Although the Legislature has been out of session for the past couple of months, things have been anything but quiet in Florida.
For the first time since his election, Tea Party activists are livid with Governor Scott over his approval of the controversial commuter SunRail project that would link the Central Florida metropolitan areas of Orlando and Tampa. His action came as a shock to many political observers, since only a few months prior, Scott killed a high-speed rail project that would have been funded mostly from Federal “Stimulus” funds. Scott maintains that although he had strong reservations about the SunRail project, his hands were essentially tied because it had been approved by the previous Legislature and governor and was already far along in the process. Attorneys representing the executive branch told him that if he were to halt the project, he would likely lose in court, and a court-ordered project resumption would cost taxpayers even more.
Although this may likely explain Scott’s reluctant final approval of the SunRail project, political observers have a different hypothesis. One of the SunRail project’s main advocates is US Representative John Mica, who incidentally chairs the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. Some pundits and bloggers have suggested that Scott gave final approval to Mica’s pet project so Mica would not undermine one of Scott’s main initiatives: the dredging of Florida ports. One of Scott’s campaign planks was to modernize Florida’s ports so the state would become an even greater gateway for trade. According to many, this would create thousands of jobs around the state, but to do so, dredging the ports is absolutely key. Those funds would largely come from the Federal Government, which Mica would have a major say in.
Regardless, many are unhappy with Governor Scott’s final approval of the SunRail project, and I suspect he himself is, too.
Things are also getting interesting politically in the state, as it gears up for the 2012 election cycle. Strangely enough, the presidential race is not yet generating the buzz one would expect, but rather what is shaping up to be yet another hotly contested GOP Primary for US Senate. Over the last week, the race got a lot more interesting with the addition of one candidate, and the recusal of another. Former Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse CEO Craig Miller jumped in the race early last week, and Senate President Mike Haridopolos dropped out.
Right now, the race seems to be anyone’s to win, but some have suggested that former Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner’s chances are slightly better than the rest of the pack. Hasner has wide support from conservative Republicans, though one-time governor candidate Mike McCallister is generating a lot of buzz among Tea Party Circles. Former US Senator George LeMieux, who was appointed to fill the vacancy created by Mel Martinez’s resignation, has a great deal of support from Washington insiders and has been endorsed by moderate Republican Senators. Recent entrant Craig Miller’s advantage remains his personal wealth, which proved to be quite an asset for Governor Scott.
We’ll see how this race develops, but right now, it could be anyone’s.
Of course, I would be derelict in my duty if I didn’t talk about some of the aftermath of the Casey Anthony verdict.
As it has been reported ad nauseum, Casey Anthony was found Not Guilty in the death of her toddler Caylee. She was released from prison this week and has since gone into hiding. I will leave the gnashing of teeth and the calls to take to the streets with torches pitchforks to Nancy Grace and Greta vanWhatever.1`
Dramatic emotional explosions, displays of mass public lamentations, and calls for vigilante justice aside, the case may actually have implications for Florida besides the bed tax revenue generated by the angry mob and media at Downtown Orlando hotels. State Legislators have proposed new laws that would increase penalties for parents or guardians who do not immediately notify authorities of a lost child. The week of the verdict, two legislators filed bills that would upgrade from a misdemeanor to a felony the failure to report a missing child within a certain time, and according to press reports, at least 16 other state legislatures have filed similar bills. In the Anthony case, the toddler was not reported missing by her mother Casey for 31 days, which was largely the impetus for the investigation being directed at the Anthony family.
I have a feeling that by the time legislative session rolls around, we may see half a dozen “Caylee’s Laws” being filed.
Until next time!
Christian R. Cámara, director of Florida Insurance Project