Rick Scott and vote suppression

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Now that Governor Rick Scott has announced a Senate challenge to William Henry Harrison confidante Bill Nelson, his record as an opponent of voting rights should hand Florida Democrats a victory. The Miami Herald compiled a dandy list of Scott’s systemic efforts to rid himself of black and college-age voters:

▪ The state ordered Pinellas County in 2013 to stop the use of remote sites as a convenience for voters to submit mail ballots, but Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark defied the order and the state backed down.

▪ Scott’s Division of Elections blocked a request by the city of Gainesville to use the student union at UF as an early voting site in 2014, saying it was not a government-owned community center. The site was not used.

▪ Judge Walker in 2016 struck down a state law that rejected mail ballots if a voter’s signature on the ballot envelope did not match a signature on file. In a state with millions of older voters, the judge said the rule “categorically disenfranchised thousands of voters.” They can now update their signatures.

▪ Scott refused to extend the voter registration deadline in 2016 after ordering evacuations due to Hurricane Matthew. The Democratic Party filed suit and won a six-day extension.

The judge in that case also was Walker, who called Scott’s logic “poppycock” and said: “No right is more precious than having a voice in our elections.”

Pin these items on your fridge with magnets. Couple this fact sheet with the news yesterday that a federal judge declared grifter/Kansas secretary of State Kris Kobach in contempt of court and I can feel the ground shifting as far as public awareness goes about this longterm GOP project to disenfranchise.

Florida’s ‘nonsensical’ disenfranchisement of felons dealt a blow

A throwback to post-Reconstruction ideas about what to do with menacing black felons completing their sentences and voting against the racist system and to shopworn twaddle about recidivism, Florida remains one of three states where felons have to beg to have their rights restored before a clemency board. A federal judge has set this notion on fire:

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said the Florida “scheme” unfairly relies on the personal support of the governor for citizens to regain the right to vote. In a strongly worded ruling, he called the state’s defense of voter disenfranchisement “nonsensical,” a withering criticism directed at Gov. Rick Scott, the lead defendant in the case.

“Florida strips the right to vote from every man and woman who commits a felony,” Walker wrote. “To vote again, disenfranchised citizens must kowtow before a panel of high-level government officials over which Florida’s governor has absolute veto authority. No standards guide the panel. Its members alone must be satisfied that these citizens deserve restoration. … The question now is whether such a system passes constitutional muster. It does not.”

It’s not all. As the article reminds readers, Floridians will vote on a ballot measure this November whose approval will automatically restore the voting rights of more than a million felons.

As for losing defendant Rick Scott, the governor will likely run for Bill Nelson’s Senate seat.

Hurricane Irma’s highest body count

While I’ve been posting about missing cable and internet and running out of James Salter novels to read, seniors are dying from heat exhaustion. In Hollywood Hills about twenty miles north of me, Hurricane Irma claimed her highest death toll. And in what kind of facility were these seniors?

The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills has a health inspection rating of “much below average” by the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration, which evaluates all long-term care facilities in the state for the U.S. government. The facility’s “overall rating,” which includes staffing, fire safety and health inspections, was was listed as “below average.”

The nursing home is owned by Larkin Community Hospital, which has a long history of running afoul of healthcare regulators. In 2006, the U.S. Justice Department fined Larkin and its owners $15.4 million in a settlement of a civil fraud complaint. The litigation named Jack Michel, a doctor who is listed in Florida healthcare records as an officer and board member of the nursing home with a controlling interest.

Florida is ripe fruit for charlatans and grifters. Besides its history as swampland requiring drainage and several hundred million in execrable real estate investments, the state also boasts a large senior population who no longer have a Claude Pepper in Congress to watch over their interests. Our governor, who has, I must admit, projected fortitude and command for the last ten days, ran a company responsible for the largest Medicaid fraud case in American history.

Rick Scott’s personal relationships

Four hours after my family fun vehicle drove past the intersection of the Florida Turnpike and Interstate 595, the former closed after another lone gunman who understands how the Supreme Court has interpreted the Second Amendment shot at least five people dead at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Several hours later, my twice elected governor held a press conference, in which he reassured a rather gobmsacked reporting crew that he was in constant touch with the person who doesn’t lead the executive branch yet. :

A reporter later asked, “Wouldn’t it be appropriate to call the president for resources?”

“I have a personal relationship with Vice President Pence and President-elect Trump, and I reached out,” Scott said.

Twice he omitted the crucial suffix and called Pence “vice president.”

The press frets about the Disruption of Norms but laments why we don’t live in a bipartisan era. We don’t because the GOP believes in capping the motherfucker while he’s sleeping in bed rather than negotiate.

Florida — the state with the prettiest name, part #678

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As the Donald Trump candidacy has adulterated political discourse, so have Florida’s waterways become more toxic thanks to the Southeast’s biggest Trumpist, our governor Rick Scott:

We’ve got 450 tons of phosphorus a year flowing into Lake Okeechobee from farms, ranches, citrus groves and the Orlando suburbs. And, boosted by global warming, vibrio vulnificus, AKA “flesh-eating bacteria,” menaces swimmers in brackish coastal waters, especially when fresh-water releases (like from Lake Okeechobee), mess up the salt-water ratio. The bacterial infection killed 14 Floridians in 2015 and 5 so far in 2016.

The ERC voted 3-2 on July 26 to adopt new standards that include rules for 39 chemicals that had not been previously regulated. But the board, despite outraged public opposition, simultaneously loosened regs on the long list of other chemicals, essentially allowing state waterways to be used as an industrial sewer. “I have never seen so much public opposition to an ERC decision in the 25 years that I have been participating in ERC meetings,” said Linda Young, director of the Florida Clean Water Network.

Two members short because Scott wants to control any outcome, the Environmental Regulations Committee is rattled around in the pockets of Big Sugar like a half dozen pennies. But the voters of Florida won’t have to wait until January 2016 to suffer the consequences of a state government beholden to lobbyists. Forget Republicans: it’s malfeasance like this that puts the lie to libertarianism.

Rising sea levels: worse than expected

lol oops: <blockquoteThe number of people threatened by rising seas fueled by climate change in the U.S. could be three times greater than previously estimated, with more than six million Floridians at risk under a worst-case scenario, according to a study published Monday.

For the first time, a team of researchers looked at ongoing population growth in areas where the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has created flood maps that more accurately reflect local conditions. What they found was startling: projections that failed to factor in population growth in dense states like Florida hugely underestimated the number of people at risk and the cost of protecting them…

…Using the most conservative estimate of sea rise — three feet by 2100 — the team found that 4.3 million people are projected to live in coastal areas across the country expected to flood. Floridians account for 1.2 million. Using a higher estimate of six feet by 2100 — a number scientists increasingly say could be more likely given the faster melting of polar ice — the number of people triples to 13.1 million, with nearly half living in Florida. South Floridians account for a quarter of the statewide estimate, the authors said

I laugh because the news is horrendous. What else is there to do? Meanwhile condos keep rising on West Avenue in Miami Beach and in Brickell. The infrastructure can’t support the flood waters and cities like Miami Beach will spend $400 and $500 million on pumps when (a) the pumps have thus far proven useless during king tides (b) I can imagine $500 million in damages to one condo complex in wealthy Aventura.

No way out of this one, folks.

No incentive in Tallahassee ‘to untie our hands on solar power’

“Market-based action” sounds dandy if you have government-based action encouraging it, as these business leaders and local politicians know:

Simon said Florida had made more progress than many states in cutting down on carbon dioxide emissions as part of a national push by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to encourage the adoption of low-carbon sources of energy.

But he said there was still room for improvement. Florida has the third largest potential for rooftop solar but only the 13th most solar production, he said.

“This is the Sunshine State,” he said. “There is a lot of untapped potential.”

In a question-and-answer session, Regalado said that the Miami-Dade County School Board, on which she serves, had investigated producing energy through solar panels on its buildings and schools.

“It didn’t make sense financially,” she said.

That’s in part because of the hostility of Florida’s big utilities to solar power. The utilities have consistently helped block laws that would make solar cheaper, according to a report from the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

“There really doesn’t seem to be an incentive in Tallahassee to untie our hands on solar power,” Regalado fumed.

FCIR also reported that Gov. Rick Scott had unofficially banned the use of the terms “climate change” and “global warming” by state officials.

And he’s in office another two years. Meanwhile the GOP commands a supermajority in the Florida legislature.

The sickness in Tallahassee

My buddies in Texas laud their state’s grotesque shit. I’m partial to Florida, especially when a hospital group whose children heart surgery program failed to pass muster watched as the state eliminated its quality standards two months after this group donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Florida GOP.

In 2014, Jacobs headed up the review by the state’s expert panel that showed many vital tests and services for children’s hearts were lacking at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach. He wrote that the Tenet-owned hospital was not able to maintain proficiency in heart operations on children.

“It is the failure of an entire team and system,” wrote Jacobs, chairman of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons National Database Workforce.

Jacobs recommended the hospital stop performing heart surgery on babies younger than 6 months.

Legally, the hospital could ignore his suggestion — and it did.

The state did not step in.

Babies continued to die at St. Mary’s.

And, after CNN’s investigation, the state rushed to the hospital’s defense.

Within days, Department of Health spokeswoman Tiffany Cowie told reporters that state data showed St. Mary’s mortality rate wasn’t nearly as high as CNN had found.

But Cowie didn’t mention a crucial detail: The state data she referred to didn’t take into account half of the babies’ deaths.

Those babies had surgery at St. Mary’s, but when their health spiraled downward, they were transferred to other hospitals. Those hospitals could not save them.

The database Florida uses did not include those deaths, according to experts who manage that database.

Even though the state defended St. Mary’s mortality rate, in August the hospital closed its pediatric heart surgery program and the CEO resigned.

Pediatric heart doctors were relieved. But they weren’t prepared for what was ahead.

And what could that be?

In July, the state announced it would repeal hospital standards for children’s heart surgery.

Doctors who care for children with congenital heart disease say they’re suspicious about the timing, about two months after CNN’s report showing St. Mary’s failed to meet those state standards.

David Nykanen, a pediatric cardiologist and member of the state’s Cardiac Technical Advisory Panel, points out that Scott has been in office since 2011, and his administration never objected to the standards until a Tenet hospital was found publicly not to meet them.

“The coincidence is just a little too much,” said Nykanen, co-director of the Heart Center at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando. “It’s just a little hard to swallow.”

It can’t be a coincidence that the state’s governor headed a health care company responsible for the largest Medicaid fraud in American history. It can’t be a coincidence that the state’s governor rode a wave of Tea Party discontent with the Affordable Care Act, rejected the Medicaid expansion, was open to it during his 2014 reelection campaign, and said “Sike!” when he won by another sliver. Rick Scott treats health care the way kids treat sandboxes.

The adventures of Rick Scott, Part 451

Speaks for itself:

Aides to the governor were intimately involved in crafting the message when the agency announced allegations that three Florida Planned Parenthood clinics had violated their licenses. Nearly every on-the-record statement given by the Agency for Health Care Administration to reporters and the public was first approved by a member of Scott’s communications team, emails obtained by the Herald/Times show.

Scott’s staff rewrote press releases about the investigation and penned some statements that were attributed to AHCA executives. His office even directed the healthcare agency to cut a sentence in a draft press release that acknowledged the main reason the investigation fell short: Inspectors found no evidence that Florida Planned Parenthood clinics broke the law by operating a fetal tissue donation program.

After results of the investigation were made public, the emails show, Scott’s staff continued its involvement by orchestrating attempts by AHCA staffers to persuade reporters to change parts of their stories.

When the AHCA found that no evidence for the mishandling of fetal tissue existed, Scott’s office scrubbed this line from press releases.

The most dangerous governor

Readers will notice I haven’t posted a single Donald Trump story. Why should I? Michelle Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll in August 2011. Herman Cain was the talk of the town that fall. I see no reason to devote coverage to the drool of crazy people with no chance of becoming the GOP nominee.

Scott Walker, however, is dangerous. Three elections later, he has convinced himself that Wisconsin is part of the Louisiana Territory, to be sold to the highest bidding homesteader, thus requiring no legal review. Last week he and his supine legislature tried to pass one of the worst affronts to open government in modern times before citizens of both parties protested. The worst part? Before the outcry he acted as if this development were a fait accompli:

Walker introduced his budget in February, and in it he proposed spinning off the UW System as a public authority that would have less oversight from state government. In that plan, he proposed rewriting the system’s mission statement and excising from state law the Wisconsin Idea, which says the system is meant to improve the lives of people beyond the classroom and that its boundaries are the boundaries of the state.

In the face of criticism over the plan, Walker said it was a “drafting error” and backed off the proposal. Public records showed the change in fact was deliberately made and had been presented to Walker’s office for review multiple times. Walker maintained the changes to the mission statement were the result of a miscommunication.

Months later, Walker’s office and his Department of Administration released hundreds of emails and other records related to the changes but refused to release some other documents.

“A candid, complete, and creative evaluation of the state’s finances within DOA and within the Governor’s office is inherent to the development of the Governor’s executive budget,” Walker assistant legal counsel David Rabe wrote to the Journal Sentinel in May. “Making these internal discussions just as open to disclosure as the final version of the budget would inhibit the free exchange of ideas, opinions, proposals and recommendations among those involved in deciding what to include in the final legislation. Disclosure of this narrow category of records — limited to discussions within DOA, within the Governor’s office, and between the two — would discourage frank internal discussion and harm the quality of the final executive decision.”

Also, release of such records “would risk public confusion as a result of publishing non-final proposals, which may not ultimately have been adopted,” he argued.

Make no mistake: this is oligarchy. Until a mediation agreement brought him to heel, Rick Scott also tried to flout Florida’s model Sunshine Laws. These acts by governors show a basic contempt for the Volk whom they claim to represent. It’s obvious: lobbyists and benefactors of state government policy don’t want to see their transactions approach. Were it not for a confluence of timing and exhaustion, Wisconsin voters might have allowed this travesty to pass. On this knife edge does democracy walk.

‘This isn’t changing access; it’s not shutting down clinics.’

Today’s installment of The State with the Prettiest Name.

Florida women must wait twenty-four hours before getting an abortion, thanks to a new law signed by Rick Scott:

Opponents of the new waiting period say it isn’t necessary because women who choose to have an abortion have already put thought into their decision. Plus, they argue, it creates a burden, particularly for women who live far away from abortion clinics and could struggle to visit the doctor once, let alone twice.

“Women who choose to have an abortion have weighed all the options and have come to a decision,” said Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa. “It works to the disadvantage of a lot of women who have to come from out of town to get to the provider who’s going to perform the procedure.”

First-term legislator Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, who sponsored the waiting period bill in the House, defended the new law as helping women.

“The purpose of this bill is to empower women to make an informed decision, versus a pressured, rushed, unexpected one,” she said. “This isn’t changing access; it’s not shutting down clinics.”

Sullivan said she thinks the waiting period is important to prevent women being persuaded into having the procedure.

Women will not be required to wait 24 hours for an abortion if they can show a police report, court order or medical report proving the pregnancy came as a result of rape, incest, domestic violence or human trafficking.

I like the appropriation of the language of empowerment. As for shutting down clinics! Well. A couple days ago the the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that clinics must meet hospital-level operating standards and providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Thank you, Anthony Kennedy, for participating in Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Gonzalez v. Carhart.