Thursday, December 18, 2014

Corrections: The Rick Scott Barometer

The burning question for 2015 has been, which Rick Scott did Florida's benighted voters re-elect? 

Did they re-elect Tea Party Rick Scott, the one who cuts funds for disabled children and education? Or did they re-elect Happy Face Scott, who put those funds back?

As I've said before, while I think we need to watch out for Tea Party Rick Scott returning, I think that we'll see Happy Face Scott, thanks to the national GOP, which needs Florida badly for the 2016 Presidential election. The fact that Jeb Bush is taking steps to run for President in 2016 makes this even more likely: How embarrassing would it be for him to run, and not win Florida?

The good news (maybe) is that we now have a barometer to help us figure out which Rick Scott was re-elected. That barometer is Julie Jones, Scott's newly selected head of the Florida Department of Corrections.

The fact that Scott selected her so soon after the resignation of Michael Crews is itself nothing short of parting-the-Red-Sea miraculous. Remember, Scott was the one who took nine stinking months to select a new lieutenant governor, and left hundreds of lower appointment positions unfilled. Scott is never in a hurry to replace people, and that he brought Jones in so quickly is a point in favor of the return of Happy Face Scott.

Another point in favor is Jones herself, who has a reputation as a tough reformer. She's so hardcore on reform that even Mike Fasano likes her. (Fasano is one of the few Republicans in this state we can count on to be reasonable. He campaigned for Charlie Crist against Scott, and is one of those Republicans in the populist mold, who hearkens back to the time when Theodore Roosevelt represented the ideals of the GOP, with such progressive ideas [horrors!] as conserving the environment and standing up to big business interests.) Jones wants to do everything from which Scott has previously recoiled: Not just clean up corruption, but also increase community outreach and request more funding for corrections. Tea Party Scott would be especially reluctant to endorse the latter.

Watch corrections carefully. If Jones is allowed to clean up the messes Scott's neglect has caused (via his catspaw, Crews), then it's a sure sign we'll be seeing Happy Face Scott in charge through at least the 2016 Presidential election. On the other hand, if she ends up suppressed, or canned like Edwin Buss, Scott's first corrections secretary (who was also thought of as a reformer), we'll be seeing a return of Tea Party Scott. 

It's a good barometer. Keep your weather eye open.


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