The Bishop Blog: Governor Rick Scott is Underrated February 8, 2012

February 9, 2012  |  No Comments  |  by Barney Bishop  |  Bishop Blog, Columns

Governor Rick Scott is much underrated nowadays. We are told that he is unpopular yet, based on the issues that he ran on and delivered in his first year in office, he has done exceedingly well even among Democrats, and the critically important Independents and Ticket-Splitter voters.
Of course this is not conventional wisdom, but according to a poll taken after last year’s legislative session (August 2011) by Associated Industries of Florida, Governor Scott’s agenda is striking a very responsive chord among voters ( Of his top four issues:  $200 million of Property Tax Reductions, State Workers Pension Contribution Reform, Teacher Tenure Reform and Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients, he has hit a solid Grand Slam.  Among Dem’s, the lowest amount of support was  surprisingly on drug testing in which still more than 6 out of 10 Democrats supported the Governor and the highest support was 74% for Property Tax Reductions.  Independents and Ticket-Splitters (voters who switch party per race) ranged from a low of 73% on Teacher Tenure – unheard of here in Tallahassee, home to the teachers union to an incredibly high of better than 3 out of every four voters (76%) on Teacher Tenure and almost 8 out of every ten voters (78.5%) on Drug Testing!  So, when teachers unions sue, or labor unions go to court they are just reinforcing their unpopular positions of which only a distinct minority of even Democrats support them statewide.  Check out the numbers and the crosstabs as they tell a story of a businessman turned Governor who has the voters of Florida with him on these core issues– wholeheartedly.

This session, the Governor is once again taking on issues that will matter most to the voters such as PIP Auto Insurance Reform and importantly reform of Citizens Insurance Company.  Since he first started running for office about 20 months ago, the Governor in defiance of our last one has consistently been preaching for reform of the Property & Casualty Insurance marketplace – the need to bring back some balance and common sense.  Legislation moving through the House and Senate this year will do just that.

Citizens is the largest p & c insurance company in the state.  It has more liabilities than assets and it buys more reinsurance from Florida’s CAT Fund than anyone else.  The CAT Fund, ably managed by Dr. Jack Nicholson, on the other hand is consistently well-managed, but is weakened by the problems in America’s bond market.  The CAT Fund can barely cover one hurricane per year, yet is legally required to cover two per season!  It is a recipe for disaster and in an admittedly worse-case scenario could even bankrupt the state.  Unfortunately, the solution will require rates to go up for coastal residents but it’s time that their subsidization by in-land residents begins to start declining.  We need to go further, such as limiting how much longer high-income beach residents will get unreasonably low insurance rates without mitigating or hardening their homes.  A time limit will force these homeowners to take action thus limiting the taxes on all of our insurance policies when Citizens cannot fund their entire losses.  For those that cannot afford to harden their home, we need to find a public-private solution.

Education funding is an area where Governor Scott has listened to voters and is moving to increase per-child spending. I’m happy that we as Floridians are willing to pay more; but we should also demand more as well.  We should demand that social promotion be entirely wiped out and we should admit to ourselves that all children aren’t excited for post-secondary – and we couldn’t afford them all anyway. Let’s make sure each child has a “plan” once they graduate and we will quickly learn who wants to stay in school and who wants to go to work.  We should expect our astronomically high reading program investments to pay higher dividends in PreK-12 and accordingly we should see our multi-million dollar remedial education bill at state colleges and universities start to decrease.  If this doesn’t happen, and it hasn’t so far, then we need better solutions so that our children can compete in this extremely competitive world.

So, the next time that someone tells you that Rick Scott is unpopular, just remember that Floridians overwhelmingly like his major policies and that the detractor may just be someone whose ox is finally getting gored.


Barney Bishop III is President and CEO of Barney Bishop Consulting, LLC.  He is a life-long Democrat with conservative fiscal views and moderate social positions.  He can be reached at

February 9, 2012  |  No Comments  |  by Barney Bishop  |  Columns

Destination resorts, the preferred phrase for those of us who support casinos, is dead for this legislative session after the House voted down the proposal in committee late last week. In my book, that’s a shame, because it could have brought much-needed construction jobs to South Florida, along with a slew of permanent work for people at all skill levels.

I know a lot of people in Florida are vehemently against the expansion of gambling, but as the Ben Stein TV ad says, we already have lots of gambling and gaming in our state, with the Florida Lottery being the big kahuna. The list is long: gambling ships to nowhere, dog tracks, horse tracks, pari-mutuels, Internet cafés, bingo parlors, Indian gaming around the state and so on. So, what is it about destination resorts that get folks’ dander up?

First, opponents argue that Florida is a family destination, and that is certainly true. But I’m not sure everyone thinks South Beach and Miami Beach — with their topless shores, all-night clubs and anything-goes attitude — is really very family-friendly. I suppose it depends on what kind of family you have. Nevertheless, Europeans and Latin Americans come to South Florida because the culture is similar to theirs in many ways, because the language is familiar and because we encourage foreign tourists to visit and spend their money. But when you get right down to it, why must all of Florida be a family-friendly place? Since residents in Broward and Miami- Dade counties have already voted to allow casino gambling, doesn’t their voice count? Exactly when did the “will of the people” in Southeast Florida get cast aside because everyone else in the state knows better? I thought home rule was best because it was “closest to the people.”

And how does Walt Disney World have the right to proclaim that all of Florida will be family-friendly? Who gave it that license? Sure, Disney is a major Fortune 500 company that has transformed Central Florida into a virtual paradise for kids and their families. But does it get the right to rule over the rest of the state? Can’t Disney just be happy with having the central part of the state, or does it have control all of us? I’m a big supporter of business, but this just doesn’t make sense to me. I think Florida is big enough that different parts of the state can appeal to different kinds of tourists without one group ruling the roost exclusively.

Next, the opponents tell us that crime will increase. And I can’t help but agree, but I don’t find that to be enough of a reason to oppose destination resorts. Isn’t that why we have law enforcement to protect us from the bad guys? I don’t want to make light of this because officers put their lives on the line for us every day, and we should do everything we can to provide them with the tools to be effective. And destination resorts will generate a lot of money for the state and local government, and some of those dollars should be used to fight crime.

Then we are told by the opponents that the jobs will be low-wage jobs. Really? When you can’t get a job, how low is too low? For those of us lucky enough to have a job, do we really need to look down our noses and say these jobs aren’t good enough for someone else? From what I can see, every time a company announces new job openings, it doesn’t suffer from a lack of applicants. Furthermore, at a time when we want people to get off welfare and find work, wouldn’t any job do? Since taxpayers are footing the bill for welfare, I vote to let them get any kind of legal job they can, and if I can help them, then it’s certainly in my best interest. I’ll share with you that a beginning job at a low wage doesn’t mean that you will never advance. Do you know that one of the top executives for Wynn Resorts started out as a blackjack dealer?

There is no question we should all want to bring high-tech jobs to our state, but rather than hitting a grand slam, shouldn’t we try to hit a few singles, doubles and triples while we are waiting for the big one to come to Florida? I mean, Gov. Jeb Bush brought Scripps to Florida, which begat Torrey Pines, Burnham Institute and then Max Planck. Do you really believe these scientists don’t ever want to have fun and go to a casino? I do, and I’m not even a gambler. I don’t really care to gamble because I work very hard for my money, and I know the odds are in the house’s favor and that I’m not a particularly lucky person. But I do enjoy the wide range of entertainment, the restaurants and the striking, world-class architecture.

Last year, I went to an Indian casino in Tampa. When I went into the casino, I was surprised to see a lot of folks who look just like me: white hair, over-age and feeling good. Just about every one of them had a drink in his or her hand and some were even smoking. But you know they were all having a good time, laughing and enjoying the company of others. Now, I know there will be a certain percentage of folks who will use their last dollar to try and win it big, but does everyone have to suffer just because some people can’t control themselves? Has the nanny state evolved so much that now I have to be infringed upon because some other person isn’t smart enough to make the right choice? I hope not, as that doesn’t portend well for the years that I have left to live.

We can put our heads in the sand and deny that gambling exists only here or there, but the reality is that we send a lot of Floridians to Indian casinos or to Biloxi, New Orleans, Detroit or Las Vegas — you name it. But in not a single instance are we reaping the financial benefit of the jobs created since a lot of people are going to entertain themselves with games of chance, whether we like it or not. We can make the money and create the jobs here, or we can send our citizens to another place where they will spend their hard-earned dollars. To me, it just makes economic sense to keep them here in Florida, where, if you are interested in family fun, you can go to Central Florida, and if you are interested in adult entertainment, you can go to South Florida. Shouldn’t Florida be a destination for everyone, whatever they want – so long as it is legal?