January 18, 2008

More Old Friends

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Jewish Democrat from Davie, was one of the strongest opponents of the 1994 and 1996 versions of the school prayer bills. Shultz is now a U.S. Congresswoman.

The school prayer battle was proving ground for many a current politician. Back then, Ron Klein was a state rep--now he is a U.S. Congressman.

On Edit: I just discovered that Tom Feeney, now U.S. Congressman Feeney (R), was one of the prime movers for social reform in the state legislature during Chiles' governor years. Feeney later worked as running mate to Jeb Bush in his failed bid for the governorship in 1994. Of course, current senior U.S. senator from Florida, Bill Nelson, ran unsuccessfully against Chiles in the 1990 gubernatorial primary. Former Congresswoman Katherine Harris (R) grew up in Bartow in Polk County and once interned for Lawton Chiles when he served in the U.S. Senate. There are few major politicos in Florida with more than one or two degrees of separation from Walkin' Lawton.

January 17, 2008

School Prayer Past and Present

I'm heavy into research on the 1994 and 1996 unsuccessful school prayer bills that came before the Florida legislature. The second received an eloquent veto message from Gov. Chiles.

The first failed despite vocal support from current Florida Governor Charlie Crist (R), then a state senator from Pinellas County.

January 16, 2008

The Budget Toolbox

A couple days ago the Baltimore Sun reported on Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's (D) sagging approval numbers in the wake of his successful tax reform in the fall special session. The convention for some pundits and professionals on the Democratic side is that if must be done, the take hike should happen ASAP, so the new governor can spend the next three years boosting his or her popularity in time for the re-election campaign.

There are alternatives to settling the state account: slots (due for referendum in Maryland November 2008), raising fees (on the campaign trail in 2006, Mayor O'Malley loved to joke that MD had become the "Fee State" under Bob Ehrlich), drawing cash from the rainy day fund, etc.

To me, the most interesting part of the whole budget band-aid process is the salesmanship, because that's alway different. Whether you like raising fees Mitt Romney-style, or you're worrying about keeping the horse industry in your state, or you're talking up trips to Disney World, "going public" with your budget fix can be entertaining.

Gov. Chiles holding up a three-legged stool--symbolizing the separation of powers--in his 1991 State of the State Address is the event I connect to his first budget.

January 15, 2008

Florida KidCare Today

The Bradenton Herald reports today on CFO Alex Sink's visit to the Lawton Chiles Children & Family Health Care Center in Bradenton. She reflected on the fate of the nearly 1 million uninsured kids in Florida as she toured the facility.

January 14, 2008

Bayou Democratic Blues

The Democratic Party is in free fall in Louisiana. In interesting gubernatorial news, the state just elected the first Indian-American governor in U.S. history, Governor Bobby Jindal (R). Senator Mary Landrieu (D) is in the cross-hairs this fall and may well be the Democrats' only loss in the U.S. Senate. Governor Jindal is surely a rising star in the national Republican Party. The last major barrier-breaking governor was probably Virginia Governor Doug Wilder's victory in 1989. There was so much publicity about the Democratic landslide in 2006 that Massachusetts' election of the nation's second elected black governor that year didn't make many headlines.

What a long resume for such a young governor (36):

By the time he first ran for governor at age 32, Jindal already had served as Louisiana's health care secretary, president of one of its university systems and an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President Bush. Republican former Gov. Mike Foster tapped Jindal to be the state's health secretary in 1996, when Jindal was only 24.

The Cincinnati Factor

When Bob Graham governed Florida he loved to talk about the "Cincinnati factor" in Florida politics--referring to the pool of snowbirds and other quasi-residents in condo complexes from Broward County to Santa Rosa County who care about their true home in the Rust Belt more than their sometime digs in the Sun Belt. They include the retirees. Their influence is weakest in north Florida, the most conservative part of the state, and strongest in South Florida.

Most pundits say that Midwesterners favor Sarasota and Ft. Myers; Northeastern transplants settle in Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

Rudy Giuliani seems to be counting on the Cincinnati factor in Florida working for him on January 29. We'll see.