Welcome to "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
Florida Sen. Jeff Brandes. Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, wants to get rid of red-light cameras in this state. But until that happens, he has proposed in SB 1184 a bill that would limit red-light cameras.
In 2010, red-light cameras in Florida were sold to the public with the aim of enforcing safe driving, according to then-Gov. Charlie Crist and other politicians. But Brandes says the cameras dont actually increase safety.
His evidence? Two government findings that show more intersections with red-light cameras have more accidents since installation, not less.The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported crashes at red-light intersections in 68 jurisdictions increased 7.65 percent. The Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability reported a 12 percent increase in accidents 21-36 months after cameras were activated.
Besides the safety issue, Brandes says the red-light cameras are merely a cash cow. He calls the cameras a backdoor tax increase on motorists, and says the lack of solid safety data is unacceptable for a program assessing more than $100 million in fines every year.
The St. Lucie County Commission. Unlike its neighboring counties, this past week the St. Lucie County Commission said "no" to earmarking taxpayer dollars to sue All Aboard Florida. One of the reasons, according to County Attorney Dan McIntyre, is a lawsuit could lead to a budget deficit, which means cuts to staff and programs. The County Commission insisted this doesn't mean it wont continue its opposition to the passenger rail service. Last summer, the board approved a resolution opposing the project.
St. Lucie County Commissioner Kim Johnson said, We are not putting all the cards out there on the table, and I dont think we have to allocate money to prove our point. Maybe Indian River and Martin counties should take note.
U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham. The NRCC has U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, D-Fla,, in its sights for 2016. How do they intend to beat her? By calling her a liberal. Good luck with that.
Even though Graham is a Democrat, her votes havent flattered too many on the left. She supported the Keystone XL Pipeline and was heavily criticized by her own party for voting in favor of weakening some areas of the Dodd-Frank law. But her latest proposal will make it even more difficult for Republicans to classify her as a liberal: Graham wants to prohibit members of Congress from using taxpayer dollars to fly first-class and for long-term car leases. Graham calls it an obvious waste and abuse of the taxpayer dollar." Graham says her bill will save millions of dollars over the next decade. She promises it is the first of several bills she'll be introducing aimed at quashing congressional perks.
In the meantime, Republicans are still kicking and screaming that Graham supports U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. One problem: Graham voted against Pelosi to lead House Democrats. Republicans will need some new tactics come 2016 because jumping up and down screaming Graham is a liberal just isnt going to cut it.
Florida Sen. Joe Negron. Newspapers around the state were reporting that high school students from Palm Beach Lakes Community High School got to observe how their proposed bill made it through its first committee in the House and Senate.The bill, dubbed There Ought To Be A Law, would ban parents from smoking while they have children in their car. In layman terms, it would make it illegal to smoke a cigarette while driving with a child younger than 13 in the car.
The problem with this bill proposal was, its pros and cons barely got any coverage by the press. Instead, the only controversy reported was that Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, voted against it. Negron said he was concerned about infringing on privacy rights.
Students learning how government works makes a good story. But maybe next time, newspapers should report both sides of a controversial bill that involves trampling on individual rights.
DEAN'S LIST MISSES
The Florida Legislative Black Caucus. A recent meeting between Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislative Black Caucus was held to discuss items such as race relations, the lack of economic activity in the black community and health care. And what was the result? Well, according to caucus member Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, Scott's comments were "continued talking points we've heard before."
But maybe the continued talking points weve heard before is coming more from the Florida Legislative Black Caucus. Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, caucus chairman, told reporters after the meeting "the blood of the community is boiling" over police shootings in Florida and elsewhere. But Bullard wasnt very specific on all these police shootings taking place in Florida.
Bullard also said Scotts office lacks diversity. State incentive programs to lure businesses should include minority contracting provisions targeting economically deprived communities, Bullard said, adding Scotts administration has resulted in "a nonsympathetic culture" -- and that leads to constituents seeing it as malice toward black people."
Another caucus member, Rep. Reggie Fullwood, D-Jacksonville chimed in, "I'm still waiting for (Scott) to act like he cares."
But Scott said members of the caucus had failed to contact him in the past when they had concerns over the issues they were raising. I can't think of one person in here (Florida Legislative Black Caucus) who has called me to complain" about police or state agency actions, Scott insisted. "I can't solve problems I don't know about."
Last year, the group canceled a prelegislative session, saying it wouldn't be fruitful. Instead of constantly complaining about the same old issues to the governors office, the caucus should bypass the political rhetoric and propose these ideas in bills to be voted on by the Legislature.
Charlie Crist.The Peoples Senator will certainly be on the shortlist for campaign slogans if former Gov. Charlie Crist decides to make another run for the U.S. Senate in 2016. Crist told reporters hes been encouraged to run. The question is, who is encouraging him? Will the people seriously be ready to accept another Crist run?
To any Florida Democrats who still believe Crist will be a worthy candidate, lets look back at recent history. Five years ago, he was a Republican. In the 2010 Republican U.S. Senate primary, Crist blew a 35-point lead over Marco Rubio. He then left the GOP to run in the general election with no parry affiliation, coming in second with 30 percent, 19 points behind Rubio.
After speaking at the 2012 Democratic convention, Crist joined that party and was their nominee against Gov. Rick Scott last year. Once again, Crist blew a lead with some polls showing him leading Scott by 8 percent. When the smoke cleared, Scott was still standing.
Charlie Crist becoming the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in 2016? Dont think so.
Florida Senator Charlie Dean. The Deans List has tackled the cost of just how much implementing Amendment 1 will hit the taxpayers. The money derives from the states real-estate document taxes. Some estimates show it may cost Florida taxpayers over $19 billion over the next 20 years. Other government programs funded by the same tax may have to be pushed aside or cut so theres enough funds for Amendment 1.
Case in point: SB 586, from Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness. Deans bill would cut funding to transportation projects and affordable housing. Jamie Ross, the president of the Florida Housing Coalition, said Deans bill would cut money that goes into the state and local housing trust fund by $112 million every year.
That amount would grow as the amount of documentary stamps grows, Ross said. The bill unnecessarily changes how much money is going into the housing fund. It can be fixed so the exact same amount of money goes to Amendment 1 and not hurt affordable housing.
Bob Burleson, president of the Florida Transportation Builders Association, alsoopposes Deans bill. Burleson pointed out how Deans bill would change the doc stamp distributions. This bill sweeps over $100 million from the transportation work plan, Burleson said. Its a big deal. It will impact the next five-year work plan by over $1 billion.
Voters who want to spend more on environmental programs will need to have more green if they want to spend more green.
Obamacare in Florida. Obamacare enrollment in Florida has been sold as part of the free market when people decide to buy health-care coverage. But the latest federal data show that is far from the truth.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released numbers that show 93 percent of the 1.6 million Floridians who signed up for health insurance underreceived a tax credit to lower the cost of their monthly premium. Before Obamacare, the average monthly premium in Florida was $376. The average tax credit awarded was $294. That means the average monthly premium in Florida is now only $82.
If this was truly part of the free market, then why are the majority of those who signed up under Obamacare now getting taxpayers' subsidies? If enrollees are to save money, then it should be done by the private marketplace. But you cant call it part of the free market when the government is subsidizing 93 percent of the enrollees.
Ed Dean, a senior editor with SSN whose talk show can be heard on radio stations across Florida, can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @eddeanradio.