Florida GOP "underestimated impact of their anti-union crusade"
Dara Kam: "In Florida, unions representing a broad swath of workers have united for the first time in decades, fired up over what they see as an unprecedented attack by state legislators over the past two years."
New to the table are law enforcement groups, including unions representing firefighters and police officers, who have traditionally backed GOP candidates and enjoyed a comfortable relationship with the Republican-dominated legislature.
"The Florida coalition is an unintended consequence of union attacks since the 2010 elections swept tea party candidates like Walker and Gov. Rick Scott into office, union leaders said."
The law enforcement unions are now holding hands with historically left-leaning labor organizations, including the AFL-CIO and the Florida Education Association.
"What we weren't able to do among ourselves for many years was facilitated by the Republican leadership in the House and the Senate attacking public employees, which gave us all a common enemy," said Gary Rainey, president of the Florida Professional Firefighters.
"Candidates may be surprised by the new strategy, Florida AFL-CIO President Mike Williams said.""State employees' unions eye ballot".
Over the past two years, Florida legislators have made dramatic changes to the state pension system affecting all public employees, revamped how teachers are paid and passed a first-in-the-nation law requiring all state workers to submit to random drug tests. That law is on hold pending a court challenge.
The legislature, with Scott's support, also tried to privatize nearly one-fourth of all prison operations and came close to passing a proposal allowing parents to have an unprecedented role in taking over failing schools.
But the turning point for the unions' cohesion was a so-called "paycheck protection" proposal last year that would have barred government unions from collecting dues through automated payroll deductions. The police and firefighters were especially incensed by the proposal because they had helped elect many of the Republican legislators who supported the measure.
That effort pitted the firefighters and cops against the Florida Chamber of Commerce and other business-backed organizations and played out in an expensive ad war. And it built solidarity of law enforcement unions that had, with the exception of the pension overhaul, been spared from other anti-union legislation.
The law enforcement unions this year rejected an attempt to reverse the previous year's pension changes that raised the retirement age of government workers from age 62 to age 65 and special risk workers (including firefighters and police officers) from age 55 to age 60. Firefighters' and police officers' declining the special treatment further cemented the cohesion of the labor union coalition, union leaders said.
"It really enraged the police and the firefighters, because they'd never been treated like this," said Doug Martin, spokesman for the Florida council of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
The unions' cohesion was strengthened by their success in stopping the prison privatization and "parent trigger" bills, with the help of community groups led by parents, including the Florida PTA, in the waning days of this year's legislative session.
The newfound unity indicates that GOP legislators perhaps underestimated the impact of their anti-union crusade. ...
The coalition, motivated by its success and an expected continued onslaught in the next legislative session, is now focused on November. The unions are working to support candidates of both parties who they hope will help them stave off another brutal legislative session next year.
Former legislators - mostly GOPers - want their old jobs back
"The reshaped 2012 political map has drawn at least 17 termed-out, retired or former legislators to make another run for public office."
A lot of former Florida lawmakers want their old jobs back.
"Amid redistricting, many former Florida lawmakers seek return to office".
With the 2012 political map reshaped by redistricting, at least 17 termed-out, retired or former legislators are on the comeback trail, seeking to extend their political careers.
Most are Republicans.
Obama narrows his focus
Randy Schultz writes that, "where Mr. Obama four years ago used themes of hope and change, he now narrows his focus. College students get messages about interest rates on loans. Gays and lesbians get approval of same-sex marriage. There will be targeted messages for Hispanic voters - especially in Florida - and specific state-by-state appeals. In Michigan, they'll hear about the auto industry bailout. In Florida, we'll hear about the promise of private space travel to replace what NASA won't be doing after the shuttle." "Pitch-perfect Obama of 2008 has gone off-key".
Florida's next Senate president, Sen. Don "Gaetz basically fought to get rid of a state law [requiring septic tank inspections] that he is partially responsible for. Gaetz says he was misled by 'a fast one,' but we found no evidence of the bill sponsor downplaying the swath of affected homeowners. Plus Gaetz ultimately is responsible to know what is in a bill he voted on. We rate his claim Mostly False." "In TV ad, Don Gaetz distorts debate over septic tank inspections".
"Scheme devised by two term-limited state senators"
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Repairing a golf course in Orlando wasn't exactly what the U.S. Department of Education had in mind in 2010-11 when it sent $867,000 in federal stimulus money to Florida for a program run by Florida A&M University for 'targeted student assistance.'"
But that's what federal and Florida taxpayers got in a scheme devised by two term-limited state senators [Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville and Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando] to benefit nonprofits they have ties with. Gov. Rick Scott talks about making the state budget more transparent, and this sham — which initially had ties to FAMU in name only — should be his next target. ...
"Spending sham costs millions".
But more disturbing for Florida taxpayers: The state spent another $5.1 million in general revenue on the program that year and another $5 million a year later. ...
Meanwhile, Wise and Siplin succeeded for a third time this spring in tucking money into the state budget during the final conference committee process. In 2012-13, the state will award $5 million for "targeted students assistance" to still unnamed organizations. Such chicanery has no place in a state budget. At least this coming year, the governor could demand that the money is awarded appropriately, not just to well-connected nonprofits.
Scott doubles down on stupid during Comedy Central mission to Spain
Daniel Ruth on Ricky Scott's "Comedy Central mission to Spain, where the governor managed to double down on stupid", suggests that visiting
dignitaries who pull the short straw and find themselves in Tallahassee should [likewise] not feel constrained.
"What is Spanish for 'Governor Goofball'?".
Feel free when meeting Rick Scott to offer up something along the lines of: "Gov. Scott, I understand you are something of an expert on the American legal system. Could you explain to me how the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination works since you once invoked it 75 times during a deposition?"
But if an ambassador or head of state really wants to crack up Gov. Bluto Blutarsky, and he's going to love this, make a snarky remark about Rick Scott's leadership of Columbia/HCA, which was later indicted in the largest case of Medicare fraud in U.S. history and paid a record $1.7 billion fine. Just make sure the cameras are rolling.
Upon his return from his court jester tour of Spain, Scott said if he had done anything loopy then he sure was awfully sorry.
If? All Scott did was reaffirm the reputations many Americans traveling abroad have of being more socially tone deaf than Sasquatch.
The next time Rick Scott decides to take a trip, the most important item in his luggage should be a roll of duct tape.
"Falsely accused of not being a U.S. citizen"
"Born in Cleveland, she fled for the warmth of Pasco County. She's a Republican who works in sales, loves fishing and the beach, and she'll turn 49 next month. ... Oh yeah, one more thing: Florida falsely accused her of not being a U.S. citizen."
For reasons she can't fathom, her name got on the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles' list of 2,700 suspected noncitizens who may be voting illegally in Florida.
"One woman's experience in Florida's targeting of noncitizen voters".
It was a mistake.
Castro-Williamson is what's known as a "supervoter." She hasn't skipped an election in years. But Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley, just doing his job, sent her a scary letter warning that she might be breaking the law. ...
Six voter advocacy groups have demanded that Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner stop the purging, calling it not only inaccurate and unfair but illegal, claiming that federal law prohibits any systematic removal of voters less than 90 days before a primary or general election for federal office. (The primary is Aug. 14.)
The groups, including the Fair Elections Legal Network, Advancement Project and Project Vote, also fault Florida's 30-day notice-by-mail rule as "highly flawed."
Detzner has not yet answered the letter, but spokesman Chris Cate says: "We disagree with their interpretation of the law. Not only do we believe it's crucial to have ineligible voters removed from the voter rolls, we're obligated by law to do it."
"It was supposed to be Cuba's economic savior: vast untapped reserves of black gold buried deep under the rocky ocean floor." "Cuba waits anxiously for oil dreams to materialize".
"Conversations with AHCA"
"County officials across Florida say they appreciate a new level of openness with the state regarding a long-running dispute about unpaid Medicaid bills."
But for most it's too little, too late.
"Counties, state making progress over Medicaid billing problem; lawsuit still looms".
Broward County Commissioner Lois Wexler said she spent two years meeting with Agency for Health Care Administration officials about the error-prone billing system that caused the county to question a chunk of the bills it received. But nothing ever got done, and Broward's backlog grew by tens of millions.
When Gov. Rick Scott signed into law new rules that require counties to pay up — to the tune of $325.5 million — he also directed AHCA to meet with counties to determine what they truly owed. Only what is agreed upon will have to be paid, the governor said.
Even with those assurances, 53 counties and the Florida Association of Counties sued the state and asked that the law be declared unconstitutional. Wexler said she isn't convinced that more conversations with AHCA will be enough to solve the problem.
"Filling a 15-mile gap left by SunRail, a Georgia-based company proposes to connect the Orlando airport, the Orange County Convention Center, Disney World and the Florida Mall with magnet-levitation trains." "Maglev Company Says It Can Fill 15-Mile 'Gap' in SunRail".
Orlando makes it into top four ...
"America's Worst-Dressed People ".
Who said anyone wants inaccurate voter rolls?
Nancy Smith points to a Palm Beach Post headline, "Voting rights groups ask Scott to stop noncitizen voter purge", and asks "why would any voting rights group in America do a thing like that?" "Tell Me Again Why We Shouldn't Want Accurate Voter Rolls".
Curious Smith didn't point to the equally inaccurate headline in her own Sunshine State News, to wit: "Florida Rejects Call to Keep Non-Citizens on Voter Rolls".
With all due respect, no one is "calling" upon anyone "to Keep Non-Citizens on Voter Rolls".
The problem, rather, is with the using a purge list that is riddled with errors: it includes folks who in fact are citizens.
"Who writes these headlines?"
Not only that, Rick Scott's purge list - accidentally no doubt - "targets minorities and Democrats while giving white Republicans a pass". By the way, this last quote - about Rick Scott's purge list "giving white Republicans a pass" - is from the "liberal" Miami Herald, the same company that overruled its own editorial board and endorsed a notorious right-winger for president. The Herald's publisher was in turn rewarded with an appointment as Ambassador to Spain.
So Ms. Smith, the headline to your column today, instead of "Tell Me Again Why We Shouldn't Want Accurate Voter Rolls" should instead be:
"Tell Me Again Why We Shouldn't Want A Purge List That Targets Minorities And Democrats While Giving White Republicans A Pass?"Surely that is not too much to ask?
Scott "unfamiliar with Florida's past ... unconcerned about its future"
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Gov. Rick Scott's planning decisions invariably show he is a relative newcomer to the state."
While he continually lambasts planning rules, he seems unaware that for decades lack of such standards proved costly to taxpayers, harmful to neighborhoods and destructive to the environment.
"Scott ignores value of proper planning".
Sensible state planning policies curtailed much of the abuse. The regulations, to be sure, sometimes could be excessive and occasional streamlining was justified, as with any government endeavor.
But last year the governor and Legislature essentially abandoned the state's growth management responsibilities. They decided to ignore the gridlock, overcrowded schools, water shortages and ruined resources that resulted from irresponsible growth.
And Scott still seems indifferent to planning's value. The governor recently vetoed for the second straight year funding for the state's 11 regional planning councils, which address regional issues and coordinate solutions. ...
The governor simply doesn't seem interested in preparing for the growth that forever changes neighborhoods, traffic and the environment.
It's a stance only someone unfamiliar with Florida's past or unconcerned about its future could take.
Atwater Strides National Stage
Kevin Derby: "While he may have passed on jumping into the Republican primary to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida CFO Jeff Atwater raised his profile last week with a series of national media appearances." "Jeff Atwater Enjoys National Spotlight Discussing Florida's Comeback".
"These are the people in charge of Florida's environment"
John Romano asks you to "Imagine you are the governor of Florida."
It is up to you to put the most qualified people in charge of the most important agencies. It is your responsibility to safeguard the future by appointing a DEP secretary who understands and appreciates the fragility of the environment.
"When will state value its lands?".
The previous secretary, for instance, had worked for the department for 16 years and had risen to the role of deputy secretary before being tapped by the last governor.
So what do you do?
If you are Gov. Rick Scott, you go outside the environmental community and choose Vinyard, an executive at a Jacksonville shipyard, to be your DEP chief.
Vinyard was also chairman of a shipbuilder's council that lobbied the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to lighten regulations for its members.
These are the people in charge of Florida's environment.
Women Are Watching
"Faced with what critics call a war on women, Planned Parenthood is launching its own tactical weapon."
Its new website - Women Are Watching - is emblazoned in bright pink, the color associated with women and women's health. It includes a page called "Who we're watching," political figures targeted for their antiPlanned Parenthood views. Prominent on that page is U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation, a firebrand for the tea party.
"Women Are Watching debuted Nov. 8, two days short of a year before Election Day 2012." "Planned Parenthood's bold voice shifts fight for women".
"In January 2011, days after taking office, West teamed up with anti-women's-health leader Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., to propose legislation to eliminate comprehensive private health insurance coverage for women," the website says. "Then, he joined Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., in an attempt to bar Planned Parenthood health centers from providing preventive health care like cancer screenings and birth control through federal programs.
"West's antics, rhetoric and voting record have earned him a zero percent pro-women's-health record from Planned Parenthood Action Fund."