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“Trolling For Low-Wage Jobs”: Gov. Rick Scott; Florida’s Ambassador For Cheap Labor And Mediocrity

Florida Gov. Rick Scott went to California last week to steal some jobs.

Guess how that brilliant idea turned out.

Scott urged California businesses to pack up and move to Florida because the minimum wage in Florida is only $8.05 an hour.

That was actually the thrust of his selling point: Why are you paying your workers $10 an hour? Floridians will work dirt cheap!

Scott spent lots of taxpayer money to carry this dubious offer to the Golden State, where it went over like a lead balloon.

In a caustic retort, Gov. Jerry Brown wrote: “If you’re truly serious about Florida’s economic well-being, it’s time to stop the silly political stunts and start doing something about climate change — two words you won’t even let state officials say.”

A Los Angeles Times editorial called Scott’s California trip “especially offensive.” It said he “should be home in Florida … trying to create well-paying jobs, instead of trolling for low-wage ones that he can steal in California, undermining this state’s effort to pay a living wage to more of its low-skilled workers.”

The impetus for Scott’s trip was California’s decision to raises its minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next six years. Scott says the wage hike will cost the state 700,000 jobs, a figure he got from a conservative think tank that didn’t even use California jobs data.

Meanwhile, a study by the Labor Center at the University of California-Berkeley predicted no net job loss in Los Angeles as a result of the state’s phased-in pay increases.

In Florida, we’re used to Scott’s obsession with job numbers instead of quality jobs. It will be the centerpiece of his U.S. Senate run in 2018, by which time we might lead the nation in convenience-store openings.

Last week’s “trade mission” to California was Scott’s second. His first try came in March 2015, and since then California employers have added twice as many new jobs as Florida employers have.

So, that trip didn’t work out so great, either.

Unfortunately for Scott, California’s economy is booming right now.

Although the unemployment rate is higher than in Florida, there is no corporate exodus. Ironically, census figures from 2014 indicate that more Florida residents are moving to California than going the other direction.

Florida is an easier sell to multimillionaires looking to relocate in a state with no income tax. That’s undoubtedly one of the reasons that Scott himself moved to Florida in 2003.

However, Florida isn’t so alluring to firms looking for a skilled and educated labor force. That’s because the state still spends an embarrassingly paltry amount on its schools.

According to the National Education Association, the average salary of public teachers in Florida in 2013-2014 was $47,780. That’s 39th in the country, worse than even Alabama or Louisiana.

In California, the average teacher salary that year was $71,396.

Now, if you’re on the board of Apple or Microsoft, where do you think your employees with school-age children would rather live?

It’s bad enough that Scott flies around the country bragging about Florida’s pathetically low wages, but he’s using public money to run radio commercials in other states, beseeching companies to close up shop and move to Florida.

Which would basically screw all the working people on their payrolls.

The governor’s job-poaching junkets are, as the Los Angeles Times said, offensive. But his mission is futile, and his lack of sophistication is breathtaking.

Scott puts the “goober” in gubernatorial.

In March, he invited Yale University to leave its iconic Connecticut campus and resettle in Florida, to avoid state taxes on its endowment fund.

That would be Yale University, founded in 1701. A perfect fit for Boca Raton, right? Or maybe Yeehaw Junction?

Whether Scott was serious or not (he insisted he was), he came off looking like a dolt. They’re still laughing at him (and us) in New Haven.

Out of courtesy to his GOP colleagues, Scott focuses his job-stealing raids on states with Democratic governors. There’s nothing for them to be afraid of, no manic stampede of companies — or Ivy League universities — to the Sunshine State.

All we Floridians can do is apologize to the rest of the country for any past and future appearances by our weird ambassador for cheap labor and mediocrity.

Don’t take him seriously. We certainly don’t.

 

By: Carl Hiaasen, Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, May 10, 2016

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Jerry Brown, Minimum Wage, Rick Scott | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ignore It And It Will Go Away”: Gov. Scott’s Unwritten Policy On Climate Change — Don’t Talk About It

Dear Florida Gov. Rick Scott:

So it turns out the experts were mistaken. It turns out the impact of climate change on Florida — and much of the coastal United States — is not going to be anywhere near as bad as had been predicted. Apparently, it’s going to be much worse.

That’s the sobering finding of a study published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change. Previous scenarios, grim as they were, failed to take into account projected population growth. Factor that in, say the researchers, and the number of people likely to be affected by rising sea levels caused by melting polar ice caps explodes to triple the previous most dire estimates.

The brunt of the catastrophe is expected to be felt in the Southeast, cities like Biloxi, Mississippi, Charleston, South Carolina, and an obscure little seaside hamlet called Miami, Florida. Already, tourists in Miami Beach have to slosh through ankle-deep waters when the tide is especially high. By 2100, that might be regarded as the good old days.

The new study projects a future in which as many as 13.1 million Americans, nearly half of them in Florida, find themselves forced to flee or adapt as seawater rises toward their doorsteps. A child born today might be part of the nation’s largest mass exodus since the Great Migration a century ago.

Interestingly enough, governor, those frightful projections come a year almost to the day after a Miami Herald report that revealed your unwritten policy for dealing with climate change: Don’t talk about it. Forbid state officials from using the very words.

Yes, you claimed no such policy exists, but you were contradicted by multiple ex-employees of the state Department of Environmental Protection, and their testimony was compelling. “We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,’” said Christopher Byrd, a former state Department of Environmental Protection attorney.

This strategy — essentially a governmental gag order — is one your Republican Party has frequently used in recent years. The apparent idea is that if you forbid discussion of it, a problem resolves itself. We’ve repeatedly seen the great success of this policy. George W. Bush’s ban on U.S. funding to international groups that provide information on pregnancy termination brought abortion to a screeching halt. A congressional ban on research into gun violence helped make mass shootings a thing of the past.

Sorry, governor. Pulling your leg.

Actually, the most recent figures available from the World Health Organization tell us the international abortion rate stands at 28 per 1,000 women of childbearing age, about where it’s been since the turn of the century. And there were at least 10 mass shootings in this country just last week — 40 people wounded, 14 killed.

The truth is, sir, “Ignore it and it will go away” is a policy more suited to children than to adults. And past a certain age, even kids learn the untenability of such thinking. The disastrous report card you stuff down in your backpack is always dug out. The broken vase you sweep under the couch is always discovered.

Similarly, the environmental disaster whose discussion you forbid will flood your streets and put property valued in the tens of billions of dollars at risk, whether it is talked about or not.

Governor, your party is forever taking action to fight “dangers” — mass voter fraud, sharia law — that do not exist. It is beyond unconscionable that it and you stick your fingers in your ears when confronted with a threat that is not only real but, conceivably, existential.

The science is clear, sir. The trend lines are, too. Americans are rushing to the shore. Housing and infrastructure are rising to meet them.

The potential price of silence was already high a year ago. It just rose higher still.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, March 16, 2016

March 17, 2016 Posted by | Climate Change, Global Warming, Rick Scott | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Emptiest Of Suits”: Florida Gov. Scott Clueless In Lake Crisis

As a devastating deluge of polluted water darkens two coasts of Florida and threatens their tourist economies, Gov. Rick Scott is once again a flaky phantom.

Billions of gallons spiked with agricultural waste is being pumped daily from Lake Okeechobee toward the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, browning the blue coastal waters, choking sea grass beds and crippling small businesses that depend on a healthy marine ecology.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the discharges are necessary because the water in Lake Okeechobee is too high and the old Hoover dike is too weak. Gov. Scott says it’s all President Obama’s fault for not rebuilding the dike, which is absurd.

Scott, who aspires to be a U.S. senator, either has no clue how the appropriations process works, or he’ll simply say any brainless thing to duck responsibility.

A brief civics lesson for Florida’s dim and furtive governor: The president cannot write a check for major capital projects. Congress is in charge of funding, and Congress happens to be controlled by the Republicans.

Being a Republican himself, Scott should fly straight to Washington and persuade his colleagues to rebuild the lake dike and fund a flow-way to the Everglades for the excess water.

Why hasn’t that happened? One reason is that Scott has even less clout with Congress than he does in Tallahassee.

Currently, the state Legislature is gutting or discarding basically all of the governor’s major budget proposals, including a goofball request for a $250 million honey pot to lure private companies to the state.

Scott is the emptiest of suits. He’ll pop up whenever a new business opens, count the jobs and take credit for them. In times of crisis, though, he’s a spectral presence.

Privately, the governor is busy muscling special interests to bankroll his Senate run in 2018. Some of his biggest donors are the worst polluters of Lake O and the Everglades, so you can understand why he’s been hard to find lately.

Scott’s pals in Big Sugar have been back-pumping dirty water from their cane fields into the lake, which through Friday was being emptied into the St. Lucie River at a rate exceeding 2 billion gallons a day. The Army Corps says it will soon drop the daily flow to 1.2 billion gallons.

So far this year, more than 72 billion gallons has been expelled toward the Treasure Coast, ruining the salinity of the St. Lucie Estuary, chasing sea life from the Indian River Lagoon and creating a foul brown plume miles into the Atlantic.

The visual is repelling tourists who might otherwise be interested in fishing, swimming or paddle-boarding. This is also happening along the Gulf coast, where Lake O discharges gush from the Caloosahatchee River.

Under pressure from exasperated business owners and officials, Scott last week declared a state of emergency for St. Lucie, Martin and Lee counties, citing “extensive environmental harm” and “severe economic losses.”

The governor used the opportunity to bash Obama, calling out the president six times in a five-paragraph press release from his feeble Department of Environmental Protection.

Never once did Scott mention the Republican leaders of Congress, who have the power but not the enthusiasm to allocate the $800 million needed to repair the Lake O dike. If they put that item in a budget, Obama would sign it in a heartbeat.

The same is true for Everglades restoration. Showing zero sense of urgency, Congress continues to lag far behind on its commitment to share the costs 50-50 with the state.

Every year when it rains hard, an algae-spawning tide from Lake O is flushed toward the coastal bays and beaches. No president yet has stepped in to stop corporate farms from using the lake as their toilet, or stopped the Army Corps from opening the pump valves.

If Obama tried that, Big Sugar (and Scott) would scream bloody murder.

As for the governor’s “state of emergency,” it’s barely just a piece of paper. The agencies in charge are officially in “observation mode.” I’m not kidding.

TC Palm newspapers reported that the head of the state Division of Emergency Management was attending a conference in New Orleans last week. What better place than Bourbon Street from which to ponder Florida’s coastal pollution crisis?

Scott himself would benefit from spending time at the marinas or waterfront motels in Stuart, meeting the working people whose dreams are drowning in a flood of silt.

But this governor prefers upbeat media opportunities where he can talk about new jobs — not dying jobs. He’d much rather cut a ribbon at a gas station than hear from a boat captain who can no longer find any fish.

 

By: Carl Hiaasen, Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, March 8, 2016

March 9, 2016 Posted by | Environment, Florida Legislature, Rick Scott, Water Pollution | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Polluters Win Again In Florida Legislature”: Plan Allows Big Ag Operators To Supervise Their Own Waste Releases

Touted as an environmental breakthrough, the water policy bill passed last week by the Florida Legislature is actually a major win for polluters and the politicians they own.

Enforcement of clean-water rules is basically being replaced by the honor system. Big Agriculture couldn’t be happier.

Same goes for House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, whose dream of one day becoming state agriculture commissioner is closer to reality. The Brevard Republican has been an obedient little soldier for the special interests that divert and exploit the state’s fresh water supplies.

Current Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam was the political shepherd for the user-friendly new law. It was written by lobbyists for mega-farming and land corporations, and rammed through the GOP-controlled Legislature.

The Senate passed it with nary a single dissenting vote, reluctant Democrats saying this year’s version was better than last year’s awful bill, which didn’t pass. Even some environmental groups went along with the rewrite, asserting that it was the best they could hope for.

Which is just sad.

David Guest, the longtime managing attorney for Earthjustice in Florida, warned that the damaging effects of the new water bill will “come back to haunt us all.” From now on, farms that send polluted runoff into Lake Okeechobee will only need a permit to restrict the quantity being discharged — not the amount of fertilizer crud in it.

The plan allows Big Ag operators to supervise their own waste releases, which is a fantasy come true for those who pollute, including the sugar barons.

Theoretically, farm companies would work on deadlines to minimize the amount of phosphorus and other harmful substances in their outflow using so-called “best management practices.”

But the guidelines are mostly voluntary, and devised by the agriculture lobby, so you can guess how rigorous they are. Not very.

Sympathetic legislators went even farther, inserting in the law a “cost-share” provision that directs water-management districts to use tax dollars to subside Big Ag’s anti-pollution efforts.

In other words, the public will be paying farm corporations to do something they should pay for themselves — clean up their mess.

Supporters of the final water bill say significant enforcement powers were added to the plan, but that’s mainly on paper. The reality will be different.

At the urging of environmentalists, language was put in allowing the state to inspect farmlands to make sure proper clean-up practices are being followed. However, the law conveniently doesn’t state how or when these inspections would be conducted, or what would constitute a violation.

It doesn’t even say what the fines and penalties would be. And, of course, no money is being appropriated for hiring extra inspectors at the hilariously misnamed Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

So, in truth, the new water bill has no real enforcement mechanism. Another cynical move by GOP lawmakers was placing the Department of Environmental Protection in charge of periodically reviewing the water management practices, to see if pollution is actually being reduced.

It’s no secret that Gov. Rick Scott has made a priority of castrating the DEP. Only a sucker would believe the agency will be re-staffed and re-empowered to take on the task of monitoring corporate polluters.

There’s no denying the water bill is ambitious and far-reaching, and Big Agriculture isn’t the only winner. Developers seeking to tap into rivers and waterways, particularly in Central Florida, should send thank you notes along with their campaign checks to Tallahassee.

A water plan with pollution rules set by the polluters is exactly what you’d expect from the same gang that betrayed the 4 million Floridians who voted for Amendment One.

Some Democrats and environmentalists say they’ll strive to toughen the weak phosphorus rules and expedite cleanup actions. That won’t happen without an epic shift in political power.

Meanwhile the crap being pumped from Lake Okeechobee and surrounding farms continues to imperil the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, the Indian River Lagoon, Gulf Coast beaches and, most critically, the Everglades.

Under the new rules, some farmers and landowners will honestly try to improve the water they flush into Florida’s wetlands and drinking supply. Others won’t, because it’s cheaper and easier to dump unfiltered waste.

If voluntary compliance really worked, we wouldn’t need any pollution laws. Corporations would care as much about clean, safe water as ordinary families do. Unfortunately, that’s not the real world. It’s just a fantasy promoted by industry lobbyists and bought politicians.

And now, in Florida, it’s going to be the law.

 

By: Carl Hiaasen, Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, January 18, 2016

January 20, 2016 Posted by | Florida Legislature, Florida Water Policy, Rick Scott | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Wrong Way To Honor Florida’s Rick Scott”: No One In Their Right Mind Would Give Rick Scott An Award For Protecting Wildlife

After five years in office, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has not made many friends among those concerned with the environment, the climate crisis, or the state’s natural resources.

“By most expert accounts, Gov. Rick Scott’s tenure in Tallahassee has been a flat-out catastrophe for the Sunshine State’s already-fragile environment,” the Miami New Times reported this week. “He slashed water management budgets and stacked regulatory boards with developers. He battled tooth-and-nail against new clean water mandates. Even muttering the words ‘climate change’ was banned in state offices.”

With this in mind, the Tampa Bay Times’ Craig Pittman found it curious when a Florida group announced that the far-right governor is receiving an award for his work on the environment.

The award, announced via email last week, is being given to Scott later this year by the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida, which functions as a support group for the state’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is run by gubernatorial appointees.

In the announcement, the foundation’s chairman, Miami real estate developer and lobbyist Rodney Barreto, hailed Scott for being “instrumental in helping develop a strong connection between fish and wildlife conservation and traditional outdoor activities like hunting and especially fishing.”

The Sierra Club’s Frank Jackalone told the Tampa Bay Times, “No one in their right mind would give Rick Scott an award for protecting wildlife.”

Asked for an explanation, Brett Boston, the foundation’s executive director, insisted the group is “very apolitical.” And what about the governor’s critics, who find it ridiculous that Scott would receive an environmental award?

“People complained about Mother Teresa,” Boston said.

I’m going to assume that this is the first – and quite likely the last – time anyone has tried to draw a parallel between Rick Scott and Mother Teresa.

As for the Republican governor’s environmental record, the Tampa Bay Times’ report added:

Scott has cut funding for the state’s water districts, vetoed funding for all the state’s regional planning councils, and eliminated money for a University of Florida lab considered key to stopping invasive species from ruining the state’s agriculture and environment.

In addition, Scott’s Department of Environmental Protection has shifted away from punishing polluters with fines and other penalties to instead assisting polluters with getting back into compliance. Scott praised the DEP last year for cutting the amount of time it takes to get a permit to a mere two days – down from 44 days when Jeb Bush was governor.

Scott’s DEP has also made several controversial moves to alter the award-winning state park system – selling off some land as surplus, for instance, or opening some parks to timber harvesting and cattle grazing or even hunting.

Alan Farago, president of Friends of the Everglades, told the Miami New Times. “In terms of the environment, I think [Scott is] the worst governor in modern Florida history.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 31, 2015

August 1, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Environment, Rick Scott | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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