What better indicator of the glasnost and perestroika that have been sweeping through his administration than Gov. Rick Scott actually outlasting reporters at today’s post-cabinet press conference?
A day after inviting a few dozen reporters into his office for coffee and doughnuts, Scott answered everyone’s questions and then asked for more. Here’s a handful of points he touched on:
- Scott supported the withdrawal of a widely criticized list of proposed inaugurates to the state’s Veterans Hall of Fame. He said yesterday that seeing his name on the original list was a “why-is-this-happening?” moment. So what about the confederate veterans on the list, which have also been a source of controversy? The revised list “needs to represent our state” and its diverse history, he said, including people from a variety of backgrounds who fought in a variety of wars, though he avoided specifics.
- Scott said one of his upcoming “workdays” will involve trailing a reporter — he suggested Mary Ellen Klas of The Miami Herald — and writing an unbiased news story.
- Scott said Secretary of State Kurt Browning was right to route the federal approval of Florida’s new elections law around the U.S. Justice Department, instead of asking a federal court to decide whether some controversial provisions of House Bill 1355 comply with the Voting Rights Act, adding that perhaps the state should have taken that route in the first place. So does Scott think the Obama administration may be biased in its evaluation of the law? “I think some people do,” he said. In a statement issued today, Democratic state Rep. Perry Thurston called the maneuver “a venue-shopping stunt that creates unnecessary delay and costs to Florida taxpayers.”
- Changes to the state’s unemployment compensation system started taking effect this week. People seeking benefits will have to apply online and will have to start demonstrating that they are applying for jobs. Scott, who signed the law, reiterated his support for the changes.” We have safety nets for legitimate reasons,” he said, but the new law ensures that people who draw on the state’s unemployment insurance system are holding up their end of the bargain. As for the changes to benefits, which don’t take effect until the beginning of next year, he offered the “job tax” argument: Shortening benefits allows the state’s unemployment compensation trust fund to remain solvent while limiting increasing unemployment insurance levies on employers (which in turn would raise the cost of doing business).
- This week, Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration submitted its request for a waiver to create a statewide Medicaid managed care system (see related documents here). Part of the proposal, which originates from a law Scott signed earlier this year, divides the state into regions and limits the number of managed care groups per region. Some parts of the state, such as the panhandle, could have just two players in their managed care marketplace. Most of the 11 regions would have fewer than five, though Miami-Dade could have as many as 10 (see page 10 of this PDF). Is Scott, who helped transform the hospital industry through the power of competitive pressure, concerned that limiting the number of competitors in each region could reduce pressure to lower costs and improve quality? Scott (who is apparently a voracious reader of books about capitalism) referred his questioner to The Winner’s Curse, whose title describes a situation, common in auctions, in which the winner in a competitive marketplace winds up paying too much. In short, inviting too many players to compete in a region could make the market unattractive to everyone, and wind up undermining the managed care model.
- “If you’ve never done something before, you never know the right way of doing it,” Scott said at one point. He was talking about fashion choices, but he was also inadvertently describing his first months holding elected office. He may be transforming his approach, he explained later, but his underlying ideas and values have not changed. “I have a belief about where the state should go,” he said, but “it’s never a straight path” that will take us there.