On Monday night, over two hundred citizens returned to the Vanguard High School cafeteria in Ocala to get briefed about the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) proposal for the future of the Silver Springs Attraction, and overall they liked what they heard. Click here to read the full Interim Plan proposal, or click on the above image which can be downloaded and examined more closely (right mouse click, select Save Image/Picture).
The proposal focuses on redeveloping the existing Silver Springs Attraction with emphases on restoring natural hydrology, being attentive to environmental restoration, upgrading storm water management, and reducing negative water impacts. The plan calls for removal of unhelpful and non-essential structures and schemes, bringing maintenance and restoration to essential structures, and identifying private sector partners for continuing a range of visitor services and certain appropriate concessions. Don’t worry, the glass bottom boats will continue as will other low impact opportunities for visitors to experience the Silver Springs area, together with an aim to add swimming, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, and nature trails with interpretive programs to explain and showcase the natural wonders of the park. However, the Jeep Safari, for example, is (thankfully) slated for elimination.
The future of Wild Waters, the water entertainment park at the corner of the property, seems secure for the time being. The Interim Plan calls for it to continue operating during transition through a private contracted operator. Numerous commenters insisted that it was not needed there and detracted from the restorative, nature-based vision for the property.
Generally, the DEP’s Department of Recreation and Parks (DRP) seemed to have listened well to the huge crowd and dozens of commenters that had addressed the issue in December at the same venue.
The need for a plan became a concern when the current lessee, Palace Entertainment, finally admitted that it really did not want to continue operating Silver Springs Attraction. The degradation of the springs and the decline in the maintenance of park facilities sparked a public outcry for the state, the property owner and lessor, to seize the opportunity and take back the property. The state already administers the adjacent Silver River State Park.
Among the public commenters, Vanguard High School IB program science teacher John Hare emphasized the opportunity for the development of a research center which would study the springs and the habitat, allowing multiple disciplines to have the facilities on site to learn more and share their insights. His thoughts were echoed and endorsed repeatedly.
Several commenters urged that private sector business leaders be consulted in developing the park so that the state would not be burdened with its maintenance costs. DRP has a strong record behind its management and draws substantial revenue from its operations statewide, but the money people wanted to have their interests prioritized. The crowd was not too enthusiastic about that, local or not, having seen what Palace Entertainment had done.
A number of commenters (including yours truly) urged that DRP continue to take the lead in management, with expressions of distrust and disdain for county and state elected officials as well as those with monetary interests or benefits in anything to do with Silver Springs. Farmer and environmental activist Jeri Baldwin said that as far as stewardship of such natural gifts, these folks were “lacking resources of the heart” to be entrusted with such responsibility.
Current employees also offered comments, defending the care given to the animals, reminding the audience of the animals’ popularity with visitors, and that the unique habitat that is home to most of these animals has been one of the key reasons for their inclusion and popularity at the park from its earliest days. There were also concerns about continued employment during any transition, and Captain Tom regaled the audience with his 15 ideas for broadening the offerings just in boat ride themes.
Speaking of earlier times and the springs’ history, Cynthia Graham encouraged DRP to include the presence of Paradise Park in its historic representations of Silver Springs. Paradise Park was the neighboring property “for colored people only” during the segregation era. (An excellent history of Paradise Park is provided by Jenny Hammer with a number of photos – click here.) The DRP officials stated in reply that they had planned to include Paradise Park in their historic representations.
Along the same lines, Mindy Adams, a professor at College of Central Florida, further affirmed the need to include Paradise Park in Silver Springs’ history. She also wanted to ensure that when folks talked about “authentic Florida” that they didn’t mean a sanitized Florida. She insisted that the garish, tasteless, and tacky – “kitschy” she called it – should be included as well since it is undeniably part of Florida’s heritage, too.
River boat captain and environmentalist Karen Chadwick expressed her concern that the presence of managers from Adena Springs at the first public meeting might infer that their project’s seemingly endless money might be influencing any part of the discussion, particularly among private, for-profit promoters. Adena Springs, a venture of billionaire Frank Stronach, has continued securing additional property for its huge proposed cattle ranch and slaughterhouse operation, including property quite close to Silver Springs.
The next step is for the DRP proposal to go to Governor Scott and the Cabinet for approval. It is expected to be decided on Wednesday. Supporters of the plan have been urged by the Silver Springs Alliance to communicate support for the DEP/DRP plan and the need for Governor and Cabinet to entrust the property to DEP/DRP, not local officials, other agencies, or any private organization.
The emails are:
DEP Secretary: firstname.lastname@example.org [corrected: no "e" in vinyard]
Governor Scott: email@example.com
Adam Hollingsworth: Chief of Staff to Gov. Scott: Adam.Hollingsworth@eog.myflorida.com
The entire audience seemed eager for the plan to gain their approval so that Silver Springs can begin the long road to restoration as a natural treasure. Let’s hope the money crowd hasn’t poisoned the idea and precluded an intelligent decision by state leaders.
There is little doubt that Charlie Crist’s recent party switch to the Democrats is a prelude to a run to recapture his former role as Florida’s governor. Can (or should) progressive Democrats swallow hard, hold their nose, and get on board with a Democratic Crist? For Democrats, progressive activists in particular, there is great consternation that Crist is hardly the champion of its values, just a washed out, flip-flopping, ex-Republican. Hardly inspiring.
His record as a Republican showed him in his early legislative career as a first class hard liner who enjoyed the limelight of being known as “Chain Gang Charlie.” As Education Commissioner and later Insurance Commissioner, he developed a more populist attitude, earning the respect of educators and the ire of insurance companies while right wing Republicans began regarding him with considerable suspicion.
He bested more conservative challenger Tom Gallagher in the 2006 GOP gubernatorial primary by tacking to the right and declaring himself a “Ronald Reagan Republican,” winning the nomination and the office.
As Governor, his populism migrated to opportunism, noted in these pages as a weathervane and a chameleon for his willingness to switch positions and cater to prevailing political winds. His popularity with the electorate ultimately kept him as an asset to the GOP, even though the base came to thoroughly dislike and distrust him (with good reason).
Crist’s usually astute political moves were swamped by the extreme shift among Florida Republicans as the Tea Party surged following its 2010 ascendancy and rigid ideological fidelity became required in GOP ranks. Crist swung himself Gumby-like as far right as he could during his campaign for the US Senate, but he couldn’t distance himself from his past, most notably the infamous embrace of President Obama and his vocal support for the President’s fiscal stimulus legislation.
Marco Rubio’s upstart Senate candidacy surged, lifted by Tea Party loyals and other extremists for whom Rubio seemed to pass the ideological sniff test, even though Rubio has always maintained his distance from them. (Talk about an opportunist!) Facing a heavy GOP primary loss, Crist preemptively dropped the GOP and ran unsuccessfully as an independent.
His recent self-promotion as a new Democrat signals the start of the Democratic primary for governor. Polls show Crist favored over all likely contenders, particularly over Gov. Scott – not a great feat since even Republicans seem to favor a primary challenger to the ever unpopular Scott.
No one should expect Crist to hew to a consistently progressive line. Progressives tend to diss Crist in favor of those more ideologically defined like Sen. Nan Rich (pictured), former Sen. Dan Gelber, and others who remain completely unknown to Florida voters outside of their own circles.
The complaining noises about Crist from the camp of 2010 Dem loser Alex Sink have fallen flat. Sink ran away from Democratic positions in 2010 (literally; there was a video of Sink glaring icily at a reporter who persisted in asking about her stance on the health care bill before dashing/stalking off in a silent huff), she can hardly grouse about Crist not being enough of a Democrat. Sink lost to a crook, Rick Scott, presenting herself with a conservative message only a Republican could love (except she was out-conservatived by the Tea Party schmuck – what a shock) and blessed with yet another failed Tallahassee insider campaign plan that has yielded her almost no notoriety just 2 years later for a possible second run. Great job.
That she lost by a hair in a wave year for the Tea Party is small consolation. Scott was (and is still) a crook and a schmuck with a personality akin to the creepy robot HAL of Kubkrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Scott has remained wildly unpopular with the electorate since his inauguration, and is even disliked within his own party. A worse major party candidate for governor is unlikely … ever.
While Republican operatives stew behind Scott’s back about finding a candidate who doesn’t suck and isn’t utterly loathsome, Democrats find themselves – apart from Crist – with the possibility of a recycled Sink and a bevy of potential unknowns statewide. Those lesser knowns generally have better progressive credentials than Sink or Crist, but any reasonable person would view them as unelectable against a modestly well known, well funded Republican.
If you dismiss the notion of watching Sink, who sank, sink again, and admit the severe electability limitations on the rest, then let’s recall the realpolitik directions of 1992, the DLC, and Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign. You’ll recall that Republicans had held the Oval Office for 12 years in dominating fashion. Albeit weakened, Bush, Sr. was game for another Mondale or Dukakis liberal. However, the moderate Clinton got the nod and eked the win. While gaining the presidency for the Dems, progressives can recount many painful concessions from the gutting of welfare to the repeal of Glass-Steagall. Still, it was a Dem in the Oval Office.
Clinton, for all of his progressive faults, made Democrats electable at the national level once again, bringing closely competitive presidential races since. We forget just how crushing were the defeats of 1980, 1984 and 1988.
Could Crist supply an opportunity for Dems to gain the governorship, providing a Democratic executive counter weight to the Republican legislature, likely to remain theirs for the foreseeable future? Would having a moderate and, yes, unpredictably political animal like Crist elevate realistic Dem positions to serious consideration and force a retreat for the GOP legislature’s draconian agenda? Would having an official voice of moderation in Tallahassee help give Dem candidates greater credence, leveling the incline in competitive legislative districts? In short, can progressive Dems realistically expect to seize the governor’s mansion in one fell swoop, or is there a process that can begin unfolding with a Dem Gov, even Charlie Crist?
I’m thinking about it. What do you think?
Watch Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi for a short while and you realize that she is sticking out from the GOP pack, and she seems to want it that way. One ought to expect that she is looking ahead in her political career.
While she was mentioned by pundits in veep speculation for Mitt Romney, she doesn’t yet have national level star power. Her headline role in the Supreme Court case against the Affordable Care Act (ACA), her history of appearances on Fox News, and her striking good looks which draw gossipy attention, have all made her a rising star, to be sure.
Her star shined bright enough to earn a speaking slot at the Republican National Convention. Frankly, it was terrible as she shared the podium with timorous Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens. For her part, Bondi clumsily read aloud to the teleprompter as her hands disjointedly tried to appear graceful and life-like – watch the video, but beware: it’s painful. Still, it’s recognition of her notoriety and popularity, particularly with the GOP base.
The ambitious nature of Florida’s Attorney General has been well known.
At first as AG, there appeared to be heavy handed tactics and early missteps surrounding the firing of two staff lawyers, known for their prosecution of foreclosure fraud, followed by Assistant AG Andrew Sparks’ critical memo for Bondi’s weak pursuit of foreclosure and consumer deception cases the day before he quit. There were also the embarrassing job changes by top staff who joined finance/foreclsoure firms under investigation by the AG’s office. In retrospect, Bondi just “winked” to the banking and housing finance community to show that she was playing on their team.
The distinction is noteworthy since Bondi garnered more headlines this fall with her insistence on having a major voice in how federal foreclosure fraud settlement funds were going to be spent, about $300 million for Florida. Yes, she coddled the housing finance cretins when her office confronted them, but when their cash landed in her lap via federal settlement, it was a political opportunity to play the ‘high-minded leader’ against the ‘grasping legislature,’ while mouthing a populist appeal:
‘We are diligently working to get this money distributed as soon as possible to help homeowners,’ [Bondi] said. ‘I’m not going to talk about backroom conversations, but I’ll tell you I’m working as hard as I can, my staff is working as hard as they can. This money needs to go to homeowners. That’s where it was meant to go, and that’s where it should go.’
Yes, that kind of political posturing is where your attention is being directed. And check this out:
While governors in other states have played an active role in the mortgage settlement, Gov. Rick Scott has been mum. When asked last week about his opinion about the $300 million and the disagreement between Bondi and the Legislature, he would only say: ‘I think attorney general Bondi will do a good job.’
Can you say “awkward”? Scott knows he can only look bad if he tries to challenge Bondi. Point: Bondi.
Bondi was very visible with GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney; Rick Scott was invisible, please! Bondi was an attractive asset; Scott was a bumbling liability. From the Florida GOP, only Rubio was more chummy with Romney/Ryan.
Senior Florida political reporter Bill Cotterell penned a recent column for Florida Voices claiming Rick Scott will be a strong candidate in 2014 with a solid record to make his case.
Cotterell downplays Scott’s atrociously low popularity and high un-favorability ratings that have relentlessly plagued Scott from inauguration. (Remember, he won in 2010 by a whisker.) Whenever his numbers improve, it’s often because he has done nothing, like this fall during the presidential campaign when Scott’s most public venture was inside a local Republican headquarters where a handful of old ladies were phone banking for Romney. He was as hidden away as crazy Uncle Louie.
When Scott does something, like pull a $10,000 college degree idea from thin air, people realize that Rick Scott is a total waste and an incredible jerk – they hate him all over again, just when they had begun to forget about him.
Yes, Scott has money – his own and an early bankroll of $5 million from donors. He can take credit for a variety of items that will play well with the base, but he can’t help being awkward and ill-equipped beyond his stupidly simplistic talking points. No matter what they say, legislators are not going to the mat for Rick Scott if there is another viable option. Politicians are as loyal as convenience allows, certainly true for Republicans.
Where Bondi has prominently shown her mettle is on the ACA. Her fierce posturing and unwavering attacks stand in marked contrast to the recent waffling of both Gov. Scott and the legislature as the boys depart from absolute rejection of state health insurance exchanges, and now even consider some possible Medicaid expansion within ACA. O. M. G!
Tea Party-ers – the base that propelled Rick Scott’s insurgent candidacy – have been hearing that ACA/Obama is satanic for years and the baggers are not altering this tenet of Fox faith in light of reason, events, or corporate cash. If Scott and the legislature cave to the corporate medicos drooling at b-b-billions from Medicaid expansion, the GOP’s ideological activists may find this betrayal unforgiveable.
Their hard line has gotten sclerotic following the national disaster of Mitt Romney’s flip-flopping “conservatism of convenience.” Expect them to seek an alternative to Scott, the jerky sell-out who looks (and sounds) like a Q tip.
Bondi will be ready, having stayed doggedly hardline as she parrots the Tea Party line, and having curried favor with two key GOP constituencies, ideological and corporate. She is young, attractive, sharp, passionate, and has been a popular figure in the key Tampa Bay market area as well as having national visibility. She is what Rick Scott can never be. Think Nikki Haley of South Carolina replacing Mark Sanford.
The little that Scott has going for him – hardline, uncompromising conservatism at its most ideologically idiotic – will be gone amid his attempt to moderate himself to electability, including acting sensibly toward implementation of the ACA in Florida. The hardliners will cut him loose in a heartbeat (or hang him in effigy).
Watch Pam and see if you think she is getting ready to give Rick Scott a run for his money in 2014.
And then think how Charlie Crist compares to Pam Bondi. Hmm.
It was February, 2012 when George Zimmerman shot to death unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, FL, and nothing happened to Zimmerman. As if in agreement with doing nothing , a special panel was convened by Gov. Scott about the “Stand Your Ground” Law. The panel met, heard testimony, and essentially decided to do nothing.
The vague and unnecessary “Stand Your Ground” Law sponsored in 2005 by NRA darling, State Rep. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala), has proven deadly and unjust time after time after time. Amazingly, it took international furor weeks after the Trayvon Martin shooting for anyone to realize that Florida had handed a license to kill to its citizens if they simply felt threatened.
Local prosecutors declined to pursue charges against Zimmerman due to the “feel threatened” provision of the Stand Your Ground Law (776.013 “presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm”). As the uproar grew to a crescendo in late March, Gov. Scott and Attorney General Bondi called for a special prosecutor, State Attorney Angela Corey of Jacksonville, who eventually filed charges against Zimmerman.
The Governor’s panel, officially called the Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection, was criticized from its inception for being largely composed of the law’s legislative defenders, including Rep. Baxley – indeed, all had voted to enact the law. The panel had Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll as co-chair who had the Scott-like audacity to declare:
“It is a mischaracterization for anyone to presume this task force is not balanced.”
Carroll further underscored the predictable outcome:
The goal will be to “come forward with a better fix than what we have now, if there is truly a concern and an issue out there,” she said. [Emphasis added]
Apparently Carroll was unaware of the Trayvon Martin killing that had generated a tidal wave of concern about the issue. Are we off to a good start yet?
Baxley chimed in with his own unhelpful direction:
“Let’s don’t let this turn into a trial of [Florida Statutes Chapter] 776.” Baxley said it was “premature” to assume the law needed to be overhauled.
The bias against critics of the law being on the panel didn’t help allay the misgivings of community leaders and citizens. Many sensed a total whitewash had been initiated with the kind of arrogant disregard for minority citizen outrage that has come to characterize the GOP legislature and governor. Do something to humor and placate the noisome rabble (like a special panel), give it a few months to settle down, issue a meaningless report, and voila, who cares any longer?
And here we are, six months after the panel was chosen. The conclusion is that everything seems just fine. I know, what a shock. Click here for the draft final report, a whopping 5 pages (in 14 point font to make it appear longer?) with a one page conclusion that blithely affirms the value of the law, and seeks better definition of “unlawful activity.” That’s all, folks!
It must be noted that there were a number of other community leaders on the panel besides legislators. Click here to see the list and their bios. It is remarkable that no panel members have been able to utter a worthy reproach of this ridiculous law. Typical was co-chair Rev. R. B. Holmes (standing left in the above picture with Lt. Gov. Carroll and Gov. Scott) who was apparently worried about the law being pre-judged by critics when he should have been worried about the panel having pre-judged the law … with its blessing.
“It was a very difficult process where many people had already prejudged the outcome,” said vice-chairman R.B. Holmes, pastor of Tallahassee’s Bethel Missionary Baptist Church. “We’re very clear that we did it right.”
It remains incredible that such a deplorably inept outcome could be produced, no matter how rigged and predictable. Not even a hint of a fig leaf was offered to hide the shame of their sanction of murder!
Is my criticism the result of reading reams of testimony and listening to dozens of expert witnesses and legal whizzes in a slew of meetings around the state? Not hardly, but it doesn’t actually require much effort to get a grip on this.
Just click here for the Tampa Bay Times special web page on Stand Your Ground which documents cases and statistics that obviate the need for the Governor’s asinine special panel and its stooges.
Look under the big circle chart and see “Weapon Comparison.” Victims: 19 gun, 8 knife, 135 unarmed, 30 other. Accused: 121 gun, 36 knife, 18 unarmed, 17 other. Still have any questions?
The website states:
A Tampa Bay Times investigation has found that Florida’s “stand your ground” law is being used in ways never imagined — to free gang members involved in shootouts, drug dealers beefing with clients, and people who shot their victims in the back. Defendants have invoked the law to excuse all manner of mischief, from minor fistfights to drug possession to killing an endangered species.
It will remain up to citizens, always, to insist that government act with justice and repeal this useless law that enables getting away with murder in Florida.
My mail-in ballot arrived today. Woo-hoo! The end of 2012’s election season is in sight!
No, wait; not so fast! With two double-sided, legal sized pages of ballot, and with three quarters of it filled with a cesspool of dense word turds to form 11 proposed constitutional amendments, voters face a major test akin to an FCAT. In a sense, it may be worse.
Let’s call it “ballot bling” – gaudily accessorizing the ballot with unnecessary, overstated attachments. Let’s also be clear that it has been quite deliberately designed to be absurdly impenetrable, evidence of the latest show of Republican contempt for voting and democracy.
As if Dennis Baxley’s ALEC prompted voter suppression law wasn’t enough in targeting minorities, seniors, and young adults with restrictive new voting rules, his law removed the Sunday before Election Day from early voting in a blatant neo-Jim Crow racially motivated targeting of the “Souls to the Polls” effort by black churches. In addition, he insultingly claimed prevention of non-existent voter fraud, thereby donning a thin thong to mask the elephantine backside of their exposed corruption. Yet Baxley, Gov. Scott, and the Florida GOP cabal went further and further.
As if it wasn’t enough that Tea Party Governor Rick Scott’s selectively rescinded voter rights restoration for ex-felons, removing hundreds of thousands of individuals from exercising their vote who had fully paid their debt to society, Scott and his hatchet men sought feverishly to remove 180,000 more voters using inaccurate, inappropriate databases at the last minute while self-indulgently shrieking about undocumented and unproven voter fraud.
As if corrupt former FL GOP Chair Jim Greer’s admissions that the party has had an explicit internal strategy to deny the vote to specific groups like minorities and young adults, as well as recent revelations about open ballot buying in south Florida, the Florida GOP contracted with a third party solicitation business, Strategic Allied Consulting, that paid canvassers to bring in voter registrations, who happened to “lose” or deter citizens registering as Democrats, and filing (hold onto your hat) fraudulent voter registrations for the GOP, making the concerns about ACORN’s field work in 2008 seem totally tame.
Another Florida GOP move, now entering the curriculum at the Vladimir Putin School of Guaranteed Election Victory, will confront the voter who tries to complete their ballot with its 11 amendment proposals that range from utterly unconstitutional to unnecessary/useless, replete with intentionally confusing and obscure language. Having a master’s degree, I find the amendments incomprehensible. Good luck, average Joe and Jane Voter. Remember, this production didn’t happen by accident, friends.
A little history lesson is in order. There are two ways to amend the Florida constitution, either by citizen petition or by legislative action. The GOP dominated legislature holds the citizen petition process (and broad citizen participation in general) in contempt since things unpleasant to the GOP like the Hometown Democracy Amendment and the Fair Districts Amendment, for example, inconveniently found their way to qualifying. Therefore, the GOP legislators increased the voter majority needed for adoption from a simple majority – 50%+1 vote – to requiring 60% approval. They have also greatly shortened the amount of time to gain qualifying signatures, a massive grassroots effort anyway, that now makes it nearly impossible to accomplish without a huge multimillion dollar war chest to pay for a campaign. And thanks again, Dennis Baxley, for your contempt of citizen initiatives – this was another piece of your fine work to thwart democratic process.
Thinking they had everything lined up, GOP legislators put forth a couple of doozies championed by then House Speaker Dean Cannon in 2010 with the assistance of his leadership team including Dennis Baxley. Their three prize proposals were approved by the dominant GOP legislators and headed to the ballot. But then a lawsuit challenged their misleading and disingenuous titling and descriptions which led to their removal from the ballot by the Florida Supreme Court.
Speaker Cannon went ballistic – ther-mo-nuclear! – condemning the court for interfering in the legislature’s agenda by its … um … doing its job as an independent branch of government. Cannon’s vehemence that one party government should always, always, always prevail would never be assuaged, thereby explaining the current concerted effort to cripple the Supreme Court and any independent judiciary in Florida via the declared war on judicial retention by the Florida GOP (really!) plus Amendment 5 on the ballot which empowers the House to control the judiciary (not that unconstitutionality has ever concerned the GOP legislature and governor … ever).
The current effort was aided by (you guessed it) Dennis Baxley whose voter suppression law included a waiver of limitation on the text of any legislatively proposed amendment; citizen petitions remain limited to 140 words while ballot proposals by the legislature can spew verbiage ad nauseum, as can be witnessed on the current ballot.
This gross prosaic indulgence has a despicable purpose. Voters of all kinds, but particularly those visiting a polling location either as early voters or as Election Day voters, are guaranteed – ga-run-teed! – to languish in the polling place, going cross-eyed trying to figure out what on God’s green earth they’re reading on the ballot, and causing lines to back up further and further and further. Breeding discouragement and ensuring that anyone with any kind of schedule will be spitting angry about the delays, plenty of citizens will be frustrated and/or forced to leave the line and relinquish their vote for 2012.
What to do?
- First, request a mail-in ballot from the Supervisor of Elections by calling 620-3290 between 8:30am-4:30pm if you haven’t already.
- Second, vote “no” on every single amendment, as recommended by numerous sources including the Florida League of Women Voters, until you get to the very last item on the ballot.
- Third, the very last item is not a proposed amendment; it is the Munroe Hospital bond issue, and you must vote “yes” for that one.
Now that was easier, right?
Oops, one more thing:
- Fourth, tell your friends to do one, two and three above, and then share with their friends.
Smart voters will save this democracy from the fascists and plutocrats yet.
 Hat tip to former County Commissioner and attorney Judy Johnson, who has provided totally balanced analyses of constitutional amendments for many years throughout the community, for explaining the reason for the change in text length.
The decision by Florida Gov. Rick Scott to refuse Medicaid expansion following the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act was predictable and swift. Yet there is good reason to believe that the struggle behind the scenes has just begun, and that there are compelling reasons to think Scott may, at some point, do an Olympic level gymnast flip.
Let’s be clear that any rationale that would compel normal, thoughtful, and compassionate people has no bearing with the governor, or for that matter with the GOP majority in Tallahassee. There continues to be complete indifference to the suffering of citizens, the fatal consequences of denied access to health care, the gross injustices generated by inaction, the exorbitant costs of inevitably treating basic health care as an emergency, and any other ethical, commercial, or common sense measure. It’s despicable and nuts.
Rather than rage at the wrongheadedness, consider that there are powerful forces that can turn the Governor’s mind, including those GOP Neanderthals in the legislature. For this focus, one must watch the money – it’s always money, and its sister, power – plus one must regard a powerful recent precedent.
First, the precedent. Think back to 2010 when the deep pocketed, creepy crook Rick Scott was the unwanted outsider upsetting Bill McCollum’s anointing as the GOP gubernatorial candidate in the primary. Scott relentlessly bashed McCollum for his “soft” stance on immigration, principally for failing to pursue Arizona-style toughness and to challenge the feds on undocumented workers.
Fast forward two years later on Scott’s key campaign issue:
“It would be foolish to put Florida companies at a disadvantage,” Scott told those at the Citrus Mutual meeting in Bonita Springs on Wednesday, according to a story in The Ledger of Lakeland.
Scott also told the growers group that he knows of no serious effort to revive legislation containing an E-Verify requirement, and wouldn’t support it, reiterating that it is the federal government’s responsibility to do something about the immigration problem.
Hey, what was that? A flapjack or a pancake? Either way, it’s totally flipped to the other side. E-Verify advocate, former FL Senate President Mike Haridopoulos will say, “Amen!” to that, given his inability to get endorsement of his plan from his GOP colleagues.
What happened? The reality of m-m-money. Scott’s observation was made at a gathering of Citrus Mutual, the citrus industry’s muscle group. Like most agricultural pursuits in Florida, it is labor intensive and dependent on immigrant labor to make its money. In Marion County, for example, a survey of horse farm managers will find few interested in knowing the exact immigration status of their labor force.
Besides agriculture, the same could be said for construction, landscaping, restaurants, nursing homes, hospitals, hotels, and other enterprises where there are “back room” areas of low skill jobs dependent on immigrant labor. Add it all up and you have a powerful political force, sufficient to make our “principled” governor roll over for the high and mighty like a dog begging a belly rub.
How does this pan out in the health care debate? Who are the big players that could roll Scott like bathroom tissue?
Health insurers, for starters. These guys have been in bed with Rick Scott since his attack ads with Conservatives for Patient’s Rights became familiar during the health reform backlash.
However, Scott’s “principled” stance currently puts him in a bit of a bind with his insurance pals. With the ACA upheld, insurers remain on the hook for the costly people with pre-existing conditions. The promise of an offset by getting lots of healthy people signing up has been sorely shaken, if not broken. The feds will set up the exchange for Floridians despite Scott’s refusal, but that isn’t the real stickler.
Medicaid privatization is. It has been a dicey deal for health insurers who really can’t manage the existing pool of Medicaid recipients better or cheaper than the state, and realize any profit unless they become even scummier scumbags than they already are. However, if you added a slew of mixed age, non-elderly people up to 133% of federal poverty, Medicaid privatization makes insurers drool. (That demographic factor is why the costs for the proposed expansion are not comparable to current expenditures; they’re far less.)
Medicaid costs are overwhelmingly for the elderly, with Kaiser putting the figure at 70%. Nursing home care is astronomically expensive and invariably Medicaid picks up the tab for long term maintenance care (not rehab, that’s Medicare (see “dual eligibles”)) unless you have Rick Scott-type wealth. Diluting those staggering numbers with a varied group of non-elderly folks is a big winner for insurers.
Hospitals, including the for-profits, would enjoy the added business from the billions that would be spent by the feds. Even doctors and the Florida Medical Association may get unglued from their whiny nit picking and ideological ambiguity, and realize that where there is money, there is money to be made. Less backward states expanding Medicaid will stoke the pressure to adapt and change in Florida.
Finally, it will become clear that the billions spent on health care in ACA Medicaid expansion states are creating jobs and boosting economies with relatively small net impacts on state revenues. Even NFIB, Associated Industries, and the Chamber may get an earful when their members see what they’re missing in Florida.
So, wait for it. The likelihood of an ultimate Scott/GOP somersault should not be discounted. Sadly, it may take a year or two.
Florida Attorneys General McCollum and Bondi have led the national fight against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to the Supreme Court. Following the US Supreme Court’s decision that largely upheld the ACA, what’s next, as in what will the most unpopular governor in the USA decide to do?
With Florida second with 21% only to Texas with 25% (second again to Texas) in the number of citizens without health insurance, it would seem like the court decision would be cause for celebration, that millions of fellow citizens would be able to obtain health care. You may want to hold off on uncorking that bubbly beverage.
The Supreme Court’s decision included removing the Feds strong arm tactic with the states, requiring them to accept the new Medicaid funding or lose the existing Medicaid funding as well. With that ruling, the ability of Washington to compel the states to participate in the ACA was eliminated. Uh-oh.
It’s still an awesome deal for the states.
To be sure, states have a lot to gain by complying with the Medicaid expansion, since the federal government pays 100 percent of the costs for the first two years and tapers funding to 90 percent in 2020 and beyond.
The administrative costs are a 50-50 split, but it still sounds like a tremendous winner. Just think of all of those citizens who will have some form of health insurance, who can get better care, relieving some of the uninsured costs, and likely helping the economy as a whole.
It isn’t as if the ACA hasn’t paid dividends already. Extending family insurance to young adults, removing the onus of pre-existing conditions, closing the “donut” hole in the seniors’ prescription plan are just a few benefits so far.
And there are real cash dividends, too, as insurers have to cough up rebates, like $123.6 million for insurance companies failing to meet the 80/20 rule on health expenses versus administrative expenses mandated by the ACA. Plus, other money has come to Florida from the ACA – another $119 million for a variety of services. Finally, add $400 million more to the total – the just publicized funding for conversion to digital records. (How overdue is this?) Add it all up and it’s beginning to look like real money.
Yet with all of this talk of benefits, pluses, advances, cash, and progress, we have neglected the most important criterion in today’s Florida, the single factor that outweighs all practical considerations. That is ideology.
Although we’re only hours past the court’s announcement of its decision, at least we haven’t had the door slammed already (see Walker, Wisconsin/bandwagon), but you get a sense it isn’t far off, like maybe Monday. Here is some of what the Governor’s office said today:
“…The Justices have declared that the central provision of ObamaCare is a judicially mandated tax. A new tax pure and simple.”
Focusing on the “tax” angle is one big hint; taxes are bad, very bad, very, very bad, even evil, in case you had not heard.
“With the national economy struggling to recover, now is not the time to implement a massive social program that injects nothing but uncertainty and doubt into our economic system. By doing so, they have put up yet another major roadblock to efforts to get people back to work and forced the government into the important relationship between patients and their doctors.
He seems to be hitting all of the talking points, no matter how idiotic they are. Since we all know how the “Jobs Governor” is really the “Corporate Profits Governor” (he doesn’t see any difference), he is also focused on the business costs. You have been asleep since his election if you think for a moment that he cares one iota for people … well, who aren’t wealthy.
Then he drops the I-bomb:
“I stand with Justice Kennedy that the entire act should have been held invalid.”
Need we say anymore? This is the same governor who threw back billions – billions! – in Federal contracts while his state’s unemployment was in double digits, primarily for ideological reasons.
Rick Scott can do one better than Justice Anthony Kennedy. He can make it as invalid as he can in Florida with his executive authority and with the support of the knuckle-dragging GOP cohort in the legislature.
Scott will refuse the money, and Florida will resume its race with Texas to see who can have the most uninsured citizens.
Cross-posted from Progress Florida’s blog.
It was springtime for Florida’s extreme right in January 2011.
Rick Scott, fresh off of his narrow victory over Alex Sink, and buttressed by giant Tea Party-driven Republican majorities in the Legislature, was ready to make his very regressive agenda a reality. And indeed, Scott and his allies did some serious damage. There was a $1 billion cut to public education, resulting in thousands of teacher layoffs across the state along with the elmination of crucial after school programs. A proposal to essentially privatize Medicaid sailed through, although it now awaits final approval by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The Department of Community Affairs (DCA), Florida’s growth management agency, was shuttered.
But in all the right’s new strength, a key weakness remained: Floridians really didn’t know Rick Scott, and what they did know they didn’t like. Scott was inaugurated in January with an approval rating in the low 40s – not great. Another big mistake that the right made (and one they never seem to learn from) is that Floridians as a whole are not like them, so as Scott began taking a sledgehammer to local schools, basic health care for children and seniors, along with sensible protections for our land and water, Floridians became angry. Welcome to the backlash. By the end of the legislative session in May 2011, Scott’s approval rating was at 29%. Yikes.
Florida progressives did not merely sit on the sidelines and watch this happen. On the contrary, progressive organizations and groups turned crisis into opportunity. Knowing that Scott was a soft target, it became much easier to unify the progressive community against him and his agenda while also standing up for essential progressive values.
We at Progress Florida sent out our year-end fundraiser (contribute today!) this morning which featured this list of accomplishments for 2011:
- We launched the Awake The State movement alongside our progressive partners with hugely successful rallies in March to highlight the destructive proposals being put forth by Gov. Scott and right-wing extremists in the state legislature. Today Awake The State is a growing movement with grassroots networks in almost every major city in Florida.
- We won important legislative victories in concert with our allies, including: stopping SB830, the “worker gag” bill designed to destroy unions along with the right to collectively bargain for wages and benefits; derailing House Speaker Dean Cannon’s politically driven Supreme “Court packing” bill; defeating the abortion clinic shutdown bill; and stopping massive funding cuts for Florida’s developmentally disabled.
- We helped lead the fight against voter suppression by tea party extremists in the Legislature. More than 13,000 Floridians signed our petition opposing the 2011 Voter Suppression Act, helping in a big way our ongoing efforts to repeal this travesty of a law.
- We fought to protect the Fair Districts amendments from self-serving politicians. Progress Florida and partner groups helped boost progressive turnout at public hearings throughout the state, and thousands of Floridians signed our petition demanding Speaker Cannon drop the taxpayer-funded lawsuit against Fair Districts, garnering statewide press coverage.
- We turned up the heat on Senate President Mike Haridopolos via DirtyHari.org, a website exposing Sen. Haridopolos’ numerous ethical problems and extreme positions. Once the GOP front-runner to challenge Sen. Bill Nelson, “Dirty Hari” dropped out of the race in disgrace.
I hope you noticed that in most of these acheivements, they were in collaboration with other progressive allies. Working with the progressive community and building the movement is a core part of our mission. And of course, this is just a partial list. Our partners at Florida Watch Action started the wildly successful Pink Slip Rick campaign which has taken the term “direct action” to new heights. Latino organizations flexed their muscles and successfully stopped an Arizona-style racial profiling law earlier this year. There’s been a kind of rebirth of campus-based progressive activism in the form of Fight Back Florida and amazing events like Rise Up UCF. And then of course there’s been the flowering of the Occupy Wall Street movement thoughout Florida which has helped grow and sustain activism at a local level.
Make no mistake, challenges remain. But if Gov. Scott and his allies in the Legislature are going to do terrible things, at least the progressive movement is taking advantage in pointing out the mindless and unnecessary extremism and growing their numbers and strength. Whether this newfound momentum can sustain itself through 2012 as the Presidential election attracts more and more attention and resources is the big question.
This was supposed to be the right wing’s big year in Florida, and in a small sense it was, but the backlash produced will likely have far more significance in the years ahead in both elections and policymaking.
In Florida, the Republicans have a leading role in setting the stage for economic recovery. They control the executive with Gov. Scott, each cabinet office, the legislature with veto-proof majorities in both the House and Senate, and the judicial with most appointees coming during the last 14 years of Republican rule. Rather than doing anything constructive toward economic recovery, like promoting good jobs, encouraging the infusion of cash to boost economic activity, shielding the most vulnerable consumers while encouraging consumer activity (consumer spending represents about 70% of GDP), Florida’s Republicans seem hell-bent on stoking recession, not recovery. Here are 4 major ways they are asserting their agenda and hurting Florida’s economy.
Oppose health care reform: The opposition to federal health care reform has several aspects. Florida has the leading role in a lawsuit against the reform law that claims the individual mandate is unconstitutional. This isn’t a huge cost to the state, but it is something in which Republicans have made a substantial investment.
With Florida having the third highest level of uninsured citizens among the states, knowing that these uninsured have a negative impact that strains the health care system, and knowing that citizens are being bankrupted by health care costs without and with insurance, one might think that alleviating this burden would be a priority. Yet hobbled by ideological fanaticism and intellectual torpor, Republicans seek to defeat change and continue a system of health care that is an abject failure.
Job losses [in Florida] have also had impacts on other indicators of well-being including poverty and health care coverage. Poverty increased by 2.8 percentage points from 2007 to 2009, and the share of uninsured increased by increased by 2.2 percentage points. This was particularly impacted by the loss of employer sponsored coverage, down 6 percentage points from 2007 to 2009.
Scare the seniors about social security: This is Florida and seniors are disproportionately represented in the Sunshine State. Their social security checks, pension checks and 401(k)s are critical spending in the Florida economy.
Seniors are also notoriously insecure, feeling threatened and vulnerable. These seniors, some of whom weathered the Great Depression and many of whom experienced WWII-era rationing, will start scrimping and saving at the hint of economic insecurity.
Let’s introduce national (and also state) Republicans harping about the bankruptcy of social security, calling it a Ponzi scheme, telling folks that we need to have ‘an honest conversation’ about the future of social security, and watch seniors batten down the hatches on spending. In fact, social security is not the big issue driving budget deficits and has little to do with national debt. It is more ideological nonsense that aims to dismantle the most successful program in US history rather than make a few rational adjustments that will extend the health of the program beyond 2038.
Austerity budgets don’t help economic recovery: This page has previously addressed the utterly ludicrous notion that a government budget is just like household budget. The claptrap that ‘everyone’s tightening their belts and government needs to do likewise’ is not a policy that aims to achieve economic recovery. It is a thin disguise for de-funding government programs, dismantling “progressive” programs like comprehensive planning, clean water, renewable energy, and social services, emasculating labor unions, and privatizing everything in sight.
The austerity regime of budget cutting has been presented so often by the mainstream media as the default strategy that many people don’t realize that tax collection, revenue increases, could be improved enough to soften if not ameliorate the huge budget deficits.
This would mean closing loopholes and setting aside perks, preferences and other bogus subsidies that have made Florida’s corporate tax code a stinking sieve of corporate welfare. Instead of correcting these tax avoidance schemes and wasteful handouts, teachers are laid off, public employees are taxed, unions are punished, systems are privatized and voucherized, measly unemployment benefits are gouged, and yet corporate taxes are reduced.
Giving money to the wealthy – households or corporations – doesn’t create jobs and doesn’t help economic recovery. It’s shoveling faster to make the hole deeper.
Refuse Washington money: After returning $2.7 billion in high speed rail construction funds, Gov. Scott made a name for himself which is a string of expletives. A previous post revealed the lack of affection in one business that could have benefited from the returned funds. Yet there has been over $100 million more in refused federal funding, although a few cherry-picked items like federal abstinence program funds were accepted.
The topper would be the rejection of funds from the President’s jobs/stimulus plan which would bring $7.5 billion to Florida. Here is what this would mean:
The White House is projecting that Florida would benefit from $1.28 billion in school construction money that would create as many as 16,600 jobs … Investments in highways, transit, rail and aviation could bring an additional $1.58 billion and 20,500 jobs … Other funds Florida could receive include:
- $1.67 billion to support up to 25,900 educator and first responder jobs.
- $2.7 billion for construction workers to refurbish hundreds of thousands of vacant and foreclosed Florida homes and businesses.
- $288 million for community colleges.
While the President’s plan doesn’t have much chance of passage, Gov. Scott and Republican leaders are already prepared to send it back:
“Where is that money coming from?” Brian Burgess [Gov. Scott’s spokesman] said. “The governor’s position is pretty clear about shoveling federal dollars out when they don’t have federal dollars to shovel out.”
Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring and the House budget chairman, said it would be premature to comment since the state doesn’t “have specific details as to how the federal government would fund those projects.”
Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, sent out his own statement on Obama’s job plan, saying the majority of it “sounded like stimulus part two.” He said Obama should reduce taxes and repeal the federal health care reform instead of pushing for additional federal spending.
Hopefully the electorate will realize that the state can’t afford more unchecked Republican idiocy and change the terms in 2012. We’ll see if anything is left.
Jobs! Jobs! JOBS! The airwaves are crackling in anticipation of the President’s speech now scheduled for Thursday night. The nation seems ready to hear someone seriously address the problem of employment.
In the first post, we looked at what the president may be able to propose and came away braced for disappointment, but wanting desperately to be proven wrong. In the chosen venue of Congress, it raises hopes that it will be big.
In this post, we consider what FL Gov. Rick Scott offers, being a Tea Party fave with a rock-solid Republican majority in the legislature, and following Republican governors with legislative majorities extending before Jeb Bush’s first term in 1998. Florida is where the Republican party line, Tea Party underscored, gets its way.
Florida has had higher than the national unemployment rate since the recession really started hollowing pockets in late 2008. With an economy dependent on and inflated by the housing, construction, and finance industries, the collapse of housing markets devastated the entire state economy, putting Florida in a deeper economic hole than most other states. Climbing out still isn’t on the horizon although the unemployment rate has improved to 10.6%, having been well over 12%. Frankly the employment news in Florida indicates that little has actually changed, despite Gov. Scott’s rhetoric and considering other perspectives on employment.
As the nation’s most unpopular governor, Governor Rick Scott claims he is the “jobs governor,” having touted this theme since buying the 2010 campaign trail. Borrowing a turn of phrase from another very unpopular Republican leader, Scott described his “axis of unemployment” which consists of taxation, regulation and litigation. Fix these, Scott promises, and jobs will follow as businesses clamor to the state.
There was some caution for the new governor as he started:
“He enters office in a state whose economy is a wreck,” said Susan MacManus, who teaches politics at the University of South Florida in Tampa. “There’s got to be major action; voters’ patience with economic recovery is very very short.”
Scott’s fellow Floridians don’t think too highly of his approach so far, judging from polls. However, don’t expect a course change from Rick Scott. He recently summarized:
The administration’s accomplishments include the elimination of tenure so Florida can keep “the best teachers,” lower corporate and property taxes, cutting $700 million from water management district budgets and a continuing effort to free business from excessive regulation and “frivolous lawsuits.”
Jobs? Oh, yeah. Still working on that axis of unemployment.
As previously posted here, Scott has altered the terms of his promise to create 700,000 new jobs in 7 years, above and beyond the 1,000,000 that would occur naturally in Florida. Now all jobs created are “Scott jobs.” Promise virtually completed!
On the Republican side, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, in a memo to fellow Republicans Monday, narrowed the GOP focus on job growth to two prime areas — regulation and tax treatment of businesses. [emphases added]
Cantor and his Republican colleagues have set the “tort reform/litigation” agenda aside for the moment, concentrating on the regulation part – “job killing” regulation, of course – to mean any regulation by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the prime federal agency on the ALEC hit list.
Having read this far, you may be wondering what any of the Republican agenda has to do with creating jobs. The only element that has even the slightest chance of making a difference is reducing business taxes. The problem in Florida is that with Republicans having been in charge for so long, businesses hardly pay any state taxes, unless they have a comatose accountant and Mr. Ed’s nether end as corporate counsel. Businesses may pay local taxes, but nothing much in state taxes. So, the action plan for creating jobs from Republicans is the co-equal of bupkus.
Any jobs being created in Florida tend to be low wage positions. There is no way that hospitality jobs offset construction and government employment as one Florida economist sloppily reported. Consumer confidence in Florida is deep in the tank and no one sees light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t expect consumer demand to drive the economy and job creation. No one has a safe job!
Floridians may have serious lapses in judgment, like 2010’s election of Gov. Scott, but they aren’t completely stupid. Enough voted for Barack Obama in 2008 to keep the nation from a Republican in the White House, and Sarah Palin a weak heartbeat away. Scott’s poll numbers don’t lie; his agenda is a cow pie and Floridians know that.
Scott’s campaign went to Tampa Steel last summer while running for guv with his “Let’s Get to Work” campaign. Owner Bruce Goldman and General Manager Bill Curnutte are no fans now:
Gov. Scott’s policy to kick-start business growth is to cut regulations. However, that isn’t helping Tampa Steel according to Curnutte. “There are no regulations that limit our growth,” Curnutte said. “It’s mostly just the amount of money that comes in our door. What we can sell is what limits our growth, what we can sell it for.”
That’s a pretty simple lesson in economics. The folks at Tampa Steel, like many statewide, are angry that Scott keeps sending our tax dollars back to Washington, particularly the high speed rail funds, rather than using them to help Floridians. If you asked Scott, he might be stupid enough to nominate “Federal funding” as the fourth axis of unemployment.
Republicans preach that we’re broke as a nation and constantly tell citizens what can’t be done. Citizens may be depressed and angry, but they haven’t all lost their minds. Most know we aren’t broke and that saying “no” doesn’t answer the question. The austerity of nope doesn’t address the jobs issue either.
Next, a look at what is needed in pretty simple terms.