The day that was in Florida politics — March 4

day that was

At this pace, Florida’s political class may be exhausted by the end of March when budget writers begin deciding what will be left in and what will be taken out of a $77 billion dollar state spending plan.

The state Capitol wakened Wednesday with word that Gov. Rick Scott had penned a commentary calling on President Barack Obama to work with Florida to come to an  agreement on the Low Income Pool. The $2 billion program reimburses Florida hospitals to treat uninsured patients. The end of the federal program has opened a big hole in the state budget, which Scott said Florida won’t fill with state funding.

“Florida taxpayers fund our federal government and deserve to get a return on their investment,” Scott wrote the president. “Moreover, we have worked hard to turn Florida’s economy around and cannot afford to fund programs started by the federal government.”

There’s more here.

Aides to Gov. Scott and Cabinet officials met Wednesday in preparation for next week’s Cabinet meeting. It was a tense affair. A lawsuit alleging the group had violated the open-meetings law leading up to the dismissal of the director of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was cited as a reason for not discussing how to make the group’s work more transparent.

The governor’s office wanted to discuss a scoring method for evaluating department heads, but the attorney general’s office said it was premature to take up the proposal. There is more here.

The Florida Supreme Court is one of the more interesting places at the state Capitol if you are into the use of language, philosophy and, of course, the rule of law and a civil society.

Wednesday Justices Charles Canady and Barbara Pariente took the lead in questioning the parties in a redistricting lawsuit the League of Women Voters and the Florida Legislature have been arguing since 2012.

The LWV wants the justices to overturn a ruling by a Leon County judge that turned a battle over how Florida’s 27 congressional districts into a dispute involving just two.

The League says lawmakers violated the Fair Districts Amendment and colluded with political operatives to corrupt the process. The Legislature tweaked congressional districts represented by Corrine Brown and Daniel Webster to satisfy the lower court and said the judge affirmed the plan as lawful.

Justice Pariente asked why there was no effort to give voters what they wanted: fair and competitive districts. Justice Canady’s response was that the Constitution doesn’t demand it.

There is more here.

If Florida’s regime of standardized testing is on the ropes then Democrats intend to keep beating it. This week a computer glitch prevented many middle and high school students to take the writing portion of the Florida Standards Assessment.

The Department of Education worked on the software Monday night but on Tuesday school districts reported they were having problems. Sens. Dwight Bullard and Jeff Clemens wrote to Gov. Scott asking him to suspend the test until the problems are fixed.

“Yesterday, the first day of testing under the new and untested Florida Standards Assessment was nothing less than a disaster,” Bullard and Clemens told the governor.

Momentum is growing to move the Florida Presidential Primary to the third Tuesday of March in 2016. Such a move would allow a winner-take-all primary, possibly boosting the campaign of either of the potentially favorite son candidates: Jeb Bush or Sen. Marco Rubio.

Republican Party rules award delegates proportionally if the primary is held before March 15. Florida is scheduled to hold the vote March 1.

A Senate committee unanimously approved a proposal Wednesday moving the primary to the third Tuesday of March in an election year. The vote came a day after a House committee also signed off on it.

And it was announced Wednesday that funeral services for Ken Plante will be held Friday at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Tallahassee. The former Senate leader, aide to Gov. Bush, and prominent lobbyist passed away Sunday at age 75.

James Call


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