of the state's oldest governments - Florida's more than 1,600 special districts." "Gov. Scott's latest target: Florida's taxing districts".
Update: "Bogdanoff offers new proposals on gaming bill".
"HB 4173 would repeal the statute allowing for summer jai alai permits, while SB 1376 would more clearly defines jai alai, horse racing, greyhound dog racing and the parameters for facilities to get new slot machines." "Battle over pari-mutuel loopholes prompts new bills from lawmakers".
Related: "Genting hype is hurting casino bill".