The case for Charlie Crist, by Adam Smith

[F]or all of Crist’s flip-flops, opportunism and spectacular self-absorption, he has at his core a deep understanding and love for the state of Florida. His gut instinct is to look out for the typical Floridian who on any given day may struggle to pay the power bill, fill up the gas tank or afford prescriptions.

Gov. Scott can be counted on to stick up for big corporations and the sorts of special interests who can afford lobbyists. Crist’s default position is to consider the interests of Joe Sixpack.

That was true when Crist was a Republican suing power companies over dramatic rate increases and it’s true now that Crist is a Democrat and those same utilities are spending millions of dollars to keep Scott in the Governor’s Mansion.

This resonated with me as the best description of the 2014 Florida Governor’s race I have read so far. A great reminder of the choice we face.

Read the full editorial in the Tampa Bay Times.

What Matters In the Florida Governor’s Race: Climate Change Policy
The impacts of climate change are being felt worldwide. Florida is especially vulnerable to rising sea levels, warmer temperatures, and more intense weather systems. [Source]. Climate change cannot be ignored in the Sunshine State, and it is crucial that Floridians elect a governor who will tackle these issues appropriately. A July 2014 poll indicated that 71% of likely voters in Florida recognize climate change as a serious issue, and 60% believe the state should do more to prepare for its impacts. [Source].
Realistically, voters will choose either Charlie Crist or Rick Scott as their next governor. Each has served one term as governor of Florida, creating an opportunity for comparison, although it is important to note that Crist has undergone a significant political shift since his term.
During his 2010 election campaign, Rick Scott stated that he was “not…convinced that there’s any man-made climate change.” Now, Scott’s only comment on the topic is that he is “not a scientist.” [Source]. Contrastingly, Charlie Crist has unambiguously recognized that man-made climate change is real. In response to Scott’s statement, he said, “I’m not a scientist either, but I can use my brain, and I can talk to one.” [Source]. However, let’s not judge by their words. To really see how each candidate will handle climate change, it’s best to compare their previous actions.
Charlie Crist (2007-2010)
Governor Crist pursued both renewable energy and climate change adaption policies from the beginning of his term. He used executive orders, legislation, and political appointees to accomplish these objectives.
Executive Orders [Source]
Leadership by Example: Immediate Actions to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Florida State Government (EO 07-126) — Required state government to measure greenhouse gas emissions, record carbon data, and reduce emissions by 40% by 2025. This required future state buildings to be constructed to be energy efficient
Immediate Actions to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions within Florida (EO 07-127) — Established maximum greenhouse gas emission levels for electric utilities. Utilities were required to reduce emissions to 2000 levels by 2017, to 1990 levels by 2025, and to 20% of 1990 levels of 2050. 
EO 07-127 Continued — Adopted stricter motor vehicle tailpipe emission standards, requiring a 30% reduction in vehicle emissions by 2016. Increased appliance energy efficiency standards by 15%.
Florida Governor’s Action Team on Energy and Climate Change (EO 07-128) — Established a team, appointed by the governor, that would develop a climate change action plan. The team would submit recommendations for legislation.
Legislation [Source]
Florida Climate Protection Act of 2008 (HB7135)
Requires changes to the Florida Building Code increasing the energy efficiency of new buildings and homes by 50% by 2019
Investor-owned utilities must develop a standardized interconnection and metering program for customer-owned renewable generation (i.e. residential solar panels)
Requires Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) to establish a statewide renewable portfolio standard specifying a minimum percentage of retail electricity supplied by renewable energy
Requires Florida Department of Environmental Protection to create a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions
Florida joined The Climate Registry, an interstate program to gather and share GHG emissions data. Major emitters in the state are required to monitor and report their emissions accordingly. 
Established the Florida Energy and Climate Commission to coordinate state efforts on energy and climate change. The Commission was tasked with developing energy efficiency projects, raising funds for climate adaptation, etc.
Requires the Public Service Commission to adopt energy efficiency goals under FEECA (the Florida Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act) that will increase the “development of demand-side renewable energy systems.” In effect, this means the PSC must adopt goals, to be implemented by all investor-owned utilities, which will expand residential solar programs. See Fla. Stat. Ann. 366.82(2).
Policy Actions [Source]
Installed solar panels on the roof of the governor’s mansion
Public Service Commission: Under Crist, the PSC adopted moderate energy efficiency goals for utilities in its 2009 FEECA goal-setting proceeding. The Commission adopted a new test for analyzing efficiency measures which favors increased efficiency goals and selects measures that are more accessible to low-income communities. The Commission also initiated a residential solar pilot program in compliance with the change made to the law in 2008.
The PSC also denied applications to build six new coal-fired power plants, preventing what would have been a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions. 
Note on the PSC: The makeup of the PSC has remained nearly identical from Governor Crist to Governor Scott, as Scott reappointed the same people who were selected by Crist. [Source]. That being said, the PSC is an appointed body that is politically beholden to the governor. The same group of people have made remarkably different policy decisions across the Crist and Scott administrations.
Rick Scott (2011-2014)
During his election campaign in 2010, Scott publicly stated that he was not convinced that climate change was real or anthropogenic. Once in office, Governor Scott disassembled and ended the climate initiatives approved under Crist’s administration.
Legislation [Source]
State Departments—Reorganization—Transfer of Powers and Duties (SB2156, 2011)
Eliminated the Florida Energy and Climate Commission
Effectively eliminated the Department of Community Affairs by terminating or relocating all of its responsibilities
Repealed the Florida Climate Protection Act of 2008 
Policy Actions [Source]
Florida Department of Environmental Protection ceased climate change policy development and programs. 
Public Service Commission: The PSC is currently reviewing the FEECA energy efficiency goals for 2014-2019. The goals proposed by utilities are to achieve almost zero energy efficiency, and cancel the solar pilot program launched under the Crist administration.
Takeaway
Charlie Crist made climate change mitigation and adaptation a serious priority during his time as governor. Rick Scott moved our state backwards by undoing the positive actions of the Crist administration, and has consistently failed to act on climate change. 

What Matters In the Florida Governor’s Race: Climate Change Policy

The impacts of climate change are being felt worldwide. Florida is especially vulnerable to rising sea levels, warmer temperatures, and more intense weather systems. [Source]. Climate change cannot be ignored in the Sunshine State, and it is crucial that Floridians elect a governor who will tackle these issues appropriately. A July 2014 poll indicated that 71% of likely voters in Florida recognize climate change as a serious issue, and 60% believe the state should do more to prepare for its impacts. [Source].

Realistically, voters will choose either Charlie Crist or Rick Scott as their next governor. Each has served one term as governor of Florida, creating an opportunity for comparison, although it is important to note that Crist has undergone a significant political shift since his term.

During his 2010 election campaign, Rick Scott stated that he was “not…convinced that there’s any man-made climate change.” Now, Scott’s only comment on the topic is that he is “not a scientist.” [Source]. Contrastingly, Charlie Crist has unambiguously recognized that man-made climate change is real. In response to Scott’s statement, he said, “I’m not a scientist either, but I can use my brain, and I can talk to one.” [Source]. However, let’s not judge by their words. To really see how each candidate will handle climate change, it’s best to compare their previous actions.

Charlie Crist (2007-2010)

Governor Crist pursued both renewable energy and climate change adaption policies from the beginning of his term. He used executive orders, legislation, and political appointees to accomplish these objectives.

Executive Orders [Source]

  • Leadership by Example: Immediate Actions to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Florida State Government (EO 07-126) — Required state government to measure greenhouse gas emissions, record carbon data, and reduce emissions by 40% by 2025. This required future state buildings to be constructed to be energy efficient
  • Immediate Actions to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions within Florida (EO 07-127) — Established maximum greenhouse gas emission levels for electric utilities. Utilities were required to reduce emissions to 2000 levels by 2017, to 1990 levels by 2025, and to 20% of 1990 levels of 2050. 
  • EO 07-127 Continued — Adopted stricter motor vehicle tailpipe emission standards, requiring a 30% reduction in vehicle emissions by 2016. Increased appliance energy efficiency standards by 15%.
  • Florida Governor’s Action Team on Energy and Climate Change (EO 07-128) — Established a team, appointed by the governor, that would develop a climate change action plan. The team would submit recommendations for legislation.

Legislation [Source]

  • Florida Climate Protection Act of 2008 (HB7135)
  • Requires changes to the Florida Building Code increasing the energy efficiency of new buildings and homes by 50% by 2019
  • Investor-owned utilities must develop a standardized interconnection and metering program for customer-owned renewable generation (i.e. residential solar panels)
  • Requires Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) to establish a statewide renewable portfolio standard specifying a minimum percentage of retail electricity supplied by renewable energy
  • Requires Florida Department of Environmental Protection to create a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions
  • Florida joined The Climate Registry, an interstate program to gather and share GHG emissions data. Major emitters in the state are required to monitor and report their emissions accordingly. 
  • Established the Florida Energy and Climate Commission to coordinate state efforts on energy and climate change. The Commission was tasked with developing energy efficiency projects, raising funds for climate adaptation, etc.
  • Requires the Public Service Commission to adopt energy efficiency goals under FEECA (the Florida Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act) that will increase the “development of demand-side renewable energy systems.” In effect, this means the PSC must adopt goals, to be implemented by all investor-owned utilities, which will expand residential solar programs. See Fla. Stat. Ann. 366.82(2).

Policy Actions [Source]

  • Installed solar panels on the roof of the governor’s mansion
  • Public Service Commission: Under Crist, the PSC adopted moderate energy efficiency goals for utilities in its 2009 FEECA goal-setting proceeding. The Commission adopted a new test for analyzing efficiency measures which favors increased efficiency goals and selects measures that are more accessible to low-income communities. The Commission also initiated a residential solar pilot program in compliance with the change made to the law in 2008.
  • The PSC also denied applications to build six new coal-fired power plants, preventing what would have been a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions. 

Note on the PSC: The makeup of the PSC has remained nearly identical from Governor Crist to Governor Scott, as Scott reappointed the same people who were selected by Crist. [Source]. That being said, the PSC is an appointed body that is politically beholden to the governor. The same group of people have made remarkably different policy decisions across the Crist and Scott administrations.

Rick Scott (2011-2014)

During his election campaign in 2010, Scott publicly stated that he was not convinced that climate change was real or anthropogenic. Once in office, Governor Scott disassembled and ended the climate initiatives approved under Crist’s administration.

Legislation [Source]

  • State Departments—Reorganization—Transfer of Powers and Duties (SB2156, 2011)
  • Eliminated the Florida Energy and Climate Commission
  • Effectively eliminated the Department of Community Affairs by terminating or relocating all of its responsibilities
  • Repealed the Florida Climate Protection Act of 2008 

Policy Actions [Source]

  • Florida Department of Environmental Protection ceased climate change policy development and programs. 
  • Public Service Commission: The PSC is currently reviewing the FEECA energy efficiency goals for 2014-2019. The goals proposed by utilities are to achieve almost zero energy efficiency, and cancel the solar pilot program launched under the Crist administration.

Takeaway

Charlie Crist made climate change mitigation and adaptation a serious priority during his time as governor. Rick Scott moved our state backwards by undoing the positive actions of the Crist administration, and has consistently failed to act on climate change. 

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration and now a distinguished professor at Berkeley, shared this memory on his Facebook page the other day:

DEPARTMENT OF PERSONAL HISTORY. Yesterday I was reminded by a lawyer friend that when I was at Yale Law School in the early 1970s I took a class in civil and political rights. In that same class were Hillary Rodham, Bill Clinton, and Clarence Thomas. When the professor asked a question, Hillary was the first to raise her hand and almost always had the correct answer. I raised my hand fairly often but got it wrong half the time. Bill missed most classes. Clarence never said a word.

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration and now a distinguished professor at Berkeley, shared this memory on his Facebook page the other day:

DEPARTMENT OF PERSONAL HISTORY. Yesterday I was reminded by a lawyer friend that when I was at Yale Law School in the early 1970s I took a class in civil and political rights. In that same class were Hillary Rodham, Bill Clinton, and Clarence Thomas. When the professor asked a question, Hillary was the first to raise her hand and almost always had the correct answer. I raised my hand fairly often but got it wrong half the time. Bill missed most classes. Clarence never said a word.

A couple of thousand miles worth of rivers and 375,000 acres of lake water in Florida are considered “impaired,” that is, dirty. The Indian River ecosystem has collapsed, fish kills are increasing, and between floods and profligate pumping, we risk contaminating our aquifer. We keep destroying wetlands and marshes, which act as water recharge areas. This isn’t abstract; it’s not some “green” trifle you can simply ignore. Nature isn’t a place outside your air-conditioned house, beyond your nice subdivision. It’s in your drinking water. When you look at a Florida spring, you’re looking at our aquifer.

—Diane Roberts, Florida State University professor and Florida Wildlife Federation board member.

Roberts was scheduled to give a public talk on Florida’s waters through a Department of State speaker series, but the event was abruptly cancelled by Governor Rick Scott’s administration. Read her Tampa Bay Times editorial, “Perspective: What I would have said about water.”

WashPost Editorial: Mr. Radel’s Questionable Rehab

Trey Radel was caught purchasing cocaine in D.C. through an undercover federal drug investigation on October 29th. But then…

[Radel] didn’t think to tell House GOP leaders of his problems. He had the gall, as the Naples Daily News reported, to go ahead with a $1,000-per-platefundraiser in Naples, Fla., on Nov. 5. He gave an interview Nov. 13 to The Post’s David A. Fahrenthold in which he actually talked about the need for Congress “to start making the adult decisions.” Please. But then it’s probably too much to expect self-awareness from someone who doesn’t see the contradiction between his actions and requiring drug tests for food-stamp recipients.

Only after he had no choice but to go public did Mr. Radel ’fess up. Then came the requisite apology, contrition to family, announcement of a “leave of absence,” donation of his salary to a charity and entry into rehab for substance abuse.

Too bad there is no clinic that treats abuse of the public trust.

From the Washington Post Editorial Board.

Alex Sink for Congress - the first campaign video is out!

Jessica Ehrlich announced this week that she is pulling out of the race, which clears the primary field and means Sink can focus on the general. The special election for Florida’s CD13 is scheduled for January 14th (primary) and March 11th (general). [source]

The Senate is expected to vote for cloture to confirm Nina Pillard to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in the next week.
Pillard is a well known litigator with significant Supreme Court experience, as well as a professor at Georgetown Law. President Obama nominated her to the court this summer, and the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination last month [source]. This is a crucial vote for the D.C. Circuit, which has more inactive judges and vacancies than judges at the moment.
Visit confirmpillard.com and help out by contacting your U.S. Senator to emphasize your support for Pillard!
Or check out Hoyas for Nina Pillard on Twitter; Facebook.

The Senate is expected to vote for cloture to confirm Nina Pillard to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in the next week.

Pillard is a well known litigator with significant Supreme Court experience, as well as a professor at Georgetown Law. President Obama nominated her to the court this summer, and the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination last month [source]. This is a crucial vote for the D.C. Circuit, which has more inactive judges and vacancies than judges at the moment.

Visit confirmpillard.com and help out by contacting your U.S. Senator to emphasize your support for Pillard!

Or check out Hoyas for Nina Pillard on Twitter; Facebook.

Election Night: Winners and Losers

Too Close to Call

  • Mark Herring, for Attorney General of Virginia. This turned into a really competitive, close race [source]. Overnight the vote count became impossibly close, and will likely go to a recount. [source]

Winners!

  • Terry McAuliffe, Governor of Virginia [source]
  • Rick Kriseman, Mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida [source]. This was a hard-fought local win in Central Florida. I really respected and appreciated Kriseman’s presence as a State Representative when I worked in the Florida Legislature.
  • Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City [source]. de Blasio is the city’s first Democratic mayor in way too long!

Losers

  • Barbara Buono, running for Governor of New Jersey, lost to Chris Christie. Article: Buono delivers blistering concession speech, attacking Garden State Democrats [source].

Florida Politics - Week in Review

→ Last Weekend at Disney: the Florida Democratic Party Convention

  • New to the party, Democrat Charlie Crist spent the weekend shaking hands and making friends. He did not address the full gathering, but spoke at many caucus and committee meetings, where his reception was positive overall. [Source: Miami Herald]
  • Former State Senator Nan Rich, who has been running for governor for 18 months but has failed to gain statewide traction, was also present. Read her address here
  • Possible Attorney General primary battle in 2014? George Sheldon, who has been working on Affordable Care Act implementation as an Assistant Secretary within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced his candidacy for Attorney General on Monday, 10/21. Then, on the first day of the FDP Convention, House Minority Leader Perry Thurston announced that he is jumping into the race as well. (I guess history repeats itself - Dan Gelber and Dave Aronberg battled out the AG primary in 2010, with Gelber winning the primary but losing the general to Republican Pam Bondi.) [Sources: News Service of Florida, TB Times.]

→ Sink for Congress —- Alex Sink announced on Wednesday that she is running for Congress in Representative C.W. Bill Young’s old seat in Pinellas County. She lives about 45 minutes away in Hillsborough County, but plans to move to Pinellas soon. [Source: Tampa Tribune]. Democrat Jessica Ehrlich was already in the race and does not appear to be stepping aside for Sink, so there will be a primary election in January.

  • Jessica Ehrlich was the Democratic nominee for this seat in 2012, when she was endorsed by Emily’s List. With Sink’s announcement, Emily’s List removed Ehrlich from their website, and are now promoting their endorsement of Alex Sink. [Source: Washington Post]
  • Within less than 48 hours of entering the race, Alex Sink had already raised over $116,000 by Thursday. [Source: Tampa Tribune]

→ Marco Rubio’s failure of leadership —- the Senator has backed out of his past initiatives, making him look like a political weathervane tuned to the Tea Party.

  • Rubio recently revoked his nomination of Judge William Thomas to the federal district court in Florida. Thomas would be the first openly gay, African-American judge on a federal court. Rubio had previously supported Thomas’s nomination, but has now blocked it. [Source: Miami Herald, PNS]
  • This week, Senator Rubio backed out of supporting the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill, even though he was part of the Gang of 8 that developed the legislation. Rubio now says that a piecemeal effort is more realistic. (Which may be true, considering how pathetic the House is at doing anything, but that’s no reason for a U.S. Senator to back out of important national legislation). [Source: TB Times]

→ Nelson supports ENDA —- Senator Bill Nelson came out in support of ENDA, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, this week. Way to go Senator Nelson! He was soon followed by Senators Joe Manchin and Mark Pryor. [Source: Miami Herald]

He’s back! Charlie Crist released this video and launched his website just in time for the Florida Democratic Party Convention this weekend. 

Now a registered Democrat, Crist is gaining momentum for a 2014 gubernatorial run, although he has not officially announced his candidacy. The only Democrat in the race right now is former State Senator Nan Rich. Alex Sink announced her decision a few weeks ago not to pursue the governorship again.