Fla-Bagger cage match heats up
"Republican Reps. John Mica and Sandy Adams -- locked in a battle for Central Florida's 7th Congressional District -- are trading barbs over who's raising the most money and where."
Adams, a freshman from Oviedo, says Mica raised less than 1 percent of his campaign cash from residents of his district.
"John Mica, Sandy Adams Clash Over Cash for Campaigns, Transportation".
Mica, a 10-term veteran and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, counters that Adams relied heavily on out-of-district contributions during her campaigns for the Florida House.
A Mica spokesman said that of "more than 10,000 individual contributors throughout his career, 6,500 are from Central Florida."
As for Adams' assertion that she pulled in more money than the congressman in the past year, spokesman Alan Byrd said Mica "has intentionally not approached people in the district about fundraising in non-election years."
In a race that is drawing national attention for pitting two incumbent Republicans against each other, the Mica-Adams match-up presents an intriguing contrast of insider versus outsider.
Adams, who rode a wave of tea party fervor to oust Democratic Rep. Suzanne Kosmas in 2010, is a darling of the GOP conservative base. And Adams touts her homegrown financial support, noting that Florida residents contributed $203,374 -- more than one-third of her $596,345 total -- in the last campaign cycle.
Affordable Care Act challenged for partisan reasons
The Tampa Bay Times editors: "The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the most significant expansion of America's safety net since Medicare was created in 1965. While the landmark law won't take full effect until 2014, parts of it already provide Americans with better health care security and peace of mind. These accomplishments won't be reflected in the legal arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court this week in the challenge launched by Florida and 25 other states."
Beyond the Affordable Care Act's future positive impact, the law is improving access to health care right now. If the law is overturned, parents would lose the right to keep their adult children on their policy until the child turns 26 years old, a change that has led to more than 157,000 young adults gaining coverage in Florida and 2.5 million nationally. Health insurers would again be allowed to engage in "rescission," or the cancellation of an individual policy after the insured gets sick. They could charge consumers for preventive care, deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, and reimpose lifetime maximums so that people with chronic conditions, such as cancer, risk crushing medical bills even with insurance.
"Losing Affordable Care Act protections would be tremendous loss".
No longer would insurers have to provide consumers with good value by spending at least 80 percent of premium dollars on health care rather than overhead and executive salaries. Gov. Rick Scott tried to get Florida a waiver from this rule, but the Obama administration wisely rejected the request. Seniors would lose the law's relief from the prescription drug doughnut hole, which currently provides a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs and will close the doughnut hole entirely by 2020.
Meanwhile, the Palm Beach Post editorial board points out that "75 percent of Americans believe that Supreme Court justices will listen to this week's arguments on the Affordable Care Act with partisan ears. That's no surprise. The law is being challenged for partisan reasons."
Florida and 25 other states with Republican attorneys general claim that the law's requirements that individuals buy health insurance and states expand Medicaid are unconstitutional. ...
"GOP won't claim victory for Affordable Care Act". Sad: "Conservatives rally in Orlando against Obama health reform".
A bipartisan Congress could have amended the law to address its weaknesses, since many key elements once had bipartisan support. Instead, we have had myths. Example: The cost-cutting Independent Payment Advisory Board is a "death panel." As a result, most Americans dislike the law overall but very much like key parts of it.
If the Supreme Court overturns the law, there is no fallback plan on which both parties agree. It could be another generation before meaningful reform. That's the danger of putting partisanship before policy.
Back at the ranch: "VIDEO: RNC releases first anti-health care reform ad".
"'Stand your ground' law is a menace"
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board takes on "the indefensible 'stand your ground' law. Florida lawmakers passed this first-of-its-kind law in 2005 at the behest of the National Rifle Association and over the objections of law enforcement."
A review of the use of the law by Tampa Bay Times staff writers Ben Montgomery and Connie Humburg found that it has excused mayhem and has been inconsistently applied. Since the law was created, there have been 130 "stand your ground" cases, with the use of the defense accelerating in the last year and a half. Seventy percent of these incidents resulted in someone's death, and in a majority of cases the person who raised the defense did not stand trial. The Times survey found "stand your ground" defenses used in gang shootings, bar fights and road rage incidents."Irresponsibly and in Clint Eastwood fashion, the law strips away the duty of a person to retreat even if he may safely do so when faced with a threat."
Instead it allows people to employ lethal force when they reasonably feel their life is at risk. It gives a "get out of jail free" card to people quick to feel threatened and who have a lethal weapon at their disposal.
"Repeal 'stand your ground’ law before next tragedy".
Zimmerman, who was carrying a gun, pursued Trayvon because he was suspicious of a black youth in a hoodie walking in his gated community. But this aggressive act is not contemplated by the law. Because Zimmerman allegedly had a legal right to be where he was standing and he claimed that he was attacked — without Trayvon alive to dispute the account — he has not been charged with a crime. ...
The "stand your ground" law is a menace. It protects hotheads and those prone to violence, and should be repealed.
Even the Tribune Company says: "Scrutinize Florida gun laws".
"Another costly courtroom and cultural clash"
"Scott signed legislation Friday likely to stir another costly courtroom and cultural clash in Florida over school prayer." "Gov. Scott signs school 'inspirational message' law; opponents promise constitutional challenge".
All Aboard Florida
"After years of trying to persuade Florida East Coast Corridor owners to return passenger service to those strategically located tracks, area leaders were pleased Friday with a privately funded plan to offer express rail service along the corridor. All Aboard Florida - a project of Florida East Coast Industries, which is an affiliate of track owner Florida East Coast Railway - announced Thursday it plans to start limited-service passenger routes between Miami and Orlando - and one of four stops would be in West Palm Beach." "New passenger train between Miami and Orlando would include a West Palm Beach stop".
"A new study by a Washington watchdog group describes how some members of the U.S. House of Representatives — including 18 from Florida — may have used their positions to financially benefit themselves and family members. The South Florida standouts in the 347-page report by the nonpartisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) are Alcee Hastings of Miramar and Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, both Democrats." "Report: South Florida lawmakers used jobs to benefit family, themselves".
Legislature seized by fit of March Madness
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "The Legislature must have been seized by a fit of March Madness this month when it gutted safeguards against improper recruiting of Florida's high school athletes."
If Gov. Scott signs the bill, students who transfer for any reason - including to or from a private school or charter school - can play unless somebody complains and proves that the student improperly was recruited.
"Scott should throw flag on letting students play 'school choice'".
Not a single member of the Florida High School Athletic Association asked for the change. As in too many cases, legislators did it to "solve" a problem that doesn't exist. And as in too many other cases involving schools, they made the change because the existing rules supposedly hinder school "choice."
Chamber says "Jump!"
Fla-Baggers ask "how high?"
All but one of Florida’s Republican senators got a passing grade, with two earning perfect scores -- Garrett Richter, R-Naples, and Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando -- and 13 others picking up “A's” for their votes in the regular session from the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
"GOP Grades Well in 2012 Chamber Report Card".
The Chamber on Friday released its annual post-session report card on how legislators vote Chamber issues during the 60-day session, ranging from support of personal injury protection insurance reform and numeric nutrient criteria for state waters to opposition to the expansion of casinos.
Lining up for new Senate districts
"Hopefuls have already started to line up for the new Senate districts, eying vacant and redrawn seats that will force incumbents to learn new constituents in the upper chamber, though the boundaries have yet to be formally approved." "Senate Races Take Shape as New Districts Head to Court".
"Detrimental to public health"
"The Florida Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), along with Florida’s public health associations and a coalition of distinguished public health leaders, have sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott asking him to oppose legislation that seeks to reorganize the state’s Department of Health (DOH), warning that it would be 'very detrimental to public health.'" "Public health experts warn Scott against signing health department reorganization".
Week in Review
"The Week in Review for March 19 to March 23".
"Biden Slaps GOP"
"Vice President Joe Biden, Barack Obama's envoy to the white working class, revved up a crowd of South Florida retirees Friday." "Joe Biden Slaps GOP at South Florida Retirement Community". See also "Biden woos South Florida seniors with new attack on Republicans".
Florida's estimates of health care reform costs are "hyper-inflated"
The Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy: "The State of Florida's estimates of its costs resulting from the ACA are hyper-inflated, and they appear to have been specifically crafted to support a political position rather than provide a backdrop for planning purposes."
In fact, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the costs of Medicaid expansion for three years and 90 percent or more every year of the first 10 years of the act. Meanwhile, about 1 million Floridians previously without health insurance or saddled with inexpensive or inadequate insurance will be covered. And by 2022-2023, Florida will have received an estimated $20.3 billion in additional federal Medicaid funding from the federal government. Each dollar of Medicaid expansion-related state spending over the 10-year period will leverage an additional $9.51 in federal funding, directly stimulating the economy and increasing jobs."Florida’s Claims About Medicaid Expansion Under ACA Are Inflated".
"The Florida Center on Fiscal and Economic Policy (FCFEP), a progressive-leaning public policy group, released a report this week explain[s]"
that one of Florida’s biggest complaints against the health care reform law– the supposed devastating cost of expanding Medicaid to more people in the state– is “vastly inflated [and] lacking in merit.”
"FCFEP’s report [.pdf] this week claims that 'the extent to which state projections of the cost of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act have been hyper-inflated is troubling, and they appear to have been specifically crafted to support a political position rather than provide a backdrop for planning purposes.'"
For months now, Florida officials, including Gov. Rick Scott, have publicly slammed the state’s Medicaid program and the costs it incurs.
During a press conference in December, where he announced his budget recommendations, Scott said that if the state did not adjust Medicaid spending, “it will bankrupt the state.”
“No state program has this much growth and costs this much,” he said. “This is absolutely not sustainable.”
For years, Medicaid’s costs to the state had been impugned by mostly-Republican lawmakers and was the impetus to begin the unpopular privatization of the program.
According to the report, the state’s Medicaid enrollment will increase by about one-third, or 1.02 million, during the first decade of the expansion mandate. While that is a large increase, many of those enrollees will be younger people and people without children, which are significantly less costly than most current enrollees.
"Public policy group says Florida is ‘inflating’ effect of Medicaid expansion".
Furthermore, the group explains that the state has overestimated its share of paying for that expansion.
"$125 million in 'special interest tax breaks'"
"Report: Florida legislature passed $125 million in ‘special interest tax breaks’".
Jeb Bush calling for judicial activism
Although the lawyer for George Zimmerman "said he and Zimmerman had not discussed what happened the night [Trayvon] Martin was shot", he nevertheless
said Florida's "stand your ground" law doesn't apply to the shooting that killed the unarmed teen."Zimmerman's lawyer: 'Stand your ground' doesn't apply in Trayvon Martin case".
Putting aside the soundness of a "lawyer" taking a defense off the table before even talking to his client, the Jeb Bush/NRA "Stand Your Ground" law is obviously implicated in the Trayvon Martin trajedy. Consider this now familiar case:
a Miami-Dade judge on Wednesday [March 21, 2012] cited the law in tossing out the case of a man who chased down a suspected burglar and stabbed him to death.
"Miami judge decides fatal stabbing was self-defense".
Greyston Garcia was charged with second-degree murder in the slaying of Pedro Roteta, 26, whom he chased for more than a block before stabbing the man.
With "Stand Your Ground" now a political liability,
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says the "Stand Your Ground" law he signed shouldn’t protect a neighborhood watch captain who hasn’t been arrested in the shooting death of an unarmed teenager.
"Former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush: Self-defense law he signed doesn’t cover Trayvon Martin’s death".
Bush spoke Friday at the University of Texas at Arlington, just outside Dallas. He told reporters afterward that the Florida law doesn’t apply in the incident that left 17-year-old Trayvon Martin dead.
He said, "Stand your ground means stand your ground. It doesn’t mean chase after somebody who’s turned their back."
However, the bill "Jeb!" signed into law doesn't say what Bush wants it to say, not even close. It merely provides that
A person  who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and  who is attacked  in any other place where he or she has a right to be  has no duty to retreat and  has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force  if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felonySection 776.013(3), Florida Statutes (bracketing supplied).
Plainly, applicability of the statute as a defense is not precluded by an individual "chasing" another person; even though the chase in turn precipitates the situation where the "chaser" is put in a situation (of his own making) where he "stand[s] his or her ground and meet[s] force with force". The individual using deadly force must merely (1) be in a place he "has a right to be" and (2) reasonably believe deadly force "is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself".
Stated differently, the "right" to "stand your ground" and kill another human being is not lost merely because the killer precipitated the event where deadly force is used.
If Bush wanted the law to say what he now claim it means, he should not have blithely toed the NRA line, but rather insisted on language being added (along the lines of the underscored language below):
A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. However, a person may not stand his or her ground, even if he or she is in a place he or she has a right to be, if he or she precipitated the event which leads to the reasonable belief that he or she will suffer great bodily harm.Judges, of course, cannot read the underscored exception into the statute because doing so would make them left wing judicial activists.