Opinions Archives - Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: Lawmakers may write health care bill, but the people always have final say

If you have many hours to spend on a project where the only sure thing is that you will have a headache at the end, the full text of the U.S. Senate Republican health care proposal is available online.

I tried reading it all.

I really did.

I made it about 20 pages before I realized it was a fool’s errand. Read this one snippet, copied and pasted from the actual draft of the bill, and you will understand why:

1 ‘‘(B) APPLICABLE MEDIAN COST BENCH-
2 MARK PLAN.—The applicable median cost
3 benchmark plan with respect to any applicable
4 taxpayer is the qualified health plan offered in
5 the individual market in the rating area in
6 which the taxpayer resides which—
7 ‘‘(i) provides a level of coverage that
8 is designed to provide benefits that are ac-
9 tuarially equivalent to 58 percent of the
10 full actuarial value of the benefits (as de-
11 termined under rules similar to the rules of
12 paragraphs (2) and (3) of section 1302(d)
13 of the Patient Protection and Affordable
14 Care Act) provided under the plan ….

AAAAHHHRRGH!

Let’s simplify this, shall we?

When people get sick, particularly those with life-threatening illnesses, they don’t care about the “applicable median cost benchmark plan” or any of the subsections, clauses, median premiums, and other jargon that goes into making a law.

They want to know they can go to a doctor they trust and they want a chance to get well. They want prescriptions to be affordable. They want premiums to be reasonable.

When their child, spouse or elderly parent is seriously ill, people don’t care about free-market solutions or whether Planned Parenthood continues to be funded.

The problem with the current debate in Washington is that for all its blah-blah about providing the best health care for patients, it still looks like Republicans are trying to ram something through that will tell 22 million people the “full actuarial value of the benefits (as determined under rules similar to the rules of 12 paragraphs (2) and (3) of section 1302(d)” don’t apply to them.

It still seems to be about ideology, not people.

When you peel back the layers of the bill — as people with longer attention spans than I have done — you find that at the bottom of it is all is the GOP ideal of tax breaks for the wealthiest folks, many of whom happen to be major donors to Republican political candidates.

We have a pretty good idea how Florida’s U.S. senators will vote. Democrat Bill Nelson will vote no. Republican Marco Rubio is (as usual) trying to have it both ways by saying he hasn’t decided, but he’ll be the good lap dog he always is and fall in line with a yes vote.

Before a final version reaches the Senate floor, you’ll probably see lots of quid-pro-pork change hands — vote yes and suddenly a senator’s home state gets paid off with new bridge projects and the like. Winners will call it a landmark great day. Losers will say it’s the darkest day in U.S. history.

All that will really matter though is whether Republicans remembered the fundamental rule: When people get sick, does this give them access to a doctor they trust and a real chance to get well?

Lawmakers may write the bill, but the people will always have the final say.

Linda Geller-Schwartz: Donald Trump should act on Florida’s bipartisan support for judicial nominees

Linda Geller-Schwartz

Donald Trump has been mired in controversy his first few months in office, and by his own admission, the job of being President is harder than he thought. But Trump has an opportunity to get something meaningful done quickly and in a bipartisan fashion for Floridians. He can act on an appeal from our two Senators, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio to fill vacant seats in our federal courts.

These two senators have jointly asked the president to renominate three of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees to Florida’s federal courts who had been vetted and approved by both Senators, but left waiting for hearings (along with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland) when their nominations expired in January.

Sens. Nelson and Rubio’s rare show of bipartisanship couldn’t come at a better time for Florida’s federal courts. There are currently seven federal judicial vacancies in Florida and five of them are formally classified as “judicial emergencies,” meaning there simply are not enough judges to handle the growing caseload. As judicial vacancies remain unfilled, Floridians who rely on our court system are the ones who suffer.

Last year, the watchdog group Integrity Florida issued a report detailing the myriad ways that lengthy judicial vacancies delay and deny justice for Floridians. Prolonged judicial vacancies inevitably result in case delays, higher caseloads, increased administrative stress and judicial burnout. Such judicial vacancies “threaten the timely administration of justice in both criminal and civil cases” according to the report.

In their letter, the senators asked the president to renominate Patricia Barksdale and William Jung for vacancies in the Middle District of Florida, and Phillip Lammens in the Northern District. With our courts already stretched razor thin, it only makes sense to move these qualified bipartisan nominees through the process rather than starting over from scratch. To underscore this point, Nelson and Rubio make clear in their letter that “timely action is needed as the two vacancies in the Middle District are considered judicial emergencies.”

The letter also refers to the failure of Senate leaders to take “timely action in the last Congress.” In addition to the highly publicized blocking of Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, Senate Republicans in recent years have refused to act on numerous lower court vacancies, causing the number of judicial vacancies to skyrocket.

As a result, President Trump now faces the daunting task of filling more than 120 federal court vacancies. Where there are qualified, bipartisan candidates available to be renominated, it makes sense for the president to act quickly. Failing to address these vacancies threatens the stability and fairness of our justice system and delays justice for Americans seeking their day in court.

Floridians expect and deserve to have a fair and functioning judicial system, and that requires our courts to be working at full capacity. Sens. Nelson and Rubio should be commended for setting aside partisan politics for the sake of our judicial system and the public interest. For his part, President Trump should take notice and heed their advice.

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Linda Geller-Schwartz is Florida State Policy Advocate for the National Council of Jewish Women.

 

Joe Henderson: In losing his seat, David Jolly found his voice. Republicans better listen.

Losing an election can be liberating. At least it seems to be that way for David Jolly.

The former Republican congressman from St. Petersburg always had an independent streak, but he has gone full-blown solo since losing his seat last November to Charlie Crist in CD 13. He takes every opportunity on Twitter to bash President Donald Trump, including a jab about the suspension of live on-camera press briefings in a recent missive.

But that was small potatoes compared to what the jab he took on Lawrence O’Donnell’s program on MSNBC. He committed Republican heresy by actually praising the Affordable Care Act (see Care, Obama).

Jolly said that after losing the election, he was unemployed with a pre-existing condition. Having the Obamacare safety net was a great relief.

So, here’s what I’m guessing: While Jolly told O’Donnell he is considering a rematch against Crist in 2018, he likely is finished in big-time politics — at least as a Republican.

The national organization already considered him a rouge thorn for his disinterest in raising money; coming out in favor of Obamacare is the GOP equivalent of having serpents spew from his mouth.

Jolly is a pretty smart guy and I’m sure he has a good feel for how he stands in the eyes of party leaders. They likely would greet his potential candidacy with the same enthusiasm one has for an IRS audit. CD 13 is a primarily Democratic district anyway, so even if Jolly got the Republican nomination, party bosses would be unwilling to channel money his way.

Republicans could have a tough time holding onto their House majority and probably would be willing to invest in races with a greater likelihood of success.

Here’s the thing, though. While Jolly is playing with a nothing-to-lose swagger that infuriates GOP leaders, they really ought to pay attention to what he is saying.

They have already gotten an earful from constituents about health care, and the seeming rush by the Senate to approve a bill that could leave 22 million Americans without insurance reinforces the GOP’s image as a party that doesn’t give a hoot about the needs of ordinary people.

When a person like Jolly says that he faced potential calamity after losing his government health care, the message to everyone is that clear: The big shots take care of themselves and their buddies, and screw over everyone else.

In losing his seat, Jolly seems to have found his voice, and he isn’t afraid to use it. His Republican friends better listen.

Darryl Paulson: Midterm elections boost Democratic chances

Democrats are looking forward to the 2018 midterm election with great hopes of regaining political control of the House and Senate. Democrats would need to pick up 24 House seats and three Senate seats to capture the majority.

Democrats hope to pick up anywhere between one and four seats in Florida with the seat of retiring Republic Ileana Ros-Lehtinen their top priority. Other Republican targets include Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Brian Mast. A three-seat switch would give Democrats majority control of the Florida delegation.

A big plus for Democrats is that the party controlling the White House has lost an average of 30 House seats and four Senate seats in the past 21 midterm elections. If the Democrats can achieve the average midterm gains, they will take control of both houses.

President Barack Obama and the Democrats lost 63 House seats in 2010, with most of the losses attributed to the passage of Obamacare. Obama and the Dems lost 13 more seats in the 2014 midterm. The loss of 76 seats in the two Obama midterms gave Republicans their current 241 to 194 advantage.

President George W. Bush gained 8 seats in the 2002 midterm, becoming only the second president in the past 21 midterms to gain seats. The gain was attributed to public support for the president in the aftermath of 911. In the 2006 midterm, Bush and the Republicans lost 30 seats.

President Bill Clinton lost 54 seats in 1994 due to a reaction to his failed attempt to pass health care. Four years later, Clinton became the only other president in the past 21 midterms to gain seats. Democrats picked up five seats in 1998, a reaction to the Republican overreach in their attempt to impeach the president.

The largest midterm loss in the past 21 midterms occurred in the 1922 midterm of President Warren Harding. The Republicans lost 77 seats.

Midterms clearly are bad news for the party controlling the White House, which means Republicans will confront a major obstacle in 2018. In addition, Trump’s low approval rate, 34 percent, is historically low for an incoming president.

Not only is President Donald Trump unpopular, but so is his major legislative priority, the American Health Care Act. The public has strongly opposed the Republican plan with 55 percent strongly opposing the plan in a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll.

It is worth remembering that two of the largest midterm losses were related to health care. Clinton and the Democrats lost 54 seats when his health care plan failed, and Obama and the Democrats lost 63 seats when health care was approved. Will a similar fate confront Trump and the Republicans in 2018?

Republicans point to the fact that they are five-for-five in winning special congressional elections since Trump became president. But, special elections have been poor indicators of electoral success in midterm elections.

Democrats should not be over-optimistic even though almost all political factors favor them. Likewise, Republicans should not be optimistic because of their success in special elections.

If Democrats fail to win political control in the 2018 midterm elections, look for Democrats to thoroughly out their leaders, especially in the House, and replace them with younger, more articulate leaders for the party. The current House leaders have an average age in the mid-70’s.

It is past time for new faces and new leadership.

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Darryl Paulson is Professor Emeritus of Government at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg.

Manley Fuller: FL wildlife crossings work; safety for animals, people

Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation

It’s always heartbreaking when I hear that yet another Florida black bear or Florida panther has gotten killed on a Florida road.

So far this year, vehicle collisions killed an average of two endangered Florida panthers a month. And for bears, the toll is worse: About 20 black bears die every month on roadways as they travel the state looking for food and mates. And we all see many other dead creatures — deer, squirrels, opossums, bobcats, birds, reptiles and more — along our roadsides. This hurts people too: An estimated 200 people are killed and 29,000 injured yearly in the U.S. when their cars collide with animals.

The good news is that we can prevent this, and we have proven technology to do it. Building safe crossings for wildlife can reduce the carnage to nearly zero. Wildlife crossings take a number of different forms — expanded culverts, special ledges built along rivers or canal banks under highway bridges, or full-blown landscaped overpasses, like the striking forested Cross Florida Greenway Land Bridge over Interstate 75 near Ocala.

In Tallahassee, a study showed that 90 percent of the turtles that tried to cross Highway 27 from Lake Jackson to a nearby waterway didn’t make it. Since the Lake Jackson Ecopassage was built under the roadway in 2010, the death toll has dropped to zero because turtles, alligators, and other creatures are now funneled by fencing to a culvert that allows them to pass between water bodies without dodging traffic.

More good news: A project that the Florida Wildlife Federation sparked years ago is finally a reality. It’s along a nine-mile stretch of Alligator Alley (which runs from Naples to Fort Lauderdale) that was a renowned hot spot for dangerous collisions, especially Florida panther deaths. The Florida Wildlife Federation commissioned a detailed study of the problem in 2015, sent a letter to the state petitioning action, and today there is finally a system of fencing and underpasses to help wildlife cross safely. In Southwest Florida, we’ve been involved in 50 different wildlife crossings so far, and we are excited to be involved with even more projects statewide.

Think about how nerve-wracking it is for us to try to dodge traffic when we have to run across a highway – just imagine how confusing it is for a wild animal to be moving through the woods and suddenly confronted by a road with speeding cars everywhere.

The highway crossings we’re installing have another important benefit besides cutting collisions: They provide key connections so that animals can roam in search of mates, which helps prevent inbreeding and protects a healthy gene pool for whole populations.

Since wildlife watching contributes $5.8 billion yearly to Florida’s economy, it makes sense for us to do what we can to keep our wildlife populations healthy and protected. If we humans are going to take over their landscape, the least we can do is use whatever tools we can to make it safer for them so we can all coexist.

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Manley Fuller is president of the Florida Wildlife Federation.

Joe Henderson: Jack Latvala sounds like a candidate for Governor, even though he hasn’t announced

State Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater keeps saying he’ll decide in a few weeks whether he is running for the Republican nomination for Governor, but he sounds like a candidate right now.

He is making himself available for interviews (always a good sign) and speaking engagements around the state. More importantly, he actually is saying things that are newsworthy and sound suspiciously like common sense.

Take this quote, for example, given over the weekend to WFOR-CBS 4’s Jim DeFede on “Facing South Florida.”

When asked if he would make a better governor than current GOP front-runner Adam Putnam, Latvala responded: “Oh, absolutely.”

Then he dropped this into the conversation.

“I’m an old-fashioned Republican from the standpoint that I think government ought to stay out of our lives – and that includes our personal lives,” he said. “Some people think that makes me a moderate. Let them think what they want.”

Well, well!

Let’s pick at that nugget a bit, shall we?

In addition to being the Senate budget chairman, Latvala sponsored a bill during the Legislative Session that would have banned housing discrimination for “sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The bill died in committee, but give Latvala credit for trying.

Under the mask of conservative values, some Republicans love nothing better than to tell people different from them how to live their lives. Latvala’s quote could be part of his game plan to stand in contrast to other GOP candidates.

For instance, Putnam, the state Agriculture Commissioner and presumed Republican front-runner, was criticized by LGBT groups when his statement on the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre had no reference to fact that many of the 49 people killed and 58 wounded that night were gay.

Why is that a big deal? Gays were clearly the target of the attack by killer Omar Mateen.

That promoted Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, to say of Putnam, “We hope he does that, and we hope any candidate running for office that invokes the name of Pulse has the courage to name the victims and make clear their stance, not in platitudes, but in real promises.”

The field of candidates in both parties will be crowded, which puts fund-raising and name recognition at a premium. If Latvala makes the leap, he will have a lot of catching up to do.

Putnam has raised more than $12 million, including $1 million in May. If House Speaker Richard Corcoran jumps in, he could have the backing of the Koch Brothers and all the clout that brings.

Latvala has positioned himself as a problem-solver, interested in the environment, with extensive business experience. He has tried to label Putnam as a career politician.

But the biggest thing he might going is trying to steer Republicans back to their roots — less regulation, more freedom everywhere, for everybody. It’s a bold gambit for a party that has moved steadily toward regulating any lifestyle but the one it favors. Whether that works in a potential campaign remains to be seen, but it sure is refreshing to hear.

Blake Dowling: 2018 is coming, time to tighten up voter tech

Only in the world of politics can an election take place with both sides claiming they got the W.

In college football, it’s simple; you win or you lose — unless you are a Tennessee fan, then you get to be a “champion of life.”

I am sure Tennessee Coach Butch Jones meant well when he muttered those words last year, but come on man.

Back to politics. The special election (Karen Handel versus Jon Ossoff) in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District this week had everyone chattering.

Democrats say it was a close race in the heart of a deep-red district, meaning great things for 2018.

Republicans say they won even though they were outspent 5-1.

Regardless of your position, the Republican Party did “Handel” the competition. (Nice name, Karen; campaign slogans are endless.)

If I were her campaign manager, we would fire up crowds with the Black Crowes’ “Hard to Handle” blasted before every event.

However, one thing unheard (for once) is technology interfering with the election. Apparently, Russia doesn’t care about what goes on in Georgia.

A ZDNet headline this week said this: “198 million Americans hit by ‘largest ever’ voter records leak.”

Which is interesting because the potential exposure was discovered by a security expert and locked down before the information was leaked or stolen.

Was this a fake news headline, pure clickbait?

Here’s what went down. A company named Deep Root Analytics tracks voter information — not just names and addresses, but how the voter feels about issues — compiled using specific social engineering software (see my next column in INFLUENCE Magazine for a trip down that rabbit hole).

Deep Root had a terabyte of data sitting on an Amazon server that was potentially easy to breach. That was bad. On the bright side, it was good that the breach was discovered by a white-hat hacker before that info spilled.

Keep in mind, however, in states like Ohio you can already access every voter (names, addresses, etc.) in the state without needing to hack anything. So, another massive leak was avoided (maybe).

Our voter tech is behind, as is everything else we are plugging into the internet without giving it much thought.

This is called the “Internet of Things.”

For example, on the homefront: “Good news, Mrs. Wife! I can control our air conditioning through my iPhone!”

Is it password protected? No? FAIL.

You just created another vulnerability making both you and your data a big target. We, as Americans, regardless of political opinion or party affiliation, must band together to put a massive defensive strategy in place to keep the really bad guys out when 2018 rolls around.

Old voting machines … exposed servers in the cloud … external hard drives with unencrypted data … using free Wi-Fi without passwords … ransomware … threats are everywhere and we must “Handel” this situation with care.

HAHAHA!

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Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. His heroes are Bill Murray and Megan Fox and can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Florida Man thoughts on Georgia’s special election

Florida Man Steve Schale

Pretty close to exactly 12 years ago, I took the reins of the political operation of the Florida House Democratic Caucus. During my three years there, we picked up nine Republican districts, including two swing seat Special Elections, including a special in a ruby-red type district like Georgia 06.

We made the decision to play in this race for one after passing on a few other specials. Why? We had exactly the right candidate — and we had exactly the right GOP opponent.

It was in late 2007, and GOP State Representative Bob Allen had just resigned, the details of which I will leave to The Google. His district, in Brevard County, wasn’t exactly home team territory, but like GA 06, had one or two markers that at least piqued my attention.

The Republicans had a four-way primary, and in the process nominated arguably the worst possible candidate. one the Orlando Sentinel called “woefully unprepared” who “lacks even the basic knowledge of how Florida’s tax structure or its school system works.”

Needless to say, that ad wrote itself.

On the other side, we had basically the unicorn candidate, a well-regarded City Commissioner from the district’s population center, Tony Sasso. Sasso was a pure progressive on environmental issues, which gave him base bona fides, but was libertarian on enough issues to win over some right-leaning swing voters, and reasonable enough as a Commissioner to give moderate voters comfort. He was a well-liked known commodity.

Even with this perfect storm — the perfect candidate on our side, the perfect opponent, and the perfect setup for the race (again, you can Google it), we had to claw our way to a very narrow win.

For those of you who know me well, you know my basic political sandbox: Candidates matter. There were probably 25,000 other Democrats in that state House seat that would have lost, and with all respect to my friend Tony, we probably would have lost had the GOP just nominated a decent candidate.

So, what does this have to do with GA 06?

Keep in mind, over 70 Republicans in Congress come from seats better than this one, meaning GA 06 is the kind of place where everything has to be perfect. In fact, there is only one Democratic Member of Congress in a seat more Republican than Georgia 06, and not a single Republican in one similar for the other side.

For Florida readers, here are two markers: At R+8, GA 06 is more Republican than Dennis Ross and Mike Bilirakis‘ district, and more Republican than Ted Deutch‘s seat is Democratic. In terms of partisan voting, it is about equally partisan as Debbie Wasserman Schultz‘s seat. In other words, to win, literally everything has to be perfect — and even then, it’s often not enough.

And it wasn’t.

Taking nothing away from the campaign — I knew a lot of really smart people who did good work, and for the good of the cause, I think the party had to make some kind of an effort there (30 million was well beyond the point of diminishing returns), the basic matchup was uphill. Jon Ossoff, while an impressive young man, started out hardly more than a generic Democrat. The first time I spoke to one of my very smart Atlanta friends about Ossoff, she peppered her praise with a fair number of “but” to describe his weaknesses. Back when I was a candidate recruiter, I went out of my way to walk away from candidates whose qualities had to be modified by the word “but,” especially in seats like this.

Karen Handel, on paper, was a proven commodity. Take ideology and everything else off the test, and she wins the bio test. I don’t know if a more proven candidate, either some kind of prominent business leader, or prior elected, would have done better, but my gut says the odds are pretty decent. I was definitely in the camp that our best shot here was in the big primary.

Even in districts like this, the road to 45-47 percent, with enough money and a good enough candidate, can be smooth. But the road from there to 50+1 can be like climbing Everest without oxygen — sure it can be done, but it requires a really amazing climber and a fair amount of luck. Gwen Graham getting over the top in Florida 02 in 2014 (R+5 seat) when several others had come just short is a good example of this.

I don’t think Democrats should get too down on this one, or Republicans get too excited. Districts like this show that the map in 2018 is likely to be fairly broad. Take away the money spent in the seat, and I think most Dems would rightfully feel very good about it. As we saw in South Carolina tonight, there are a lot of places that are more interesting than they normally are.

Which gets back to the lesson. One of the biggest forgotten lessons of 2006 is the importance of recruitment. My side will never have the money to go toe-to-toe with Republicans everywhere. We have to have the “better” candidate in a lot of places to win, particularly due to gerrymandering that means we have to win more seats on GOP turf than they do on ours. At the Congressional level, the DCCC in 2006 fielded a rock-star slate of candidates. At the legislative cycle, in a year when we picked up seven GOP-held seats and held two Democratic open seats, we had the “better” candidate in almost every instance. We also recruited broadly, trying to find the best candidates we could in as many plausible seats as possible, to compete broadly, to give ourselves lots of options — and when the wave happened, the map blew wide-open. Had we not put the work in on the recruitment side — occasionally in places where a Democratic candidate had already filed, at best we would have gone plus 2 or 3, even with the wave.

At the same time, if we had more money, our +7 year might have been +10 or more.

Ossoff clearly has a bright future and would have won in a lot of places last night. But in many ways, his was a candidacy created from whole cloth, and funding and turnout operations alone won’t get just anyone across the line — especially somewhere like GA08. Even in this hyperpartisan environment, campaigns aren’t simply plug-and-play operations — they are choices.

When folks ask me what the national and state party should be doing, my answer is simple: Two things, recruit high-quality candidates and register voters.

And if Democrats expect to have success in November 2018, that is the work that must be done between now and then.

Ali P. Gordon: Is it time to level the playing field for college athletes?

I love college sports. I’ve got the Knights, Yellow Jackets, Tar Heels, Hoyas, Maroon Tigers — you name it. If I can catch a game, I will.

My brother-in-law, who’s from New England, recently schooled me about lacrosse, so now on top of college football, basketball, baseball and volleyball, I’m hooked on that, too. And if it’s any indication of my level of fanaticism, I got married on a Sunday in the fall so I could still watch college football on the Saturday before.

But it seems like the playing field is a little unfair when it comes to student-athletes who can’t profit from what they do in college, unlike other students who can use their engineering skills to get jobs, their marketing abilities to work at companies promoting products, their management skills to set up their own companies.

This issue has been around for years. The latest case involves a football player, a marketing major, who was told by the association that oversees college athletics that he risks his amateur status by receiving advertisement payments for a YouTube channel that uses his name and image.

There’s something amazing about seeing people competing for not only the win, but perhaps also a chance to participate at the next level. Experiences learned through competition – such as leadership, effective communication and the capacity to work in team-oriented environments – are also key. Intense preparation, strategy, focus, and random luck are all things with which we can relate.

It’s easy to see that student-athletes pour a lot of effort into their craft. They love their sports and their fans. I often wonder, however, do these students get full value for sharing their talents? Is limiting their financial support to tuition, room, board and a stipend fair?

I’ve never participated in college sports, and before I provide a stream of consciousness about something of which I am admittedly not an expert, consider the other students.

College students come in all manner of shapes, sizes and colors. When the next incoming class hits campus this fall, they will do so with varied levels of academic preparation, degree-seeking goals and financial needs. They’ve successfully been admitted to their respective universities with the goal of improving their own lives.

Some students will finance or pay their way through school, while some of the bright ones will get full academic scholarships. The very brightest have earned supplemental scholarships that will come to them as stipends.

Once in school, the fully funded students typically need only keep a B average and make satisfactory progress toward graduation to retain their support in place. These requirements are generally attainable given their skill set.

These top-end students usually have intellectual appetites that cannot be satiated by classwork alone. They participate in club activities, volunteer for community service, travel abroad, undertake creative efforts, and so on. If they wanted, they could even further develop their skills by starting a successful company, becoming a research assistant in a lab, hosting a blog or YouTube channel, or have some other side gig. All of these could lead to extra money. As long as the GPA is minimally a B average, they can fully capitalize on their current market value.

It is rewarding to see students with newly developed skill sets preparing themselves for the next level. Experiences learned through extracurricular activities help to develop leadership skills, effective communication and the capacity to work in team-oriented environments. Intense preparation, strategy and focus are what make students successful.

It’s easy to see that top-end academic students pour a lot of effort into building their bodies of work. They love their craft. I expect these students will reap the benefits of the value for their talents, but I have yet to see one of my engineering students sell his or her autograph for money, which they can do without being penalized.

Imagine that you, your relative or friend were a student highly regarded in art, architecture, marketing or cybersecurity. What level of vitriol would you have toward a system that placed restrictions on you or their ability to apply those skills for profit while still in school? So although they may occupy the identical campus setting, exceptionally gifted student-athletes and academic students are seemingly subject to starkly different systems facilitating distinct fiscal outcomes.

Arguments against why student-athletes are not allowed to reap the full monetary benefits during or after the application of their skill set seem circular and duplicitous compared to the free markets that exists for the skills of academic students. Universities need to be given more freedom to devise systems that are more equitable for all of their students.

There are a lot of sides on this issue that have been debated for years, and any satisfactory solution will probably be complex. But just consider: As your favorite college team takes the field or court, are the players getting reasonable market value for their time and energy?

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UCF Forum columnist Ali P. Gordon is an associate professor in UCF’s Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering. He can be reached at ali@ucf.edu.

 

Breaking down the results of the Georgia special election

The last month has been filled with media coverage of yesterday’s special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. One would think this was the most significant race in the history of Congress. Why has this race dominated the media, while another special election in neighboring South Carolina has received almost no attention?

Both the Georgia and South Carolina districts feature resignations by Republicans Congressmen who took positions in the Donald Trump administration. In Georgia, Tom Price resigned to become Secretary of Health and Human Services, while in South Carolina, Mick Mulvaney gave up his seat to become Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

One reason for the attention on the Georgia race may be that the seat was previously held by Newt Gingrich before Price took over, and it has been a Republican district since 1979. That hardly explains the attention on the Georgia district and the neglect of the South Carolina district.

Many viewed the election as a referendum on the Trump administration. Mitt Romney won the district by 23 percent in 2012; Trump won by only 1.5 percent in 2016. Many saw this as an opportunity for Democrats and a sign of Republican dissatisfaction with Trump as party leader.

The Democratic candidate in District 6 was Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old political activist who did not even live in the district. Although the Constitution does not require House candidates to live in the district where they run, not doing so is usually a fatal blow. Handel constantly reminded voters that Ossoff could not vote in the election because he did not reside there.

Ossoff raised over $25 million for his campaign, and his Republican opponent, Karen Handel, raised a similar amount making this the most expensive House race in congressional history. Conspicuously lacking was any discussion, especially by Democrats, of the corrupting influence of money in congressional campaigns.

The media focused great attention on Ossoff, but comparatively little focus on his Republican opponent Handel. We knew that Ossoff worked for a number of Democratic causes and candidates, and considered himself to be a progressive. Ossoff had the backing of the progressive establishment, including John Lewis, an icon in both congressional and civil rights history.

The lack of focus on Handel may be due to the fact Ossoff received 48 percent of the vote in the blanket primary, compared to only 20 percent for Handel. It should be remembered that Republican candidates collectively received 51 percent of the primary vote.

We also know that the Ossoff campaign had 12,000 volunteers, a number seldom reached by statewide candidates. He was clearly a political juggernaut, as his $25 million dollars in campaign funds demonstrated.

During the campaign, one of the candidates posted on their website that the country needs to “cut the wasteful spending. Reduce the deficit so the economy can keep growing.” The site also suggested that the minimum wage be adjusted “at a pace that allows employers to adapt their business plans.”

The above policy pronouncements sound like something from Herbert Hoover, Ronald Reagan or Handel. They were actually from Ossoff. Hardly progressive sentiments. Did Ossoff’s attempt to moderate his progressive views actually “turn off”  progressive voters?

Republican strategy was to tie Ossoff to Nancy Pelosi, a common strategy, but one that many felt was no longer effective.  One ad asked voters to “Say ‘No’ to Pelosi’s ‘Yes Man.’” Another ad called Ossoff a “rubber stamp for Pelosi’s failed agenda.”

Ossoff lead by as much as 7 points only a month ago and never trailed Handel until the day before the election when she led by a single point.  The polls indicated that Ossoff’s support came from voters from 18 to 64, where he lead by 8 to 15 points; Handel led among voters over 65 by a margin of 62 to 36.

Males supported Handel 52.6 to 45.7 percent while women supported Ossoff by almost exactly the same margin. White voters preferred Handel 55.8 to 43.2 percent while African-Americans favored Ossoff 88.7 to 9.4 percent for Handel.

Why did Handel win and what does it mean? There are several reasons why Handel won and Ossoff lost. Perhaps most damaging was the outsider label, which effectively damaged the Ossoff campaign. Not being able to vote for yourself in such an important campaign put Ossoff in a difficult position. Carpetbaggers in politics have seldom fared well.

Another part of the outsider problem was self-imposed by Ossoff. In an attempt to negate the outsider charge, Ossoff said he lived “a few blocks outside District 6. In fact, it was found that he lived 3.2 miles outside the district.

A final part of the outsider charge related to campaign contributions. Although Ossoff raised over $25 million, most of the contributions came from outside the district. He received fewer than 1,000 donations from District 6 residents, but got over 7,200 contributions from California residents.

It is too early to know for sure, but I am guessing senior voters turned out at very high rates, while younger voters supported Ossoff, but turned out at a far lower rate. We cannot forget that this was a Republican district and the results reflected typical voting patterns.

Democrats are clearly going to be demoralized after expecting to win this seat almost from the beginning. Ossoff did lead almost the entire campaign, but momentum is everything in politics.

A seven-point Ossoff advantage a month out from the election completely vanished by election day.

Neither party should read too much into the election results. A Handel victory is no more an endorsement of Trump than an Ossoff victory would have meant that Trump and the Republicans were doomed.

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