"Scott has claimed victory on every front"
Scott "rode into office pledging to slash billions of dollars in taxes, dramatically reduce the size of government and create 700,000 jobs."
A year later, during hundreds of media appearances, speeches and workdays, Scott has claimed victory on every front."Fearful that he could be a drag on Republicans in the 2012 elections,"
Democrats "are really frustrated because I did what I said I was going to do. They're just shocked," he told a Republican governors' meeting in Orlando in November.
But the picture of Scott that is emerging after his first year in office is far more nuanced, one of political retrenchment and policy recalculation.
Entering his second year, his approval ratings remain abysmal — hovering just over 30 percent in most polls — despite a midsummer overhaul of his inner ring of advisers and a strategic shift away from objectives such as cutting corporate taxes and slashing funding for schools.
Scott's political team has ramped up fundraising, amassing $424,500 from insurance and business interests, through the political fund called "Let's Get to Work" that helped pay for his $80 million barrage of ads in 2010."Scott's first year marked by retrenchment, recalculation".
The effort, led by campaign strategist Tony Fabrizio, is to take over the "branding" attempts previously handled by the Republican Party of Florida, which paid for robo-calls to voters and Web advertising to highlight Scott's accomplishments last spring.
"It's so people know it's basically his brand," said lobbyist Brian Ballard, who is helping raise money for the group.
Haridopolos the "Loser of the year"
Times Political Editor Adam C. Smith gives us his "political winners and losers of 2011", beginning with the
Winner of the yearMuch more here: "The winners and losers list of 2011 Florida politics".
Jeb Bush. Absence makes the heart grow fonder every day, especially when Republicans compare the former Florida governor to the current field of presidential contenders and his two successors as governor.
Loser of the year
Mike Haridopolos. The Florida Senate president presided over an embarrassingly ugly session finale where he looked positively weepy about getting rolled by the Florida House. Then, before admitting that he lied to reporters about approving a severance deal for ousted GOP chairman Jim Greer, Haridopolos had to quit his collapsing U.S. Senate campaign that risked permanently damaging his political brand amid publicity about sweetheart book deals and consulting contracts he never could explain reasonably.
"The St. Petersburg Times will become the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday. Newspaper officials announced the change in November, saying the new name reflects the newspaper's growth across the Tampa Bay region." "St. Petersburg Times changes name Jan. 1".
"Florida will leap to national prominence this month"
Thomas Tryon: "The news from Florida in 2012 will be full of surprises — sensational trials that haven't even been placed on judicial dockets, exposes of celebrities who have yet to expose themselves, weird occurrences, unnaturally intense natural disasters and genuinely unexpected events."
Florida will leap right into national prominence this month, when the Legislature opens its annual session — earlier than the usual spring opening — on Jan. 10. Besides passing a budget, the Legislature's priority will be drawing the boundaries of state Senate and House, and congressional districts. Reapportionment, as the process is known, is always contentious but a pair of factors — Florida's gain of two congressional seats and the first-time application of two constitutional amendments governing redistricting — will raise the stakes and intensify the scrutiny beyond the norm."Maneuvering over reapportionment will commence from the outset of the legislative session — actually, it's been going on for months — but resolution of redistricting will be pre-empted by the Jan. 31 presidential-preference primary for Republicans."
What's more, the likely legal challenges of the Legislature's redrawn maps will add to confusion over which candidates will run for which offices — and where.
Florida will be the third state — and the first populous one — to conduct a presidential primary following the Iowa caucuses Tuesday (yes, this Tuesday, which is also the last day to register to vote in Florida's presidential primary)."Starting April 16, candidates for judicial offices, state attorney and public defender begin the official qualifying process. ... May is likely to be crunch time for completion of reapportionment, including reviews by the state Supreme Court and U.S. Justice Department."
Since there is no single front-runner among the nine Republican candidates on the ballot in Florida (can anyone name all of them without cheating?) and the outcome of voting in our state is pivotal, the campaigns and candidates with a chance to win will blanket the state.
It will be a spectacle, at the least, with the aftermath and analysis carrying us well into February — as the Legislature continues its session.
The Legislature's deadline for producing the maps of reapportioned districts is March 9 — although approval might require a special session later in the month.
In June, the festivities will take on a new sense of urgency and, barring some sort of disaster or court intervention (remember, this is Florida; anything is possible), many of the races will materialize. For a week — starting June 4 — federal, statewide, multi-county, county and district candidates must file their final papers for qualifying to run."This year will be all about elections".
We'll find out then which incumbents will be unchallenged and which will face opposition; we'll also learn the matchups of the candidates for open seats.
Following the filing dates, candidates with partisan opposition will make a two-month sprint toward the Aug. 14 primaries.
Statewide, the most-watched race will be the Republican primary to select the candidate who will challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in November. This year, some of the primaries for legislative seats could be intriguing if, because of redistricting, sitting legislators run against each other.
Imagine that: "Scott agency gives itself good grades"
"Gov. Rick Scott's jobs agency gives itself good grades".
Slowing the "assault on ... public employees"?
The Palm Beach Post editorial board suggests that
the Florida Legislature probably will have a more moderate, limited agenda when it convenes this month. That's a change from last year's assault on teachers and other public employees. Lawmakers will be so focused on self-serving redistricting that they won't have time for much else."Out with the old. Please. We've had it with Europe's debt, attacks on teachers and Congress' follies".
Only bean counters need apply
"More than tripling the number of graduate degrees awarded in science, technology, engineering and math by 2025 and more than doubling those same bachelor degrees are part of a plan that one local leader says will attract more businesses to Florida." "Board of Governors targets increase in math, science degrees".
Neanderthals battle for Senate presidency
"State Sen. Jack Latvala is mounting a behind-the-scenes campaign for the Senate presidency that could alter the direction of the state Legislature and produce benefits for the Tampa Bay area if it succeeds."
Latvala recently launched a challenge to Sen. Andy Gardiner of Orlando, who is known as a hard-line conservative and has been campaigning for the post for more than a year."Bay area lawmaker makes bid to lead state Senate".
A Clearwater Republican, Latvala is perceived by some as a comparative moderate mounting an insurgency against the conservatives who dominate the Legislature.
Latvala disputes those perceptions, pointing out that he's already part of Republican Senate leadership and has a long history as a conservative Republican, earning a 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union from the 2011 legislative session.
"I resist the characterization of this as some sort of maverick taking on the establishment," he said in an interview. "I think I have as much right to be called the establishment as anyone does."
But he acknowledges he wants to make the Senate more deliberative and collegial, with room for members' independence, as he says it was when he first served there from 1994 to 2002.
"Six areas that should receive particular attention in 2012"
The Miami Herald editors: "Resolutions made now by Florida and Tampa Bay can lead to a smarter investments in time and talent to ensure a brighter future. Here are six areas that should receive particular attention in 2012." "Six resolutions for 2012".
The Miami Herald editorial board: "In Miami, where construction and tourism drove the local economy’s spectacular rise in the early part of the last decade, the downturn has hit particularly hard."
Tourism has been on the rebound for some time, however, and shows no sign of abating. International visitors from Brazil and elsewhere are not only spending their vacations here, but snapping up real-estate bargains with gusto, one of the few glimmers of light in an otherwise gloomy picture. "More than jobs: a winning strategy". See also "Our goals for a vibrant 2012"."
Recovery also depends on devising solutions to save vital public services, instead of simply cutting payrolls across the board to make ends meet. The Miami-Dade County School Board and Superintendant Alberto Carvalho offered a good example by making do with reduced revenues from taxpayers and from Tallahassee — which has cut education support to local districts unmercifully for years — without firing teachers.
Broward County School District, take note. It can be done, with the right leadership and agreement on priorities. Every entity that relies on property tax dollars has had to learn how to make do with less. In 2012, that need will be just as great, but in Miami-Dade County, Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who took office after the recall of former Mayor Carlos Alvarez, has shown a keen appreciation for the need to impose austerity at County Hall. Yet he has avoided the mistake of wholesale dismissals and has offered unions a tradeoff in the form of lower salaries in exchange for jobs security.Ultimately, however, neither tourism, construction nor public budgets lead the way toward a new and better economy for South Florida.
The answer lies in providing a nurturing environment for the driving forces of the 21st Century economy, including biotechnology, other forms of science and cyber-communications. The region needs jobs that will keep our local young talent here and avoid a brain drain.A strong example is MAKO Surgical, a medical device company founded in 2004 that employs more than 400 workers, including over 100 engineers, focusing on the use of robotics in orthopedic surgery. Headquartered in Broward County, it is one of the fastest growing technology companies in the country. The University of Miami’s biotech center also will attract more tech businesses to South Florida.Still to be decided: Casino gambling.
Community leaders have stepped up to hold forums on whether three resort destinations in South Florida would offer the right mix for the area’s economic future, and whether the proliferation of other gambling can be stemmed with a proposed statewide gambling commission. As the Legislature considers the issue, it’s important to give local voters a voice by the ballot box to decide such a game-changer.
Race to Tampa
"GOP race to Tampa starts with Tuesday's caucus in Iowa".