Opinions Archives - Florida Politics

Deborah Franklin: Protect Florida elders by keeping nursing home certificate-of-need process

Deborah Franklin

Throughout my professional career, I have been dedicated to the continued growth and enhancement of quality long-term care in Florida. A key element of quality care is maintaining a sense of independence among the elders we serve, a priority that is fostered by Florida’s long-standing commitment to helping them remain in the least restrictive setting possible.

However, I believe a proposal now before the Constitution Revision Commission would undermine that goal and threaten the continued independence of countless older Floridians.

The proposed amendment to our State Constitution would eliminate the Certificate of Need (CON) process for nursing homes, among others, and change that would disrupt the mission of continuing quality care in skilled nursing care centers. The CON process requires Florida’s Health Planning Councils to identify areas which have a need for additional beds.

Facilities must document how they will meet those needs, either through new development or adding on to an existing center. Beds are awarded based on several factors, including a center’s quality outcomes and financial stability.

The intent is to prevent an oversaturation of care facilities, so the taxpayers don’t end up subsidizing unused beds.

Florida has the nation’s highest share of seniors, and elimination of the nursing home CON requirement would fly in the face of the state’s ongoing support of home and community-based care — a policy that allows elders to remain in their own homes as long as possible.

If additional nursing center beds are allowed without the careful scrutiny of the CON process, the new facilities will need residents to fill their beds — and the first place they will look is the ranks of those currently enjoying the benefits of home and community-based care.

It’s no secret that Florida is experiencing a nursing shortage, with more than 12,000 vacant nursing positions around our state. The problem is particularly challenging for skilled nursing centers.

Elimination of CON would lead to additional facilities competing for the same limited pool of Registered Nurses and Certified Nursing Assistants, thus spreading already limited resources even thinner.

If the CON repeal is enacted, it seems unavoidable that more seniors will be moved from home settings and into skilled nursing centers — a setting that is necessary for our most frail elders, but certainly not for everyone currently living in the less restrictive environment offered by home and community-based care. If it was your mother or grandmother, would you want her living in even the best nursing home before it was really necessary?

The Legislature has seen the value in allowing the nursing home CON process to remain in place, so why does the Constitution Revision Commission want to circumvent their authority by using our State Constitution to repeal CON?  Because of today’s CON laws, nursing care centers are able to continue to provide quality care at a level that is among the best in the nation.

Existing centers are able to focus on recruiting dedicated more health care professionals to the field, to serve residents who truly need the care they offer.

Every Florida resident should take a significant interest in this issue, for the sake of their elderly relatives — and, someday, for themselves.

I hope every member of the Constitution Revision Commission recognizes the need to protect our senior citizens by leaving the nursing home CON process in place.


Deborah Franklin is Senior Director of Quality Affairs for Florida Health Care Association. She has more than 20 years’ experience working as a nursing home administrator, most recently overseeing renovations and expansions for the not-for-profit Florida Living Options, which operates the Hawthorne Village continuing care retirement communities in Florida. She can be reached at dfranklin@fhca.org.

Chelsea Murphy: Right on Crime; conservative on justice

During the upcoming 2018 Florida Legislative Session, Right on Crime will serve as a resource to lawmakers on the importance of criminal justice reform, breaking down long-held, but unsupported, policy prescriptions. For example, the assumption that to decrease crime, all drug offenders should be subjected to the same mandatory minimum sentences has led to burdensome prison costs with little return for public safety.

As an alternative, Right on Crime will introduce and promote public safety reform measures that have seen results in other states that most Floridians want to see enacted.

Housing 102,000 inmates in 63 prisons across Florida costs taxpayers nearly $2.4 billion and the recidivism rate is a dismal 33 percent – meaning one out of every three inmates released from a Florida prison will return to a Florida prison within three years. Just as conservatives hold other government functions accountable for spending, the same cost-effectiveness requirement should apply to our criminal justice system.

There are steps Florida can take to cut crime and spending within the criminal justice landscape that have proven to save taxpayer dollars, reduce recidivism and protect public safety.

For instance, reforming mandatory minimum sentencing by instituting a judicial safety valve. Under current Florida law, judges are required to sentence all individuals convicted of certain drug crimes to the same mandatory prison term – without taking any mitigating factors into account. Meaning a first-time, low-level drug offender is subject to the same minimum prison term as a drug kingpin.

If a judicial safety valve were instituted, the court system would be given the flexibility needed to divert low-level drug offenders with substance abuse issues into drug treatment.

While some argue this puts dealers back on the streets and endangers the public, there is simply no evidence to suggest mandatory minimums have any effect on public safety. Texas, for example, has virtually no mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines in place and has a nearly identical crime rate to that of Florida.

The bottom line is a judicial safety valve is more effective and less expensive than mandatory minimum sentencing, and does not put public safety at risk.

In addition to judicial safety valve, Florida is well behind other states in reforming its laws governing the property theft threshold, which has not been changed since 1986. The state is once again using an outdated, one-size-fits-all model to criminal justice.

In this instance, someone who steals a $300 Xbox is punished in the same manner as someone who steals a $20,000 car.

Moreover, raising the property theft threshold, which 37 other states have already done, including neighboring states that have felony theft thresholds more than three times higher than Florida’s, does not result in an increase in felony theft.

Simply put, there are more effective, less expensive ways to deal with petty theft than habitual incarceration which costs taxpayers and has not proven to promote public safety.

Finally, in Florida, there is strong Republican and Democratic support for commonsense criminal justice reform and a recently released poll, funded by Right on Crime, demonstrably indicates registered voters overwhelmingly believe the primary purpose of the criminal justice system is to rehabilitate and not punish criminals.

The poll found that, despite the range of opinions voters have on the criminal justice system, both voter groups readily embrace the four proposed reforms tested:

– Roughly 3 in 4 registered voters and GOP voters support ending the practice of suspending drivers’ licenses for failure to pay court fees or fines when the person can prove an inability to pay and agrees to do community service.

– Nearly three-quarters or more of Republican and Democratic voters support encouraging counties to create civil citation programs that would allow police officers to give citations that include fines and/or community service instead of making arrests for various misdemeanors.

– Two-thirds or more of both voter groups support allowing Florida judges to cut three- and five-year mandatory minimum sentences by up to two-thirds for first-time drug offenders when they believe the mandatory sentence is inappropriate based on the crime committed.

– A solid majority of voters from both parties support raising the minimum monetary threshold that qualifies as a felony from $300 to $1,500.

The case for smart criminal justice reform is clearer today than at any time in our past, and with smart solutions already being widely discussed by Florida lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, Right on Crime is hopeful that the 2018 session will usher in laws that truly work to reduce crime, deliver justice to victims and safeguard taxpayers money.


Chelsea Murphy serves as Florida State Director for Right on Crime.

Blake Dowling: Knightscope, AI and security

About three years ago, I first started writing about artificial intelligence and the various applications of such.

And since then, there’s been much to write about: Starship robot delivery services (introduced to me by the team at Greenberg Traurig), Google (Waymo) self-driving cars, Watson from IBM diagnosing illnesses, various AI legal aids for lawyers, lobbyists and legislators to help with various analytical functions.

I have been waiting for more weaponized and security oriented AI to pop up; that is what Elon Musk (the founder of Tesla/SpaceX) – among others who fear AI – have been ranting about for years.

According to The Guardian, Elon breaks it down like this: “I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful,” said Musk. “I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish.”

I have seen all the Terminator films (at least twice), with the exception of the most recent one, Terminator Genisys. Not very good, right beyond Saved by the Bell: The Movie in Hollywood-horsepower index.

Anyway, we all know what AI gone crazy looks like thanks to Hollywood: Skynet, and the like. End of road.

People tend to forget AI done right can solve a lot of problems.

For example, there is a new line of AI-based security products on the market designed to take the strain off security. Picture a huge parking lot, mall, airport commuter lot etc. One of the automated security bots by Knightscope could take this repetitive task of patrolling these spaces out of human hands.

At five years old, Knightscope is Straight Outta Silicon Valley. Its AI devices are installed with sensors and cameras to send information to security command; then, actual security guards are sent to the scene if needed. One of its more advanced models can even detect firearms.

I can certainly see where Elon’s mind if going. The often-debated scenario of those for and against AI of the self-driving car going down the road with its human passenger and someone from the local carnival jumps in front of the car. Does it take the passenger over the rails to his/her demise, or take out the carnie?

These are real questions for our time. Do you want machines making choices like this?

However the other side is I think a robot patrolling the mall parking lot late at night and that is all good for me and my family. How about another twist? You have a carry-permit for your firearm? This robot recognizes you as hostile and chased you down?

Lawsuits, legislation, and a lot of regulation awaits this type of tech. Nevertheless, it’s exciting.

It might even save your life one day. Or blow up humanity; but I doubt it.

We will see. Merry Christmas.


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

Darryl Paulson: Al Franken is a big, fat sexual predator

In 1996, Al Franken wrote a book called “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot.”

I understand Limbaugh is working on his book about Franken, which he will call “Al Franken is a Big Fat Sexual Predator.”

What comes around, goes around.

After 20 years as a writer and cast member for Saturday Night Live, Franken concluded that he had much to offer to the political realm. He wrote a series of books critical of conservative politics. In addition to his Limbaugh book, Franken wrote: “Why Not Me” (1999), “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them” (2003), “The Truth” (2005), and “Giant of the Senate” (2017).

Franken also decided to sign with Air America Radio and go head-to-head with Limbaugh on the radio. Franken got crushed, and Air America folded after a few years.

The death of Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone in an October 2002 plane crash would create a new political opportunity for Franken. Minnesota Democrats selected former senator and Vice President Walter Mondale to replace Wellstone and take on Republican St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman.

Coleman pulled off a surprising upset of Mondale, defeating him 50 to 47 percent.

Six years later, Franken moved back to his native Minnesota and was positioned to take on Coleman. Franken led the field of Democratic challengers until a Playboy article that he wrote in 2000 surfaced. The article was about a virtual reality sex institute where men were free to do whatever they wanted with women. Feminists were outraged, and Franken apologized and was able to secure the nomination.

On election night, both Coleman and Franken received 42 percent of the vote, with Franken leading by 206 votes. A recount increased Franken’s led to 312 votes and July 7, 2009, eight months after the election, Franken was sworn in as Minnesota’s junior senator. As the 60th Democrat in the Senate, Franken was critical in securing passage of Obamacare.

After defeating Coleman, Franken worked hard to suppress any comedic impulse flowing through his veins. Franken wanted to be considered as a serious politician, not a funny politician. He impressed senators across the aisles, who praised Franken for his hard work and serious demeanor.

In 2014, Franken easily won re-election, defeating his Republican opponent Mike McFadden by a 53-43 percent margin.

After Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in 2016, speculation immediately arose about Franken running for president in 2020. Progressives created a “Why Not Al” movement along with a “Draft Al Franken” website. Few doubted that Franken would be a serious candidate.

Franken’s announced resignation from the Senate not only ends his Senate career but also any talk of a presidential campaign.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton will now appoint a replacement for Franken until a 2018 special election. Speculation is that Dayton will appoint Tina Smith, his Lieutenant Governor.

Smith is the likely replacement for Franken for three reasons. First, Dayton picked her as his Lieutenant Governor, so he is a close personal and political friend. Second, a female replacement seems appropriate since seven women have come forth and alleged they were assaulted by Franken.

Finally, Smith has indicated that she will be a caretaker replacement and is not interested in running in the 2018 special election.

Possible Democratic candidates in the 2018 special election include Betty McCollum who represents Congressional District 4, Keith Ellison from District 5 and Rick Nolan in District 8. Another possibility is Ileana Omar, a state representative, who would become the first Somalia-American in the Senate.

Republican candidates include members of Congress Tim Walz of District 1, Erik Paulsen of District 3 and Tim Emmer of District 6. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty is another possibility, along with former Sen. Norm Coleman. A final candidate might be Stuart Mills, heir to the Fleet Farm fortune, who narrowly lost a campaign against incumbent Democrat Richard Nolan for the Congressional District 8 seat.

Whoever the nominee, the open seat race will force the nominees to raise $20 million if they want to seriously contend.

Although Minnesota has voted for the Democratic presidential nominee since 1976, longer than any other state, the Republicans hold the state Senate by one seat, the state House by 20 seats and Clinton carried the state by just 1.5 percent, her smallest margin of victory of any state other than New Hampshire.

Minnesota is turning redder than most observers note, and this will create a very interesting 2018 special election.


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

Emmett Reed: Constitution is no place for special favors for clients or friends

Emmett Reed

There is no place for special favors in our state’s basic charter, the Florida Constitution. Every provision in that document should benefit all of us equally, and officials working to revise the Constitution should be above any action designed to profit one group over another.

In today’s charged political environment, the public has a right to expect the highest ethical standards from its public officials. Unfortunately, one appointed member of the Constitution Revision Commission seems to still be serving the master who pays him to be a lobbyist. This commissioner has ignored his solemn duty to address the needs of all the people of Florida. Worse still, he would have us believe that he is actually doing it to protect some of Florida’s most vulnerable residents. Now he has been hit with a conflict of interest claim, and deservedly so.

Brecht Heuchan is a member of the Constitution Revision Commission, but for many years he has been a paid lobbyist for Wilkes & McHugh, a law firm that makes its living suing nursing homes. Mr. Heuchan has stood before the Legislature and testified for his client in an attempt to advance his client’s desire to make it easier to sue. Note that these lawsuits would do nothing to help nursing home residents – just the lawyers hoping to cash in on large volumes of claims.

The Legislature flatly rejected his idea to sue passive investors in 2017. So now Mr. Heuchan is trying to use (some would say abuse) his appointed public position to slip those same changes into the Constitution. If he can’t win by going through the front door, he’ll try through the back door. The big problem is, that “back door” is the most fundamental document of state government, something that is supposed to be limited to the broad structure of government and its compact with the public.

This is simply wrong, and it must be stopped. The American Senior Alliance filed the ethics complaint against Mr. Heuchan for this obvious conflict of interest. The Florida Health Care Association, which represents the majority of our state’s outstanding long-term care facilities, agrees with the Alliance’s reasoning and supports its complaint.

Not only does Mr. Heuchan’s proposal not belong in the Constitution, but it’s entirely unnecessary. It would add zero new protections to residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and would only bypass decisions of the Legislature and expand ways that trial attorneys can sue. Mr. Heuchan says it’s a response to the terrible tragedy in which more than a dozen residents lost their lives in a South Florida nursing home during Hurricane Irma, but it wouldn’t do anything to fix or prevent what happened there. It would only give attorneys – his clients – more opportunity to sue.

Here is why the proposal is unnecessary: Nursing home residents have been guaranteed a bill of rights since 1976 thanks to Florida’s Legislature. In 1987 Congress further codified those rights when it passed the Nursing Home Reform Act. That Act lists specific rights for residents, and requires each nursing home to care for its residents in a manner that promotes and enhances the quality of life of each resident, ensuring dignity, choice, and self-determination.

Mr. Heuchan is offering his proposal under the guise that nursing home residents don’t have the same rights as you or me – which is completely misleading. What he is really doing is helping a law firm from whom he benefits financially.

And that’s just wrong. Wrong for the people of Florida, and wrong for the Florida Constitution.


Emmett Reed is Executive Director of Florida Health Care Association, the state’s first and largest advocacy organization for long-term care providers and the residents under their care. He can be reached at ereed@fhca.org.

Joe Henderson: Corrine Brown finds rules apply to her too

Miscreant behavior isn’t the exclusive property of either major political party. It’s an equal opportunity career-killer, as former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville learned Monday.

She was sentenced to five years in federal prison for deeds that U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan called “especially shameless.”

Shameless? Yeah, that about sums it up.

It happens when someone feels a title makes them entitled. Offenders often try to justify their actions within narrow legal lines – whether greed, sexual, or anything else – but the common thread is that they run through multiple stop signs on the way to a felony.

The issue in this case was about how Brown spent approximately $800,000 from a charity she established.

Instead of using donations to the One Door For Education foundation on scholarships for needy students, a lot of the money was spent on parties, shopping, a Beyonce concert, and a football game in Washington with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

She blamed her Chief of Staff Elias “Ronnie” Simmons for the misdeeds. He got four years in prison after taking a plea deal for testifying against his former boss.

Carla Wiley, the charity’s executive director, accepted a plea deal of 21 months for spilling the goods.

As the leader of the pack, Brown got hammered the hardest. At age 71, she cashed in the considerable good she accomplished from 25 years in Congress, and for what?

A football game? A concert? A few trinkets she could have bought on her own?

While living it up, it seems likely that it never occurred to her something wrong was happening. She no doubt told herself that Corrine Brown wouldn’t do anything illegal, and that’s the problem.

It’s the same alibi U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore is trying to use in Alabama to justify his taste in young girls. Remember when he said he never dated one without their mother’s consent?

It’s the same mindset that led to all the sexual scandals we see unfolding in Tallahassee. It’s what led former president Bill Clinton to deny he ever had sex with Monica Lewinsky, or that pushed former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to lie to the FBI.

We have all seen people who thought they were above it all pleading for mercy, as Brown did when it sank in that she was going to prison. By then, it’s way past too late.

Five years is a long time, especially at her age. Considering the crime though, it’s an appropriate sentence. I would add that it’s a cautionary tale for any public official thinking of doing something similar, but I doubt such a person would be paying attention anyway.

That’s what happens when someone thinks they’re above it all. It’s a shock when they find out they are not.

Florence Snyder: Tonight on CBS Evening News: More of the same

America will have equality when mediocre women and minorities can go as far in broadcast news as mediocre white men.

Right now, they can’t.

Tonight, yet another middle aged white male mediocrity will make his anchorman debut at the CBS Evening News. The CBS gene pool has come a long way down since the anchor’s chair was occupied by Walter Cronkite, who began his career as a war correspondent and retired as “the most trusted man in America.”

These days, the only skill needed to become a network anchor is the ability to look, talk and think like the older white guys making the hiring decisions.

Look where that’s gotten us.

CBS executives have yet to advance a credible explanation for not knowing that septuagenarian Charlie Rose was a sex-obsessed old coot whose behavior is best handled by health care professionals in an assisted living facility, and not by female interns in one of Rose’s many mansions. To be fair, CBS was not alone in throwing money at this pathetic geezer. Rose was like a federal judge with lifetime gigs at Bloomberg and PBS, as well.

Speaking of PBS, just in time for year-end pledge drives comes a slew of stories about geriatric sex creeps hiding in plain sight at member-supported radio and television stations.

Other asshats of the airwaves like Mark Halperin and Bill O’Reilly are gone, but the damage they did to media credibility lingers. As the years-overdue firings pile up, there’s little evidence that the lords of broadcast have learned much of anything about how urgent and desperate is the need to pass the torch to a new generation of leadership, while we still have young people left with journalism aspirations.

News is a flirty business,” said 74 year old ABC News alumnus Geraldo Rivera. Now a cartoon character at Fox, Rivera was first in line to defend Matt Lauer and fret about “criminalizing courtship” while issuing very belated and grotesquely insincere apologies to Bette Midler for that time he drugged and groped her.

If Geraldo thinks news is a flirty business, he’s been watching too much ‘Morning Joe.’ News is the brick and mortar of democracy, and right now in America, it’s on life support.

Television has long been, and continues to be, the “preferred news platform” for over half of all Americans. Yet broadcast “leadership” is just like that of Republicans and Democrats: old, white, male — and determined to stay that way forever.

Joe Henderson: Rick Scott poll numbers should concern Dems

My eyebrows arched a bit when reading the Saint Leo University poll that showed Rick Scott with a 10-point lead over incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson in next year’s election for the U.S. Senate.

That’s not because I believe for a second that Scott will win by 10 points. As Democratic strategist Steve Schale tweeted, the last four major races in Florida – two gubernatorial, two presidential – were decided by no more than 1.1 percent.

But Rick Scott has made a political career of confounding convention and beating the odds, something beating a three-term incumbent senator would complement.

We remember 2011, when a Quinnipiac poll showed Scott was the most-despised governor in the country after cutting thousands of state jobs, turning down federal money for high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando, and taking a broadsword to public education funding.

His approval rating of 29 percent was a political pit of misery. He was despised by his own Republican Party because he vetoed many of the lawmakers’ pet projects. Yet, he won re-election in 2014 and has kept a single-minded focus on creating jobs. It has worked.

In July, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University ranked Florida first for fiscal soundness in the United States. Our state was ranked 28th overall by a CNBC survey when Scott was elected in 2010, including 48th in economy.

Scott also was widely praised for how he handled preparations during the last two hurricane seasons, although the Miami Herald reported cleanup in Key West has gone slowly and some residents are still living in tents.

Scott will never bring thunderous oratory, either. As a public speaker, he remains stiff and wooden. His environmental record could become an issue as well. Under his administration, regulations to protect Florida’s fragile lands have been shredded.

Even with all this, Floridians seem pleased on balance with the way Scott has done his job.

It’s a cautionary tale for Democrats, for multiple reasons.

Nelson isn’t the most charismatic candidate either. He was front and center with Republican counterpart Marco Rubio when Hurricane Irma was approaching this year, but a poll in October from the University of North Florida carried a serious warning for Nelson.

That survey showed an astonishing 49 percent of Floridians say they don’t know how Nelson is doing as their senator. That led Michael Binder, faculty director of the Public Opinion Research Lab at UNF, to note: “When a three-term sitting U.S. senator has almost half of the sample unable to assess his job approval, you have a problem.”

As always, our state will be a key player in next year’s midterms and beyond. Democrats can’t take for granted that Donald Trump’s low approval numbers will stay that way.

They seemed to believe Scott couldn’t possibly win election to the governor’s mansion when he first ran. Then, surely voters wouldn’t give him a second term.

How did that work out?

Scott might not really be ahead by 10 points, but by now Democrats should know better than to take any comfort in that.

Blake Dowling: Vols, Lane Kiffin, Jimbo Fisher and all the social media #goodstuff

Have you ever lost an election, been fired or run out of an organization? Lane Kiffin has.

Currently, Kiffin coaches the Florida Atlantic University football team. Before that, he had stopped at the Raiders, USC and (for today’s purposes) the University of Tennessee.

I never met Lane, but I knew his ex-wife Layla in college. We went to an ATO date function together; she was a first-class individual, so I assumed Lane was a putz, mostly based on him not being married to her anymore — as well as all the football firings.

Perhaps I was wrong.

Kiffin showed the world the hilarity and power of social media this week with a (far beyond) humorous post about his former employer, the Tennessee Vols.

As you may know, the Vols have had a heck of a time filling its vacant coaching position. They tried to hire Greg Schiano, but the campus protested.

ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit asked: “Why would anyone want to go there?

So, Lane takes an opportunity to tweet the above image, lighting up the internet like Frank the Tank at the Governors Club on a Monday night. As of this minute, 84,000 likes.

Well played, sir; revenge is a tweet best served frigid.

Mike is about to get jacked.

And, of course, at Florida State this week, the rumor mill is going crazy about Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M, with which the school was struggling until Friday’s announcement.

The Jimbo era is over.

The last week struggles included, a fan on the call-in show gets shoved and microphone yanked out of his hand for asking Jimbo about loyalty to the program.

He responded so politely, he earns a round of applause.

The school, thanks to social media and traditional media, is being raked over the coals. Way to be a good fan, Mike.

CBS tells the whole story, and the must-watch video is here.

In North Florida, everyone is weighing in; my pal Skip Foster makes a very good point (see above).

Now the administration must clean up the mess, and find a new head coach.

How about UF and their recent frantic coaching search, you might ask? Comedian Scooter Magruder hits the home run describing it in his own words.

For the betterment of humanity, for getting elected, snarky revenge comments and pointing out the miscues of others, social media is there, in your face each and every day.

Your online brand, behavior, and participation can make the difference in being hired, elected or even getting a date.

It’s a crazy world out there; make sure to behave, in reality, and cyberly (new word).

I bumped into Sen. Bill Nelson last weekend; his online presence, web, social media, etc. is on point and a splendid example of how to be conservative and well-mannered online (pun intended).

The first thing you see when you look at his Twitter feed is how to reach him. Well done.

So, whatever the future holds for Lane, Jimbo and Bill, we will be watching.

Happy holidays and start ordering those Christmas gifts!


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

Joe Henderson: Tax plan forces Marco Rubio’s hand on national debt

While the debate continues in Washington about tax cuts, it’s worth a trip in the Way Back Machine to revisit how U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio felt about the national debt.

To set the scene, Republicans and President Trump are pushing a tax cut plan that will add to the nearly $20 trillion deficit. Outgoing Federal Reserve Board Chairwoman Janet Yellen told the congressional Joint Economic Committee that the consequences of even passing $20 trillion “should keep people awake at night.”

$20 trillion? The debt already is projected to rise another $10 trillion in the next decade, and the tax-cut plan under consideration gives the most benefit to a handful of the richest people in America. At this rate, the national debt should have us hiding under the bed while we’re awake at night.

That brings us back to Rubio, and a January 2016 appearance recorded by C-Span, Rubio, who was still a candidate for president at the time, spoke of a looming crisis if lawmakers didn’t get the debt under control.

“Obviously, the more debt (there is), the more capital is being dedicated to debt and less is available to the private sector. But beyond that there is the specter of a debt crisis. A debt crisis is not a good thing for a country that is trying to grow (the economy). It doesn’t inspire confidence in the future,” he said.

“If nothing changes, if we continue doing things the way we are now, we will have a debt crisis. We have been insulated up to now because of the global reserve currency, because so many other places are unstable. But eventually investors – the people who loan money to America by buying our debt – are going to insist on a higher yield.

“That means higher interest rates, higher return on their loaning of money to us. When that happens, interest payments alone will trigger the debt crisis. The result will be catastrophic for the most important economy in the world.”

If the nation was approaching economic catastrophe with the debt we have, imagine what would happen if the Trump tax cuts become law and the deficit gets even larger.

So, naturally, if Rubio truly believes in the potential calamity of a debt crisis, he will vote against the tax plan, right?

Well, we’ll see.

So far, Florida’s junior senator has expressed reservations about the plan, but so what? He expressed strong reservations about Rex Tillerson’s cozy relationship with Russia before falling in line and voting to approve him as secretary of state.

Rubio has joined Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah in proposing reducing the corporate tax rate to 22 percent from its current 35 percent; the Trump plan would cut the rate to 20 percent. Rubio says his plan would expand the child tax credit, which is laudable. Experts say it would increase the debt, though – and it won’t pass anyway.

In that same C-Span clip, Rubio said the only way to get the debt under control is to reform Social Security and Medicare, because those are programs that spend more money than they take in.

OK, assuming the basics of this tax cut proposal don’t change all that much and the bill is passed into law, there is going to be a lot less money coming into the government than is going out.

It is a given that the wealthiest people get the biggest break in this plan. The nonpartisan Policy Tax Center estimates the richest 1 percent of Americans will receive 20 percent of the benefit while the national debt expands to unimaginable levels.

Marco Rubio is a smart man, and I’m sure he knows what this plan does. He has warned about the impact the debt will have on this country, and he is faced with a vote that could make it worse.

So, what’s it going to be?

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