Florida, Inc.: Gov. Rick Scott's First Month As The Sunshine State's CEO
One month into his term as Florida's governor, Republican Rick Scott is making good on his campaign threat to run Florida like one of his businesses. The former health care executive, who left Columbia/HCA amidst the largest case of Medicare fraud in history, has set out to place himself in a position more akin to a corporate tycoon than a public servant by making grabs at additional power and restricting press access. He's also putting the "business" of Florida above the common good with troubling moves on the environment, transportation and health care. Yet there's no promise that Scott is even running a particularly tight Floridian ship. He's made a number of worrisome hires, and there are hints that his budget plan, to be released Monday, may include untenable tax cuts. Moreover, Scott's right-wing views on immigration and LGBT issues should cause many of Florida's residents concern.
Unprecedented Power Grabs
Scott Froze And Demanded To Review All Pending Regulations Immediately After Inauguration. From the Miami Herald: "Following through on a campaign promise to eliminate 'job-killing regulations,' one of Gov. Rick Scott's first official acts was an executive order freezing all rules now in the works. The order, issued Tuesday, cast a huge net over regulations making their way toward adoption. It halted hundreds of rules addressing everything from cleaning up mercury pollution in state water to allowing local governments to keep a larger share of building permit fees and requiring rigorous background checks for nursing home workers. [...] But some rules put on hold would lower fees and lessen restrictions on businesses, both of which Scott has said are necessary to meet his goal of creating 700,000 jobs in seven years." [Miami Herald, 1/8/11]
Scott Tried To Make Elected State Cabinet Members Submit Their Regulations For His Review. From the Miami Herald:
Thirty minutes after taking office last week, Gov. Rick Scott signed an executive order requiring his approval for any new state rules in departments under his purview.
Three days later, he sent an e-mail asking agencies that are not under his control to voluntarily "consent to the pre-authorization process" as well.
That request went to Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam - state Cabinet members who were elected in their own right.
Thanks, but no thanks.
[Miami Herald, 1/14/11]
Judicial Nominating Commission Rejected Scott's Attempted Intrusion Into Judiciary. From the Palm Beach Post:
The nine commissioners who make recommendations on judicial appointments deliberated 90 minutes Friday on whether to accede to Gov. Rick Scott's request for more names to consider to fill a Fourth District Court of Appeal vacancy.
In the end, they voted not to. They then sent Scott the names of the same four applicants they had recommended the first time. [...]
Many lawyers and judges observing the process said privately that they saw the request for more names as an intrusion into the independence of the judiciary.
While governors appoint judges, judicial nominating commissions restrain that power by selecting the nominees and "take the judiciary out of the field of political patronage," the Florida Supreme Court recently ruled in a similar situation arising from Crist seeking additional nominees from a JNC. [Palm Beach Post, 1/15/11]
Scott Wants Power Over Medicaid Eligibility In Florida. From the Miami Herald:
Florida Gov. Rick Scott and other Republican governors are asking the federal government to give them more power to trim Medicaid eligibility to help control costs.
But a report released today has a different take on the situation: It credits federal requirements with helping avoid cutbacks in Medicaid and children's health programs, as states have dealt with huge budget shortfalls during the past year. [...]
"It is imperative that we stop federal health-care mandates that tie the hands of states," Scott, a fierce critic of the federal health law, said in a prepared statement. "Florida should get to determine what program is the right fit for our state in terms of a Medicaid program, and the federal mandates are essentially the federal government telling us what program will work best for our state, while we are forced to pick up part of the bill."
It remains unclear what parts of Medicaid could be targeted if Scott and lawmakers had more power to make changes. But lawmakers in the past have repeatedly considered cuts to programs such as the Medically Needy program, which provides costly care to transplant recipients and other people with serious medical conditions. [Miami Herald, 1/11/11, emphasis added]
Restricted Press Access
Scott Has Walked Back Press Access. From the Florida Times-Union:
A private dinner featuring Gov. Rick Scott and three lawmakers Thursday night became the latest stumbling block in an increasingly testy relationship between the new administration and Capitol journalists.
Scott met with House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami; future House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, slated to take over the chamber in 2012; and future House Speaker Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, scheduled to take over in 2014.
Gov. Charlie Crist had allowed any reporter to attend all such social meetings, although he had no legal obligation to do so as long as pending legislation wasn't discussed. Scott's office, however, said it would agree only if it could choose which reporters covered the event - a condition considered unacceptable by the media.
Negotiations broke down between the two sides late Thursday.
"It's a basic and important principle of professional journalism that we operate independently to provide the fair and impartial coverage that our readers and users need," Times-Union editor Frank Denton said. "Though these particular events may not seem important in the grand scheme of things, the principle is, we choose our reporters; the governor's people do not." [Florida Times-Union, 1/27/11, emphasis added]
Reporters Kicked Out Of Scott's Post-Inaugural Event In Public State Capitol Building. From the Orlando Sentinel:
Speaking to the board of the Florida Society of News Editors, nine Tallahassee correspondents said Scott's team is imposing an unprecedented level of control over access to Scott and to events that previously would have been considered open. The governor's office also has tried to "cherry-pick" reporters to provide pooled reports to the rest of the press corps, instead of allowing the journalists to choose. [...]
The journalists pointed to several examples, including a post-inauguration reception held on the scenic 22nd-floor of the state Capitol, where Scott's staff restricted access to only a select few.
The event was in a public building and the entire state Legislature had been invited, noted Mary Ellen Klas of The Miami Herald. "That, on its surface, struck me as a public meeting. ... There's no reason they should be shutting the public out."
But Klas and others, including an AP reporter, were booted out. The reporters said Scott's staff said a pooled report would be provided and argued that the journalists had accepted the arrangement. She and the other reporters speaking Tuesday said they'd never accepted such a deal. Pool reports typically are only agreed to when space is unavoidably limited, such as aboard an airplane, and the selection of the journalist is made by the participating media groups. [Orlando Sentinel, 1/18/11, emphasis added]
The Only Journalist Allowed To Cover Governor's Mansion Dinner Was From A Conservative Outlet. From Politico:
The push-and-pull broke out into open hostility last Friday when Scott's aides offered to provide access to a dinner at the governor's mansion between Scott and several legislative leaders which, they said, was not a public meeting under state law. But the Scott team insisted that only two reporters would be allowed to attend and they would have to pool, or share, their coverage with other reporters - a common practice for outlets covering the president of the United States but not the governor of Florida.
Scott's staff also imposed a condition that the White House press corps would also have revolted against: They wanted to pick the pool reporter. The press viewed that as an inappropriate surrender of control, and refused to cooperate. [...]
Several reporters arrived at the governor's mansion anyway, and were kept outside the gates. The Scott administration allowed only a reporter from a sympathetic conservative website outlet, the Sunshine State News, into the event - handing the publication an exclusive. [Politico, 2/2/11, emphasis added]
Scott Reportedly "Skirting Free-Press Traditions" With Slow Responses To Public Records Requests. From the Orlando Sentinel:
Journalists who cover Florida's capital complained to industry leaders Tuesday that the new administration of Gov. Rick Scott is skirting free-press traditions and attempting to control their work by limiting access to events and being slow to provide public records.
Royse and others said their requests for public records have gone unanswered. Also, questions that previously could be handled by spokespeople within a given department are now routinely routed to the governor's office, resulting in delays. They acknowledged, however, that Scott's team is undergoing a natural transition and still is learning how to work with the media. [Orlando Sentinel, 1/18/11]
Scott Reportedly Instructed Press Not to Publish "Frivolous Blog Items." From Politico:
"There is a period here at the beginning where it's necessary to establish some ground rules and that's really what we're going through," said Scott's communications director, Brian Burgess, fresh from the the conservative Washington public relations firm CRC. Burgess said he had at first been surprised by the intensity of the competition for information among the rival news outlets. "We think that by giving a little bit of order to the whole process it will help everybody more evenly get the news that they need."
The freewheeling capital press corps doesn't see it that way and their outrage has come over symbolic and real issues. Reporters, Scott's aides decreed, would sit and raise their hands, rather than standing and shouting their questions. The mob scene would end, and reporters expressed outrage at the suggestion - never acted on - that stanchions and a velvet rope might be put up to offer the governor a path out of the room. They should, Scott and his aides angrily told the press, refrain from posting frivolous blog items like the one about a Twitter glitch headlined "Gay Cowboys, Handcuffs, and Rick Scott." [Politico, 2/2/11]
Scott Press Communications Director Brian Burgess Has A History Of Hostility Towards The Media. From the Florida Independent: "Burgess was also known for his tough handling of the press. After he left the D.A.'s office in August 2008, the weekly newspaper The Pitch, in Kansas City, asked Burgess for a comment on Kline's handling of medical records in the abortion case. Burgess gave a detailed response, during which he complained about the 'no-longer-credible Kansas media.' At the end of the email, Burgess wrote: 'I really don't miss some of you dipshits at all. Have fun in your world of make-believe.'" [Florida Independent, 10/28/10]
- Burgess Worked For PR Firm Behind "Swift Boat" Attack Ads. From the Florida Independent: "In September 2008, Burgess moved to Alexandria, Va., to work for CRC Public Relations, formerly Creative Response Concepts, which has a roster of right-wing clients. In 2004, CRC helped the 527 political group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth craft a media campaign attacking Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran. Swift Boat Veterans took out ads against Kerry, claiming he overstated his record in Vietnam, created a documentary and produced a book, Unfit for Command, published by Regnery Publishing, also a CRC client. The ads were widely deemed unfair, but they were effective." [Florida Independent, 10/28/10]
Mangling Florida's Budget And State Workforce
Scott Wants To Eliminate The Tax That Pays For The Voucher Program He Wants To Expand. From the Tampa Tribune:
GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott released a proposal last week for revamping Florida's K-12 school system that stresses his desire to "expand school choice" for students and parents.
More choice, he said, means offering a wide range of options, from more magnet and charter schools to expanding the use of virtual schools. But it's his desire to expand another option -- school vouchers -- that sets him farthest from his opponent, Alex Sink. [...]
Ironically, the gubernatorial candidate proposing to expand vouchers tied to the corporate income tax also wants to eliminate the tax completely. [Tampa Tribune, 10/4/10]
- Republican Florida Senate President: "I Don't See The Math" On Scott's Proposed Tax Cuts. From the Associated Press:
Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos on Wednesday said Florida cannot afford to the tax cuts that are among Gov. Rick Scott's top priorities.
The Merritt Island Republican said cutting taxes simply doesn't add up when the state is facing a $3.5 billion gap between expected revenues and critical and high priority expenses for the budget year starting July 1.
Scott, also a Republican, campaigned on promises to phase out Florida's corporate income tax and slash school property taxes as part of his plan to create 700,000 new jobs in seven years by making the state friendlier to business.
His tax cuts could expand the budget gap by another $2 billion.
Haridopolos said he'd be open to the tax reductions only if Scott also proposes an equal amount of spending cuts to keep the budget in balance. Scott is expected to unveil his budget proposal to the Legislature in early February.
"I don't see the math yet, but Rick Scott is a very able executive," Haridopolos said at a news conference. "If he and his budget team can find a way to make it happen, we're going to be all ears." [Associated Press, 1/12/11]
- Republican Florida Education Committee Head: Scott's Property Tax Cuts Aren't Happening. From WOKV.com:
State Senator Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville told WOKV's Adam Kirk the 19 percent property tax cut Governor Rick Scott is promising this year will likely not come to fruition.
Wise is the head of the education committee in the state Senate and one of the keys to setting what's known as the Required Local Effort tax, or RLE as it's known in Tallahassee. That is the millage rate that local school boards are required to charge property owners in order to receive state funding for schools. [...]
Wise said the RLE is set at a reasonable level currently. Scott's tax cut plan would save the average homeowner about $140 per year. The Governor will unveil his budget proposal at a TEA Party rally on Monday in central Florida. [WOKV.com, 2/3/11]
Scott Has Proposed Cutting 5 Percent Of Florida's State Workforce. From Bloomberg:
Florida, facing a $2.5 billion budget gap next fiscal year, may cut 5 percent of its state workforce to save costs, Governor-elect Rick Scott said.
The reduction may save $300 million a year, the Republican former health-industry executive said in an interview today on Bloomberg Television's "InBusiness With Margaret Brennan."
"Our government has grown too fast compared to the private sector," said Scott, 58. "When that happens, jobs go away, so we have to reduce the size of government." [Bloomberg, 12/3/10]
- Florida's State Workforce Is Already Minimal. From the Florida Independent:
But the state's Department of Management Services already touts itself as one of the cheapest and leanest state workforces in the country, prompting experts to wonder if eliminating more employees, and potentially the services they provide, would cut to the bone. [...]
According to U.S. Census figures compiled by the state's management department, Florida is tied with Illinois for the lowest per capita expense on state employees: $38 for every state resident. That's less than neighbors Georgia ($46), Alabama ($70) and Mississippi ($60). The national average is $69.
There are 118 full- and part-time state employees for every 10,000 residents in Florida. That, too, is the lowest ratio in the country - also less than Georgia (158), Alabama (228) and Mississippi (219). The national average is 216.
With 168,654 employees in 2009, the state's workforce is the smallest it's been in years - hovering around what it was in 2006 (167,268). In 2007, it numbered 171,333. [Florida Independent, 9/16/10]
Despite Campaign Rhetoric, Scott's Transition Team Was Filled With "Special Interests And Party Insiders." From the Miami Herald:
Scott has blamed special interests and party insiders for wasteful spending in state government, but put lobbyists Wayne Watters and Margaret Duggar and state party fundraiser Dr. Akshay Desai on his healthcare team.
Heading the budget team is Donna Arduin, well known in conservative economic circles for her opposition to taxes on wealth. She earned $180,000 in five months on Scott's campaign for authoring his jobs plan.
Arduin was former Gov. Jeb Bush's first budget director. After working in a similar role for California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, she returned to Florida in 2007 to write then-House Speaker Marco Rubio's plan to increase state sales taxes and eliminate property taxes. [Miami Herald, 11/21/10]
- Scott's "Lavish" Inaugural Event Funded By Lobbyists And Business Interests. From NPR: "Unlike in California and New York, where festivities were toned down in a nod to the economy, Florida's inaugural events bordered on the lavish. Scott's celebration stretched over two days and included a parade, dinners, breakfasts and a ball. The price tag? Some $3 million - mostly raised from lobbyists and business interests." [NPR, 1/6/11]
Scott Hired Discredited Art Laffer As Economics Adviser. From the Sun Sentinel:
Gov.-elect Rick Scott on Monday announced a group of ardently conservative and notably controversial economic thinkers who will advise him on his first budget proposal.
The high-profile list includes the economist who inspired Reaganomics, a fiscal fix-it expert who has advised four Republican governors, and a budget analyst from the influential, Washington D.C.-based libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute.
Critics say it's a troubling combination of economists who have promoted flawed theories in the past and will surely lead to hard future times for low-income Floridians or those who rely on social services.
Scott has set the bar high for the cast of six, which includes Donna Arduin and Arthur Laffer, whose "Laffer Curve" became the basis for using tax cuts as a way stimulating the economy and a pillar of Ronald Reagan's economic philosophy - and is blamed for leading the country into the largest deficit in decades. [Sun Sentinel, 11/16/10]
Scott Hire Chris Knight Dumped From Team After Prior Dishonest Conduct Came To Light. From the Miami Herald: "Chris Knight was let go from the transition team after the Herald/Times asked about his qualifications. Knight was forced to resign from the Florida Highway Patrol in 2007 after falsifying a memo and using it to justify the firing of a commander. The state eventually paid $525,000 to end a lawsuit filed by the commander." [Miami Herald, 11/21/10]
Legislative Affairs Appointee Bonna Was On Board Of "Extremist" Anti-Immigration Group. From the Palm Beach Post:
Scott hired 23-year-old Anthony Bonna of Port St. Lucie as the State Department's legislative affairs director, even though Bonna's sole work experience has been on political campaigns. [...]
Bonna is still listed on the Floridians for Immigration Enforcement website as a member of the board of directors. The group endorsed Scott in his campaign for governor. Trey Stapleton, a spokesman for the State Department, said Bonna resigned from the group immediately before starting work this week but could not provide an exact date for his withdrawal.
Efforts to reach Bonna for comment were unsuccessful.
Floridians for Immigration Enforcement, also known as FLIMEN, is among the groups the Southern Poverty Law Center targeted as "nativist extremists" because of the organization's "forceful protest at hiring sites," said SPLC research director Heidi Beirich. [Palm Beach Post, 1/6/11]
Bad News For Florida's Environment
Rick Scott Delayed New Septic Tank Regulations. From the Jackson County Floridian:
Gov. Rick Scott informed lawmakers Wednesday that he will allow the delay of implementation of new septic tank regulations to come into effect, according to state Reps. Brad Drake, R-Eucheeanna, and Marti Coley, R-Marianna. [...]
Senate Bill 2A delays the implementation of septic tank inspections required by a law that was passed during the 2010 regular session. The law requires regular inspections of all septic tanks, and the replacement of all tanks that fail to pass musters. There are more than 17,000 septic tanks in Jackson County, and critics of the law say it places a heavy burden on homeowners. [Jackson County Floridian, 1/20/11]
- Septic Tank Inspection Law Designed To Protect Florida's Environment From An Estimated Half Million Broken Tanks. From the Herald-Tribune:
In their quest to reduce regulations, particularly on businesses, Gov.-elect Rick Scott and Florida's new legislative leaders are taking aim at a whole range of environmental protection efforts.
Their first target was a new law requiring every homeowner and business with a septic tank to pay for an inspection every five years. Untreated human waste leeching from Florida's estimated 500,000 broken septic tanks contributes to health warnings across the state and chokes waterways with algal blooms. [...]
Studies show failing septic systems are a big source of water pollution in Florida. Most of the state has a low elevation and porous, sandy soil. Septic tanks are often very close to the water table so there is less filter time. Florida also has a long history of dredge and fill development and many older canal homes are on septic tanks.
A recent study of the Wekiva River near Orlando found that 26 percent of the nutrient pollution in the area came from septic tanks.
High levels of nutrients like nitrogen can cause algae blooms that block sunlight, killing marine habitat. Decaying algae also sucks oxygen out of the water, killing fish.[Herald-Tribune, 12/6/10]
Scott's Choice To Head Florida EPA Is Herschel Vinyard. From the News Service of Florida:
Herschel Vinyard, director of Jacksonville-based BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards, will lead the Department of Environmental Protection under Scott, his transition team confirmed to the News Service of Florida.
Vinyard, who was a member of Scott's Economic Development Transition Team, is an attorney by trade who practiced environmental law for 10 years, Scott noted in a statement. [TheLedger.com, 1/3/11]
- Scott Environmental Appointee "Has Represented Businesses In Environmental Cases." From the Herald-Tribune: "At the Department of Environmental Protection, the state's top environmental agency, involved in issues including restoration of the Everglades and oil drilling, Scott tapped Herschel Vinyard, a lawyer and executive with a Jacksonville ship-building company. Vinyard has previously represented businesses in environmental cases." [Florida Times-Union, 1/15/11]
Scott Appointed Developer To Head Department Charged With Reining In Development. From the Herald-Tribune: "Scott, who has promised to rid the state of 'job-killing' regulations, named Billy Buzzett, a land-use lawyer who has worked for one of the largest developers in Florida, to lead the state Department of Community Affairs, the state's top agency for regulating developers. Scott has also indicated his support for diminishing the role of the DCA by merging it into several other agencies, including the Department of Transportation." [Herald-Tribune, 1/7/11]
- Buzzett Shepherded Through Unpopular Airport Project That Polluted Waterways. From the Herald Tribune:
The debate over a new airport built on St. Joe land outside Panama City was even more heated. Environmentalists strongly opposed the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport because of the impact on nearby wetlands. A majority of Bay County voters disapproved of the project in a referendum but Buzzett helped steer it towards approval, increasing the value of nearby St. Joe lands.
The airport opened last year. Water quality samples collected by Patrice Couch of the St. Andrew Bay Resource Management Association, a Bay County environmental nonprofit, showed stormwater runoff from the site is polluting the bay and creeks. [Herald-Tribune, 1/7/11]
Scott's Transition Team Recommended Ending Oversight Of Large-Scale Effects Of Development. From the Herald-Tribune: "The report recommends ending a layer of oversight known as Developments of Regional Impact. This designation comes into play when developers seek to build massive subdivisions or business areas, or whole communities such as Lakewood Ranch. Because these developments affect not only local communities, but can drain water resources and increase traffic throughout an entire region, the regulation requires that state planners review the proposals to make sure they are compatible with communities outside the local government's jurisdiction. But Scott may end that oversight." [Herald-Tribune, 1/7/11]
Immigration, Unemployment, And LGBT Issues
Scott's Executive Order On Diversity Excluded Gay And Handicapped People. From the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council:
Shortly after he was sworn in as Florida's 45th governor, Rick Scott issued an executive order addressing diversity in state government. [...]
"Governor Scott's limited view of diversity is very discouraging," said Hoch. "Governor Scott did not even include all of the classifications listed in the Florida Civil Rights Act -- let alone sexual orientation and gender identity."
The Florida Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on "race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status." In addition, Florida courts have also determined that pregnancy is a protected classification. [Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, 1/4/11]
- Scott Opposes Allowing Gay Couples To Adopt. From the St. Petersburg Times:
Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday that he doesn't have any immediate plans to change the state policy on gay adoptions but he remains opposed to it, as does his new appointee to the agency that handles adoptions of children in state care.
"I believe that adoption should be by a married couple," Scott told reporters and editors at the annual Associated Press planning session in Tallahassee.
Scott's opposition to gay adoption is in line with his new appointee, David Wilkins, whom he named secretary of the Department of Children and Families on Tuesday.
Wilkins, who retired last year as global managing director of sales for Accenture's health and public service business, also has served as the finance chief for the Florida Baptist Children's Home, a private agency that allows only "professing Christians" to adopt children in its care. [St. Petersburg Times, 1/20/11]
Scott's Advisers Misuse Study To Suggest Unemployed Aren't Trying Hard Enough To Find Work. From the Tampa Tribune:
The gist of the advisers' comments: people drawing unemployment benefits aren't working hard enough to find work. [...]
Scott's business-minded advisers on economic development Wednesday gave the governor-elect 109 pages of observations and recommendations for reinvigorating Florida economy. Among the topics, unemployment compensation.
"According to [former U.S. Assistant Treasury Secretary Alan] Krueger's research, the amount of time people on UC spent looking for a job averaged only 20 minutes a day! Within 2 weeks of UC ending, that increased but to only 70 minutes a day," states the document, noting that the median duration of unemployment benefits receipt has increased nationally from 10 weeks to 18.7 weeks.
The team's recommendations: tighten job-search requirements for people getting benefits, cut off assistance for those who don't comply and assign community work for those who don't get a job in 12 weeks. Goals: increase employment and reduce the payout of unemployment benefits, as well as the unemployment compensation tax burden on businesses.
Reached via email, Krueger told the Tampa Tribune Thursday that the Scott team's report misstated his findings.
In fact, Krueger confirmed today, his research revealed that the average amount of time spent job-searching is more than 40 minutes a day, not 20.
Krueger, who recently returned to Princeton University, was also critical of the Scott team's proposals.
"They seem to have misinterpreted my study," the Treasury Department's chief former economist said. "More importantly, those results were for the mid 2000s. The main problem we face now is an inadequate number of jobs, not inadequate search by the unemployed.
"Their proposals strike me as punitive, and unlikely to be very effective. Research by [Princeton economist] Orley Ashenfelter shows that stricter enforcement of the work search requirement does not save ... money." [Tampa Tribune, 12/23/10]
Scott Supports An Arizona-Style Immigration Law. From the Herald-Tribune:
Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Scott reiterated his support for a law like Arizona's, which was one of his campaign promises.
Scott said Thursday that he would support legislation allowing police to check someone's immigration status during a routine traffic stop.
"Just like I get asked for my ID if I ever get a traffic ticket, they should be asked if they're legal or not," Scott said.
But he said he would oppose any law that allowed "racial profiling." [Herald-Tribune, 1/28/11]
At One Point, Scott Supported An Immigration Bill That Exempted Canadians And Western Europeans. From the Miami New Times:
Florida state Rep. William Snyder, the slow-drawling ex-Miami-Dade Police officer who has drafted Tallahassee's version of the hotly debated Arizona immigration bill, is adamant that his law would not lead to racial profiling.
Snyder drafted his homage in August, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott last week pledged to support the bill if elected.
What few observers seem to have noticed, though, is a bizarre clause Snyder included on page 3. Even if an officer has "reasonable suspicions" over a person's immigration status, the bill says, a person will be "presumed to be legally in the United States" if he or she provides "a Canadian passport" or a passport from any "visa waiver country."
What are the visa waiver countries? Other than four Asian nations, almost all of the 32 other countries are in Western Europe, from France to Germany to Luxembourg.
In other words, Snyder's bill tells police to drop their "reasonable suspicions" of anyone hailing from dozens of countries full of white people. How is that not racial profiling? [Miami New Times, 10/18/10]
Transportation, Health Care, Education
Health Care: Scott Refuses To Make Provisions To Implement Affordable Care Act Because He "Personally" Believes The Law Won't Stand. From WTSP.com:
Gov. Rick Scott is stopping Florida from making preparations to implement the federal health care law.
Scott makes that decision following the ruling from a federal judge in Pensacola that says the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.
Judge Roger Vinson ruled against the law's individual mandate, which would force people to buy health insurance or face a financial penalty.
Gov. Scott says he thinks the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately declare the law unconstitutional so Florida should not take steps in the meantime to implement it.
"I personally have always believed that it was going to get repealed or declared unconstitutional because I think it's a significant job killer. So one thing we're doing here is we are not going to spend a lot of time and money with regard to trying to get ready to implement that until we know exactly what's going to happen." [WTSP.com, 2/1/11]
For more on Judge Vinson's ruling and the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, click HERE.
Scott Wants To Radically Expand School Vouchers Program. From ABC Action News:
One week before he is sworn in as governor, Rick Scott's ambitious agenda is causing both cheer and gloom.
His most controversial plan would provide school vouchers for almost any family that wanted to take their child out of public schools. But on this issue, not everybody wants him to get to work.
Spending public money on private or religious schools has already been ruled unconstitutional by Florida's Supreme Court, but incoming Governor Rick Scott has made it clear that he wants families to be able to attend charter, private or even online schools with education tax dollars. [ABC Action News, 12/28/10]
- Scott Believes That With Voucher Program Public Schools "Will Just Simply Get Better." From an appearance on Fox News' America's News Headquarters:
CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): And what happens to public schools, I mean, if the money is basically going to the child rather than to the school, don't you run the risk everybody is going to end up going to private schools or other special kinds of schools, and the public schools are -
SCOTT: No. Absolutely not. Chris, absolutely not. Our public schools will just simply get better. Look, in any other-in anything else competition makes people better. This will do the same thing. If parents have the right to choose, the schools that want to continue to thrive, they'll pick - they'll get better. They'll have better, you know, their teachers, they'll have the best teachers, they'll make sure their teachers get paid the best. No, public schools will thrive with this. It will be way better for our public schools, and way better for our teachers, and way better for our students. [Fox News' America's News Headquarters via Political Correction, 12/12/10]
Scott Halted Contracts For Florida's High-Speed Rail Project. From the St. Petersburg Times: "Gov. Rick Scott has slammed the brakes on Central Florida's $1.2 billion SunRail project, putting a hold on $235 million in project contracts. The contracts, flagged as "urgent" by the Florida Department of Transportation, include $168 million to design and build the first phase of the line and $39 million to buy cars, say documents released by the Governor's Office." [St. Petersburg Times, 1/29/11]