Tampa Bay Examiner – May 23, 2011
When the Tea Party movement took hold, their sweeping Rick Scott into power signaled the beginning of a GOP stranglehold over the Sunshine State. Florida’s Republican Party has now been celebrating victory after victory, but several issues, along with an arrogance-driven election loss, has exposed some cracks in what appeared to be a sound campaign foundation.
While Democrats are on the ropes in Tallahasee, they appear to be making some major headway on the local level. Tampa’s “nonpartisan” mayoral elections, saw Bob Buckhorn’s upset of Rose Ferlita in the race to run Florida’s third-largest city send some minor shockwaves around the state. Later, Jacksonville’s race saw GOP heavyweight Mike Hogan concede to the Clintonesque Alvin Brown in a race that appeared to be as a much a rebuke of Governor Rick Scott as it was a support of Democratic policies.
Many within the media, and around the state are already starting to point the finger at the arrogance of GOP leadership in Tallahassee, and to the social conservative takeover of Florida’s nascent statewide Tea Party movement. Democrats may be seeing their first, best chance to get some serious licks in on the Republican Party this fall with the recent wins in Tampa and Jacksonville, but the biggest crack in the GOP foundation may be coming from within its own ranks.
In a strongly worded statement issued recently, State Senator Mike Fasano lamented Gov. Rick Scott’s decision to sign Senate Bill 408 into law. “On behalf of the constituents I represent, and all homeowners in Florida, I am disappointed that this bad piece of legislation has been signed into law.
For an administration which vowed not to support new taxes or fees, this bill virtually guarantees a 15% premium “reinsurance” increase for Florida policy holders. This is a backdoor tax and fee increase that will hurt most homeowners with a mortgage, consumers and small business owners at a time with very high foreclosure and unemployment rates, all during a fragile economic recovery.”
The legislation, which is written in a manner which heavily favors the insurance industry, has been hailed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce as being a positive move for Florida Business. Barney Bishop, the President and CEO of Associated Industries, a pro-business advocacy group, told the St. Petersburg Times “Citizens Insurance company is in danger because it can’t pay its debt, it can’t pay the bills that will come in when a hurricane hits this state.
“They won’t charge rates that are actuarially sound,” Bishop told the Times, “This must stop. if it does not then we face the potential bankruptcy of the state of Florida.”
This comes on the heels of a wild closing session on the Florida General Assembly, in which after-hour deals and last-minute arm-twisting left legislators exhausted, and many high-ranking Republicans sniping at each other over perceived slights.
“Games were played,” said Senate rules chairman John Thrasher to the Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times Tallahassee Bureau. Thrasher, a St. Augustine Republican and former House speaker and state Republican Party chairman, is believed to be among the GOP leaders angry at how the process played out. “It got messed up.”
In an pro-forma move, Republican Party of Florida Chairman Dave Bitner issued a statement about that session, congratulating GOP leadership for “lowering taxes, holding government accountable, reducing spending and improving education.”
“The hard work put forth by our elected Republican officials has laid a solid foundation for Florida’s future which will continue to improve our state far beyond today’s last vote,” Bitner continued in his statement.
Following the loss suffered in Jacksonville this past week, it remains to be seen if the GOP is looking over what really went wrong, or turning on the political blinders following their legislative victory in Tallahassee. All pundits are saying the same thing; time will tell.