Week in review (12/31/16)


Here’s the last weekly review for 2016. It’s been a helluva year. In the next week or so I’ll go through the Florida bills and give some analysis as well as the 115th congress agenda.

Week in review (12/31/16):

The Status of Women in Florida study just came out and it’s depressing. (link) Some highlights:

  • 26.5% of women in Alachua County, my home, are in poverty.
  • 15.4% of women in Florida are below the poverty line. This is up 2% points from 2004 and 0.8% higher than nationwide. 25.2% of black, 21.4% of Native American, 21.2% f Hispanic and 11.9% of white women are living in poverty.
  • If women were paid the same as men then the working women’s poverty rate would drop over 57% in Florida.
  • 78.3% of women in Florida had healthcare in 2014. This is up from 73.4% in 2013 but well below the national average of 85.4%. The main reason is Florida’s refusal to expand Medicaid coverage to those between 100 and 125% the poverty level. Latinas are insured at 63% and white women at 81.7%.
  • Men are still more educated than women in Florida with 28.1% of men 25 and older having a bachelors degree vs 26.7% of women. Nationally women have more bachelors degrees. Only 19% of black women in Florida 25 or older have bachelors degrees.

Minimum wage in Florida is going to be $8.10 an hour starting January 1st. This is because our constitution was amended in 2004 to peg the minimum wage with inflation each year. (link)

In March The Florida Supreme Court will check the language of a constitutional amendment that would restore voting rights to some 1.7 million felons. If approved it would still need 600,000 signatures to be on the ballot in 2018 where it’d need to receive 60% of the vote. (link)

The Constitution Revision Commission is going to put a lot of backwards and conservative measures on the ballot in 2018. (link)

Florida gas tax is also going to jump to 36.7 cents a gallon to keep up with inflation. (link)

The Stars Plus plan from Florida Healthy Kids is being fazed out. The nearly 10,000 kids on the plan are often special needs that fall into the Medicaid gap. The Medicaid gap is is between Medicaid eligibility (100% the poverty level) and the Affordable Care Act subsidies (125% the poverty level). The gap exists because Florida refused to take federal dollars to expand Medicaid. The plan is being nixed because it’s too expensive. Meanwhile Medicaid would be cheaper and provide a better quality. (link)

Former Senator Dwight Bullard is still in the running for chair of the Florida Democratic Party. After losing his election for committeeman in Miami-Dade County he’s moving to (or at least renting) a place in Gadsden County to become that’s counties Democratic Committeeman. The election on Jan 14th is going to be a close one with much of the progressive wing, or at least the new Sanders-nistas of the party backing Bullard. (link)

The Florida House and Senate have much of the same priorities but different approaches. The House wants to raise Secondary Teacher pay but only if it’s performance based. The EEOC is currently looking into the last performance based pay scheme the state passed and the Governor is looking to change it this year. The Senate wants to increase funding by $1 billion to law, medical, business etc. colleges at universities over the next two years but the House might not be interested. The House also is taking a strong stance on increasing taxes but the Senate is being more reasonable. (link)

In Northern Marion County the Sleepy Creek (aka Adena Springs Ranch) somehow muscled the St. Johns River Water Management District into agreeing to pump massive amounts of water out of the aquifer for a cattle ranch. Sleepy Creek is actually getting more water than they asked for two years ago, a request that was denied for being too harmful to the surrounding springs. (link)

A politic that I really like a lot is the universal basic income. Essentially every person is given enough money to live on, no strings attached. It’s the only way to deal with automation, artificial inelegance, and the general progress of science. It’s Star Trek vs Mad Max. Finland is doing a major experiment on this and a lot of people are looking for the results. (link)

Robert Leo Hulseman, the inventor of the solo cup, died this week. I live in a college town. This is a big deal. (link)

South Florida will see 5 tidal floods by 2030 and 10 by 2040. Right now there’s only one or so tidal floods a year. (link)

Week in review (12/24/16)


I’ll be trying to take a break consuming news for the Christmas weekend so the week in review is coming a day early.

  • Florida disenfranchises 1.6 million people due to it’s ban on voting rights for felons. This includes 21% of Florida’s voting age African American population. Let that sink in.  (link)
  • 90% of Florida is in a drought with this last November being the driest in Florida in the last 121 years. (link)
  • Like 2016 this year’s state budget will be a major focus but with renewed frustration. The House’s new rule states that each budget item is a single bill. The Senate didn’t go along so there’s likely to be more conflict between the chambers. (link)
  • The state underpaid Medicaid by some $75 million last year. This will add to the hole in the state budget that will likely be made up in cutting services for working people. (link)
  • Criminal justice reform for juveniles is a priority for Senate President Joe Negron. This could be a bright spot for 2017. Negron appointed democratic senator Randolph Bracy to chair the Criminal Justice Committee which is pretty unprecedented. There will likely be bills focusing on citations vs arrests as well as the racial disparities in our juvenile justice system. (link)
  • Bittel won the Miami-Dade committeeman race against former state senator Bullard this week. The winner of this race is seen as the favorite for the chair of the Florida Democratic Party. The race was intense and involved Sanders, Palestine, and unions. Also running for state chair is Lisa King from Duval, Leah Carius from Osceola , and Alan Clendenin from Hillsborough… or Bradford. (link)
  • Stand Your Ground is continuing to cause disproportionate responses to violence ending in people dying. Four since September in Miami alone. (link)
  • Florida Senate President Joe Negron is being proactive in seeking state legislation to address Medicaid block-grants. This is a pretty strong single that Congress is going to pass a sweeping ACA changes. Block-grant program would allow states more control over how to spend medicaid dollars. (link) Welfare was turned into a block-grant program under Clinton in ’96 and has been disastrous. Turns out backwards state governments have used the money for such things as marriage comedy classes with less going to the poor. (link)
  • 100 death penalty cases in Florida are going to have to be re-sentenced. The innocence or guilt isn’t in question, just who get’s to decide if someone is sentenced to death. In  Florida a jury makes a recommendation to the judge for the death penalty but the ultimate decision is made by the judge. This is unconstitutional and leads to a lot of bias in which black men are sentenced to death by judges in much higher rates than white men. Pre-2002 death penalty sentences will remain in effect though; which is pretty arbitrary. There’s 384 people on death row with 159 of them possibly being affected by this ruling. I personally think the death penalty is abhorrent and belongs in the dustbin of history. (link 1) (link 2)
  • From it’s anti-LGBTQ practices, to it’s anti-farm-worker rights’ stances, to being anti-environmental, to it’s pro-war on drugs funding; Publix is a terrible company. They’re now leading the ant-living wage fight in Miami Beach. (link 1) (link 2)

Week in review (12-17-16)


I’m starting to publish on here a week in review. It’ll be short snippets of the news that I found interesting throughout the week. It’s not meant to be comprehensive, unbiased, or even well written. 

  • Privatized Medicaid is more expensive and wasteful in Florida. It recently paid $26 million for dead people. Thanks Jeb. And if Obamacare is being repealed and we at least have the conversation about a public option? (link).
  • I helped with a living wage increase for 154 workers for the City of Gainesville. It’s part of a 5 year plan to have the 10 largest employers in Alachua County pay a living wage by 2020. This year has been rough for progressives. It’s nice to end it with a solid win for the working class. (link)
  • The Florida Senate Dems are creating a shadow Democratic party. No really. It’s called the “Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee” and is an “Affiliated Party Committee”. It can do a lot of what the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) does but without a lot of the finance rules and what not. Why would they do this? The next chair of the FDP is likely going to be either Dwight Bullard or Stephen Bittel out of Miami. Bittel is part of another group called the Florida Alliance which is in itself a shadow Democratic party in of itself that butts heads with the Senate Dems.

    To make it even more complicated, Bittel is supported by Rep. Keith Ellison and Bullard by Sen. Bernie Sanders. Rep. Ellison is running for Chair of the Democratic National Committee and is supported by Sanders. Why? Most likely because of Israel/Palestine support. Ellison was in Nation of Islam and Bullard took a trip to Palestine with the Dream Defenders.

    To me it looks like the Senate Democrats and Ellison are expecting Bittel to be the next chair of the Florida Democratic Party. Can someone start a gossip column around Democratic leadership? (link 1 and link 2)
  • The Florida budget is going to take a hard hit next year. Growth isn’t what was expected but the big hit likely going to be to k-12. Schools are set to lose more than $400 million due mainly to an ideological bend in the legislature. Property values are going up and Tallahassee has in the past lowered the millage rate to net the same about of money each year. (link)
  • There’s a new lawsuit against the sweeping anti-abortion law passed in Florida last year and set to go into effect January 1st. The new lawsuit argues that the free speech of abortion counselors is violated since they have to give a state mandated speech about alternatives to abortion. The other two parts of the law being litigated right now are are around patient records being reviewed by the state and the blocking of funding for any organization that has anything to do with abortion. (link).
  • Florida enrolls 16% of 4 year olds who live in poverty and 12% of 3 year olds. The main reason? Its woefully underfunded. Shameful. (link)
  • Workman’s comp insurance jumped 14.5% this year do to a court rulings and this state legislative session will attempt to make some changes to deal with it. Lawyers want more/better fees. Businesses want to pay less. And workers want their damn money. This is a really important and boring item that’s going to be dealt with in 2017 (link).
  • President Obama signed into law the new The Helping Families legislation. This is the biggest overhaul to mental health services in… maybe ever. It creates a Minority Fellowship Program, puts in resources to close the rural mental health gap, and overall is a pretty solid bill. It pass Congress with only 26 voting against and the Senate with only 5. (link).
  • Parks are under attack again in the state of Florida. The director of the Florida Park Service resigned and there’s talk of bringing cattle grazing, timber production, and outsourcing management to for-profit companies. (link)
  • The governor picked conservative Charles Alan Lawson as Supreme Court justice. The somewhat liberal leaning court votes 5-2 on a lot of contentious issues so this isn’t a game changer. The real issue is going to be 2019. Scott will attempt to appoint three more justices on his way out but the Supreme Court is maintaining that the next governor should appoint them. (link)
  • SB82 which would make the Dreamers pay out of state tuition is on the move in the Florida Senate. The first stop is the Education Committee which is chaired by Sen. Hukill. Call her at (386) 304-7630 and tell her to not agenda the bill. (link)
  • I’ll give a better breakdown of some of the bills to watch this session, but here’s a partial list without much analysis.
    • SB70 – would treat attacks on police as a hate crime. It has 5 committee stops so it’s likely not going anywhere.
    • SB72 -Would make it easier to register to vote. No companion in the house yet.
    • SB74 – Restoration of rights for felons.  
    • SB78 – Require recess in schools.
    • SB80 – Makes it harder for lawyers to get fees for violations to public records requests.
    • SB82 – Takes away in-state tuition to Dreamers.
    • SB84 – Memo urging congress to repeal the special treatment of Cubans reaching the USA.
    • SB98 – Anti-fracking bill.  
    • SJR108 – Another anti-fracking bill.
    • SB120 – Anti-immigrant bill that would 1 up any offense an undocumented persons. Would make 1st degree misdemeanors a 3rd degree felony, 3rd felony a 2nd felony, etc.
    • SB128 – More stand your ground immunity mess.
    • SB140 – Open carry bill.
    • SB144 – Would ban phones while driving for those under 18.
    • SB160 – Bill to increase minimum wage $1 plus inflation a year.
    • SB162 – Bans plastic bags.
    • SB176 – Bill to make tampons tax free.