Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Politics

Romano: Has Gov. Rick Scott seen the light? Or the polls?

There's nothing wrong with this state that a yearly governor's race couldn't solve.

Oh, sure, it would be disruptive — costly, time-consuming and counterproductive, too.

On the other hand, it could almost make Rick Scott seem pleasant.

Yes, our panderer-in-chief has behaved like a different man with an election looming before him. He still hides and still distorts, but his familiar zealotry has been toned down to a more moderate level.

Almost as if he knows you might be paying attention.

This doesn't mean he has completely abandoned his core, and it doesn't mean Scott won't return to nuttyville if re-elected, but it has been fascinating to watch his sly meander toward the middle.

Think about the stances he has taken this year, and compare them to his first few years in office.

Environment

Then: The original Rick Scott didn't believe in man-made climate change. Environmental regulations and pollution-control laws were pain-in-the-butt ideas dreamed up by tree-huggers to hinder the heroic money-makers who run corporations. Greenhouse gas emission policies were rolled back by the Legislature with Scott's approval, and he appointed as head of the Department of Environmental Protection a former shipyard executive who used to feud with environmental regulators.

Now: Scott no longer talks about climate change, but says he's happy to have his staff meet with scientists about it. He pledged a $1 billion investment in Florida's waters Monday, and called for increased sanctions on polluters.

Spending

Then: As a new governor in 2011, Scott turned his first budget-signing into tea party theater. The ceremony was held at the Central Florida retirement mecca the Villages, and his staff had cops remove Democratic protesters so Scott could brag about cutting $615 million in "shortsighted, frivolous, wasteful spending'' in peace.

Now: Scott's latest budget was the largest in state history, and he cut a mere $69 million in those special legislative projects he once loathed.

Immigration

Then: Scott once suggested Florida duplicate Arizona's extreme immigration policies. On his first day in office, he signed an order requiring all state workers be checked by the E-Verify computer system to confirm they were legal residents.

Now: Scott lobbied the Senate to pass legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition rates at universities. When the bill passed, Scott signed it in private over a weekend, which kept publicity at a minimum.

Education funds

Then: Scott slashed $1.3 billion from the education budget in 2011 and approved $300 million in cuts to higher education the next year. In his first three years in office, traditional public schools got nothing for capital improvements while charter schools, often run by for-profit corporations, got $200 million.

Now: Scott's office is touting a record amount of spending for public schools in Florida this year. And after being shut out since 2010, public schools were given more money than charters for repairs.

So does this mean Scott is evolving? Has he seen the value in compromise?

Or is this simply a politician panicking before election day?

Yeah, that's sort of what I thought, too.

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