Only Citizens Should be Allowed to Vote

June 7, 2012  |  No Comments  |  by Barney Bishop  |  Bishop Blog

President Ronal Reagan said it best:  “It’s not that liberals are ignorant, it’s just that what they know is wrong.”  And boy have they got it wrong over this Voter Purge issue.

First, who in America is in favor of non-citizens voting in our elections?  Well, it certainly appears that it’s the Democrats that want to argue that Governor Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner are up to some nefarious purpose in trying to insure that Florida’s voter rolls are comprised of only citizens.  Give me a break!  Since when did Democrats want illegals to vote in American elections?

Second, why are the local Supervisors of Elections complaining about bad lists?  Isn’t it their job to insure that only citizens get to vote in an election?  And don’t let them tell you that they just got this list from the state because they have had it for months.  So what if the list isn’t accurate.  Isn’t that what their job is – to verify that every voter is entitled to vote?  Isn’t that why I have to register and provide proper governmental identification to prove that I am who I am?  Okay so maybe you don’t have all of the staff that you need to check the lists, get a life.  These are tough times.  We all have to work overtime some to get our work done and just because we taxpayers are paying your salary is no excuse for you to be lazy about doing what is right.

Third, what’s wrong with the federal government that authorities there can’t take the time to confirm whether someone is a citizen or not?  Or do they really not care because this Democratic administration is happy to get every vote they can whether it is a legal vote or not.  According to Florida election officials, the state has been asking the Department of Homeland Security to cross-check our lists and I guess they just don’t have the time to worry about little nit-picking matters like whether someone is a citizen or not.  How hypocritical that now that Homeland Security has purposely dragged their feet so long that this issue is now within the ninety day window before the election that they  now try to assert that this is an issue that has arrived too late in the process.  Even more amazing is that the fed’s try to do it with a straight face!

Look, this is real simple.  The list of folks that the Florida Division of Elections thinks may not be a citizen is unconfirmed, that’s why they sent it to the local Supervisors in the first place to see if they could verify whether these folks are entitled to vote.  Whether it is convenient or not is immaterial.  Elected officials and federal bureaucrats have a legal, moral and ethical obligation to insure that our elections are consistently fair.  Anything less makes a mockery of our Constitution.  The state didn’t say these people can’t vote, they said that they cannot confirm that they are entitled to vote and will you help us to insure that only citizens can vote in this election.

To make a political issue out of this damning.  This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. No one should want illegal people voting.  Florida has been many immigrants living here because we are part of the American dream.  But just because you live here doesn’t mean that you are entitled to vote.  All of us have to prove that we are citizens just about every day.

I have to show proof of who I am just to use my own credit card.  Why?  Because someone may be using my card that isn’t really me.  How different is that than making sure that the person voting is in fact a citizen and has the proper identification to prove who they are?  Of course, then the liberals argue that not everyone has a government-issued driver’s license or identity card.  My answer to that is, well then it’s time for them to get one.  In fact, have you tried to get a driver’s license lately?  You have to have a copy of your birth certificate just to drive a car which is a privilege, and somehow we shouldn’t demand the same proof that a person is entitled to vote?    Can’t find your birth certificate, then it’s time for you to go through the process that all of the rest of us citizens have to.

I’d like to send a message to President Obama, Attorney General Holder and our Supervisor of Elections around the state:  do your job.  Quit dragging your feet.  Stop whining that someone is going to be denied their chance to vote because if they can’t prove they are a citizen, then they have no right to vote.  If the fed’s won’t work with Florida to insure a fair election for everyone, then Governor Scott and Secretary Detzner have every right – no a solemn obligation – to all citizens that our elections are as honest and fair as humanly possible.  Someone once said “The problem is not the problem.  The problem is your attitude about the problem.” 

Governor’s Veto of HB 177 was Right Move

May 9, 2012  |  No Comments  |  by Barney Bishop  |  Bishop Blog

For the third time in two weeks there has been an article about Governor Rick Scott’s recent veto of HB 177 by Sen. Ellyn Bognadoff (R) and Rep. Ari Porth (D).  This bill which would allow for some nonviolent felons to be diverted to substance abuse treatment was passed with only four negative votes between both chambers.  You would think that two of these writers, who work for newspapers, would have read the Governor’s veto message and did more exploring than just calling the sponsors, who of course are going to be upset that it didn’t pass muster.  The third writer was from the ACLU and certainly needed little encouragement to criticize our Governor.

So, let’s get the true facts out on the table.  First, this legislation was billed as part of a “Smart Justice” approach to a continuing problem – non-violent, low-level druggies who face prison time – which no one disputes.  Our prisons in Florida have thousands of these individuals and to the extent that they will all be released, sooner rather than later, and they have a substance abuse problem they do in fact need treatment.  Since he was first elected, Governor Scott has supported Smart Justice’s goals and has in fact recommended reform in his budgets.

Second, a very small group of us almost five years ago initiated Smart Justice as a cost saving measure when Florida TaxWatch discovered that then-Governor Charlie Crist wanted to build 19 new prisons.  It didn’t make sense to build more prisons when so many prisoners were recidivating because of a lack of services for their substance abuse and mental health problems.  We called not only for a new approach to corrections but also for a commitment to Faith-based prisons.

Consequently, a representative of the Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA) approached me to say that they would support a smarter approach so long as we pledged to not violate two principles:  do not support changing the 85% time that all felons must serve and do not support any early release of prisoners.  I quickly agreed since it was critical for this movement to gain the support of law enforcement.  In addition, to my surprise they indicated that prison guards wanted to work in Faith-based prisons since they were the safest ones.

I’m told that there is a 10,000 inmate waiting list for Faith-based prisons, yet corrections does not seem to be moving very quickly in that direction.  Whether that is accurate or not, if we have prisoners who want Faith-based services, we should do everything possible to accommodate them if it can be accomplished through volunteers or if the cost is justifiable.  Allison DeFoor who was with me at the beginning of Smart Justice has been a tireless advocate for Faith-based counseling and has been volunteering for years, along with many others, down at the Wakulla Correctional Institution.  There is no additional cost for him to provide counseling to prisoners.

In the Governor’s veto letter he writes that he is opposed to felons being diverted to counseling and then not having to serve the minimum 85% of their sentence.  Coincidentally, that is exactly the same concern that law enforcement has and HB 177, despite its very good intentions, violates one of the two premises that Smart Justice was founded on.  This doesn’t mean that the Governor has given up or no longer supports Smart Justice.  What it does mean is that this Governor – and law enforcement – is not going to support legislation that allows criminals to evade serving 85% of their prison time by simply receiving behavioral healthcare services and not having to do the time.

That is fine and dandy because we can rewrite this bill next session and we can satisfy the legitimate concerns of law-abiding citizens that all criminals will be punished.  And we can do so in a fashion that will give them a chance to receive the help that they need while rightfully paying their debt to society.  Instead of criticizing the Governor we should be thanking him for charting a path that we Smart Justice advocates can clearly see, if only we will open our eyes and appreciate his concerns.

FDOT’s Consolidation Move: Part Deux

February 20, 2012  |  No Comments  |  by Barney Bishop  |  Bishop Blog

The Florida Department of Transportation’s insidious campaign to gut the Tampa and Orlando expressway authority’s independence was consummated by the Florida Senate last week when it voted to rip any pretense for local control away from them.  This was the culmination of a three week fight in the upper chamber that if embraced by the House and signed off by the Governor would mean that once again “central planning” is vogue among transportation bureaucrats in Tallahassee.

I’m shocked because amassing power in one agency whose core mission is clearly state-wide rather than local-centric is the opposite of the GOP mantra of keeping decision-making at the level closest to the people.  Furthermore, it runs counter to the Governor’s stated position that he likes much of what Texas does, and centralized control of toll roads in Texas was condemned to the trash pile of history some time ago.  In fact, Texas is creating more regional toll road authority’s not less!

This saga started last year when newly-appointed FDOT Secretary Ananth Prassad got the Senate to bite on the concept of consolidating in order to save money.  Now who doesn’t want to save money in this tight economy?  You’d have to be an idiot to not support saving money, right? Well, the department promised that if the two roll road agencies were gobbled up by the department that duplicity, savings and efficiency would all of a sudden appear at FDOT and with a snap of your fingers $24 million would be in our collective tax pockets.

Who wouldn’t trust the department to tell the God’s honest truth?  Well, the Reason Foundation for one has to be convinced beyond a doubt and when it recently finished doing a study called “Should Florida Toll Agencies Be Consolidated?” (www.reason.org, January 30, 2012, http://reason.org/news/show/florida-toll-agencies-consolidated ) the answer was no.  In fact, it wasn’t just no, it was hell no.  The authors, including nationally preeminent toll road expert Robert Poole who has worked extensively for both USDOT and FDOT, issued a stinging rebuke of the department’s mathematics.  Their thorough line-by-line analysis of the $24 million says that they can only independently affirm, at best, a little over $3 million of the $24 million.  In other words, 80% per cent of the savings are made up and thus will never be realized. So much for saving taxpayer money.  But, to make matters worse the study found that no other state is centralizing toll roads, and that for many years now innovation has surfaced at the Tampa and Orlando toll road agencies not with FDOT.  Ouch!

At a recent Senate Transportation Committee meeting where Senators Joyner, Norman and Storms defended the independence and local control of toll roads, the department rightfully claimed that the department’s bill was not a consolidation effort, it was about efficiency and that the department supported the Reason Foundation report.  First it seems that the department can’t add; now it can’t read to comprehend.  In any event, the Secretary was technically correct even though every one of the Tampa Senators knew that this was the “camel’s nose under the tent.”

Then without telling anyone, FDOT raised their hammer and drove a spike into the heart of the two toll road agencies by deftly changing all of the language and implementing full throat consolidation in Senate Conforming Bill 7104.  There wasn’t any longer any pretense that they were just going to take over some “back office operations.”  With the speed that any Soviet central planner would have greatly admired, the Secretary dealt his crushing blow to any hint of an indie revolution by the Senate Tampa trio.

Still, House Speaker Dean Cannon, of Orlando by the way, hasn’t yet bit on this tale of strange bed partners between FDOT and a Panhandle Senator who doesn’t even have any  expressways in his district.  If the savings are all smoke and mirrors, innovation has been accomplished at the two toll agencies and not with FDOT, if the Reason Foundation study says that the two should be given more independence not less, it isn’t likely that the Speaker is going to end his political career with letting his own hometown toll agency get run over by the Senate.

To make matter much worse, Tampa attempted last year to pay back FDOT in order to reduce its long term financial obligation to the state which would have resulted in about $160 million more into the state’s transportation budget for FY 2012-13.  That would have put hundreds of Floridians to work building critical infrastructure at a time when jobs are the number one mission for our Governor.  Watch for the details in my next installment of this continuing saga.

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 (www.aif.com/press_release/2011/FLAIF_08_11_Scott_Release.pdf). 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 barney@barneybishop.com

 

Bill Nelson – Not Business Friendly

January 9, 2012  |  No Comments  |  by Barney Bishop  |  Bishop Blog

This year’s race for the chance to oppose Bill Nelson will not resemble 2006.  Running for reelection for the first time, his opponent was a Republican US Congresswoman who was just completing only her second term in Congress.  Her name was Katherine Harris, the state’s former Secretary of State who oversaw the drawn-out election count from the 2000 battle between George Bush and Al Gore.  Remember hanging chads?  Congresswoman Harris was a weak candidate, to say the least.  Her own Party essentially disavowed her and none of the state’s top GOP elected officials would hardly be seen with her throughout the campaign.  She won only nine counties and lost the race to Nelson by 22 points – over a million votes.

Fast forward to today.  Bill Nelson, Florida’s senior Senator has been in office now for 12 years.  His opponent this time will be a Republican nominee that enjoys a unified party committed to taking him out.  Last year Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS ran ads against Senator Nelson so it is clear that he will be a target of the national GOP and the Super PAC’s.

Regardless of his opponent however the damning fact is that when it comes to a key business issue such as “Card Check” the Senator is clearly on the wrong side.  Card Check, introduced in the Senate by Ted Kennedy in 2009, is an attempt by Unions to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.  While Union membership has been in steady decline over the last century in the US, Florida has never been a particularly strong state for them.  That’s partially because our state Constitution makes us a Right to Work state, that is, you are not required to join a union to be employed.  Florida’s percent of employed that are represented by unions is only 6.9%, which is way below the national average of 11.9%.  Card Check is designed to make it easier, in fact much easier, to organize unions in two ways:  there would no longer be secret elections, a worker would be asked by the union to sign a card and once a majority of the company’s workers sign the cards, a union would be automatically created.  How un-American would that be?  While you and I are guaranteed the right to vote in secret, no one knows how we vote unless we tell them, but in the Union’s dream scenario, you could be asked in front of other pro-Union members to sign a card – and if you don’t?  Well, you get the idea.

While this ballot box-stuffing goes on all the time in Russia, China, Venezuela, Cuba, etc., it could happen right here in Florida.  Even though our state Constitution prohibits it.   That’s because Sen. Nelson, President Obama and their Union friends will use the Congress and its ability to pass federal laws to overrule our state Constitutional rights.  It’s not just that Sen. Nelson supports the Unions in this onerous overreach; he is a co-sponsor of the bill!  And since Florida is overwhelmingly small businesses state this law, if ever passed, would have a devastating impact on Florida employers.  So, why is Senator Nelson supporting this hurtful legislation?  Your guess is good as mine, but Senator Nelson should disavow his support of this bill and support Florida’s historical aversion to unionism.

But, Card Check is not the only piece of legislation that will hurt the Florida business community as the Senator has also been a big supporter of ObamaCare.  Despite all of the promises by the President and the Senator, polls show that Floridians have not warmed up to this attempt at government-run health care.  Senior citizens are especially wary and it seems that the more they learn about it, the more they dislike it. Although this legislations constitutionality will ultimately be decided by the U. S. Supreme Court, the carnage that it has wrought is still to come in this election cycle as it was in the last when several Florida Democrats lost their seats due to this European-style healthcare concept.  Unfortunately, the truth is that this will be mind-boggling expensive and we will still not have every American covered by insurance.  I suspect that if this law is upheld – and I hope it is not – that after the law has been in place for a year or two that we will still see crowded emergency rooms filled with both insured and uninsured people.  Because many insured will continue to use the emergency room as their preferred choice for primary care, and that folks will be terribly expensive.

Florida needs a Senator who will consistently support the free enterprise system and that’s why in my opinion we need to send to DC someone that will vote with Senator Marco Rubio as a counterbalance to President Obama.