Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 1.23.22

Sometimes big government actually works, and this week we have proof!

Marco Rubio had a good point a few days ago about U.S. Supreme Court justices.

I think the important thing to remember is that Supreme Court justices are not policymakers. They’re not lawmakers. Their job is not to pass laws or make laws. Their job is to interpret the Constitution and apply it, whether they agree with the policy outcome or not,” Florida’s senior U.S. Senator said.

“And I have long said and will always say, whoever the President nominates, I’m going to judge them by that criteria. Are they a judge, are they a nominee with a history of understanding that the job of the Supreme Court is not to make the law, but to apply the Constitution to the question before them, irrespective of whether they agree with the policy outcome or not?”

That’s a reasoned, statesmanlike way of looking at things in the wake of the announcement liberal Justice Stephen Breyer would retire at the end of this term.

It would also be nice if that statement were true.

I’m not saying Rubio told a fib; he did not. But the SCOTUS, as currently configured, most definitely is a policymaking body. Women likely will learn that truth later this year when the Court issues a ruling which could upend the precedent set by Roe v. Wade.

The Court seems to intend to shift more lawmaking to states, which will be just fine with many people who live in Florida. That is defensible in the abstract, but it also invites extreme laws on things like voting rights. We’ve already seen the proof of that here.

President Joe Biden promised to appoint the first Black woman to the Court, and that’s good. That person almost certainly will be liberal, but conservatives shouldn’t fret.

Liberal justices will still be outnumbered 6-3, except when moderate conservative Chief Justice John Roberts occasionally goes rogue. It’s going to be that way for a long, long time.

OK, on to our weekly game of winners and losers.


Honorable mention: Strawberry shortcake. Yum! The scrumptious treat moved closer to becoming the official state dessert.

The Senate Rules Committee unanimously approved SB 1006 to make the tasty dessert (or dinner by itself) as Florida’s state-sanctioned treat.

Give props to state Sen. Danny Burgess of Zephyrhills, who calls this a “berry good” bill. He sponsored the bill, which is a companion to one Reps. Lawrence McClure of Dover and Demi Busatta Cabrera of Coral Gables filed in November.

Burgess’ district includes the wonderful town of Plant City, which holds an annual Strawberry Festival.



Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: Ketanji Brown Jackson. The Miami native’s star rose rapidly after the news that there would be a U.S. Supreme Court opening.

She is among the front-runners to succeed Justice Breyer, who announced he would retire.

In a Miami Herald story, Nathaniel Persily, Jackson’s former debate teammate at Miami Palmetto High School and now a law professor at Stanford, declared, “She was a star in the making.”

He added, “The only question was, was she going to be on the Supreme Court or was she going to be President of the United States?”

If she wins a SCOTUS appointment, we’ll elevate her to the biggest winner. But for now, that honor goes to…

The biggest winner: Big government. It still works sometimes, and we have the proof here in Florida.

Our state leads the nation with more than 2.7 million residents signed up for health insurance through the federal exchange (a.k.a. Obamacare). That’s 602,744 more people who enrolled in an Obamacare plan in 2022 than the previous year.

And we’ve all seen the lines of people wanting government-provided COVID-19 tests, along with those free vaccinations. Now, a program by President Biden makes N95 masks available for free throughout Florida.

Let’s also tip a cap to Gov. Ron DeSantis and House Speaker Chris Sprowls for their childhood literacy push. The state is handing out 81,000 free books to students to encourage reading at an early age.

“Nearly 90% of the students who failed to earn a high school diploma were struggling with reading in Grade 3,” DeSantis said.

Florida invested $177 million in the program, a legislative priority for Sprowls. Students will receive a high-quality hardcover book each month, and parents can get literacy training to help their students.

Finally, we salute Senate President Wilton Simpson for his push to increase the minimum wage for state workers to $15 by Oct. 1. That’s four years ahead of when the rest of Florida will be compelled to reach that level after voters approved Amendment 2 in 2020.

“We have the cash this year to do it, so there’s no excuses,” he said. “If we don’t do it this year, it’s because we didn’t have the courage to do it.”

It’s certainly refreshing to talk about books and wage hikes instead of culture wars, isn’t it?


Dishonorable mention: Florida International University. The school was rocked by the unexpected resignation of Mark B. Rosenberg as FIU’s President.

In a statement, Rosenberg said he resigned after an “emotional (not physical) entanglement” with a valued colleague.

Rosenberg, 72, initially said he needed to spend more time with his wife, who has advanced dementia.

“Regrettably, these issues spilled over to my work, and I caused discomfort for a valued colleague. I unintentionally created emotional (not physical) entanglement. I have apologized,” the statement said.

The Miami Herald reported that a woman in her 20s who worked closely with Rosenberg told a colleague in December that he had been harassing her for months. FIU hired an outside firm to investigate and reportedly gave Rosenberg two choices: resign, or the school would fire him.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Rick Scott. Florida’s junior U.S. Senator took a victory lap to tout $1 billion he said he was “proud” to help secure for Everglades restoration.

So, you ask, what’s wrong with that? It will be money well spent.

Well, yeah, but Scott voted AGAINST the infrastructure bill that provides the cash. He argued that it added to the national debt, which it does. But what’s it going to be, Senator?

In late October, now-former Fox News host Chris Wallace called out Scott’s hypocrisy for voting against the bill while supporting Donald Trump’s tax cuts. Those cuts also added to the deficit.

That’s different, though, right?

The biggest loser: Matt Gaetz. You are known by the company you keep, and that’s especially true in Gaetz’s case. Or, put another way, when you lay down with dogs, there’s a good chance you’ll get fleas.

So, it’s understandable if Gaetz feels a little itchy now.

First, Joel Greenberg — his former “wingman” turned prosecutor informant — spilled details of an illicit sexual romp with an underage girl in which he said Gaetz participated.

Greenberg pleaded guilty last year to federal sex trafficking charges and has reportedly told prosecutors Gaetz was involved.

Gaetz has denied that.

Well, that’s Greenberg’s word against Gaetz, right?

Now, it’s Gaetz’s word against Greenberg AND former sports radio jock “Big Joe” Ellicott. The Daily Beast, a beast on this story, reported that Ellicott recently pleaded guilty to fraud and drug charges as part of a cooperation agreement with federal prosecutors.

Ellicott reportedly was in the room on Sept. 4, 2017, when Greenberg called Gaetz to tell him the girl they had paid for sex was only 17 at the time.

Greenberg, who faces sentencing in March, has cooperated with prosecutors in hopes of reducing his prison time. Big Joe apparently will too.

Uh oh.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Sister Bonita Martillo, Bishop Cincel High School

    January 30, 2022 at 11:26 am

    Goodness gracious me, I am so very worried about Mister Scott: what if he really believes he secured the billion dollars for Everglades restoration even though he voted against it? What if the dim bulb under that shiny dome of his grows now dimmer with the dawn of each day? What if, like Tucker Carlson, that knitted eyebrows countenance of confused concentration masks a mind gone bad? So sad.
    Unless of course he’s just lying through his teeth, making him no less reliable than he’s ever been, bless his heart.

  • Charles

    January 30, 2022 at 11:27 am

    But the SCOTUS, as currently configured, most definitely is a policymaking body.

    Fake, False, and Misleading information from a former sports reporter who makes up his facts and then attempts to present as news.
    It isn’t news – unfortunately it’s standard operating procedure for Henderson
    Just sickening and unacceptable

  • Kathy

    January 30, 2022 at 1:36 pm

    Kudos Sister! I’m hoping that your “bless his heart” is a true Southern, “bless his heart”, wink, wink. Totally agree. Terrifying that he ever got into office after being inches from a convicted felon. He certainly put his separation package and consulting fees to good use.

  • Tom

    January 31, 2022 at 1:51 pm

    Thank God for the conservative majority, without sell out Robert’s.
    Thank God McConnell left open the Scalia seat.
    Garland is such a hack. Sotamayor is awful, she purposefully misleading on Covid false illness and deaths. Just embarrassing. She’s gotta go! Just saying

Comments are closed.


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