And it was all so predictable.
NYT has details.
Ron DeSantis began his term in a way that suggested smarts and a desire to gesture enough to the center to build the sort of happy governing coalition that propels a large-state Governor into Presidential candidate conversations.
Then something happened. Some people snark that his wife, the real brains of the outfit, had another baby and was distracted with motherhood. Or maybe DeSantis, like other Republican pols, fell under they hypnotic effect of Trump’s GOP poll numbers. In any event, when the COVID crisis came along, DeSantis appeared out of his depth, clinging to one idea: Do Whatever Trump Says. The state unemployment system — designed by the evil Rick Scott to be as hard to use as possible — totally failed under the onslaught of claims and has yet to recover. Meanwhile Florida re-opened quickly, and the Governor opposed mask rules.
It has not worked out well: Florida now has one of the leading rates of infection in the nation, and it’s growing quickly.
Today’s news, however, suggests something even weirder than Trump idolatry. In the midst of a rapidly growing pandemic, Governor DeSantis just vetoed all the money the state appropriates for distance education:
With a stroke of his veto pen, Gov. Ron DeSantis wiped out the entire $29.4 million budget for a suite of online education services that have become critical to students and faculty during the Covid-19 outbreak.
The move, barring action before midnight Tuesday, will kill the Complete Florida Plus Program, an array of technology systems that faculty, staff and students throughout Florida rely on, never more so than now, in the midst of a pandemic that has amplified reliance on distance learning. The cuts include a database of online courses and an online library service that provides 17 million books to 1.3 million students, faculty and staff.
At least 2,000 adult learners could be cut off from their scholarships and school accreditation could even be at risk without the resources housed under Complete Florida, which are used by students at high schools, state colleges and universities. Some 150 employees in Tallahassee, Gainesville and Pensacola stand to lose their jobs.
You really have to wonder whether this is malevolence or incompetence. Or is the theory that all will be wine and roses by late August, the schools will reopen as normal, so who needs distance learning? If so, it’s likely madness.
…continues to bedevil Florida even after he bought his Senate seat: Rick Scott’s $78 million unemployment website was designed to fail, but that’s not the worst of it.
I hate to quote Politico, which I tend to think is both biased and given to the worst horse-race journalism, but when they’re right they’re right: ‘It’s a sh– sandwich’: Republicans rage as Florida becomes a nightmare for Trump:
Already anxious about Trump’s chances in the nation’s biggest swing state, Republicans now are dealing with thousands of unemployed workers unable to navigate the Florida system to apply for help. And the blowback is directed straight at Trump’s top allies in the state, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Rick Scott.
Privately, Republicans admit that the $77.9 million system that is now failing Florida workers is doing exactly what Scott designed it to do — lower the state’s reported number of jobless claims after the great recession.
“It’s a sh– sandwich, and it was designed that way by Scott,” said one DeSantis advisor. “It wasn’t about saving money. It was about making it harder for people to get benefits or keep benefits so that the unemployment numbers were low to give the governor something to brag about.”
Republican Party of Florida chairman Joe Gruters was more succinct: “$77 million? Someone should go to jail over that.”
With hundreds of thousands of Floridians out of work, the state’s overwhelmed system is making it nearly impossible for many people to even get in line for benefits.
The new online system was part of a series of changes designed to limit benefits. The ultimate goal — which it delivered on — was to lower unemployment taxes paid by Florida businesses. A 2011 analysis done by the Florida Legislature estimated that the changes pushed by Scott would save businesses more than $2.3 billion between 2011 and 2020.
Now, as thousands of people try to get help, the system crashes or denies them access. Nearly 400,000 people have managed to file claims in the last two and half weeks. It’s not known how many have tried and failed.
Most of those who do submit applications won’t qualify for aid, and the benefits that are paid out are among the most meager in the country — a maximum of $275 a week.
Today the 11th Circuit issued a per curiam decision on Kelvin Leon Jones, et al. v. Governor of Florida, et al., the Amendment 4 felon-voting case, which holds that strict scrutiny applies and that the Florida Legislature’s decision to require felons to pay all the fees and charges associated with their cases is, in the case of indigents, a violation of Equal Protection.
It’s a nicely done opinion but per curiam or not it has got en banc written all over it. The panel was Judge R. Lanier Anderson III (nominated — to the then-5th Circuit — by Jimmy Carter), Judge Stanley Marcus (nominated by Ronald Reagan to the District Court, and by Bill Clinton to the Court of Appeal), and Judge Barbara Rothstein (District Judge, Western District of Washington, sitting by designation; appointed by Jimmy Carter).
All three judges were appointed to their current seats by Democrats, but the 11th Circuit as a whole skews Republican. All three have senior status–I didn’t even know that appellate courts allowed a majority of senior judges on a panel, much less all three. One is a visiting Judge from Washington State (fresh from a visit to Washington, D.C., which may have lead to the incorrect attribution of her home court on the first page of the opinion). All this spells e-n b-a-n-c to me. So we haven’t heard the end of this case yet. That said, the panel’s affirmation of (most of) the injunction might last through to the 2020 election.
Today is the last day to register to vote in the upcoming Florida primary, or to change party registration in order to vote in a different party’s primary. Go to www.registertovoteflorida.gov to register to vote or to change party affiliation.
The Florida primary is on March 17, two weeks after ‘Super Tuesday.’ If you’re already registered to vote, you may choose to enroll in vote-by-mail. Go to www.votefromhome.miami to request a vote-by-mail ballot. Note that this request will remain in effect until you countermand it.
Florida is very free and easy with postal ballots, which I think undermines democracy in several ways, notably that it makes ballot fraud easier (e.g. ‘ballot harvesting’ — a South Florida specialty — and forgery), and that it undermines the secret ballot (e.g. making it easier to sell votes since the seller can prove how he voted, and also enabling pressure from family members demanding to see the ballot). But postal voting can be very convenient. Whether they count the ballot is of course a matter of faith.
Remember: Florida has closed primaries, which means you must be registered as a Democrat to vote in the Democratic Presidential Preference Primary, or a Republican to vote in Republican primaries. If you are registered as an independent (or no party preference), you don’t get to vote in any party’s primary.
There is a state constitutional amendment making its way through the system to require open primaries, but I’m not a great fan of it.