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" »

October 01, 2012

Citizens gets (another) tongue-lashing over $350 million loan to insurance industry

Citizens Property Insurance continued to receive sharp-tongued backlash this week over its plan to loan out $350 million from its surplus to private insurance companies.

Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, wrote another scathing letter calling the plan a wasteful inside deal for insurance lobbyists, and Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate penned a lengthy list of unanswered questions about the high-risk program.

“Quite simply, it is reckless to rush the [surplus note] program through without taking the time to vet the program and make sure that it works,” wrote Artiles, who believes the plan is against the law and has spoken out forcefully against it.

The surplus note program is the latest in a series of ambitious moves by Citizens board in response to Gov. Rick Scott’s mandate to shrink the size of the government run insurance company.

The plan provides low-interest, forgivable loans to private companies who agree to take policies out of Citizens for 10 years. Last month, the board unveiled and approved the plan over the course of two days, with little public input and without legislative approval.

The lack of details and the speed of the approval set off red flags for Artiles, Insurance Consumer Advocate Robin Westcott and other critics who believe the unprecedented new program is being rushed through without adequate transparency.

In his letter, Artiles notes that several of the private insurers that are looking to participate in the program have troubled financial records and could go belly up after a major storm. That would leave Citizens on the hook for multimillion-dollar losses when the loans go into default. He also points out that several insurers have agreed to take over Citizens’ policies without any cash incentive, drawing into question the need for a new loan program.

“It appears that Citizens has been heavily influenced by lobbyists, as there is no rational explanation for such glaring violations of your fiduciary responsibilities to Floridians,” he said in a letter that followed a lengthy public records request seeking more details on the program. “Perhaps this is why Citizens is blindly rushing the SPN Program through with no public input or substantive changes.

Citizens has argued that the program is a revolutionary way to reduce its risk at a low price, and avoid the “hurricane taxes” that would be caused if the state-run insurer ran out of money.

“We have to reduce the overall size of Citizens,” said Barry Gilway, president of the state-run insurer, during a September meeting of its Depopulation Committee. “If we are to be successful in moving a large number of Citizens’ customers to financially secure markets, this program is compelling.”

Westcott has a number of questions about the program, and is asking Citizens to do a better job of proving that these loans make sense financially and won’t end up costing the company millions.

Continue reading "Citizens gets (another) tongue-lashing over $350 million loan to insurance industry" »

July 23, 2012

One thing in common in 2012 presidential and 2014 Gov. races: Rough Fla. economy

Florida’s unemployment rate probably won’t change much between now and the end of the year, and the jobs picture is set to remain bleak through 2016, a team of state economists said Monday.

With a troubled real estate market and trouble brewing in Europe, the state economy faces a prolonged uphill climb, according to the Economic Estimating Conference, a group of state labor experts.

The group’s long-term predictions about the economy have potential repercussions for the both the presidential election in November and the 2014 race for governor.

As President Barack Obama and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney vie for Florida’s 29 electoral votes, they will likely be doing so at a time when the state’s employment numbers remain stagnant. When Gov. Rick Scott runs for reelection in 2014, Florida will likely be suffering from high joblessness, with a rate near 8 percent.

Even if job creation accelerates in the coming months, that might not translate into declining unemployment right away, since the current rate has been skewed by large numbers of people leaving the labor market in recent months, the economists said.

“At some point, when the economy starts getting better, you’re going to see those folks coming back into the labor force, and begin actively looking for a job again,” said Amy Baker, head of the state Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research. “You could see that put a little upward pressure at least to flatten out, a little bit, the unemployment rate.”

Read more here
--@ToluseO

 

 

April 24, 2012

[VIDEO] Rick Scott talks tuition, jobs and reelection

Gov. Rick Scott spent a half hour taking a flurry of questions from reporters Tuesday. He weighed in on rising tuition, his (mightier-than-the-sword) veto pen, the Stand Your Ground task force and the overall state of Florida's economy. He also made it clear that he will seek reelection in 2014.

Here's the video:

 

--@ToluseO

April 18, 2012

Sen. Nan Rich says she will run for Gov in 2014

 

Check out this clip of state Sen. Nan Rich declaring her candidacy for governor in 2014 and scoffing at the prospect of Charlie Crist challenging her for the Democratic nomination. It's no secret that Rich has been preparing for a gubernatorial bid, but fairly or not the 70-year-old Weston resident is not widely seen as strong favorite in a Democratic field that could include Crist, Alex Sink, Jeremy Ring, Rod Smith, and plenty of others.

Is she underestimated?

"It's not a surprise to see Senator Rich running. She's been the Florida Senate's most consistent voice from the left," said Republican consultant Brian Hughes, former spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott. "Given that her constituency is the heavily Democrat portion of the state, I don't see how she's anything but formidable in a Democrat primary. Party leaders may want to embrace a chameleon like Charlie Crist, but South Florida Democrats see Rich as a fighter for what they believe."

--Adam C. Smith

September 06, 2011

Senator Nan Rich considering a run for governor

      Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich is so unhappy with Governor Rick Scott, she's thinking about running against him in 2014. Term limits will force Rich out of office next year.

Rich has long been an advocate for children and social service issues. WLRN Miami Herald reporter Gina Jordan tells us Rich is seriously considering a run for governor because she feels those issues aren't getting the proper attention from the Republican-controlled Governor's Office and Legislature. 

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July 05, 2011

PolitiFact Florida rates Gov. Rick Scott on his promise to veto pork-barrel spending

Gov. Rick Scott promised during his campaign to "veto what the legislators call 'turkeys' — costly and unnecessary pork-barrel products."

Where do you think he rated on the Scott-O-Meter? PolitiFact Florida makes the call.