Moving forward

Well, it’s over.   

Nationally, I’m incredibly worried about the next two (and six) years.  One of the first things Congress will tackle is the extension of the Bush tax cuts.  Will they be extended?  And if so, will that help the struggling recovery, or just add to the deficit?  And speaking of the recovery – many economists – and as we saw today, even the Federal Reserve – now believe more stimulus is necessary.  But that seems a non-starter with the new Congress.  What will happen to the economy now?

Another huge concern is the Republicans’ avowed intent to repeal the health care reform.  The Affordable Care Act (I will NEVER call it “Obamacare”!) was a carefully-constructed house of cards.  It won’t be possible to cherry-pick the popular pieces and kill the ones the special interests don’t like without adding to the deficit.  I’ll be following those efforts in my health care blog “So what do you think about that? 

I’m also very concerned about the implications of the elections for Florida.  As written today by Howard Troxler, columnist with the St. Petersburg Times:

Make no mistake — the Tallahassee Republicans were huge winners Tuesday.

Not only was the existing Legislature returned to power, but its ruling party grew into a veto-proof majority.

In other words, the Legislature got off scot-free for everything outrageous that has happened over the past two years.

Looking ahead, I’m concerned about off-shore drilling, how the 2012 redistricting will actually be done, funding for education, Medicaid, SCHIP and the Everglades, not to mention what it will be like to have Rick Scott as our Governor!

Locally, Barbara Berry’s win over Kathy Ryan for School Board District 3 is concerning, but I’m pleased that Pat Carroll and Roy Terry won in their districts.  Hopefully we can count on Kathy Curatolo, Julie Sprague and Terry to protect our interests.  In reality, only one member of the Board has changed, with one ultra-conservative (Steve Donovan) replaced by another (Berry). 

Of course I’m pleased that Amendments 5 and 6 passed.  But will the Republican Legislature, which fought so hard to keep them from taking effect, comply with their requirements?  That remains to be seen.

The failure of Amendment 8 (Class Size) to pass means that the School Board has not just one but two immediate pieces of business: finding a way – and the money – to comply with the smaller class sizes, and agreeing on the criteria/approach to hiring a new superintendent.  Before they can begin the search, they have to agree on the indicators of progress for the strategic plan.  That will hopefully happen tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon at a workshop open to the public.  I plan to attend.

But is there a silver lining?  Back at the state level, here’s how columnist Troxler sees it:

Was all of this just dandy by the voters of Florida?

Did they say, yes, indeed, we want more scandal in Tallahassee, more laundered money, more favors for corporations? Are we just dying to get our electric bills doubled?

Yeah, maybe.

Or maybe Tallahassee was the incidental beneficiary of the unstoppable national tide.

For clues, let’s turn to the way Floridians voted on constitutional amendments — where it turns out they punched the Legislature right in the snoot.

Most importantly, Floridians passed Amendment 5 and Amendment 6, the “fair districts” proposals, deeply opposed by the Legislature. In the long run this might be the most important thing that happened Tuesday.

Floridians rejected Amendment 8, which would have weakened the class-size rules that voters first passed in 2002. The Legislature has resented these rules ever since — this year it refused to pay for all of them, and instead asked voters: You didn’t really mean it, did you?

But they did.

Voters even rejected Amendment 1, which would have repealed Florida’s system of public financing for political candidates, a favorite target of the Legislature.

In sum, given the chance to reject Tallahassee as well as Washington, voters did so.

Marco Rubio, our new U.S. senator-elect, said an interesting thing on election night:

“We make a great mistake,” Rubio said, “if we believe that tonight these results are somehow an embrace of the Republican Party.”

Likewise, the Legislature’s leaders will make a mistake if they interpret Tuesday’s election as voter approval of their offenses and scandals. They won’t always have Barack Obama around to save them.

It’s going to be an interesting couple of years. 

I plan to continue writing this blog and sharing my thoughts on the elections, politics and national affairs.  I’ll be watching the School Board as it grapples with the superintendent challenge – both how they continue to work with Dr. Thompson through the remainder of this term, as well as what they decide to look for, how they decide to look for it, and if and how they bring the community into the decision-making.

I also will be watching the state Legislature, Congress, the White House and the run-up to Election 2012.

Hopefully you’ll be along for the ride. 
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