Opinions Archives - Page 3 of 241 - Florida Politics

Samantha Pollara: In defense of my big brother Ben Pollara

For the last five years, my big brother, Ben Pollara, has fought to bring medical marijuana treatment to suffering citizens in the state of Florida.

He acted as campaign manager for United for Care, which was the chief facilitator of Amendment 2’s passage November, and has since worked tirelessly to craft and pass fair legislation to enact it.

His goal was a feasible plan for implementation that not only best represented the interests of sick patients, but also protected and encouraged diversity in the burgeoning medical marijuana market.

Currently, only seven companies have been licensed and approved by the Florida Department of Health to grow and dispense marijuana. In most states where medical marijuana is legal, retail dispensaries are required to be licensed individually.

However, some states, including Florida, permit multiple dispensaries to operate under a single license. Most other states impose caps on licensees, limiting the number of retail operations to either 3 or 4 on a single license, depending on the state.

My brother’s position has always been that setting caps on the number of retail operations is essential to ensuring a free and diverse market for medical marijuana in Florida.

Without these caps, the seven current licensees would be given carte blanche to overrun the market in cartel style, using massive funding capabilities to effectively shut out smaller operations at the outset. That’s basically equivalent to allowing the Wal-Marts and Targets of medical marijuana first entry into the market, without giving Mom and Pop operations a chance to gain a toehold in the industry.

Ultimately, a system of total control via these seven “cartels” would be harmful not only to the market, but to the patients as well, through artificially high prices and product homogeneity as a result of this lack of competition.

In the process of debating the bill, HB 1397, this also became the sticking point for legislators. A version of the bill passed by the Florida Senate would have allocated five dispensaries to each licensee, and allowed each one more for every additional 75,000 patients.  The bill put forth by the House of Representatives, however, contained no such restrictions. The Legislature could not come to an agreement on these terms, and the bill died in the final hours of Friday’s session.

While my brother was adamant that caps were in the best interest of both the market and the patients, he was not so uncompromising that he would have deliberately risked the passage of this bill in the Florida Legislature.

He would have done anything in his power to pass any version of it, rather than see the responsibility fall to the Department of Health, which will disproportionately favor the current licensees.

What ultimately killed the bill was discord and failure at the highest levels of legislature. It’s worth noting that the team of lobbyists working on behalf of the seven currently licensed “cartels” was headed up by Michael Corcoran, Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran’s brother. As a result of this connection, the House’s intractability on the issue of caps seems unlikely to be a coincidence.

To add insult to injury, despite having done everything he personally could to ensure the legislation’s success, my brother has faced a barrage of vicious personal attacks from his former partner and mentor, John Morgan, who places the blame entirely on Ben’s shoulders.

Mr. Morgan has repeatedly published harassing tweets directed at Ben, (one in which he even went so far as to refer to my brother as disloyal Fredo, from the Godfather, complete with the hashtag #FredoWillBeFishingSoon.) and has erroneously accused­­­ him of having an improper financial stake in attempting to pass a version of the bill that included caps.

No one has worked harder to ensure that sick patients in Florida have access to medical marijuana than my big brother, and no one knows that better than John Morgan.

Mr. Morgan ought to be ashamed of himself.

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Samantha Pollara is a vice president of the Hillsborough Young Democrats.

Tre’ Evers: On the contrary — Rick Scott, John Morgan real winners of 2017 Legislative Session

Don’t pick a fight with folks who buy ink by the barrel — or so the saying goes. Well, it’s a good thing Peter Schorsch doesn’t actually buy ink, because I’ve got a bone to pick with him.

Rick Scott and John Morgan could be considered “losers” only in a Tallahassee-centered universe.

These two guys are among the best-known (i.e., most hated or loved) names in Florida. No legislator — in either party — enjoys anywhere near the cachet of these twin political titans, whether you measure by name recognition, professional success or personal wealth.

Sure, their legislative agendas fared poorly. However, Tallahassee’s “session thinking” is astonishingly shortsighted. Look at the long game to understand how this year’s legislative combat strengthened both Scott and Morgan. Their priorities remain wildly popular with voters while the ideas of their opponents have lost ground with all but the chattering classes. Scott wanted incentives to create more jobs plus money to fix the Herbert Hoover Dam that would help the Everglades and Morgan wanted to implement the medical marijuana initiative, all of which were foiled by lawmakers.

Scott’s legislative losses are fuel for his political persona. Consider: In 2010, Rick Scott came from nowhere. A conservative, tea party firebrand, he blasted both parties on his way to a self-funded victory and then won a bruising re-election, spending even more of his own money. The scars of those campaigns left Scott with a battered approval rating, except among Republicans, where his numbers have consistently exceeded 75 percent.

Bashing insiders — even those within his party — is how Rick Scott won statewide in 2010. Republican lawmakers just built him a platform to do it again in 2018. A few months ago, it would have been tough to believe that the GOP’s legislative leadership would attack the most popular Republican in Florida, giving him cause to travel the state promoting jobs and mainstreaming his image. But that’s what happened.

Every week, Governor Scott appears in front cameras blasting Republican insiders while promoting jobs with local business people. Meanwhile, he raises money for his political committee and places millions of dollars of TV advertising. Best of all, he gets to run against the “Tallahassee politicians,” who few Floridians know but all instinctively mistrust.

Then there’s John Morgan — the best-known Democrat in Florida. Not only is Morgan’s face routinely plastered on billboards and TV ads across the Sunshine State, but his colorful, rant at Boots and Buckles (in which he exhorted young people to vote for his Medical Marijuana amendment) is an enduring reminder that his outspoken, charismatic brand of political celebrity appeals to many. He failed in 2014 but succeeded in 2016. Now, he’s the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for Governor, even though he may not run.

Again, consider the long game. John Morgan isn’t going anywhere, and this Tallahassee setback is merely political fuel; it will empower him to either sue the Legislature, run for Governor or both. Either way, he’ll be in the headlines. And to Republicans hoping John Morgan runs because he’s said and done crazy things: You must have missed the 2016 election.

Democrats love to hate Rick Scott and Republicans love to hate John Morgan. However, the 2017 legislative session made both men more palatable to those who hate them and more powerful among those who love them. So, what looks like a setback on Adams Street is likely to play well in Paisley, Palatka, Palm Beach or as the saying goes, Peoria — making Rick Scott and John Morgan the biggest winners of the session.

Martin Dyckman: Judges are not politicians, nor should they play politics

When the Florida Constitution Revision Commission was debating the election of judges 20 years ago, I sat in the gallery to hear my own words used to attack something that my editorials and columns consistently had supported.

The issue was whether all trial judges should be chosen exclusively by appointment, without elections, in the same manner as Supreme Court justices and judges of the district courts of appeal.

A commission member who opposed that found a column in which I had flayed the Judicial Nominating Commission of the 15th Circuit — Palm Beach County — for trying to sandbag Gov. Lawton Chiles into appointing a favored candidate to a vacated circuit judgeship. Chiles spoiled the plot by appointing the nominee they didn’t think he would choose, a Republican who had contributed to his opponent, and who is now Florida’s chief justice, Jorge Labarga.

The speaker was quoting the column out of context. The newspaper’s editorials and my own signed columns had argued consistently that of all the ways to pick judges, election is the worst.

I still think so. Florida’s judicial nominating commission process is still by far the best — in principle.

In practice, however, it has been corrupted by the Legislature’s decision in 2001 to let the governor — at the time, Jeb Bush — appoint all nine members of each commission. They had been set up to be independent, with the governors appointing only three of each nine. That’s something the present Constitution Revision Commission should correct, although it likely won’t. Gov. Rick Scott, who appointed 15 of the 37 members including the chairman, has played politics with the nominating panels like no other governor.

But I digress. A nagging fear of all print and broadcast commentators is that their words will be taken out of context in some campaign ad in support of someone or something they actually oppose. If you write that somebody is “the best of a weak field” in a primary, expect to read in November that you called him “the best …”

Ordinarily, there’s no remedy for the twisting of truths out of context in politics, other than to call out the offenders. But there is a potent one when it comes to judicial races. The codes of conduct that legally bind judges and lawyers forbid misrepresenting one’s own qualifications or those of an opponent. The Florida Supreme Court has put teeth into those codes. It took another bite last week.

On Aug. 29, several weeks after her present 90-day suspension without pay expires, Circuit Judge Kimberly Shepard of the Ninth Judicial Circuit — Orange and Osceola counties — will journey to Tallahassee for a command appearance before the Florida Supreme Court.

She will stand before the bench, as other judges have had to do, to hear the chief justice read a humiliating public reprimand for unethical conduct during in her successful 2014 campaign for an open seat. The suspension, reprimand and payment of court costs, as ordered, followed a recommendation from the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC.)

The crux of it was a campaign ad purporting to quote the Orlando Sentinel in her favor.

“Ms. Shepard has done well,” the quotation said. “She has kept her promises. She has worked hard. She has maintained her integrity.”

What the ad did not say was that the comment was from an editorial endorsing her re-election to the Florida House of Representatives in 1994, 20 years earlier.

The 1994 editorial included the sentences “she has legislated effectively” and “she has served her constituents diligently.” Her 2014 ad was edited to leave those lines out.

The out-of-context quotation could easily have misled voters into thinking that it referred to current service as a judge. She wasn’t a judge, nor was she claiming to be.

She circulated the ad after the Sentinel had endorsed her opponent. The JQC’s hearing panel concluded that her “selective editing … was much more than a matter of inexact punctuation, or a mistake.” She believed her opponent to be unworthy, the panel said, “and that any action she took to defeat him was justified.”

Shepard’s defense consisted mainly of these arguments: Her character hadn’t changed in the 20 years since the newspaper had endorsed her, punishing her for campaign speech would be unconstitutional under the First Amendment, the ad was essentially true, and the Florida regulation in question was overbroad.

Unfortunately for her, however, the U.S. Supreme Court had disposed of her main point in a 2015 decision upholding a reprimand for a Tampa lawyer for conduct during a failed campaign for a judgeship.

“Judges are not politicians, even when they come to the bench by way of the ballot,” the U.S. court said. “And a state’s decision to elect its judiciary does not compel it to treat judicial candidates like campaigners for political office.”

“A judicial candidate who knowingly misrepresents any fact concerning the candidate or an opponent necessarily intends to mislead the public concerning the judicial election, thus undermining the public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary,” wrote the Florida Supreme Court last week in its unanimous opinion against Shepard.

It was far from the first time the court has had to say that.

Shepard is the 29th judge to come to grief before the JQC and the court for campaign-related conduct. Six were removed and two resigned before it came to that. The cases included some severe campaign law violations, neglect of clients during campaigns, and numerous instances of campaign misrepresentations.

The election-related cases represent a significant fraction — 14 percent — of all those with which the JQC and the court have dealt in public.

Complaints that it concludes are unfounded or settles by privately counseling a judge are confidential under the Florida Constitution, which is something else the Constitutional Revision Commission should fix. There’s no way now for the public to judge how well the JQC is working.

But elections aren’t working well either. On the rare occasion when a circuit or county court judge is challenged for re-election, few candidates apply. Dozens come forth, though, when a vacancy is to be filled by appointment. Most lawyers agree with the point Alexander Hamilton made when he wrote, “The members of the legislature will rarely be chosen with a view to those qualifications which fit men for the stations of judges …”

Shepard won’t be the last Florida judge who gets in trouble for playing politics to secure what should not be a political position.

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Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the Tampa Bay Times. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

Michael Bileca and Manny Diaz: Florida’s educational industrial complex earned need to be reformed

“It is easier to build strong children, than to repair broken men (and women)” — Frederick Douglass

It is incredible how many societal ills arise out of a failure to educate, in the fullest sense of the word, the children of our great state. We utter platitudes like, “we must do better,” as we watch a generation of children be stripped of their hope, their dignity, and their chance to be all that God intended them to be.

Sadly, this catastrophe is aided and abetted by an educational-industrial complex that is more dedicated to self-preservation then it is student achievement realization. 

How do we know this? Simple. Just try to change the status quo and watch. We are seeing it already in reaction to the Florida House’s revolutionary reform effort this year. Hyperbolic statements, threats, and massive disinformation efforts begin the minute you try to put kids before contracts. 

Despite the fact that there are 115 schools in Florida that failed for more than three years in a row. Despite the fact that just 22 percent of students in grade 8 can do math, and just 31 percent can read, at proficiency level or above. And despite the fact that it takes more than money to educate a child, we are constantly told that all will be well if we would just spend more. 

Where we come from, you’re entitled to what you earn. And the educational industrial complex in Florida has earned reform.

That is why we, along with several of my colleagues, introduced HB 7069 last week. Contrary to “news” reports, virtually everything within this large education reform was debated by the public and the Legislature for months.

We put futures first. We put kids ahead of bureaucrats. And we put money where it does the most good — in our classrooms and with our teachers. 

We begin by spending $241 million more this year than we did last year. This money does not even include $413 million in other provisions of the bill that require funding to go directly to students, parents, teachers, and principals.

Second, we allow what we are calling “hope operators” — i.e. charter school operators with a proven track record of success in low performing, low-income communities —  to come and provide students an alternative to their turnaround failing schools. We believe that hope and opportunity are transformational to the lives of kids who believe many have given up on them.  We also include grants to traditional public schools that submit a transformation plan to turn their school around.

Third, we spend $30 million to ensure every child with special needs receiving a Gardiner scholarship will continue to receive that scholarship and achieve their full potential in life.

Fourth, we recognize that the backbone of our brighter future are our best teachers.  The very best deserve the very best. To achieve this goal, we offer $233 million that is paid directly to teachers: $6,000 bonuses to the best and brightest teachers in our state as well as $1200 and up to $800 bonuses to all highly effective and effective teachers. We believe that your tax dollars should reward excellence not longevity.

We are changing the game with these and dozens of other reforms. Common-sense, child-centric, and results oriented changes are in store.

But as we stated earlier, when you try to fix an institution, those with much to lose make much the noise. In the case of HB 7069, the ones making the most noise are those most resistant to change.

You’ll hear from those suckling off the status quo that we actually spend less per pupil in many districts than we did last year.  What you won’t hear is that in all but one of those districts, the reduction in funding is due to fewer kids being enrolled in those schools. 

You’ll hear critics say that “schools of hope” are stealing from public schools. In truth, public education spending went up again this year. But most importantly, the “schools of hope” will be public schools.  Public schools in the same neighborhood as the kids they’re coming to save. 

 You’ll hear critics say this and so much more.

But we believe as Frederick Douglass believed that it’s easier to build strong children than fix broken adults. And we also know as we build strong children, we will need strong backbones to fix a broken system.

We, for one, won’t ever look at a child stuck in their failing school, with a fading glimmer of hope in her eye, and tell her I put fear before her future. Will you?

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State Rep. Michael Bileca is chairman of the House Education Committee. State Rep. Manny Diaz is chairman of the House pre-K — 12 Appropriations Subcommittee.

Joe Henderson: Bottom line for USF — Close, but no pre-eminence status

Florida State Senate President Joe Negron continues to insist there was no dark conspiracy to deny pre-eminent status to the University of South Florida. He swears on a stack of legal briefs that state graduation guidelines weren’t changed at the last minute just to make sure USF wouldn’t qualify.

As we now know, this is not a small thing. By failing to achieve the pre-eminent designation, USF missed out on millions of dollars — money the state’s flagship schools in Gainesville and Tallahassee enjoy.

USF thought it was home free, ready to celebrate its new standing among the academic elites. But in the closing hours of the Legislative Session, where wheels are turning and deals are made, lawmakers said a school had to have a four-year graduation rate of 60 percent to qualify.

USF is at 54 — double what it was in 2009, and more than enough to qualify under the old standard of 50 percent.

Not now.

Negron dismissed USF’s cries of foul play, arguing that increasing the requirement has always been part of his stated long-range goal to make sure top Florida universities have the same academic status enjoyed by schools like North Carolina and Virginia.

In an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times, Negron wrote, “The goal posts were not moved. Proposed legislation is frequently revised and amended during Session, and it was imprudent for any observer to count their chickens before they hatched. USF simply did not hit the current standard.”

Here’s where it gets murky, though. Negron argues the four-year number wasn’t the fatal blow to USF’s chance this time. He said to look at the six-year graduation rate as the “one, and only one” reason USF missed.

So, I did.

Negron has at least one fact to back his point.

In 2011, the state university Board of Governors established the benchmark requiring that 70 percent of full- or part-time students entering college for the first time graduate within six years. They reaffirmed that number in 2014.

That doesn’t sound like the “last minute” to me.

USF’s total is 67 percent.

Close, but no pre-eminence. Pre-eminence doesn’t get graded on the curve.

This may be a good time to ask if lawmakers should consider other factors when assessing a university’s performance. Following Negron’s logic, requiring 70 percent of a school’s students graduate within six years makes it extra hard for places like USF because a considerable percentage of its students don’t fit the so-called “traditional” profile.

The image of a college student is someone who heads to a university straight out of high school. That’s largely true at the University of Florida and Florida State, but not so much at USF. Nearly half of the USF student population is older than the traditional 18-22 age group.

There are a sizable number of students over the age of 25. Many are 35 and over, taking a class here and there while juggling work and family responsibilities. Catering to those students is a vital part of USF’s mission. Should the university be punished for that?

USF sometimes forgets how far it has come in a relatively short amount of time. The university has only been around since 1957. It has evolved from an institution known jokingly as “Drive-Thru U” into a place where fewer than half the applicants are accepted.

Its campus has been transformed from something that resembled an industrial park with classrooms into a striking, vibrant setting. President Judy Genshaft has been a fundraising dynamo, and USF is a vital player in Tampa’s economic future.

It’s all good.

Being told to wait a bit longer to achieve the status that will put it on equal standing with Florida and Florida State stings for sure. At the rate it is going though, it won’t be long before USF gets what it badly wants.

Unless the rules change again, of course.

Blake Dowling: Looking back …

Legislative Session is winding down – gaming, dope, infrastructure, assistive tech.

It has been an exciting journey, with losers and winners, fights, name calling at the Capitol and at the Governors Club.

Hopefully, when the dust settles, those in the trenches can regain some commonality and remember we are all on the same team as both Floridians and Americans (minus the UF-FSU rivalry, we will never be on the same team there).

Besides that, it’s time for summer. Time to move efforts to other things.

I work with a lot of associations and lobbyists, all running in high gear as of late.

Last night, a few website issues were needing immediate attention; that’s done.

Today, a conference room telecom gear is on the fritz (on the list for today); can’t send emails with a 1 TB attachment (no you can’t do that); my wireless network has 300 guests (yep, that’s bad); my laptop is in the pool (waterproof, no; backed up, yes).

It’s an endless list, but a pleasure to serve. Beats working for Corrine Brown.

From where I sit, I can see several interesting things on how the business of the day at the Capitol (and beyond) is carried out.

How did people get anything done in May 1845, during the first meeting of the Florida Legislative body?

I bet it was hot; lots of sweaty people with no AC. But it was also awesome.

We rely on technology so much, for better or for worse. Take it away, what do you have? Face to face interaction.

We as citizens of 2017 are faced with this every day, with friends, constituents and families. How many times this week have you said, I shot them a text or email? In the old days, it was face to face, think even pre-phone.

Few things are more powerful than the written word. I still send handwritten thank yous.

When I was 10, my dad gave me my first cardstock from Brooks Brothers. I was told to always say thanks to people when they do something for you. Message heard. I still do it, Pops.

(There is a great scene in the Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou about cardstock. If you missed it, it’s a must-watch.)

As we roll out of Session mode with families and colleagues, let’s put the phones down. Have lunch, a cocktail, no devices at the family dinner table. Am I right?

Let’s make Happy Hour great again, with some face-to-face time.

When we are old and gray, we will not remember texts and emails (unless you were a hacked DNC employee last year), but we will remember the time spent face-to-face with those in our personal and professional lives.

Let’s flash back to 1930 Florida.

Downtown Tallahassee 1930 – College Ave.

Florida was a mess. Unemployment was on the rise, tourism was plummeting (they needed a Pitbull concert, maybe).

Annual visits were down from 3 million a year to 1 million a year. Florida had its own economic collapse in 1926; another one in 1929 was merely par for the course.

War was looming, after supporting Hoover in 28’ Florida switched sides in 32’ and supported Roosevelt. The conservatives were nervous about his reform plans but needed change.

Meanwhile, in Ozark, Alabama, my family is hanging out in front of the house JD Holman (my grandfather) on the far right (just as he was with his politics) 1930. He referred to himself as a radical right winger. RIP JD.

Tourists weren’t coming; banks were closing.

Funny how with technology everything has changed. But the words don’t change.

Right, left, change, reform, etc

In 1930, they sweated it out, wrote letters, had runners, did not email 1TB worth of videos, they met face to face and talked the New Deal, the Depression, the Bankhead-Hone Farm Tenant Act. They talked a lot about aviation. At the time, Florida was the place for training: Drew and McDill bases in Tampa, Dale Mabry in Tallahassee (someone found WWII era undetonated ordinance from this station just last year), Eglin, Mayport in Jax.

Even the RAF moved into Arcadia at UM for training.

We could talk all day about then versus now, but on with the business at hand.

Put down those phones, give thanks to those who fought the good fight this legislative session, and thanks to those sweaty legislators who got us through the really rough times of World War II and the Depression – all without cell phones.

Here’s to all of those in public service, and all of those involved in The Process.

It’s great to be an American.

“In these days of difficulty, we Americans everywhere must and shall choose the path of social justice…, the path of faith, the path of hope, and the path of love toward our fellow man.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com .

 

Dave Chauncey: Teach for America Jacksonville, not billboards, is better way to recruit teachers

Dave Chauncey

Today, there are approximately 200 teacher openings in Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) for the 2016—2017 school year, which ends next month. That means students in 200 classrooms are being managed by a substitute.

The teacher shortage is not surprising, but the Duval County School Board’s consideration to cut Teach for America (TFA) is. If the school board gets its way when it meets Monday, there will be 325 openings soon.

In lieu of funding TFA in Jacksonville, this board is considering using the $400,000 originally earmarked for those 125 teachers to instead pay for marketing — yes, marketing.

More specifically, Chairwoman Paula Wright proposed using the money for DCPS billboards, which to be frank, is a bad idea. While Ms. Wright likes billboards, readers should know what TFA actually does.

TFA is a program that trains, supports, and places many of the nation’s top college students in the country’s lowest-performing Title I schools, where there is the greatest need for teachers.

It infuses racially and economically diverse educators into neighborhood schools and provides successful role models that look or came from households like the students they teach. In 2015, 64 percent of TFA Jacksonville corps members identified as people of color or from a low-income background.

Since TFA opened in Duval County in 2008, more than 30 TFA corps members have won Teacher of the Year in their school, including two finalists for Duval County’s Teacher of the Year.

Not only does TFA help fill critical teaching positions, but it also seeks out schools with the greatest shortages in the most vital subject areas: math, science and language arts. TFA corps members were a considerable share — 14 percent — of new math hires in Duval this year.

In a climate of teacher shortage crises, the decision to cut TFA makes no sense, especially with only three months until teachers report for the 2017-2018 school year. This consideration reeks of politics from an ineffectual school board that recently drove out its superintendent with pettiness.

This is not about students or stewardship of taxpayer dollars. This is about attempting to take out a program that many of the entrenched status quo interests have resented since the day it began in Duval County.

TFA has its shortcomings like any organization and it is not a silver bullet for education reform, but it has a proven track record of creating tangible impacts on student achievement in classrooms across Florida and the nation.

In a state where the average public school teacher comes and goes in 3.5 years, 70 percent of 2014 TFA Jacksonville corps members continue teaching beyond their two-year commitment and remain in the classroom today.

Many former corps members also become school administrators or choose to make Jacksonville their permanent home, no matter their profession, which is a boon for attracting well-educated, high skilled workers and their families to Jacksonville.

Without TFA in Jacksonville, the teacher shortage problems in Duval will just worsen. The number of vacancies could more than double to 400 vacancies or more.

That’s why it’s extremely misguided to think $400,000 worth of billboards and advertising will be the key to filling those 200 vacant teaching positions. Other strategies are needed to fill these roles.

Moving forward, TFA and its impact in Jacksonville should be regularly evaluated with renewed public attention and debate. For right now, the 125 TFA corps members and 95 TFA alumni teaching in Duval County, along with the many other talented administrators and education-focused professionals who are borne from TFA, are sorely and desperately needed in this city.

Anyone who cares for our most vulnerable students should implore their board member to make the right decision. Pettiness and politics from our school board should not get in the way of children’s best interests.

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Dave Chauncey is an education, labor and employment attorney in Jacksonville. He was a 2010 TFA Corps Member in Jacksonville. You can tweet him @DaveChauncey.

Florence Snyder: Joe ‘n Mika get engaged as NBC’s credibility gets screwed

Joe Scarborough and his Morning Joe sidepiece Mika Brzezinski certainly deserve each other, but viewers deserve better from NBC News.

The left wing’s answer to Fox & Friends took their relationship “to the next level” by admitting that their “crackling chemistry” has moved them to make marital plans.

After being scooped on the story by Page Six, Scar ‘n Mika copped to being shacked up in the south of France when Joe popped the question. But nobody gets fired at NBC for getting scooped on their own story. Competence is optional, and so is ethics. That’s right, Brian Williams, we have not forgotten about you.

Morning Joe’s audience is not surprised by today’s “reveal.” In recent years, as Joe and Mika lightened their spousal baggage, NBC beefed up its Morning Joe photography budget. You could hire a few real reporters for what the network spends on glamour shots of these pretend journalists. They are indeed an attractive couple, and could make an honest living pitching luxury cruises and Viagra to the Town & Country set.

Anyone who has ever worked anyplace where a blonde is bangin’ the boss knows that the difference between the Fox News Frat House and NBC is merely a matter of degree.

The NBC logo — a preening peacock — used to seem out of place at the network whose news division was run by giants like Reuven Frank and Michael Gartner.

But it’s just right for a network that starts its day with a blowhard “analyst” who talks over everybody, including his girlfriend, and ends with a pompous fabulist who “coulda been an actor, but he wound up” making too much money to be fired from the anchor chair where real reporters used to sit.

 

Darryl Paulson: Should the Florida GOP feel blue?

Florida’s Republican Party has governed Florida for less than a third of the past 150 years. After the Civil War, a coalition of newly enfranchised blacks, a small number of native white Republicans and northern carpetbaggers dominated Florida politics from 1865 to around 1885.

After the blacks were stripped of their voting rights at the end of Reconstruction, the Republican Party ceased to be a political force. By 1900, more than 90 percent of black voters were dropped from the voter rolls due to barriers to black voters adopted by the state Legislature and through constitutional amendments. As a result of the removal of black voters, not a single black or Republican was left in the legislature.

Republican Party fortunes were so bad that when the party failed to run a candidate for governor in 1918, the Florida Supreme Court declared that “The law does not know such a political party as the Republican Party.

From the 1880s to the 1950s, Democrats completely controlled the political process in Florida. Only once in that 70-year period did a Republican presidential candidate carry the state of Florida. Almost 57 percent of Floridians voted for Republican Herbert Hoover in 1928 over Democrat Al Smith. Smith was the first Catholic candidate for the presidency, and Protestant voters in Florida were not ready to support a Catholic candidate.

Partisan change in Florida and the rest of the South was triggered by events at the 1948 Democratic National Convention. The convention adopted a strong civil rights plank which led to a walkout of most southern delegates and the formation of the States Rights or Dixiecrat Party headed by Governor Storm Thurmond of South Carolina.

The Southern states had agreed to support the national Democratic Party as long as the party did not interfere with racial policies and states’ rights. The bond was now broken. Beginning in 1952, the Republican Party won the electoral votes of three Southern states, including Florida. “Presidential Republicanism” was the wedge that began to open the door for the Republican Party in the South.

Republican strength in presidential elections would be followed by increasing Republican victories in Congressional elections. This would be followed by growing Republican numbers in the state legislatures and then in local elections.

From 1952 to 1992, Republicans won nine of the 11 Florida presidential elections. The only GOP losses were Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Jimmy Carter in 1976. The Lyndon Johnson campaign successfully convinced voters that Goldwater would lead the country into a nuclear war, and Florida voters were concerned about Goldwater’s proposal to privatize Social Security. Carter was helped by coming from neighboring Georgia. Republican President Gerald Ford assumed the vice presidency when Spiro Agnew was forced to resign and then became president due to Nixon‘s Watergate resignation scandal. Scandal and a bad economy contributed to Ford’s narrow loss to Carter.

Republican dominance in Florida presidential elections changed beginning with the 1996 election. Bill Clinton, who narrowly lost Florida to George H. W. Bush in 1992, defeated Republican Bob Dole by 6 percent in 1996. Republicans would win only three of the six Florida presidential elections from 1996 to 2016, and one of their losses was by 537 votes to George W. Bush in 2000.

Going into the 2016 election, almost all political observers predicted a Hillary Clinton victory in Florida and nationally. Although getting 3 million more votes than Donald Trump, Trump carried 30 states and won 304 electoral votes, including Florida’s.

In state elections, Marco Rubio retained his U. S. Senate seat and Republicans only lost one U. S. House seat despite the redrawing of districts which many believed benefited the Democrats. Republicans also retained large majorities in both houses of the legislature.

Looking toward the future, Democrats have several things working in their favor. First, the election of Trump has been a great motivating factor for Democrats. Massive turnouts at congressional town halls attest to the fact that Democrats appear to be more motivated than Republicans.

A second advantage for Democrats is that Republicans are in disarray. Republicans in the Florida House are battling their Republican counterparts in the Senate, and Republicans in both chambers are fighting Republican Governor Rick Scott. Growing factionalism within the party creates opportunities for the Democrats.

Third, the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), once viewed as one of the premier party organizations in the country, has fallen on hard times. When Governor Scott’s hand-picked choice to lead the party, Leslie Dougher, was defeated by state legislator Blaise Ingoglia, Scott abandoned his role as party leader.

Scott urged donors not to give to the RPOF, but to contribute to his “Let’s Get to Work” political action committee. The RPOF now has about half of the revenues it had four years ago.

For Democrats, they face the same problem they have faced for the past 25 years:  disorganization. Numerous party leaders have come and gone, and the results from been dismal. Democrats have just elected a new party chair, Steven Bittel, and hired a new executive director, Sally Boynton Brown. Will they do any better than their predecessors?

2018 is an off-year election, and the party occupying the White House usually suffers large losses. 2018 will provide a good look at whether Florida Democrats have got their act together and will achieve better results than they have achieved in the past.

It is hard to imagine Democrats doing any worse.

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Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Jamey Richardson: Proposed nursing home reimbursement plan will make Florida senior care even better

As the president of a multifacility company with arguably the highest quality rating in the State of Florida, I feel compelled to respond to the misguided comments about the proposed Prospective Payment System (PPS).

The current proposal, for the first time in Florida Medicaid history, will create a true incentive for long-term care centers to provide higher quality care to our residents.

The current system of reimbursement for nursing homes provides no incentive for operators to deliver higher quality care, no incentive to be efficient and no incentive to invest capital to upgrade centers. In addition, at a time when our country is trying to simplify government programs, the current system is overly complicated and overly burdensome on state agencies.

The PPS proposal for nursing home reimbursement is both complicated and challenging, and critics certainly don’t help the public understand it when they introduce false information to scare the Legislature away. Many of the opponents of PPS are content with the current system because they benefit from the inefficiencies of the system and have learned how to “game” the program. The bottom line is that this PPS plan will, for the first time ever, link the payment system to quality outcomes. How could anyone oppose paying for quality?

While some skilled nursing centers will receive less in reimbursements under the proposal, the proposed plan includes a three-year transition period to soften the impact and allow everyone to adapt to the modern approach. Some of the highest-quality facilities that will lose money, including many of ours, support the PPS approach because it is in the best interest of the residents in our care and the future of long-term care. Instead of being surprised by wild swings in reimbursement, PPS will provide stability, which results in our ability to budget properly and provide consistent care to our residents and fair wages to our employees.

New funds will be directed to quality of care, while 6 percent of rates that had previously gone to fund other costs would now be used for quality improvements. The critics scoff that using the money to enlarge resident rooms or improve therapy equipment isn’t the same as putting it into quality care. This ignores the reality that quality of life and quality of care go hand in hand, especially for the elderly residents spending their later years with us. Are there any family members who wouldn’t want a nicer room for their loved one or better treatment rooms with modern equipment?

A handful of critics have publicly decried the PPS plan as being designed to benefit one large nursing home chain. Perhaps one chain would receive significant additional funds, but that may be because its 83 centers and 10,000+ employees care for more than 9,000 residents, all of whom would presumably benefit from the increased funding. This program is bigger than one building or one chain — this program creates a system that will benefit the elderly population of Florida for generations to come.

This proposal has not been rushed. It has been vetted by outside consultants, industry experts, local and national experts, and AHCA. It is the result of years of work and collaboration, and is supported by the overwhelming majority of nursing home operators (both not-for-profit and for-profit) as well as tens of thousands of employees throughout Florida. The PPS system under consideration will improve the quality of care throughout the system and improve the lives of thousands of Florida residents.

Florida is a national model in elder care, and the PPS plan would make us even better.

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Jamey Richardson is president at Gulf Coast Health Care.

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