Author: The News Service of Florida

Florida tops in fiscal health

Florida is No. 1 among all 50 states when it comes to its fiscal health, according to an academic study released today.

Measuring both short-term and long-term solvency, which includes issues such as state revenue, budget reserves, bond debt and pension liabilities, the Mercatus Center — a free-market think tank at George Mason University — tapped Florida as the top state in its annual survey of the fiscal health of the states.

“Keeping debt levels low, saving cash to pay bills and maintaining solvent budgets reflect a culture of fiscal discipline,” the report said. “The first-place position of Florida in particular demonstrates that this is possible even with a relatively larger population and higher pension costs that arise from an aging population.”

Eileen Norcross and Olivia Gonzalez, the researchers who wrote the report, said their evaluation showed Florida’s budget, based on 2015 data, had at least 8.19 times the cash needed to cover short-term obligations and revenue exceeded expenses by 7 percent.

Florida had $24.6 billion in long-term debt, but it amounted to $1,211 in per-capita debt compared to a national average of $1,804.

Florida’s pension fund had the capacity to pay 86 percent of its long-term obligations, well above the national average of 74 percent, the report showed.

At the bottom of the fiscal health evaluation were No. 49 Illinois, which just passed its first budget in the last three years, and No. 50 New Jersey, where the governor drew criticism for budget-related beach closings during the 4th of July weekend (during which he was snapped on the beach).

“Each of the bottom five states exhibits serious signs of fiscal distress,” the report said. “Their large liabilities and low cash on hand raise serious concerns about their ability to pay bills.”

Posted by Lloyd Dunkelberger

Separation of powers magic: guns, Harry Potter and Federalist Papers

WB_F5_Cornelius_Fudge_at_Ministry_Harry_s_hearing_HP5D-7362
The Federalist Papers
may be the definitive source on the separation of powers between the three branches of government, but a Miami judge used the magic of Hogwarts to justify a ruling striking down as unconstitutional a law the state Legislature intended as a fix to the state’s controversial “stand your ground” statute.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch used the corruption and ineptitude of Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic of Britain, and the manner in which law and order are maintained at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as an object lesson in Monday’s decision.

Hirsch contends that the change made by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott is a matter that should have been handed by the judicial branch.

To support his ruling, Hirsch relied in part on the 229-year-old writings of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay.

Highlighting prior court rulings regarding legislative overreach, the judge quoted Madison’s writings in The Federalist Papers:

“Exaggerating for effect, Madison wrote, ‘The legislative department is everywhere extending the sphere of its activity and drawing all power into its impetuous vortex’,” Hirsch wrote.

The line was from the 48th — titled “These Departments Should Not Be So Far Separated as to Have No Constitutional Control Over Each Other” — of the 85 essays Madison wrote in collaboration with future Supreme Court Chief Justice Jay and Broadway muse Hamilton.

In a footnote, Hirsch wrote that a similar sentiment from Madison is found in the 47th essay.

There, Madison wrote:

“The accumulation of all powers, Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

Admittedly dry, even to those with a legal ear.

So Hirsch turned to the Hertfordshire Law Journal “for a more modern expression of the same concern.”

In her essay “Harry Potter and the Separation of Powers: A law and literature review of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” Carol Spanyol asserts that wizards could learn a thing or two from muggles when it comes to running a fair government.

Spanyol submitted the essay in contest for law school students at the University of Hertfordshire.

“The constitution of the wizarding society is fundamentally unjust because of its ignorance of the doctrine of the separation of powers, the Ministry of Magic is both executive and legislature and the Wizengamot (the judiciary) is composed entirely of Ministers from the Ministry and chaired by Cornelius Fudge, the Minister for Magic,” Spaynol wrote. “This lack of separation of powers leads to tyranny, with the Ministry controlling the content of the Daily Prophet, and this tyranny is exemplified when the principles of natural justice are threatened in the trial of Harry Potter.”

Spaynol notes that the wizarding world often is rescued by Dumbledore, Hogwarts’ headmaster, who “repeatedly ensures that the outcome of the judicial process is just, albeit it through encouraging kidnap and escape, and illustrates that natural justice can only survive when the judicial function is subject to the separation doctrine.”

By the way, Spanyol didn’t win the contest, although she was a runner-up for what the judges noted was “one of the most original” submissions.

Posted by Jim Turner

Where Should Caldwell Work?

Agriculture Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell’s campaign is taking suggestions about where he should do work days in industries overseen by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The North Fort Myers Republican and real-estate appraiser announced Thursday he will embark on what the campaign is calling the #2LaneTravels Work Days Tour.”

The first stop will be Friday at Key Largo Fisheries, where his usual bow tie is expected to be replaced by clothes more befitting time spent processing fresh and frozen seafood and bait products.

“I am going to be highlighting the jobs across our state that may not be glamorous but are critical to moving Florida’s economy,” Caldwell said in a release. “While processing seafood isn’t easy, and you’re certainly going to get yourself dirty, our great state wouldn’t be what it is today without the hard working men and women that are responsible for the wholesome and delicious food that is served on tables across America.”

In the release, Caldwell’s campaign provided an email address — Terry@VoteCaldwell.org — for suggestions on where he should undertake additional work days.

Clemens: Be Clear ‘Why We Suck Significantly Less’

Going with his own straight-talk express, Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, launched a “Flip Florida Blue” fundraising campaign — and offered a unique argument after nearly two decades of Republican control of state government.

“There are millions of people in Florida who think both parties suck, and we have to be clearer as to why we suck significantly less, and in fact, why voting for Democrats is a choice people can actually feel good about,” Clemens said in a release Thursday. “Public education, clean water, justice, equality, and the ability to climb that ladder to a great job are the hallmarks of a Democratic government. Compelling communications, unfortunately, have not been the hallmark of every Senate Democratic campaign. We’re working to change that.”

Clemens is expected to become the Senate Democratic leader after the 2018 elections and heads the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.

He also made clear Thursday that an immediate priority is trying to win a special election for the Senate District 40 seat, which Republican Frank Artiles vacated in April after a controversy about vulgar remarks at a private Tallahassee club.

Clemens outlined that the goal of the “Flip Florida Blue” campaign is to “win enough to fight the de-funding of education, health care and environmental protections and basically, reverse the slow, painful Republican-led degradation of this nation’s largest swing state.”

Hastings Goes With Gillum

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum got a boost Wednesday in his bid for governor, winning an endorsement from longtime Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings.

With Hastings representing parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, the endorsement could help Gillum in Democrat-rich South Florida. Also, it should be noted, Hastings endorsed Gillum over a former congressional colleague running for governor, Gwen Graham.

Here is Hastings’ statement, which was released by the Gillum campaign:

“We live in historically troubling times, and last year’s election result proved that the stakes are high. I feel it necessary to make my voice heard early in this process, so that Democrats and all Floridians understand what is at stake in the 2018 election. For the last 20 years, under Republican rule in Tallahassee, communities of color across the state have suffered from a lack of job opportunities, poor access to quality public education, and access to quality and affordable healthcare. As Democrats, we need to make significant changes, and in this spirit, I believe that Mayor Andrew Gillum is the right choice to lead our state.

“Mayor Gillum is an innovative pragmatic progressive leader that Florida desperately needs to confront our biggest challenges: attacking climate change, rebuilding our economy, protecting access to healthcare, and revitalizing public education. He has shown the courage to stand up for what he believes in, and he has never hesitated to give a voice to those who need one most. Floridians can trust Andrew Gillum to rebuild our state into one that works for everyone.

“There are outstanding Democrats that have announced or are mentioned as running for governor in our state.  My support of Andrew should not be construed as being against others. I will vigorously support the Democratic nominee for governor and do all that I can to ensure that our state goes from Red to Blue in 2018.”

Hastings Backs Gillum Gubernatorial Bid

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum got a boost Wednesday in his bid for governor, winning an endorsement from longtime Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings.

With Hastings representing parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, the endorsement could help Gillum in Democrat-rich South Florida. Also, it should be noted, Hastings endorsed Gillum over a former congressional colleague running for governor, Gwen Graham.

Here is Hastings’ statement, which was released by the Gillum campaign:

“We live in historically troubling times, and last year’s election result proved that the stakes are high. I feel it necessary to make my voice heard early in this process, so that Democrats and all Floridians understand what is at stake in the 2018 election. For the last 20 years, under Republican rule in Tallahassee, communities of color across the state have suffered from a lack of job opportunities, poor access to quality public education, and access to quality and affordable healthcare. As Democrats, we need to make significant changes, and in this spirit, I believe that Mayor Andrew Gillum is the right choice to lead our state.

“Mayor Gillum is an innovative pragmatic progressive leader that Florida desperately needs to confront our biggest challenges: attacking climate change, rebuilding our economy, protecting access to healthcare, and revitalizing public education. He has shown the courage to stand up for what he believes in, and he has never hesitated to give a voice to those who need one most. Floridians can trust Andrew Gillum to rebuild our state into one that works for everyone.

“There are outstanding Democrats that have announced or are mentioned as running for governor in our state.  My support of Andrew should not be construed as being against others. I will vigorously support the Democratic nominee for governor and do all that I can to ensure that our state goes from Red to Blue in 2018.”

Corcoran Doesn’t Play Small Ball

With his new-found alliance with Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, is already envisioning another “bold, transformative” legislative agenda in 2018.

The session, which starts early in January, will be the last regular session for Corcoran and Scott, who both face term limits.

But as he joined Scott in a “victory tour” on Tuesday, touting their joint successes in the recently concluded special session, Corcoran said he already has his eye on the 2018 session.

“We have one more swing at the bat and we intend to swing for the fences and have another transformative session,” Corcoran said as he appeared with Scott in Fort Myers.

Corcoran didn’t give any specifics, but likely items on the House agenda will be a few Corcoran-backed items that came up short in the 2017 session.

Among them may be another attempt to impose term limits on appellate judges, including the members of the Florida Supreme Court, and a major ethics package that would increase the two-year lobbying ban for ex-lawmakers and other state officials to six years.