Here we are again in the third week of "The Dean's List" -- an Ed Dean-style look at who Florida's political achievers were (and weren't) in the last seven days. What you see here is strictly my opinion, not necessarily the editor's or the rest of the staff at Sunshine State News.
THOSE WHO MADE THE LIST
NFIB/FLORIDA.While several pro-business groups here in the Sunshine State are open to the idea of Medicaid expansion statewide, Floridas chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) says no and theyve been consistent with it.
NFIB opposes expansion because Florida relies on the federal governments promise to subsidize the program -- and if the feds decide to stop paying billions of dollars per year, the state will be left on the hook. The NFIB also points out that there would be a huge budget gap, forcing future Legislatures to raise taxes on Floridas businesses down the road.
The NFIB/Florida shows no signs of compromising, opposing any plan that relies on federal funds to expand Medicaid in Florida.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush.Despite being at odds with the partys base on Common Core and immigration, the former Florida governor opened a door on the immigration debate in which some conservatives might just come in. Attending the annual CPAC convention, Bush decided to ditch his speech and went directly to sit down with Fox News Sean Hannity for the Q&A session. When asked about the influx of children from Central America who came across the border last year, Bush said ,They should have been sent back immediately upon crossing the border illegally. The audience of conservatives liked what they heard.
For months, Bush has been accused of not showing any distance between his stance and Democrats' on the issue. But lets be honest, Democrats make no bones about allowing illegal children in this country and letting them stay. Bushs statement is exactly correct. This isnt to say that the opponents of immigration reform will rally around Bush, but his comment is refreshing to those who disagree with him on immigration. Not a bad week as he gets ready to run for president.
Florida House Minority Leader Mark Pafford.In his response to Gov. Rick Scott's State of the State address, House Minority Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, came across as positive, upbeat and for the most part didnt spend his speech going after Scott and the Republicans. In fact, several times Pafford actually praised Scott on issues ranging from student testing to increased spending on education and the environment.
But dont be fooled. Pafford wasnt complementing Scott or the Republicans because he agreed with them. Actually, Pafford used an old but useful political trick: be polite while disagreeing. In Paffords response, he used sound bites at the end of every issue. He said things like, Weve noticed how Gov. Scott and Republicans are finally hearing the people. Its the same thing Democrats have been saying all along. Or, we (Democrats) been saying this all along and maybe this is the year its heard. On the environment, Pafford said, Now, voters have insisted Republican leadership listen.
Pafford looked even better since his colleague leading Democrats in the Florida Senate, Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, was much more partisan in her response to Scott. Pafford is smart and he knows hell need Republican support for any of his bills. But his response was far more effective than Joyners.
Brevard County Commissioner Curt Smith.This time of year, many Florida counties hold budget workshops to discuss upcoming spending proposals for the next fiscal year. Instead of cutting, many local county governments are looking to increase their budgets.
If there is a Florida role model on how to properly spend local tax dollars at the county level, Brevard County Commissioner Curt Smith may be that guy. In a recent interview with radio talk-show host Bill Mick on WMMB in Melbourne, a discussion on county spending came up. It was reported that in Brevard County there is more government spending on libraries and parks than for fixing the roads.
Callers showed their frustration when hearing about this fact. Some asked Smith would there be any proposed spending cuts in the upcoming county budget. Smith replied, everything is on the table. On the issue of prioritizing spending, Smith said, We need to lay out the difference between our wants and our needs.
Smith makes a good point. Are parks and libraries a need or a want? And how did spending on libraries and parks obtain a higher priority than fixing roads? Good questions for local officials to be asking.
DEAN'S LIST MISSES
Amendment 1. Who doesnt support land and water conservation efforts? In last Novembers elections, 75 percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 1. The measure directs the Legislature to dedicate a third of the states real-estate document taxes to water and land conservation efforts over the next 20 years. Just one small problem: nobody is discussing the price tag..
But Florida is starting to see the huge cost of this environmental program. With recent tax numbers coming into the state, this year alone lawmakers will be required to spend about $757 million on environmental programs in their new budget.
Compare this to Scotts proposed record-increase spending on education this year which is around $840 million.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce and other critics pointed out last year the problems and costs that will occur with Amendment 1. It ties the hands of the Florida Legislature in the event of a future downturn in the economy and the cost over 20 years would come out to around $19 billion. Legislators and taxpayers are starting to realize the costs they voted in last year.
Medicaid Expansion.Despite Florida Republicans in the state House saying no, some Florida Senate Republicans are saying maybe and others leaning yes on Medicaid expansion. Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, says its time to start a discussion about Medicaid expansion. We have an obligation to look at this issue, said Gardiner. Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville, who chairs the Health Policy Committee, said its time for Florida lawmakers to consider their options.
But it doesnt stop there. Some business groups are also ramping up the talk of Medicaid expansion, namely the Florida Chamber and the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF). There are even articles about AIF working with Senate Democrats.
Before pushing any legislation of expanding Medicaid in Florida, some proponents might want to wait until the U.S. Supreme Court makes a ruling on the King v. Burwell case in June, which involves state-run exchanges and taxpayer subsidies.
Awake the State.This group of Florida liberals held their fourth annual rally throughout the state this past week. They want to draw attention to a series of left-of-center ideas they hope will somehow find their way into the Florida Legislature: raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour; expanding Obamacare through the Medicaid expansion; expanding the use of alternative energy services.
At a rally in Rockledge, one attendee dressed liked the grim reaper and held a sign reading NO HEALTH CARE EXPANSION IS THE REAL DEATH PANEL.."Thats par for the course, sadly. In the past, Awake the States rhetoric against Republicans has included claiming Scott and his extreme allies in the Legislature have launched an all-out assault on Florida's middle class who've put our public schools in danger, undermined health care Floridians receive, and cost communities throughout the state thousands of their jobs.And, of course, Rick Scotts policies are extreme and regressive, yada, yada, yada. Awake the State needs new material since this kind of talk -- which has been going on for years now -- wont awaken anybody. That kind of talk is more likely to put the state to sleep.
Transgender Bathroom Bill.Out of all the pressing bills in this years Legislature, Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, is making HB 583 one of his top priorities and it has support.
Rep. Artiles' bill would make it illegal for a person to use a bathroom, dressing room or locker room designated for the opposite sex. In simple terms, it will be a first-degree misdemeanor if a person who was born male purposefully enters a women's room and if a person born female goes into a men's room.The House Civil Justice Subcommittee passed the bill this week.
Artiles says his bill is a safety and privacy measure for people using same-sex bathrooms. But this bill is a lawsuit waiting to happen. According to some news reports, Artiles bill not only makes it illegal when transgenders use the opposite restroom, it also can make them liable in a civil action to any person who is lawfully using the same single-sex public facility. And if youre a business owner, you also could be liable for civil action for allowing it.
For the past several years, cities across Florida have adopted their own set of laws when dealing with LGBT issues, such as giving same-sex benefits to couples working in local government. Artiles bathroom bill doesnt have any real enforcement mechanism to it and could create unjust lawsuits. This issue belongs at the local level, not at the state level.
Ed Dean, a senior editor with SSN whose talk show can be heard on radio stations across Florida, can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @eddeanradio.