January 30, 2013

House Democratic leader blasts decade of GOP governance, pushes for Medicaid expansion

Rep. Perry Thurston, the House Democratic leader, said voters in Florida are not impressed with Republican-led governance, and said even GOP leaders are beginning to feel the same way.

In a 30-minute talk that covered issues ranging from Florida’s elections debacle to implementing federal healthcare to investing in education, Thurston blamed his Republican counterparts for problems facing the state. He said reform efforts currently being pushed by Republican officials—election reform, ethics reform, education financing, healthcare implementation—all seek to deal with problems caused by the GOP-led Legislature.

Thurston said the ruling party had been “foot dragging” when it comes to implementing the federal healthcare reform. He pointed to a letter from former House Speaker Dean Cannon in 2010 that effectively kept state agencies from planning for reform. The state is now trying to figure out how to conform to the law and facing several deadlines. The decision about whether or not to expand Medicaid is a critical one for the state, and Thurston supports the expansion.

 “We’re going to save lives.  We’re not talking about turning down money fro a rail system; we’re talking about saving lives,” said Thurston. “Not to do this would be morally reprehensible.”

Continue reading "House Democratic leader blasts decade of GOP governance, pushes for Medicaid expansion" »

January 27, 2013

Despite dismal poll numbers, Rick Scott still a challenge for Democrats

by MarcACaputo

Rick Scott’s poll numbers look dismal. His finances don’t.

"One number should worry you: $70 million. That’s how much Rick Scott spent in 2010," Annette Taddeo-Goldstein, Miami-Dade’s new Democratic chairwoman, told Democrats this weekend.

To be clear, she was referring to Scott’s personal money. And it was actually closer to $75.1 million.

Include the Republican Party, and Scott probably spent just under $100 million. He was worth at least $218 million at the time, but reports he lost net worth after becoming governor. His wife has millions more.

Scott is prepared to spend as much or more in 2014.

The money race is on. And Democrats are losing it. But they know it.

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January 23, 2013

Year of the Pay Raise? Gaetz backs raises for teachers, state workers

A brightening budget picture could mean salary hikes for tens of thousands of teachers and state employees if Senate President Don Gaetz gets his way.

“I think that teachers are some govenment workers who deserve to have better compensation,” Gaetz, R-Niceville, said. “But I know corrections officers, I know highway patrolmen…. who deserve a raise. And six years is a long time to wait.”

Gov. Rick Scott has announced support for across-the-board pay hikes for Florida teachers, but the hard part will be making the numbers work in an uncertain budgeting environment.

Gaetz said he was not familiar with the details of Scott’s teacher pay raise, but pointed out a still-tight budget may force Scott to “reduce funding for some of his other priorities in order to fund this most recent priority.”

That could mean Scott’s push for lower business taxes and more cash for economic incentives could be tempered by the plan to provide teachers raises.

Early estimates of the pay raise come in at about $480 million, Scott said.

Gaetz said he’s in favor performance-based approaches to the pay raises, which would be determined by local school boards.

“My preference always has been to provide local school boards with more funding than they can use based on plans they develop locally to recognize and reward effective teaching,” he said.

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December 27, 2012

Scott warns of devastating ports shutdown; Dems pivot to Obamacare, education

Gov. Rick Scott called for Pres. Obama to take emergency measures to halt an impending shut down of the nation’s ports stemming from a labor dispute.

Joined by the state’s ports directors on a conference call on Thursday, Scott said the shut down of ports throughout the state of Florida would lead to unacceptable job losses and economic turmoil.

“We are together on this call today for one reason – we must help the Florida families whose jobs and livelihoods depend on our Florida ports,” Scott said. “A shut down of Florida ports is simply not an option for Florida families.”

Scott wrote a letter to Obama last week asking for the president to invoke presidential powers to halt a strike by the International Longshoremen’s Association. He said he “hoped” the president had read the letter, indicating that Obama had not yet responded.

The national strike is scheduled to go forward on Saturday if there is no agreement for a new contract. It could have a multimillion-dollar impact in Florida, where the massive port of Miami is located.

A top Democrat in the Florida Legislature was quick to react to Scott’s mention of “families,” pivoting to other state issues that affect families—namely, healthcare and education.

House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, blasted the governor’s move to intervene in the labor dispute while other state issues linger.

“President Obama will determine what is best regarding the looming strike at the nation’s East Coast ports,” said Thurston, in a statement that asked Scott to focus on implementing healthcare reform and addressing education issues. “Governor Scott can turn his attention to Florida and begin correcting all that he has managed to dismantle.” 

Scott’s press release and the response release from Thurston are below:

Continue reading "Scott warns of devastating ports shutdown; Dems pivot to Obamacare, education" »

December 19, 2012

Flop-flop alert: Charlie Crist reverses course on gun control, now backs it

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who throughout his long political career has been staunchly pro-gun rights, said Wednesday that after the Connecticut school slayings, he now backs controls.

He expressed support for a renewed assault weapons ban, a size limit on ammunition clips and tougher background checks.

“We need to have some restrictions, that’s pretty obvious to most people,” Crist told the Tampa Bay Times prior to testifying before a Senate panel on voting laws. “What do you need a 30-clip magazine for?

“Not to go hunting deer. I can tell you that because I hunt deer.”

Crist recently became a Democrat and is considering a challenge to Gov. Rick Scott, who long has favored gun rights. Scott has refused to comment on gun measures after the Connecticut shootings, saying it is too early to debate.

More here

Charlie Crist trashes Rick Scott in Sen. hearing for vote suppression, turning FL into a ‘late-night TV joke”

Former Gov. Charlie Crist bashed Gov. Rick Scott twice by name during a U.S. Senate hearing on Wednesday for signing an election law that helped suppress the vote and turn Florida into a “late-night TV joke.”

Crist’s Senate Judiciary Committee testimony came just hours after the release of a new poll showing he’s more popular than the current governor, who is preparing to face his predecessor – a Republican-turned Democrat -- in the 2014 elections.

Scott earlier Wednesday acknowledged on CNN that some fixes might be needed for the election law he signed in 2011. That law cut back the days of in-person early voting and helped make the ballot longer, which led to long lines.

More here

November 15, 2012

Predictable voting debacle? Lawmakers foresaw trouble in 2011, but their proposals were shot down

Many of the problems that surfaced during the 2012 election were predicted by Democratic legislators who tried to soften the impact of a controversial voting law with a slew of pro-voter amendments.

All the amendments to HB 1355 failed in the Republican-dominated House and Senate, though some of the same lawmakers who voted against the reforms now appear to be supporting election reform.

“It’s a little early to say what led to what led to those long lines,” said incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, adding that a committee needs to look at why Florida’s election was plagued by 6-hour lines and a last-in-the-nation presidential result.

Language from the Democrats’ amendments would have expanded the number of early voting sites, limited the length of constitutional amendments and given local election supervisors the option to extend early voting hours on their own if they felt it necessary.

Sec. of State Ken Detzner, Florida’s chief elections official, has said that the length of the ballot and the lack of sufficient early voting sites is what caused the chaos on Election Day.

Amendments and legislation that would have dealt specifically with those issues were rejected by Republican lawmakers, including some in South Florida districts that had lines of up to 9 hours.

One failed amendment would have mandated that local elections supervisors do everything in their power to ensure that no voter waited more than 25 minutes in line.

One after the other, the amendments failed. Now, lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott, who signed HB 1355, are trying to figure out what went so terribly wrong during Florida’s nationally-televised voting debacle.

Here are a few Democrat-backed amendments to HB 1355 that now seem prescient, 18 months after they were offered, and killed, on the floor of the House and Senate.

Continue reading "Predictable voting debacle? Lawmakers foresaw trouble in 2011, but their proposals were shot down" »

November 07, 2012

Scott gives post-election reaction

After meeting with top education officials Wednesday, Gov. Rick Scott took some time to answer a few questions about the election.

Florida was in the news as a razor-thin race, and it was the only state that hadn't been called by the time most networks ended their presidential coverage last night.

Part of the reason was the close margins--less than 100,000 votes separated Mitt Romney and Pres. Obama out of more than 8.3 million cast. But another contributor was the fact that people were still voting as late as 1:45 a.m. in South Florida, due to wait times that lasted six and seven hours in parts of the state. In several cities and counties across the state of Florida, both early voting and election day voting were plagued by long lines.

Scott stopped short of criticizing the process, saying that he would be sitting down with the Secretary of State to see how the state could improve.

"One thing I think we always ought to be doing is always look at when we finish something and say, ‘What can we improve?’" he said. "So I’ll be sitting down with the Secretary of State’s Office to look at the things that we can improve."

He then went on to talk about the positives--high turnout and great interest in early and absentee voting.

Scott also gave reaction to the outcome of the presidential race:

"Our country knows that the biggest issue we have is jobs," he said. "So President Obama is re-elected. My goal is that we’d all come together. We unite to focus on what our families need. They need jobs."

He was asked if Obama's victory and the strong showing by Democrats up and down the ballot caused him to worry him about 2014.

"I travel the state everyday. I talk to families everyday. I know what they care about and it’s what I’m focused on," he said. "Is, one, making sure that in our state people can get a job, and, two, making sure children can get an education and that’s what I’m going to keep doing.”

He was also asked about the resounding failure of eight of 11 amendments placed on the ballot by the Legislature. Many people blame the long, confusing amendments on causing logjam at the polls and leading to massive lines. Scott simply said the amendment proposals were all part of the democratic process. He also distanced himself from the failed amendments, even though he publicly pushed for some of them.

"As you know the amendments don’t come to the governor’s office. They only go through the Legislature," he said. "I think that we live in a great state where people have the opportunity to participate in the election. people can propose things and they’re either going to pass or not going to pass."

Obama's victory also means Obamacare--which Scott has criticized--is here to stay.

Scott's thoughts: "What I think about when I look at anything with regard to Obamacare: Is it good for a patient? Did it help them reduce their cost or get access to health care? Can taxpayers pay for it? What’s it going to do to jobs?"

--reporting by Tia Mitchell

 

 

 

October 09, 2012

Conservative think-tank gives Scott an 'A' in cutting biz taxes, gov't spending

When it comes to cutting taxes for businesses, Gov. Rick Scott received an ‘A’ grade from the conservative Cato Institute, which gave Florida’s governor’s high marks for his fiscal policy.

Scott received a ‘69’ score—the highest in the country—on Cato’s Fiscal Policy Report Card, after slashing Florida’s corporate income tax and offering other tax cuts.

While the Cato Institute’s report card refers to the tax cuts as “pro-growth,” the report did not rate governors according to actual economic growth. Instead, “the governors receiving an ‘A’ are those who cut taxes and spending the most,” the report reads.

In the area of job growth, Florida is a middle-runner, ranking 25th in the nation over the last year, under Scott’s economic policies. Florida’s job creation rate is lower than the national average and long-term unemployment is worst in the nation.

Still, Scott compared well against other governors in states that have faced spiraling budget problems and out-of-control spending. Cato gave Scott high marks for “substantial budget cuts” and cutting thousands of jobs from state government, as well as for various business-focused tax cuts.

“Rick Scott of Florida has championed major tax and spending reforms. He has proposed substantial budget cuts, vetoed hundreds of millions of dollars of wasteful spending, and trimmed state employment,” the Cato Institute report reads. “Scott is also determined to give Florida the best economic climate for business investment and job creation in the country.”

For comparison, Gov. Charlie Crist received an ‘A’ grade in 2008, but the one-time ‘Most Conservative Governor’ fell out of favor with the Cato Institute, receiving a ‘D’ by 2010.

In 2006, Gov. Jeb Bush received a ‘C’ grade.

@ToluseO

October 02, 2012

NAACP launches national ‘felony disenfranchisement’ protest at Fla. Capitol

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People came to the Florida Capitol on Tuesday to launch a national campaign against policies that withhold voting rights from millions of people who have a felony conviction on their record.

With national NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous and Golden Globe-winning actor Charles Dutton headlining, the group tried to shine a spotlight on the the issue of "felony disenfranchisement."

“Voting is a right,” said Jealous, speaking from the steps of the Old Capitol in Tallahassee. “In this state, the governor has decided to turn back the clock.” IMG_0134

In Florida, people who have been convicted of felonies must wait five to seven years after completing their sentences to apply for restoration of civil rights, including the right to vote. The process can take several additional years to work through the system, and the number of applications processed per year has fallen precipitously in recent years.

Last year, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet ended the policy of automatically restoring rights to released felons, a policy started under former Gov. Charlie Crist. Most states automatically restore the right to vote to felons who have served their prison time.

Under Crist, more than 150,000 ex-felons had their rights restored. Under Scott, less than 300 people have had their rights restored. More than 1.5 million ex-felons in Florida are disenfranchised, giving the state one of the highest rates in the nation.

Continue reading "NAACP launches national ‘felony disenfranchisement’ protest at Fla. Capitol" »