Scott's "shallow and poll-driven" state of the state
"Scott welcomed back the Legislature to an election-year session Tuesday with an upbeat State of the State speech that centered on creating jobs, holding the line on taxes and spending more on schools."
Addressing a packed House chamber and live TV audience in a halting delivery, Scott struck a cooperative tone and mostly played it safe with his priorities. The Republican governor demanded that lawmakers spend $1 billion more for schools after a $1.3 billion school budget cut last year, an about-face Democrats later mocked as shallow and poll-driven. ..."Scott vows to increase education funding in State of State speech". Related: "House Speaker calls attention to higher education", "Cannon urges 'dialogue' on higher-education reform" and "Major University Reform May Take Several Sessions".
The call for additional education funding was one of the few policy specifics in Scott's 33-minute talk. A key Republican, Senate Budget Committee Chairman JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said legislators will find the money.
"I think it's an important priority and one that I believe the Senate supports," Alexander said.
House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, raised a different issue on Opening Day. Cannon, a former University of Florida student body president, wants to "start a dialogue" about reducing parochialism and political game-playing that he says undermines the quality of the state university system.
The Tampa Tribune editors: "Scott, who was elected governor after living in Florida only seven years, still expresses a limited view of a state whose overwhelming growth created costly problems and ultimately led to a devastating economic collapse." "Future more complex than Scott envisions".
The Miami Herald editorial board: "If Floridians were looking for the thoughtful compassionate conservatism of a Jeb Bush or the folksy populism of the late 'he coon' Lawton Chiles, they couldn’t find it in the governor’s halting 34-minute delivery. Not that style should trump substance, but in that arena, too, Mr. Scott’s details were sorely lacking."
No mention of his Medicaid reform plan, for instance, though the governor’s budget proposal would require cutting almost $2 billion from the state’s $21 billion Medicaid program that serves three million poor Floridians, mostly children and the elderly. It’s an overhaul that will hit the already struggling Jackson Health System particularly hard."Jobs, jobs, jobs? Invest, invest, invest".
No mention of Everglades clean-up programs, which were stripped last year when the Legislature gutted funding from water-management districts throughout the state and eviscerated the state’s growth-management law.
No mention of the biggest game changer facing Florida: an expansion into destination-resort gambling that could result in three full-fledged casinos in the state — and, based on the Senate bill that passed its first committee, would open the door for every parimutuel already operating to have casino games like blackjack without ever investing a penny into those locales or putting the screws on suspect video machines, AKA maquinitas. Does the governor agree? ...
The governor’s solution to Florida’s ills seems to be a pledge for cutting more taxes and “slashing red tape.”
But wait. Florida already is a low-tax state for business, and the “red tape” he mentioned has long been gone from key oversight agencies — with life-threatening consequences. The Herald’s “Neglected to Death” series exposed the flaws of weak regulations and poor oversight by the state’s agency in charge of licensing assisted living facilities for the frail elderly or mentally or physically disabled.
Should Floridians look forward to more such red-tape slashing? We hope not, governor.
The Tampa Bay Times editors say "the governor took the safest political route, not the courageous one." "Scott's limited agenda". See also "Gov. Scott, in State of State address, sees Florida skies brightening" and "Rick Scott Pledges $1 Billion More for Schools and No Tax Hikes".
Scott Maxwell: "On schools, it's New Rick vs. Old Rick".
More: "Governor touts PIP changes in his 2nd State of the State address" and "Environmental issues left out of opening-day speeches as protestors chant outside".
Obama, Romney neck-and-neck in Florida
"Florida voters disapprove of President Barack Obama's job performance, say he doesn't deserve to be reelected and narrowly prefer[*] Republican Mitt Romney in a theoretical matchup, according to a new poll."
Romney would get 46 percent of the Florida vote to Obama's 43 percent if the election were held today, Quinnipiac University's latest poll of Florida finds. The poll also shows that incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is essentially tied with U.S. Rep. Connie Mack in a theoretical matchup, with Nelson earning 41 percent of the vote and Mack 40 percent."Majority of Floridians say Obama should be one-termer. Many prefer Romney". See also "Obama running neck and neck with Romney, Santorum in new Florida poll" and "Poll: Florida headed for another close election".
This isn't the only bad news for Democrats in the poll. It also continues to show that Republicans are far more excited than Democrats about voting this year. More than half of Republicans describe themselves as enthusiastic about casting ballots. Only 29 percent of Democrats feel that way.
Obama's problems are particularly striking. The economy is showing more signs of improvement. And Republicans are starting to savage each other in the GOP primary.
But voters seem unimpressed. Even the Republican polling in third place this primary season, Rick Santorum, is in a statistical tie with Obama, the poll shows. Chances are, Obama would face Romney, who's the GOP frontrunner.
Obama's greatest strengths: black voters — who favor him 92-4 over Romney — and young voters, who side with Obama over Romney by a 51-39 percent spread. Independent voters, who tend to call elections in Florida, also favor Obama over Romney, 47-39.
But Hispanic voters are almost evenly split between the two. White voters, who outnumber black voters in Florida, favor Romney by 21 percentage points. And older than 49 are in Romney's camp right now by relatively significant margins.
The Quinnipiac release: "January 11, 2012 - Obama Ties Romney, Santorum In Florida, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Nelson, Mack Senate Race Too Close To Call" ("January 4 - 8, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,412 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.6 percentage points.")
As for the GOP primary, "January 9, 2012 - Romney Has Big GOP Likely Voter Lead In Florida, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Most Voters Say They Might Change Their Mind" ("January 4 - 8, Quinnipiac University surveyed 560 Republican likely primary voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percentage points.") Related: "Rep. Mack has early lead in Fla. GOP Senate survey" and "Connie Mack has early lead in Florida GOP Senate survey".
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Actually, the results are well within the 2.6% margin of error - recall that the margin of error applies to to each figure in the results – Romney's 46 percent and Obama's 43 are both subject to the 2.6% sampling error (a/k/a margin of error).
Session opens amid budget concerns, redistricting
"Florida lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott christened an election-year legislative session Tuesday with the potentially conflicting goals of cutting spending, boosting aid to classrooms, and crafting new political lines that could decide who returns to the Capitol next year." "Florida Legislature opens session amid budget concerns". More: "Florida legislative session will kick off with redistricting, budget battles".
Haridopolos suggests that Senate "wait" on the budget
"The leaders of the two state legislative chambers continued to offer different views on how to handle the budget process they will oversee in the next 60 days. House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, in his opening remarks expressed confidence that the budget would be completed within the scheduled timeframe. ... Meanwhile, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, a few moments later, addressing his chamber, asked his members if they would be willing to focus first on the required once-a-decade redistricting and 'wait' on the budget." "Senate President Suggests Waiting Until After Session to Complete Budget". See also "Governor, legislative leaders lay out budget priorities at start of session".
Last look at redistricting
"Senate panel takes last look at Florida redistricting".
Latino evangelical voter drive
"While pushing for immigration reform, a national Latino evangelical group launched a voter registration drive in Florida on Tuesday as part of a campaign to influence this year’s elections." "Latino evangelicals launch voter drive in Florida". See also "Young Hispanics urged at get-out-the-vote rally to get engaged about issues".
"Progressives rally at capitol"
"Progressives rally at the capitol on first day of session (Updated)". Related: "Protestors left and right as session opens in Tallahassee", "100 at West Palm rally blast Florida's GOP-controlled legislature as session opens" and "Occupy Group Barred from State Senate Gallery".
Browning to quit
Steve Bousquet writes that Secretary of State Kurt "Browning's resignation as the state's top elections official is anticipated this week, and [a] meeting [this morning] is a signal that it's imminent." "Capitol Buzz: 5 things to watch today in Tallahassee".
Solar rebate program
"Bills would provide $26 million toward solar rebate program that ended in 2010".
"Tea Parties Split Over E-Verify"
"Dozens of tea parties, including the state's largest, say they will support an E-Verify immigration bill at the 2012 Legislature. But with some libertarian-leaning conservatives balking at the issue, the path to passage looks more precarious than ever." "Tea Parties Split Over E-Verify, Diluting Prospects for Passage".
Q Poll: Floridians like casinos, oppose medicare cuts and give Scott a negative 38 - 50 percent rating
"By a slim 48 - 43 percent margin, Florida voters support the creation of Las Vegas style gambling casinos, but by a larger 61 - 33 percent margin, they believe casinos would be good for the state's economy, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today."
Florida voters oppose by an overwhelming 67 - 24 percent the idea of cutting Medicaid spending in order to free up state funding for education, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh- pe-ack) University poll finds."January 10, 2012 - Florida Voters Barely Support Vegas-Style Casinos, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Opposition To Medicaid Cut Tops 2-1" ("January 4 - 8, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,412 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.6 percentage points.")
Gov. Rick Scott has a negative 38 - 50 percent job approval rating, compared to his previous high score, a negative 37 - 50 percent score last September 11, still one of the lowest job approval ratings of any governor in the seven states in which Quinnipiac University conducts surveys.
By 34 - 16 percent, voters say Florida's economy is worse rather than better since Scott took office, with 45 percent saying it is about the same. Those who say it has improved credit Scott 81 - 13 percent rather than President Barack Obama for the improvement. Those who say it has declined, however, blame the governor rather than the president 65 - 19 percent.
Related: "Poll: Voters like casinos, oppose health care cuts to fund schools" and "Poll shows Florida voters narrowly support destination resort casinos". Meanwhile, "House set to talk gambling Wednesday", "Odds Grow Against Casino Bill Even as it Succeeds in Committee". Related: "State Chamber forms 'Bad Bet' coalition to fight casino bill".
"Rules for shackling pregnant women"
"A bill that would create uniform and humane rules for the shackling of incarcerated pregnant women passed the state Senate unanimously today." "Anti-shackling bill passes unanimously in state Senate".
Claims bills move
"Senate passes Dillon and Brody claims bill". See also "Senate passes two claims bills on first day of session".
What's wrong with Hillsborough?
"The head of a local Muslim organization, Hassan Shibly, found himself fielding questions about two radically different events Tuesday."
On Monday, with the aid of Shibly and local Muslims, the FBI arrested a local man suspected of terrorism."CAIR chief says criticism rooted in misconceptions". See also "Right-wing coalition upset about Muslim group’s school presentation".
Later that day, Shibly and the Hillsborough County school district came under fire from David Caton and his American Family Association for a high school program on Islam.
Graham says "no" to run against Scott
"Bob Graham Shuts the Door on Rumored 2014 Run for Governor".
Proposed overhaul to state's no-fault insurance laws
"Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, has proposed a "comprehensive" overhaul to the state's no-fault insurance laws." "Insurance overhaul in bill".
Chamber, AIF ad duel over casinos
"Another sign that the high-intensity fight over expanding casino gambling in Florida: practically back-to-back television ads during the BCS Championship. The Florida Chamber of Commerce's 'Bad Bet for Florida' features a classroom of kids and is running in Tallahassee and another market. Meanwhile, Associated Industries of Florida's ad features American actor, writer, lawyer and commentator Ben Stein promoting the gambling venues as a jobs creator." "TV ads for, against gambling". See also "VIDEO: Supporters, opponents of Florida casino bill face off in the media".
Family Research Council jumps on "fetal personhood" amendment
"Personhood Florida received a major endorsement this week from the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins. The announcement is significant for the Florida affiliate of Personhood USA, which wants to place a 'fetal personhood' amendment on the Sunshine State’s 2014 ballot." "Family Research Council gets behind Personhood Florida".
"Primary date could move again"
"The Florida Legislature is considering a bill that would move back the date of the statewide primary election a week, from Aug. 14 to Aug. 21. The legislation (SB 7042) is scheduled to be considered at Wednesday's meeting of the Senate Rules Subcommittee on Ethics and Elections chaired by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a Miami Republican." "Primary date could move again".
Cain to endorse Miller?
"Herman Cain will appear Thursday with Florida Republican U.S. Senate candidate Craig Miller for a 'major announcement.' Sure sounds like an endorsement, and we hear Cain will drop in for a fundraiser with Miller after the event in Winter Park." "Herman Cain to appear with Senate candidate Craig Miller".
Will dogs kill casinos?
"The push to bring mega-casinos to South Florida faces a host of unknowns: would local voters approve the proposal in a public referendum? Will state lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott even allow the issue to get that far? But another, quite-crucial question also needs to be asked: Will horse and dog tracks just kill the entire thing?" "Will horse and dog tracks kill push for mega-casinos in Florida?".